President Obama is beginning to say reliably disconcerting things in public, from his offhand dismissals of longtime foreign allies to his recent assertion in Illinois: “I do think at a certain point that you’ve made enough money.” The Scrapbook would like to have listened in on the clarifying telephone call after that one between Obama and supporter/contributor Warren “$62 Billion and Counting” Buffett.
But for startling insight into the mind of our 44th president, we cannot do better than his recent commencement address at Hampton University in Virginia. Most graduation speeches are predictably anodyne and tend to rely on well-worn generalities. Obama, by contrast, was refreshingly specific at Hampton: He does not like the newfangled means by which many of today’s college graduates—or anyone, for that matter—obtain information.
You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations—none of which I know how to work—information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.
“Some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction,” he added, referring to talk radio and blogs.
These well-chosen words tell us a lot about Barack Obama, and none of it good. To begin with, it is abundantly clear that Obama may well be the president with the thinnest skin since James Knox Polk, who at least had the decency to rail at his critics in the privacy of his diary. Obama is not only indignant about criticism, hostile comment, and “the craziest claims” about himself and his policies: He is furious that citizens have access to different viewpoints without regulatory control. Public discourse in a free society is not a virtue in itself, according to the president; it should be a “tool of empowerment” or “means of emancipation,” not “a form of entertainment.”
The Scrapbook can well imagine the uproar if Obama’s predecessor had looked new graduates in the eye and griped about “iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations—none of which I know how to work.” But the people who would have moaned about George W. Bush’s luddism seem not especially bothered by the fact that the nation’s chief executive has just issued a strongly worded public warning about the baleful effects of free speech and dissent. On the matter of political rhetoric, Barack Obama seems to have the same approach as his vision of health care: distrust for the market, faith in Big Brother.
Not to mention the fact that his logic is upside-down. Sure, iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations convey a lot of nonsense, and some portion of their content is “a form of entertainment.” But does Obama -really believe that, in the old “media environment” of newspapers and wire services and magazines and TV networks, forms of entertainment didn’t sneak in through the window—and that everything published in newspapers, or flashed across the wires, always ranked high on the truth meter? The Scrapbook can assure him that it didn’t, still doesn’t, and never will.
The White House Targets Little Debbie
Spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama, the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity has just released its list of recommendations, some of which seem sensible enough, even to The Scrapbook. Take, for instance, Recommendation 3.17: “Promote healthy behaviors in juvenile correctional and related facilities.” (Scared straight and lose weight at the same time!)
But then we came across Recommendation 2.4: “Restaurants should consider their portion sizes, improve children’s menus, and make healthy options the default choice whenever possible.” Is it so bad that a place like the Cheesecake Factory serves up a generous portion of its Factory Meatloaf, half of which you can then take home for tomorrow’s lunch? Or that one heaping dinner plate of linguini and clams at Carmine’s can sustain a family of four over the next few days? Apparently the answer is yes. As Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan, “Value marketing has been so lucrative for restaurants. . . . They can give you more food on a plate, charge you more and make a profit.”
The Scrapbook is shocked to learn that there are people in this country—in the restaurant business, no less—who seek to make a profit. And how can any self-respecting restaurateur charge you more when he serves you more? In the Age of Obama, that just doesn’t make any economic sense.
Finally there’s Recommendation 2.6: “All media and entertainment companies should limit the licensing of their popular characters to food and beverage products that are healthy and consistent with science-based nutrition standards.” Bart Simpson used to advertise for Butterfinger—will he start endorsing organic broccolini?
Of course these are just recommendations. Except that in the Post writeup, Givhan notes that “while the federal government can’t solve the obesity epidemic, it is prepared to take action where others don’t. . . . While many of the recommendations to food manufacturers and marketers rely on the enormous bully pulpit of the federal government as the motivation to act, the task force noted that agencies reserve the right to use more extreme measures—subpoenas and new regulations—if need be.” Duck and cover, Little Debbie!
And it gets worse: Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz “noted during a question-and-answer session that he has not ruled out regulatory action if companies don’t make headway in decreasing the amount of junk food advertised to kids. The report recommended that the federal and state governments ‘analyze the effect of state and local sales taxes on less healthy, energy-dense foods.’ In other words, a sugar or fat tax.”
Subpoenas? To quote Michelle Malkin, “First they came for the Cheerios . . . ”
Liberals Throw Harvard Under the Bus
In their scramble to explain away Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s indefensible discrimination against military recruiters as Harvard Law dean, her defenders have made some pretty remarkable concessions. For example, in a disingenuous Washington Post op-ed, “How I know Kagan isn’t anti-military,” former Clinton administration solicitor general Walter Dellinger claims that it’s wrong to equate Harvard Law’s no-military-recruiter-on-campus policy “with the anti-military and anti-ROTC policies favored by some campus leftists in the 1970s. Those policies, however, were categorically different: They were directed at the military.”
So Dellinger contemptuously dismisses “the anti-military and anti-ROTC policies favored by some campus leftists in the 1970s.” But these policies weren’t just favored by a few flakes in the 1970s. They are in place on major campuses today—including at Harvard, for example, where ROTC is denied official recognition.
The Scrapbook has a suggestion: If Dellinger is opposed to such anti-military and anti-ROTC policies, he should use his considerable prestige to weigh in for changing them. And if Kagan agrees with Dellinger that anti-ROTC policies are indefensible, we assume she’ll say so at her hearings. Indeed, perhaps it will turn out that she spoke against them as dean of Harvard Law School, since her deanship coincided with a period of considerable controversy about ROTC at Harvard. Or perhaps she didn’t.
In any case, Congress should take a look at extending the Solomon Amendment—which required Harvard Law to accept military recruiters on campus if Harvard were to continue receiving federal funds—to the case of discrimination against ROTC on campus.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Journalism Division)
"The book, reported with [Marcus] Brauchli’s and [Robert] Thomson’s cooperation, reports that Brauchli’s relationship with [new owner Rupert] Murdoch did not get off to the strongest start. After completing his $5 billion takeover of Dow Jones, Murdoch invited Brauchli [then editor of the Wall Street Journal, now editor of the Washington Post], whom he had never met, to breakfast or lunch that Friday. Brauchli said he would have to check his calendar and call him back. . . . ” (“One editor’s balancing act on the high wire of modern journalism,” Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, May 10.)
Louise Bagshawe is a British writer of what’s popularly known as chick-lit—books aimed at female readers. Her latest is Desire, following along the same literary path as her earlier books—Glitz, Glamour, Passion, and Sparkles. At Oxford, she was “vivacious” and “lively,” a friend says. She played in a heavy metal rock band. She’s a divorced mother of three and for a while was a fan of Tony Blair, the Labor prime minister.
Bagshawe, 38, is now a Conservative member of parliament. On May 6, she ousted a Labor M.P. in Corby, the Midlands constituency north of London where she lives. And she is typical of the nontraditional candidates recruited by Prime Minister David Cameron to diversify the stodgy, old Conservative party.
Or maybe not so typical, because Bagshawe turns out to be a Thatcherite. She blogs on Tim Montgomerie’s CentreRight website. A few weeks before the election, in an item titled “No guts, no glory,” she wrote, “My heroine, Margaret Thatcher, famously said that when she left politics she was going to start a ‘rent-a-spine’ business. . . . This is the best possible time to be a Tory. We have a priceless chance to make a difference, to get a government in that will fix our sinking economy, mend our broken society, and restore social justice and Britain’s pride in itself.”
Whew! By the way, her fictional heroines struggle their way to the top, with no special privileges, and earn -everything they achieve. Maybe her next novel will be called Rogue.
As several readers pointed out, we mistakenly identified Ray Mabus two weeks ago as a former Mississippi congressman (“Scuttle the USS Murtha). Mabus, now secretary of the Navy, is a former governor and state auditor of Mississippi.