Smudged Legacy

A legacy is like a chalkboard; you write and write, you smudge and smudge, you dot the i’s and cross the t’s until you’re out of room. You’re left with a couple of options. Either you can leave the message–the lesson–up on the board and grant interpretation to the prerogative of the viewer Or you can erase it and start over.

And there goes your legacy.

Nancy Pelosi is choosing the latter. I wouldn’t agree that she’s been “the most effective Speaker in a generation” as many are claiming. I would assert, however, that she’s been one of the most principled. In a gridlocked Congresses, she’s often avoided compromise and negotiation. She’s taken on the challenges that are important to Democrats, fought for the fundamental missions of liberals, and has answered the toughest questions with a progressive answer.

Perhaps her deeply rooted self-confidence was a factor in the demise of her Democratic majority. Retrospectively, maybe she should have been less “out there” and pushed a less partisan agenda. But she wasn’t and she didn’t, and in her position as Speaker, she didn’t need to be less partisan. She had nothing to lose.

Well, she lost it.

Instead of walking away from the chalkboard and leaving her legacy to the analytical eye of history, she’s picked up the eraser. And assuming that she succeeds in becoming the next Minority Leader, she’ll erase that pristine legacy of principle. She’ll have everything to lose. She’ll have to transform herself from the bleeding-heart liberal she has always been into a centrist-leaning blue dog. That’s not who she is–that’s not what the chalkboard should say.

To maintain her legacy and honorably end a career of righteous conviction, Nancy Pelosi should drop the eraser and choose not to run for Minority Leader. After a career of steadfast loyalty to the left-wing, the next two years would become a smudge on her legacy.

Shades of Gray

I was asked a thought-provoking question today during a conversation about the latest fiasco in Israel. “When you’re talking about your stance on Israel, what does it mean to be conservative and what does it mean to be liberal?” It occurs to me that classifying my position under the umbrella of either word is not constructive to any kind of debate or discussion. Like most political hot-topics, Israel is not a black-and-white issue. Most people see it as one, though. But the truth is that I can’t believe what I believe (whether it be that Israel has erred, or that it was merely utilizing self-defense) without acknowledging that there is not one answer.

On this particular issue– whether or not Israel has/had the right to defend itself– I’ve noticed something troubling: it’s a lot easier to convince someone that Israel is in the wrong than to convince someone that Israel’s actions were those of self defense. It’s not because the facts aren’t there, or there isn’t enough evidence. It’s because of how great the extent of the media’s influence on society is and the media’s domino-effect-esqe one-sidedness on the topic of Israel.

I read the Huffington Post every day, diving into the sea of American liberal politics and wallowing in it. The majority of the news that I read comes from more liberal sources…CNN, The New York Times, Politico, Talking Points Memo. And I rarely have a problem with any of it. In fact, I debate people who say that the news sources I read are one-sided or biased and say that the news I read isn’t biased, it’s just true. Well, while it’s my opinion that the news is true, I am going to start acknowledging more of the subtleties of issues that arise in the media and begin researching the opposing viewpoint, because the incredible lack of fair coverage on in the last four days has been disgusting and unacceptable.

For two straight days, the Huffington Post’s headlines were inflammatory and accusatory of Israel. They only posted out-of-context videos portraying Israel as the offender, and didn’t post videos like this, showing Israeli soldiers getting onto the sixth ship and being attacked by the flotilla’s “peace activists” with metal bars and being violently thrown off of the boat.

As is the case with any political issue, anyone is entitled to have an opinion. But regardless of your opinion, no one is entitled to report on the stuff that supports one’s own argument without reporting on the other stuff; the stuff that is true and sheds light on the reality of the matter by admitting that the issue is not black-and-white.

Painting them Blue

The Republican side of the gubernatorial campaign in California is, in several ways, a great work of fiction. Steve Poizner (who is gaining ground) and Meg Whitman have spent a considerable amount of their funds on creating balls of mud to sling at each other. The campaign has gone from, “Who can prove him/herself the more qualified candidate?” to “Who can make up the most creative lie about his/her opponent?”.

On the small-scale, each of these raging conservatives is trying to paint the other candidate blue, framing them as liberals. Sure, that’s a way to stimulate the GOP base, but let’s be frank: neither of them are anywhere near liberal– fiscally or socially.

On a larger scale, they are literally lying about one another; especially Poizner about Whitman. In a new ad, the Poizner campaign says, of Whitman’s immigration stance, “She supports Obama’s amnesty plan.” But on her website, it says the following:

The woman’s a full-hearted Republican! Let the world see that, so that she loses the general election! Also, check out this ad from the Poizner campaign. It’s disgusting that it’s all come down to lies and unreasonable conjectures.

Elena Kagan

There are a few things that make Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to fill Justice Stevens’ seat on the Supreme Court, a more easily-confirmable nominee than others may have been:

  • She has never been a judge before. In terms of confirmation, this is highly beneficial and eases the process. During Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings– as well as those of quite a few other SCOTUS nominees– Republicans hammered her on controversial decisions that she had made. Kagan has made some controversial comments, but has never had to publicly make a major political/ judicial decision. She’d be the first justice in thirty eight years to be confirmed without having had previous judicial experience (William Rhenquist was the last one).
  • She’s a woman. Kagan’s confirmation to the Supreme Court will make women 1/3 of the supreme court. While this is unprecedented, it should be, because women make up more than 51% of the population of the United States. (Also, she Jewish, which breaks the mold, as well.)
  • She’s procured bipartisan support. As dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan re-shaped what had been widely recognized as a very liberal faculty. She tenured twenty new professors, many of them conservative. Since her nomination (and during the time she was being considered), several prominent conservative legal minds have spoken out in support of her and expressed their strong beliefs that Elena Kagan would be an excellent, honorable Supreme Court justice.
  • She’s brilliant and overqualified. She went to Princeton for undergraduate, and received an A.B. in History. Went to Oxford and received a Masters degree in Philosophy. She went to Harvard Law and received her J.D. She clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall. She was a tenured law professor at the University of Chicago (coincidentally, right around the same time Barack Obama was there). She was Bill Clinton’s associate White House Counsel. Now, she serves as the United States Solicitor General, representing the United States Government in cases before the Supreme Court. She’s known to be one of the sharpest legal minds in the country.