Hewitt Award Nominee, Ctd

A reader writes:

This comment baiting Barack Obama about not understanding traditional American recreations such as poker is just so wrong! I knew I had read that he loves to play poker with the boys, he plays a smart game – and it took me only  8 seconds to locate the article – here it is, from TIME magazine in 2008.

Another reader links to a similar piece.  A third:

Putting aside the fact that way too much is being made of this, if Cantor thought that Obama was bluffing in terms of drawing a figurative line in the sand regarding the debt ceiling, the president was simply and correctly warning the majority leader not to call this bluff, because he would then to his dismay find out that there was no bluff. How this gets transformed into one more example of Mr. Gordon's assertion that "so much about this country and its character … seems alien or unfamiliar to the president" is, in actuality, one more beautiful example of the far right’s contorted and bizarre notion of  Obama's alleged "otherness."

Our last reader gets a bit wonky:

I had to laugh a bit when I read the Hewitt Award Nominee from John Steele Gordon because he talks about Obama not understanding something as "quintessentially American" as poker – and then proceeds to not understand poker himself.  I'm a poker player, and I even made a run at doing it full time (it was fun while it lasted). 

Here's one of the basic rules of poker (especially tournament poker): you are not allowed to tell the truth about your hand while in play.  You are free to lie about your hand, but if you tell the other player "I have three kings" and you have three kings, you can be penalized (usually by missing a certain number of hands).  But more importantly, poker players saying they are bluffing all the time, especially if they think the other guy thinks they're bluffing.

Let me clear that up.  Let's say you and I are in a hand.  I make a bet and you call and say, "I think you're bluffing."  And then the next card comes and I bet again, and you stop and think about it, I could say, "Don't call my bluff" or something along those lines.  Now, I might be bluffing, I might not be bluffing, or I might be semi-bluffing (basically, I don't have a good hand, but I think yours is worse).  There's a lot of reasons why you'd tell someone "don't call my bluff" – it could be you are actually bluffing and want them to fold so you can take the pot down, or it could be that you have a good hand and are trying to induce him to call so you can make more.

Ok, this might be going too deep into the metaphor, but the idea that Obama should have said "don't call my bet" rather than "don't call my bluff" is stupid.  In poker, you don't know if someone is bluffing until you make the last call and see his cards.  It's incredibly risky, unless you're sure you've got him beat.  And, to be clear, the moment you say "don't call my bet" at a poker table, the chips are in the pot … it's a sign of weakness.

Hewitt Award Nominee

by Zack Beauchamp

"I agree with John that Obama misspoke when he cautioned Eric Cantor, ”don’t call my bluff.” But was it because he meant to say, “don’t call my bet,” thinking he has a winning hand, or because he botched the metaphor, not understanding poker? Poker, after all, is a quintessentially American game, with origins going back to the 18th century and which reached its modern form in the mid-19th on river boats plying the Mississippi and its tributaries. There is so much about this country and its character that seems alien or unfamiliar to the president." – John Steele Gordon, Commentary.

Hewitt Award Nominee

"President Obama has effectively abandoned the 50-year-old U.S. alliance with Israel. So, where is the outrage from the American Jewish community? Don’t they understand that the president is not pro-Israel? Aren’t they troubled by his history of pro-Palestinian writings, speeches, and actions? The short answer is that most American Jews are liberal, and most American liberals side with the Palestinians and vague notions of “peace” instead of with Israel’s wellbeing and security," – Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL).

Hewitt Award Nominee

"Obama has adopted in these speeches what might be termed the Mafia Gambit: the implied threat to Israel that either it accepts the '1967 Auschwitz borders' or runs the gauntlet of UN recognition and further western delegitimisation… The fact is that, for all his ludicrous protestations of friendship towards Israel, Obama believes the Palestinians have a legitimate grievance over the absence of their state. He thus believes their propaganda of historical falsehoods and murderous blood libels. He therefore believes it is a just solution to reward murderous aggression. And that makes Obama a threat not just to Israel but to free societies everywhere," – Melanie Phillips.

A mobster and a Nazi? She outdoes herself.

Hewitt Award

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Hewitt Award Nominee, Ctd

After Huckabee's latest, a couple of points can't be made often enough. Jonathan Chait offers one of them:

The theory holds that Barack Obama, through his father, acquired a worldview twisted by opposition to British colonialism… Wouldn't this theory mean that our Founding Fathers were also twisted by opposition to British colonialism? Or maybe the idea is that we had a right to throw off the British yoke, but the Kenyans should have put up with it, because the British occupation there was so much more benign.

But the Kenyans were Africans! They needed imperialism, while Americans didn't. That, at least, seems to be the unspoken premise. Larison and Massie have more. Massie's insight here is particularly apposite:

The British press – especially, I am afraid, on the right – loves wetting its knickers any time a new President is elected, fretting that they won't make the "Special Relationship" the centrepiece of their foreign policy and all the rest of it.

It would be better if American discourse didn't use British chippiness as its lodestar in understanding the president. For myself, I can only repeat how amazing I find it that conservative Americans now see anti-imperialism as somehow un-American.