Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Conservatives are outraged over an actual outrage? Color me impressed. It may have taken awhile, but thanks to Patrick Courrielche’s exposé at, of all places, Big Hollywood, conservatives are positively fuming over the Bush Administration‘s decision to funnel $2.2 billion through the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives into programs that specifically support the President’s ideological and policy commitments, like the Abstinence Education Program, designed to “enable states to provide abstinence education and mentoring, counseling, and adult supervision to promote abstinence from sexual activity.” Conservatives are rightly upset with a speech Bush delivered at the 2004 White House National Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, in which he said “[i]t’s hard to be a faith-based program if you can’t practice faith [and] the message to you is, we’re changing the culture here in America.” “It’s hard to read his comments as anything but a call for groups to engage in a partisan campaign on behalf of the Bush Administration’s policy agenda,” argued John Hinderaker. Nick Gillespie agreed, saying that “[i]f you’ve ever wondered—and worried—about where government support of the arts leads, look no further than the full transcript of an August 10, 2009 telecon[ference call] between an official at the National Endowment for the Arts and a group of ‘independent artists from around the country.’” Wait wait wait—I thought conservatives were upset because the White House created an office, installed it five federal agencies, then used them to fund a clearly partisan policy agenda to the tune of $2.2 billion. You mean to tell me all those links are about an August 10th conference call that tried to wrangle up support for the current President’s National Day of Service—a call in which not one cent of the NEA’s $155 million budget was dispensed or even offered? They are. All the outrage centers around a conference call designed, in the words soon-to-be-becked* Yosi Sergant, “to raise the visibility” for a program whose purpose is to encourage “all Americans and others throughout the world to voluntarily perform at least one good deed or another service activity on the anniversary of 9/11 each year, and on other days marked by terrorist events.” The problem, it seems, is that the NEA is supposed to be above partisanship, and supporting the President’s United We Serve initiative is seen by conservatives to be a partisan issue. Here are some of its highly partisan goals: We want to make Americans’ lives better by asking everybody to participate in shaping the life of their community and make the quality of life better. Clearly, “making Americans’ lives better” is a partisan issue. Which would be acceptable, were the administration not being so heavy-handed: [H]ow do we move the people who look to each of you for guidance to get involved? We have to leave that to you because nobody else knows how to do it better than you do[.] Clearly, dictating that individual organizations ought to do what they think is appropriate in a manner of their own choosing is but one step from installing Obama as...
Turns out I owe Jack Cashill an apology. Because I was wrong, wrong, wrong about the identity of the author of Dreams From My Father. Independent confirmation of Cashill's claim that William Ayers penned the President's memoir comes in the form of a book by celebrity biographer Christopher Andersen. Cashill is right to be excited—it's not every day you blunder to the plate, close your eyes, swing for the fences and have your prayers answered. That's what the arrival of corroborating evidence in Andersen's book amounts to, and no researcher who's found corroboration of the sort in independently researched materials will begrudge Cashill the tone of unreserved glee and grammatical abandon evident in his latest post: In his new book, "Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage," Best-selling celebrity journalist, Christopher Andersen, has blown a huge hole in the Obama genius myth without intending to do so. Who cares that book titles are traditionally underlined or italicized, capital letters belong at the beginning of sentences, or that he uses, commas, like an undergraduate when independent research has provided a factual basis for his speculative argument: Relying on inside sources, quite possibly Michelle Obama herself, Andersen describes how Dreams came to be published—just as I had envisioned it in my articles on the authorship of Dreams. With the deadline pressing, Michelle recommended that Barack seek advice from "his friend and Hyde Park neighbor Bill Ayers." Only a killjoy would complain that Michelle Obama couldn't be a source, "quite possibly" or otherwise, because Andersen wrote an unauthorized biography—which, by definition, is a biography whose subject or subjects did not participate in its composition. That those "inside sources" who knew of Michelle's purported recommendation are not named, i.e. sourced, is the sort of thing that, despite being true, only someone who hated joy would point out. Andersen continues, "In the end, Ayers's contribution to Barack's Dreams From My Father would be significant—so much so that the book's language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similarity to Ayers's own writing." Even though Cashill jettisons the very pretense of formatting book titles here, and even though Andersen's claim is couched in a conditional clause ("would be significant") of the sort favored by authors who learned their libel law from the wrong end of many lawsuits, we should not let such quibbles diminish the importance of this independent, corroborating evidence—especially when, even though Cashill doesn't identify him in his post, these claims come from a named source: In the end, Ayers's contribution of Barack's Dreams from My Father would be significant—so much so that the book's language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similiarity to Ayers's own writings . . . "There was a good deal of literary back-scratching going on in Hyde Park," said writer Jack Cashill, who noted that a mutual friend of Barack and Ayers, Rashid Khalidi, thanked Ayers for helping him with his book Resurrecting Empire. Ayers, explained Cashill, "provided an informal editing service for like-minded friends in the...

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