William Katz: Urgent Agenda
EVENING UPDATE, FEBRUARY 18, 2008
Okay, he shouldn't have done it, but the Clinton campaign's charge that Barack Obama committed plagiarism may not shock the political universe. He did, apparently, borrow some phrasing from the governor of Massachusetts. Compared to Bill Clinton's midnight pardons and Hillary's fundraising practices, this is small stuff.
The greatest danger to Obama in this episode, though, isn't Hillary Clinton. It's the late-night talk-show hosts. They may grab onto this flap every time Obama makes an inspiring speech. Whose words were they? Strange, but that could have an effect on Obama's image as a great speaker. Having worked for Johnny Carson, it never ceased to amaze me that what he said into a microphone 15 feet from where I stood each night would affect the culture of America, and its conversations, the next day.
Don't underestimate the power of a Leno.
Delegates at a US-Islamic forum, meeting in Qatar, have expressed an overwhelming preference for Barack Obama. Do I faint in surprise now or later? If I faint now, I can't finish the blog, so I'll put it off.
The New York Times reports, and you will be shocked, that violence is marring today's election in Pakistan, and that the results are in doubt. This election is critical to Americans, although it isn't getting anywhere near the attention it deserves.
By the way, link to the article and gaze at the photo of a Pakistani polling place. And count your blessings.
Dan Balz of The Washington Post gives an example of superb political reporting in his analysis of tomorrow's Wisconsin primary. Suddenly, conditions are changing, according to Balz:
Yeah, that would seem like the logical thing to do. If Clinton had given the state some earlier attention, it would probably be hers. But we count the votes tomorrow night, so stand by. If she wins the state, not likely according to the latest polls, she could claim with some justice that Obama's momentum has been stopped, or at least slowed.
Well, I'm glad someone finally said it, and the someone is Al Hunt of Bloomberg News, who puts in a good word for super delegates or superdelegates, or however you wish to spell it. I don't think Webster's has considered the issue. Hunt nails it:
And Hunt offers a reasonable prediction:
One reason America is so stable is that we don't turn everything over to "the people." We set up sensible protections against mob rule, even the mob rule of the ballot box. As the political philosopher Martha Stewart says, "It's a good thing."
It would be easy to call this next item a story outside politics, but it has everything to do with politics. With all the wild talk about the "Israel lobby," I find it remarkable that there's so little comment about the Saudi lobby, which spends tens of millions of dollars in this country each year to buy influence. Last year one Saudi prince, in one week, gave forty million dollars to two universities - Harvard and Georgetown, and he wasn't buying fine scholarship. That figure, by the way, is about equal to the annual budget of the so-called Israel lobby.
The Saudi prince involved, and his "generosity," have now come into question, and it's about time. A U.S. congressman is asking Georgetown to be a bit more specific as to how the money is spent:
Good for the congressman. But don't look forward to any quick or noble results. In fact, I think we can expect, rather, the usual language from Georgetown: 1) It's a matter of academic freedom; 2) it's a matter of academic freedom; 3) it's a matter of academic freedom; and 4) who are you, a mere congressman, to question "scholars"? Wanna bet that's what the congressman gets?
Someone should occasionally remind our houses of higher education that they receive millions in federal aid each year. It's entirely appropriate for the people's representatives to assess these institutions. If they don't like the questions, they can refuse the aid. Or, they can ask Saudi Arabia for more cash. I doubt if the Saudis ask too many questions.
We may be getting off easy at the hands of our Saudi brethren, allies and partners in the war on terror. (Stop choking.) In the UK, the game is a bit rougher. This is pretty unbelievable stuff, since the guy at the center is none other than old, warm, trusted Bush friend, Prince Bandar, former Saudi ambassador to Washington, and a cool guy on the party circuit:
Nice, huh? Maybe Bandar will get an honorary degree from one of the universities his pal has gifted. You know, doctor of murder.
Be back tomorrow.