Nearer To Thee


High-Class Boilerplate

Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.) --Peggy Noonan

In Obama's defense, JFK was working with the likes of Ted Sorenson. Still, I think Noonan (who has always been very kind to the Illinois senator) is right: it's Obama's presence that's remarkable, but stripped to bare text, his rhetoric lacks the gravity of a Lincoln, or an FDR, or a JFK/RFK.


Obama's Golden-Tongue?

Might be more like a stolen tongue.



It's hard not to be dazzled by Barack Obama. At the 2004 Democratic convention, he visited with Newsweek reporters and editors, including me. I came away deeply impressed by his intelligence, his forceful language and his apparent willingness to take positions that seemed to rise above narrow partisanship. Obama has become the Democratic presidential front-runner, precisely because countless millions have formed a similar opinion. It is, I now think, mistaken. --Robert Samuelson


Fidel Calls It Quits

HAVANA (Feb. 19) - An ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba's president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he will not accept a new term when parliament meets Sunday. --Anita Snow, AP

While I'm sure this won't change our official status with Cuba for quite some time (as his brother will most likely take over), I'd like to sign up now for the first legal cruise to Havana.


Happy Birthday, Mr. President

An appropriate article honoring probably the greatest president -- certainly the greatest republican -- this nation has ever known . . .

George Washington earned the respect even of his former enemy, King George III, by doing something exceedingly rare in history: When he had the chance to increase personal power, he decreased it — not once, not twice, but repeatedly.

During the American Revolution, Washington put service before self. His personal example was his greatest gift to the nation. It has often been said that the “Father of our country” was less eloquent than Jefferson; less educated than Madison; less experienced than Franklin; less talented than Hamilton. Yet all these leaders looked to Washington to lead them because they trusted him with power. He didn’t need power.

Ironically, the piece appears in National Review, a journal that has consistently supported the expansion of executive power and privilege during the last seven years.


$698 Million

How much money we're granting to Tanzania to combat disease in that east African country. Because, you know, our coffers are just bursting right now with surplus cash . . . This is typical Bush, selling out conservatism to ensure his legacy.

Look, I'm all for charity and aid, but only in proper doses. In a world of limited resources, there's a need for priorities. And the #1 priority of the government should be U.S. tax payers -- you know, the people who enable the government's very existence with their hard-earned buck. It's hard to see how their needs are best served by tossing half a billion dollars to third world paupers at a time when America itself is floundering economically.

By the way, Bush has now sent more money to Africa than his liberal predecessor Bill Clinton. Then again, Dubya makes Clinton look like Scrooge in more ways than one.

Bush the conservative -- when's that one finally going to bite the dust? I've said it before, I'll say it again: Bush is a hawkish liberal (the hawk part sorta thrust upon him after 9/11) with a couple social prejudices expected from a Texan. What conservative would find themselves messing around with this claptrap? . . .

"Bush also attended a roundtable on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, program, which Kikwete said is saving lives and helping the African continent avert a health disaster. Bush has requested $30 billion over the next five years for the program."

To Be Fair

There're bad guys on all sides of this great, long war.

Al-Kahtani was interrogated for 18 to 20 hours a day for 48 of 54 days; he had water dripped on his head and was blasted with cold air-conditioning and loud music to keep him awake; his beard and head were shaved; he was forced to wear a bra and panties and to dance with a male jailer; he was hooded; he was menaced with a dog, told to bark like one and led around on a leash; he was pumped full of intravenous fluids and forced to urinate on himself; he was straddled by a female interrogator and stripped naked; and more -- all under a list of interrogation methods personally approved by Rumsfeld. --The Atlantic

Pretty shameful. "Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one."



Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.

In a letter to King Abdullah, the rights group described the trial and conviction of Fawza Falih as a miscarriage of justice.

The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent.

Human Rights Watch said that Ms Falih had exhausted all her chances of appealing against her death sentence and she could only now be saved if King Abdullah intervened. --BBC

Kings. Witches. Beheadings. 1008 or 2008 -- you be the judge.


Eurabia Watch

Authorities arrest three Muslim immigrants plotting to murder Kurt Westergaard, the Dutch cartoonist responsible for creating the now infamous Muhammad-in-a-turban cartoon. To celebrate, the newspaper reprints Westergaard's work. Right on.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Prime Minister declares Muslim assimilation in Europe is "tantamount to a crime against humanity."

Also, Dutch Catholics "rebrand" Lent as "Christian Ramadan."

"The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent," said Vastenaktie Director, Martin Van der Kuil.

At the same time, Muslims in Oxford are pressing -- not so vainly -- to have daily prayers broadcast via megaphone from the minaret of a major mosque, despite the surrounding community being predominately non-Islamic.

And, last but certainly not least, 17,000 women in Britain are now being subjected to so-called "honor" violence every year. Read it and weep, Western society:

Up to 17,000 women in Britain are being subjected to "honour" related violence, including murder, every year, according to police chiefs.

And official figures on forced marriages are the tip of the iceberg, says the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

It warns that the number of girls falling victim to forced marriages, kidnappings, sexual assaults, beatings and even murder by relatives intent on upholding the "honour" of their family is up to 35 times higher than official figures suggest.

Ah, but don't worry about any of this, it's just a few rotten apples. Right, Jeff? Clash of civilizations wha'??