Some MLK Day Reading

You owe it to yourself to read Rick Perlstein’s excellent piece about the conservative movement’s reaction to Martin Luther King, Jr., if only because Monday is the national celebration of King’s birth. The fact of the matter is that conservatives in the 1960s despised King. Not just fringe Southern racists, like Strom Thurmond, but nationally known conservatives, like Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan. They thought him a subversive, anti-law&order socialist (read: uppity negro) who needed to know his place. It’s a shame that Reagan’s legacy doesn’t include the fact that he was a deeply, deeply racist man, both in this realm and in his steadfast support for the Apartheid government of South Africa (and his slandering of Nelson Mandela and the ANC as terrorists to boot).
But it’s more of a shame that King’s legacy all but ignores how truly revolutionary his message was, even by today’s standards. King is seen by far too many as someone who just wanted legal equality and who, having received it, would back off and do nothing. But that wasn’t MLK. King was one of the first national figures to stand up and oppose the war in Vietnam. He supported a guaranteed minimum income and took a serious stand against poverty. He self-identified as a democratic socialist. He was constantly persecuted by the FBI, and kept an openly gay ex-Communist socialist (the inimitable Bayard Rustin) as his closest adviser. Any conservative who claims that they support King is either ignorant or lying; same with any “sensible centrist” like Joe Klein or David Broder. King was a figure of the left, and the center and right’s attempts to claim him as their own are extremely unseemly.

99 Problems But Money And Endorsements Ain’t Some

Between his extensive flip-flopping on social issues, his huge unpopularity in his home state, his religion, and his immigration position, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has a lot going against him in a presidential campaign. But it seems that he has no problems raising money or getting endorsements. He raised $6.5 million in a single day, and has won the endorsements of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), a major player in a key early primary state, and of former Governor William Weld (R-MA), showing that he can win support among moderates as well as conservatives. I still think the odds are against him, and that DeMint, Weld, and his campaign contributors will all have worked for naught, but he’s doing better than I expected.

Weird Statements from Obama

I still love Obama, but this is a curious quote:

“I would not be here had it not been for 1984, had it not been for 1988.”
— Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), quote by the New York Daily News, saying he owed “a great debt” to the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his previous runs for president.

No, he really doesn’t. Obama is a solid liberal, but Jackson was practically a socialist. Obama has twelve years of experience in elected office; Jackson had none. Obama isn’t a slave descendent; Jackson is. And, of course, Obama isn’t a raving anti-semite; Jackson is. If there’s anyone who owes a debt to Jackson, it’s this clown, who’s looking like he’ll be running in 2008 as well, with the approximate seriousness with which Jackson ran in 1984 and 1988.

A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come

Well, obviously, this is a spectacularly dumb idea, but it might have one very positive consequence:

Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.
Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey.
Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.
Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

Well, it’s nice to know that the US won’t be backing Olmert in breaking the 62-year nuclear taboo. It’s worth pointing out, again and again, that the Iranian nuclear weapons program does not exist and that US-Iran relations should be premised on that essential fact. In any case, imposing sanctions (like the UN just did) and using military force are very, very bad ideas. A nuclear strike, in particular, could well kill thousands of Iranians, and would make countries like Pakistan, India, North Korea, China and Russia more willing to use nuclear weapons in small-scale endeavors (imagine Russia suppressing the Chechens with nukes, or China doing the same with the Uyghurs).
However, there might be one small silver lining to an action like this one. The sheer craziness of it would make the American people turn sharply against the pro-Likud movement spearheaded by groups like AIPAC and the ADL and by politicians like Joe Lieberman and Tom Lantos. Thus, 2008 presidential candidates might be pressured to adopt a tougher line with Israel, which, if implemented, could help lead to a final peace settlement with the Palestinians and, eventually, a Palestinian state. Which would be a very good thing.

Mitt’s Immigration Problem

As we all know, Mitt Romney has been trying to position himself as the mainstream conservative candidate for the Republican nomination. It’s a smart move, politically; the two major candidates for the nomination – McCain and Giuliani – hold certain positions that are anathema to the religious right and the conservative base. Romney’s rightward shift ran into some criticism, however, when his pro-choice, pro-gay past was dug up. I think that those revelations will hurt him among evangelicals, but not among regular conservatives. His immigration position, however, will prevent conservatives from supporting him. Not much has been made of it, but it’s quite remarkable:

Immigration has been an important part of our nation’s success. The current system, however, puts up a concrete wall to the best and brightest, yet those without skill or education are able to walk across the border. We must reform the current immigration laws so we can secure our borders, implement a mandatory biometrically enabled, tamper proof documentation and employment verification system, and increase legal immigration into America.
Governor Romney: “We need to make America more attractive for legal immigrants for citizens and less attractive for illegal immigrants. I want to see more immigration in our country, but more legal immigration and less illegal immigration.”

This is basically the Democratic position: expanding legal avenues to immigration as the primary means of stopping illegal immigration. Immigration is a major issue to many conservatives, and they will be very concerned about this. Yet another reason why Romney is dead in the water, and why a candidate from the Gingrich/Huckabee/Brownback/Keating/Gilmore pack will become a big, big deal later this year.