- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Turning a page

“My favorite piece of Barack Obama inauguration memorabilia was something I saw in ABC Carpet as early as Christmas: a white living-room chair, modern and austere, with Obama heads printed on its fabric,” Richard Brookhiser writes in the New York Post.

“In democracies, vulgarity is a form of honor — so presidential kitsch is as all-American as George Washington and Honest Abe hawking cars and washing machines in February,” Mr. Brookhiser said.

“Hype, which trickles down from ideologues and publicists, is a less honest phenomenon, but it, too, has a long pedigree in this country. Journalists as a class crank it out whenever they see a politician who, they imagine, resembles themselves: John Kennedy and Barack Obama, two author-presidents, both received large helpings of it.

“Obamania, however, has a unique, irreducible cause: His election turned a page in the history of race in America.”

Bush’s sin

As George W. Bush leaves office, “he carries with him the near-universal opprobrium of the permanent class that inhabits our nation’s capital. Yet perhaps the most important reason for this unpopularity is the one least commented on,” Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn writes.

“Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable,” Mr. McGurn said.

“Here in the afterglow of the turnaround led by Gen. David Petraeus, it’s easy to forget what the smart set was saying two years ago — and how categorical they all were in their certainty. The president was a simpleton, it was agreed. Didn’t he know that Iraq was a civil war, and the only answer was to get out as fast as we could?

“The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee … didn’t limit himself to his own opinion. Days before the president announced the surge, Joe Biden suggested to The Washington Post he knew the president’s people had also concluded the war was lost. They were, he said, just trying to ‘keep it from totally collapsing’ until they could ‘hand it off to the next guy.’

“For his part, on the night Mr. Bush announced the surge, Barack Obama said he was ‘not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.’

“Three months after that, before the surge had even started, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pronounced the war in Iraq ‘lost.’ These and similar comments, moreover, were amplified by a media echo chamber even more absolute in its sense of hopelessness about Iraq and its contempt for the president.”

Obama and Lincoln

“No one begrudges a statesman a degree of latitude in his manipulation of historical precedent,” Michael Knox Beran wrote Tuesday at National Review Online.

“FDR’s Jefferson was largely a fantasy. Sir Edward Coke, in his struggles with the Stuart dynasty, invented a phony theory of Magna Carta. Napoleon, as first consul of the French Republic, invoked the image of Caesar Augustus, then discarded it when, in 1804, he threw away the republican mask and had himself crowned emperor of the French,” Mr. Beran said.

“The difficulty with President Obama’s reprise of Abraham Lincoln is partly one of style, perhaps of taste. It is one thing to invoke a precedent. It is another thing to trivialize it. The president-elect’s redundant train ride to a Washington he had, after all, arrived in earlier this month had a Disney theme-park air that didn’t quite work. It is said that ‘Lincoln-inspired foods’ will be served at the luncheon in the Capitol following the inauguration. Lincoln-inspired foods? I suppose it is only a matter of time before we learn that the new First Puppy has been christened ‘Fido.’

“Lincoln has already been obscured by a mountain of kitsch. Why add to it?

“But there is a deeper oddness in the new president’s invocation of this predecessor. Lincoln’s principal preoccupation as a politician was liberty: He ran for president in order to prevent the expansion of slavery in the nation’s territories. The incoming president, in his own speeches and writings, has emphasized community rather more than he has liberty.”

French connection

The losing candidate in France’s last presidential election is taking credit for Barack Obama’s triumph in the United States, Bloomberg News reports.

Socialist Segolene Royal, who lost France’s 2007 presidential election, says she inspired Mr. Obama’s winning U.S. campaign.

Miss Royal, who was in Washington on Tuesday to attend Mr. Obama’s inauguration, said Mr. Obama’s advisers copied her use of interactive Internet sites.

“Obama advisers came to visit my campaign to speak about participatory democracy, and they used and multiplied my ideas that the citizen is the best expert,” she told Europe1 radio. “He even used similar slogans to mine.”

Miss Royal’s campaign platform was written after hearing suggestions on her campaign Web site, Desirs d’Avenir, or “desires for the future.”

Mr. Obama and the Democrats made wide use of Internet sites to raise money and organize campaign activities.

In May 2007, Miss Royal lost France’s presidential election to the Union for a Popular Movement’s Nicolas Sarkozy, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Still thinking

New York Gov. David Paterson acknowledged Tuesday that he is considering Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat about to be vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Associated Press reported.

The two Democrats had refused since early December to say whether Mr. Cuomo is in the running, as the latest polls show New Yorkers narrowly favor him over Caroline Kennedy.

“He has outstanding qualities and is someone I am considering,” Mr. Paterson told CBS News at an interview during President Obama’s inauguration.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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