Carol Platt Liebau: May 2006

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Shame on John Murtha

Mark Davis puts it perfectly:

Those of us who support the war feel real pain at the prospect of even a sliver of its warriors stooping so low. Part of that pain stems from a wish that every American serve nobly. The other part is from the prospect of our talented and committed military's reputation damaged by the acts of so few.

There is none of that sentiment in the finger-pointing of Mr. Murtha and his ilk – only the zealotry that looks for any angle, any story, any tragedy that can make our war effort look so bad that others might join their calls for retreat.

A Novel Defense

Who knew that going to boxing matches was just part of the job for U.S. senators? Well, according to Harry Reid, it is. What next? Are they supposed to be attending the Final Four and the Super Bowl free, as well?

Go the Right Way

Here's Jeff Jacoby today:

If they had wanted skyrocketing budgets, new federal bureaucracies, more regulation of political speech, and stalemates on immigration, energy, and Social Security, they say, they would have voted for Democrats. Instead they voted for Republicans -- and what did they get? Skyrocketing budgets, new federal bureaucracies, more regulation of political speech, and stalemates on immigration, energy, and Social Security.

Jacoby believes that the Republicans have ignored their base, to their ever-increasing political peril.

In contrast, David Hill advocates a strategy in which the Republicans would reach out to moderates and ticket-splitters. He notes that when Dole tried to appeal to the base with a big tax cut plan in 1996, many of those who would have benefited most didn't even bother to show up to vote.

Maybe so; but couldn't that have been because the tax cut plan was all that Dole did -- and it was clear that his heart wasn't in it? How 'bout if Dole had seemed actually to care about some conservative principles? And why would anyone trust moderates and ticket-splitters to turn out with the same vigor that an energized base would?

No one (here, at least) is advocating a lurch to the far, far right. But reasserting some solid conservative principles -- strong defense, limited government, traditional values -- and actually seeming to be sincere about them is the best way for the ever-more-panicky Republican politicians to go.

Too Perfect(ly) Left

Can you imagine the outcry if a conservative hero turned out to be an absolute and total fake and liar? The high-minded denunciations would ring all the way from the television studios in Manhattan to the newsroom of the LA Times. And rightly so.

So how is it that more people don't know about Jesse MacBeth, who falsely claimed to have committed atrocities during a nonexistent stint of military service in Iraq?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Loony Tunes

Barbara Corcoran misplaced moral equivalence alert:

Over at Little Green Footballs, check out the Noam Chomsky footage that features the "professor" insisting that the policies of Hamas are more conducive to peace than those of the US or Israel.

A Good Sign

Larry Kudlow approves of President Bush's nominee for Secretary of the Treasury.

Retaining the Finest

The left has long argued that the military faces severe recruitment problems.

But it looks like the finest Marine recruits have very high retention rates.

Priorities, or Game Playing?

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Frist announced that Republicans intend to bring to the Senate floor two amendments in the near future: One that would ban flag-burning, and one that would ban same-sex marriage.

Let's be clear: I'm inclined to give both issues a full and fair hearing. But it's so obvious, so patently obvious, that both issues are being brought up five months before the election for only one reason: To make up for lost time in convincing religious conservatives that there's a reason to turn out. It's little more than throwing a belated bone to the base.

Don't get me wrong. I'm going to turn out and vote for Republicans come November -- and I hope everyone will. But do senators not understand how this looks? How the scent of pandering fills one's nostrils? And what's most irritating about all of this is the assumption that the base won't understand what's going on.

Not only that, but -- as much as flag burning and gay marriage are important matters -- they aren't really the biggest immediate issues facing America today. And so one is also tempted to believe that they're being used as a way to avoid confronting the really big issues that matter, which are, in Hugh Hewitt's formulation: Winning the war, cutting the taxes, controlling the spending, and confirming the judges. Yes, and securing the border, too.

Get all that done -- and then bring on the constitutional amendments. We'll be ready.

The Limits of Knowability

When I first started practicing law, all the practical stuff I didn't learn in law school fell into three categories: What I knew, what I didn't know, and what I didn't know I didn't know.

The first, no problem. The second, no problem, really, either -- if you know what you don't know, you know what you need to find out. The really scary stuff is what you don't know you don't know, because that leads to the big mistakes.

Michael Barone's piece at Real Clear Politics today talks, in a sense, about the limits of knowability in a world where we must deal with hostile regimes and flawed intelligence. Even at its best, using intelligence to piece together reality is more like trying to interpret a poem than read an instruction manual. There will always be conflicting reports, ambiguities, questions whose answers we don't know -- and possibly, questions we don't even know to ask.

Part of being a grown up -- and a mature citizen -- is learning to deal with the fact that sometimes, one has to cope with uncertainty and make decisions without having every piece of knowledge that would be optimal. On occasion, policy, like everything else, requires the exercise of judgments that carry substantial risk once all the facts that are obtainable have been obtained. The issue isn't how one avoids risks, because that's impossible. The question is how one balances them.

In Iraq, given what we knew, the President decided that it was riskier to possibly leave Saddam Hussein developing or sitting on WMDs than it was to take him out, notwithstanding the risks that such a course of action also entailed. It's easy to judge and blame in retrospect, but at the time, there was no other reasonable course of action, given what we knew.

Now we are confronted with Iran. And it's worth noting that, sometimes, making no decision is making a decision. If, in the wake of the difficulties in Iraq, the American left succeeds in paralyzing the government's ability to address threats, we're not just restraining President Bush from exercising his judgment. We are, effectively, entrusting the world, and our own lives, to the like of Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Fun w/Allman & Smash

One of the most fun parts of being in my hometown of St. Louis is having the chance to go in studio and visit with Jamie and Smash, the incomparable team that hosts Allman and Smash in the Morning. They're terrific. And despite the kind invitations extended on this morning's show, I'm not going to ride on the back of Smash's motorcycle or drink a twelve-pack with Jamie tonight. Maybe next time . . .

Monday, May 29, 2006

Feminists: Ever More Ridiculous

They just grow more ridiculous.

Apparently, the feminists have written a letter to the leaders of ABC television -- both news and entertainment -- to protest two separate events: Elizabeth Vargas' stepping down from the ABC anchor chair and the cancellation of "Commander in Chief," the fictional story about the first female president.

How typical of the feminist movement in so many ways.

First, the elitism. Surely there are more pressing matters for feminists to worry about (including the status of women living under Islamofascist regimes) than whether a fictional program about a woman president is cancelled, and why a highly paid and credentialed journalist will now have to endure simply anchoring a more family friendly weekly program, rather than the nightly news.

Second, the presumption. Simply because Kim Gandy would be willing to effectively abandon a newborn and a three year old in pursuit of her professional ambitions, that doesn't mean either that it's the right choice -- or that Elizabeth Vargas should have to make it.

Finally, the cluelessness. Do these women know how petty they make the rest of us look?

Just a Fig Leaf

So Antonio Villaraigosa objects to the official language of the United States being English, on the grounds that it will make it difficult for the providers of emergency services to communicate with those who don't yet speak English.

But here's the question I'd like to ask the Mayor of LA:

The amendment to the federal immigration bill reads as follows: "Unless specifically stated in applicable law, no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English.''

Couldn't an exception be made "in applicable law" for those providing emergency services -- or is your concern simply a pretext for opposing a common and uniform language in the United States?

About Race, or About Politics?

Here, Bob Novak discusses the fact that the Democrats' worst nightmare is to have African Americans in Maryland turn out en masse to support Michael Steele, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, who himself happens to be black.

Novak writes:

Steele sees national implications and put it to me this way in a conversation before the recent rally in Upper Marlboro: ''It's a breaking point. I've heard the talk: 'Hillary, Bill, Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, all are coming in to campaign against you. They can't bear to see you win this race.'

It will be interesting to see. Over the years, Democrats have claimed to be the party that cares most about African Americans (just as it's claimed to be the party that cares most about women). How ironic if they pull out all the stops to prevent an African American from reaching the U.S. Senate.

The same phenomenon holds true when it comes to Republican women running for the Senate, as I noted here.

What it reveals is that it's not really about race or gender -- it's about politics. And that's fine: But the hypocrisy about one or the other party "caring" more about any one particular group should stop. The fact is that everyone wants to win -- and that's where it begins and where it ends.

A Blessed Memorial Day

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived."

General George Patton


To each and every American soldier: Thank you for securing my freedom.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Since When?

Here, James Taranto quotes from a letter released by Bob Kerrey, the head of The New School, the institution whose students heckled John McCain so rudely when he delivered the commencement address there.

Amazingly, he defends their behavior. And his statement moves me to wonder: Since when did it become "courageous" simply to interrupt a speaker with whom one disagrees? Why has it become so entirely praiseworthy to express one's opposition to one's ideological adversaries at all times in all places? When was it decided that no one should ever -- as a matter of courtesy, civility and politeness -- have to endure without comment arguments with which one disagrees?

As I've written here several times before, the speaker at my baccalaureate ceremony was Patricia Schroeder, a liberal feminist then-member of Congress. I disagreed with her on just about everything. But interrupting her or disrupting her speech seemed to me to be out of the question -- inappropriate and needlessly insulting.

Giving her the liberty to express her views unimpeded takes nothing from mine. And it's interesting that so many professors -- and college presidents like Kerrey -- are willing to defend behavior that is, at its core, entirely inimical to true freedom of inquiry and open debate.

Real Straight Talk

Mark Steyn offers the GOP a well-deserved excoriation.

[T]he Hastert-McCain Congress is now the complete inversion of what it's meant to be: They won't exercise their right to brave honest debate but they will claim the right for congressmen to keep evidence of crime and corruption in their offices without having to be bound by footling piffle like court-ordered search warrants.

Sad, ironic and true. That being said, they're still better than the Democrats -- or at least, many of their principles are (if they'd only live up to them).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Missing the Real Story?

Has the MSM been so gleefully busy covering stories about the presumed rifts in the Republican party -- over spending, immigration and President Bush's leadership -- that it's been missing an even bigger Democratic crack-up?

Maybe so -- but at least you've gotten to read about it on this blog, here (and here, too).

Priorities, Priorities

Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus is, apparently angry that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wants embattled Rep. William Jefferson to surrender his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.

Seems like a perfect case of wrong priorities. Shouldn't the members of the Caucus be angrier that, to the extent there's a shared group identity among its membership, that Rep. Jefferson disgraced all of them -- rather than objecting to the fact that someone's trying to hold Jefferson accountable?

Kavanaugh Konfirmed

Good news for the judiciary -- and for the country. Brett Kavanaugh is finally taking his rightful place on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Enron Verdicts

Professor Bainbridge has a fascinating doctrinal exegesis.

What's the Point?

This week alone, we've had two prominent pieces devoted to the state of the Clinton marriage (here and here).

If one were conspiracy minded, it would almost seem as though the press is trying to drive up Hillary's numbers (doesn't she do well when her marriage is discussed?). Surely it isn't a response to the sudden prominence of the new version of the old Al Gore. What's next? Another cover shot in Vogue?

Racist, Sexist America(n Idol): Not

Liberals continue to insist that racism is "alive and well" in America (see here and here and here and here and here, for example).

But as abhorrent as beancounting is, let's engage in it on a liberal's terms for a moment: Take the fantastically successful show "American Idol," where contestants are voted in (and out) based purely on viewers' phone calls. In this season's competition, 63 million cast ballots; in the season three finale, when Fantasia Barrino won, 65 million did. Both figures, of course, are more than half of the 111 million people who voted in the election of 2000 and are half (or almost half) of the 128 million who voted in 2002.

Now let's look at who won these competitions in beancounting fashion. First season winner: Kelly Clarkson, white female. Second season: Reuben Studdard, black male. Third season: Fantasia Barrino, black female. Fourth season: Carrie Underwood, white female.

No doubt terrible examples of racism and sexism continue to occur in certain individual circumstances (and, sad to state, always will). But if America as a whole is truly the stewing pot of racism and sexism that so many liberals believe it is -- and to a degree that requires institutional redress of such grievances -- how did all these bigoted Americans manage to wait until season five to vote in a white male as the "American Idol"?

Different Language, Same Facts

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, political analyst Michael Harrington, writing as though he's the first to discover the wheel, notes that the political divide isn't between "religious rednecks and bluenose moral degeneracy." In fact, he pooh-poohs the notion that the political fissures result from issues of religion, race, intolerance and bigotry, homosexuality, moral values, and abortion.

Instead, he argues, the legitimate distinctions are between "urbans vs. nonurbans; marrieds vs. nonmarrieds; and absolutists vs. contextualists" [when it comes to religion].

But isn't he really saying the same thing in different words? Take abortion, for example. To a religious "absolutist," "Thou shalt not murder" means no abortion (or in limited circumstances). To a religious "contextualist," well, it's relative. Same for homosexuality. And look at issues of race: As Harrington notes, "[P]oportions of black voters are also highly correlated with female heads of household" -- so isn't that about the "marrieds vs. nonmarrieds"?

All Harrington has done is shift a focus from the issues themselves to a look at the demographics of those who tend to hold them (assuming, of course, that one wants to follow the liberal line of assuming that opposition to affirmative action equates with "intolerance and bigotry"). That's interesting as far as it goes, but it's hardly a breakthrough.

A Good Veto

Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto the profoundly silly bill that would have required schools to teach specifically about the historical contributions of gays, lesbians and the transgendered.

Obviously, I've had some serious differences with the Governor (see here and here and here, too). Even with this veto, I find it annoying that he's basing the decision, not on the substantive grounds that the bill itself is ridiculous, but on the procedural grounds that he objects to the legislature micromanaging the curriculum.

But in the end, the bill is vetoed -- and that's the main thing. A Governor Westly or Governor Angelides no doubt would have responded very differently, and that's why I'll be pulling the lever for Schwarzenegger come November.

This is why I vote Republican, even when the Republican I'm voting for doesn't fulfill my wishes 100% of the time. And it's a reminder to Republicans nationwide who are considering staying home on election day 2006.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Real Story on Katrina

A New Vote on ANWR

Good news -- the House Republicans are going to revote on ANWR. It's about time.

Step 1. Make sure Americans understand that drilling can be conducted with minimal harm to the environment.

Step 2. Ask why the Democrats are refusing to authorize the drilling, which has the dual benefit of making us less dependent on foreign oil and lowers the price of gasoline.


News I've been waiting for . . . Chocolate may boost brain function. What gives -- with all the chocolate I've eaten in my lifetime, I should be Albert Einstein.

Getting One Right

The California Supreme Court has reinstated the California high school exit exam, striking down the unconscionable decision that was outrageous in both its judicial activism and its policy implications.

A(nother) New Al Gore

Howard Fineman gives Al Gore a big, wet, sloppy kiss. And if I know that Gore's running for President, why doesn't he? Gore hasn't ruled it out -- which means he's in. And all for the better -- he'll force Hillary Clinton to guard her left flank.

Northward Ho!

Tony Blankley has a modest proposal.

The "Soulless" University

In today's Wall Street Journal, Professor Vincent J. Cannato observes that there is something wrong at America's university. He discusses former Harvard dean and current professor Henry Lewis' "Excellence Without a Soul," which argues that universities in general, and Harvard in particular, have "forgotten education." Lewis argues that Harvard

has lost, indeed willingly surrendered, its moral authority to shape the souls of its students. . . . Harvard articulates no ideals of what it means to be a good person.

And that's absolutely right. But there are two points worth noting:

(1) Given the morals and political proclivities of the Harvard faculty -- and of others at the nation's most elite secular universities, would you trust them to teach your child anything about what it means to be a "good person"?

(2) The adjective "secular" in the paragraph above is important. For the overwhelming majority of human beings, living as a "good person" is integrally connected with religious faith (and for the atheists, they are effectively "free riders" in a world still shaped by the religious beliefs of others, in practice if not in theory). And yet few places are as aggressively secular as the universities; religion is often seen as a superstition of the uneducated. It's virtually impossible to teach people how to be "good people," finally, at the core, without reference to religion.

When Harvard and other schools junked not only their religious heritage -- but, in large part, their respect for religion -- well, that's when they threw out their "moral authority."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Above the Law?

It's a bit tiresome to hear Congress express "separation of powers" concerns in the wake of a raid on a Congressman's office.

I can imagine situations where the Constitution would, in fact, be implicated. But not here. Rarely has there been clearer evidence of wrongdoing -- there's a videotape, reportedly, of Congressman Jefferson (D-LA) actually taking bribes.

Refraining from following standard law enforcement procedures in such a clear cut case would, effectively, constitute setting a different standard for the treatment of congressmen from the treatment of those they govern.

Update: Jack Kelly has more. This has got to be one of the dumbest political moves for Republican politicians ever. Is there a political equivalent of the Darwin Awards?

A Liberal "Gets" Media Bias (Kind Of)

Over at The Horse's Mouth, Greg Sargent is very, very upset about this pretty silly and ultimately unilluminating New York Times piece on Bill and Hillary Clinton, and their marriage.

Mr. Sargent writes that it:

tells us another very key fact about journalism today: political reporters love to write about politics as if they are merely disinterested observers of political events and the public's perceptions of them, when in fact they play a very key role in shaping those events and perceptions.

He's quite right (except for the "today" -- this has been going on since Watergate, at least); rarely has the problem been framed more articulately. Mr. Sargent's observation is exactly what conservatives have been arguing, literally, for years about the role of the MSM in covering politics. Gee, I wonder how so many people came to be so afraid in 1980 that Ronald Reagan was a trigger-happy fool, determined to see women and children starving in the street? Or how so many Americans got the idea that George HW Bush was out of touch, based on a false story about a grocery scanner? Or how so many Americans, a year after watching the hearings for themselves, changed their minds and decided that it was Clarence Thomas who had been lying?

Or that America is losing the war in Iraq? Americans, both inside and outside the Bush Administration, understand the nexus between press coverage and the events that take place on the ground during war. That's why so many have been outraged over the MSM's coverage (it's hardly, as the press would argue, that they're just the messenger of objectively bad news).

If Mr. Sargent is unhappy with the coverage of the Clintons, just remember that it could always be worse. Think of how that piece would read if the Times weren't politically sympathetic to the Clintons. And then, if you can't figure it out, check with Nancy Reagan: The front page NYT story on her marriage alleged that she was having an affair with Frank Sinatra. According to Brent Bozell, "The New York Times ran Kitty Kelley's stories of a Frank Sinatra-Nancy Reagan affair without asking Maureen Dowd to check any sources."

Mr. Sargent's observation highlights the fact that the notion of an "objective press" is a myth. Everyone -- left and right -- would be better served if the MSM woudl abandon the pretense, and get honest about their own political beliefs and predilections, so that the reading public can gauge the work product accordingly.

Typical of the Times

Take a look at this story in yesterday's New York Times.

Note that the article is really "about" an effective operation against the Taliban -- but it takes some digging to get that from piece itself. Instead, it stresses the civilian deaths (which are, of course, a terrible thing), followed by an American quote about the "successful" operation -- placed, it seems, to play up the callousness aspect: This terrible military man thinks an operation that killed civilians was a "success."

Of course, it doesn't note until lower that those civilian deaths occurred because the Taliban was hiding in civilians' homes.

It's just one more symptom of the disease that Morton Kondracke identified -- a Bush-hatred so overwhelming that everything else, including national security and the best interests of the United States, is subsumed by it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Salter Calls 'Em Out

McCain aide and co-author Mark Salter calls out the bratty children at the New School who found themselves unably to listen politely to a politician with whom they disagreed. Here's part of his rebuke:

Ms. Rohe and those of her fellow graduates who hailed their school's President as a war criminal and who greeted the Senator's reference to a friend's death with laughter proved only one thing, one sad thing, that they could learn a thing or two about tolerance and respect from the students of Liberty University. Like the protestors at the Garden, many in the audience at Liberty University disagreed with various of the Senator's views. Some disagreed with his support for campaign finance reform. Some disagreed with his support for comprehensive immigration reform with a path toward legalization for undocumented workers. Some disagreed with his position of climate change. Some disagreed with his opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Whatever their differences with him they listened to him attentively and respectfully, as one American to another, divided in some respects, united in much more important ones.

Second Time as Farce?

It looks like we're going back to the future. As Patterico points out, it appears that there is another "sock puppet" (ie. blogger who comments on his own behalf under a variety of pseudonyms) on the left.

Correction: Earlier today, I asserted that Jason Leopold was affiliated with the Los Angeles Times. He is not. He is affiliated with The error is mine alone (Patterico's linked post was entirely accurate) and I apologize.

Way to Go, Howard

Looks like Howard Dean's DNC can't even defeat one of the most incompetent mayors in US history in the primary -- and that's saying something.

Should Dean have been trying to get Nagin pitched out, surreptitiously, at that? I wonder how Nagin's solid core of Democratic voters feels about Dean's maneuver.

Sneering at War & One of Its Heroes

The Wall Street Journal notes the immolating rage that was directed at Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain over the weekend.

It will be interesting to see what kind of media coverage Lieberman's anti-war opponent receives (he's already wrapped in a python-like embrace from the left blogosphere). Primary challenges to a Republican from the right don't win much respect from the MSM -- imagine the coverage if a doctrinaire conservative challenged John McCain or just think of the press RINO Lincoln Chafee's Republican competitor, Steve Laffey, hasn't received.

As for the students who heckled John McCain at the New School, they should be ashamed -- but we shouldn't be surprised. For more than 30 years, our culture has engendered the idea that rudeness is a sign of authenticity -- to the point where supposedly now-"educated" young people are free to verbally abuse speakers with whom they disagree. Part of keeping a democratic process is honoring the right to disagree; the other part, however, is maintaining standards under which disagreements can be aired civilly. We've done a fine part with the first, not so well with second.

But who can blame the female speaker who threw out her notes and instead chose to criticize McCain? Hillary Clinton's decision to do the same to Senator Eward Brooke has become the stuff of lionizing press and liberal legend.

Just one question: Conservative grads are routinely expected to sit tight and hear opinions with which they disagree (the speaker my year was none other than Patricia Schroeder, of all people). Why aren't liberals held to the same standards?

Keeping Our Nerve

The New York Sun posits that all will be well for the President -- and for the war on terror -- if we all collectively keep our nerve.

And it raises the interesting possibility that the President's ratings have fallen, not because he's prosecuted the war too vigorously, but because there's been the sense that, in some small way, he's pulled back from doing so.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Barbaro Update

Barbaro is out of surgery and doing well.

The acid test, however, will be over the next two months. Keep the prayers coming -- the main thing is that laminitis (a condition in which blood doesn't circulate to the hoof) doesn't set in. After eight weeks, if things look good for Barbaro, he's golden. But it's hard to know until then.

It's a blessing that the injury didn't break the skin. If it had, Barbaro would have had to be euthanized at the track. Fortunately, Edgar Prado realized something was very wrong, and pulled him up in time. Had Barbaro made it around the first turn, the injury would almost certainly have claimed this magnificent horse's life.

Let's pray that good news keeps coming.


Culture of Corruption update: If the government can't convict Democratic congressman William Jefferson with this evidence, they'd better throw in the towel and go home.

Tim Rutten's World

The analysis in a Tim Rutten column follows the same kind of comforting template that's worked so well for "Law and Order." Those Tim likes/agrees with: Good. Those he doesn't: Bad.

In this week's column, he notes approvingly that there has been a dearth of "outraged Catholics" willing to engage in a made-for-media controversy over the DaVinci Code. Good.

Then he goes on, somewhat perceptively, to skewer the "culture of assertion" in America:

Brown's claims for his book and, by extension, the film adaptation belong to a strong new current in American life — the culture of assertion, which increasingly pushes logical argument out of our public conversation. According to this schema, things are true because I believe they are true and you have to respect that, because it's what I believe.

But, having indulged in one relatively interesting observation, Rutten compulsively returns to form, bashing conservatives and the religious right. He continues:

Thus, the same sensibility most likely to take offense at this film — that of the religious assertionists — is the same one that makes things like creationism an issue in our schools and the demands of biblical literalism a force in our politics. Brown and his foolishness are, in fact, a part of this same culture of assertion and not of some wider secular one.

Rutten's obtuseness is breathtaking, even for him. In his world, the "culture of assertion" is apparently a shortcoming restricted conservative Christians (despite his earlier admission that opposition to the "Code" from the "usual suspects" has been minimal). It's not an issue, apparently, for the hordes that keep clinging to counter-factual fictions like "Bush lied" or that women are the same as men or that tax increases are good for the economy or that the UN can solve world problems.

Somehow, from all this, Tim Rutten manages to conclude that Dan Brown and the religious right are essentially one and the same -- and the argument is so silly that one can only resolve it by understaning his template, and concluding that Rutten must not like Dan Brown.

Even so, it hardly passes the laugh test. Comparing Brown to the religious right is like arguing that Jesus and Marx or Stalin (both of whom talked a lot about the "proletariat" but did little to help them) were lots alike, too -- all of them people of "strong conviction."

The Politics of Commencement

Betsy Newmark has an interesting post about the politics of graduation speakers, a topic I've discussed here before.

Immigration Implications

Mark Steyn has a classic must-read on illegal immigration, skewering the failure of the Ensign amendment and noting, " Technically, an 'amnesty' only involves pardoning a person for a crime rather than, as this moderate compromise legislation does, pardoning him for a crime and also giving him a cash bonus for committing it."

There are also two other issues that are related to the ongoing immigration debate that aren't receiving the attention they deserve.

First, as Mark Steyn notes, By some counts, up to 5 percent of the U.S. population is now "undocumented." Why? In part because American business is so over-regulated that there is a compelling economic logic to the employment of illegals. In essence, a chunk of the American economy has seceded from the Union.

Once the unions have succeeded in effectively annexing the new guest workers, it will be interesting to see how businesses are able to respond.

Second, the immigration process, administratively speaking, has to be reformed. A typical story is that of the mother of Edgar Prado (Barbaro's jockey). She was a citizen of Peru who died in January from cancer. She had applied for a visa to come to the US for medical treatment only -- her son, the "winningest jockey" over the last three years, had the means to take care of her and the likelihood of her overstaying her visa or breaking the law was practically nil.

The visa arrived months after she applied, the day before she died.

Whatever immigration bill passes, without addressing both the reasons businesses turn to illegals and the utter inefficiency bordering on incompetence of the immigration bureaucracy in this country, its efficacy will be undermined.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Any Religious "Left" Left?

The Washington Post hails the revival of the religious left.

Hey, the more the merrier -- people of faith (of all stripes) should be welcome to engage in political discourse. At least faith offers us a common language and, to some extent, common values that are useful in discussing, and hopefully resolving, our differences on policy.

But it strikes me that the reports of the "rebirth" of the religious left may be somewhat premature.

First, it's far from clear that liberal theology is attracting more adherents in the United States. In fact, as Peter J. Boyer points out here in the New Yorker, "The liberal, mainline churches are losing parishioners across the board. The conservative churches are not only growing but growing by leaps and bounds."

If that's the case, where, exactly, are those who want to "organize" the religious left in the way that the religious right has been organized supposed to go to find their targets?

Second, it seems to me difficult in a country like the United States circa 2006 to make a good case for liberal policies based on religion. Our society is, on the whole, a just and generous one -- we certainly don't have people dying in the streets, persecuted, abandoned, and neglected on a regular basis. And when those things do happen, it's not because there's not a government program -- it's often because government is (surprise!) being inefficient. So it's hard to understand how, exactly, the religious left sees very important values of love, compassion and empathy being embodied in political propositions, especially when everyone agrees on the goals (helping the sick and the poor, etc.) and it's just the means for achieving them that are at issue.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how the Democrats intend to meld the religious left into its tent, given that many, especially on the party's left wing, aren't just indifferent to religion, but are downright hostile to it. Will the religious left have to, in essence, abandon their religiosity as the price of a seat at the table? And will voters find that "moral flexibility" appealing -- or will it come off as crass, worldly opportunism?

Say whatever you want about the clerics on the right -- but they take difficult and often unpopular positions on a regular basis, braving the scorn and ridicule of both the cultural elites and others who look to them for guidance. Will the religious left show a similar moral fortitude?

And in the end, how ironic if the Dems do take in left-wing clerics: After spending 30 years trying to drive religion out of public life, will it signal that they're recanting that stand in some significant way?

Horse Heartbreak

As this piece notes, Barbara failed to finish at the Preakness. News reports indicate that his leg is fractured both above and below the ankle.

He's undergoing surgery tomorrow at the best horse hospital on the East coast (the West's version is Davis). Say prayers -- with luck and blessings, although Barbaro will never compete again, he could live out a happy and fruitful life as a very sought-after stallion.

What a heartbreak to see a tough, enthusiastic (and never defeated) competitor like this go down. Kudos to jockey Edgar Prado for how he handled Barbaro -- if Barbaro is saved, it will have been because of Prado's consummate professionalism in a terrible situation. Please keep Barbaro, Prado, trainer Michael Matz and his owners, the Jacksons in your prayers.

Dems & Mubarak: Same Argument

Here, we learn that in a speech full of "jabs" at the United States, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has apparently been filching talking points from Senate Democrats.

The 78-year-old Egyptian leader implicitly accused America of having double standards on nuclear policy -- Washington's resolute silence on the nuclear arsenal Israel is believed to possess while leading a drive to deprive Iran of a nuclear program.

Interesting: In the second 2004 presidential debate, John Kerry made a similar argument, asserting, "And the president is moving to the creation of our own bunker- busting nuclear weapon. It's very hard to get other countries to give up their weapons when you're busy developing a new one."

Dianne Feinstein likewise has accused the United States of hypocrisy when it comes to the bunker busters: "So for me, it is difficult if not impossible to reconcile building a multibillion-dollar nuclear bomb factory [the Modern Pit Facility] ... as we preach the importance of limiting proliferation and preventing other nations from developing weapons of mass destruction. And, if I may say so, it is hypocritical."

So President Mubarak, John Kerry, and Dianne Feinstein all suffer from the same moral blindness: They can't distinguish between peaceable and responsible regimes like Israel and the United States having nuclear weapons and letting Islamofascist crazies like Iran's Ahmadinejad have them.

The first piece linked about goes on:

He [Mubarak] further challenged Washington to work toward a world "that fosters multilateralism, abides by international legitimacy and steers away from unilateral actions" -- a clear reference to his and other Arab leaders' distaste for the American invasion of Iraq.

Hm. Sounds to me like Mubarak is a big proponent of "the global test".

Who should be more ashamed? Democrats like Feinstein and Kerry -- for drafting anti-American talking points for the rest of the world -- or Mubarak, for stealing such shoddy material? To me, it's hardly a tough call: Feinstein, Kerry et al. in a walk.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Fake But Accurate?

It looks like there's at least a decent possibility that the USA Today "scoop" on phone companies being forced to hand over their phone records is wrong.

Of course, no one in the press is willing to say as much yet, at least not publicly. Could it be that they're simply "cooling out the mark", as Thomas Sowell puts it in another context?

One interesting but largely overlooked clue may be that the Bush Administration has never confirmed the existence of this program -- in stark contrast to its relatively swift confirmation back in December of surveillance of Al Qaeda foreign calls, including those coming into America.


Rosa Brooks is right to worry about the impact of the paucity of women in some parts of the world.

As much as feminists would like to deny it, women serve a unique and distinct function from men in a society. They're a civilizing force -- and when they aren't around, it's not just that petty crime can rise. It's a boon for terrorist recruiting, and may even make a society more warlike.

If you're in the mood to worry, direct your attention in particular to China. The single child policy in effect since 1980 (which has precipitated forced abortions) coupled with the traditional preference for males has led to a severe gender imbalance. The oldest of this cohort is 26. There are more behind them.

They won't be able to find women to marry. They're going to be frustrated, and they're going to be aggressive.

Should be interesting, and not in an entirely good way.

A Huge Mistake

Here is the roll call vote on the Ensign amendment -- that is, the one that was intended to ensure that newly legalized illegals couldn't collect social security for previous work that had been done under fraudulent or unlawful pretenses (i.e. when they were, in fact, illegals). It was defeated, by a vote of 50-49.

Only 5 Democrats voted with the overwhelmingly Republican group of senators who oppose allowing collection of social security benefits for work that had been done as an illegal (i.e. as a lawbreaker). They were Byrd (WV), Conrad (ND), Dayton (MN), Nelson (FLA) and Nelson (NEB).

Here is the list of Republican defectors to the Democratic side: Brownback (KS - who has seriously harmed his presidential aspirations, as he hopes to target conservatives), Chafee (RI - big surprise), DeWine (OH - obviously trying to make a tough campaign even tougher), Graham (SC - a McCain wannabe), Hagel (NEB - all McCain's "righteousness" with none of the charm), Lugar (IN), Martinez (FL), McCain (AZ - 'nuff said? Maybe he's believing the Beltway hype), Specter (PA), Stevens (AK) and Voinovich (OH).

Seems to me that Senator McCain has has not only managed to botch the immigration issue -- he's done serious damage to his claims of fiscal responsibility. With a social security system in dire straits, does it make sense to promise to be handing out more benefits? And couldn't it, fairly, be argued that not only is it wrong to hand out benefits for illegal behavior, but any extra revenue that accrued to the government as a result of work by illegals is entirely fair, given the volume of state resources (like hospitals, schools etc.) that illegals have used?

ISO: A Graduation Speaker

The University of California-Berkeley keeps losings its commencement speakers, because they keep refusing to cross a picket line for a strike that's taking place there. First it was Howard Dean, now it's Al Gore.

It's easy for Cal to solve its problem: Just find someone who's willing to cross the picket line, that is, someone who's not a lefty or a Democratic politician. The problem is that few in Berkeley are interested in hearing from anyone who doesn't fall in that category. (In fairness, as I pointed out some time ago, the vast majority of graduation speakers are liberal.)

It would be amusing to find out how celebrated a Republican or conservative would have to be to win an invitation from Berkeley. Would Ken Mehlman do the trick? Would they demand Condoleezza Rice -- or reject her? How 'bout the President himself -- doubtful that they were even "tolerate" his presence on campus.

Well, sometimes maintaining the purity of one's principles requiress sacrifice. And so it looks like the grads will have to do without a speaker, since it's unlikely that they're willing to have one with whom they disagree.

Breaking the "Code"

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Loconte notes that CS Lewis' words about other religious "conspiracy theories" have relevance to "The Da Vinci Code" as well.

And if you're looking for a thorough and erudite "Code"-breaker, you can't do better than Mark D. Roberts. I've read the whole series -- and it didn't just teach me things I didn't know. It taught me things I didn't even know that I didn't even know. Fascinating.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

RIP Cy Feuer

An eminent producer from the golden age of Broadway is gone. I was not terribbly familiar with Mr. Feuer, but this obituary in the New York Times made me terribly nostalgic (if that's possible, given that I wasn't actually alive during the referenced period). It notes of Mr. Feuer and his producing partner that:

They were at their peak from 1950 to 1965, a period often called the heyday of the American musical. This was before rock 'n' roll began its reign, when talents like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein ruled the national culture, and shows like "My Fair Lady" and "West Side Story" went head-to-head on Broadway.

Cole Porter and Irving Berlin are my favorite songwriters. Those must have been the days . . .

A Brake, Not An Accelerator

Over at Tapscott's Copy Desk, Mark has been pounding away at the President and congressional Republicans, seeming not-at-all upset about the prospect of GOP losses in November if it ultimately restores a more conservative cast to congress as a whole, and even discounting the potential impact on the Supreme Court.

Mark Tapscott has recently become a friend. Upon meeting him, it's obvious that he's a wonderful guy, and incredibly smart, too. But here, I must respectfully disagree.

On the topic of the relevance of the upcoming elections to the Supreme Court, he's written:

Adding a third Bush appointee of the same quality as Roberts/Alito would probably insure a working conservative majority for a generation.

But there are no guarantees that Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts will all remain healthy. Odds are greater for a Ginsburg departure, but we cannot assume the next exit from the Court will be from the left side.

Far more important, however, is that it may not make much difference. If the "experts" are to be believed, a third Bush appointee is most likely to be Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Maybe Gonzalez would be another Scalia. More likely he would be another David Souter.

Second, Supreme Court appointments are important but they aren't the most important consideration in these matters. Elevating the Court to such prominence is a sort of conservative echo of the liberals dependance upon the federal judiciary to impose decisions that ought instead be made in Congress.

But here's the thing. In the wake of the Miers debacle, is the President more or less willing to make the Gonzalez nomination with Republicans in the majority, or with Democrats there? If conservatives did want to object to a Supreme Court nomination, they're obviously in a stronger position to do so with the GOP in control. If there's anyone who cares even less about what conservatives think than John McCain, it's got to be Harry Reid.

In fact, putting the Democrats in the majority may actually facilitate the nomination and ultimate confirmation of AG Gonzalez. As a rumored "moderate" and a qualified jurist of Latino ethnicity (which means Dems would be afraid of losing Latino votes through opposing him), the nomination could be reasonably justified as the most likely to get through a Judiciary Committee chaired by Patrick Leahy.

Second, Mark faults other conservative commentators for "elevating" the importance of the Supreme Court to the point where they become an "echo of the liberals dependance upon the federal judiciary to impose decisions that ought instead be made in Congress." Let's be clear. It's wrong to use the Supreme Court as a way of contravening or avoiding the electoral process. The problem is that liberals have done it, still do it, and will continue to do it.

Adherents of judicial restraint are needed on the Court, not to enact conservative policies, but to stop the egregious judicial activism that too often rises from places like the Ninth Circuit. Failing to secure the right majority on the Court could eventually mean that people like Stephen Reinhardt are effectively drafting federal law on matters like the right to die, abortion and other similar matters (if a non-conservative majority rubber stamps his reasoning in these controversial cases, or refuses to take them up).

In short, a solid Court is needed -- not as an accelerator for the implementation of judge-made conservative law, but as a brake on the left's attempts to impose judge-made liberal laws.

Ian McKellen: What's He Thinking?

Ian McKellen has an incredible tin ear when it comes to discussing matters of faith -- unfortunate, perhaps, given that he's one of the stars of "The Da Vinci Code."

First, he insinuated that the Bible is fiction. And now, he's proven that he's no better a spinmeister than he is a theologian, according to this piece. McKellen's latest?:

I'm very happy to believe that Jesus was married. I know that the Catholic Church has problems with gay people and I thought that this was absolute truth that Jesus was not gay.

I'm not a Catholic, but any fair observer of Catholic views would have to conclude that McKellen's remark smacks of bigotry -- and ignorance. The Church, as far as I know, doesn't have "problems with gay people." To the extent it has "problems," it's with homosexual behavior. That's because many believe that it's a sin. When it comes to homosexuality, as I understand it, the traditional Catholic view is akin to those of conservative Christians, as I described them here:

in approaching the whole question of homosexuality, their outlook is to "Love the sinner, hate the sin." They believe homosexual behavior is wrong, but they also believe that homosexuals carry the full weight of God's glory and are as beloved by the Almighty as any heterosexual He ever made.

Obviously, many will debate whether homosexual behavior is really a sin. But believing that it is doesn't turn one into a hater of gays, any more than hating indecisiveness turns one into a hater of people who manifest that quality.

Let's hope that in the future, McKellen either bones up on the facts or sticks to reciting the lines that others write for him.

John Conyers' Fantasy World

Today, John Conyers writes that he's not rushing to impeach the President.

If he's for real, it looks like he's changed his tune pretty recently, perhaps in response to pleas from Nancy Pelosi. She apparently understands that having Conyers' moonbattery on display as the putative chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (if the Dems retake Congress) isn't the best way to instill confidence in lefty leadership.

Obviously, Conyers' assertions are disingenuous at best. He says he just wants to "get answers" from the Administration -- but judging from the fact that he has already introduced a package of censure resolutions about the President and Vice-President, it sounds like the questions are a mere formality. He's already played dress up for an impeachment hearing.

Conyers is hoping that his backpedaling will convince Americans that his plans are innocuous. But even if the naive and the foolish take his piece today at face value, it's important to understand what he's proposing. By his own admission, he wants to assemble a select committee to probe The White House during war time, and to ask once again the same old questions that were asked and answered endlessly during the 2004 campaign.

Clinton's partisans and his friends in the MSM bemoaned the "distraction" that the Monica Lewinsky investigation and impeachment had become. And that's the point: Investigations are, indeed, a distraction. Whatever the costs pre-9/11, they're infinitely greater now, in the wake of a terrorist attack when the country is at war.

Could it be that the Democrats don't understand this? Or do they understand, and just not care?

From An Experienced Observer

Writing in Commentary, Amir Taheri notes that the coverage of Iraq by the MSM has gravely disserviced the American people. He sets out five measures of social and economic health that indicate the progress Iraq has made:

(1) The first sign is refugees. When things have been truly desperate in Iraq in 1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990long queues of Iraqis have formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape . . . Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark.

(2) A second dependable sign likewise concerns human movement, but of a different kind. This is the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. . . .In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina.

(3) A third sign, this one of the hard economic variety, is the value of the Iraqi dinar, especially as compared with the regions other major currencies. . . Although it is still impossible to fix its value against a basket of international currencies, the new Iraqi dinar has done well against the U.S. dollar, increasing in value by almost 18 percent between August 2004 and August 2005. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis, and millions of Iranians and Kuwaitis, now treat it as a safe and solid medium of exchange.

(4) My fourth time-tested sign is the level of activity by small and medium-sized businesses. . . Since liberation . . . Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as well as numerous private studies, the Iraqi economy has been doing better than any other in the region.

(5) Finally, one of the surest indices of the health of Iraqi society has always been its readiness to talk to the outside world. Iraqis are a verbalizing people; when they fall silent, life is incontrovertibly becoming hard for them. . . ..
Today, again by way of dramatic contrast, Iraqis are voluble to a fault.

Read the whole thing -- and ask yourself: How sad is it that not one person who writes for the MSM either figured this out, or was willing to write about it?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Utter Irresponsibility

Tonight, Hugh Hewitt's radio show featured a discussion of some incredibly irresponsible comments made by Jack Murtha tonight on Hardball (partial transcript and video here).

Murtha charged that, during a raid in Iraq, American soldiers

went into houses and killed children, women and children. 24 people they killed.

Not surprisingly, Chris Matthews was ready to pop the obvious "My Lai" parallel.

Let's be clear: At this point, few know what happened. I certainly don't. But by any understanding, Murtha's decision to launch such serious accusations on national television is utterly repugnant. Here's why:

(1) He himself doesn't know what happened -- and if he has sources that we don't have, then he should name them so that we can assess their credibility. Apparently, he admits that he hasn't even read the military's investigative reports on the incident.

(2) His premature and intemperate statements will serve as propaganda and fodder for our enemies around the world. "Americans are murdering civilians" will be the cry, thanks to Murtha.

(3) If the reports are wrong and the troops are innocent, he has smeared and slandered heroes who are defending this country.

(4) If he's right, he has done a great deal to ruin their chances of obtaining a fair trial -- and this may be an issue even if, in fact, they're innocent.

(5) By attributing the behavior to "stress," he's perpetuating an unfair and inaccurate myth of soldiers' psychological frailty that was created after Vietnam.

If the soldiers committed the crimes of which Murtha has accused them, they should and will be punished. But it's despicable to assert that the events happened without citing any sources or proof.

It's even worse to do it in a slimy context. After bringing up the alleged massacre, Murtha blames it on "stress" -- which, in turn, he blames on the President. How shameful. Make a drive-by accusation of some soldiers in order to attack the President (and it's a dumb argument anyway: If a postal worker "goes postal", is it the fault of the Postmaster General? Please).

I believe that Americans will see through Murtha's agenda. But it's ironic that so many Democrats -- who are so concerned about the legal rights of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay -- will have no problem with what Murtha's done.

Too "Good" Not To Be True?

Writing at Real Clear Politics tomorrow, Professor Ronald Cass puts the reports of alleged NSA collection of phone records into perspective.

First, as he points out, the story may not even be true -- it was just, apparently, too "good" not to print.

Second, Professor Cass castigates the convenient memory loss on the part of the President's detractors:

Congress expressly authorized the President to use "all necessary and appropriate military force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines" were involved in 9/11. All force necessary and proper to make us secure. Not all force consistent with prior legislation. Not all force consistent with scruples about individuals' privacy concerns. Military force historically has included intelligence-gathering as well as front-line combat.

It is, perhaps, a tribute to how well the President has done his job that his political adversaries feel safe enough from terrorists to criticize the measures he has taken to protect us.

And it's worth asking them: How, exactly, would they conduct foreign policy differently? Would they not trace calls from Al Qaeda to those inside this country? Even if it meant that their decision could result in another successful attack on the homeland?

It's pretty cheap and easy for the left to use the President as a "privacy" whipping boy right now, when it's costless. They know that he'll continue to protect their precious hides, so they can complain about the policies without having to surrender the protection that they offer. When it comes to the left's "privacy principles," it's time for the rubber to meet the road. Let's hear what measures they'd eliminate, and which they'd keep. And then the American people can decide for themselves who's most serious about protecting this country.

Hillary and the Pill

Hillary Clinton has identified an alleged Republican "war" on contraception -- or else, she's trying to secure support on the feminist left, which may have softened in light of her "middle ground" rhetoric on abortion.

In any case, it's a silly, specious charge. What's her evidence? According to the piece:

The senator cited statistics that low-income women are having four times as many unwanted pregnancies as higher income women.

Even assuming all these women couldn't afford the many, varied, relatively inexpensive and easily accessible forms of birth control on the shelves of most major drug stores, the statistics still prove nothing. The higher pregnancy rate among low-income women could be a result of their (1) declining to use birth control or (2) using it improperly.

In any case, even if -- in some bizarre parallel universe -- the Republicans were trying to limit access to birth control, you'd have to credit them with favoring principle over politics. Because cutting off poor women's contraception may lead to more abortions, but it also results in more live births, which would quite effectively diminish the Roe effect.

Good News on Immigration

The Sessions amendment passed -- indicating that at least some senators understand the importance of actual, real, physical fencing. That's a good sign.

And at least the Senate can take a firm stand against convicted felons being offered U.S. citizenship.

Hey -- it's something.

Outliving His Usefulness?

Eric Fettman theorizes about the newly critical coverage of John McCain:

Fact is, McCain has outlived his usefulness to those on the left.

As long as he was the fly in the GOP ointment - a weapon against President Bush - he was worshiped as the kind of Republican who might actually have been allowed to defeat Jimmy Smits on "West Wing."

Now, however, he's a different kind of Republican - one whose current strong poll numbers spell trouble for Hillary Clinton's coronation.

Fettman's right. I'm not a huge McCain fan (his stands on immigration, the torture amendment, and campaign finance reform are some of the reasons why), but it's impossible not to marvel at the fickleness of the press corps' affections, or the transparency of their agenda.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Timely Warning

John Podhoretz posts a timely and necessary warning about the dangers of Republicans allowing their differences on illegal immigration to mushroom. He's right -- that would be a dreadful and unnecessary mistake.

Don't get me wrong: As a Californian, I understand the frustration and the sense of being marginalized and ignored by the Eastern "powers that be" when it comes to illegal immigration. It's disheartening to suspect that some who support less stringent border control measures are, perhaps, equating support for tight borders with an attenuated form of racism, or imputing to it the stigmata of rube-hood. It's irritating to watch the views of conservative stalwarts ignored, while people like Kennedy and Durbin express satisfaction with legislation moving forward under Republican steam!

But at last, enough is enough. Some of the criticism of his President and the plan has stopped sounding like friendly if frank advice from allies, and has started to become as shrill and denunciatory as the shrieking that emanates from the left. We are better than that. And if the tenor of the criticism on the right continues to escalate, the credibility of those engaging in it (and to some degree, those associated with them) will be diminished. In my time working in politics, I've seen erstwhile allies who consistently step over the line lose their ability to affect the debate, simply because of their seeming inability or apparent unwillingness to allow their concerns to be assauged or their anger abated in any way. Here, that would be a shame, because the critics have content of value to add, and a perspective that should be heard.

I've been fortunate to have readers contact me to insist that they're not intending to sit out this election -- and I'm grateful to hear from them. Likewise, even as I disagree with much of what's going forward in Washington, I remain a proud Republican: Just as this blog says, I believe in American political and religious liberty, free enterprise, limited government, military strength and traditional values.

And I remain a supporter of President Bush. Yes, it's become tiresome to have to defend him all the time -- but don't you see, that fatigue is what the loony left is counting on? That's the point of the endless litany of specious charges: To drive even his supporters to the point where it's easier to join the chorus of the President's detractors than attempt to withstand them.

President Bush is an imperfect man (as are we all). He spends too much, and his notions of border security may not be as strict as mine. But whatever your frustrations with the President, he's not the one who will appoint adherents of a "living Constitution" to the Court, dismantle the war on terror, and raise your taxes. He's not one who has backed down from protecting this country, even when it seems that a majority of its residents have little appreciation for his efforts.

He doesn't deserve our unquestioned loyalty, but he does deserve reasoned and respectful dissent when we must disagree. And almost all of us within the conservative/Republican movement know what it's like to be sneered at, denigrated and dismissed by our political adversaries on the left. We don't need to do it to each other -- and we shouldn't. America deserves better from all of us.

Work to Do

At least in the UK, "The DaVinci Code" is having some pernicious effects.

Mark D. Roberts helps distinguish facts from myths.

Earth to The White House

Is there anyone there who understands how demoralizing it is for the President's base -- a scant six months before midterm elections -- to read this piece?

What does it say to Republican stalwarts when Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin are applauding the President's approach?

And is The White House confident that its new "allies" are going to be as reliable as the ones they're marginalizing?

Spectator Column

Here is my column in today's American Spectator. It discusses the law just approved by the state Senate, requiring the study of "the role and contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender" in California schools.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Cry Me A River . . .

Here is the translation of documents from Al Qaeda. Sounds like not everything in the insurgency is going according to plan.

In fact, they sound as disheartened about the war as the congressional Democrats do!

Why is it that we don't read any of this in our national dailies?

(HT: Jack Kelly at Irish Penannts).

Update: Here's a column by Cal Thomas about the documents -- and why they are cause for optimism.

The Speech: All in All, Not Bad

[Update 6:00 pm : Hugh Hewitt just finished interviewing Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Julie Myers. And stunningly, it sounded as though the Administration was backing away from the concept of any kind of physical fencing. She effectively refused to concede any benefits from physical fencing despite Hugh having offered her numerous attempts to do so. If her articulated views are representative of those of the Administration, it spells disaster from both a political and policy standpoint.]

President Bush is obviously beginning to understand the depth and passion of Americans' concerns about illegal immigration. His speech tonight was cast almost completely in the context of border security.

But let's take the beginning first. To my mind, perhaps the strongest part of the President's speech came near the end. By calling on immigrants to learn to read/write/speak English and respect the American flag, he addressed the unspoken but very real concerns of many Americans who have, for too long, suspected that either the elites are either too politically correct to call for assimilation -- or that they lack the cultural confidence to do so. In my view, a lot of the really intense anger at the Administration policy on the part of some in the Republican base has sprung from this perception; it will be interesting to see if what the President said is enough to help it begin to abate.

Certainly, the speech was hardly perfect. To some extent, the President fudged the distinction between "virtual security," (that is, the "high tech fences" that he prescribed for urban areas) versus the "barriers" that would be directed toward rural areas. It matters how much of which goes where -- and just how that determination will be made and exactly what it means isn't clear. The fact that he alluded to "manpower and technology" at the speech's outset doesn't engender a lot of confidence that he's thinking in terms of substantial, numerous physical impediments. This matters -- but we'll have to wait and see.

It's worth noting that the President called for holding employers to account. That's important for some of the disgruntled citizens who believe that Republicans like President Bush are soft on illegal immigration to help "big corporations" keep wages low. Significantly, he likewise called for tamper-proof identification cards for workers -- an indispensable step in being able to enforce immigration laws.

The President wisely spent some time explaining why his temporary worker program (which, notably, didn't mention jobs Americans "won't do," instead recasting them as jobs Americans "aren't doing") and his "path to citizenship" cannot fairly be characterized as amnesty. It's important, and right, that law-abiding Americans understand that law-breaking isn't being overlooked or condoned. Again, there is some devil in the details, but the overall principle the President articulated seems right to me.

And, in my view, it was fitting that President Bush alluded at the end to the inherent dignity of all mankind, legal or not. It was a timely reminder and a clarification to those on the left and the right that this debate isn't about animus against illegal immigrants as people or as workers -- it's about America claiming the right and fulfilling the duty of securing its own borders, the prerogative of every sovereign nation.

"Lawless" vs. "Racist"

So the Democrats are trying to argue that Republicans aren't the party of "law and order" because they haven't been enforcing the border.


At its most debased level, the debate over illegal immigration has always consisted of Republicans insisting that Democrats are lawless because they seem unconcerned about everything from border security to fraudulent voting. The Democrats, in turn, have charged that Republican efforts to enforce the border and other laws are tantamount to racism -- an argument that's frightened Republicans, given the ever-increasing Latino vote.

First, it's hard to understand how the Democrats can argue that Republicans don't care about border security -- when the toughest provisions for it come from the Republican side. Second, if the Democrats want to begin the process of hurling specious charges, they needn't doubt that at least some Republican partisans will hasten to hurl the "r" charge that the Dems themselves have abused for so long.

A Tin Ear?

For those who think that Hillary Clinton is a brilliant political mind, please note that she has apologized for her earlier remarks suggesting that young people don't work hard.

Not only does the remark make her sound like a scold -- a perception of which women in general and Hillary in particular must be wary. It also alienates voters between 18-34, which, according to this story, rates her most favorably of any age group.

Conservative Threats

It's understandable that some conservatives would want to threaten to withhold support from the Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. Republicans of almost every stripe have legitimate frustrations with the Bush Administration.

But staying home would be folly. Not only is it -- as Jim Geraghty points out -- that such a maneuver would disproportionately hurt consrvatives, rather than Republican moderates.

Rather, it sends the wrong message to both Democrats and the terrorists. From almost the first days of the Bush administration in 2001 (with a brief respite for a month or so after 9/11) Democrats have criticized President Bush in the starkest, most dramatic terms. Watching his party suffer a calamitous defeat would, to them, justify their tactics and reward their strategy of softness and opposition in the war on terror. And as Milton Friedman is the first to tell us, subsidize (i.e. reward) something, and you'll get more of it.

Finally, handing the Bush Administration a defeat would, worst of all, reward the terrorists. If the President is seen as having suffered a major blow, they will conclude that their insurgency in Iraq and elsewhere is bolstered, which is likely to keep it going and cost more American lives.

I'm never a great fan of party members sitting out elections, even in the best of times. But especially not now -- because we are engaged in a war and these aren't ordinary times. Republicans have rightly criticized Democrats for their hysterical opposition to various national security programs, noting that they seem unaware that the country is engaged in a war.

If the conservatives choose to stay home and hand political victory to the pro-impeachment, anti-war congressional Democrats, there will be no alternative but to suspect that they, likewise, have forgotten that this is wartime -- if they ever really knew.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Temporary" Border Troops?

According to this report, that's what President Bush told Vicente Fox today.

Just one more reason to wonder whether the proposals about border control are concrete, or merely "virtual."

What Feminism Used to Be

Because Laura Bush has been an advocate for women across the world who have been truly abused or marginalized, a historian is designating her an "international feminist."

Funny -- the kind of basic principles of equal opportunity and equality under the law that Laura Bush is championing used to be the hallmarks of feminism generally. Of course, that was back in the days when people like Susan B. Anthony (a pro-lifer, incidentally) were trying to redress real grievances against women, rather than simply cloaking themselves in the mantle of "victimhood" and "opression" -- like so many of the coddled creatures who claim to speak for American women today.

Could it be, given the strides that American women have made and the full panoply of rights that they enjoy, that "international" feminism is really the only legitimate kind of feminism left?

Dispelling Dem Myths

My former boss, Senator Kit Bond, turned Patrick "Leaky" Leahy every which way but loose on the NewHour in a discussion about the NSA program. Read the transcript for yourself, because Senator Bond dispels a number of popular left-wing myths.

Extend the Tax Cuts

The Wall Street Journal lays out the case for extending the tax cuts -- which rests, in large part, on the excellent economy that the previous tax cuts have yielded.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Your "Privacy" Is Long Gone

Funny how the civil libertarians object to mining data that can help protect Americans in the war on terror, but much less is said about much more intrusive government information gathering that isn't even being used for national defense purposes -- like the census.

In any case, those beating the drums of outrage against the NSA program had better realize that there's very little privacy left. Your social security number is used much like a national ID card. And you can see a satellite image of even one of the most secure private residences in the world.

The Face of "Choice"

Here is a gentle little puff piece from The Seattle Times about Marcy Bloom, a pro-abortion activist who is retiring from her leadership of a clinic that has aborted 700,000 babies over the past 30 years. And, yes, the term "pro-abortion" is used advisedly:

In her years at the forefront, Bloom has fought not only for access to abortions, but to change the way that some people view abortion as either tragic or immoral. She has described it instead as a "normal and common" experience in the lives of women — a "moral good" that saves lives and prevents unwanted children.

When the MSM plays up the existence of frightening anti-abortion zealots (which do exist), it's worth remembering that frightening pro-abortion zealots exist, too -- the only difference is that they get better press.

The McCain Paradox

John McCain can attempt to woo conservative Christians all he wants with trips to Liberty University and the rest.

But if he succeeds in pushing through his version of immigration reform (less enforcement, more legalization) and either Brett Kavanaugh or Terrence Boyle are deprived of up-or-down votes, he can actually start quoting Scripture and take up residence at Libery and it won't matter. He can kiss a large portion of the Republican base goodbye.

Interestingly, inside the Beltway, it seems that many smart Republicans have actually resigned themselves to the fact that McCain has the nomination -- and the election -- sewed up. No less than two of them sighed, "Well, he's the best known, and he can beat Hillary." The calculation seems to be that all will be forgiven among the religious right and other conservatives once the opponent is known to be the dreaded Senator Clinton.

There seems to me that this analysis has two flaws: First, the Beltway insiders underestimate the intensity of the opposition that Senator McCain elicits away from D.C. Second, the electoral dynamic the insiders are counting on would be significantly changed, if the nomination of McCain disgruntles enough Republicans to generate a third candidate -- possibly a more dependable conservative, possibly someone with firmer views on border control.

Paradoxically, a McCain nomination could end up less likely to protect America from a Hillary presidency than actually to deliver one.

Putting It in Perspective

The invaluable Heather MacDonald explains why even paranoid conspiracy nuts have nothing to fear from the newly leaked NSA program.

Here's just a tidbit:

Since late 2001, Verizon, BellSouth, and ATT have connected nearly two trillion calls, according to the Washington Post. The companies gave NSA the incoming and outgoing numbers of those calls, stripped of all identifying information such as name or address. No conversational content was included. The NSA then put its supercharged computers to work analyzing patterns among the four trillion numbers involved in the two trillion calls, to look for clusters that might suggest terrorist connections. Though the details are unknown, they might search for calls to known terrorists, or, more speculatively, try to elicit templates of terror calling behavior from the data.

Read the whole thing.

Going the Wrong Way?

It's being reported that, in his Monday evening speech on illegal immigration, President Bush is going to call for the deployment of the National Guard plus the installation of a "virtual fence" to safeguard the nation's borders.

Granted, the term "virtual fence" is subject to many interpretations. As the linked article by Deborah Orin points out, "[t]he virtual fence could include lasers and unmanned aerial drones as well as cement barriers." But to the normal observer, it sounds like a relatively porous concept -- and when I was in Washington last week, I noticed far more cement barriers surrounding the Senate and House office buildings than "virtual" ones.

Even the idea of stationing troops on the border -- no doubt inserted, in part, to overcome objections about the effectiveness of the "virtual" fence -- isn't lkely to be all that simple in execution. First, unlike concrete barriers, troops are fungible. If they're needed elsewhere, they're going to have to leave -- or the Administration will have to take the blame when, say, a governor of New Mexico claims he needed the Guard to help fight forest fires but that they were unavailable.

More importantly, it allows those who are opposed to any kind of border enforcement to argue that America is creating a "militarized zone" between itself and Mexico, and in addition, it may end up leading to more unfortunate and highly publicized skirmishes.

In short, the troops aspect of the plan lends itself readily to leftist demagoguing, while the "virtual fence" aspect is guaranteed to irritate the right. And while some politicians may see being criticized by both sides as a sign of virtue, it's not exactly a huge advantage six months before an election.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Unfair to the Children

An unelected, unaccountable judge has just thrown out the California high school exit exam that's designed to ensure that graduates have a rudimentary grasp of math and English before they graduate.

Legislation for the plan was drawn up by the legislature, signed by the governor (then Gray Davis), drafted by schools superintendant Jack O'Connell -- and now it's thrown out, thanks to an egregious example of judicial activism on the part of a hard-core judicial activist.

Apparently, the judge has decided that the test is "unfair" because some teachers aren't certified in the subjects being tested. But everyone should realize that what's being tested isn't advanced physics and complicated math -- nor are Shakespearean writing skills being demanded. The exit exam is on basic math and English -- the exam's already been "dumbed down" as it is.

Does this bleeding-heart judge really think he's doing any young person a favor? What kind of person rules that it's "unfair" to require high school graduates, who must now attempt to make a living, to display rudimentary math and English skills?

Here's hoping all the plaintiffs and the judge, too, are proud for having secured students' "right" to graduate with no skills that will enable them to work for a better life. Congratulations on that great victory. Really.

What None Dare Call It?

Daniel Henninger has it exactly right, discussing the CIA leaks that are undermining the war on terror:

It certainly doesn't qualify as simple dissent, which seems to be the view in elite press circles. Using a privileged, confidential position inside an intelligence agency to blow up a U.S. government's war policy isn't "dissent." It's something else.

Again: Those who disagree with the policies of the current Administration aren't being forced to work in the CIA or anywhere else in the government. But as long as they're there, they're required to carry out the policy set for them by the duly elected President of the United States.

Turning Back the Clock?

While I've been in D.C., out here in California, there's been big news: A bill that would require school textbooks to teach about the "historical contributions" of gays, lesbians and the transgendered.

I've written on this ridiculous idea before. Of what relevance is a person's sexuality to his or her achievements (unless, of course, that achievement is in the area of homosexual rights)? Must everything always be about the left's victimization trinity of "racism, sexism and homophobia"?

Those on the left love to decry a more sexually modest time, when society behaved as though it had a stake in the sexual morality of young men and, especially, women. Who cared what people do privately, they asked?

How ironic that now they're actually the ones who are forcibly inserting our noses into everyone's bedroom business.

Tying Our Hands in Wartime

Senator Jon Kyl is so right in characterizing as "nuts" the outcry over the NSA domestic phone surveillance.

We're in a war. The government is charged with preventing attacks. No content of the calls has been recorded, and government officials (including the chairman and ranking chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee) have been apprised.

From the primarily Democratic opposition to this program, we are reminded of two things:

(1)If they win, programs like this will be abolished, and the country will be less safe.

(2) They care more about creating a political outcry than about protecting the country.

Fortunately, Americans are sensible people, which is why, according to this ABC News/Washington Post poll, fully 63% believe the program is justified.

So, by all means, let's have hearings. Let's have the Democrats smoke themselves out as the party that wants to tie the country's hands in prosecuting the war on terror.

Some Dumb "Code"

Sitting for hours on the runway because of bad weather, waiting to come home, I finally had the chance to read "The DaVinci Code."

And now I'm feeling a bit like Scarlett O'Hara at the Confederate bazaar -- everybody seems to be swept up in an enthusiasm that I don't understand.

What is it that so many people have found to be so great about this book? The characters struck me as poorly drawn, the "mystery" was impenetrable by normal people, and let's not even talk about the pretentious, portentious, ultimately ridiculous "theology" that animates it. I'm hardly a Biblical scholar, but author Dan Brown even makes mistakes about the few little things I know from my college course in "The Self in World Religions" at Princeton.

Mark D. Roberts provides an excellent refutation of the most inflammatory claims in the book, and notes that it presents a wonderful opportunity for Christians to discuss their faith.

As an orthodox Christian, though, it's hard to overcome the sense (as I read on the tarmac last night) that, albeit perhaps inadvertantly, Dan Brown is doing something incredibly wrong -- attempting to undermine peoples' belief in Christianity, and replace it with a half-baked, unserious conspiracy theory.

Above all, it makes me sad. It's like Brown is trying to take away good, honest whole-wheat bread and pure water, and substituting it with Cheetos and Red Bull. The replacement may taste good at first, but it's ultimately unable to nourish and sustain.