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Archive for March, 2011

A few thoughts here on POLITICO on how the right is (successfully) framing the debate on “school vouchers.”  A “voucher” is a chit, a thing you show at the store when you’re owed a refund. Rhetorically, it plays up a completely different concept from the public school, which is by nature a shared, communal venture.

If your public school is failing, do something about it; get involved with the PTA, the School Board, the local member of Congress. It can be done. My mother did it in Falls Church, Virginia, at J.E.B. Stuart High School, which under her leadership as P.T.A. President went from being the lowest performing school in Fairfax County to a success story that generated, among other things, a National Geographic Magazine cover story on how diversity works to boost educational results. If conservatives want to withdraw from community and home school, they are welcome to do so — just don’t ask for a “voucher” on the way out. We are all in this together.

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Here’s an excerpt from my interview last night with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, discussing Donald Trump and his recent joining-up with the birthers.

Donald Trump throws his lot in with ‘Birthers’ – ABC Radio Australia (audio)

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In the latest news from birther-land, a new spokesman has arrived: The Donald. The man is a salesman of the Atlantic City boardwalk variety (same place where the late Billy Mays got his start) and he sees that casting aspersions on the president’s legitimacy as “one of us” is what sells right now, at least with the know-nothing tea party conservative base. So he’s out there hawking.

It’s a story I’ve been writing for several years now mostly in the pages of POLITICO, a story about how the current leadership of the conservative movement cannot or will not shut down this racially laden pandering. Trump is the latest case in point. My editor at POLITICO posed the question in terms of whether or not the media should cut Trump off because of his birtherism; my counter was that it’s really the duty of the leaders of the conservative movement to do this — the media’s job is to report, and as long as the right keeps spewing this nonsense, it deserves to be covered. This was my response to Brad Smith, a bona fide conservative intellectual of the Federalist Society mold, who has tried to blame the media and the left for “keeping the story alive.” The birther story is kept alive because of people like Huckabee and now Trump, and the failure of responsible conservatives to shut them down.

Read my full article, published in POLITICO on March 29, 2011.

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I posted on POLITICO tonight on Obama’s Libya speech, which in general I found an improvement but still very problematic in terms of his ongoing rhetorical deflections; namely his use of the “false choice” tactic as a way to distract from the need to justify his own choice.

Read my full article here, published at POLITICO on March 28, 2011.

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I posted today on POLITICO, where the conversation is about what the President should say this evening in his speech on Libya.  out of the policy debate and sticking to matters rhetorical. I went a bit further today in examining the Reagan messaging on Libya, and am going to have a copy of his 1986 Oval Office address in front of me while watching tonight. And yes, my editors advise me we’ll be post-gaming on POLITICO as soon as it’s over.

Read my full article, published in POLITICO on March 28, 2011.

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Periodically, Jon Stewart and I agree — most recently in his biting criticism of the Obama administration’s refusal to treat the action in Libya with the appropriate rhetorical significance. Clearly, he wants to avoid discussion of the war we are now deeply engaged in. Aside from Constitutional issues being raised by critics on the left and the right, the President and his spokespeople are dodging the important questions with linguistic formulations verging from technical obfuscation to silliness.

Among the gems, highlighted by Stewart is Jay Carney’s reply that we are not at “war,” we are engaged in a “time-limited,” “scope-limited military action.”

Shades of an earlier president and his spokesman, Ron Ziegler’s obfuscation and Richard Nixon’s Cambodian “incursion.” But even Nixon addressed the nation directly to make his case.

President Reagan addressed the nation from the Oval Office after firing a few missiles at Qaddafi in 1986, an action miniscule in comparison to what is now underway. Obama’s refusal to do the same is inexcusable.

As Jon Stewart commented, all we are hearing from the administration is the “what” of the situation — how many missiles have been fired, by whom, and at what targets.

What we are not hearing much about is the “why.”

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I was not sure what to think when I read of Sister Sarah’s latest ham-fisted attempt at rhetorical re-framing. While in Israel, Palin took up the subject of that nation’s “settlers” who are permitted to forcibly occupy Palestinian territory by the conservative Netanyahu government, trying to cast it as a bureaucratic question of “zoning.”

Palin said this was a matter of “local zoning” and neither the United States nor anyone else should have a say about it.

Never mind the whole peace process that the U.S. government has been supporting through mediation — Democrat and Republican administrations alike — for decades, trying to help solve a humanitarian, political, and social conflict with global implications.

In POLITICO today I mused about whether Palin would also have considered our nation’s engagement in the Irish conflict to have been interfering in a local zoning issue, namely whether Catholics and Protestants could live (or march) on the same streets of Northern Ireland. I’d like to know her thoughts on the Good Friday Accords, which, with active U.S. involvement, helped draw this conflict to a close.

And furthermore, on the topic of meddling in local zoning issues, was the U.S. federal government and Department of Justice interfering in “local zoning issues” in this country during the Civil Rights era, including the elimination of segregated schools and racially restrictive covenants on private property?

On second thought, we might want to reserve that question for Rand Paul or Haley Barbour.

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