My new Think Again column is called “The Missing ‘Least-We-Can-Do-No-Brainer Act of 2010’” and you can find it here.
I did a Daily Beast column on what I see as Obama’s getting his lunch eaten, (but that’s only if you consider substance to be important), here.
And I recommended the year’s best books, sort-of, here.
There is not much to review in the way of Alter-reviews today. I took a look at a few old movies in the new DVD box set “Cher: the Film Collection.” Here’s what I learned “Good Times” and “Chastity” are unwatchably bad. “Silkwood” holds up pretty well. I skipped “Moonstruck” as I remembered it as a one-time thing. “Mermaids” is quite good until it falls apart. I skipped “Tea with Mussolini” both now and when it was released. Good actress, good sense of humor, if that thing about her removing her rib is true, well, I’m going to have to disapprove of the entire enterprise, though she was funny with Beavis and Butthead, though I see no mention of that here. If that inspires you, you can read all about it, here.
Now here’s Reed:
Credit Where Credit Is Due
The past week, it would be hard to dispute, has been the most productive legislatively in Obama’s two-year tenure as president. Of course, I, like many others, have expressed reservations about some of what’s being produced. And, thanks to five craven Democrats, who are apparently just fine siding with the nativist xenophobes within their constituencies, the week wasn’t without its unfortunate failures. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that this, this and this aren’t successes to be celebrated during a holiday season ostensibly about peace on earth and goodwill toward everyone. (Of course, the Grinch in me must point out that the last two of those legislative victories, issues where Democrats yet again enjoyed a majority of public support, were only achieved after inexplicable compromises like this and this, respectively.)
But, as a proud veteran who served to uphold the Constitution and this nation’s principles of equality and justice, this is, by far, the best present of this holiday season.
While fully implementing the repeal of DADT can’t come soon enough for several obvious reasons, I’ll add to the list this disturbing trend about the eroding quality of our military’s recruits and enlistees. In addition, let me predict right now that the doubts some scholars harbor about ROTC programs reappearing on Ivy League campuses ultimately will be proved unfounded and overblown. To broadly imply that having an interest in attending one of the best academic institutions in the country as well as a dedication to serving one’s country in the military are mutually exclusive is an insult to both of these institutions and is to traffic in tired stereotypes.
In the mid-90s, I earned my Army commission through the ROTC program at Boston University, which had likewise banned the program during the late 60s (only to reinstate it a few years later). If I do say so myself, BU’s ROTC program was, and remains so today, a respected and integral part of the school’s student-life community and one of the most robust and highly regarded Army accession programs in the region, if not the country. All this despite the fact that the school shares many of the same supposedly challenging characteristics—large urban setting, high tuition costs, etc.—as schools like Harvard, Yale and Columbia.
What’s more, the potential reemergence of ROTC on these campuses could also help to counter another worrisome trend, the increasingly conservative bent of our military’s officer corps. As author and Army officer Jason Dempsey detailed in his recent book on civil-military relations, “Our Army,” this trend has been accelerating over the past few decades. “With the end of the draft and the closure of ROTC programs at many elite universities in the aftermath of Vietnam,” Dempsey notes, “the gap between the nation’s armed forces and academia left many on campus with no point of reference for the military beyond the tired stereotypes.”
Over time, as fewer academics and policymakers have remained conversant with the military’s issues and its experiences, this disconnect has leached into the political realm (abetted by a media that is often uneducated, uncomfortable or simply uninterested in consistently reporting on military and foreign policy issues). As a result, those that are, or purport to be, knowledgeable on these topics can gain undue rhetorical power in our press, sometimes egregiously so. The danger this development represents to our democracy was brought into stark relief the past few months by the shameless backtracking and hysterical opposition to DADT’s repeal by Sen. John McCain. As someone continually portrayed by the media as one of Senate’s few “experts” on the military, McCain’s supposed stature not only earned him a bigger megaphone on this issue than was warranted, it provided political cover to other lazy and uninformed lawmakers who couldn’t cite any real legitimate reason for repealing DADT other than “If John McCain thinks it’s bad, that’s good enough for me.”
Still, some in the mainstream media, most notably the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, whom I’ve criticized recently, found it within themselves to finally call out McCain’s increasingly obstinate and outrageous behavior for what it is. That our better angels overcame this demagoguery wasn’t some supposed Christmas miracle, however. Years of hard work and lobbying from tireless advocacy groups, like the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, were the real heroes here, but in navigating the final few steps, I’ll give credit to President Obama, (the often underestimated) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, though it surprises me somewhat to say it, Senator Joe Lieberman, who revived the bill when nearly everyone else was ready to abandon it.
But even in this unquestionable civil rights victory, one that all Americans should feel proud of, there is an ominous warning sign about the limitations of bipartisanship in serving our democracy. After all, what no reporter apparently thought to ask Sen. Lieberman during the legislative battle to overturn DADT this past week was what the chances for repeal would have been if he actually had gotten his way two years ago. For Democrats who are looking to continue this momentum, maybe that’s the best lesson to take into the New Year.
Edward J. P. Gallagher
I just read your comments on Tom Friedman. I also read the complete Friedmman column. You may want to re-write your comments with more info so that they make sense.
Koh Lanta, Thailand
I just came across some responses to a comment I made about Eric Alterman. They were quite insulting and nasty. I would like to respond to them but you have chosen only to present these self-serving responses. I would be very glad to debate the worthiness of Alterman as a decent human being. Alterman is an Obama supporter and an obvious Democratic Party supporter although he does offer some mild criticism. Obama and the Democrats are murderers, terrorists, destroyers (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan Wars), support torture and kidnapping (Rendition, Black Sites), outlaws (assination, denial of Habeas Corpus), thieves (giving money to support Bankers and Rich people in general, cowards and liars. I would be glad to have the space to explain but it is all so obvious—you can try to justify it but it is obvious. Perhaps Alterman is a good Jew in that he supports Israel’s depredations and violence but to me he is a vicious, mendacious, horrible monster.
Editor’s Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.