Monday, September 30, 2002

The other day, I speculated that Al Gore's flip-flopping on matters of war and peace might be something new in our political history. However, my cousin George Chimes, who knows more about American history than I can ever hope to, reminds me that "Gore's weasel words on issues of war and peace are part of a long Democratic tradition." He cites Woodrow Wilson's 1916 campaign pledge to "keep us out of war" and FDR's 1940 Boston campaign speech in which he vowed never to send troops abroad. George notes that both Wilson and FDR were actively trying to involve the U.S. in war "but wouldn't own up to it for fear of offending elements of their electoral coalitions."

I take George's point. Still, there seems to be something different about Clinton and Gore, though less than what I tentatively claimed. Wilson and FDR were trying to hide the ball. With Clinton and Gore, it's not apparent that there is a ball. For them, issues often seem to lack reality other than as play-things to be manipulated for political purposes. Consider Clinton's response to the question of how he would have voted on the 1991 congressional resolution concerning Iraq. Clinton said he would have supported the pro-war resolution if the vote was close, but that the opposition had the better arguments. It's hard for me to imagine Wilson, FDR, or any other elected high official from the past making a statement like this on the issue of whether to go to war. The statement betrays a lack of seriousness that no past politician could admit to and that, I suspect, few could consciously entertain.

What I take to be the Clinton-Gore lack of seriousness about issues has parallels in modern (or should I say post-modern) intellectual and academic thought. In that world, "texts" (e.g., great literature, philosophy and even laws and judicial opinions) are not valued in their own right, but rather exist only to be appropriated by creative "scholars" for whatever purposes they see fit. Everything is up for grabs. The only limit on valid interpretation is the imagination, and political correctness quotient, of the interpreter. I fear that we are starting to see this sort of "deconstructionist" approach spilling into our politics (recall "it depends on what the meaning of is is"). And if this approach works as well for Gore as it did for Clinton, Republicans are likely to adopt it. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to work very well for Gore. The reason may be that Clinton actually enjoyed the deconstruction game; Gore just seems driven to play it.
Whether the Democrats will be able to field a substitute candidate for Torricelli is unclear. The Democrats reportedly believe the New Jersey Supreme Court will come through for them, but I can't imagine how this can be achieved in five weeks. Here is the latest from the Washington Post. My favorite quote is from Doug Forrester, who says: "The laws of the state of New Jersey do not contain a 'we think we're going to lose so we get to pick someone new' clause."
Donald Lambro of the Washington Times reaches the same conclusion as Rocket Man regarding Tom Daschle's recent outburst -- it "had more to do with his political frustration over Iraq's dominance in the election debate than with President Bush's slap at Senate Democrats on national security." Lambro cites some significant poll results. A Gallup Poll shows that, by a margin of 49 percent to 41 percent, voters are more worried about Iraq than the economy when it comes to deciding how to vote in the upcoming House and Senate races. This represents a 16-point shift since last month. And an Ipsos Public Affairs poll (whatever that is) shows that, by a 6-point margin, Americans now think that the country is moving in the right direction. This represents a 13-point shift.

In order to cope with this sentiment and still appease their liberal base, Daschle and Gore want to persuade folks that one can care about our security and still be opposed to war with Iraq. But Gore recognized that this refrain, by itself, won't cut it. Thus, he tried to argue that he has a better plan for protecting our security -- ongoing pursuit of Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere. This required him to argue that current pursuit of these terrorists is inadequate. But most Americans (with some conservatives dissenting) believe that administration policy in Afghanistan has been a clear success and that Al Qaeda is already very much on the run. Consequently, Gore looked petty and foolish trying to argue otherwise.

The reality is that, in practice, the Democrats do place less of a priority on national security than the Republicans. Neither party places security considerations above all others under all circumstances. For example, neither advocates doubling the size of the armed forces or implementing a police state. But, compared to the Democrats, the Republicans advocate more resources for the military and greater constraints on civil liberties. Moreover, as we have documented during the past few months, Democratic policy on issues of high importance to their favorite interest groups, such as immigration and tort reform, does not consistently seek to maximize national security. These specifics are not understood by the public because they are not reported in the mainstream press. But the public seems to understand instinctively that the Democrats are more willing than the Republicans to trade-off security concerns. And every time a Democrat whines that the Iraq debate is shifting attention away from economic issues, he or she reinforces this understanding.
The Associated Press confirms that Torricelli is dropping out of the race. Speculation over possible replacement candidates focuses on former Senators Bill Bradley and Frank Lautenberg and current House members Bob Menedez, Frank Pallone, and Rob Andrews (the latter has been an ardent Bush supporter when it comes to Iraq). But state law apparently is an obstacle to replacing a candidate this late in the game, absent extraordinary circumstances such as the death of the candidate. Terminal corruption is not an extraordinary circumstance, at least not among Democrats in New Jersey.
It appears that Torricelli may pull out of his Senate re-election race. HIs campaign manager says a press conference is planned for this afternoon. I assume he won't hold a press conference to announce that he is staying in. Apparently this is being engineered by the national Democratic party; no doubt they have a plan to substitute another candidate, but it is awfully late in the day for that.
Here's a nice piece about the film "Barbershop" by an African-American writer. She finds the movie "reassuring," not offensive. She sees "Barbershop" as evidence that the new generation of African-American artists (and its audience) no longer "fears the truth" and, not coincidentally, is no longer taking its cues from the old civil rights leadership.
Debka File has a fascinating account of diplomatic progress in the Persian Gulf: "On the quiet, Washington has made important strides in the bid to assemble an Arab-Muslim coalition for its war effort. Egypt and Saudi Arabia were the first to climb on board." Debka File reports that Egypt has turned its Cairo West military base over to the US war command, while American warships are freely traversing the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, "the Saudi Prince Sultan air base northeast of Riyadh is now an American forward base for air raids over southern Iraq." But the chief coup is enlisting Iran in support of the effort against Iraq. Debka File claims that "Months of laborious bargaining have produced a secret US-Iran military cooperation agreement for the operation to overthrow Saddam's regime." Debka reports that Iran has already inserted special forces into Iraq, and that when Iraq's foreign minister traveled to Tehran yesterday seeking support against the US, he was coldly rebuffed. Debka evaluates the current Persian Gulf coalition as "weightier than the one which confronted Iraq in 1991."
More on Torchgate: In National Review Online Allison Hayward has the first really good column on the latest revelations.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Some time after the fall of the Soviet Union the New York Review of Books became worth reading. The current issue has a fine essay/review by Pico Iyer on William Buckley and his three most recent books. I am struck by the open-hearted appreciation of Buckley as a person that comes through in Iyer's review and in his reading of these books. To my surprise I see that this review is one of the pieces from the current issue that the magazine posts on its relatively new Web site, and I am delighted to be able to bring it to your attention.
More on Torchgate: The Trenton Courier Post has a terrific summary of the situation as of today, "Ethics blows have Torricelli battered and on the brink." Among other things, the story notes a poll showing the Torch now down 13 points to his invisible Republican opponent. The story also notes another fact I had missed: "Democrats announced Friday that Torricelli had been selected to make the Democratic response to President Bush' s weekly Saturday radio broadcast."

The Torch is indeed the perfect spokesman for the Gore/Dasche Democratic party. Perhaps the guy can join Steve Van Zandt on "The Sopranos" after he gets blown out of office. Rocket Man, do you remember the song Bruce Springsteen wrote for Steve Van Zandt in his previous incarnation as the rocker Little Stevie? "Trapped Again..."

The Washington Post editorial that Deacon linked to earlier isn't bad; it concludes that voting to confirm Miguel Estrada is "an easy call." In typical fashion, however, the Post can't bear to criticize unequivocally the Democratic smear campaign against Estrada. Instead, the Post casts Republicans and Democrats as equally blameworthy. The Republican sin, apparently, is praising Estrada as "a kind of Horatio Alger story." In the Post's view, praising a well-qualified candidate and groundlessly defaming him are somehow the same. More important, however, is the central point of the Post's editorial: "Both sides should remember that there is no Hispanic manner of deciding cases." This proposition is obviously true if you're a conservative; coming from the Post it is a breathtaking admission. Leaving aside the implications of this proposition for affirmative action generally, I can't resist noting how differently Clarence Thomas would have been treated if the Democrats in general, and the Post in particular, had been willing to acknowledge that there is no black manner of deciding cases.
Trunk, you beat me to Mark Steyn's hilarious column, but I want to add one correction: Tom Daschle's theme song, "How Can I Be Sure?," was recorded not by David Cassidy but by the immortal Rascals.
Here is a tribute to this year's Minnesota Twins from their ancestral home. Washington Post sportswriter William Gildea, who is old enough to remember when the Twins were the Washington Senators, finds immense satisfaction in the Twins' season. He is also pleased that two other less than glamorous franchises -- the Oakland A's and the Anaheim Angels -- have joined the Twins in the playoffs.
Maybe I shouldn't cancel my subscription after all. The Washington Post calls for the confirmation of Maguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. As to claims that Estrada black-balled non-conservative applicants for judicial clerkships, the Post finds that "it is terribly wrong to demand that Mr. Estrada answer charges to which nobody is willing to attach his or her name."
George Will calls for tort reform now. He notes that "by preventing agreement on reasonable limits to liability for terrorism insurance purposes, the trial bar and its poodle, the Democratic party, are casuing delays or cancellations of $10 billion in construction projects," thus sacrificing "hundreds of thousands of jobs."
Do you believe that Senator Robert Torricelli (D-unmarried, no kids) drinks milk? If you do, you won't be troubled by this story.

I believe we failed to note that Senator Tom Harkin's campaign manager has now resigned over the campaign's dirty trick that neither he nor Senator Harkin had anything to do with. The Des Moines Register had the story yesterday.

To be thorough in our continuing scandal coverage, we should note that on Friday the Star Tribune reported that Bill "Luther sticks with campaign aide who helped bogus candidate."
Unlike me, Mark Steyn has not lost his sense of humor watching the Democratic party's leading political pygmies play the angles in the "debate" over Iraq. In his Chicago Sun-Times column this morning, "Dems Irrelevant on Iraq," he reviews the musings of each of the party's leading lights and sums up:

"The sight of the Democratic Party wrestling with its conscience is like some old-time carnie freak show: It's strangely compelling, but you can't help feeling it's cruel to put these poor misfits on public display. A week ago, most of the bigshot Dem senators seemed to have wised up: The sooner we stop talking about why we don't want to talk about Iraq, the sooner we can start talking about Iraq. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can neutralize it as a political issue and move on to vital issues like a prescription drug plan plus dinner theater with Robert Goulet for America's seniors. Sure, in the political order of battle we're behind Bush, Blair, the Aussies, Italians, Turks, French, Canadians and even Saudis, but better late than 'Hang on, we've still got a few more questions.'''

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Tom Harkin is another politician who "takes full responsibity" for an incident that he would prefer to get out of the news so that we can all "move on" to discuss "the issues." Rob Borsellino of the Des Moines Register says "Harkin waited too long to talk." Harkin, the Torch, and Bill Luther all appear to be running the same play out of the Clinton playbook.
Rocket Man, excellent blog about South Dakota politics and the Daschle meltdown. I'd been meaning to ask you what's going on in your old state, and why it keeps sending people like McGovern, Daschle, and Senator "Arab-League" (or whatever his name was) to Washington. The question is important because it is the upper Midwest that keeps the Republicans from a commanding position in the Senate. When the parties are equal in popularity, as they were in 2000, the Senate should be Republican, as demonstrated by the fact that Bush carried more states than Gore. To my knowledge, the states that Bush carried comfortably but that send Democrats to the Senate (and often liberal Democrats at that) are basically the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Montana.

I had suspected that there was a strain of isolationism and/or anti-militarism in the upper Midwest. After all, Kentucky and Arizona don't send McGoverns, Gene McCarthys, or Tom Harkins to Washington no matter how good they are on tobacco or water issues. And I've read some scholarly writings that purport to trace alleged anti-interventionism in the upper Midwest back to New England and forward to the upper Northwest (which gave us Wayne Morse and Mark Hatfield but, in fairness, also Scoop Jackson). That's why I was happy to read your blog and especially happy about the poll you cited from the Sioux Falls paper. The good people of South Dakota seem to be fully in accord with the national sentiment when it comes to self-preservation.

Today's NY Times has a story on the memo released yesterday summarizing the federal prosecutors' evidence against Senator Robert Torricelli, "Support found for claims by Torricelli donor." The NY Daily News has a reaction piece that does not summarize the memo. Maybe it's elsewhere in the paper, but I can't find it. I love the headline: "Ethics flap gettin' old, saysTorch." The NY Post's story is "Torricelli still lying, says foe."
Bernard Lewis is the dean of scholars of the Middle East, perhaps the finest ever. His piece on Iraq from Friday's Wall Street Journal, "Time for Toppling," is also on OpinionJournal this morning (registration required).
I don’t want to overdo the Al Gore commentary, but William Bennett's piece on OpinionJournal this morning is worth reading (The link wasn't working earlier but should be now). I especially like this quote:

Let us get one thing straight, once and for all: Allies are good to have, but at the end of the day, it is Great Britain and the U.S. that matter. When oppressed people protest their dictators, they do not march with symbols of the Eiffel Tower and statements from Otto von Bismarck: they march with papier-mâché Statues of Liberty and excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.
Nice history lesson, Deacon. I think you're right; I'm sure Rocket Prof will let us know if he dissents. Here is the latest on our friend John Kline's Congressional race. You may remember that the race includes a "dirty tricks" angle--the campaign manager for John's opponent, incumbent Bill Luther, recruited a long-time DFL activist to file under the banner of the nonexistent "No New Taxes" party in order to siphon off conservative support from Kline. Luther has now become the latest in a long series of public figures to "take full responsibility" for a scandal without actually, you know, taking any responsibility. Like so many others, he "takes responsibility" strictly as a prelude to the inevitable plea that it is time to "move on."

Friday, September 27, 2002

Al Gore's speech, and the excellent critiques thereof by Rocket Man, Michael Kelly, and Charles Krauthammer, got me thinking about whether Gore is merely one of the most slippery politicians of this era or whether, along with Bill Clinton, he surpasses all past generations of American politicians in this regard. There certainly have been many politicians more corrupt than Gore and there have been bigger overall scoundrels (e.g., Aaron Burr). And, while the smear tactics of Gore are reprehensible, they hardly seem unprecedented. But did past politicians flit from position to position on key issues the way Gore and Clinton have? I don't know enough about American history to answer definitively, but I'm going to suggest that Gore and Clinton have made a unique contribution when it comes to prevarication on substantive issues.

Our history is full of significant shifts in position by famous politicians. Calhoun started as a nationalist and ended up advocating the right of secession. Webster may have flirted with New England secessionists but he ended up a great nationalist. Clay started as a "war hawk" and ended up quite dovish. Goldwater can be said to have followed a similar path. Van Buren was solicitous of slave interests when he was a Democrat but later was the Free Soil party candidate for president. Seward began as a stong anti-slavery "conscience Whig" and ended up a loyal member of Andrew Johnson's cabinet. Nixon was considered a "red baiter" when he started out but would eventually appease the Soviet Union and go to China. Even Jefferson is sometimes said to have compromised his states rights principles when he purchased Louisiana. (I'm going to rely on the Rocket Prof and other historically astute readers to correct any errors I have already made or will make as I proceed).

Some of these changes were opportunistic; others simply reflected genuine personal evolution and/or changed conditions. Rocket Man, Trunk, and I all started out on the "left". None of us changed our views to advance a political career.

What is perhaps unique about Gore is his willingness to take flagrantly inconsistent positions within a short period of time on the most crucial issue in politics -- war and peace. To be sure, many politicians changed their tune on the Vietnam war within the space of a few years. However, this was the product of new conditions -- we appeared to be losing the war. Politicians also sometimes start out opposed to a war but reluctantly fall into line behind the president as the shooting is about to start. But Gore's flip-flops on Iraq are based neither on changed conditions (other than political ones) nor on patriotism. Both in 1991 and this year, he spoke out of both sides of his mouth well before war was about to begin. Gore's shifts represent pure jockeying.

I can think of one somewhat comparable situation It involves Henry Clay and the Mexican War. In 1844, popular sentiment strongly favored annexing Texas, even though it would mean war with Mexico. Clay did not. Fortunately for him, neither did Van Buren who was considered almost certain to be his opponent in that year's presidential election. Some historians believe that Clay and Van Buren (who, as founders of the Whig and modern Democratic party respectively were bitter, if largely genteel, rivals) reached a secret agreement not to advocate annexation during the campaign. The only probem was that Andrew Jackson strongly favored annexation. When Van Buren would not advocate it, Jackson abandoned his long-time friend and protege and helped bring about the nomination of James Polk ("Young Hickory"), a strong hawk on the issue. This left Clay in an extremely close election against a candidate who had a far more popular position on this critical issue. In the latter days of the campaign, Clay waffled on annexing Texas, particularly in his "Alabama letters." The first letter stated, "Personally I could have no objection to annexing Texas, but I would be unwilling to see the union dissolved or seriously jeopardized for the sake of acquiring Texas." When this statement caused an uproar, he issued a second suggesting that he would simply be guided by public opinion on the issue. Clay narrowly lost the election and then lost a son in the ensuring Mexican War.

Although Clay waffled on Texas, the differences between his conduct and Gore's are telling. First, Clay did not set out to "demagogue" the issue. Indeed, he may have reached an agreement with Van Buren not to do so. Second, Clay did not advocate war one month and peace the next. As I understand it, his biggest concern was avoiding the threat to the union that would be posed when Texas was acquired as a slave state. This is a concern he continued to express until the end. Ultimately, then, I see only a superficial resemblance between Clay's conduct and Gore's. Aside from the posturing of Bill Clinton, I can think of no historical precedent for Gore's unprincipled flip-flopping on matters of war and peace.

I grew up in South Dakota when George McGovern was in the Senate. I doubt that more than a small minority of South Dakotans had any idea that their Senator was regarded as the most liberal politician in America, the darling of leftists from Hollywood to Manhattan. When he was in South Dakota, all McGovern ever talked about was farm policy. Times have changed, and it is not so easy nowadays to keep the folks at home from knowing about the speeches you give in Washington. This has always been one of Tom Daschle's problems, and he has solved it--so far--by avoiding ideology and running for office on the basis of the money he brings into his home state. This approach, while not pretty, has been effective; yet it is a mean, small-minded strategy crafted for placid times. There has been a lot of speculation in the press and the blogosphere about the causes of Daschle's meltdown, but I think one key element is that he is frustrated, and feels wronged, to find that his small-beer strategy will no longer serve. We no longer live in placid times, and an ability to bring home the federal bacon may not trump his constituents' overriding desire for security and--even more important--for victory over the forces of evil. This "Dakota Poll" from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader highlights Daschle's dilemma. Daschle's constituents support "a United States invasion of Iraq in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power" by better than two to one. President Bush is much more popular than Daschle in South Dakota, and 49% of the men in South Dakota rate Daschle's performance either "fair" or "poor." This is, I believe, the source of the meltdown. If our politics moves from penny-ante graft to great issues of right and wrong, and the survival of our civilization, a small-timer like Daschle will be swept away by the tide. Hence the hysteria that he betrayed on the Senate floor. But childish tantrums will not stem the flow of history.
The Harkin plot thickens. This race was once thought to be competitive, but had turned out not to be. This could put it back into play.
I have combed the Web for a summary of the information contained in the evidentiary memorandum, released today, that Senator Robert Torricelli had sought to suppress, at least until after the election. The only report I can find at this time is from the Bergen Record, but it's a good one. Is it possible that New Jersey voters would knowingly return this disgusting crook to office? The guy should be doing time.
Today's NY Times has an interesting story by Adam ("big-time") Clymer on the two competitive races, in Minnesota and Maryland, that we have noted today. It also has good photographs of John Kline and Bill Luther prospecting for votes at a parade in New Prague, Minnesota.
I live in one of the few congressional districts where there is a competitive race. We are represented by Republican Connie Morella, who lives in my neighborhood. Connie is no John Kline. If she were, she would never have been elected to Congress in our district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by something like 2-1 and liberals outnumber conservatives by an even larger ratio. Connie nearly always votes with the Democrats and spends much of her time on "women's issues." On the other hand, she votes for a Republican for Speaker every two years and occasionally casts moderate to conservative votes (she tends to support tax cuts, for example). Connie also excels in constituent services and I have never met anyone who doesn't like her personally. In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that my daughter worked in her district office.

Morella has represented the district since 1986, if memory serves. The only time she had a race that was even somewhat close occurrred in 2000 when she faced an extremely well-financed opponent who benefitted from a heavy pro-Gore turnout. Even under these circumstances, she won by about 4 percentage points. However, this year the Democrats re-drew the district, removing a semi-Republican enclave and adding some areas with heavy concentrations of African-American voters. Since Connie's spectacular ability to win over Democratic voters may not extend to black Democratic voters, the expectation has been that she faces a decidely uphill battle this time. However, she may have gotten a break when Mark Shriver (a Kennedy nephew) lost a close primary race to Chris Van Hollen. Shriver is more popular than Van Hollen among African-Americans, so the Republicans hope that Connie won't lose quite as badly with that group as had initially been feared. In addition, Van Hollen had to spend much of his war-chest in the primary.

I'm not aware of what the polls say about this race. The people I know who follow these things just say it's a toss-up. In a normal election year, most conservatives probably wouldn't care who wins. But the way things stand with the House races this year, all conservatives have reason to pull for Connie.
Last weekend I posted the story of the Scottish yeshiva student who was murdered in the Tel Aviv suicide bus bombing and whose family donated his kidney to save the life of a six-year-old Palestinian Arab girl. We said that this incident was symbolic of the fact that the war against Israel, like the war against the United States, is a war of barbarism against civilization.

Someone here other than us has finally picked this story up. Mona Charen's column today tells the story and adds some telling details.
For a lucid explanation of why so few congressional districts have competitive races, check out Steve Sailer's interview with Daniel Polsby. As Polsby points out, the art of the gerrymander is another instance with respect to which the constitutional order has been turned on its head.
Here is Byron York's take on the Senate Democrats' ambush of Miguel Estrada, President Bush's conservative nominee for the federal court of appeals in Washington D.C. As I reported last night, the Dems hit Estrada with allegations that he blocked liberal candidates for judicial clerkships. They did this after first getting Estrada to deny having done so. York expresses the same fear I tried to articulate -- that this will become a fight about Estrada's credibility. York also conveys his disappointment with the Republicans on the judiciary committee for not having prepared Estrada for the ambush. I also like the part where one of Estrada's unnamed alleged "victims" protests that he is just a "moderate Democrat."
One of the few competitive congressional races in the country is the race of our friend, former Marine Col. John Kline, against incumbent Democrat Bill Luther in Minnesota's redistricted sixth district. As part of his Marine service John carried the nuclear football for President Reagan and is a great American. The district leans Republican, and Luther therefore resorted to the almost unbelievble tactic of recruiting a bogus "no new taxes" third candidate to siphon votes from Kline in the upcoming election. The participation of Luther's campaign in formulating and implementing this disgusting tactic has not been entirely clear. Today's Star Tribune begins to get to the bottom of the story.

Hindrocket and I both had the privilege of working with John when he served as executive director of the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis. The Hindrocket family has proudly marched with John's brigades at campaign events this year. We trust John will remember us when he makes it back to Washington.
Charles Krauthammer's take on one of the two recent despicable speeches by contemptible men (Al Gore's, not Tom Daschle's) in today's Washington Post is a demolition job. I love this paragraph toward the end: "The New York Times reports that Gore wrote the speech 'after consulting a fairly far-flung group of advisers that included Rob Reiner.' Current U.S. foreign policy is the combined product of Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz and the president. Meanwhile, the pretender is huddling with Meathead."

In "Daschle's Breakdown" John Podhoretz covers the despicable speech by the other contemptible man in his column in today's NY Post.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Deacon, your post is admirably dispassionate, but I must say the Democrats' conduct is sickening. Can anyone imagine a world in which a liberal's working to advance the cause of liberalism would disqualify him from becoming a judge? I can't.
The Senate Democrats may have found the ammunition (or, more accurately, the fig leaf) with which to shoot down Miguel Estrada's nomination to the federal judiciary. As noted in previous blogs, the Dems are trying to prove that Estrada is a "conservative ideologue." At today's hearing, they relied on allegations that Estrada blocked liberals who wanted to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Kennedy from being considered. Federal judges take on recent law school graduates as clerks. The clerks do legal research and often draft the opinions of the judges, who then edit the drafts as they see fit. Estrada clerked for Justice Kennedy and later served on a committee that helps screen applicants for future clerkships with the Justice. Again, the allegation is that Estrada would not pass along applications if he thought the candidate was too liberal.

I don't know many of the facts, but in principle there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with what Estrada is said to have done. Other things being roughly equal, Supreme Court Justices of all political persuasions are best served by like-minded clerks. And, because a Supreme Court clerkship is so coveted, things will always be roughly equal -- that is, there will always be extremely well qualified liberal, conservative, and moderate candidates to select from. Estrada did Justice Kennedy no disservice unless (a) Kennedy told him he didn't care about the ideology of his clerks or (b) Estrada excluded candidates whose ideology differed from his own but not significantly from Kennedy's (Kennedy being conservative but not that conservative). However, since the Dems don't need much of a pretext to sink conservative nominees, this flap may be enough. Moreover, Estrada was asked today to admit or deny making various statements that allegedly have been attributed to him by people involved in the clerk selection process. Thus, if the Dems can't get traction on the merits, they can always say it's about credibility. Stay tuned.
Today the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a sentencing memo describing illegal contributions from David Chang to Robert Torricelli, as well as describing Chang's cooperation with the police prior to his sentencing, must be released to the public immediately. This is very bad news for Torricelli, who tried to keep the Chang memo secret until after the election. Recent polls have shown Forrester with a substantial lead; this setback for Torricelli could prove decisive.
There are certain weird aspects to the Iraq situation. For some weeks, the Administration has been announcing its plans to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Various details of strategy and tactics, including movements of troops and other military assets, are in the news nearly every day. Iraqi officials, meanwhile, give interviews to the Washington Post in which they detail their defensive strategy. They will not defend the desert, as in Desert Storm: "Take the desert. What's in the desert?" they ask. Instead, they will try to lure American troops into Baghdad, where air power will be neutralized and building-by-building fighting will claim American lives. Ordinarily, nations contemplating war do not give interviews so that their battle plans will appear in newspapers. What is happening here, of course, is that we are announcing our plans for the benefit of the Iraqi audience. We want Iraqi officials and soldiers to know that Saddam Hussein is finished and they should not sacrifice their lives to defend his regime, nor should they obey his orders if he tries to unleash biological and chemical weapons. Our constant leaking of war aims and strategies is intended for an audience in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, meanwhile, is doing exactly the same thing. When his officials describe their urban warfare strategy to the Washington Post, they are playing to an American audience. They are trying to furnish ammunition to antiwar Democrats in hopes that they will be able to frustrate the Administration's desire to overthrow Saddam's government. Whether either side's actual tactics in the war, should it come, will resemble the ones they leak to newspapers, remains to be seen.
The jury is still out on Tom Daschle's performance in the Senate yesterday. Hugh Hewitt considers it a "Muskie moment" that will seriously damage Daschle's career. I don't know; the newspaper headlines I've seen have been along the lines of "Daschle Rips Bush," not "Bizarre Near-Breakdown in Senate." Why did he do it? The ostensible point of the speech was to complain about something that Bush never said; in fact, Bush never even came close. Daschle is a man who doesn't get out of bed in the morning without consulting a poll, so he is no doubt aware that by a two to one margin, Americans are more likely to think the Democrats are playing politics with Iraq than the President. I assume he thought it would be helpful to the Democrats' prospects in November to try to narrow that gap. Whether he succeeded, I have no idea. I doubt that in today's America, the sight of a male politician getting in touch with his feelings on the evening news will damage his career. Whether Daschle achieved his larger goal of narrowing the credibility gap on the war, we will see when the next polls come out--and ultimately, of course, in November.
Here's another fine column by Bret Stephens of the Jerusalem Post. The subject is the "Third Way" (the reformed Left), and three of its leading figures, Al Gore, Tony Blair, and Gerhard Schroeder. Among other insights, Stephens provides a plausible explanation as to why, of the three, only Blair has taken a consistent and coherent position on Iraq. For those who don't make it to the end of the column, here is Stephens' thought-provoking final paragraph: "Third Way politics have offered a lifeline to the ailing Left, in Europe and American alike. For the sake of democratic pluralism, this has been salutary. As a style of governance, it is somewhat refreshing. In the face of radical evil, it is downright dangerous. Between civilization and barbarism, there is no third way."
Yesterday, I posted a piece by Byron York about the looming confirmation struggle over Miguel Estrada. According to that article, virtually the sole source of the charge that Estrada is too much of a conservative ideologue to be a federal judge is Paul Bender, Estrada's former supervisor at the Justice Department's Office of the Solicitor General (who, by the way, always gave Estrada high marks in written performance evaluations). In today's National Review Online, Robert Alt exposes Bender as a liberal ideologue. Bender was the "political deputy" in Estrada's office, which sounds like a polite way of saying that he was there impose the liberal biases of the Clinton administration on the career lawyers in the Solicitor General's office. (Without engaging in excessive "lawyer talk" and at the risk of oversimplifying, I should explain that the Solicitor General argues the positions of the U.S. government before the Supreme Court. To some extent, the Solicitor General necessarily is a political creature, but members of the office have always tried above all else to be fair-minded lawyers, and the office retains a strong reputation for professionalism). Alt's piece demonstrates Bender's "unabashed liberalism," which manifested itself in the reversal of the office's position on child pornography, to cite one example. According to Alt, Bender was later booted from his role as neutral arbitrator in a dispute between the Arizona Gaming Control Board and Indian tribes based on "serious concerns" by the American Arbitration Association "regarding Bender's attitude and approach" including "inappropriate communications" with one of the parties. But most significantly, for purposes of evaluating Estrada's qualifications for the bench, Bender's boss, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman (a liberal in his own right), has written to the Senate Judiciary Committee to disagree with Bender's assessment of Estrada and to laud Estrada's professionalism and judgment.
According to Stanley Kurtz in National Review Online, Kenneth Pollack, a member of Clinton's National Security Council and its chief expert on Iraq, is taking the position that Saddam Hussein must be deposed by an invasion. In his book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, Pollock grudgingly concludes that the post-Gulf War policy of containing Saddam has irretrievably broken down, according to Kurtz. Pollock's case for invasion apparently focuses on the likelihood that Saddam will develop nuclear weapons that will enable him to seize Kuwait and then threaten to nuke the Saudi oil fields. This will leave him in control of the world's oil supply. Pollock also makes the point that allowing our fear of Saddam's current weapons of mass destruction to hold us back will signal to every rogue nation that they can neutralize the power of the United States with even a small stock of chemical or biological weapons. Pollock rates the prospect of Saddam passing weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for use against the U.S. as "unlikely" but certainly not impossible. Pollock argues that if Saddam believes the probability of the attack being traced to him is quite low, then "he might well decide" to work through terrorists to attack the U.S. Kurtz adds that Condolezza Rice has said that Saddam is now sheltering members of Al Qaeda and helping them develop chemical weapons.
Here is something I don't understand. Articles like this one in the Washington Times say the Republicans have a huge advantage in cash on hand, and apparently are in a position to out-spend the Democrats by a two to one margin on Senate races. Yet in the races I observe, the Democrats seem to be spending more. I haven't seen any hard numbers, but the Norm Coleman camp says Paul Wellstone outspent them three to one over the summer. And my sources in South Dakota say Tim Johnson ads outnumber John Thune ads by two to one; yesterday, the Sioux Falls newspaper published a poll that showed a three point lead for Johnson. If the Republicans' cash isn't going to support key candidates like Coleman and Thune, what good is it? I think part of the answer is differing tactics; Republican strategists seem to favor last-minute blitzes, while the Democrats believe that money spent early, before public perceptions of candidates have hardened and everyone is sick of political ads, can be most efficient. I fear that experience supports the Democrats' strategy.
In August Minneapolis had its first race riot in ten years. A Minneapolis police officer and several white reporters were assaulted while Minneapolis officers executed a search warrant at a notorious north Minneapolis crack house. The Minneapolis mayor, chief of police, and city council have reacted with a display of spinelessness that we thought must be most encouraging to the thugs and gangbangers who have made Minneapolis their home. I may be mistaken, but I have yet to see the perpetrators of the assaults identified or apprehended.

The response of Minneapolis's public authorities has been a disgrace. The most absurd of the responses has been the funnelling of cash to Minneapolis's own Jesse Jackson, one professional race hustler named Spike Moss who operates as an officer of a nonprofit inner city organization named The City Inc. In time-tested 1960's fashion, the chief funnelled thousands of dollars to the organization to hire north Minneapolis kids to pick up trash. The Minneapolis city council has now blessed this arrangement.

We have posted every published story regarding the riot because we thought that in many respects it was an omen of ill tidings for Minneapolis. In a sequel whose details are still not clear, and which we have therefore refrained from commenting on, a 19-year-old University of Minnesota football player was murdered by a known gangbanger in downtown Minneapolis shortly after the riot. The University of Minnesota football player was from Detroit. It seemed to us a sickening sign of Minneapolis's deterioration that that young man had survived what must have been some hard years in Detroit only to lose his life weeks after coming to Minneapolis to go to college on a scholarship.

Years ago many of us learned everything we needed to know about The City Inc., after Minneapolis police officer Jerry Haaf was murdered by associates of a notorious gangbanger named Sharif Willis. In 1992 Officer Haaf was shot in the back as he was eating at the Pizza Shack on Lake Street, one of Minneapolis's main thoroughfares. In 1994 Willlis was arrested in connection with another offense and was found driving a Mercedes registered to The City Inc., where he then worked. One would think that Willis's relationship with The City Inc., whatever it was, would forever discredit the organization in the eyes of the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Yesterday a man standing outside the Pizza Shack was shot in the head in an apparent gang-related drive-by shooting. This morning's Star Tribune has the story.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

This news item in the Washington Times reports that Joseph Lieberman, John Edwards, and the desperate Bob Torricelli have disagreed with Al Gore's remarks about President Bush's policy on Iraq. Tom Daschle, on the other hand, has echoed them. The Times story also points to additional conflicting statements by Gore about Iraq (see the post from the Weekly Standard below). According to the Times, in a February 2002 speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, Gore acknowledged that the war on terrorism would require a "final reckoning" with Saddam. Yet as President Bush moves towards the required final reckoning, Gore accuses him of trying to please the "far right at the expense of solidarity among all Americans" and with our allies. Gore could try to reconcile these statements by arguing that the final reckoning should await the destruction of Al Qaeda. But, as Rocket Man explained a few days ago, if a final reckoning with Saddam is required, it is because of the danger he poses to our security. That being the case, the reckoning cannot await a hypothetical future day when Al Qaeda is out of business.

And what can Gore mean when he criticizes President Bush for developing his policy "at the expense of solidarity among all Americans?" Most Americans believe that Saddam poses an intolerable threat to the security of this nation and to the safety of its citizens. A policy that ignored this threat, or that entrusted dealing with it to U.N. inspectors, or that postponed dealing with it until the last Al Qaeda terrorist is rounded up clearly would not create "solidarity among all Americans."

Given the incoherence of his speech and all of his flip-flops, it is hard to avoid concluding that Gore has now calculated he can become president only if the war with Iraq goes badly, in which case he will need to have opposed that war from the beginning. This is a debatable calculation on Gore's part. The first President Bush lost the 1992 election less than two years after his highly successful war against Iraq. But, as a presidential candidate, Al Gore is no Bill Clinton.

More on "Barbershop:" Frontpagemag has a thoughtful column by Toronto attorney Marni Soupcoff on Jesse Jackson's complaint. You may recall that Jesse Jackson's current demand is that the politically incorrect, utterly hilarious monologues of Eddie the Barber be deleted from the film.

We have scrupulously sought to maintain the Power Line as a family publication. We ask your forebearance to violate this policy by quoting Ms. Soupcoff's conclusion that says almost everything that needs to be said here: "At one point in Barbershop, one of the customers warns Eddie that he'd better not let Jesse Jackson hear his iconoclastic remarks, but Eddie is not cowed. 'F*** Jesse Jackson!' he says."

The Weekly Standard has collected some of Al Gore's "conflicting statements" about Iraq over the years. I know that Rocket Man and Trunk don't deal in rumors, and I have tried to honor that policy. But here I cannot resist mentioning the persistent Washington rumor that, in 1991 when Al Gore was trying to decide how to vote on the Gulf War resolution, Gore conditioned his agreement to vote for President Bush's resolution on Bob Dole's agreement to give him a good television time in which to deliver his speech on this issue.
During the past few weeks, we have covered the confirmation battle over MIchael McConnell, President Bush's distinguished nominee to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The next confirmation struggle will be over the excellent hispanic lawyer, Miguel Estrada, who has been nominated to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Byron York presents a useful if somewhat depressing analysis of the Estrada situation. However, the title of York's article -- "A Battle Over Nothing" -- mischaracterizes the stakes. Estrada is a conservative, even if there is no paper trail to prove it, and he is being opposed solely for being a conservative. So the issue is whether a Republican President can successfully nominate highly qualified conservatives to the federal bench. And before too long, the issue is likely to be whether a Democratic President can successfully nominate highly qualified liberals.
More on "Barbershop:" Rod Dreher of National Review Online addresses Jesse Jackson's complaint.
I recently wrote about a movie I enjoyed seeing with my kids, the hit movie "Barbershop." There are several good things about the movie, but the best is the character who steals the movie--the ancient barber Eddy. Eddy is a Falstaffian comic character who is a paragon of political incorrectness. Jesse Jackson, who is himself one of the butts of Eddy's humor, is now demanding that producers of the movie delete Eddy's hilarious monologues from video and DVD versions of the movie. I urge you to see the movie while you can see it whole.
The Coleman-Wellstone race is heating up. Coleman has been under intense pressure to be more aggressive and has hired a new ad agency. I assume this is the result. The Minneapolis Star Tribune's account is naturally favorable to Wellstone; I haven't seen the ads and can't comment on their likely effect. The basic question is, if the campaign stays aggressive and both candidates' negative perceptions are driven up, who benefits? Notwithstanding the advice that he has gotten from nearly every quarter, I'm not sure the answer is Coleman. Wellstone's negatives are already high, and political ads aren't likely to dent his solid base of support. Mud thrown at Coleman, on the other hand, may dissuade swing voters who are prepared to vote for someone else--especially after Wellstone broke his two-term pledge--but may conclude Coleman isn't the man.
Our friends at the invaluable RealClearPolitics site have posted a terrific column by a Houston Chronicle columnist I had not heard of before, a gentleman evocatively named Cragg Hines. In his column today on the German election, "We've done it before, could do it again," Mr. Hines eloquenty expresses his righteous indignation at those whom he calls "our good friends" in Germany.
It is extremely gratifying to read a published assessment of Al Gore's recent speech that does some kind of justice to Gore and to the speech. The Seattle Times headlines Michael Kelly's column today "A despicable speech from a contemptible man," allowing even me to figure out what the subject of the column is. Wonderful!

The Boston Herald's editorial on Gore's speech, "Al Gore mouths off unhelpfully on Iraq," makes several of the same points I did in response to Rocket Man's assessment the day of the speech.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Several days ago, I noted that Maryland gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend had been forced to fire a consultant who vowed to portray her Republican opponent Bob Ehrlich as a "Nazi" to black voters. I predicted that, while the consultant would go, the tactic would stay. It turns out that I may have been wrong on the first count. If the consultant is to be believed (a big "if" to be sure), Democratic officials asked him to continue working "undercover" for Townsend. The Washington Post reports that the consultant is claiming he was told by the campaign that "the Jewish community is so up in arms that [we] have to get rid of [you]. But we still want you to work undercover and we'll work it out. We'll pay you some kind of way."
Fareed Zakaria expands on one of the points made by Charles Krauthammer in an article I posted a few days ago, namely that "France and Russia have turned the United Nations into a stage from which to pursue naked self-interest." However, my quarrel with France and Russia is not that they view the United Nations this way. Any rational nation will treat the U.N. as a means to pursue its ends, not as an end in itself. My quarrel with France and Russia is with their decision to make collusion with Saddam Hussein one of their ends. If decisions like these make it too difficult for the United States to pursue its ends through the U.N., then, as Trunk suggests, it truly will be time to revisit the underlying issue of our participation in that organization.
In New Hampshire, the most recent poll data show Rep. Sununu with a surprising (to me, anyway) nine-point lead over Governor Shaheen.
In one of this year's most closely watched Senate campaigns, Norm Coleman has opened up a six-point lead over Paul Wellstone, according to the latest MSNBC/Zogby poll. This is despite being badly outspent, so far, and despite a media campaign that nearly everyone considers lackluster. I was initially pessimistic about this race, and still am to some extent. But the race is mostly about Wellstone, not Coleman. If these latest poll numbers are accurate, Wellstone has worn out his welcome with lots of Minnesotans.
For those interested in more on Gore, here is Andrew Sullivan's harsh but entirely fair assessment. He also relates Gore's speech to the David Brooks column we linked to a day or two ago.
Here is a link to the complete dossier on Saddam Hussein that Tony Blair released this morning.
The ongoing debate over Iraq has highlighted serious questions about the legitimacy of the United Nations as an institution. I have wondered why so few conservatives have sought to revisit underlying issues regarding the UN including the most basic one, the political theory of world government. The UN is the product of a kind of utopian liberal internationalism that seeks to transcend the nation and to produce the homogenous universal state. I also do not understand the "one nation, one vote" principle that reigns in the UN's various bodies, including the General Assembly. George Will has recently noted how obsolete the structure of the Security Council is, with its permanent members reflecting the world of 1945 or so. Perhaps the reluctance of conservatives to undertake a thoroughgoing examination of the legitimacy of the UN is the difficulty of doing so without sounding like a kook.

In his weekly column in today's New York Post, the incomparable Daniel Pipes goes as far as any conservative has gone recently in raising questions that go to the heart of the project represented by the UN. Pipes's column summarizes an article by John Fonte from the current issue of Orbis that begins to raise the kind of radical questions we urgently need to address. I wonder if other serious conservatives will follow Pipes's lead in pursuing these issues.

Monday, September 23, 2002

The article by David Brooks that Rocket Man posted earlier today is well worth reading. I was particularly taken with Brooks' observation that President Bush's liberal critics are "playing culture war" and not really "arguing about Iraq." Ever since Trunk posted articles by Mark Helprin and Angelo Codevilla denouncing Bush's efforts against terrorism as a "failure" and a "phony," I have been thinking that some conservatives too are having trouble distinguishing between the culture war and the war against terrorism.

There clearly is a relationship between between how well conservatives are faring in the culture war and how well equipped the nation is to combat terrorism. The inroads made by tendencies that go by names like multiculturalism, multilateralism, and political correctness have made it more difficult to prosecute the war on terrorism. Ten years of sponsoring the Middle East "peace process" haven't helped either. Nor have decades of under-funding the military. If conservatives were doing better in the culture war, we wouldn't be searching non-Arab grandmothers in airports and we wouldn't have wasted time and energy by sending Colin Powell to Israel to negotiate with Arafat. Who knows, Colin Powell might not even be the Secretary of State.

It is certainly proper, moreover, for conservatives to criticize President Bush whenever the tendencies described above cause his administration to be diverted from effective action against terrorism (although conservatives should not ignore Bush's progress in overcoming some of these tendencies). But Helprin and Codevilla go much further. To Helprin, Bush has already "failed the test of September 11." To Codevilla, his war on terrorism is a "phony," deserving nothing more than a "postmortem." Helprin and Codevilla concede defeat to terrorism even though there has been no successful follow-up attack against the United States; even though we have toppled the regime that most directly supported Al Qaeda and will probably soon topple the regime most capable of providing lethal support; and even though we may well have killed the head of Al Qaeda and undoubtedly have killed and captured many Al Qaeda members including some high-ranking ones.

How, on this record, do Helprin and Codevilla establish that the war is failing? The same way that, according to David Brooks, Bush's liberal critics attack his policy on Iraq -- by "repeating the hatreds [they have] cultivated." In Codevilla's case, it is hatred of, among other things, the vision of an orderly multicultural international community, the peace process, our failure to support the Shah of Iran, our deference to Saudi Arabia, and the way the CIA gathers intelligence. In Helprin's case, the list is similar. He even invokes the war in Vietnam, which Brooks implies is also the origin of the liberal hatreds at play in the Iraq debate.

Codevilla and Helprin are right to despise most of the tendencies they despise. They are also justified in pointing out how these tendencies interfere with the fight against terrorism. But they are on shakier ground when they assume that the war on terrorism is being lost, or will be lost, due to these tendencies. Conservatives should be careful not to commit the same fallacy as Brooks' liberals. To borrow Brooks' words, our demons should not occupy our entire field of vision, leaving no room for analysis of anything beyond, such as what is happening in the real world.
Rocket Man, discrimination against whites males is indeed illegal. Taylor's brief discussion of the limited circumstances under which an employer can defend such discrimination based on an alleged need to assist minorities is accurate. Based on Taylor's article and an article that I posted a few weeks ago by Terry Eastland, it sounds like this lawsuit has a good chance of succeeding. If the case is as strong as it sounds, then it may settle on favorable terms to the white plaintiffs. You may recall that the Clinton administration threw money at a white teacher from New Jersey in order to settle her case of "reverse discrimination" before it got to the Supreme Court. However, Taylor says that the plaintiffs in this case aren't seeking any money; supposedly they just want their agency to stop discriminating. The Bush administration will be under great pressure not to agree to a settlement that could affect other federal govenment "affirmative action" programs.
Bret Stephens, a brilliant columnist who writes for the Jerusalem Post, assesses the position of Germany and Gerhard Schroeder following the election. He notes that Schroeder was endorsed by the Al-Iqtisadi newspaper in Baghdad and by neo-Nazi Franz Schoenhuber--not "exactly the endorsements...Schroeder was looking for." More fundamentally, Schroeder and his government are in the deep freeze as far as America and its more reliable allies, like Italy, are concerned. Worst of all, news of Schroeder's victory caused Frankfurt's stock market index to fall 4.9% as shareholders--"dismayed by the prospect of another Schroeder government"--sold in droves. Stephens quotes Karl-Heinz Nassmacher of Oldenberg University saying, "What we need is a German Margaret Thatcher, but where are we going to find her?" On the whole, German prospects are not bright: "After a decade of stagnation, the country is no longer the economic powerhouse of former days. And with its stance over Iraq, the seriousness of its foreign policy may now be called into question as well."
On a wholly different topic, Stuart Taylor writes about a class action suit filed by Dennis Worth against HUD and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of white men, alleging race and sex discrimination. It is an interesting story, and the statistics are mind-boggling: 42 out of 43 people hired or promoted in Worth's division were either African-American or women. I find the claim of discrimination highly plausible--all of us can vouch for the reality of such discrimination based on our experience in the business world--but what I don't know is whether this lawsuit has a chance to succeed. Is discrimination against white men legal or not? I'm not sure, but Deacon is one of the country's leading experts in this field. Hopefully he can enlighten us.
Thanks, Trunk. If anyone is hungry for more, VodkaPundit offers a less tolerant assessment of Gore's speech.
Rocket Man has said everything important that needs to be said about Gore's speech, including Gore's obliviousness to any consideration but politics in saying what he said. But I find the political calculation here unfathomable. First, as Rocket Man has noted, the Democrats lose ground so long as Iraq remains the focus of public discussion. Second, Gore made himself a viable national candidate by voting in favor of the 1991 war resolution for which the first President Bush had asked. Third, whatever Gore's speech means, what he says is wrong. Fourth, the current problem of Saddam Hussein is as much a legacy of President Clinton's frivolousness as it is the first President Bush's misjudgment. Fifth, the distinction between the war on terrorism and the war against Saddam Hussein is nonexistent. Saddam Hussein and the mullahs of Iran are the foremost state sponsors of terrorism, and Saddam Hussein has never ceased waging his war against the United States through terrorist instrumentalities. Sixth, as a matter of pure political calculation, wouldn't it be wiser for Gore to remain silent or respectfully supportive of President Bush? Isn't his speech stupid politically as well as substantively? Maybe the politics involved here are purely intraparty, but I still don't understand them.

As to the connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorism, I note coincidentally in tomorrow's Ha'aretz an amazing story, "Shin Bet arrests three suspects who trained in Iraq." According to the story, the three suspects are members of the Palestine Liberation Front who trained in Iraq with terrorist mastermind Abu al-Abbas. Abu al-Abbas has been hiding out in Bagdhad in Saddam Hussein's sheltering arms. Alththough the story does not mention it, it should be noted that when last seen in 1985, Abu al-Abbas and the PLF had hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship and thrown an American citizen, Leon Klinghoffer, overboard in his wheelchair into the Mediterranean. After trial in absentia, Abbas was convicted of the crime in an Italian court. That he remains at large in Baghdad says virtually everything that needs to be said on this particular subject, and is a disgrace.
Al Gore has gotten lots of publicity by by criticizing President Bush on Iraq. I haven't seen the whole speech yet; maybe it makes more sense if you read it in its entirety. But based on what has been reported, it is very difficult to see what Gore's point is. CNN reports that he "[backed] Bush's overall goal of ousting Saddam and eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," but "questioned the timing of a military strike." Since the timing of any strike is not known, it is unclear what Mr. Gore was questioning. Gore appears to be making the same argument that Bill Clinton made a week or two ago--that we should do nothing about Saddam Hussein until every last al Qaeda operative has been hunted down. In his usual inflammatory style, Gore said that "Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another." This is just stupid. It will surely be impossible to kill every member of al Qaeda, and even if possible, it would take many years. It is ridiculous to suggest that if Saddam Hussein threatens our security--as Gore admits he does--we should nevertheless be paralyzed until some arbitrary threshold of success in destroying al Qaeda has been met. (This, of course, is quite apart from the fact that Saddam's terrorist activities have often merged with those of al Qaeda and other Islamofascists.) The heart of Gore's criticism seems to be directed against Bush's policy of pre-emptively destroying terrorists before they can destroy us. But what is the alternative? Does Gore seriously argue that we cannot move against Saddam's nuclear program until after Saddam has destroyed one or more of our cities? Apparently so, except that Gore never seriously argues anything. He is the most purely political animal of our time, as this speech demonstrates once more. Gore's performance illustrates why no one takes the Democrats seriously on issues of national security.
David Brooks dissects the anti-war left, focusing on the left's eerie silence about the risks posed by Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

One of the basic tenets of the liberal faith is the beauty of "diversity." Every day the dogmas of multiculturalism are promulgated relentlessly by our schools, newspapers and media, and public authorities. The transformation of the United States by waves of immigration from non-European countries is always depicted as a phenomenon to be celebrated, as are the immigrants' religions and cultures.

Minneapolis and St. Paul have been deeply affected by the large number of Somali and Hmong immigrants who have made the Twin Cities metropolitan area their home. The occasionally disturbing cultural practices of these groups and the related social costs are never publicly discussed. Despite the liberal dogmas of multiculturalism, for example, one of Minnesota's leading left-wing legislators was responsible for introducing legislation criminalizing the Somali practice of female genital circumcision in Minnesota in 1994. (Her feminism trumped her multiculturalism.) You can take a look at the statute here. Female genital mutilation was not much of a problem in Minnesota before Somalis settled here in the 1980's and 1990's.

The cultural practices of the Hmong have also proved extremely troubling. Animal sacrifice, teenage marriage, and polygamy are a few of the practices that have had secondary effects that expose them to public view if not discussion. Today's St. Paul Pioneer Press carries an account of a wife's murder of her husband because he was about to take a second, much younger wife. The story makes it clear that the Hmong frequently practice polygamy.

The Republican Party was established in the mid-1850's in profound opposition to what its founders believed to be the moral evils of slavery and polygamy. The Republican Party platform of 1856 therefore equally condemned the "twin relics of barbarism--Polygamy, and Slavery."

I wonder how long it will be before the doctrinal imperatives of multiculturalism will prevail and its proponents will demand that we respect the practice of polygamy, as they demand that we respect the practice of homosexuality, or if the understanding of those who founded the party that saved the Union can be restored to its rightful prominence in American public life.

Today's Jerusalem Post carries the story of a seven year old Palestinian Arab girl whose life has been saved by a kidney transplanted from the 19-year old yeshiva student from Scotland who was one of the victims of the Tel Aviv suicide bus bombing. Although the article doesn't say so, the hospital at which the transplant was performed was of course Israeli and the surgeons Israeli Jews. I hope you will forgive me for stating the obvious conclusion: that the war now being waged against Israel is not only a war for Israel's survival, but also a war of barbarism against civilization.
The Freedom Club is a group of Minnesota businessmen who banded together about seven years ago to promote conservative causes and candidates. Naturally, its existence is regarded by local media as a sinister phenomenon. Every two years the Minneapolis Star Tribune runs a piece on the Club. This year there is a series of articles on the Freedom Club and its liberal counterpart (sort of), the teachers' union. These two groups are accused of "dominating Minnesota politics." The articles actually aren't too bad; maybe the Strib is getting used to us. I'm quoted at the very end of the principal article.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Things keep going downhill for Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's Maryland gubernatorial campaign. The Washington Post reports that Townsend has had to fire a political consultant after the consultant vowed to portray Repulbican candidate Robert Ehrlich as a "Nazi" to African American voters. Actually, the consultant was simply articulating the standard winning Democratic strategy in Maryland. In 1998, the Maryland Democrats, directed by top party consultant and Al Gore adviser Bob Shrum, derailed Republican Ellen Sauerbrey by attacking her alleged racist voting in the Maryland state legislature. But the vote in question concerned legislation that had nothing to do with race; it was controversial "women's" legislation that prominent black Democrats had also voted against. The smear campaign was later denounced by Baltimore's black mayor, but not before Sauerbrey (who had narrowly lost the gubernatorial race in 1994 in an election that may have been stolen) saw her campaign sink like a stone. Playing the race card works in Maryland, and now that the offending consultant has been fired, don't be surprised if his (and Shrum's) strategy is duly implemented. It may be Townsend's only hope.
Here are some first-person accounts of the latest mass murder in Israel, courtesy of the Jerusalem Post. This is an old story, but worth reading once more to remember why the Israelis have again moved to isolate and humiliate Yasser Arafat, the perpetrator of these atrocities over a period of decades.
The Federal Election Commission has imposed a record $719,000 in fines on the Democratic Party and others involved in the Clinton-Gore fundraising scandals of 1996. In addition, the FEC had to drop cases involving more than $3 million in illegal contributions to the Democratic National Committee because the wrongdoers either are "out of the country and beyond our reach, or corporations that are defunct."
E.J. Dionne a leading shill for liberal Democrats, recognizes that "Bush is boxing the Democrats on Iraq," and then spends his column whining about it. Dionne seems to think it is unfair for Bush to ask Democrats in Congress whether they will support a war against Iraq and, where the answer is negative, for Republicans to point this out to voters. Dionne objects that Democrats "who would support a war under the right conditions" should not be asked "to endorse a war under all conditions." But every politician would support a war "under the right conditions." It is hardly unfair to deprive politicians of this dodge.

Dionne's article illustrates a larger problem in our politics. Ever since the first President Bush successfully pointed out the consequences of Michael Dukakis's weekend pass for prisioners policy (namely Willie Horton's brutal acts of rape and murder), the Democrats and their journalistic guard have screamed foul whenever Republicans attempt to hold them responsible for the consequences of their policies. The unstated premise is that politicians can only be criticized for having bad intentions (e.g. not favoring war in "the right circumstances") or for lacking compassion -- in other words, that politicians should be immune from attack when well-intentioned policies don't work out. Republicans often have been cowed by fear of being attacked for "Willie Hortonism." This has made it too easy for liberal Democrats to prosper, especially in conservative states. E.J. Dionne's mission in articles like the one above is to preserve this unfortunate state of affairs.
The Weekly Standard's Noemie Emery compares the early days of the War on Terror to the early days of the Cold War. As Emery notes, "several Presidents have had to wage wars, but only two Bush and Truman, have had to perceive them, and then to define them as wars." Although it seems odd to credit Bush for perceiving after September 11 that we are at war, such is the state of our politics (and arguably our society) that credit is due. And the President has had a strong few weeks lately when it comes to defining the war. Emery's piece is a useful rejoinder to Bush's conservative critics, such as Helprin and Codevilla, whose views Trunk posted last week.
This story about the FBI agent who warned shortly before September 11 that "someday someone will die" will get huge play. Most people--even those as knowledgeable as Glenn Reynolds in this morning's InstaPundit--will simply take this as more evidence that the FBI dropped the ball; the Democrats are pouncing on it and asking "What did President Bush know?" Few will read the fine print and understand why the FBI's legal department turned down the agent's request to investigate a man who became one of the September 11 hijackers. The reason is this: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) contained a provision that required sharp separation between the government's intelligence gathering and criminal prosecution activities. Information gained in one capacity could not be used to further the other, and communication among federal agents in these two areas was curtailed. Thus, the FBI's legal department was abiding by the restrictions imposed by Congress when it refused to allow intelligence-related information to be used to launch a criminal investigation. Fortunately, this issue was addressed in the much-reviled Patriot Act, adopted last fall. Federal prosecutors can now, under the supervision of the federal government's special security court, use intelligence information to further criminal investigations, and vice versa. This change in the law has, of course, been bitterly attacked by liberals who see it as an infringement of civil liberties. Thus, the liberals have their cake and eat it too--they denounce the FBI for incompetence, when in fact, the FBI was scrupulously following Congress' rules. At the same time, when the Administration tries to plug the loopholes that Congress created, they accuse John Ashcroft of being a fascist. A couple of weeks ago I wrote in this space that the Democrats would welcome a second successful terrorist attack, because they would gain politically by blaming it on the Administration. Some readers thought I was being too harsh. If anyone can point to a single thing the Democrats have done to make the country more secure since September 11, I will change my mind. So far, I see nothing but hypocrisy and politically-inspired grandstanding.
On September 18, Governor Paul Patton of Kentucky held a news conference, wife by his side, to deny having an affair with nursing home owner Tina Conner. Patton is a Democratic bigfoot, chairman of the National Governors Association, and was expected to challenge former National League pitching great and current incumbent Senator Jim Bunning in 2004. Ms. Conner has brought a sexual harassment lawsuit claiming she had a two-year affair with the governor and that he sicced state regulators on her nursing home after she broke off the affair in October. The state regulators assert that the 163-page list of deficiencies found in Ms. Conner's nursing home in December, two months after she broke off the relationship with Patton, resulted from an occupant's compaint. Ms. Conner is now divorced and her nursing home has filed for bankruptcy protection.

On September 20, Governor Patton admitted to "an inappropriate personal relationship" with Ms. Conner, but denied that he sicced state regulators, or state regulators working "directly" for him, on her nursing home. He does admit that his denial of their affair was "another mistake." This story adds the following: "Conner's lawsuit against Patton, filed Wednesday, alleges he provided extraordinary state assistance to her and her business because of the sexual relationship. She claimed that after she ended the relationship Patton made 'lewd' calls to her and that he made harassing calls after she ended the relationship. The phone records show 440 calls from phones in the governor's offices to Conner's numbers, but do not indicate who placed the calls."

Incidentally, Ms. Conner's nursing home is located in Clinton.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Schroder, by the way, has now "apologized" to President Bush. It seems like a pretty equivocal apology--"I want to let you know how much I regret the fact that alleged comments by the German justice minister have given an impression that has offended you." The "alleged comments" that "gave an impression" were obviously offensive, to say the least. We haven't heard the last of this.
In this piece, Michael Ledeen reminds us of the "intelligence failures" that we should be most concerned about in the aftermath of September 11. These include congressionally imposed or encouraged restrictions on intelligence gathering and covert activity, along with the simple unwillingness of Bill Clinton to accept help from Sudan in monitoring and apprehending bin Laden.
My own experiences with Europeans have led me to think that anti-Americanism is mainly a phenomenon of the European elites--one of their many annoying qualities. I still hope that's true. The German election may be the best test in a long time of how deep anti-Americanism runs. But the fact that Schroder considered attacks on America to be the most expedient way to close a gap in the polls is not reassuring.
Jonah Goldberg examines the sources of Germany's anti-Americanism. It's a good piece, but may underestimate sheer envy as one of the explanations.
Absolutely, Trunk, although it might be fair to add that the United Nations is already doing a good job of discrediting that theory in the eyes of the American public. On another front, now that the confirmation of Michael McConnell to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals looks like a done deal, the Washington Post advocates his confirmation. The Post expresses concern, however, over "the ideological uniformity of the Bush administration's [judicial] nominees." It expresses no concern over the fact that Senate Democrats denied the "well qualified" McConnell a hearing for more than a year.
As intimated by Charles Krauthammer's column, the doctrine of liberal internationalism applies the suicidal impulse at the core of liberalism to the most elementary questions of self-defense. Thus the Clinton doctrine: the use of American military force may be justified--but never in the national interest of the United States. President Bush's UN speech states with admirable clarity our intention to act against Iraq with or without the blessing of the UN. But doesn't Krauthammer's column call for a more thoroughgoing reassessment of the American commitment to the United Nations as an institution, and call for citizens like us to begin the work of discrediting the political theory of "world government" represented by the United Nations?
For those who haven't seen it, here's today's column by Charles Krauthammer in which he brilliantlly exposes the illogic (and I would say pathology) of "Liberal Internationalism, the foreign policy school of the modern Democratic Party." This is the mindset that "finds it unseemly to act in the name of [our] own self-interest and cannot see the logical absurdity of granting moral legitimacy to American action only if it earns the approval of the [U.N.] Security Council -- approval granted or withheld on the most cyncial grounds of self-interest."
I had thought that I was completely familiar with the phenomenon of the phony "Jenin massacre." Rocket Man and I discussed it daily as it transpired and as it was almost instantaneously deconstructed in the blogosphere. I have just come across David Rosenberg's review of the "Jenin massacre" affair in the weekly Forward, "How Jenin Coverage Massacred the Truth." I have found that I have much to learn.

Rosenberg's review highlights several absurdities retailed by reporters in the elite media of which I was not aware. For example, Rosenberg summarizes Richard Boudreaux's April 12 article in the Los Angeles Times: "Near the top of his story he warns the reader that the accounts 'couldn't be independently verified.' But by that point Boudreaux has already related the story of Khadra Samara's '17 terrifying hours' huddled with 30 neighbors as Israeli soldiers destroyed their homes. The article continues with Israelis executing 7-8 disarmed Palestinians; the shooting death of a 16-year-old boy; a 52-year-old woman bleeding to death; a 70-year-old dying as he tried to stop an Israeli bulldozer from destroying his home, and on and on. In fact, Boudreaux found witnesses to 10 civilian deaths, a remarkable success rate given that human rights groups could later document only 23."

Rosenberg also correctly notes that the media coverage of the war against Israel is trying "to preserve a narrative"--a narrative of oppressive Israelis and victimized Palestinians. His conclusion is clearly on the mark: "The coverage of the Jenin massacre and its aftermath is unusual only in that the facts were established decisively and early."
I've been wondering when we'd hear about the Republicans' pre-election investor tax cut package. Now, it apparently isn't going to happen. Seems like a mistake to me. But then, I'm an investor.
This morning's papers bring us competing interpretations of the past applied to the present. In the Wall Street Journal Israel's former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu invokes the inaction of France and England regarding Hitler in the 1930's to argue that now is the moment to act against Saddam Hussein: "We now know that had the democracies taken pre-emptive action to bring down Hitler's regime in the 1930s, the worst horrors in history could have been avoided." On the other hand, Germany's justice minister, one Ms. Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, argues that it is President Bush and not Saddam Hussein who resembles Hitler: "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler used." But isn't Saddam the guy with the mustache?

And who's Neville Chamberlain? If Germany's Janet Reno believes that Bush is Hitler, I wonder if that means she believes that Saddam Hussein is Neville Chamberlain. I vaguely recall that someone once pointed out a photograph of Neville Chamberlain to President Reagan, who truly was a master in the wise use of history for contemporary purposes. Reagan asked, "Where's the umbrella?"

Thursday, September 19, 2002

You're right, Rocket Man. The reasons why Leahy and company have decided not to block McConnell's nomination are not clear, at least not to me. Last week, I posted a piece by Byron York (the author of the piece you posted today) in which he speculated that McConnell would probably be confirmed. He reasoned that the Democrats didn't want to be seen as overplaying their hand, having just killed two well qualified Bush appointees. And the Democrats were under less pressure to kill McConnell, York suggested, because of his support within the network of liberal legal scholars that the Dems often look to in these matters. FInally, York noted McConnell's connection to Senator Hatch. Although not entirely satisfactory, and certainly capricious, the convergence of these facts seems like as good an explanation as any. By the way, from this account by the Washington Post, one would have no clue that McConnell probably will be confirmed
The Washington Post throws in the towel, conceding that President Bush's "rout of Congressional Democrats is virtually complete." What follows is an attempt to understand how it can be that the President--an enigma to the Post's Dana Milbank--keeps outsmarting and outmaneuvering the home team.
For reasons that are far from clear, it appears the Democrats have decided not to block Michael McConnell's nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This is a good thing, obviously, but it is hard to defend the capriciousness of the process in the hands of the execrable Senator Leahy.
Will this be the fulcrum on which control of the Senate turns? Paul Wellstone opposes authorizing action against Iraq. This might seem to make him unelectable; however, my guess is that the Senate leadership will come up with a slightly watered-down version of the resolution which Wellstone (and other left-wing Democrats) will then vote for. This will insulate Wellstone against backlash on the issue, while at the same time placating the more liberal portion of his base.
So now the Congressional Democrats appear to be willing to support the President's Iraq policy. But if you want to know what they really think, check out, which bills itself as "the premier online community site for Democratic voters and activists." is not officially run by the Democratic Party, but its founders have managed and consulted for a number of Democratic campaigns, and the site's Advisory Board includes several former Clinton White House employees; at least one former Democratic National Committee employee; an individual who has advised President Clinton and Senators Dodd, Lieberman and Bingaman; and Al Gore's chief domestic policy adviser. Check it out. You will be shocked by its mindless hatred, absurd falsehoods, and constant appeals to the most ignorant prejudices. Is this really how Democrats talk when they think they're among friends?
To me, liberalism's war on the Boy Scouts is a notable sign of the fact that liberalism has become a seriously deranged and destructive force. The old M*A*SH anthem "Suicide is Painless" should be the liberals' official song. Hum it to yourself the next time you have to sit through a diatribe on how disapproval of homosexual sex constitutes hate speech or a form of mental illness now known as "homophobia." Harold Johnson's account of the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission's (illegal) proceedings against the Boy Scouts provides more food for thought.
When the incomparable Daniel Pipes spoke at Connecticut College on the war we are in, the college treated the event as though it were highly confidential. An outsider's account of the machinations involved makes fascinating reading.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Let's see...If he was already beneath contempt and he sinks lower, where does that put him? Al Gore addresses the fact that in two Florida counties, controlled entirely by Democrats, poll workers couldn't figure out how to work their brand new, expensive computer equipment. And he blames...You guessed it.
Right, Deacon. It's time to stop wondering why they hate us and start counting the reasons why we hate them. In the meantime, here is an article whose headline says it all: Want 'Weapons Inspectors'? Try the 82nd Airborne.
One of my favorite sites,, reports on disturbing aspects of media coverage of the anniversary of September 11. Later in the piece, HonestReporting picks up on an Associated Press report of the interception by the Israelis of cigarette lighters which feature a plane crashing into the World Trade Center and an image of Bin Laden. The lighters were en route to Palestinian dealers in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, a booklet that anticipates the destruction of the U.S. has become a best seller among Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. I guess this means we better hurry up and create that Palestinian state, so the Palestinian's won't hate us anymore.
Susan Schmidt, who did some excellent reporting for the Washington Post on various Clinton scandals, is the co-author of this piece about the Pentagon's new approach to the war on terror. Schmidt and Thomas Ricks report that the Pentagon will shift control of most of its war on terror to U.S. Special Operations Command. The shift is the result of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's view that the military needs to be more aggressive in capturing and killing Al Qaeda members. Rumsfeld is reportedly dissatsified with the performance of U.S. regional military commanders-in-chief. Thus, Special Operations Command, which traditionally trains and equips troops and then turns them over to other commanders, will directly oversee anti-terrorist operations around the world.
Retired Marine General Bernard Trainor presents his strategy for attacking Iraq in today's Washington Post. Trainor calls for the use of a sizable American force, in excess of 100,000 troops, rather than the use of Iraqi opposition as a proxy. He argues that the larger the American force, the more clear it will be that resistance is futile, and thus the less resistance we will face.
OK, everyone knows that this is no fashion site. However, even the out-of-touch Power Line crew knows that fashion can't make a political statement, and if it tries, it will be really stupid. Here, courtesy of Best of the Web, is a Lebanese model purporting to "demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian uprising against Israel" by wearing a dress that features tanks and bloodstains. This, on the other hand--from Supermodels Are Lonelier Than You Think, scroll down about half way--is a thoughtful critique of the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan (not for children, I'm afraid). This costume may be less politically offensive, but might be even dumber in that the models couldn't see the runway and fell off.
Tom Daschle, man of principle, saw these poll results and decided to schedule a quick vote on Iraq. The Democrats had three reasons for this change in strategy: 1) The USA/CNN/Gallup Poll indicated that a large majority of the country is rallying behind the President's Iraq policy; a substantial majority also believed the Democrats' effort to delay a vote was politically motivated. 2) Several key Democratic Senate candidates, including Tim Johnson and Paul Wellstone, were being blasted for their failure to support the President. 3) The Democrats calculate that if they cry "uncle" on Iraq, hold the vote quickly and vote to support President Bush, there is still enough time for them to get back to talking about domestic issues before November. My only other observation on these poll data is that President Bush's approval rating is back up to 70%. The American public's enduring confidence in the President, in the face of constant sniping in the press, is remarkable.
Today I was at a business meeting on one of the upper floors of the Sears Tower. It was impossible not to think about terrorism. Everyone seemed normal, but one of the people I was meeting with said that the building's owner is worried about keeping it occupied, especially after a recent article in one of the Chicago papers highlighting the Tower's status as a potential target. He said he is concerned that his company is unable to hire some people whom they want, because of their location. This is a soft cost, and I am afraid will be an enduring soft cost, of terrorism.