Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Little of the Old In and Out

In: Serena. At the tender age of 29, Serena Williams is not yet  done with the sport of tennis. On the first day of summer an emotional Serena Williams, the former world number one women's tennis player, bested Aravane Rezail at Wimbledon. Eeven months after her last appearance, the defending champion, now seeded seventh, won an emotional, tough match. Serena is back. From The New York Times:

Serena Williams’s first match at a Grand Slam tournament in nearly a year was over, and she was crying as she waved to the Wimbledon crowd, crying into her towel, crying as she walked off one of the courts where she has defined her career.

But these were not tears of farewell or disappointment Tuesday. They were tears of release and relief after a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Aravane Reza├» in the first round and after a year of major health problems and major doubts about whether she would return to the game.        
“I usually don’t cry, so I don’t understand it, but it’s just been so hard,” Williams said. “ I never dreamt I would be here right now.”
The injuries ( two operations to repair a torn tendon in her right foot) and health problems (blood clots in lungs) that have plagued her in the last year appear -- at least for today -- just that: in the past. You go, girl.

Out: Newtie. And speaking of the past ...

Newt Gingrich ought to have run for President in 1996. That was his time. The political winds were more at his back then than now when Bob Dole was handily defeated by the Clintonistas. Now, to be frank, Newt is way past his expiration date. Unless Gingrich is in fact running for President to be Secretary of State -- a position that might be tenable and a Department in which he has shown real interest -- then he is naught else but a simple fool. Worse: He is becoming a laughingstock.

Today his fundraising team quit. "Now all his fundraisers have quit," mocks Andrew Sullian. "Could this be one of the worst campaigns in memory?" It certainly looks worse that Rudy Giuliani's flamout in Florida in 2008 because as bad as it was, at least Rudy's campaign got off the ground.

The walkout of Newtie's fundraisers follows on the heels of the en masse departure onlt two weeks ago of a dozen staffers — including key operatives in states like Iowa and South Carolina, the campaign manager and his chief strategist. Finally, Newt, a neoconservative fellow traveller, is regularly attacked by neoconservatives -- his base -- like when John Podhoretz recently wrote: "Newt Gingrich never received more than 100,000 votes in his life. He'll never be president." We won't entertain the hoo-ha over his intramural contretemps with Congressman Paul Ryan, a fiscal conservative hero.

With friends like those ...

In: Isolationism. A recent Pew poll found that majorities in every partisan group – including more than half of conservative Republicans – said that the United States “should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home.”

America First, a persistent if minor theme in recent American history, is on the rise. In times of great stress -- like, for example, in times of  9.1% unemployment and a trillion-dollar deficit -- America naturally veers towards isolationism. Libya -- more precisely the President's not informing Congress of his intentions there -- appears to have been the last straw. Jacksonian essays are springing up like cherry blossoms. As Doug Bandow writes on Forbes:

Over the years “isolationist” has been routinely used to libel people who don’t want the U.S. government to wander the globe bombing, invading, and occupying other nations and writing checks to assorted corrupt thugs, vicious authoritarians, and incompetent socialists. Isolationist also has been applied to those who believe the Constitution reserves to Congress the authority to start wars. The only way to avoid the epithet is to be a profligate spender and promiscuous warmonger who routinely violates the Constitution.

America, and more important, Americans, should engage the world. Except in highly unusual circumstances, the U.S. government should maintain political relations with other nations. Transnational issues—refugees, environment, proliferation—warrant transnational cooperation. On the rare occasion when America has truly vital interests at stake, military action may be justified.

The most important activities between nations should be between peoples. Trade and investment, culture and sports, education and travel, economic development and humanitarian assistance, and much more. The proper presumption, in a free society at least, is that most human action and exchange take place outside of government. 
Minimizing political entanglements, as George Washington famously advocated in his Farewell Address, is not isolationism but prudent engagement.
The public mood seems to be moving in an isolationist direction. In Iraq, in Afghanistan. And, one wonders, will the President's moderate troop withdrawals in Afghanistan be on the wrong side of history? Will a Rick Perry or a Jon Huntsman take advantage? Will the GOP candidate best able to articulate an isolationist, pro-jobs philosophy win the Republican primary and present the strongest challenge to the President?

At the moment it certainly appears so.

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