Mourning In America

A New York Democrat on politics, journalism, and the Mets

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
 
GOP Grownup Sighting The rarest of all birds, a mature Republican, made an appearance on the NY Times' op-ed page today.

John B. Roberts II was an aide in the "presidential image" shop for Ronald Reagan from 1981-85. In his column, cleverly titled "Mourning in America," he discusses working on Reagan's trip to Camp Lejeuene, N.C., to honor the Marines killed in the Beirut barracks attack, and explains why it's a mistake both politically and morally for the current President to avoid any open memorial services.

Politically:

Skipping memorial services makes the president look weak. It creates the impression that he values his own political standing above the lost lives of servicemen and women. Avoiding the grieving families invites demagoguery because so many of our professional soldiers come from the middle and lower classes of American society, and not the president's own privileged social class. With an election approaching, presenting the picture of a president who has time for fundraisers but not for military funerals would be an egregious mistake.

Morally:
There is an asymmetry to the administration's use of the military in presidential events. It is wrong to bask publicly in glory on the deck of an aircraft carrier unless you are also willing to grieve openly for fallen soldiers. You can't wrap yourself in the flag while avoiding flag-draped coffins.

Roberts then returns to his memories of the memorial service, which Reagan later termed "as hard as anything" he'd ever done. Coming face-to-face with the grieving is the clearest way to be reminded of what's at stake when U.S. soldiers are ordered into war. It would make any president think twice or three times before doing it -- and would inspire them to make darn sure the intelligence they're acting on is airtight.

Roberts is still loyal enough not to question whether Bush's approach to Iraq would be different if he got out of his Oval Office cocoon, but clearly the possibility exists. Like Brent Scowcroft before him, who used the same page to try and deliver a message of moderation from George H.W. Bush's friends, Roberts is trying to save this president from himself and the misguided advisers he's surrounded himself with.

Too bad Bush doesn't read the newspapers.


 
Update: Mets Cave to MIA Pressure Bill Singer, whose racially insensitive comments were discussed below, has been dismissed by the team.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003
 
Yea, Though I Walk Through the Power Alley of Death It's been a while since the Mets have been deserving of a mourn, but some of the recent headlines involving the team -- none of which have anything to do with its efforts to get better on the field -- are bringing fans to new depths.

Long, long ago (1986), in a galaxy far, far away (the Mets were in first place and en route to the World Championship), slumping African-American outfielder George Foster accused the team of racism. He was promptly fired and Lee Mazzilli was promoted to replace him in a move that didn't really put an end to the controversy.

Recently it seems, the Wilpon family, which now has sole ownership control of the franchise, felt it was time to settle the argument once and for all ... in Foster's favor. Two weeks ago, the team hired Bill Singer as a "super-scout" to back up rookie General Manager Jim Duquette. Singer promptly honored himself and the franchise by confronting Dodgers Assistant GM Kim Ng in a hotel bar at baseball's fall meetings, where he mocked her Chinese heritage. Worse, it was left to Yankee GM Brian Cashman to play the hero and tell Singer to back off.

In every Met fan's personal worldview, the Yankees are the bullies, and we're the scrappy, fair-minded underdogs. It kills me when that self-image is challenged. Worse, the Mets are still sitting on their hands. After apologizing to Ng and the Dodgers, the team announced that it is "reserving judgement" on Singer.

The kicker here is that Singer and the Mets wouldn't be in this spot if they had recognized the talent they had in house a few years ago and made Omar Minaya their first Latino General Manager when ex-GM Steve Phillips admitted an affair with another team employee and was suspended. Minaya took his eye for talent to the Montreal Expos, where he continues to stagger the rest of baseball by putting together a credible team on a shoestring budget.

Adding to the embarrassment, the Mets had the chance to bring him back this year after firing Phillips, but instead insultingly offered him only the No. 2 job, behind Duquette. Minaya declined.

Fred Wilpon to the white courtesy phone ... Fred Wilpon to the white courtesy phone...


Monday, November 17, 2003
 
It's Not Easy Being a Republican Business Titan Sure, the title doesn't have quite the same rhythmic swing as the Kermit the Frog classic, but the sentiment is true.

First the CEO of electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold Inc., Wally O'Dell, drew fire for stating in a fundraising letter that he intended to "deliver Ohio to George W. Bush" -- adding fuel to any number of conspiracy theory-fed fires (the most prominent start with the fact that the Diebold machines' operating software is generally considered vulnerable to hackers or other manipulation, and extend that to the idea that O'Dell will direct his company to program the machines to essentially fake vote results in order to make sure Republicans win. I doubt that, but like Calpundit, I sure don't see the harm in requiring that electronic voting machines produce a "receipt" of each voter's choices that can be checked by the voter and retained as a paper trail in case an election needs to be audited).

Now, conservative Canadian media titan Conrad Black, owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, and key backer of the New York Sun [Warning: Nearly Useless Web Site], is being forced into retirement after his company, Hollinger International began looking into allegations that Black and other executives collected $73.7 million from a company Hollinger was selling some newspapers to without properly disclosing it to shareholders. Hey, right-wing media vanity projects don't come cheap!

Hollinger has announced that it will delay its quarterly earnings report until the charges are resolved. For the record, it's never a good sign when a company essentially announces: We can't really figure out what's going on with our financials, and the regulators won't let us just publish guesses, so we have to wait a while to release our earnings...


Sunday, November 16, 2003
 
Reversal of Fortune Just over a week after Republicans were crowing about the demise of the Democratic party based on the election of GOP governors in Mississippi and Kentucky, a Democrat has been elected Governor of Louisiana - the first woman governor in that state's history.

I don't read much predictive value for 2004 into any of these elections, but it will be interesting to see if the allegedly liberal media match their previous outpouring of Democratic doomsday stories with articles raising questions about whether we're seeing the end of the GOP's "Solid South."

Ah, progressivism. It does seem like progress that Louisiana voters' choice was between a nonwhite son of Indian immigrants, Bobby Jindal, and a woman. It certainly puts the state ahead of other alleged hotbbeds of progressivism, like New York, where there are no credible nonwhite, nonmale gubernatorial candidates on the horizon. The only caveat is that I don't know what to make of statements like the one in the AP's election recap above that

"I'm really undecided," said Tommy Schwebel, a fireman in Amite, 80 miles north of New Orleans. "The ones I talk to out in the street, they don't want to vote for either one of them."

I guess it's best to salute Louisiana's primary voters, and move on...