Today's Blogs

Obama the Cowboy?

Bloggers are divided over Barack Obama’s tough-guy stance on Pakistan, and they mourn lousy U.S. infrastructure. Also, author Robert Olen Butler’s wife is leaving him for Ted Turner. Enter Gawker.

Obama the Cowboy? Pakistan is a little peeved with Sen. Barack Obama after the Democratic presidential candidate said in a speech Wednesday that if Pervez Musharraf’s regime can’t round up al-Qaida suspects that President Obama would deploy U.S. troops to do so. Obama is either imperious or foolish or—gasp—a not-so-faint echo of President Bush, depending on whom you ask.

“[G]ive Obama this, he is the first candidate (that I know of) who has called the Pakistanis to task for allowing al Qaeda and other international Islamist terror groups to operate there with impunity,” science and health journalist Michael Fumento writes. “Western Pakistan today is what Afghanistan was on September 10th. Terrorists currently operate in Afghanistan but there’s little evidence they operate out of it. SOMEBODY in some way needs to clear out the Pakistani rat’s nest and if Obama stirs debate as to how, all power to him.”

Libertarian McQ at the QandO Blog, is less impressed: “So here we have a presidential candidate, who likes to preach about how he’d change the world’s perception of the US to a positive one, alienating an ally before ever setting foot in the Oval office. Nice going, Barack.” And Conservative Victor Davis Hanson at the National Review’s The Corner asks why the senator hasn’t offered “Oct. 11, 2002-type resolution,” pointing out: “Obama has criticized Sen. Clinton for her approval of that Iraqi authorization, but the sort of action he is envisioning involves crossing into a nuclear Islamic country, one bullet away from an Islamic republic, and surely should be a question for Congressional approval. … But his suggestion still must be countered logically and rationally since millions of Americans, as the senator’s focus groups no doubt attest, are frustrated by this inaction as well, and the very notion that an aide beneficiary like Pakistan is harboring, willingly or not, leftover architects of 9/11.”

Liberal Matt Yglesias, blogging at the Guardian’s Comment is Free is skeptical of Obama’s muscularity: “No president would categorically rule out such action, but any president would need to think very carefully about the consequences. Accusing the incumbent of insufficient boldness in this regard is precisely what one expects from a challenger, but the need to actually make the decisions tends to instill a certain caution - even in George W. Bush.’

Read more about Obama’s speech, and discuss it here. John Dickerson praises Obama for answering hypothetical questions in Slate.

Rebuilding bridges: Bloggers spent the day picking up the nation’s lousy infrastructure as the cause for Wednesday’s lethal bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

At the Chicago Tribune’s reader-response blog, Voice of the People, Carl Pickerill says: “Europe has 300-m.p.h. trains and we can’t even keep our bridges in order. The spending on public infrastructure in the United States is atrocious. Americans describe America as the greatest country on Earth. They have obviously never visited Japan or Europe, where, yes, they may have socialism, but at least people can get where they need to go without spending an hour in traffic or fearing for their lives. … Something really has to change.”

“What is more troubling is the fact that the primary mechanism for funding federal highways–the Highway Trust Fund–is projected to continue its downward trend in receipts, while higher disbursements are forecast for the next four years,” urban and environmental policy guru Hugh Bartling writes. He continues: “This impending crisis has been well-known.  In spite of this, there has been little concern at the federal level.”

SanJoseLady at lefty blog Daily Kos blames (who else?) the Republicans: “The fact of the matter is that the GOP would rather cut taxes for the wealthiest of our citizens then spend money to ensure our nation has a safe and strong infrastructure.  Additionally we have squandered billions in Iraq, and by the time we are done in that country we will have spent over a trillion dollars, billions of which are unaccounted for, billions more being spent on corruption, and billions being wasted on projects that are substandard and incomplete.”

Read more about shoddy U.S. infrastructure. In Slate, Michelle Tsai explains how inspectors check out bridges.

Dear Bob: Author Robert Olen Butler wants his grad students to know four things: 1) He won a Pulitzer; 2) His wife Elizabeth did not; 3) Elizabeth still loves him; 4) But she’s leaving him for Ted Turner. Gawker published the e-mail that spelled all this out, and Butler responded. The rest deserves a minor award of its own.

Gawker’s been all over this story, and the fun really got started when Butler e-mailed the New York gossip blog to chastise it for publishing his explanatory intra-departmental e-mail: “We would like to take this opportunity to recommend that Robert immediately purchase a copy of the instructive book Send, which is a guide to email etiquette that also details the history of the medium of email, and explains why, if there is ever any sensitive information that you’d like to communicate to a select few people, you must communicate that information in person.”

Ron at Mediabistro’s Galleycat doesn’t think the just-between-us-friends argument works this time: “[L]et’s face it, you could be Robert Olen Butler’s best friend ever and be creeped out by that letter. If only he’d asked me; I would’ve told him that the best cure for a break-up is to dance around the living room with classic power pop at full volume.”

And Micketymoc at Stepping on Poop has some advice for Butler: “Should you try to spin your tale of woe even further with an explanatory email to a gossip website, lesson number two: DON’T EXPECT TO GET THE LAST WORD!”

Read more about Butler’s lonely-hearts correspondence. Bonnie Goldstein analyzes Butler’s e-mail in Slate.