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The Obama Watch

President Obama’s Faith

By 10.1.15

At a recent town hall rally for Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, an obnoxious attendee suggested that Obama is a Muslim. 

Though some suspect this Trump supporter to be a progressive activist planted to stir up controversy, twenty-nine percent of Americans continue to question Obama’s true religious allegiances. Some think he’s Muslim; thirty-nine percent think he’s Christian.

Though the media consistently uses this suspicion as a political tool to marginalize Republican and conservative voters and politicians, the only person to blame for the continuing suspicion of Obama’s religious faith is President Obama.

Special Report

Rocks on Rosh Hashanah: Golda Was Right

By 10.1.15

Begin with yesterday’s bombshells: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a 40-minute address to the UN General Assembly. He declared Palestine a state — a statement of zero legal effect but of political significance. He announced that: (a) September 30 would henceforth be known (to Palestinians) as Palestinian Flag Day; (b) the Palestinians were no longer bound by the Oslo Accords. Specifically, Abbas proclaimed as to Oslo, from the same podium where in 1974 Yasser Arafat spoke to the General Assembly with a gun in his belt, that

We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.

Abbas began his speech with this inversion of Jerusalem history since the end of the 1967 War:

Political Hay

Have Marco and Rand Switched Sides?

By 10.1.15

Have Marco Rubio and Rand Paul gone over the side? 

To Marco Rubio, all those tens of thousands swarming to Donald Trump rallies in places like Arizona, Alabama, Texas, and well beyond (New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina) are part of a “freak show.”

To Rand Paul, the real problem in the GOP Senate is not Mitch McConnell but, yes indeed, Ted Cruz, saying Cruz is “done for” in the Senate. Rand declined an opportunity supplied by Sean Hannity in a radio interview to join with Cruz and even say a negative word about McConnell.

In other words? Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, once the shining stars of the Tea Party, seem now to have switched sides. The Establishment — whether represented in Paul’s case by Mitch McConnell in the Senate or, in Rubio’s case, all those increasingly nervous Bush donors starting to look for someone else to pull the Establishment’s bacon out of the Trump/Outsider fire — is delighted.

Ben Stein's Diary


By 9.30.15

I have a new routine. Actually not that new. I spend most of the day paying bills in my otherwise silent office while listening to “Fifties on Five” on Sirius XM. This is a life changing service. In the silence of my room, as I write the checks for my insanely large (soon to be much smaller) array of real estate holdings, cars, and dependents, mostly employees, I hear the sweet sounds of the Coasters, the Corsairs, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, Little Richard, Elvis, the Platters, Johnny Mathis, and other superstars. I can remember every single word of every song.

I think I heard them on WDON, a small radio station in Silver Spring, where the DJ was the son of the owner. What a great DJ he was, too. The hippest of the hip. Don Dillard.

That was almost 60 years past.

A few days ago when I was paying bills, the phone rang and it was my old pal from UC, Santa Cruz days, the Ace Magician, Larry Wilson. Larry was an ultra-cool guy with a beard who had a tall girlfriend named Susan something. She was amazingly beautiful.

Political Hay

Let’s Do Better Than This

By 9.30.15

From Trump’s interview on 60 Minutes Sunday (emphasis mine):

Scott Pelley: What’s your plan for Obamacare?

Donald Trump: Obamacare’s going to be repealed and replaced. Obamacare is a disaster if you look at what’s going on with premiums where they’re up 40, 50, 55 percent.

Scott Pelley: How do you fix it?

Donald Trump: There’s many different ways, by the way. Everybody’s got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say because a lot of times they say, “No, no, the lower 25 percent that can’t afford private. But—”

Scott Pelley: Universal health care.

Donald Trump: I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.

Scott Pelley: The uninsured person is going to be taken care of. How? How?

Donald Trump: They’re going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And, you know what, if this is probably—

Scott Pelley: Make a deal? Who pays for it?

A Further Perspective

The Corruption of the Faith

By 9.30.15

Around the time Pope Francis was studying for the priesthood in the 1960s, absorbing the modernist ideas that would come to define his bewildering pontificate, the British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote that the Catholic Church was joining the “army of progress just when it is in total disarray.” Muggeridge found it mystifying that the Church, “having witnessed the ruinous consequences to its Protestant rivals of compounding with contemporary trends, should now seem set upon following a like course.”

“Just when the Reformation appears to be finally fizzling out, another, it seems, is incubating in Rome,” Muggeridge wrote. “Luther escapes from John Osborne’s hands into—of all places—the Vatican.”

Fifty years later, not much has changed, as the Church under Pope Francis returns to the failed formula of trendy political liberalism, heterodox flirtations, and doctrinal vagueness. Ross Douthat of the New York Times wonders what the “Francis effect” on the Church will be and proposes that sociologists of religion study dioceses that “are conducting clearer Francis-blessed experiments than others.”

Another Perspective

I’m Going to Miss Speaker Boehner

By 9.30.15

I am going to miss John Boehner . as speaker of the House. The GOP looks like the fun party with its ring-a-ding leader and his dash of Dean Martin. Boehner even sauntered into his resignation news conference Friday while crooning, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. My oh my, what a wonderful day.” The speaker chose not to cling to power but to walk away without compromising his supporters.

“Why do I want to make my members, Republican members, walk the plank?” Boehner explained on Face the Nation Sunday. The son of a barkeep wants to avoid a government shutdown — also known as another government shutdown. He knew his effort to thwart a kamikaze mission could invite his party’s “knuckle draggers,” as he calls them, to challenge his leadership. Republicans who stood by Boehner then might face a primary challenge.

The Current Crisis

Pope Francis, I Am With You On Everything But Humility

By 9.30.15

I write as a practicing Roman Catholic. I watched the Pope in America last week with pride. All the virtues that he so admirably embodies are virtues I strive to embody too. Though he will have to excuse me on one or two. In the case of chastity I opted for marriage, admittedly the less celebrated bi-sexual type of marriage but marriage nonetheless. Then there is humility. Frankly, I have never been able to get the hang of it. I mean, what is in it for me? I suppose it is ideal to have a humble Pope, but I cannot imagine a humble editor-in-chief, much less a humble columnist.


Good Riddance!

By 9.29.15

The impending departure of Speaker of the House John Boehner . gives the House Republicans a real opportunity to accomplish something. But an opportunity is not a guarantee. It is a little like a football team being first down and goal at the ten-yard line.

You have a good chance of scoring a touchdown from there — if you can get your act together. But you could also find yourself having to settle for a field goal. Or for a missed field goal.

And of course you can also fumble the ball and have the other team grab it — and run it all the way back across the field to score a touchdown against you. With Republicans, it would be chancy to make a bet as to which of these scenarios is most likely.

Speaker Boehner had a tough hand to play, given the internal splits among House Republicans. But Boehner’s biggest problem was Boehner. And it is a recurring Republican problem.

Nothing epitomized Boehner’s wrong-headedness like an occasion when he emerged from the White House, after a conference with President Obama and others, to face a vast battery of microphones and television cameras.

Main Street U.S.A.

A Fallen Leader Who Did His Best

By 9.29.15

So that’s it: John Andrew Boehner out as House speaker, and the way cleared (whoopee! Hallelujah! Pass the Dom Perignon) for a conservative revival on Capitol Hill?

I don’t believe I would bet my last plugged nickel on it, oh, my brothers and sisters.

It turns out generally that life is more complicated than we suppose when admiring or deploring a particular political career. Back when we needed passing grades in history to graduate from high school, we absorbed some lessons as to the rise and fall of human hopes. We tended to note, if we weren’t looking out the window, that individuals rarely start things by themselves, rarely turn things around by themselves. There’s always a whole lot more going on than meets the eye, or runs through the Twitter rumor mill.