Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Reading for the Road
I caught about 15 minutes of John Edwards on C-SPAN last night, and I can see why people are impressed with his style on the stump. He certainly says all the right things a Democrat should say to get elected in normal times--but I got no sense that he has any feeling for the monumental stakes of this election. He's running as if this were just another quadrennial contest, when it's in fact a battle for the soul of the republic. James Ridgeway had more from New Hampshire late yesterday--with John Kerry trying to run out the clock, Howard Dean trying to keep things under control, and Edwards riding a wave of enthusiasm. Also, Tom Schaller analyzes Howard Dean's last stand, and Kos has the poll numbers.

Recommended reading: This fine high-quality news and commentary feature is going on hiatus until Friday of this week, so I'm leaving you with a pile of worthwhile stuff to read.

One of many laugh lines in the State of the Union address was the one touting the No Child Left Behind Act, and how anyone opposed to it must want to undermine standards and accountability. But Virginia, one of the states that enthusiastically embraced the standards and testing movement (with its unfortunately named SOLs--Standards of Learning) long before it became federal law, recently saw its Republican-dominated House of Delegates pass a resolution condemning NCLB. The law is just another example of how the supposed party of states' rights and local control is only interested in states' rights and local control when it advances causes it agrees with. And it's not just in education--in Time magazine, Andrew Sullivan discusses the new "nanny state," a phrase that has generally been deployed in describing lefty social-welfare states. But it's applicable to Bush and Ashcroft's America, too--a place where corporations can do whatever the hell they want, but individual behavior is subject to close government scrutiny and regulation.

Mary Lynn F. Jones has some good news from Capitol Hill--House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is showing some cracks in his armor. Good thing, too. DeLay is a political tyrant who thinks his every action is the will of God, and he's an autocrat with no love for democracy. Much of the stupidity and ugliness displayed by the House Republican majority can be traced to DeLay's leadership. He really is one of the genuine villains in American political history.

And finally: Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was one of the chief architects of the Vietnam War. In 1995, in his book In Retrospect (which I once characterized as the brief he would use before God on Judgment Day), he admitted that he and the U.S. government were tragically wrong about Vietnam, and that he owed it to history to explain why. This month, McNamara gave an interview to the Globe and Mail in Toronto, in which he explored the parallels he sees between Vietnam and Iraq. (Hint: plenty.)

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