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Steyn, Lileks, Isikoff, and Cooperstown, Part 2

Thursday, June 4, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

On today’s program from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown I’ll discuss the president’s speech (my take is here) with Mark Steyn, James Lileks and Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, and intersperse those interviews with conversations with some of the great baseball historians gathered at Cooperstown. Some of the authors and books that will be discussed today:

John R.M. Wilson’s Jackie Robinson and the American Dilemma:

Jackie Robinson and the American Dilemma (Library of American Biography) (The Library of American Biography)

Paul Dickson, author of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary and The Unwritten Rules of Baseball:

The Dickson Baseball Dictionary: (Third Edition)The Unwritten Rules of Baseball: The Etiquette, Conventional Wisdom, and Axiomatic Codes of Our National Pastime

Bruce Markusen’s The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates:

The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberte Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates

Lee Lowenfish’s Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman:

Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman

Brad Snyder’s A Well Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight For Free Agency in Professional Sports:

A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports

Talking about baseball and American culture with baseball historians rarely means a conversation limited to the game. Usually the game has intersected in some important way with the country’s larger life, and that combination makes for riveting stories, like those of Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood, and Roberto Clemente. The summer reading list should always contain at least one book that celebrates the American game.

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“The streets surrounding the university and across the city were largely quiet and empty on Thursday. Many workers in the Egyptian capital had been told to stay home.”

Thursday, June 4, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Listening to Robin Wright, Ed Rollins and others on CNN discuss the president’s speech, I am struck by the unreality of not just’s the president’s remarks, but also of the commentary surrounding it.

“The Muslim world” is a large number of extremely diverse regimes, some of which are simply totalitarian, others deeply authoritarian and still others very tentative democracies. The idea that they are to be addressed as one audience is as absurd as an address to the Catholic world.

For this president’s still-smitten domestic press, though, even the ordinary curbs of common sense and obvious problems –the empty streets of Cairo because of an order from the government– do not intrude.

Much of the was much of the usual “We are the world, I am the world” Obama oration, but while the inspiring story of President Obama can move voters in free elections, it cannot do much arrayed against the wills of dictators and fanatics.

There are two great objections to the speech. First is its false idea that the ideas within it represent a huge break with the Bush Administration’s policies with regard to Islam. Of course they don’t. George Bush said essentially the same things about the war’s non-religous character on many major occasions. Bush’s allies in the war are Obama’s allies, and Bush’s enemies are Obama’s enemies, because those allies and enemies are opposed to or support the United States, not a particular president. President Obama’s extraordinary vanity as to the power of his own story should continue to trouble realists across the political spectrum. None of the ruthless men who guide our greatest enemies care a whit about where the president was born or who is parents were. They don’t care either about his Muslim ancestors. They hate America. They hated America before George Bush became president and they will hate it after Barack Obama leaves office.

The second biggest objection is to the paragraphs devoted to Israel, which began with incomplete history and theory, and then veered off into the worst sort of moral equivalence:

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

“On the other hand?” Set aside the president’s inexplicable failure to cite the U.N.’s vote to bring Israel into existence as a modern state which should have then led to a blunt, discussion-ending statement that Israel exists as an independent Jewish state and will always exist as an independent Jewish state, and consider that the president invites comparison between the Holocaust and that which has happened in the Middle East through successive wars waged against Israel by its neighbors since 1948. This last paragraph is a profound betrayal of Israel suggesting as it does that Israel has done to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to Jews, which will no doubt shock many Americans and of course many Israelis while becoming a standard text for the most radical among the Palestinians. It was clearly carefully crafted to indulge Palestinian and Arab narratives about what has happened in the past 61 years while maintaining plausible deniability for the president’s supporters who are also supporters of Israel, but it fails to fool anyone for even a moment. Israelis should finally grasp if they haven’t already that the ground of the American-Israel alliance is quaking beneath them.

The world is the worse for this speech because it was not honest about the situation in the Middle East, not honest about the threat from Iran, not honest about Israel’s deep desire to be allowed to live in peace, and not honest about the determination of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran to destroy Israel and to gain the weapons necessary to do so in an instant.

No speech so deeply dishonest in its omissions or so rhetorically misleading its its assumptions and arguments can do anything other than communicate extraordinary weakness on the part of the United States. It will indeed be a famous speech, for all the wrong reasons.

Seeking God and Baseball in Cooperstown

Wednesday, June 3, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The first two hours of today’s program will originate from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, as Duane and I participate in the 21rst annual “Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture” symposium. I will be conducting a question and answer with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson tonight, and moderating a panel on the demise of the reserve clause on Thursday. Rarely do my broadcasting, teaching and sports enthusiasms all intersect, but for the next two days they do, and with an hour on God to round out the day..

Integrating the radio show with the live conference proceedings may be a bit challenging, so Duane will be offstage, attempting to make it flow and filling in if it doesn’t. Tonight’s conversation with Frank Robinson will center on the legacy of a great-if-too-little-appreciated baseball legend, George Powles of Oakland, who coached not only the young Robinson and more than a dozen other future major leaguers including Curt Flood and Vada Pinson, but also Celtics’ legend Bill Russell. (To have mentored either the first African-American MLB manager or the first African-American NBA coach would be a great achievement; to have mentored both is extraordinary.) Powles is one of those quintessentially American stories of a high school and youth league coach who, along with his wife, opened his home and his life to young athletes and in doing so over decades, greatly enriched the American experience. Powles’ selflessness is a model of genuine service that deserves all the attention Cooperstown can give it. (Thanks to Justice George Nicholson, Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeals, 3rd District, who is powering this overdue recognition of Coach Powles.)

A very different kind of selflessness and service will be the subject of hour three tonight when the conclusion of the Cooperstown proceedings won’t permit live broadcasting but do allow me the opportunity to broadcast an interview I taped last Friday with two extraordinary women, Sister Prudence Allen and Mother Regina Marie Gorman, on the subject of the religious life in the new millennium. A number of the religious orders have cooperated on a brand new book that aims to explain the tradition and current practice of life in a Roman Catholic faith community, and today’s conversation is for many a rare glimpse inside that life. The book is The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision

Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision

It will be an unusual program but one that displays again why talk radio is the best of all the broadcast mediums -full of the time and flexibility to put on display all sorts of aspects of American life. Let me know what you think via hugh@hughhewitt.com.

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