Everybody’s gushing about Obama’s performance at the Correspondents’ Dinner the other night, which completely upstaged Jay Leno (who wouldn’t?). And justifiably so! He’s very funny, his jokes were a little sharper than I’d expect from somebody in his position, and it’s absolutely worth watching.

That said, he has some work to do before next year’s dinner, and it doesn’t help to pretend otherwise. I don’t think his comic timing is absolutely down, and he starts smiling before the punchline more than anyone this side of Jimmy Fallon. But still, he far exceeds what a person can reasonably expect for intentional laughs from one’s president.

Dryponder publishes a series of great photos on his Flickr page. Here, President Obama remembers his days as a member of The Avengers.

Glancing at the last week of posts, and then the weeks-long gap of posts before it, I see it’s been all sports, flu, and otherwise silence around here lately. So let me add my couple of words on Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Obama-Speeches

I heard the news a bit after 6 AM on Friday, driving to school. I’d actually turned over to NPR in the middle of their analysis of it, so I couldn’t be sure what they were talking about. I called Jen, hoping she was near the computer. “I think Obama’s just been given the Nobel Peace Prize,” I said. She confirmed it. We both were a bit stunned.

I suspect whether you were “shocked” or “stunned” when you heard the news depends on whether or not you like Obama. Conservatives were clearly shocked, expressing outrage (how could they!?) while simultaneously dragging out the old dead horses so they could beat them some more (see how liberal these Europeans are!). Readers of this blog know I’m a supporter, so again, stunned. But not shocked.

I think what’s most interesting here is that most of the criticism of Obama on the left, like from Glenn Greenwald, is that all he’s done is talk. That may be legitimate criticism when it comes to health care, or DADT. But in foreign affairs? It seems to me that most of the work politicians engage in when they’re working towards peaceful resolutions of conflicts… is talk. That’s it. And he has talked to people we’d alienated, especially large swaths of the Muslim world and the Europeans, exposed Iran’s lies about secret nuclear facilities before the UN, and had a successful negotiation for political prisoners in North Korea. I thought, and many, many others thought, that his election provided an opportunity to make the United States esteemed again in the rest of the world. But having those opportunities is not the same as taking them. He has taken them.

Is the award committee left-wing? Of course it is. But as Anne Applebaum wrote for Slate, “there is something profoundly left-wing about the very idea of promoting peace congresses in the first place.” If you don’t think so, you weren’t listening to Sean Hannity’s show Friday afternoon, where he defined “peace” as ensuring that we have the capacity to kick whichever asses in the world we think need kicking. Or words to that effect.

Would I have rather had them wait a couple years, to avoid the obvious “it’s too early” criticism? Sure. Were there other deserving candidates? Probably. (Andrew Sullivan had some fine suggestions.) But to call it a joke is to misunderstand the purpose of the prize. He’s put the US on a path where we can exert leadership in the world other than with the threat of force. Surely that’s not “nothing.”

I’d have gotten to this sooner, but I’ve been sick and busy.

Here are my thoughts (after the jump) on Obama’s speech, Joe Wilson’s outburst, and the ongoing conversation about civility and public discourse. Here’s the video, though of course you’ve all seen it:

1. Obama’s speech was, from my perspective, highly effective. So of course it was completely overshadowed by Joe Wilson, from the great state of South Carolina.
(more…)

If you haven’t heard of President Obama’s secret plan to indoctrinate American schoolchildren, listen up.

During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation’s children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

Cue the wingnuts:

But the plans of Barack Obama, US president, to address students across the country on Tuesday have set off a political firestorm – the fiercest of his critics are comparing him to communist leaders Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong-il, and are accusing him of trying to indoctrinate children with “socialist” ideas.

Yes, the socialist ideas of working hard, staying in school, and taking responsibility for yourself. That tricksie Communist.

It apparently doesn’t matter that Presidents Reagan and Bush (HW) did this, or that Obama has a pretty inoccuous message. Given the current Conservative Movement, I’m hoping Obama runs for re-election on his fondness for apple pie and freedom. If current trends hold, Fox News and half the sitting Republicans in congress will mark both as symbols of Communism.

A fascinatingly transparent example today of how the media arm of the extreme right wants to win back power: through lies, lies, lies. Sometimes subtle ones. Here’s what you would see first if you clicked on the Drudge Report today:

Drudge_Economy_1

If you were a person who went to Drudge first for news, you might conclude that the “revision” to the “economy” cited in the headline referred to the economy now. And if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t really read economic stories, you might not discover that the story in question is about the first year of the recession, under the Bush Administration, not this year. And you certainly might not click on the tiny story down below, which I’ve circled in red:

Picture 5 copy

And if you didn’t click on that story, you wouldn’t know that the economy shrank half as much as expected in the second quarter of this year.

In other words, the news is that the recession was worse than we thought under Bush, and is getting better, faster than we thought under Obama. And the way Drudge chooses to represent this news is with Depression-era photos of poor people in ration lines.

While I agree with the long-term principle that Democrats shouldn’t cede national security to the Republicans, the benefits of Obama keeping the Bush-appointed Robert Gates in his Defense Secretary position have been greater than I would’ve expected. They now include, thanks to Obama, Gates, and a surprising number of senators, killing the F-22 fighter jet. This is a classic example of federal money being spent not to make us safer, but to keep senators in the Senate:

The amendment to halt the plane’s production was co-sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain, who has never been an F-22 fan, went so far as to quote at some length President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, which warned of the “military-industrial complex,” though McCain noted that the proper phrase should be the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”

That’s really what the F-22 has come to be about. The Air Force shrewdly spread the plane’s contracts to firms in 46 states, thus giving a solid majority of senators—and a lot of House members, too—a financial (and, therefore, electoral) stake in the program’s survival.

I’m pretty surprised they managed to scrap this thing. Fred Kaplan has the story over at Slate.

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