- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

From college to pro

“In going after the BCS, the Obama Administration once again shows a serious problem with this presidency: the need to cultivate a serious antagonist. For politics is no different than literature in that every protagonist needs a villain. That’s especially true of two-term presidents. Othello had Iago; Sherlock Holmes had Professor Moriarty. Ronald Reagan had the Soviet Union and air-traffic controllers. Bill Clinton had Newt Gingrich and Kenneth Starr. George W. Bush had Osama bin Laden.

“And Barack Obama? Less than a week into office, he told congressional Republicans to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh. Since then, he’s trotted out health insurers, big banks, TV talking heads and even Washington itself … all as enemies of the state. Yet none has stuck. Meanwhile, the president flounders.

“If it’s a foil the Obama White House seeks, here are a few suggestions for fights the president can pick — and maybe even win. … Skip college and go pro. The BCS is an easy target. So too is the National Football League. The NFL throws pro sports’ worst all-star game (holding the Pro Bowl a week before the Super Bowl guarantees that the best players on that year’s two best teams are no-shows). Ask any Minnesota Vikings fan how they feel about sudden-death overtime. And a president concerned about healthcare could question how the NFL gets away with cutting injured players without pay. Bonus added: If he thought GM needed a government takeover, one wonders how Obama feels about the sad state of his Chicago Bears.”

- Bill Whalen, writing on “In Search of Grist for Obama’s Mill,” on Feb. 3 at the Weekly Standard

Versailles trash

” ‘A People’s History’ is the textbook of choice in high schools and colleges across the country. No other account of our past comes even close in influence or ubiquity. No other, more responsible, telling of the American story had a chance. How could it?

“Given a choice between a book that portrayed America honestly - as an extraordinary success story - and a book that portrayed the history of America as a litany of depredations and failures, which do you suppose your average graduate of a teachers college, your average member of the National Education Association, would choose? To ask the question is to answer it.

“What this means is that most American students are battened on a story of their country in which Blame America First is a cardinal principle. No element of our heritage, from the derring-do of Christopher Columbus to the valor of the U.S. military in World War II, escapes the perverting alchemy of Howard Zinn’s exercise in deflationary revision. …

“What Zinn offers us is not a corrective, but a distortion. It is as if someone said to you, ‘Would you like to see Versailles?’ and then took you on a tour of a broken shed on the outskirts of the palace grounds. ‘You see, pretty shabby, isn’t it?’ ”

- Roger Kimball, writing on “Professor of Contempt,” in the Feb. 22 issue of National Review

Jim and Kitty

“It was somehow vindicating that today’s nominations ensured that the [James] Cameron / [Kathryn] Bigelow face-off we’ve all been dreaming of is really going happen, in living color, with blue-skinned alien hybrids battling bomb-defusing adrenaline junkies on the stage of the Kodak theater. Both films got exactly nine nominations; they’ll be coming up against each other not only in the best picture, director, cinematography, and musical score categories but in hyper-technical categories like sound editing and sound mixing.

“I don’t care how over their divorce Cameron and Bigelow are supposed to be. (For the purposes of the Hepburn/Tracy film we’re casting in our minds, can we call them ‘Jim and Kitty’?) Anyone who’s ever competed with an ex-spouse (or a current one!) for prestige or pity will be unable to resist toting up the tally as the ceremony rolls along. (For the record, I’m totally Team Bigelow, much as I unexpectedly enjoyed my trip to Pandora.)”

- Dana Stevens, writing on “Did Wes Anderson Get Shafted by Oscar?” on Feb. 2 at Slate

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