- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

Cheer and dread

“What an antithetical moment this is, what an hour of cheer and dread,” Leon Wieseltier writes in the New Republic.

“There is too much history, and it gives as much ground for hopelessness as for hope. Reason is returning to our government even as our government is beset by problems that seem to defy reason. Washington is consumed by bailouts and parties. Everybody is looking for a piece of the action and experiencing the fierce urgency of now, or FUN,” Mr. Wieseltier said.

“The new president is throwing himself into the reconciliation business, but it is still unclear whether he is prepared to make enemies and to keep them, which is a condition of leadership. It is all very graceful and intelligent and exciting - and ambiguous, and detached from the austerity and the adversity in the country and abroad.

“[President-elect Barack] Obama wants to be Lincoln and he wants to be Roosevelt, but who, exactly, is Obama? We will know more soon. ‘Change’ is finally here. Almost everywhere one looks, one sees an occasion for grand historical action; but I have a hunch that we are about to be taught a lesson about the mutability of the world.”

First test

“Barack Obama’s first test as president isn’t his inaugural address,” Fred Barnes writes at www.weeklystandard .com.

“As talented a writer and orator as Obama is, the speech should be a snap. His big test is the economic stimulus package that Congress is expected to pass within a few weeks. The starting point for Congress is an old-fashioned, pork-filled, partisan measure drafted by House Democrats and likely to stimulate the national debt more than the economy,” Mr. Barnes said.

“For Obama, it’s a test of his leadership, his promise of bipartisanship, and his economic common sense. Should Congress pass a package similar to the House bill and Obama goes along, he will have failed on all three counts.

“With his sky-high popularity and unused political capital, Obama has the power to shape the stimulus bill to his liking. But he’ll have to exert that power. If he doesn’t, Democrats in Congress will not only have rolled him, they’re likely to conclude they can dominate him again and again, at least on domestic policy.”

It’s Caroline

“Despite claims that he’s still undecided, [New York] Gov. [David] Paterson is ‘certain’ to pick Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate, several unhappy contenders for the job have told friends and associates in recent days,” the New York Post’s Fredric U. Dicker writes.

“The contenders based their conclusion on the view that Paterson, after nearly two months of indecision, would ‘greatly embarrass’ and ‘entirely humiliate’ Kennedy, anger her prominent political family and even offend President-elect Barack Obama by picking someone other than President John F. Kennedy’s daughter,” Mr. Dicker said.

“As for the governor’s claim to be weighing a last-minute finalist, the contenders agree with a close Paterson friend who said, ‘It’s clear David is just trying to play mind games with the press.’

“Some of the contenders warned, however, that the unelected Paterson, who must face the voters next year, could face a serious backlash from Democratic activists by choosing Kennedy, whose standing with the public, and with Democrats in particular, has been sliding in recent weeks.”

An omission

“Yes, yes, I was on the downtown streets of Washington bright and early, mingling with the bright-eyed and the wide-eyed. Yes, by all means I was there on the Mall Sunday afternoon, feeling no more moist than the next person but not much less moist, either (and getting a strange lump in the throat at the rendition of - funny how these things work - ‘American Pie’). And yes, that was me at the ball given by The Root, making a mild fool of myself as I boogied chubbily on down to the strains of Biz Markie, DJ to the capital’s black elite,” Christopher Hitchens wrote Monday at www.slate.com.

“I wouldn’t reconsider my vote for Barack Hussein Obama, in other words, and when he takes the oath, I hope to have a ringside seat. … But, on the last day of his presidency, I want to say why I still do not wish that Al Gore had beaten George W. Bush in 2000 or that John Kerry had emerged the victor in 2004.

“In Oliver Stone’s not very good but surprisingly well-received film ‘W.,’ there is an unnoticed omission, or rather there is an event that does not occur on-screen. The crashing of two airliners into two large skyscrapers isn’t shown (and is only once and very indirectly referred to). This cannot be because it wouldn’t have been of any help in making Bush look bad; it’s pretty generally agreed that he acted erratically that day and made the worst speech of his presidency in the evening, and why would Stone miss the chance of restaging ‘My Pet Goat’?

“The answer, I am reasonably certain, is that it is the events of September 11, 2001, that explain the transformation of George Bush from a rather lazy small-government conservative into an interventionist, in almost every sense, politician. The unfortunate thing about this analysis, from the liberal point of view, is that it leaves such little room for speculation about his Oedipal relationship with his father, his thwarted revenge fantasies about Saddam Hussein, his dry-drunk alcoholism, and all the rest of it.”

It’s cold outside

“If you’re wondering why North America is starting to resemble nuclear winter, then you missed the news,” Flint (Mich.) Journal columnist John Tomlinson writes.

“At December’s U.N. Global Warming conference in Poznan, Poland, 650 of the world’s top climatologists stood up and said man-made global warming is a media generated myth without basis. Said climatologist Dr. David Gee, chairman of the International Geological Congress, ‘For how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand that the planet is not warming?’

“I asked myself, why would such obviously smart guy say such a ridiculous thing? But it turns out he’s right,” Mr. Tomlinson said.

“The earth’s temperature peaked in 1998. It’s been falling ever since; it dropped dramatically in 2007 and got worse in 2008, when temperatures touched 1980 levels.

“Meanwhile, the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center released conclusive satellite photos showing that Arctic ice is back to 1979 levels. What’s more, measurements of Antarctic ice now show that its accumulation is up 5 percent since 1980.

“In other words, during what was supposed to be massive global warming, the biggest chunks of ice on earth grew larger. Just as an aside, do you remember when the hole in the ozone layer was going to melt Antarctica? But don’t worry, we’re safe now, that was the nineties.”

cGreg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected] .com.

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