Remember all those things we realized too late that we should have done before engaging Iraq in 2003? John Boehner does, and he’s pretty sure the President doesn’t. From CNN:
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama Wednesday complaining that “military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America’s role is in achieving that mission.”
“In fact,” Boehner said, “the limited, sometimes contradictory, case made to the American people by members of your administration has left some fundamental questions about our engagement unanswered.”
Among other things, Boehner asked whether it is acceptable for Gadhafi to remain in power once the military campaign ends.
“If not, how will he be removed from power?” Boehner asked. “Why would the U.S. commit American resources to enforcing a U.N. resolution that is inconsistent with our stated policy goals and national interests?”
Boehner also posed other questions for the president. Since the “stated U.S. policy goal is removing” Gadhafi from power, “do you have an engagement strategy for the opposition forces? If the strife in Libya becomes a protracted conflict, what are your administration’s objectives for engaging with opposition forces, and what standards must a new regime meet to be recognized by our government?” his letter said.
Another piece on CNN.com has John P. Avlon proposing that the Left feels as though the world is experiencing a third Bush term. An interesting excerpt:
An objective assessment of the Obama record on foreign policy shows that he has not been the soft liberal ideologue that conservatives want to run against. An excellent book by my Daily Beast colleague Stephen Carter, “The Violence of Peace,” analyzes Obama’s War Doctrine at length from a legal, but readable, perspective. Carter writes, “On matters of national security, at least, the Oval Office evidently changes the outlook of its occupant far more than the occupant changes the outlook of the Oval Office.”
While Obama has changed the unilateral style of the Bush administration, he’s kept much of the substance. He has drawn down troops in Iraq, as promised. But on many other fronts, he has found that campaign rhetoric often does not square with the responsibilities of governing.
Because many on the left define themselves in opposition to authority, they are historically quick to turn on presidents of their own party for being insufficiently liberal — whether it is Truman’s and Kennedy’s Cold Warrior enthusiasm, LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter’s budget cuts or Bill Clinton’s welfare reform.
Frankly, I’m surprised that no one has brought up the fact that Clinton’s 1999 airstrikes in Kosovo were basically lifted directly from Wag the Dog.
If you’re not regular Huffington Post reader, you might not notice the changes in the masthead design evident below. The AOL-HuffPost merger became official official this week (they’re, like, totally listed as “married” on Facebook), and the changes are rolling out.
A few days ago, Andrew Breitbart ran a piece on Huffington about the the liberal bias of NPR and the MSM (that’s mainstream media, in case your blogging IQ remains fixed in the pre-Swift Boat-era) with regards to the Tea Party. I’ve said all along that HuffPo has been positioning itself as a “beyond left and right” general interest portal/magazine for some time now, and that the AOL purchase wouldn’t mean the watering down of some hard-left new media beacon. But even I didn’t expect to see a piece like Brietbart’s just yet. Eventually, yes. Just not yet. But the more I think about it, the more sense it seems to make to make these changes sooner rather than later.
Speaking of changes, the first thing regular Huff readers will notice is the change in font, style, and organization of the section (vertical) links in the banners of the home page and each vertical. The entire presentation is streamlined, and some verticals have been bumped off the main masthead’s real-estate and issued a spot on drop-down menus. (Religion, for example, is now a drop-down under “Living.”) You’ll also note that some of the drop-down items link directly to other AOL properties. While I understand the need for integration, this aspect does feel rather patchworked (no pun intended). As a placeholder for some sort of unified branding across platforms and sites, I suppose it’s fine. It achieves goal #1 for AOL in this stage of the merger: show Huffington readers links to AOL’s other content sources. But loading TechCrunch via a drop-down link from the HuffPost Tech box is clunky, and the style disparities between sites could be jarring for people expecting to stay on huffingtonpost.com.
I’m sure, in time, AOL and the newly-formed Huffington Post Media Group therein will iron these things out. But for right now, this first phase of integration feels less like an upgrade of the “The Internet Newspaper” and more like its portalization. I don’t mean to be down on you, AOL-Huff (that is, I sure do want you to hire me for full-time winning analysis), and I want you to know that I’ve been pulling for you, AOL, ever since the mid-90s when all my techie friends were total ISP snobs. Where are their precious BBSes now, old friend? Exactly.
I’m not a medical professional or a mental health expert but, regarding Charlie Sheen, the possibilities are pretty clear: he either needs psychiatric counseling or is secretly one-upping Joaquin Phoenix and James Franco in a rather brilliant meta-stunt. Unfortunately, people who know much more about these things than I do are convinced we are witnessing the public self-destruction of fellow human being. Increasingly, I believe that many of us are also guilty of enabling and exploiting it.
Jonathan Storm writes a TV column for The Philadelphia Inquirer and has this to say:
Storm is right, of course. When the circus came to Philly last month, people protested. No one’s picketing outside the studios picking from the ribs of what seems to be Sheen’s complete and total breakdown. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to sympathize with the rich kid, the Brat Packer, the guy who has everything and is, of his own volition, throwing it all away. The guy who makes a gazillion dollars a year playing a slightly bowdlerized version of himself on TV. But you know what? I do sympathize with him. And I also happen to believe that when it comes to things like addiction and mental illness, you go ahead and throw volition out the window. I’m not saying he has license to do whatever the hell he wants (he might say that), but I am questioning the callousness of those who would reject all gestures of empathy or compassion to a sick human being merely because said sickness contributes to piss-poor choices and indefensible behavior.
Storm’s quote reminded me of a short story by Franz Kafka called “A Hunger Artist” wherein a caged performance artist fasts for days on end to the delight and initial sympathy of gathered, gawking crowds. It begins thusly:
“During these last decades the interest in professional fasting has markedly diminished. It used to pay very well to stage such great performances under one’s own management, but today that is quite impossible. We live in a different world now. At one time the whole town took a lively interest in the hunger artist; from day to day of his fast the excitement mounted; everybody wanted to see him at least once a day; there were people who bought season tickets for the last few days and sat from morning till night in front of his small barred cage; even in the nighttime there were visiting hours, when the whole effect was heightened by torch flares; on fine days the cage was set out in the open air, and then it was the children’s special treat to see the hunger artist; for their elders he was often just a joke that happened to be in fashion, but the children stood openmouthed, holding each other’s hands for greater security, marveling at him as he sat there pallid in black tights, with his ribs sticking out so prominently, not even on a seat but down among straw on the ground… ”
The hunger artist has handlers, keepers, and promoters, and these people attach or enforce certain rules to his performance. He must not eat while on display in his cage, and men are paid to ensure he does not eat in secret. Even so, any good crowd has its skeptics. Further, the artist is only allowed to fast for 40 days at a time, and is brought, gaunt and Christ-like, from his cage for a spectacular finale. The 40-day rule is not for the artist’s health, mind you, but rather so that audiences don’t loose interest or compassion. The artist hates the rule, as it prohibits him from perfecting his hunger art, from pushing himself to his absolute limit, from the total annihilation of need and self.
“So he lived for many years, with small regular intervals of recuperation, in visible glory, honored by all the world, yet in spite of that troubled in spirit, and all the more troubled because no one would take his trouble seriously. What comfort could he posibly need? What more could he possibly wish for? And if some good-natured person, feeling sorry for him, tried to console him by pointing out that his melancholy was probably caused by fasting, it could happen, especially when he had been fasting for some time, that he reacted with an outburst of fury and to the general alarm began to shake the bars of the cage like a wild animal.Yet the impresario had a way of punishing these outbreaks which he rather enjoyed putting into operation. He would apologize publicly for the artist’s behavior, which was only to be excused, he admitted, because of the irritability caused by fasting; a condition hardly to be understood by well-fed people; then by natural transition he went on to mention the artist’s equally incomprehensible boast that he could fast for much longer than he was doing…and then quite simply countered it by bringing out photographs, which were also on sale to the public, showing the artist on the fortieth day of a fast lying in bed almost dead from exhaustion.”
Eventually, public interest in fasting as an art form wanes. Compassionate crowds grow disaffected, hardened. The fascinated children embrace their forebears’ ironic love of jokes in fashion. The artist is forgotten, starves to death. His cage goes to a panther:
“Even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary. The panther was all right. The food he liked was brought him without hesitation by the attendants; he seemed not even to miss his freedom; his noble body, furnished almost to the bursting point with all that it needed, seemed to carry freedom around with it too; somewhere in his jaws it seemed to lurk; and the joy of life streamed with such ardent passion from his throat that for the onlookers it was not easy to stand the shock of it. But they braced themselves, crowded round the cage, and did not want ever to move away.”
About those fickle crowds, you might say Kafka’s cheating about that anyway. Why should they have been made to care about the hunger artist in the first place? After all, here’s a man destroying his body of his own volition. Ah, but that assumes we always pick our cages.