Carol Platt Liebau: May 2005

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Vainglorious Self-Congratulation

Recall this post on my blog from last Thursday: "Has Lott Given Frist (and W) the 'Pepsi Gesture?'". It made sense to me at the time -- and now, there is this piece in "The American Spectator" and this piece from Knight-Ridder that appear to confirm my suspicions.

Here's a key quote from the American Spectator piece:

Lott has been looking for ways to undercut both President Bush and Sen. Frist, as he blames both -- though Bush more -- for his political purgatory out of leadership.

Not only is Lott feeling vengeful against Bush and Frist -- he wants his old Majority Leader job back. Fat chance -- that'll happen when McCain is elected President.

Rush Limbaugh was just discussing this matter on his radio show.

A "Hill" to Climb

If you've got some time, check out this interesting story on Hillary Clinton.

Although she's coy about it, she's definitely running for President. We've already seen her strategy at work; here it is, laid out in the pages of The Washington Post:

On social issues, it is to reassure moderate and conservative voters with such positions as her support of the death penalty, and to find rhetorical formulations on abortion and other issues -- on which her position is more liberal -- that she is nonetheless in sympathy with traditional values. On national security, it is to ensure that she has no votes or wavering statements that would give the GOP an opening to argue that she is not in favor of a full victory in Iraq. In her political positioning generally, it is to find occasions to prominently work across party lines -- to argue that she stands for pragmatism over the partisanship that many centrist voters especially dislike about Washington.

The strategy is a smart one. A liberal, like Hillary, must be a maverick of sorts, in order to win over some of the red states (and the center-right majority). What's interesting is that John McCain is trying Hillary's strategy (albeit from the right) and it won't serve him as well for a couple reasons: (1) He doesn't have a resevoir of good will from his party's base, as Hillary does from hers; (2)He's reaching for the center even though there is a majority to be won within the center-right (as proved by President Bush last year).

An advantage that Hillary and McCain share is a big fan base in the press. Check this out:

As the skeptics see it, she could probably win a nomination by exciting Democratic partisans, but she remains too personally and ideologically polarizing a figure to win a general election. Some members of her team, discussing strategy on the condition that they not be identified by name, acknowledge that answering this skepticism is among her biggest challenges in the next two years.

How convenient, then, that this piece comes out: "Poll majority say they'd be likely to vote for Clinton." Answers that "skepticism" pretty conveniently, doesn't it?

Needless to say, there are problems with the poll. First, only 29% are "very likely" to vote for her, but 39% are "not at all likely" to vote for her. So those adamantly opposed to her outrank her vociferous partisans by a full ten percent -- and put her close to the perilous 40% opposition number (without even considering the 7% that are "not very likely" to vote for her).

Moreover, if you look at the supposed 53% that are "likely" to vote for her, only 29% are "very likely." Those are the yellow dog Democrats -- they'd vote for a chimp, if it were running against a Republican. The other 24% are "somewhat likely" to vote for her.

But that's where one must remember the excellent point once made to me by one of America's leading pollsters, Kellyanne Conway. As Kellyanne points out, in life, we get choices. A poll that gives no choices isn't worth much.

Applied here, the question "Would you be very likely/somewhat likely/not very likely/not at all likely to vote for Hillary Clinton" doesn't mean much unless it's put in the context of a political choice. So the numbers for "Would you be very likely/somewhat likely/not very likely/not at all likely to vote for Hillary Clinton" would probably change dramatically depending on the choices given -- say, "if her opponent were the Antichrist" vs. "if her opponent were Ronald Reagan circa 1980."

Krauthammer's Certain-ly Right

Today's must-read: Charles Krauthammer's "In Defense of Certainty".

It's hard to understand why liberals and intellectuals love to see everything as relative and nuanced and subtle -- and why they display such animosity to those who don't, particularly people of faith.

No, no one but God can be certain that he or she is right . . . but at least people of faith are willing to proclaim the fact that there is a right (and, correspondingly, a wrong) -- a distinction that many liberals seem afraid to make.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Some Memorial Day Thoughts

Naturally, today, our thoughts and prayers turn to the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom and security of the United States of America -- and to their families, who share in that sacrifice.

Here are some must-read thoughts for Memorial Day.

And here is one of the greatest soldier's memorial poems of all time -- "In Flanders Field." It reminds us that our glorious war dead cannot rest if we break faith with them and with the causes for which they gave their lives.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Two Pieces Worth Reading in The LA Times!

No -- don't even think it. I am NOT a shill for the LA Times Sunday Op/Ed section simply because I have occasionally been able to write for it. Objectively, the section today has two pieces worth reading.

(1) The Supreme Court

First, check this out -- about the supposedly inordinate power of Supreme Court clerks. The piece's author has just read a book by Linda Greenhouse (NY Times Supreme Court reporter) about Justice Blackmun -- he of "Roe v. Wade" fame -- and is shocked, shocked! to find out that clerks do a lot of drafting of opinions, and occasionally, it appears, some of the deciding of them.

Some of what the piece says, however, deserves a response. There are justices who do let their clerks do far more than any freshly-minted young lawyers should be allowed to. Anyone who knew anyone who had clerked for the Supremes in the last days of Thurgood Marshall's tenure had heard that Justice Marshall did little, in his final days on the Court, besides sit and watch television in his chambers. His clerks did the rest.

And from the LA Times piece, it sounds like Justice Blackmun may fall within that less-than-admirable tradition.

That being said, not all justices are that way. I have two very good friends who clerked for Justice Scalia, and two dear friends who clerked for Justice Thomas. They fully respected the confidence reposed in them by the justices for whom they worked, and no inappropriate information ever leaked out of them. That being said, it was clear that Justice Thomas and Scalia -- not their clerks -- were in full control of their own opinions.

The piece ends advocating a reduction in the number of Supreme Court clerks provided for each Supreme Court justice. Hard to know where to come down on that one -- my friends (all very smart, quick guys) worked very hard the year they clerked, even with three other clerks in chambers. On the other hand, for the justices who (unlike Justices Scalia and Thomas) leave all their work to their clerks -- well, perhaps they would retire sooner if there weren't enough clerks available for delegation of the entire workload.

(2) Dennis Prager Piece

Dennis Prager has a very interesting piece on the differences in religious faith between liberals and conservatives.

Read the entire thing. But one very pithy point is this: Dennis noted that when he disagrees with the Torah, he assumes that he is wrong. When Alan Dershowitz disagrees with the Torah, Dershowitz admittedly believes that the Torah is wrong.

Kind of says it all right there, doesn't it?

EU Constitution Defeated in France

This is a gloat-free zone, so you will find no inappropriate mirth at the unceremonious rejection of the EU Constitution by the French -- and the stinging repudiation of Jacques Chirac's leadership that the rejection entails.

No, no gloating here -- but certainly a fair amount of relief, even pleasure. French political leadership was in favor of a united Europe as a way to try to compete with and thwart America at every turn. (In fact, support for the EU Constitution was everywhere infected with a bit of anti-US bias). And Jacques Chirac is indubitably a slimeball. In both those senses, it's a good thing that this EU project has been undermined.

And one need not necessarily be a fan of any particular European country to feel dismayed at the prospect of sovereign nations surrendering much of their independence to a bureaucratic elite centered in Brussels, of all places.

Who would have suspected that the ornery French would show such plain, good, even American-style common sense!?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Producers & Consumers

Is it any surprise that the middle class rejects Democrats? It shouldn't be. Intelligent people are on to the fact that -- whatever their rhetoric -- the parties have become divided, not between the rich and the poor, but largely between "producers" and "consumers."

Producers -- people who pay more in taxes than they consume in government services -- are, of course, going to be reluctant to finance the ever-expanding public sector in accordance with the wishes of Democratic politicians. The consumers -- designated as such either because, (1) like the Hollywood elite, they are able to make lots of money and do lots of buying with relatively minimal amounts of pretty pleasant work or (2) they use more government services than they pay for in taxes -- have no problem with government controlling more and more (and taxing ordinary people to pay for it).

The middle class is composed of "producers." I.e., Republicans. No surprise there.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Thanks, Hugh

And Duane, along with Adam and Moses . . .

It was an honor and a treat to sit behind Hugh Hewitt's microphone today, ably assisted by the indispensable Generalissimo (a/k/a Duane) and the rest of the team.

There were so many stories that we didn't even get to -- but I'll use them as blogfodder tomorrow.

Had a lot of fun in the third hour, proving (tongue in cheek) that "real" conservatives don't flock to the movies with the liberal hordes -- they rent DVD's, instead. But then I came home to find this pithy paragraph as part of an email from my friend Karen:

I'm not a radio show caller, but I was tempted to call this afternoon. Someone should have put you and Dwayne in a pickle by suggesting that Hugh Hewitt is a conservative who is a movie goer. It's amazing how many movies he and "the fetching Mrs. Hewitt" go to see all the time. Too bad no one did that! I am sure the two of you would have had a creative response.

Mmmm . . . maybe our response would have gone something like this: Karen, are you suggesting that Hugh isn't a real conservative? Tee hee.

Sitting in for Hugh Hewitt Today

I'm looking forward to guest hosting for Hugh Hewitt -- also known as "The Voice of Reason in the West" and "The Blogfather."

If you want to listen live, click here. To see if you get the Hugh Hewitt show on a local station, look here.

We're going to have a rollicking three hours of politics and culture, along with a more solemn rememberance of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Road to H-ll . . .

Ah, yes. Harry Reid claims that the "deal" is going to result in reduced partisanship in the Senate.

Guess that explains the filibuster of John Bolton earlier today (note how the linked AP story goes to great lengths to avoid using f-word, so as to avoid showing up the Democrats' clear breach of good faith and fair dealing).

I wonder if John McCain or Lindsay Graham are available for comment. So much for their "good" intentions.
Now George Voinovich really has something to cry about. Helen Thomas, the batty old aunt in the attic, admires him.

That's enough to make someone run from the room, screaming as if his hair were on fire.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Has Lott Given Frist (and W) the "Pepsi" Gesture?

Anyone who's been following this blog knows what the "Pepsi gesture" is -- it's vulgar and it involves the middle finger.

Wouldn't it be interesting if this whole outrageous judicial "compromise" was, in actuality, the result of Trent Lott's dislike of his successor, Bill Frist, and his bitterness toward The White House?

Check out this piece from the LA Times. Interesting. So the deal was originally born in a friendly little tete-a-tete between moderate Democrat Ben Nelson and conservative Trent Lott.

Nelson, up in '06 in a very red state, has great incentives to avoid a showdown that would force him either to defy his party or run the risk of alienating voters that he'll need, and soon. But why would a conservative Mississippian, safely ensconced in his seat, want to compromise with the Democrats?

Well, try this on for size. Sure, Lott cares about the "traditions of the Senate" -- but even more, he cares that he was ignominiously forced to resign as Majority Leader after some unfortunate remarks in praise of Strom Thurmond. Lott might well have survived the brouhaha had some support been forthcoming from The White House -- but it wasn't. Everyone there was eager to see Bill Frist take over.

Southerners have long memories. Three years carrying a grudge -- why, that's nothing. And now, Lott has his perfect revenge: Bill Frist's leadership has been exposed as weak and ineffective, his presidential ambitions gravely (if not fatally) wounded. (As Hugh Hewitt pointed out yesteday, "If Senator Frist can't talk Ohio's Mike DeWine and and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham off the ledge, voters will wonder how he can talk Great Britain and Italy into future coalitions of the willing.").

True, The White House has gotten three of its prize nominees confirmed -- but it's contending with a very angry base, and the very real possibility of a bloody (and now unpredictable) Senate filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in a situation where the principles at stake have been hopelessly blurred.

Best of all, Lott's name isn't even on the deal. It didn't need to be -- not when there are weak-minded or egomaniacal "compromisers" to rush into the breach.

It would be pretty clever trick, wouldn't it? Talk about a dish best served cold . . .


The New York Times informs us (hopefully?): "Justice Choice Could Rekindle Filibuster Fight in the Senate."

You don't say. How does John McCain et al. respond to Harry Reid's gracious observation that "There's nothing in anything that was done . . . that prevents us from filibustering somebody that's extreme, whether it's on the district court, on a circuit court or the Supreme Court"?


Tee hee

You've got to check out Huffington's Toast. (HT: My CDS correspondent).

Right On

This is why Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite columnists. As '06 comes ever closer, let's not forget the wobbly weak sisters and egomaniac opportunistics who sold out the Republican Party -- and, more importantly, the prinicple of democratic self-rule.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Out of Control

Now Voinovich is touting his off-the-reservation credentials, too. Does Bill Frist have any control over his caucus?

Dirty, Indeed

Brad Berenson, one of the finest young lawyers practicing today (and someone who showed me great kindness at law school) has this disturbing post at National Review, suggesting that Brett Kavanaugh and William Haynes may have been thrown under the bus, along with Henry Saad and William Myers.

Both Kavanaugh and Haynes do have friends and supporters within the Beltway conservative establishment. But it may not be enough to ensure that they are treated fairly.

Again, a travesty.

Monday, May 23, 2005

On Culture

Here, in Human Events, is a piece I recently wrote about the importance of cultural issues. It appeared first at The One Republic.

Needed: Some Backbone

This piece outlines the "deal" brokered by the "moderates" on Capitol Hill.

Maybe it isn't a total travesty . . . It doesn't commit the Republicans not to invoke the constitutional option at some later date. It does guarantee an up or down vote on the nominations of Priscilla Owens, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor. And given that these nominations are not deemed "extraordinary circumstances" in this instance, it will be difficult for the Democrats to filibuster any of them in the future should they be nominated for the Supreme Court (although you read it here, first -- inconsistency has never stopped the Democrats and their friends in the press).


To me, there is something profoundly slimy about this "deal." Was there a principle of justice, even of constitutional magnitude, at stake -- that every judicial nominee sent up by a president (that makes it to the Senate floor) deserves an up or down vote -- or wasn't there? If the senators believe there was, then what are they doing undermining the principle they have been allegedly fighting (and asking us to fight) to vindicate? If there wasn't, then what has all the high minded rhetoric been about? Riddle me that, John McCain (and trust me, you'll have plenty of time to figure it out, because you've just guaranteed that it'll be a cold day in hell when you become president).

Even putting the Republicans' total abdication of principle aside, what about the two nominees for whom no deal was struck, Henry Saad and William Myers? Until today, apparently a majority of Republicans believed that they were qualified to sit on the circuit courts and deserved a vote to determine if they would get there. What changed? How would the senators feel if their careers were sacrificed on the altar of a political deal? By signing this agreement, have the Republicans implicitly set a (deplorable) standard: You'll get a vote as long as you're part of a constituency that the Republican Party "needs" (i.e. women, minorities, religious right conservatives) -- but if you're just a garden-variety, highly qualified white male, you can forget it?

Whatever political advantages arise from this deal, it was poorly done. Even in th most practical terms, notice that the Republican signatories all pledge to oppose the constitutional option (under all circumstances, presumably) while the Democratic signatories will oppose the use of the filibuster (unless "extraordinary circumstances" -- an elastic term, indeed -- arise). Dems have an "escape hatch" -- where is the Republicans'?

In the end, the Republicans failed to make the clear, cogent and, frankly, easy case for exercising the constitutional option -- and once again revealed themselves to be afraid of acting like a majority. It was remarkably poor leadership on the part of Bill Frist (John McCain may at least have the cold comfort of having taken Frist down with him).

Where is the commitment to principle? Where is the sense of justice and fair play -- for all people, whatever their gender and race? Where, oh where, is the backbone?


Yesterday, on "Meet the Press", Howard Dean talked about how the Democrats needed to speak differently to the public about abortion. Will he denounce this this appalling trivialization of the tragedy of abortion?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

In the wake of the Newsweek debable, John Leo has some interesting reflections on the state of the MSM.

Next to the ideological conformity imposed on university campuses, elite newsrooms must be the least ideologically diverse places in the country. Some, like the Sunday Opinion Editors at The Los Angeles Times, actually seem to be making efforts to reach out to conservatives (they invited both Hugh Hewitt, me and another conservative or two to participate in their Mayor Blog, and publish at least more conservative pieces in the paper; a good start).

For the most part, however -- as ABC White House correspondent Terry Moran admitted to Hugh Hewitt last week (cited both in Leo's piece and on "Special Report with Brit Hume"), journalists are monolithically liberal, which makes certain types of terrible mistakes, like the Newsweek story, likely to occur -- over and over again.
The author of this piece bemoans the end of the Senate "club."

As a former CBS reporter, it's to be expected that the author leans to the left -- but even so, what's notable is the events that he pinpoints as the cause for the degeneration of Senate culture: The attacks on Robert Bork, the rejection of John Tower, the unspeakable treatment of Clarence Thomas. What do all these events have in common? That's right: Republican nominees mistreated at the hands of Democrats, with nary a whimper from the pre-Fox News not-so-fair-and-balanced press. Sorry, Bill Frist going out to South Dakota to campaign against Tom Daschle this year isn't even in the same ballpark.

Of course it's to be expected that a CBS reporter would bemoan the dwindling number of "moderates" on both sides of the aisle. What's notable is that there were always more Republican than Democratic "moderates" (not surprising, since the former are lionized by the press while the latter are vilified). And so it is today. Of the Democrats, only Joe Lieberman (and now, Ben Nelson -- up for re-election in Red State Nebraska in '06) still remains . . . Republicans count McCain, Collins, Snowe, Chaffee and Spector among their "moderate" ranks.

Remind me again -- who's the party of "extremists"?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Check out LA Times' Mayorblog

The LA Times has conducted an interesting experiment with the recent mayor's race -- instituting a blog on the topic. They kindly invited me to participate (Hugh Hewitt was a contributor, as well), which I did with great pleasure.

Excerpts will appear in tomorrow's edition, along with the opportunity to comment on the blog, which you will find here.
Here's a newsflash -- women face a "pervasive lack of freedom" in the Arab world.

That's why I'd so admire all the feminists who have stood by the President and saluted his efforts to bring freedom to this troubled region -- if I could find any. But sadly, the only way President Bush could garner feminist support for his efforts in Iraq and elsewhere would be if he were trying to institute abortion on demand there (and they'd support him rabidly if he would only espouse partial birth abortion). Happily, with this President, that will never happen.

And fortunately, we have real women's rights supporters doing the job that the feminists only claim to be doing.

She's a "Victim"?

Check out this headline, characterizing the inexpressibly obnoxious and anti-American Pepsi executive as a "victim" of the bloggers.

Frankly, I think I'm a victim. Her insulting and outrageous remarks have had the effect of taking my Diet Pepsi away -- for what self-respecting American could continue to support a company that hires employees with such bad judgment, not to mention such hostility toward her product's biggest market?

So when's BusinessWeek going to feel my pain as acutely as it feels hers?

Friday, May 20, 2005

As Daniel Henninger points out, the Democrats are revealing themselves to be traitors to the most cherished ideals of their party -- all to stop Priscilla Owens from gaining a place on the Fifth Circuit and Janice Rogers Brown from ascending to the Ninth Circuit . . .

What would be the proper analogue? How about this: Republicans opposing the free market or political democracy abroad in order to ensure that a judicially imposed mandate forbidding virtually all abortions would stand.

If that were the scenario, just imagine how loud the screams from the press would be.

Shame on Harvard

As this piece in The One Republic points out, it has effectively decided to place a tax on hiring white or Asian men in the sciences.

What a pathetic development for a university, as the piece points out, that led the way in resisting racialism in an age when it actually was a problem, and before political correctness ran amok.

A Loss for Yale

What a shame. Yale is ending its affiliation with the United Church of Christ. As this piece points out, "Yale's idea seems to be that doctrinal differences run the risk of alienating students from a house of worship. But the opposite may be the case: Doctrine, even weakly expressed, signals a seriousness of religious purpose. It honors a religious tradition--even a liberal tradition--and habits of devotion."


As a general matter, something is lost when a school unmoors itself from a religious tradition. My high school alma mater, Mary Institute -- now known as MICDS -- has eliminated the "chapel" that I attended at the beginning of virtually every school between fourth grade and the end of senior year (a nondenominational girls' school at the time, the religion was "mere Christianity" that omitted overt references to Jesus, except during the Christmas "Festival of Lessons and Carols" program).

No doubt the intention was a worthy one, to make MICDS more "religiously inclusive" -- but the actual effect has been simply to secularize it. And it's a real loss for the generations of young people who will never be exposed to beautiful hymns (many of which I used later in my wedding) -- as well as for the graduates, who now know that there is no longer a group of young people reciting the old "Prayer for Graduates" on their behalf.

Will any older Yale alums feel an analogous sense of loss?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Is DeLay Worse than Osama, Dr. Dean?

Oh, goody! According to Bob Novak, Howard Dean will be appearing on "Meet the Press" this Sunday with Tim Russert. Should be great viewing.

The Novak column catalogues Dean's shortcomings and gaffes as chairman of the DNC. Making reference to Dean's most recent comments about Tom DeLay ("I think DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence down there courtesy of the Texas taxpayers."), Novak correctly observes that "Dean would jail DeLay without trial, without indictment and without accusation of any crime."

But wait a minute. What happened to civil libertarian Howard Dean? Remember this, when Dean declared, "I will have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

Are you trying to tell us that Osama bin Laden entitled to greater constitutional protections than Tom DeLay, Dr. Dean?

Fried is Right

Check out this piece from my former Jurisprudence professor, Charles Fried.

Although he takes the obligatory (though still unjust" swipe at the religious right, for the most part, he cogently argues that history, tradition and even the Constitution favor the GOP's side of the filibuster argument.

Down with Diet Pepsi!

I've long been a too-good consumer of Diet Pepsi -- but thanks to this speech from a truly clueless and juvenile executive, those days are over (at least until she is out of a job).

Diet Coke With Lime, here I come!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Newsweek and the Filibuster

When it comes to the Newsweek debacle, James Lileks has a refreshingly unique take. Check it out.

As for the judicial filibuster confrontation that looms ever closer, there can be no "compromise" that implicitly validates the Democrats' unconscionable abuse of the filibuster. Nor is this any time for Republicans to "go wobbly." Hopefully, this piece from National Review will stiffen some spines.

Note: Blogging may be light today, as I'm traveling.
This morning, even on this blog, there's a lot of commentary about Antonio Villaraigosa's status as the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since, as the Times puts it, "the city's pioneer days."

The election is a landmark, and one of which Los Angeles' Latinos can well be proud. That being said, Villaraigosa has pledged to be a mayor for "all the people" -- and Latinos should, more than anyone, be hoping that will be the case. For Villaraigosa is going to be one of the country's most visible Latino elected officials, and rightly or wrongly (as with most trailblazers), a lot of non-Latino Angelenos and Americans will be watching to see if, indeed, he is both willing and able to transcend the narrow and often destructive forces of ethnic and racial politics.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

As more votes are counted, Villaraigosa is starting to pull away. Many a cautionary tale can be distilled from what appears to be Hahn's impending defeat -- don't forget your base, don't neglect to tout your accomplishments, etc. etc.

For my part, I don't believe that Villaraigosa has won because of his race (at least I hope not -- voting FOR someone simply on account of ethnicity isn't much better than voting AGAINST him solely because of it). And he didn't win simply because of Hahn's mistakes.

In the absence of any meaningful policy differences between the two candidates, Villaraigosa won because he projected more passion for the job -- and voters respond to that. As Hugh Hewitt noted earlier, he gives the impression that "if a 'very bad thing' happened in Los Angeles like it did in New York, he’d walk towards the scene, like Rudy did on 9/11." That counts for a lot.

One of the reasons that Bill Clinton was able to hold onto his job was that he convinced the American people that he went to bed thinking about how to improve their lives, and woke up the next morning concentrating on the same thing. As between the two mayoral candidates, Villaraigosa is far better than Hahn at being able to communicate that kind of focus.

What's Villaraigosa really like? It's hard to know. It was striking that, in the debate held when he enjoyed an 18-point polling advantage, Villaraigosa nonetheless chose to go on the attack. Conventional wisdom would have dictated that someone with such a massive lead refrain from the kind of verbal slashing that Villaraigosa seemed to engage in with a fair degree of relish.

Then again, maybe he was simply trying to avoid repeating his perceived mistakes of 2001 -- a reflection of his passion for winning the job. At this point, it looks like we'll see if he actually performs with the same degree of competence and enthusiasm he displayed for obtaining it.
With the absentee ballots in, it's being reported that Villaraigosa leads Hahn 51% to 49%. If Hahn really was banking on Republican votes from the Valley, this would seem to be bad news indeed, given that conventional wisdom holds that absentee balloting tends to be disproportionately Republican.

Hahn's people, however, are insisting that the results aren't as bad as they may appear -- that the absentee ballots were being sent back "before we began to hit back" at Villaraigosa.

Blogging the Mayoral Race for The LA Times

To check out the Times' blog on the mayor's race, click here.

Below is my first submission:

Remember the old saying that, in academia, the infighting is so nasty because the stakes are so low? The same principle applies to this year’s mayoral election. With little sunlight between the two candidates on policy matters, character issues – which tend quickly to degenerate into mudslinging – became the only way for each to distinguish himself from the other.

Both Antonio Villaraigosa and Jim Hahn are unreconstructed liberals (although the former may lean slightly more to the left than the latter), with strong ties to the labor community. Neither showed any signs of breaking free of the big government mind set – remember their debate argument about who had demonstrated greater “support” for public education? “Support,” of course, was defined only as who had favored offering the most money to the teachers’ unions that dominate public education, to students’ detriment.

Neither Hahn nor Villaraigosa is likely to adopt any truly innovative or market based approaches to solving the city’s problems. And that means that, even before a single ballot is counted, there’s one certain loser in this race – the people of Los Angeles.
Here's an interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal about the Newsweek debacle. It makes some good points about the "adversary culture" of the press (at least I think they're good points because I made some of the same observations yesterday while sitting in for Hugh Hewitt).

There is one area of disagreement with the piece, however, and that's with its subheadline: "Newsweek's explosive allegation was no 'honest mistake.'"

In fact, I believe it was an honest mistake -- and that's what's all the more frightening. No one sat around at HQ and thought "how can we cripple the war effort?" Instead, the whole thing was as close as one gets to an honest, actual reflection of MSM assumptions and operating practices, combining (1) sloppy sourcing; (2) overheated reporting; and (3) the assumption that hte US military is, most definitely, not a source of any good.

Certainly, Newsweek didn't set out, deliberately and dishonestly, to misreport the story. The sad thing is that it didn't need to -- given its worldview and SOP, that's all you needed for a piece of poorly sourced, inaccurate, anti-military and yes, anti-American propaganda to slip into Newsweek's pages, to the detriment both of our troops in harm's way and of the War on Terror.

Hope they're proud.

Bad and Worse

The story of the Newsweek debacle rolls on. Here is the New York Times account; tellingly, it takes the lines of defense first floated by Newsweek:

(1) Why didn't the Pentagon "warn" Newsweek off the story? (In other words, it's the Pentagon's fault, and with it lies the responsibility to vet, verify or disprove every piece).

(2) The U.S. may not have done that particular bad thing, but it's done other bad things . . . at least according to some of the detainees. (Conveniently, it's rare to find anything in the MSM like the last line of this piece, which points out that Al Qaeda handbooks instruct followers to make false claims).

Seems to me that the follow up coverage by the MSM on the Newsweek debacle is only making a bad situation worse, at least in terms of public relations within the US.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Thanks again to Hugh Hewitt, Godfather of the Blogosphere and "Voice of Reason in the West," for inviting me to sit in today with Mark Taylor. Couldn't do it without the superior help and guidance of Duane, a/k/a Generalissimo, a/k/a Radio Blogger.

Outrage at Newsweek

Newsweek has now retracted its inaccurate and deeply damaging story alleging that American interrogators had desecrated the Koran.

The problem is that the damage is done. Fifteen people are dead, some 60 injured and the harm to US interests in the region is incalculable. And Newsweek has played into the hands of America's enemies. (Funny how the press would rather die than run a piece that could cause the perception that it's been "used" by the Bush Administration, but seems perfectly content to run content that has the practical effect, at least, of serving the interests of America's enemies.)

Newsweek could hardly have picked a more sensitive mistake to make. As this piece points out, the Koran is seen by Muslims as the direct words of Allah, and the book itself -- even aside from the ideas within it -- is believed to be so holy that desecration of it is deemed blasphemy, and punishable in many Muslim countries by death.

With a story this explosive, it's hard to believe that Newsweek wouldn't have made sure it was double sourced. (And its placement in the "Periscope" column -- the closest thing Newsweek has to a gossip page -- suggests that there might have been some doubts about its accuracy and/or newsworthiness.)

One reason the item may have made it into print is that it played into journalists' preconceptions about the US military and its behavior. And emblematically, Chris Matthews is terribly upset. Not for the damage done to US interests, or the lives lost, but for Michael Isikoff, the reporter. Kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Is Newsweek solely at fault? Of course not -- none of its reporters rioted or killed anyone. But the magazine's relevant reporters and editors do bear joint responsibility, as they knew (or should have known) what the predictable reaction to such an inflammatory report would be. Look at it this way -- if a lighted match is held near explosives, the match isn't what exploded. But the explosives wouldn't have ignited spontaneously without them. Long and short of the story -- there's plenty of blame to go around. And we don't expect Islamofascist thugs to behave responsibly. We do, however, expect the press -- the American press -- to do so, however apparently outlandish the expectation now seems to be.

The press doesn't seem to understand that America is at war. And it certainly doesn't represent the public it's supposed to be serving.

A Big, Big Deal

Make no mistake -- the Newsweek reporting disaster (and accompanying apology) is a big, big deal. An outrage, in fact.

Once again, the press was all too eager to report something bad about the U.S. military -- and as a foreseeable result, given the reaction the report was sure to elicit, people are dead and the United States has been given another black eye in the Arab world . . . based upon facts that were wrong.

This is an important story, and you'll be hearing much more about it in days to come. And the press wonders why it's held in such low esteem?


Today, I will be co-hosting The Hugh Hewitt Show with Mark Taylor. It should be fun.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Careful, Dr. Dean!

It is very, very fortunate for Howard Dean that it's difficult for public officials to successfully sue for slander -- because this sort of rhetoric is an outrage. Even Barney Frank thinks so. What else do you need?
I wonder if these people will warn the women they claim to care about so much about this danger? Somehow, I doubt it.

Op/Ed in L.A. Times

Here's my op/ed from today's Los Angeles Times. It's about the "sanctuary policy" -- an absurd approach to law enforcement that prohibits police officers from asking immigration questions in the course of discharging their duties.

The results are devastating for public safety. As the policy is currently interpreted, convicted and deported illegal alien murderers, rapists and other felons can roam the streets of L.A. with impunity -- even if they're recognized by the policemen who apprehended them -- unless and until they are arrested for yet another crime.

Check out the piece.

Class in America

Anyone who believes that America is a classless society (i.e., that there are no social classes) needs to have his head examined. As in every civilization the world has ever known, there is a system of social stratification by which we all sort ourselves out and identify ourselves, implicitly if not overtly. (For the most perceptive discussion of American social class I've ever read, check out Class by Paul Fussell, a witty and accessible -- if slightly left-wing -- book).

One of the left's great disappointments has been its failure to instill in Americans a sense of class grievance. That's because we have always tried to maintain an open society that will allow the talented and the brilliant, whatever their origins, to rise to the top.

Now, however, The New York Times is doing its part to try to generate class resentment. The Times dumps on the American Dream here by attempting to insist that Americans have limited social mobility and limited prospects because of income inequalities.

To me, it's not clear what the shocker is. Are we supposed to be surprised that the children of wealthy, privileged parents have more advantages than those born to impoverished single mothers? Is it really "news" that those advantages translate into better chances for "success" as our society defines it?

There's also the de rigeur (for The Times) allusion to the superiority of Europe and Canada. Here's one example:

"Because income inequality is greater here, there is a wider disparity between what rich and poor parents can invest in their children. Perhaps as a result, a child's economic background is a better predictor of school performance in the United States than in Denmark, the Netherlands or France . . .."

It's all a matter of how you frame it (and the conclusions you strech to draw -- "Perhaps as a result"?). Here's how I'd interpret the disparity between us and the other countries: Many of the societies The Times alludes to admiringly are, in fact, "levelling" (or quasi-socialist). That can mean either that they try harder than America does to obtain "equality of result," or that individual ability, initiative and ambition simply aren't as prized as they are in the U.S.

Levelling societies often ensure that those at the very bottom do OK -- but with it comes mediocrity at all levels . . . a little like a public school that disallows academic tracking and puts children of widely divergent abilities in class together. It's great for those at the bottom, but those at the top are stifled.

The article does concede that American society is run on merit (and then is shocked, shocked that children from intact or wealthier homes are more likely to develop the skills deemed meritorious). Americans themselves believe we live in a society where mobility is possible.

But what the article seems to lack is context -- an explication of how far we've come in a relatively short time. Yes, as it notes, almost all of the Forbes 400 are self-made billion/millionaires, compared to only half not so long ago. But note also that race, gender, religion and yes, even sexual preference are not the stumbling blocks that they might have been just 50 years ago.

The point is that no society can guarantee perfect equality of opportunity without bringing everyone to the level of the least advantaged to begin with. And no society can legislate attitudes. The key issue for national governments -- and what America has always done best -- is to make sure that systemic barriers against climbing the ladder (a greedy government, as in Scandinavia or France, or a system of hereditary peerage, as in Britain) are minimized.

We've got the American Dream. Have you ever heard of the British/French/Canadian/Norwegian Dream? 'Nuf said.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Hillary & Illegal Immigration

Hillary Clinton does keep her ear to the ground. That's why, as this piece points out, she's been vocally opposed to illegal immigration.

Before I moved to Southern California, I had no clue about the actual impact of illegal immigration. Now (as demonstrated by this piece in The Washington Times), I do. And I hope that people like me -- who always opposed it in principle, but didn't really "get" the urgency -- will take notice, for political reasons, if nothing else.

Here are a few figures that ought to capture some attention.


There are 30,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records on the streets of Los Angeles.

95% (yes, you read that correctly) of outstanding homicide warrants in Los Angeles County are for illegal immigrants.


84 California hospitals have had to close because they cannot bear the costs of illegal immigrants using their emergency facilities for health care.

California spends $500 million annually on health care for illegal immigrants.

Overall Costs:

Illegal immigration imposes a net cost of $9 billion (yes, with a "b") dollars on California taxpayers each year in education, medical and incarceration costs.

And that doesn't even consider "spillover" factors like traffic -- which is bound to increase when one million new people come to Southern California between 2000 and 2003.

Such a population increase is not only unsustainable . . . in an age of terrorism, it's not even safe.

Hillary Clinton knows what she's doing. No, maybe she can't win a head-to-head matchup with a strong Republican candidate. But all she needs is for Republicans to continue to seem indifferent about illegal immigration. Then, a Ross Perot-like figure can emerge with a single issue platform, and peel off enough Republican votes in states like New Mexico and Arizona -- thereby securing a Hillary Clinton victory, albeit with only a plurality of the vote.

We can do better for a first female president than Hillary Clinton. Please, Republicans, start paying attention!

Religion in the Workplace

Here is an interesting piece from the L.A. Times on a new phenomenon -- some corporations allowing religious groups to form "affinity groups" at work, just like those that exist for gender, race and sexual preference.

Interestingly, GM and Coke allow homosexual, minority and gender support groups -- but forbid religious ones. And, to quote a paragraph from the piece,

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., known as Freddie Mac, says it recognizes affinity groups built only around "unchangeable and immutable human differences," such as race, gender or sexuality. The company includes in that definition adoptive parents and military spouses but not religion.

Says it all right there, doesn't it. Military weddings, which may end in divorce, are considered "unchangeable and immutable." So is "sexuality" -- although one can't be sure that bisexuals (or homosexuals who have "gone straight") would agree. Clearly, it's all in the eye of the beholder, and it seems evident that Freddie Mac tends to "look left," as it were.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Some Much Needed "Nuclear Option" History

Here is a must-read account of how the Republicans have been forced to push for the constitutional option, from someone who was a White House insider at the beginning. The author, Brad Berenson, is a very smart, top-notch lawyer who was a year ahead of me on The Harvare Law Review.

TV Appearance on "To the Contrary"

Before leaving DC yesterday, I taped an edition of the PBS program "To the Contrary".

The topics included the federal government's decision to pay a portion of the health care costs of illegal immigrants; the reasons for the skyrocketing cost and elaborateness of weddings; and a discussion about the wage gap between white women and minority women/the best companies for working mothers of color.

The other participants were Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C., Kim Gandy (President of the National Organization for Women -- NOW), and Tara Setmayer, a conservative commentator.

Care to check it out? Here's where you can find out if and when "To the Contrary" airs in your area.

Home at Last!

It's great to be home -- especially when, at some point during a trip, it's crossed your mind that you might not get there.

Of course, I'm talking about Wednesday's brief alarm on Capitol Hill. I was preparing to enter Russell Senate Office Building to visit my friends on the Bond staff when I saw people running, and a Capitol Hill policeman instructed me to "get away from the building! Now! Run!"

At the time, neither I nor anyone else knew that the threat was a small plane. That wouldn't have been as immediately threatening in terms of personal safety, at least for anyone who, like me, was at some distance from the Capitol (unless, of course, it carried anthrax or a nuclear or biological bomb). For my part, I thought that perhaps a massive explosive had been planted somewhere in the Capitol's vicinity.

In such situations, it does no good to lose one's head, so I didn't. But as I moved with all deliberate speed away from the Russell Senate Office Building, with a mass exodus all around me, it seemed entirely possible that the unthinkable was about to happen.

It's a funny feeling -- yes, there's some fear, but even more, there's incredulity ("can this actually be happening to me?"). It was a powerful reminder that we live, in a sense, on borrowed time . . . that real tragedy could, realistically, strike at any time in the nation's Capitol. Earlier in the week, I had been stunned by how different life on Capitol Hill has become -- there's an omnipresent shadow of unease resulting from the massive security that's become a way of life there. For a while on Wednesday, it seemed that all the unease had been not only justified, but prescient.

But once the immediate crisis passed, people began to move back toward the Senate office buildings, and normalcy reasserted itself. Yes, I think it was Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) (a real profile in courage) who was standing with some staffers under a tree, bug-eyed with fear. And of course, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) immediately began giving a television interview.

If Armaggedon ever happened, here would be the press coverage -- "Breaking News: World to End in Five Minutes, Schumer Dismayed."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Winding Up in DC

It's been a memorable couple of days in Washington, D.C.

I heard a number of brilliant female speakers -- including Julie Dammann, chief of staff to Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo) and Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of The Polling Company.

Tomorrow, I tape this weekend's edition of "To the Contrary" (check your local PBS listings), and then I head home!

By the way, I was in the Capitol during the evacuation -- more on that when I'm back in beautiful California!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Greetings from D.C.!

Busy in the federal government's citadel . . . the weather, at least, is cooperating. And it's great to see my former colleagues in the office of Senator Kit Bond of Missouri.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Check This Out

Take a read through Thired World County -- a site whose proprietor has been kind enough to call me his "blogmommie."

I'm proud of my progeny.
Good. There is going to be a reexamination of a Maryland school sex-ed program that would have "allowed teachers to initiate discussions with eighth-graders about homosexuality and included a video for 10th-graders on how to put on a condom."

I don't have children, but when I do, I don't want some public school teacher discussing homosexuality with them or teaching them the best techniques for condom use. Outrageous.

Of course, those in favor of such programs argue that students now won't learn about "the dangers of unprotected sex and the importance of tolerance for those of different sexual orientations."

But here's the thing. The "dangers of unprotected sex" should be secondary to learning about the many reasons -- physical, psychological, and emotional -- that high schoolers (much less middle schoolers) should not be having sex at all. Period.

My beef with sex education as it's currently understood in much of America today: It seems to assume that young people are like mindless animals, who can't learn to control themselves -- that it's inevitable they won't be able to resist sexual urges, and so those urges must be gratified. We don't assume that they can't resist the urge to smoke, to drink, to do drugs, to speed or to overeat. So why do we assume they can't resist the urge to have sex?

Certainly, some education is necessary, because not everyone will control himself or herself all the time. But, like our message about underage drinking/smoking, the message should be that underage and promiscuous sex is wrong. Yes, always. Just wrong.

As for the tolerance for homosexuals, one doesn't need a specialized tutorial on homosexual behavior in order to learn -- at school and at home -- that it is NEVER appropriate to mistreat other people, even if we disagree with their behavior. Why should such a lesson be provided specifically with regard to homosexuals? Why doesn't it apply equally to everyone?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Confirm Janice Brown

California Supreme Court Justice Janice Brown would be a great asset to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She deserves confirmation.

As I noted in this piece from November '03, it's the height of irony for anyone -- especially someone as qualified and brilliant as Janice Brown -- to be disqualified from service because Barbara Boxer think's she's out of the mainstream!

VDH Explains It All

Check this out. Victor Davis Hanson notes that Democrats' own elitist culture is to blame for the party's electoral difficulties -- and its failure to understand normal Americans.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

When Tony Blair first came to power, I thought he was the English Bill Clinton -- oozing Third Way charm, wedded to no conviction but that he should lead the country.

I was wrong. Blair has more courage and conviction in his little finger than most have in their entire bodies. His conduct during the War on Terror has been nothing short of heroic.

It now looks like he may lose his job because of it.

Terrible for America. But Mr. Blair should remember that another great Prime Minister lost his job, once, too -- then came back in glory and in death was hailed as Britain's last lion. It's Winston Churchill, of course -- and in his courage and steadfastness, Tony Blair takes after him. I can think of no greater compliment to an Englishman than to be compared to Sir Winston.
This shouldn't be a surprise. It will be to some, though -- the same people who puzzle about why the crime rate falls when there are more criminals in prison.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Few Matters of Note

Apologies for the relatively light blogging over the last week. Some other pressing matters have occupied me, and made writing very difficult.

Now, more of the same. Blogging will be a bit light at least until Friday, May 13. There should be something over the weekend -- I'll have access to a computer in St. Louis, where I'll be to attend my 20th high school reunion.

Thereafter, however, I'm going on to D.C., and no computer will be readily available. One of the things I'm doing is a taping of "To the Contrary", which you should be able to catch on your local PBS affiliate over the weekend of May 14-15.

Finally, Some Outrage

Outrageous behavior by some of America's law schools -- who want to ban the military from recruiting on campus in order to protest its exclusion of open homosexuals -- has finally gotten some attention. The case is going to the Supreme Court, where, we can only hope, the Justices will follow the law.

But, of course, you read about it way back in December right here (I was feeling annoyed at Harvard Law School for behavior that can only be characterized as unpatriotic).

Riders Up

The first Saturday in May once again marks the running of the Kentucky Derby. Need a horse or two to root for? Here's one owner who deserves some support.

Careful What You Wish For

(As I once predicted), the Democrats were not careful enough about what they wished for. In their efforts to implicate Tom DeLay in slimy wrongdoing, they've opened a can of worms for themselves, as well -- demonstrating the cozy relationship between their own partisans and lobbyists that they decry in DeLay's case. I've said it before, will say it again: The scandal in Washington isn't what's illegal -- it's what's legal.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Laura Bush's Comedy Routine

Mrs. Bush made quite a splash with her comments at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night. Wlady Pleszczynski hated it, characterizing it (to cut to the chase) as crude and unseemly. In contrast, Georgie Ann Geyer loved it -- and thought it was about time for Mrs. Bush's saucy side to emerge.

To me, the whole topic is overblown. President and Mrs. Bush knew that a President Bush-deprecating monologue would bring down the house in the overwhelmingly Democratic/elite media room, and so they played it smart. Who better to deprecate a man than his wife?

Had Mrs. Bush's jokes gone beyond the realm of friendly humor, I wouldn't have liked it. Public performances are no place for marital score-settling. But she didn't. Her jibes were gentle ones, playing into and even mocking stereotypes of Republican women as straight laced generally, and her husband as a dull-living, war-loving dullard in particular.

The New York Times columnist who replaced Bill Safire -- John Tierney -- has a very interesting and nuanced view of the talk. Unlike Mrs. Bush's detractors, he doesn't think it will "turn off" Red Staters -- who are, after all, grown ups who can deal with a little double entendre. In fact, he's quite convinced that Republicans can enjoy a few daring words from the First Lady, while still opposing the anything-but-subtle garbage that pollutes too much of our common culture.

Yes, Virginia, Republicans are capable of handling a little bit of cognitive dissonance.

Great Leaders

Here is a wonderfully wise article by Paul Johnson about the five distinguishing characteristics of great leaders. For my money, he hits them all on the nose.

Most insightfully, Mr. Johnson distinguishes between what could be called "high grades" intelligence and "good judgment" intelligence. It's amazing how many Ivy Leaguers think they're the most brilliant people in the world, but then don't have the judgment to come out of the rain without an umbrella.

And his remarks on courage are dead-on. It's not a one-time display that makes a courageous leader -- it's having the fortitude to stay the course, even when the jackals are nipping at one's heels.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Weekly Column

Here is my weekly column, today wishing Disneyland an early happy birthday.
There is reason to believe that the re-election of President Bush was a politically realigning event. Increasingly, the political lines in America are being drawn not by race or color, but over religion. Politics are rapidly becoming a contest between the faithful and non-believers.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Having a busy, busy weekend here . . .

But there was time to read this piece by John Fund on Arnold Schwarzenegger's disappointing abandonment of some of, first, pension reform and now -- it looks like -- redistricting reform.

Make no mistake -- I'm behind the Governator and what he's trying to do, 100%. But it seems that it would have made sense to start with the paycheck protection measure that others are pushing. If that paased, it would restrict union bosses' ability to command ever-greater amounts of campaign money from their workers, to be spent on maintaining the status quo.

Then, it should be on to redistricting reform. Right now, the problem is that legislators have such comfortable margins in their district that a threat by the Governor to come in and campaign against them isn't scary -- what does it matter if he can swing 20 percentage points, even, if a legislator's party outnumbers the opposition by, say, 30 percentage points?

Once unions can't spend limitless sums, and legislators have to worry about the Governor's still formidable popularity, that would be the time to start talking about pension reform and merit pay.

Until then, arrogant unions and selfish legislators can ensure that their sinecures are protected, even as the rest of the state goes to hell in a handbasket.