- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2009


President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court points to a dilemma that will likely plague his presidency — How does a ‘post-racialist’ president play identity politics?” Shelby Steele writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“What is most notable about the Sotomayor nomination is its almost perfect predictability. Somehow we all simply know - like it or not - that Hispanics are now overdue for the gravitas of high office. And our new post-racialist president is especially attuned to this chance to have a ‘first’ under his belt, not to mention the chance to further secure the Hispanic vote. And yet it was precisely the American longing for post-racialism - relief from this sort of racial calculating - that lifted Mr. Obama into office,” Mr. Steele said.

“The Sotomayor nomination commits the cardinal sin of identity politics: It seeks to elevate people more for the political currency of their gender and ethnicity than for their individual merit. (Here, too, is the ugly faithlessness in minority merit that always underlies such maneuverings.) Mr. Obama is promising one thing and practicing another, using his interracial background to suggest an America delivered from racial corruption even as he practices a crude form of racial patronage. From America’s first black president, and a man promising the ‘new,’ we get a Supreme Court nomination that is both unoriginal and hackneyed.

“This contradiction has always been at the heart of the Obama story. On the one hand, there was the 2004 Democratic Convention speech proclaiming ‘only one America.’ And on the other hand, there was the race-baiting of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Does this most powerful man on earth know himself well enough to resolve this contradiction and point the way to a genuinely post-racial America?

“The Sotomayor nomination suggests not. Throughout her career, Judge Sotomayor has demonstrated a Hispanic chauvinism so extreme that it sometimes crosses into outright claims of racial supremacy, as in 2001 when she said in a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, ‘a wise Latina woman … would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male.’ ”


“In an interesting piece in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai suggests that the White House has learned the main lesson of Bill Clinton’s failed attempt at universal health care, which is not to deliver a finished product to Congress but instead give Congress a set of goals and let it decide how to reach them,” Robert Reich writes at www.salon.com.

“The question to my mind is whether the Obama White House has overlearned that lesson. Without strong White House leadership, individual members of Congress are particularly susceptible to the threats and promises of powerful lobbies. A statement of White House goals that leaves the details to Congress will likely result in legislation that superficially meets those goals but whose details undermine them. That’s the biggest danger now with the inchoate health care legislation,” said Mr. Reich, who served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration.

“Fortunately, the White House now intends to get more involved in the emerging health care bill.”


“The extent to which we’re in an Age of Worship can be gleaned from a howler at the D-Day commemoration, in which Gordon Brown - woefully overpromoted as Britain’s prime minister - referred to Omaha Beach as ‘Obama Beach,’ ” Tunku Varadarajan writes at www.forbes.com.

“Yes, in different circumstances this would qualify as a mere slip of the tongue and be left at that; but the ignominious YouTube avatar of that moment has turned Brown into a species of hack comedian, causing the world to snigger and cackle. Watching him say ‘Obama Beach’ again and again - inherent cruelty makes one hit ‘replay’ - one learns, right away, of his state of mind,” Mr. Varadarajan said.

“Brown stands within earshot of a morally imperious American president: And he is nervous, subservient, provincial, a mere Brown in the cosmopolitan world of Obama, our bridge-builder to the Muslim world, our interlocutor across civilizations, redeemer of our faith in America, a salver of wounds and a teacher - Mwalimu, in the Swahili of his forefathers - of all good things. Mwalimu Obama made Schoolboy Brown stumble, and it was piteous to behold.

“When a politician is worshiped to the extent that Obama has come to be, those who answer to a different liturgy, a different creed, are reduced to a kind of impotence. That is the state today of the Republican Party, which cannot counter his charisma, his rhetoric, his prosody. The Republicans should, by sense and by logic, seek to counter his ideas, for this is where he is weakest. But here, too, although weak, he is not vulnerable; his halo disarms his opponents, not merely shielding him from attack but turning attack on him into an option that is unseemly.”


“Last week I opined that Republicans were the slight underdogs in the New Jersey gubernatorial election, based mainly on their history of underperforming the polls,” Sean Trende writes in a blog at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“But I concluded: ‘If regular polling begins to show [Republican nominee Chris] Christie over 50 percent, however, the analysis will change considerably in Christie’s favor.’

“We now have one such poll; others may be forthcoming. While this may well be a simple example of the post-primary bounce many candidates enjoy, this is still a substantial milestone; Tom Kean Jr. never reached this marker against Robert Menendez, even as he led in polling for most of the fall,” Mr. Trende said.

“The breakdown of the primary voting shows remarkable strength for Christie as well.”


CIA Director Leon Panetta has a neat trick to keep desk bound spies at Langley up on Urdu, prepped in Pushto and fluent in Farsi,” Alex Kingsbury writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

“He’s put a foreign-language program on their computers so they can practice at work. It’s all part of the new chief spy’s five-year initiative to boost the number of spooks and analysts who can speak a second language. Spokesman George Little (English, French, Spanish) says less than a third of the agency’s staff speaks two languages, and Panetta (English and Italian) hopes to increase that to half with a special focus on Chinese, Russian and Arabic.”

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

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