The Obamas’ vacation at Martha’s Vineyard and other family trips that have included daughters Malia (11) and Sasha (8) have understandably whetted media appetite for greater access to the first children. Here’s a vote for the president and first lady to continue being successful at keeping their kids well beyond arm’s length. Sure, inquiring minds want to know about the girls and their activities — and when the president occasionally mentions them it teases that more will be forthcoming — but they should remain out of bounds. They’re along for their father’s presidential ride, and while they’re getting to enjoy things other children their ages only see in books and videos, they’re still “civilians” in the political skirmishing surrounding their dad. They should be allowed to stay safely on the sidelines.
USA Today reports New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former top members of his administration won’t be criminally charged in connection with a lengthy federal probe into kickback allegations involving one of Richardson’s key political donors. A federal grand jury was looking into possible a pay-to-play operation that steered lucrative work on state bond deals to a Richardson donor. If true, the report obviously comes too late for Richardson, who in January withdrew his nomination to be President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary because of the investigation. It’s premature to speculate about future Cabinet openings in Washington, but Richardson would be an obvious candidate when something opens up.
Where do you start with the Scottish government’s galactic lapse in judgment in deciding to free convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, just eight years into a life sentence for the 1988 atrocity that killed 270 people, including 189 Americans? Start with widespread outrage. Beyond members of the governing Scottish National Party condemnation was swift and fairly universal. Piling on insult, the 57-year-old former Libyan intelligence officer was greeted like a hero at the airport in Tripoli after Scotland’s justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, ordered him released on “compassionate grounds” because he suffers from terminal prostate cancer. MacAskill justified the order by saying something about Scottish values, but the decision is off-the-charts abysmal. Scotland’s parliament apparently will be recalled from its summer break to debate the issue. Think about it: Megrahi served less than three months for each of the lives lost on Pan Am Flight 103. Said Susan Cohen, whose daughter Theodora died 21 years ago: “You want to feel sorry for anyone? Please feel sorry for me, feel sorry for my poor daughter, her body falling a mile through the air.”
The passing of reporter/columnist Robert Novak on Tuesday really marks the passing of a genre of journalism. Years ago there were a number of journalists doing what Novak and his former partner, Rowland Evans, did together for nearly 40 years — which is to say gathering information for the express purpose of building the foundation for a point of view, a column. Now Web blogs are the rage. Novak was unique even in that golden age of gumshoe, not-a-face-for-television columnizing (though his mug became commonly associated with CNN’s “Crossfire”). Novak was conservative, but not entirely predictable, relentless professionally but genial personally. The so-called “Prince of Darkness,” almost always clad in a black, vested suit, worked hard communicating the unvarnished truth about the many politicians he knew, few of whom he liked. He leaves quite a void in the public square.
Maybe if President Barack Obama’s health care proposal, largely reflected in Democratic legislation in Congress, goes down in flames there’ll be a chance for market-based alternatives to get more thorough consideration. Most Americans probably assume members of Congress are up to speed on all the top health care proposals being offered. But that’s not necessarily so. Checking video of a Senate committee’s health care work session last month, it was clear one Western state Democrat, not known as a partisan, was pretty misinformed about Sen. Tom Coburn’s alternative plan, even though it’s one of the leading ideas put forward by Republicans. So, again, if ObamaCare stalls out, maybe members in the Senate and House will approach the issue with open minds and fresh sets of eyes.
Is Hillary Clinton sensitive about her husband’s big shadow? That’s a big 10-4, judging by her response to a question at a town hall meeting in Africa. Through an interpreter the secretary of state was asked what “Mr. Clinton” thought about Chinese contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her answer practically seethed: “Wait, you want to know what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state — I am. You ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I’m not going to be channeling my husband.”
So, yeah, that hit a nerve. In fairness, Mrs. Clinton is in the midst of an 11-day African tour, and Congo is a place where women and children especially are singled out for horrific violence. That may have had something to do with her response to a question that seemed to diminish her own stature. But another likely factor in Clinton’s testy retort is the attention her husband got rescuing two Americans in North Korea — while she was doing photo ops and town halls in Africa. So yeah, she was steamed.
Turns out, the dander-raising question apparently was mangled by the questioner, who meant one thing but said something else. The questioner actually wanted to know what President Obama thought about the Chinese in Congo. Still, the episode sparked new discussion of an old topic — Hillary Clinton’s sometimes difficult relationship/competition with Bill.