Tonight I saw HBO’s film about the Rwanda genocide of 1994, “Sometime in April.” It’s a powerful movie, and it is especially impressive in making it clear how little the U.N. and the U.S. did despite extensive knowledge of what was happening day by day. As for the French… well, the film does a subtle but devastating job of showing Paris’ sympathy for the wrong side. As it happens, there is something that I and the other millions of people who may ultimately see “Sometime in April” can do other than feel guilty. We can raise holy hell about today’s ongoing genocide in Darfur, a situation in which New York and Paris and Washington (along with Moscow and Beijing) seem determined, once again, to do little or nothing until it is too late.The OAU presence in Darfur is completely inadequate to the task. U.N. action will probably be blocked by Russia and China. Today’s New Dem Dispatch proposes an emergency NATO mission. That will require immediate and vocal leadership from the President of the United States, who for once has a genuine opportunity to show he really believes in a “culture of life,” and in U.S. moral leadership. Like my colleague The Moose, I believe agitating for action in Darfur is a mission that should unite all sorts of disparate elements of the blogosphere.
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.