Speaking well and doing great

Must a president be eloquent to be successful?

That question has sparked a heated quarrel between the campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. The senator from New York stresses “results, not rhetoric,” while her rival contends that a leader has to inspire Americans in order to produce “a new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness.”

In politics as in poker, each candidate plays his or her strongest cards and suspects the opponent of bluffing. Yet the importance of this question shouldn’t be lost amid the clamor of a hard-fought campaign. Political oratory is an ancient craft. In the nearly 2,400 years since Plato defined rhetoric as “winning the soul through discourse,” effective speechmaking has been integral to the pursuit and the wielding of power. And the brief but contentious history of modern U.S. politics suggests that Obama has the better argument.

Barnstorming Obama plans to pick Republicans for cabinet
As Barack Obama enters the final stages of the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, he is preparing to detach the core voters of John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, with the same ruthless determination with which he has peeled off Hillary Clinton’s supporters. The scene is set for a tussle between the two candidates for the support of some of the sharpest and most independent minds in politics. Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee.

McCain channels his Inner Hillary
Frank Rich – What repeatedly goes unrecognized by all of Mr. Obama’s opponents is that his political Kryptonite is the patriotism he offers in lieu of theirs. His upbeat notion of a yes-we-can national mobilization for the common good, however saccharine, speaks to the pride and idealism of Americans who are bone-weary of a patriotism defined exclusively by flag lapel pins, the fear of terrorism and the prospect of perpetual war.

Islamophobia: ‘She wasn’t dressed right’
The Sept. 11 attacks, the Iraq war and suicide bombings worldwide have changed not only the way we live but the way we look at those around us, especially Muslims. “Islamophobia” has entered the American vernacular, and the anti-Muslim attitudes and prejudice it describes remain common. But what if you witnessed “Islamophobia” in action and saw someone being victimized because of someone else’s prejudices? What would you do?

How Hollywood learned to stop worrying and love the (ticking) bomb
Scott Horton – …one of the most pervasive memes of our modern political experience has been the notion of the “liberal media,” namely that key figures in broadcast and print media are more liberal than the average American, and that news and entertainment reflect their “liberal” bias. The torture issue provides an interesting opportunity to test this thesis. My view is that the Administration has had tremendous impact on coverage of the issue. It was able to transform well-settled media views. There are two aspects to this industry that I want to address today—first, news and second entertainment, though there is a rather nebulous middle ground of infotainment. But I want to come to a focus on the entertainment side, where the most serious issues exist.

A card-carrying civil libertarian
Jeffrey Rosen – If Barack Obama wins in November, we could have not only our first president who is an African-American, but also our first president who is a civil libertarian. Throughout his career, Mr. Obama has been more consistent than Hillary Clinton on issues from the Patriot Act to bans on flag burning. At the same time, he has reached out to Republicans and independents to build support for his views. Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, has embraced some of the instrumental tacking of Bill Clinton, whose presidency disappointed liberal and conservative civil libertarians on issue after issue.

One per cent of Americans now in jail
They used to call it the land of the free, but a new report shows that the United States is nowadays more a nation of the incarcerated. For the first time in history, more than 1 per cent of the US adult population is now behind bars. For minority populations, the rates of imprisonment are much higher.

Hizbullah slams deployment of US warships off coast
A US deployment of warships off the coast of Lebanon further sharpened tensions in the crisis-plagued country on Friday, as Hizbullah condemned the move and the Lebanese government said it did not ask for the ships to be sent. Hizbullah on Friday denounced Washington’s dispatch of the USS Cole and two other vessels to waters off Lebanon as military interference.

Hamas warns Israel not to invade Gaza
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh emerged from weeks of hiding Friday to warn Israeli officials against an anticipated large-scale offensive to uproot the militant Islamic group from the Gaza Strip. “I tell the leaders of the occupation: This round will end in terrible failure just like all the other rounds failed,” Haniyeh said at a mosque near his home in a Gaza City refugee camp.

Hamas’ next move will be to avenge Gaza deaths
It is a mistake for anyone in Israel to think that the high price that the Gaza Strip is paying will undermine Palestinian civilians’s support for the Hamas government. At least for the moment, the operation’s impact is the opposite. The Gaza residents who spoke Saturday with Haaretz expressed their absolute support for Hamas and its activities. Munir, a former officer in the Fatah security forces, is not a big fan of Hamas. But Saturday, after the killing of civilians in the IDF operation, he said: “All of Gaza has become Hamas. We will all fight Israel. If the IDF moves deep into the Gaza Strip, it should expect shooting from every home, even if it is populated [with civilians].”

Musharraf down but not out — and why
With his opponents openly asking him to step down and even some well-wishers suggesting a kind of ‘graceful exit’, President Musharraf may well be under tremendous pressure. Yet signals emanating from the president’s camp indicate that despite the heavy odds, he is determined not to throw in the towel — at least not in the initial few rounds.

Man acquitted in terror case faces deportation
The case of the “Liberty City Seven” stymied jurors. After a three-month trial late last year, they deadlocked on nearly all of the charges regarding the purported plot by several men to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. The one thing jurors could agree upon, however, was that one of the men, Lyglenson Lemorin, 33, was not guilty. “I was excited,” Lemorin said of his reaction on the December day that the verdict was announced. “I wanted to see my family.” Yet more than two months after his acquittal on charges of supporting terrorism, Lemorin remains incarcerated, and U.S. immigration officials are moving to deport him to Haiti, which he left more than 20 years ago. Officials are asking an administrative judge to order his deportation based on the same charges that the jury dismissed.

The three trillion dollar War: Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda Bilmes on the true cost of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq
Democracy Now! interview.

Economist Stiglitz says Iraq war costs may reach $5 trillion
Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz, author of a new book that claims the Iraq war will cost the U.S. more than $3 trillion, said the final tally is likely to climb much higher than that. “It’s much more like five trillion,” Stiglitz said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg Radio. “We were trying to make Americans understand how expensive this war was so we didn’t want to quibble about a dime here or a dime there.”

Why I have new hope for the Mideast
Robin Wright – New public voices, daring publications and noisy protests across two dozen countries are giving shape to a vigorous, if disjointed, search for alternatives to the autocratic regimes and imperious monarchies that have proved they’re out of sync with their people. Dissident judges in Cairo, rebel clerics in Tehran, satellite television station owners in Dubai, the first female parliamentary candidates in Kuwait, young techies in Jeddah, intrepid journalists in Beirut, and bold businessmen in Damascus are carving out new space for political action.

‘Harry’s War’: The ugly truth
Overwhelming firepower (the kind that Harry co-ordinates) cannot resolve the fact that the British campaign in Helmand is illogical; we are trying to fight our way to winning hearts and minds and losing the trust of the population in doing so. Scores of civilians have been killed by British ordnance in Helmand. In 2007, at least 6,000 people died in the conflict across Afghanistan, of which approximately 1,400 were civilians. At least 500 of these deaths were directly attributable to Nato forces, mostly in air strikes; 89 British troops have been killed and 329 injured. As General Sir Richard Dannatt has pointed out, we are there for the good of the Afghans, but at the moment we are having the reverse effect. The Taliban are resurgent. Funded by millions of dollars of opium money, they are responding to greater British troop numbers by increased use of suicide bombing tactics.

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