Visual source: Newseum
E. J. Dionne, in pondering the curious way in which 0.1%er Newt Gingrich took on 0.01%er Mitt Romney over class in South Carolina, says unpersuasively that Gingrich is no racist. In fact, Gingrich may not believe that people of color are inferior, which means he's no bigot. But his campaign efforts—which look a good deal like an updated version of the George C. Wallace tactic of never being "out-n****red in an election—are designed to keep people of color "in their place." That kind of behavior is the very epitome of racism.
[T]here are reasons to think that we’re finally on the (slow) road to better times. And we wouldn’t be on that road if Mr. Obama had given in to Republican demands that he slash spending, or the Federal Reserve had given in to Republican demands that it tighten money.
Why am I letting a bit of optimism break through the clouds? Recent economic data have been a bit better, but we’ve already had several false dawns on that front. More important, there’s evidence that the two great problems at the root of our slump — the housing bust and excessive private debt — are finally easing.
Bill Keller takes a really long time to say nothing new about Iran, the Bomb and U.S. policy on both.
But putting aside the Newt-yuck factor—if you possibly can—I think the weakness of the Republican field has surprisingly little to do with the weakness of the actual Republican field.
It has more to do with, well, us — and a dissatisfaction that transcends politics.
All you have to do is look at the wrong direction-right direction polling numbers. The latest New York Times poll has 29 percent thinking the country is headed in the right direction and 66 percent saying the wrong direction. You can blame that on Barack Obama or you can blame it on Congress or you can blame it on the recession or you can blame it on the weak recovery. But, before you do, you should note the numbers were very similar — and often worse — during even pre-recession Bush years.
I know I've made this point before, but it still holds, that the swing elections of 2006, 2008 and 2010 had far more to do with knowing what we didn't want than in knowing what we do want.
Katie Halper points out the Ten Greatest Moments of the South Carolina primaries, starting out with:
1. The biggest shock of the night is that it’s a Saturday night and MSNBC isn’t screening Lockdown.
Michael Barone sings the praises of negative campaigning:
Behind the disdain of the high-minded for negative campaign spots is a fear that they will erode Americans' faith in politics and government. These folks like to cite polls showing Americans once had great confidence in institutions and that now they lack it.
But polls have been showing lack of faith in institutions going back to the late 1960s. The only time when pollsters found high levels of confidence was when the questions were first asked in the 1950s. That was during the two decades when American institutions -- big government, big business, big labor -- enjoyed enormous prestige after they led the nation to victory in World War II and presided over the unexpected growth and prosperity of the postwar era.
So now it's snapshots of US Marines pissing on the Afghan dead. Better, I suppose, than the US soldiers pictured beside the innocent Afghan teenager they fragged back in March of last year. Or the female guard posing with the dead Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib. Not to mention Haditha or the murder videos taken by US troops in the field – the grenading of an old shepherd by an Iraqi highway comes to mind – or My Lai or the massacre of refugees by US forces in Korea or the murder of Malayan villagers by British troops. Or the Bloody Sunday massacre of 14 Catholics by British troops in Derry in 1972. And please note, I have not even mentioned the name of Baha Mousa.
The US Marines' response to the pissing pictures was oh so typical. These men were not abiding by the "core values" of the Marines, we were informed. Same old story. A "rogue" unit, a few "bad apples", rotten eggs. Maybe.
But if there is one game of pissing on the dead, how many others happened without pictures? How many other shepherds got fragged in Iraq? How many other Hadithas have there been? There were plenty of other My Lais.
Susan Douglas offers a shout-out for Tim Dickinson's searing coverage of the Republican presidential candidates in Rolling Stone.
Mary Ellen O'Connell argues that targeted killing is worse than torture because it kills innocent bystanders:
By June 2004, it was confirmed that the US was using torture at secret detention sites and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It was in that month that piles of "torture memos" were released to the public. Torture did not officially end until President Obama took office in January 2009.
A similar story is emerging with respect to targeted killing. The Obama administration has produced its own infamous memo; like many of the torture memos, it was written by lawyers in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. It concerns something that many consider worse than torture: the memo apparently seeks to justify "targeted killing".
Calls have gone out for the release of the memo, but there really is no need. We did need to see the torture memos, but not because anyone with legal expertise on the subject would be enlightened by the analysis – torture is absolutely prohibited. The legal analysis could only be specious. Rather, prior to mid 2004, the use of torture, rendition and secret detention were only rumored. The fact of the memos gave credence to speculation.
In the case of targeted killing, the world can see what is happening. The memo need not be published to confirm the fact. And, as with torture, the memo will not contain a persuasive legal argument respecting the fundamental human rights and humanitarian law at issue.
Adam Serwer gives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas the reaming they deserve for their rancid dissent in the Cory Maples case as well as the rest of their perverse opinions on the (lack of) rights of defendants.