OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – October 1, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – October 1, 2007

    By JAMES TARANTO

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: Brendan Miniter talks with U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

    Are You Experienced?
    Barack Obama’s biggest advantage over Hillary Clinton–his fresh-faced, innocent demeanor–is also his biggest weakness. After all, do we really want a president who is “fresh-faced” and “innocent”–i.e., childlike, naive, inexperienced?

    But there is a difficulty for Mrs. Clinton in making this argument. Her experience in elective office actually is not much more extensive than Obama’s (or than that other guy’s, the one with the pretty hair). Mrs. Clinton is the most experienced candidate only if you give her credit for proximity, for the eight years when she lived in the White House while her husband was president.

    This amounts to portraying a prospective Hillary Clinton presidency as a continuation of the Bill Clinton presidency–certainly a good strategy for a Democratic primary electorate that continues to adore Mr. Clinton.

    But if Mr. Clinton really was “one of our greatest presidents,” as Al Gore once said, doesn’t that undermine the claim that experience is all-important? When he was inaugurated, Mr. Clinton was 46–a year younger than Barack Obama will be on Jan. 20, 2009. Maybe those wanting a Clinton reprise would be better off with Obama than with Mr. Clinton’s soon-to-be-sexagenarian better half.

    The Bloomberg wire service reports on Mr. Clinton’s effort to distinguish his younger self from Obama:

    “There is a difference,” Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” that [aired] this weekend. “I was the senior governor in America. I had been head of any number of national organizations that were related to the major issue of the day, which is how to restore America’s economic strength.” . . .

    Bill Clinton, 61, said Obama’s experience today is closer to his own in 1988, when he decided not to pursue a White House run. “I came within a day of announcing, because most of the governors were for me and I had been a governor for six years,” Clinton said in the interview taped in New York. “And I really didn’t think I knew enough and had served enough and done enough to run.”

    Obama has the added difficulty that the international situation is more complicated today, with the threat of terrorism and the war in Iraq, than it was in 1992, Clinton said.

    At that time, the most pressing international issue “was how to build a post-Cold War world,” he said. “We didn’t have the terror threat. We didn’t have the troops in Iraq. We didn’t have the Afghan issue hanging fire.”

    So Mr. Clinton acknowledges that in 1992 he was experienced enough to be president only because the job was less demanding in those peaceful times.

    But wait. How peaceful were they? Clinton says “We didn’t have the terror threat” in 1992. Yet by the time he was elected, the following acts had already occurred:

  • The November 1979 invasion of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the holding of hostages, who were not released until Inauguration Day 1981.
  • Hezbollah’s 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 241.
  • The holding of American hostages, and murder of some, in Beirut throughout the 1980s.
  • The 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.
  • The 1985 bombing of a Madrid restaurant frequented by American soldiers.
  • The 1985 Hezbollah hijacking of TWA flight 847 and murder of a U.S. Navy flier on board.
  • The 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, in which an American passenger was murdered.
  • The 1986 bombing of TWA flight 840, which killed four Americans.
  • The 1986 bombing of a disco in Berlin, which prompted a retaliatory strike on Libyan targets.
  • The 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270.

Clinton had been in office barely a month when terrorists first tried to destroy the World Trade Center, killing six. His term saw the following attacks on American interests overseas:

  • The 1995 car bombing of U.S. military headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing five servicemen.
  • The 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, killing 19 Americans.
  • The 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224.
  • The 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, less than a month before the election of Mr. Clinton’s successor, killing 17 American sailors.

Then of course came 9/11, less than eight months after Mr. Clinton left office. How can anyone, looking back in 2007, claim “we didn’t have the terror threat” in 1992?

It would be accurate to say that we, meaning most Americans, didn’t understand the gravity of the terror threat back then. But this points to an inconvenient truth about Mr. Clinton–namely that this failure of understanding continued throughout his presidency. As we saw last year, Mr. Clinton is extremely touchy, to the point of belligerence, about this aspect of his legacy.

Experience is valuable only if we are able to learn from it. At the next debate, someone should ask Mrs. Clinton if she agrees with her husband that in 1992 “we didn’t have the terror threat.”

Dems (Except Richardson) Get Real
New Mexico’s Gov. Bill Richardson has a Puffington Host post that almost makes us miss we’d watched last week’s Democratic debate at Dartmouth. Richardson scores the serious candidates, along with John Edwards, for recognizing reality:

Clinton, Obama, and Edwards all refused to commit to getting our all of our troops out of Iraq by 2013.

John Edwards pointed out that there are major differences between the candidates on Iraq. He was absolutely right. But the major difference is not between him and Senator Clinton. It’s between the other candidates and me.

They all change the mission and leave troops in Iraq. I end the war and get all the troops out.

Sure enough, a look at the transcript reveals that Mrs. Clinton, Obama and Edwards all allowed for the possibility of a U.S. presence in Iraq through the next presidential term. Not long ago, Democrats were talking about forcing America to flee Iraq before President Bush leaves office.

Only Ricahrdson, whose odds of getting the nomination are reckoned at 167 to 1 against, went for the escapist cut-and-run-right-now position. We are cynical enough to doubt that the leading candidates are avoiding it only because it is bad for the country. They seem to have concluded that defeatism will not sell politically.

Feeding Friedman
A classic column from the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman begins by quoting a story the Onion titled “Giuliani to Run for President of 9/11.” Friedman then says, “Like all good satire, the story made me both laugh and cry, because it reflected something so true–how much, since 9/11, we’ve become ‘The United States of Fighting Terrorism.’ “

Like some bad writing, this made us laugh. Does “all good satire” really make Friedman “both laugh and cry”? If so, he either judges satire by impossibly high standards or is highly emotionally volatile.

Friedman continues:

Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there’s no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid.

Here is an example of how 9/11 has made “us” stupid:

You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty.

Who is most stupid:

  • America, for detaining terrorists at Guantanamo Bay?
  • “A lot of the world,” for imagining that “it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration”?
  • Thomas Friedman, for recommending “dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans”?

We report, you decide. Friedman then veers off into an Andy Rooneyesque list of gripes that have little to do with terror policy:

Look at our infrastructure. It’s not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zurich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones.

It’s even worse than that. Try flying form Zurich to La Guardia, and you’ll find it can’t be done. La Guardia is not an international airport!*

Friedman continues:

I still can’t get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda [Md.] and my office in D.C. But I recently bought a pocket cellphone at the Beijing airport and immediately called my wife in Bethesda–crystal clear.

We’re not sure, but it seems quite possible that if Friedman investigated why his cell phone service is spotty, he’d find it’s because liberal NIMBYs in places like Silver Spring and Takoma Park have blocked the construction of cell phone towers. In any case, it hardly seems reasonable to suggest that China is outpacing America because there you can get a cell phone signal in an airport.

Amid all this nonsense, Friedman does make some reasonable points. For example, he notes that Microsoft recently opened a facility in Canada rather than the U.S. because our restrictive immigration policies make it difficult to bring in skilled workers.

But why is it necessary to diminish 9/11 and pooh-pooh the continuing terrorist threat? Our guess is that Friedman, ignored by the world for the past two years during which his paper kept him hidden behind TimesSelect, is saying outrageous things because he is starved for attention. We hope this item is enough to satisfy his appetite.

*To be precise, it is an international airport only inasmuch as Canada is a nation.

Witness for the Defense
“A federal judge refused Friday to dismiss a defamation case against Rep. John P. Murtha and ordered the Pennsylvania Democrat to give a sworn deposition in the case,” the Associated Press reports from Washington:

A Marine Corps sergeant accuses the 16-term congressman of falsely accusing him of “cold-blooded murder and war crimes” in connection with the deaths of Iraqi civilians.

The Justice Department wanted the case dismissed because Murtha was acting in his official role as a lawmaker. Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Henault said the comments were made as part of the debate over the war in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said the congressman might be right, but said she won’t know for sure unless Murtha explains himself. . . . Collyer said she was troubled by the idea the lawmakers are immune from lawsuits regardless of what they say to advance their political careers.

We’re not sure what we think of the legal merits of the case, but the most interesting thing about it is the position the Bush justice department is taking. It is defending despicable comments by an antiwar “dissenter” on the ground of legislative privilege. This flies in the face of the left-wing stereotype that the administration is hostile to civil liberties and concerned only with expanding executive power.

Yale Sells Out
From the New York Times:

For five years, Yale Law School has fought to restrict military recruiters from its job fairs because of the Pentagon’s policy that bars openly gay or bisexual people from the military. But with the federal government threatening to withhold $350 million in grants if the university does not assist the recruiters, that fight will all but end on Monday.

After an appeals court ruled in favor of the Defense Department on Sept. 17, the law school said it would allow recruiters from the Air Force and Navy to participate in a university-sponsored job interview program for law students on Monday afternoon. For now, the legal battle to stop the recruiters is over, said Robert A. Burt, a Yale law professor and the lead plaintiff in the case.

“The judges who hold office at the moment disagree with us,” Professor Burt said. “We must wait for history to vindicate our position.”

There is another option: Yale could refuse federal money and continue its antimilitary policies. Those of us who think Yale’s policy is wrong are delighted to see the school put greed over principle.

Very Young Republicans
On Friday we wondered what Rep. David Obey meant when he said that, as the Associated Press described it, “he left the Republican Party during the era of Sen. Joseph McCarthy,” given that he was 16 when the Senate censured McCarthy and 18–in those days, not old enough to vote–when McCarthy died. Reader Russ Robles offers a possible answer:

It is entirely possible that Mr. Obey switched to the Democratic Party as a 15-year-old. I recall my youth and I was incredibly interested in politics. At age 16 I knew every player, followed every election, and while not able to vote I certainly considered myself affiliated with the Democratic Party. I became a Republican during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, but had I been but 16 during those tumultuous days I would have probably walked across the intellectual aisle and begun to describe myself as a Republican. So, let’s give Mr. Obey a small break here. It really isn’t necessary to attack everything every Democratic officeholder says. That’s a Democratic tradition conservatives really needn’t adopt.

Jerry Skurnik adds:

I heard Rep. Obey on C-Span a few weeks ago plugging his biography. He said he was from a family of liberal Republicans and was an active campaigner, giving out fliers, as a kid. And that he switched and started campaigning for Dems because of McCarthy.

We didn’t actually mean this as an attack, just an honest question–and one that now seems to be answered.

Homer Nods
The Rutgers professor whom administrators have falsely charged with racism is William Dowling, not Dowding as our item Friday (since corrected) said.

Metaphor Alert

  • “We still have mountains to climb, but at least this is closer to an even playing field.”–Al Sharpton on the release of a defendant in a racially motivated assault in Jena, La., Sept. 27
  • “If Lou Dobbs were any more full of himself, the tub would overflow. In the autumn resplendence of his telecasting career, Dobbs’s self-regard, never meek or slender, has ripened into the pompatus of love. I am Lou, hear me moo, in numbers too big to eschew. It isn’t just that the ratings for CNN’s starship enterprise Lou Dobbs Tonight have been climbing while those of other cable news shows are being intubated, but that his force of personality and power of persuasion have elevated him to the status of a major public-opinion shaper–a heavy-lumber political slugger. If he were a Robert Ludlum hero, this chapter of his life could be called “The Dobbs Supremacy.” It was Dobbs more than any other tongue flapper who put the kibosh on the Dubai-ports deal by flogging it as a risk to national security and economic sovereignty, not to mention a rude slap in the honest face of every hardworking American, which leaves out a few people I happen to know, including me.”–James Wolcott, VanityFair.com, Sept. 28

If Only We’d Invested in Plumbing Stocks!
“Oil Prices Fall as Selling Sinks Rally”–headline, Associated Press, Sept. 28

One Flew Over the Picket Line
“AirTran Flight Grounded by Bird Strike”–headline, USAToday.com, Sept. 29

Honda Mulls Trademark Infringement Suit
“U.A.W. Chiefs Unanimously Back G.M. Accord”–headline, New York Times, Sept. 28

‘How Do You Spell “Billion”?’
“USB to Write Down $3.4 Billion”–headline, Reuters, Oct. 1

We Know What They’re Going to Ask For
“Loveless to Ride Appalachia Santa Train”–headline, Associated Press, Sept. 28

‘That Was the Biggest Meal I Ever Ate!’
“21.7 Million Pounds of Meat Recalled”–headline, CNN.com, Sept. 29

News You Can Use

  • “New Treatment Brings Patients Back From the Dead”–headline, WCCO-TV Web site (Minneapolis), Sept. 28
  • “Do Things Differently: Expert”–headline, DeepikaGlobal.com, Sept. 30

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • “McGovern Set to Endorse Clinton”–headline, ABCNews.com, Sept. 27
  • “No Arrests in Critical Mass Protest in Mpls.”–headline, Associated Press, Sept. 28
  • “Al Sharpton to Discuss Police Brutality in Yonkers Today”–headline, Journal News (White Plains, N.Y.), Sept. 29
  • “Michigan Government Shutdown Ends”–headline, New York Times, Oct. 1
  • “Beyonce Cancels Kuala Lumpur Show; Will Perform in Jakarta, Which Has Less Strict Dress Code”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 1
  • “Local Man Upset by Myanmar Strife”–headline, Daily Star (Oneanta, N.Y.), Oct. 1

Brownsheets
Before it was the symbol of National Socialism, the swastika was a Hindu emblem of good luck. Now Jews in India, who number about 5,500, are outraged because a home-furnishing company is using swastikas in promotional material for a new bedspread collection, the Associated Press reports.

The bedspread maker, Kapil Kumar Todi, says his linens, named after something called the New Arrival Zone for India, are not meant to be anti-Semitic. Though with that acronym, you have to wonder.

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Dagny Billings, Evan Slatis, Gregory Lehman, Mike Radin, Sue Ostrenga, John Williamson, Paul Wood, Paul Hunker, Michael Morley, Gregory Merrick, Michael Throop, Dave Peris, Matt Irving, Scott Hill, Charlie Gaylord, Pieter Mul, Ethel Fenig, John Light, Andrew Rosson, Joe Latino, Monty Krieger, Chris Green and Michael Miller. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

URL for this article: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010677

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Ben Ryan: Some of our finest special-op soldiers serve companies like Blackwater.
  • John Fund: If Giuliani wants voters to respect his privacy, he ought to show some respect for basic manners.
  • The Journal Editorial Report: A transcript of the weekend’s program on FOX News Channel.


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