Monday, June 15, 2009

A Little Of The Old In And Out

(image via newsweek)

In: "The Obama Effect." The Obama Effect -- or, more accurately, "After Effects" -- of his Cairo speech have extended beyond the pro-Western March 14 coalition victory in Lebanon to Iran. The crude vote-rigging and the Ayatollah's post-electoral rallying behind Ahmadinejad -- despite the fact, allegedly, that the President was not the cleric's pony in the race -- suggests that the reverberations of President Obama's influence post-Egypt throughout the region is scaring fundamentalist Shiites. In yesterday's New York Times Tom Friedman outlined three reasons to explain the winds of change in the region: 1) the diffusion of technology, 2) the space for democratic forces to congeal (afforded by the U.S. military presence in the region), 3) the recent weakness of Arab autocracy, and:

"Finally, along came President Barack Hussein Obama. Arab and Muslim regimes found it very useful to run against George Bush. The Bush team demonized them, and they demonized the Bush team. Autocratic regimes, like Iran’s, drew energy and legitimacy from that confrontation, and it made it very easy for them to discredit anyone associated with America. Mr. Obama’s soft power has defused a lot of that. As result, 'pro-American' is not such an insult anymore.

"I don’t know how all this shakes out; the forces against change in this region are very powerful — see Iran — and ruthless. But for the first time in a long time, the forces for decency, democracy and pluralism have a little wind at their backs."

The column is way too light on the excesses of the Bush Presidency (Friedman supported the Second Persian Gulf War), but it is worth reading in that it it ties President Obama use of soft power, of his personal celebrity (and, brilliantly, that of his well-chosen Sec of State Hillary Clinton) to the present volatility in the Middle East.

(image via timeinc)

Out: David Letterman. Letterman caves. Was he wrong to read -- not write -- that joke about Sarah Palin's daughter. Of course he was. But she, a public figure, was foolish to have turned such a stupid dispute with a comedian into a red state/blue state issue. They should both have left it at that and moved on.

Neither did.

Now this, from Bill Carter of The New York Times:

"David Letterman directly apologized to Gov Sarah Palin and her daughters on his program Monday night, saying he took responsibility for a joke that had offended Ms. Palin, her family, and her supporters.

"Mr. Letterman opened the desk portion of his show with the apology in which he said he wanted to say he was sorry to 'to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke.' Two weeks ago on his 'Late Show' program on CBS, he had joked about Governor Palin attending a Yankee game with her daughter.

"The joke, in which Mr. Letterman seemingly confused Willow, who is 14 and attended a Yankee game with Gov. Palin that week, with Bristol, who is 18 and an unwed mother, had to do with the Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez impregnating Ms. Palin’s daughter."

Clearly Letterman will get boffo ratings tonight as people tune in to see it for themselves. But what this will do to his reputation as "the edgy guy" on late night remains to be seen. Let's hop this is the end of a tedious episode in late night television.

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