12/17/06

Best 2006 Jews-is-News Opinions Picked by NY Times' Brooks

Thse are the Best 2006 Jews-is-News Opinions as picked in his column today, "This Age of Anxiety," by NY Times' David Brooks:

Finally, there was the sense the forces of decency were losing ground to primordial ugliness, especially anti-Semitism. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote a fevered essay on the power of the Israel Lobby, which cleared ground for a million anti-Semitic rants. Jimmy Carter has just published a book intended to make Israelis look like racists.

I’m not sure the classic essay on this latest recrudescence has been written, but Anne Applebaum had a useful piece in Slate called “
Holocaust Denial Is No Joke,” and Adam Garfinkle has a comprehensive look at “The Madness of Jewcentricity” in The American Interest.

It all adds up to quite a gloomy — though well-crafted — collection of essays, culminating in a National Journal piece by Paul Starobin called “
Beyond Hegemony” on life in an age of declining American power.

I have to say, I’m as pessimistic about the Middle East as the next guy, but most of this broader existential gloom about America is absurd. The U.S. is in extraordinarily strong shape economically and socially. And whatever their short-term strengths, the Sadrs of the world simply do not have a social model that large numbers of people will want to live under.
I'm not Brooks' biggest fan, but he does pick good essays.

And of course you gotta read Frank Rich today. He meanders as ususal through the wilderness of conservativism, picking wild berries and delightful fruits to entertain us. He argues that right-wing misuse of religion has run its course and saner heads are bouncing back into the fray. Maybe?

No one more dramatically so, perhaps, than Rick Warren, the Orange County, Calif., megachurch leader and best-selling author of “The Purpose Driven Life.” He has adopted AIDS in Africa as a signature crusade, and invited Barack Obama to join the usual suspects, including Senator Brownback, to address his World AIDS Day conference on the issue. This prompted predictable outrage from the right because of Mr. Obama’s liberal politics, especially on abortion. One radio host, Kevin McCullough, demonized the Democrat for pursuing “inhumane, sick and sinister evil” as a legislator. An open letter sponsored by 18 “pro-life” groups protested the invitation, also citing Mr. Obama’s “evil.” But Mr. Warren didn’t blink.

Among those defending the invitation was David Kuo, the former deputy director of the Bush White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In a book, “Tempting Faith,” as well as in interviews and on his blog, the heretical Mr. Kuo has become a
tough conservative critic of the corruption of religion by politicians and religious-right leaders who are guilty of “taking Jesus and reducing him to some precinct captain, to some get-out-the-vote guy.” Of those “family” groups who criticized Mr. Obama’s appearance at the AIDS conference, Mr. Kuo wrote, “Are they so blind and possessed with such a narrow definition of life that they can think of life only in utero?” The answer, of course, is yes. The Christian Coalition parted ways with its new president-elect, a Florida megachurch pastor, Joel Hunter, after he announced that he would take on bigger issues like poverty and global warming.

But it is leaders like Mr. Hunter and Mr. Warren who are in ascendance. Even the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at Mr. Haggard’s former perch, the National Association of Evangelicals, has joined a number of his peers in
taking up the cause of the environment, putting him at odds with the Bush administration. Such religious leaders may not have given up their opposition to abortion or gay marriage, but they have more pressing priorities. They seem to have figured out, as Mr. Kuo has said, that “politicians use Christian voters for their money and for their votes” and give them little in return except a reputation for bigotry and heartless opposition to the lifesaving potential of stem-cell research.

The axis of family jihadis — Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association — is feeling the heat; its positions get more extreme by the day. A Concerned Women for America mouthpiece called Mary Cheney’s pregnancy “
unconscionable,” condemning her for having “injured her child” and “acted in a way that denies everything that the Bush administration has worked for.” (That last statement, thankfully, is true.) This overkill reeks of desperation. So does these zealots’ recent assault on the supposedly feminizing “medical” properties of soy baby formula (which deserves the “blame for today’s rise in homosexuality,” according to the chairman of Megashift Ministries), and penguins.

Yes, penguins. These fine birds have now joined the Teletubbies and SpongeBob SquarePants in the pantheon of cuddly secret agents for “the gay agenda.” Schools are being
forced to defend “And Tango Makes Three,” an acclaimed children’s picture book based on the true story of two Central Park Zoo male penguins who adopted a chick from a fertilized egg. The hit penguin movie “Happy Feet” has been outed for an “anti-religious bias” and its “endorsement of gay identity” by Michael Medved, the commentator who sets the tone for the religious right’s strictly enforced code of cultural political correctness.

Such censoriousness is increasingly the stuff of comedy. So are politicians of all stripes who advertise their faith. A liberal like Howard Dean is no more credible talking about the Bible (during the 2004 campaign he said his
favorite book in the New Testament was Job) than twice-married candidates like Mr. McCain are persuasive at pledging allegiance to “the sanctity of marriage.”

For all the skeptical theories about the Obama boomlet — or real boom, we don’t know yet — no one doubts that his language about faith is his own, not a crib sheet provided by a conservative evangelical preacher or a liberal political consultant on “values.” That’s why a Democrat from Chicago whose voting record is to the left of Hillary Clinton’s received the same
standing ovation from the thousands at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church that he did from his own party’s throngs in New Hampshire. After a quarter-century of watching politicians from both parties exploit religion for partisan and often mean-spirited political gain, voters on all sides of this country’s culture wars are finally in the market for something new.

1 comment:

Warmongers Anonymous said...

"Finally, there was the sense the forces of decency were losing ground to primordial ugliness, especially anti-Semitism. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote a fevered essay on the power of the Israel Lobby, which cleared ground for a million anti-Semitic rants. Jimmy Carter has just published a book intended to make Israelis look like racists."

...Is anything that questions, or merely points out, Israel's influence (the lobby) and actions considered anti-Semitism? If it is then I guess people need to choose between being considered anti-Semites and giving up their freedoms of speech and expression.