Lincoln’s Thanksgiving

Lincoln’s famous Thanksgiving Proclamation of October 3, 1863, was drafted by William Seward and signed by Lincoln. The Union’s victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg lay in the background; the Gettysburg Address was to come the following month.

The proclamation pronounced the last Thursday of November “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” In it Seward seems to have reached to capture Lincoln’s thought; the proclamation strikes several Lincolnian themes. A copy of the proclamation signed by Lincoln is accessible online here; Andrew Malcolm sets the proclamation in context here.

Lincoln proclaims: “It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of the most high God] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” Yet the proclamation closes with a move beyond gratitude toward repentance and charity: “And I recommend to [all Americans] that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

White Thanksgiving [Updated]

Here in Minnesota, we don’t have any worries about a white Christmas. It’s been white for quite a while. Cold, too: early this morning, my car thermometer read zero degrees. It’s beautiful if you are looking at it from indoors:

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As always, weather aside, we have much to be thankful for this year. No doubt you do too. So, to all of our readers who are celebrating the usual holiday and not Genocide Day–life is too short to deal with that again–we say:

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UPDATE: Now, this is funny! Click to enlarge:

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U.S. air support minimal as ISIS pushes deep into Ramadi

ISIS has intensified its push to capture Ramadi, a city of nearly half a million people and the capital of Anbar province:

Islamic State fighters on Tuesday penetrated to the core of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Iraq’s largest province, prompting local security officials to warn that the city was on the verge of falling to the extremists. Such a gain would be the Islamic State’s most significant victory in months.

An ISIS takeover in Ramadi would, indeed, be huge:

Ramadi is one of the last pockets of government control in Anbar, the province that abuts Baghdad on the west and the scene of some of the bloodiest battles waged by American troops during the U.S. occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2011

Consolidated control of Anbar would open up Islamic State supply routes to Syria and would position the group for an advance on the Iraqi capital. 

Fortunately, local security forces and Sunni tribesmen have offered fierce resistence in Ramadi against ISIS. In fact, despite ISIS’s penetration to within meters of the government’s compound, the local forces appear thus far to have repelled the enemy.

U.S. air strikes had been instrumental in helping to kee ISIS at bay. Without such support, the defenders of Ramadi have said they cannot hold out.

Unfortunately, during the recent rounds of fighting, U.S. air support reportedly was minimal. Local officials say they were told that U.S. aircraft are occupied on other fronts. It’s difficult to imagine what front is more critical right now than Ramadi, the site of some of the most intense fighting by U.S. troops during our war against al Qaeda in Iraq.

U.S. Central Command confirms the paucity of U.S. bombing. A spokeman said that the U.S. made two attacks on ISIS in the Ramadi area during the period from Friday through Monday. On Tuesday, it carried out one additional strike.

We have noted before that the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS fails remotely to approach the intensity of our efforts during the early days of the Afghanistan war or during the Kosovo campaign. Even so, our failure to average even one raid per day while ISIS came close to overrunning the defenders of Ramadi is shocking.

The fight for control of Ramadi continues. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi pledged today to send more support to Ramadi. Let’s hope that President Obama steps up U.S. support in the form of air strikes.

Who would be Obama’s Secretary of Defense?

Not Michèle Flournoy. She has ruled herself out. Reportedly, her goal is to be Hillary Clinton’s Defense Secretary.

In theory, holding the position under President Obama doesn’t preclude holding it under Clinton. Moreover, it is far from certain that Clinton will ever be in a position to offer Flournoy the job. But she must believes that running Obama’s Pentagon is a toxic gig.

Not Sen. Jack Reed, another frequently mentioned possibility for the job. He has said he “does not wish to be considered for secretary of defense or any other Cabinet position.”

The MSM wants to attribute the reluctance to serve as Obama’s Secretary mainly to the fact that Obama doesn’t listen much to cabinet members. This, very likely, is a factor.

However, Obama’s tendency to rely on his inner circle of White House advisers and, above all, himself isn’t new. Yet until now, he apparently hasn’t had difficulty filling the Secretary of Defense position. Nor is there any indication that he struggled to find someone willling to be his Attorney General.

What, then, has changed that relates specifically to the Pentagon?

The obvious answer is that Obama has formulated a no-win strategy against ISIS. He assigned the Pentagon with responsibility for degrading and ultimately destroying the terrorist outfit, but refused to authorize measures that might accomplish the job.

Obama has also slashed the Defense Department budget. No self-respecting member of the defense establishment thinks that’s a good idea. Even Chuck Hagel seems finally to have figured out that it’s not.

In short, Obama’s defense and national security policy is bankrupt. Only a hack would want to be a party to it.

Hacks are in no short supply, so Obama will find his man or woman. But Obama’s selection will be discredited at the outset by the unwillingness of Flournoy and Reed to be considered.

Dr. Schumer’s weak, retrospective prescription

Chuck Schumer has caused a bit of a stir by stating that the Democrats erred in pushing through Obamacare. “Unfortunately,” said Schumer “Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them [in the 2008 election]. We took their mandate and put all our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform.”

According to Schumer, Democrats should have focused on aiding the middle class in order to build confidence among voters before turning to revamping the health-care system. He also claims that he opposed the timing of the health-care vote and was overruled by other party members.

From a purely political standpoint, Schumer is correct. The Democrats would be better off today if they had eschewed comprehensive health insurance reform and had, in Clintonesque fashion, “focused like a laser on the economy.”

Schumer’s take is superficial, though. First, from a policy standpoint, it is foolish to suppose that the big government policies the Democrats might have pursued in the absence of the Obamacare fight would, in fact, have improved the economy or otherwise aided the middle class.

Second, there is no reason to believe that the Democrats could have “turned to revamping the health-care system” after addressing so-called middle class issues. The window on enacting Obamacare-style reform was rapidly closing. Had the Democrats not barely squeezed through it in early 2010, the opportunity would have been lost.

Finally, neither President Obama nor the Democratic base wanted a repeat of the Clinton presidency. Obama has stated as much.

The Democrats wanted to do big, transformatiive things. Obamacare is a big, transformative thing.

In Schumer’s alternative universe, the Democrats likely would have suffered big losses in 2010, as they did under Clinton in 1994. No magic “middle class” economic reform could have boosted the economy to a level that would have satisfied voters. Electoral defeat in 2010 would have meant, as it did in the real universe, an end to liberal legislative reform even if Democratic losses in 2014 had been minimal or non-existent.

Eight years with no major legislative accomplishments to point to would have left the Democrats in bad shape for 2016 — quite possibly in worse shape than they will be in having enacted Obamacare. The displeasure of the party’s base would have exceeded that which existed in 2000, when Al Gore’s candidacy was undermined by apathy and the challenge of Ralph Nader from the left.

It may be, however, that in Schumer’s scenario the Dems would have held the Senate in 2014. Schumer is all about power, not principle. So it’s natural that he would have been happier with a Clinton-lite presidency.

#Shirtgate explained

The feminist establishment has gone completely around the bend. I’m not sure when it happened.; I doubt it is a recent development. In her prescient 1972 book The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation, Midge Decter examined the second-generation literature of feminism and found it rotten at the core, if not rotten to the core. I haven’t kept up with the literature. My impression, however, is that the movement has descended into totalitarian madness. As the whole “rape culture” brouhaha demonstrates, feminism has become just another branch of liberal fascism.

Christina Hoff Sommers has long sought to make feminism safe for the sane. She now does so online at YouTube in her series The Factual Feminist. In the latest installment, she sheds light on the dark corners of “#Shirtgate” (subtitle: “Feminist heckles heard from outer space”) and the disputed question of sexism in the sciences (video below).

Via Claudia Anderson/Weekly Standard.

The Telos of the Liberal Mind?

Remember the old joke from the 1960s about the liberal cleric who told his congregation that he had been mugged, but that he sympathized with his mugger, because injustice, etc. . . Whereupon an elderly lady in the back of the pews mutters loudly, “Mug him again.”

The joke has come to life in Georgetown, where a student who was recently mugged at gunpoint has written an article justifying the muggers because of his privilege. I’d suspect this of being a grand punk job, but I think the student, Oliver Friedfeld, actually means it:

Last weekend, my housemate and I were mugged at gunpoint while walking home from Dupont Circle. The entire incident lasted under a minute, as I was forced to the floor, handed over my phone and was patted down.

And yet, when a reporter asked whether I was surprised that this happened in Georgetown, I immediately answered: “Not at all.” It was so clear to me that we live in the most privileged neighborhood within a city that has historically been, and continues to be, harshly unequal. While we aren’t often confronted by this stark reality west of Rock Creek Park, the economic inequality is very real. . .

What has been most startling to me, even more so than the incident itself, have been the reactions I’ve gotten. I kept hearing “thugs,” “criminals” and “bad people.” While I understand why one might jump to that conclusion, I don’t think this is fair.

Not once did I consider our attackers to be “bad people.” I trust that they weren’t trying to hurt me. In fact, if they knew me, I bet they’d think I was okay. They wanted my stuff, not me. While I don’t know what exactly they needed the money for, I do know that I’ve never once had to think about going out on a Saturday night to mug people. I had never before seen a gun, let alone known where to get one. The fact that these two kids, who appeared younger than I, have even had to entertain these questions suggests their universes are light years away from mine. . .

Who am I to stand from my perch of privilege, surrounded by million-dollar homes and paying for a $60,000 education, to condemn these young men as “thugs?” It’s precisely this kind of “otherization” that fuels the problem. . .

The millennial generation is taking over the reins of the world, and thus we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past. As young people, we need to devote real energy to solving what are collective challenges. Until we do so, we should get comfortable with sporadic muggings and break-ins.

I wonder where Mr. Friedfeld would draw the line? Murder, perhaps? His own, I wonder? What if the muggings and break-ins became less “sporadic,” like New York city in the 1970s. Way back in the late 1960s Daniel Patrick Moynihan wondered whether the nihilism becoming more apparent on the left day by way was “the telos of modern liberalism.” I think we see the answer in this story.

Postscript: The article says Friedfeld is a student in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He seems a perfect fit for the State Department. (The comments, by the way, are overwhelmingly savage. Hope, after all.)