How to think about Cologne

Cologne, December 31 2015 (Photo: Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

Cologne, December 31 2015 (Photo: Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]

This is the first post I’ve had on what happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, though I’ve been riveted to the story and its aftermath since it broke in the days following that calamitous evening. My immediate reaction—apart from indignation over the actions of the hordes of men—was that the perpetrators were most certainly not recently arrived Syrian refugees. This made no sense to me and for a variety of reasons (that need not be elaborated upon here). And my supposition was correct, as police and journalistic accounts have revealed that the men were mostly from the Maghreb and undocumented migrants, not refugees.

As for why the men behaved toward the women in the way they did, the link with religion, i.e. Islam, was prima facie nonsensical, as if a mob of several hundred drunken non-Muslim men would have behaved differently. Not that there are not specific issues with gender and women in public space in a number of Muslim (mainly Arab) societies. On this, one naturally thinks of the numerous incidents reported in Egypt over the past several years and of feature films on the general subject. As I wrote in a post on one of these some 3½ years back

The attack on [CBS reporter] Lara Logan [in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in February 2011] no doubt gave many Americans the unfortunate impression that Egyptian/Arab men are misogynistic a**holes and that there is something sick about those societies. Well, there are indeed such men in Egypt—as there are everywhere—and on the matter of gender relations there are some issues that are specific to that part of the world. But it has to be said that Egypt was not always this way. When I lived in Cairo in the mid 1980s it was absolutely one of the safest cities in the world, on a level with Tokyo, and that likely had less crime than even Oslo or Stockholm. One could leave one’s apartment door unlocked and walk about anywhere at any time of the day or night without the slightest worry. And this was also the case for women too (maybe not late at night, but then hardly anyone went out late in Cairo back then; the city was asleep by 11 PM). The situation has changed considerably over the years, with the worsening economic conditions for so much of the population, overwhelming population density, etc, etc. Egypt is incontestably a coarser, more violent place nowadays than it was in past decades.

In reading the polemics over Cologne, of the European and North American commentators who have tried to establish a link between the men and the fact they were from Muslim cultures, I was reminded of my visit with relatives in India some twenty-five years ago, where a 16-year-old cousin (a few degrees removed) told me that she avoided walking around the center of the city (Allahabad) even during midday, as she was constantly harassed by groups of men (whom she specified were mainly country bumpkins recently arrived in the city). And, as one knows, there have been numerous incidents (reported in the international media) of gang rape in Indian cities, which, until proof to the contrary, were not committed by Muslim men. Indian cities are not necessarily safe spaces for unaccompanied young women.

Whatever cultural variables one may isolate regarding the men in Cologne, the determinate ones were, I will venture, the mob and inebriation. On this, one recalls New York City’s Puerto Rican Day parade in June 2000, during which dozens of women were sexually assaulted by packs of men (e.g. here, here, here, and here). And none of the men arrested or otherwise identified were refugees and/or from Muslim cultures.

One thing Cologne and New York City in June 2000 had in common: the police were not present. The packs of alcohol-imbibed young men had free reign of public space.

What is prompting me to write about Cologne at this particular moment is a debate/polemic on the subject that has been raging this month, including this weekend, which was initiated by the now well-known Algerian writer and commentator Kamel Daoud, who published a full-page tribune in Le Monde dated February 5th, “Cologne, lieu de fantasmes,” in which he sought to establish a link between what happened on New Year’s Eve and Islamism, and which he followed up with an op-ed in The New York Times (February 14th) carrying the titre de chocThe sexual misery of the Arab world.”

Daoud’s linking of Cologne with Islamism and sexual pathologies in the Arab/Muslim world was too much for a certain number of readers. Nineteen MENA specialist academics of varying nationalities thus signed a tribune in Le Monde dated February 12th, “Nuit de Cologne: ‘Kamel Daoud recycle les clichés orientalistes les plus éculés’” (Kamel Daoud is recycling the most hackneyed Orientalist clichés), which was translated into English by the Jadaliyya webzine, under the title “The fantasies of Kamel Daoud.” A full-throttled polemical pushback, with no mincing of words. Disclosure: I know several of the 19 signatories personally and am personal friends with the tribune’s veritable authors.

My dear friend Adam Shatz, who published a profile of Kamel Daoud in the NYT Magazine last April—and with the two becoming good friends—had a few issues with the critique of Daoud, but was also disturbed by what he considered to be excesses by his friend. So he wrote him a letter/email several days ago and which prompted a response by Daoud, the two being published in Le Quotidien d’Oran this week (here and here) and then together in this weekend’s Le Monde, under the title “Kamel Daoud et les ‘fantasmes’ de Cologne, retour sur une polémique.” It’s a moving exchange between two friends, not to mention intellectuals.

On making sense of what happened in Cologne, the best analysis I’ve seen is a lengthy article that led Le Monde’s Culture & Idées supplement (February 6th), “Cologne: peut-on expliquer cette nuit de cauchemar?” by Frédéric Joignot. The lede: “Faut-il voir dans les agressions sexuelles massives de la Saint-Sylvester une conséquences des rapports compliqués qu’entretient le monde arabo-musulman avec les femmes et leurs corps? Plusieurs thèses s’affrontent.” Several major French MENA specialists weigh in. As the article is behind the wall, I’ve copied-and-pasted it in the comments thread below for non-subscribers.

While I’m at it, The New Yorker (February 8th-15th) has a must-read article by staff writer Elif Batuman, who’s Turkish-American, “Cover Story: The head scarf, modern Turkey, and me.” Don’t miss this one.

UPDATE: The Adam Shatz-Kamel Daoud email correspondence has been translated into English, by Elisabeth Zerofsky, and posted on the blog of the World Policy journal. (February 26th)

2nd UPDATE: The intellectual food fight debate over Kamel Daoud’s February 5th Le Monde tribune has continued into the second week of March, with all sorts of intellos, talking heads, and even politicians (qui ont perdu une bonne occasion de se taire) weighing in. As for contributions by the principal parties to the debate, Thomas Serres (one of the 19 signatories of the counter-tribune) launched a polemical salvo, “Autopsie d’une défaite et notes de combat pour la prochaine fois,” in the neo-anarchist Article 11 (March 2nd); Adam Shatz wrote a follow up, typically thoughtful essay on “The Daoud Affair” in the LRB Online (March 4th); Muriam Haleh Davis (one of the 19) has a post in the World Policy Blog (March 7th), “The ‘Daoud Affair’ sparks debate;” and Kamel Daoud penned a column entitled “Mes petites guerres de libération” in Le Quotidien d’Oran (March 7th).

3rd UPDATE: Olivier Roy is interviewed in the April 7-13 issue of L’Obs on a variety of topics, one of which is Cologne and the controversy over Kamel Daoud’s position. Here’s the question and Roy’s reponse

A la suite de votre tribune «Cologne ou “le tartuffe féministe”», parue dans «Libération», on vous a reproché d’apporter votre caution au «procès en sorcellerie» intenté au romancier algérien Kamel Daoud pour ses propos sur les violences sexuelles en Allemagne. Vous dénonciez en effet l’analyse culturaliste des agressions du Nouvel An. Quelle était votre intention ?

J’avais précisément refusé de signer la tribune contre Kamel Daoud. Car ses signataires, dont beaucoup me sont proches, me l’ont évidemment proposé, et j’ai décliné, parce que, si je partage leurs idées, je ne partageais par leur indignation. Pour ma part, je n’attaque pas Kamel Daoud, qui en tant qu’écrivain a le droit d’écrire ce qu’il écrit et d’être excessif, de même que chacun a le droit de critiquer ses opinions.

Ce que j’attaque, c’est l’idée qui traîne désormais partout qu’un musulman harcèle parce qu’il est musulman, et qu’un Européen harcèle parce qu’il a une pathologie particulière. Je ne comprends pas cet essentialisme. Qu’on nous dise qu’il y a une culture musulmane machiste, oui ; que la société algérienne soit une société où les femmes ont beaucoup de mal à aller dans l’espace public, oui. Mais qu’ensuite on nous décrive les musulmans, où qu’ils aillent, comme se trimballant avec un petit logiciel culturel de violeur potentiel dans la tête, non.

A contrario, on dit que les Occidentaux respectent la femme. Mais quand Cécile Duflot se fait siffler à cause de sa jupe à l’Assemblée nationale, ce n’est pas le petit beur de banlieue qui siffle ! Nous sommes dans des sociétés où le féminisme est un combat permanent. Le machisme est certes prégnant en Méditerranée, dans des sociétés qui n’ont pas fait Mai-68, mais il n’est pas spécialement religieux et, surtout, c’est la chose la mieux partagée au monde. Regardez Donald Trump.

I agree with Roy, needless to say.

David Cameron and the Brexit

David Cameron en boîte de nuit

So an accord a minima has been concluded in Brussels that will enable David Cameron to campaign for a yes vote to remain in the EU, in the mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly crazy, insane, and utterly unnecessary referendum he has pledged to hold on the Brexit. Quelle histoire lamentable. That a British prime minister would embark on a course of action that could have such deleterious consequences, for both his own country and Europe, defies belief. Cameron—along with France’s current president—has to be the most pathetic leader of a Western democracy. Of course one wants the UK to stay in the EU—as a Brexit would be calamitous for the future of Europe and most certainly lead to the breakup of the UK following the inevitable next referendum on Scottish independence—but one would, in a moment of pique, still like to tell the Brits to go sod off. In any case, the point of this post is not to offer my own analysis of the question—of which I have none apart from the above thoughts—but to link to this excellent, spot on commentary in The Guardian by columnist Polly Toynbee, “David Cameron deserves to come out of the EU referendum with no credit.” The lede: “Since becoming Conservative leader in 2005, Cameron has taken every opportunity to undermine Europe. He ought to be ashamed of his actions.” Mme Toynbee nails it, rien à dire.

Another comment: One reason to hope that the UK remains in the EU is that a Brexit would give satisfaction to these wankers.


This piece by George Soros in Project Syndicate (February 10th) merits a blog post, not a mere tweet. It begins

The leaders of the United States and the European Union are making a grievous error in thinking that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a potential ally in the fight against the Islamic State. The evidence contradicts them. Putin’s current aim is to foster the EU’s disintegration, and the best way to do so is to flood the EU with Syrian refugees.

Soros gets it right, IMHO. Putin, via Russia’s action in Syria, is out to destroy the European Union as a supranational political entity and assert Russian primacy in Europe. Europeans need to understand this and, if they have the interest and will, to resist it.

On Syria and US policy, Aaron David Miller has a spot on tribune in The Wall Street Journal (February 12th), “The flawed logic in blaming the U.S. for Syria’s humanitarian crisis.” ADM concludes

As horrible as the destruction in Syria has become, the U.S. doesn’t bear primary responsibility. A more accurate assessment starts with Bashar Assad, ISIS, Iran (and Hezbollah), and Russia.

In case one missed it, Vox’s Max Fisher has a must-read post dated February 10th on the “14 hard truths on Syria no one wants to admit.”

[update below]

One of my reservations about Bernie Sanders’ candidacy has been his foreign policy qualifications, or, to be more precise, his interest in the subject. My reservations have been largely put to rest by a piece in Politico Magazine, dated February 11th, by Lawrence Korb, an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration and Washington think tank habitué since, “Bernie Sanders is more serious on foreign policy than you think.” I won’t summarize what Korb says—just read the thing—except to say that I’m convinced.

In point of fact, there is no rhyme or reason to think that Bernie, who has been in Congress for the past 25 years, would be any less knowledgeable on foreign policy than any of the other candidates, Hillary excepted (whom everyone agrees is totally on top of the subject, regardless of how one feels about her positions). And, to put it mildly, I trust Bernie’s foreign policy instincts over those of any of the candidates in the other party, and particularly on subjects like this.

On foreign policy, Salon writer Daniel Denvir had an article dated yesterday, “America needs a ‘Bernie Doctrine’: How Sanders’ foreign policy weakness could become a game-changing strength,” in which he cites several lefty academics, as well as engagé writers on the Middle East. Denvir, entre autres, links to a piece in The Electronic Intifada by Rania Khalek, “Bernie Sanders and the question of Palestine,” which is the most comprehensive I’ve seen on the matter of Bernie’s position on Israel.

In the event—still unlikely—that Bernie is elected POTUS, one may be sure that his Middle East policy will not be significantly different from the present one. Also that he’ll appoint mainstream Washington establishment types to his foreign policy team. The usual think tanks (Brookings, Carnegie Endowment et al) will be well represented in a Sanders administration. Lefties who have illusions on this score will be disappointed.

I watched today, via YouTube, the entire Bernie-Hillary debate in Milwaukee last night. I thought Hillary hit it out of the park but that Bernie was very good too (TPM’s Josh Marshall has a good analysis). I like him—both politically and viscerally—and have a high regard for her, as I always have. If they maintain last night’s tone—with no acrimony or nastiness—for the rest of the campaign, then it will all work out.

UPDATE: Bernie supporters on social media have been trashing Hillary of late for her friendly relationship with Henry Kissinger, to the point where this is being seen as almost disqualifying her candidacy. In this vein, a Hillary-hating friend, linking to this Mother Jones article, wrote the following yesterday on social media

Odd how Clinton supporters are so quiet about about the Kissinger connection. For the life of me, I can’t imagine how a self-professed “progressive” would proudly associate with the worst and most cynical secretary of state in US history, someone who rightly could be considered a war criminal regarding Southeast Asia and a stone reactionary in Latin America. No doubt the Kissinger problem will not go away, particularly when younger people learn of who he was and what he did.

My response: I haven’t been keeping tabs on how Hillary supporters are responding to this Kissinger brouhaha but, IMHO, it’s irrelevant and hardly even worth talking about. So Hillary Clinton—a former First Lady, former Secretary of State, and ex officio pillar of the foreign policy establishment—pals around with Henry Kissinger, a former NSC director, Secretary of State, pillar of the foreign policy establishment, and quite simply one of the best known, most famous personalities in international diplomacy of the latter half of the 20th century… I find this utterly unexceptional. Moreover, I find it entirely normal. Seriously, why wouldn’t she have a cordial relationship with him? And they both live in New York City to boot!

As for Kissinger being a ‘war criminal’, he has been accused of such in incendiary pamphlets and countless articles in leftist publications but never been indicted by any court of law. And no such indictment is on the horizon, so far as I am aware. But even if one were issued (but from where? and for what crime exactly?), it would necessarily target Kissinger’s hierarchical superiors, i.e. Nixon and Ford, both long dead, as in the United States it’s the president who formulates foreign policy. The buck stops with him, not the NSC director or Secretary of State.

Seriously, Hillary-haters should let this one go, though they likely won’t. Haters gonna hate, whaddya wanna do?


The New Hampshire primary

(Photo credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking)

(Photo credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking)

[update below]

My 2¢. I was amazed, along with everyone else, by the margin of Bernie’s victory. As a member of the “Like Bernie, voting Hillary” camp, I would have preferred a closer result but am in no way dismayed by Bernie’s blowout. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop wrote last night, it was a remarkable achievement on Bernie’s part. Watching Bernie’s fine, if longish, victory speech, I agreed with just about everything he said; and even if some of his policy proposals are not too realistic—e.g. free college tuition for everyone, or financing all new welfare state measures exclusively via taxes on the super rich—one understands that he would necessarily compromise on these if he were president (as these would be opening positions in a protracted negotiating process and with Democrats—unlike present-day Republicans—always ready to compromise). As for Hillary, her concession speech was excellent (watch it here ICYMI). One of the functions, as it were, of Bernie’s candidacy has been to pull Hillary to the left and, listening to what she said last night, it is manifestly working. If she keeps talking this way and with the same intensity, she should be able to regain her footing. Inshallah, because, echoing author Kate Harding in The Guardian today, while “I’m glad Sanders won New Hampshire…I want Hillary Clinton to be president.”

But if Hillary is going to be POTUS she needs to tell her surrogates—and particularly husband Bill—to STFU on Bernie and, while they’re at it, to stop playing the feminist/women’s card, which is not a valid argument in and of itself to vote for her (and is not working in any case). If HRC’s campaign goes negative on Bernie in a big way—with low blows and mud-slinging—that will be bad. Bernie’s supporters will be very pissed off—and me too—and it will cripple Hillary in the general. If she gets that far, that is, as if Bernie closes the gap in Nevada and South Carolina, then the thing will really be up for grabs. I’ve been insisting that Bernie will not/cannot get the nomination and still think that but I’ve been wrong before. And, as Matthew Yglesias wrote in Vox last night, “Bernie Sanders is the future of the Democratic Party” (see as well Yglesias’s “9 things we learned about American politics this February.”).

As for the Republicans, I got a little ahead of myself after Iowa last week in opining that the air would likely come out of Trump’s overinflated balloon. Silly me. With his runaway victory yesterday and the order of finish for the others, it’s not clear to me how he can be stopped, at least by anyone other than Ted Cruz, but who, as Thomas B. Edsall reminds us in the NYT today—if one needed reminding—would be even more appalling. It’s nice that John Kasich came in second, as he’s the only one of the lot who is not totally insane and/or a catspaw of his plutocrat donors, but it is most unlikely the (insane) GOP base would help him vanquish Trump. The GOPer base, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, intensely dislikes Jeb! Bush and it’s pretty clear that Marco Rubio is toast, on account of his debate debacle but also the now generalized view of him as a lightweight and panicker who cracks in crisis situations.

So if one doesn’t want Cruz, that means Trump. Ezra Klein, in a comment in Vox dated today, asserted that “The rise of Donald Trump is a terrifying moment in American politics.” Indeed. Matt Labash, writing on The Donald’s temperament and in a lighter tone, had a hilarious lead article in the February 1st issue of the conservative TWS, “Nine tales of Trump at his Trumpiest.” I was laughing out loud while reading it on the metro today. But if the prospect of a President Trump is utterly inconceivable, liberals should nonetheless support him for the GOP nomination, so argued Jonathan Chait the other day in New York magazine and for three reasons: 1. He would most certainly lose to the Democrat. 2. He would blow apart the Republican party. 3. If he were to somehow win and become POTUS, he would, politically speaking, be less bad than any of the other GOP candidates, definitely more moderate on the economy and welfare state issues, and—who knows?—may even grow into the job, as did Arnold Schwarzenegger in California (who, Chait reminds us, was also a gross vulgarian and male chauvinist pig before he became governor). I would prefer not to test Chait’s hypotheses but his reasoning is impeccable. On Trump sounding less like a conservative than a gauchiste, conservative columnist Byron York had a must-read commentary on the eve of the NH primary, “As vote nears, a more radical Trump emerges.” Also check out Ezra Klein yesterday on how Trump’s candidacy has shown that “Maybe Republican voters don’t hate universal health care after all…” No wonder the GOP establishment is so distraught by The Donald.

For those who want to see symmetry in the Trump and Bernie phenomenons, I’m sorry but that won’t fly. On this, TAP’s Harold Meyerson has piece entitled “Informed citizens and the mob.” The lede: “In their final Granite State appeals, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seek different kinds of followers.”

À suivre.

UPDATE: A few good pieces read Thursday morning:

Joan Walsh, “Beyond Bernie’s Bros and Hillary’s Hellfire,” in The Nation. Walsh offers Hillary, whom she’s supporting, a friendly critique and some advice on what she needs to do.

Michelle Goldberg, “Hard choices: I used to hate Hillary. Now I’m voting for her,” in Slate.

Also in Slate: Jamelle Bouie, “Hillary’s time to fight.” The lede: “As grim as her New Hampshire defeat was, Clinton’s upcoming road looks a lot better.”

Charles M. Blow, in his latest NY Times column: “Stop Bernie-Splaining to Black Voters.” The lede: “History and experience have burned into the black American psyche a functional pragmatism whose existence doesn’t depend on others’ approval.”

Harold Meyerson, “The Establishment tanks: The Donald? The Bern? What’s this country coming to?,” in The American Prospect.

Frank Rich, “Expect the GOP establishment to start looking at the bright side of Trump,” in New York magazine.

Amanda Marcotte, “Kasich is almost as bad as Trump: Don’t let the Donald’s repulsiveness distract from the ugliness dished out by other candidates,” in Salon. The lede: “Kasich is being held out as the ‘compassionate’ alternative to Trump, but in most ways, he’s nearly as bad.”

Also in Salon: Heather Digby Parton, “The GOP primary is officially a horror film: Welcome to a world where Trump & Cruz are the last men standing.” The lede: “Trump won in dominant fashion and Cruz met expectations as Rubio fell completely apart. This is scary stuff.”

Finally, Harvey Feigenbaum—George Washington University political science prof and friend—has a commentary up in Le Monde Diplomatique’s English edition, “US primaries and the unintended consequences of democracy,” in which he—arguing much the same thing as have I over the past 35 years or so—critiques the whole primary system as a way of nominating party candidates.


A drone over Homs

[update below]

I’ve had three posts on the horror in Homs (here, here, and here), the first dating from exactly four years ago. The latest images of the unbelievable destruction visited upon that city—as has been visited upon so many towns and cities in Syria—is this one-minute video taken by a drone, broadcast on Russian television, and aired on Channel 4 in the UK (the original from the Russian TV network, which I saw a couple of days ago, appears to have been removed from its website; not surprisingly, one supposes, in view of Russia’s implication—indirect and now direct—in that destruction). If anyone is still wondering why Syrians are fleeing their country, watch the video.

UPDATE: Natalie Nougayrède—former editor-in-chief of Le Monde and its Russia correspondent for many years—has an opinion piece in The Guardian dated February 5th, “What happens next in Aleppo will shape Europe’s future.” The lede: “If there were any doubts about Vladimir Putin’s objectives in Syria, the recent Russian military escalation around this city must surely have set them aside.”

The Iowa caucuses


It is morning in Paris, from where I write, and the middle of the night in the US. I’ve been reading the instant analyses of my favorite political columnists. Before going to bed last night I tweeted a piece by The Daily Beast’s Ana Marie Cox, “President Trump is now a possibility, and it’s terrifying,” in which she observed what had been pretty clear, which is that if Trump were to beat Cruz in Iowa he would necessarily go on to a smashing victory in New Hampshire before heading to South Carolina and other states down that way, where he’d blow everyone else out and ergo be unstoppable. He’d be the GOP nominee and not necessarily a 100% sure loser in November. But as Trump has not only lost Iowa but almost finished third, I won’t yet pronounce him dead—which looks to be conventional wisdom at this hour—but, as they say over here, la baudruche va se dégonfler (translation: the air is going to come out of that overinflated balloon). The cover of today’s NY Daily News nails it.

As for the veritable winner on the GOP side, Marco Rubio, the latest CW has him as the GOP Establishment’s new front-runner, who, in a mano-a-mano race with Ted Cruz, will certainly come out on top and be the party nominee. Just about everyone-Dem and Repub alike—think Rubio would be a formidable candidate against Hillary Clinton and an outright favorite against Bernie Sanders—i.e. that, for Dems, he’s the most dangerous GOPer out there—but I don’t buy it. He may be youthful, glib, a beau gosse, and with a politically sexy ethnic background but he’s a lightweight. In his presumptive area of expertise, foreign policy, I’ve shredded him myself. In a one-on-one debate, Hillary would clean his clock, j’en suis sûr. Mais on n’en est pas là.

The Democrats: The race is going to be a slog for Hillary but I think she’ll win it. I’m among the legions of Dem voters in the “Like Bernie, voting Hillary” camp, who think Bernie’s candidacy is salutary—with his single-minded focus on the economy and that is tugging Hillary’s rhetoric to the left—but would be nervous about his chances in November. I shudder to think of what the Republican attack machine would do to him—Karl Rove & Co are no doubt salivating at the prospect—but with Bernie not having the Democratic establishment and all of its elected officials behind him nearly to the same extent as would Hillary—Bernie, pour mémoire, is an independent, not a Democrat—a point that Michael Tomasky stressed in a column last week. And, frankly, I just don’t see Bernie in the White House. I can’t see him dealing daily with the Washington establishment—an immovable Rock of Gibraltar—and going toe-to-toe with a GOP-controlled Congress. And I have an equally hard time imagining him in summit meetings with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao (not that he wouldn’t be à l’hauteur but foreign affairs just doesn’t seem to interest him; and I haven’t a clue as to who would constitute his foreign and defense policy team). Bernie may have spent the past twenty-five years in Congress but he’s a marginal figure there. He’s a relative outsider. My personal conviction: If Bernie were elected POTUS—which would not displease me at all, don’t get me wrong—he would accomplish little to nothing of what he’s set out to do. And he’d definitely be a one-term president, on account of age but also as he’d likely find himself in the same position as did Jimmy Carter in 1980.

But it is most unlikely he’ll get that far, as I also don’t see Bernie defeating Hillary, of him repeating Obama’s feat of ’08. Obama initially looked to be a long shot when he entered that race but he already had rock star status in the Democratic party, a slew of endorsements from elected and other party officials, and an army of young volunteers. Bernie also has the young people but doesn’t black voters, who were even more crucial to Obama’s victory. And while Bernie’s economic populism is the right message for this campaign, Obama’s in ’08—of reaching out to Republicans, “Yes We Can,” and all the “hopey-changey stuff” (dixit Sarah Palin)—was crafted to cast a wider net. Also, Obama was the most centrist of the Dem candidates in that campaign and had a clear strategy for winning the nomination, of racking up delegates in caucus states that the Hillary campaign had neglected. Obama’s ’08 campaign was the most perfectly run and executed in American political history. But though he locked up the nomination with the victory in the North Carolina primary, Hillary still ended up winning more primary and caucus votes in the end than he. Again, I don’t see Bernie pulling off what Obama did that year.

Bernie supporters—which include many friends: personal and on social media—will no doubt drop a ton of bricks on my head for this. I’m used to that from lefties. The Hillary-Bernie race will likely start to resemble not 2008 but 1988, when Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition gave Michael Dukakis a serious run for his money, and with the latter only pulling away after the Wisconsin primary in mid-April. Lefties—including numerous friends—all enthusiastically jumped on the Jesse bandwagon (though without the black vote that campaign would have amounted to nothing). Lefties didn’t care about Dukakis during the primary season, though they of course all voted for him in November. But they do care about Hillary right now and they loathe her. The Hillary hate I see every day on social media from lefties has to be as virulent as that on the right. A significant number of progressive Dem voters simply can’t stand her. Personally, I don’t understand it. A lot of it is visceral, i.e. irrational. Hillary is reproached for all sorts of heinous acts and deeds, e.g. voting for the Iraq war (though John Kerry did too, and this wasn’t held against him in ’04, at least not nearly to the same degree), of palling around with Goldman Sachs and other finance capitalists (an inevitability if one is or has been senator from New York), or making shitloads of money on the buckraking circuit (which, alas, is par for the course for all top-tier Democrats). What lefties forget is that Hillary was seen as a progressive when husband Bill ran for president in 1992, and definitely to his left. And this appreciation of her did not change during her eight years as First Lady. The negativity toward her dates from her subsequent eight years as senator, when she took positions that New York politicians tend to take. And, in point of fact, she is not markedly to the right of Bernie on most issues. La preuve: yesterday I took the quiz—well-conceived, IMO—”2016 Presidential Election: How do your beliefs align with the potential candidates?” The result: on the issues, I sided with Bernie 98% and Hillary 96% (details here). If there were a significant difference between the two, it stands to reason that there would have been a wider distance in my scores.

Though I believe that Hillary would be a far stronger general election candidate than Bernie, I am indeed concerned about her high negatives (54% the last time I looked, which was a week ago). People think she’s “untrustworthy,” or just not “likable” (as if “likability” ever swung a presidential election in one direction or another). Looking at her polling history on this parameter, one observes that she was indeed popular—that her positives were higher than her negatives—until the email business broke last March. And one noted a spike in her popularity among Dems after her appearance before House Benghazi committee last October. In view of this history, it stands to reason that she can turn the numbers around in her favor—and that she will if she outlasts Bernie to win the nomination. Lefty haters will necessarily start liking her, cuz what are they gonna do? Sit out the election and watch Rubio win? Or Ted Cruz? Or Trump? Sure.

Here are good instant analyses I read this morning (it is now afternoon here), which say stuff better than I could:

John B. Judis, “Initial reflections: A better night for Republicans,” in TPM.

Josh Marshall, “A win for the GOP,” in TPM.

Ryan Lizza, “The Iowa caucuses and the birth of a new Republican party,” in The New Yorker. Lizza retweeted a most relevant NYer article of his from last September 18th, “Donald Trump may not have a second act.”

Jonathan Chait, “‘If you don’t want Cruz or Trump as the nominee, you better get onboard with Rubio’,” in New York magazine.

Jamelle Bouie, “Democrats won in Iowa: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are energizing the party,” in Slate.

Matthew Yglesias, “The surprising success of Bernie Sanders’s insurgency should be a wake-up call to the Democratic establishment,” in Vox.

Ezra Klein, “Bernie Sanders’s tie should be the biggest story of the Iowa caucuses,” in Vox.

Joan Walsh, “Why Ted Cruz won—and Donald Trump lost,” in The Nation.

Amanda Marcotte (writing during the day yesterday), “Why I’m supporting Clinton over Sanders: Liberals don’t need a ‘savior’, but someone who can actually get things done in Washington,” in Salon.

Heather Digby Parton, “The GOP’s 3-way race from hell: Everything you need to know about last night’s Iowa caucuses,” in Salon.

David Corn, “After Iowa, both parties are facing hostile takeovers,” in Mother Jones.

À suivre.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 231 other followers

%d bloggers like this: