Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Take Some Prisoners

A media diary for February 12.

Listened to an NPR story on the drive to work this morning, about the Mitt Romney campaign and the impact it may have on the Mormon Church. The reporter, Howard Berkes, interviewed a couple of Mormon women in Virginia who were phone-canvassing for Romney and were surprised by the anti-Mormon sentiment they encountered, which they don’t often encounter in everyday life. Mormons have mostly flown under the radar in recent years, but the Romney campaign exposed them to some unpleasant commentary, and the church is examining itself in response.

I thought it somewhat interesting -– my objection to Romney wasn’t that he was a Mormon per se, but then again I’m an avowed anti-Republican so would have objected to him in any case. If one of the Udall family made a run at the Democratic presidential prize, would I have misgivings? Good question. Frankly, the very fact of this report, that Mormons are so PR-conscious and eager to assimilate, is reassuring to me. (But how does image-consciousness jibe with those proselytizing kids on bicycles?) GOP primary voters, an evangelical-leaning group, have big problems with the LDS, some of them characterizing it as a cult. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is curious if Romney volunteers number a lot of Mormons (not a claim Berkes makes directly, but it is implied).


Let it be recorded that on this date, I agreed with Christopher Hitchens and Anne Applebaum –- The Archbishop of Canterbury messed up by advocating a “plural jurisdiction” in the UK that would accommodate some aspects of sharia law. I’m generally tolerant of religious pluralism, and I don’t favor the US’s policy toward the Mideast whose goal seems to be to “convert” Muslims, if not to Christianity than at least to Western-style democracy. But Muslims who emigrate to the US or western Europe should have to follow western legal norms. (My sense is that the majority are willing to follow those norms, and in fact those norms are part of their reason for emigrating.) I would allow for some civil contracts or disputes, like sharia mortgages, to be handled apart from the courts if both parties agree, but subject to the courts’ authority if parties cannot agree. But criminal law is criminal law. And internationally, I want western norms to apply. International law and Islamic fundamentalism will inevitably collide sometimes, and there should be sanctions against societies that practice honor killings, genital mutilation, and other forms of official misogyny.

In my personal (probably half-assed) theology, equality before the law is linked to monotheism. My attraction to God is all wrapped up in the notion of God’s love and regard being available to every person without prejudice, like inalienable human rights. And the reason to prefer one god to several gods is the notion of a unitary, impartial divine justice or authority.


Well, just to show the world hasn’t gone all topsy-turvy, I disagree with this Slate writer, a Berkeley-educated but LA-nurtured “liberal contrarian” who thinks there’s nothing wrong with saying that Chelsea Clinton is being “pimped out.” I don’t think “pimped out” has been rendered an innocuous phrase in the culture; it has a more specific and darker connotation than “pimp my ride” or whatever. There’s too much history of the Clintons being described in weird psychosexual terms, and Chelsea has been subjected to that as well as her parents. Remember “Janet Reno is Chelsea’s father”? Enough is enough. I understand that Hillary kind of wants to have it both ways with Chelsea, but look, lots of campaigns use family members as silent stage props. There’s no record of John McCain being said to “pimp out” his wife or children. I was sometimes a little uncomfortable with the John Edwards campaign’s uses of Elizabeth Edwards, but there was never a suggestion that she was a helpless pawn or in some kind of sexual thrall to her husband.

(That said, is Hillary’s campaign trying to turn the David Shuster brainfart to its advantage? Could be.)

Emotions are high in the Clinton-Obama race, as Obama has pulled slightly ahead in the delegate count, way ahead in the fundraising tally. Some of the blogosphere's energy and attention have been focused on the New York Times's op-ed stable: Paul Krugman, who seems to have an extreme animus against Obama, and Frank Rich, who returns the favor against Hillary. (We expect lame-ass armchair head-shrinking from Maureen Dowd, but hold Krugman and Rich to a little higher standard.) Rob at LG&M offers this discussion of the internet fury, and the worthiest sentiment there is from commenter Righteous Bubba: "I favor a take-some-prisoners approach." That's right, take some prisoners, because you may have to sue for a brokered peace in a short while. We all (almost all) say "Of course I'll support whoever turns out to be the nominee," but that disclaimer is often given in a perfunctory way, a la "... the express written consent of the Commissioner of Baseball." About 49% of us, effectively, are going to have to live up to that half-conscious promise.

Again, I'm for Obama, so discount this if you want, but in my view Hillary's campaign is the one that has been pushing the envelope in terms of campaign tactics. This stuff about the Florida and Michigan delegates is a little ominous; it foretells an ugly lawyerly struggle for the nomination extending deep into the summer and inviting appalling Karl Rove comparisons. I observed once, somewhere, that I have faith in Bill Clinton's party loyalty; that for all his ego and ambition, I don't think he will do anything to torpedo the Democrats in November. Some people say Hillary is the more ruthless competitor of the two of them.

High human drama. Hey, in spite of what Atrios says, maybe it will all come down to North Carolina, for once in Tar Heels' lives.

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