Joe Kenehan Center

Thursday, February 27, 2003
Following the Masters
Labor secretary Elaine Chao appears eager to copy the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Cheney style of alienating friends along with foes as often as possible. Union activists are livid over Chao’s clumsy, rude performance at the AFL-CIO meeting in Florida. Here’s the New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse on the details.

The only purpose Chao’s remarks will serve might be to further unite labor leaders--including the Teamsters’ Hoffa--in their determination to defeat Bush in 2004.

Also datelined Florida: a Washington Post article includes more details about the Partnership for America’s Families, the new labor-backed political organizing group headed by former AFL-CIO political director Steven Rosenthal.

Lincoln vs. Bush
Watching Bush/Rumsfeld/Rice/Wolfowitz/Cheney’s hamhanded attempts to rally the world against Saddam, my emotions range from dismay to outrage to loathing to dread and back again so often it’s heartbreaking. I love this country but it’s disgraceful how the Bush Administration seems almost gleefully unconcerned about running down our standing in the world community.

Social democratic writer Paul Berman (who is nominally for the war, remember) describes far more eloquently than I can how depressing it is to watch Bush turning his back on our American ideals. Berman compares Bush’s vision of casual preemptive projection of power with Lincolnian ideals of careful, vigorous defense of democracy in absolutely necessary cases.

From the piece:
But our government has for some reason disarmed itself unilaterally in the realms of persuasion, inspirational example, philosophical clarity, and moral leadership. How did this happen to us? It has happened to us. Tocqueville thought that liberal societies could not wield power, and Lincoln proved him wrong. I am terrified that we are in the process of proving Lincoln wrong--that we are wielding power without liberalism, which will turn out to be no power at all.

Also, Berman’s recent slapdown of Michael Kelly shouldn’t be overlooked. About a year or so ago Berman wrote a gigantic New Republic piece (no longer available for free online) about the ideological journey of Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister and Green Party leader. Berman chronicled Fischer’s exodus from an ultra-sectarian New Leftist to pragmatic supporter of NATO military intervention against Milosovic.

Kelly’s diatribe--so crude I suspect he composed it in crayon--managed to ignore completely the point of Berman’s essay by lazily condemning Fischer for being what he isn’t, as Berman patiently explains.

Music Notes
They didn’t have any time at all at the Grammys to mention the fans who died in Rhode Island ? . . . It was nice to see the Dixie Chicks let Lloyd Maines come up to the micophone with them for recognition from the national TV audience. If nothing else, Maines deserves some sort of special achievement award for his masterful steel guitar work on Uncle Tupelo's Anodyne album . . . David Hadju has a fascinating profile of Wynton Marsalis that shows hims struggling at mid-life to help keep jazz relevant.