The Spectacle Blog
I am watching the Allen-Webb debate today on and off. Just caught the last couple questions about gun control and Iraq funding. Webb echoed Allen's support for robust gun rights. He then said would not vote to cut off Iraq war funding. In so doing, he implied that the anti-war movement and Nixon's domestic troubles were to blame for our loss in Vietnam. If one didn't know better, one would think he were a Republican. So who will the angry left vote for?
If you didn't catch it, Allen had a particularly strong moment early in the debate. One reporter asked him about his mother's possible Jewish ancestry. Seizing on the crowd's boos, Allen replied that the religion of his ancestors is generally out of bounds and that the debate should focus on issues that actually matter. It was good advice.
Webb is now dodging questions on his "Why Women Can't Fight" article, posed by the same reporter who asked about Allen's ancestors. Webb will only apologize for the tone, not the content.
What do progress in Iraq in Iraq and Katie Couric have in common? Howard Kurtz dons her cheerleader outfit today to rah-rah her prospects at CBS, her lousy ratings notwithstanding. "To be sure, Couric's more feature-oriented approach has stirred controversy," Howie writes. "But history shows that news ratings move at a molasses pace." He quotes CBS News President Sean McManus as saying, "...For some people, it's an attractive story to say that Katie is back at No. 3, when in reality this is going to be a fight for the next couple of years." Now to look forward to similar long-term understanding from Howie and Sean for the Bush Iraq policy.
Michael Barone says that Bush has successfully reframed the debate ahead of November's elections:
For months, the central issue of the off-year election has been, Hasn't Bush kept us too long in
? Now, the issue seems to have become, Who can keep us safe against the Islamofascist terrorists who want to kill us and destroy our society? Iraq
The first question tends to help the Democrats. The second tends to help Bush and the Republicans.
Will the pope's comments trigger a reaction similar to -- or worse than -- the Danish Mohammed cartoon riots? The Daily Telegraph of Australia writes:
Muslim fanatics burned an effigy of the Pope, a Catholic nun was shot dead and terrorist organisation al-Qaeda called for holy war as protesters against Benedict XVI's comments linking Islam with violence resorted to just that.
James Webb, in his debate yesterday with Sen. George Allen, boasted at one point, apropos his opposition to invading Iraq: "I wrote a piece for The Washington Post six months before we went into Iraq, laying out in my view this was not about WMDs, it was about our troops being turned into terrorist targets, and that there was not an exit strategy because the people in this administration who were doing this did not intend to leave."
So I found the piece in question, "Heading for Trouble; Do we really want to occupy Iraq for the next 30 years?" which ran in the September 4, 2002 edition of the Washington Post. As its title suggests, the op-ed made perfectly defensible arguments:
Instapundit has a good round-up of reactions the the Muslim Street's latest hissyfit. I particularly like Jacob T. Levy's contribution, drawing the distinction between a political leader, who of course shouldn't be in the business of judging which religion is right, and a Pope, who absolutely must be in that business. The problem, of course, is that much of the Muslim world doesn't accept this distinction. And note Levy's footnote:
*(And therefore, in religious substance, the speech is a much more serious attack on various kinds of Protestantism, including the President's, than it is on Islam; the status of reason and philosophy in Islam is complicated and contested, whereas in the personal-revelation brands of Protestantism it's pretty much dismissed.)And yet you don't see too many Evangelical Christians burning Benedict in effigy on CNN, do you?
Various and sundry Muslims are in a tizzy about Benedict's treatment of violence, Islam, and logos (that is, reason in faith). But the content of the Pope's discussion has won positive reviews from people as far apart doctrinally as paleocons and A. Sullivan.
It all suggests in heavy tones that there's a real issue here, and the scattershot offended reactions coming out of places like Turkey and Lebanon and from organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood reflect a general confusion over the danger of freely and frankly discussing identity today. Benedict's words are felt by turns to be insulting, dangerous, Crusaderist -- or so it would seem if you take the content of the backlash at face value. Don't. Here's my take on why.