Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


This is not so much a review of a recent biography of P.G. Wodehouse as much as an entertaining article based on an interview with the author of the bio, Robert McCrum. I am reading into the biography now, and it seems very fine. The odd thing is, of course, that a Wodehouse biography is kind of irrelevant because here was a man who, in writing about one-hundred books, utterly ignored reality. He ignored the twentieth century! But he created an alternative universe in which reside some of the funniest characters ever conceived: Bertie, Jeeves, Aunt Agatha, Augustus Pink-Snottle, Tuppy Glossop, and there plenty others. "There are very few compelling reasons to be glad that one was born in the twentieth century," critic Anthony Lane once wrote, "and most of them are curative: heart transplants, the polio vaccine, the look on Grace Kelly’s face. Then, there is Wodehouse." True.

Wodehouse on writing: "There are two ways of writing. One of these is a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going right deep down into life and not caring a damn." Well, when you read Wodehouse, which you must, you will see and hear the musical comedy. You can start anywhere, but might as well start with Right Ho, Jeeves, since it doesn’t matter. You will not regret it.

Don’t Just Count Her Blue; Count Her Ashamed to Be An American

Here is a silly little story from the AP. Berns Rothchild has designed a bracelet modeled on the popular Lance Armstrong bracelets. Only these are blue, and say "COUNT ME BLUE" on them. They are for those who voted against Bush. Fair enough. Her father has even launched a counter line of "COUNT ME RED" bracelets. What is disturbing, however, are her statements concerning why she developed them:

After spending 10 days in London with friends who were outspoken about their disdain for President Bush’s policies, Berns Rothchild came home wishing she had a way to show the world she didn’t vote for him. "I sort of felt ashamed, and didn’t really want to be associated with being an American," said Rothchild, who lives in New York City and voted for John Kerry.

Now, having sour grapes about elections is nothing new. I still recall the "Don’t blame me, I voted for Bush" bumper stickers that adorned cars following Clinton’s win. But Ms. Rothchild’s statement goes deeper. The whole "ashamed to be associated with America" thing seems to correlate much more with the left and losing. The mantra seems to be, either the left wins, or we’re moving to France; or we’re ashamed to be Americans, who are, by the way, not nearly as smart or sophisticated as we are, or as Europeans are. These are the same people who travel with Canadian flags on their luggage. Oh, but don’t question our patriotism. We love America. Massachusetts is just swell. Vermont is a fine place. And we might even admit to being Americans again, just as soon as a Democrat who reflects our disdain for the heartland is in the White House again.

A reporter who gets it

I found this piece from the Columbia Journalism Review interesting. Here’s a taste:

I attended church services more often than many Christians — some months more often than I attended my own synagogue. But the most intense part of my education came from outside the job, apart from the mediation of a reporter’s notebook. At PTA meetings, at Scouts, in the supermarket checkout line, and in my neighborhood I encountered evangelicals simply as people, rather than as subjects or sources of quotes for my stories. Our children went to the same birthday parties. We sat next to each other in the bleachers while the kids played recreational sports. Our family doctor went on frequent mission trips and kept a New Testament in each examining room. In the process, I learned about the Great Commission, the biblical obligation of all Christians to share their faith with the once-born and the unsaved.

Evangelicals were no longer caricatures or abstractions. I learned to interpret their metaphors and read their body language. From personal, day-to-day experience I observed what John Green at the University of Akron has discerned from extensive research: evangelicals were not monolithic nor were they, as The Washington Post infamously characterized them, “poor, uneducated and easy to command.”

I think I’ll start looking for Mark Pinsky’s byline and maybe even his books.

CBS and MSM notes

Van Sauter, a former president of CBS News, slams CBS and Rather for being biased and incompetent: " What’s the big problem at CBS News?

Well, for one thing, it has no credibility. And no audience, no morale, no long-term emblematic anchorperson and no cohesive management structure. Outside of those annoyances, it shouldn’t be that hard to fix. Personally, I have a great affection for CBS News, even though I was unceremoniously shown to the door there nearly 20 years ago in a tumultuous change of corporate management.

But I stopped watching it some time ago. The unremitting liberal orientation finally became too much for me. I still check in, but less and less frequently. I increasingly drift to NBC News and Fox and MSNBC."

Charles Krauthammer thinks that the so-called independent investigation, "clueless, uncomprehending and in its own innocent way disgraceful," pretends that the fiasco was in no way politically motivated. Read the whole thing. In the meantime, even Howard Fineman of Newsweek understands that all this is a catastrophe and enlarges upon the thought by correctly asserting that the MSM is dead. This is an intresting (and self-serving) essay. It is highly imperfect--you will see how he is lying to himself in some ways--but, still, it is thoughtful and very revealing. He understands that the MSM is dead (as do most other, even liberal members of the MSM), even though he doesn’t understand the cause of the illness and then the death, or, how long the MSM has been biased. RIP.

Ramirez Cartoon

Newdow again

Vincent Philip Munoz explains how the pronouncements of Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and John Paul Stevens encourage frivolous lawsuits like the one filed by Michael Newdow against prayer at President Bush’s inauguration. Here’s a taste:

Justice O’Connor has opined that the First Amendment prohibits governmental acts that "endorse" religion or cause nonbelievers to feel like "outsiders" in the political community. In 2002, Justice Stevens voted against Cleveland’s school voucher program because it would "increase the risk of religious strife" between people who disagree on religious matters. If this year’s inauguration follows the form of Mr. Bush’s last one and includes invocations delivered by religious ministers, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that it fails Justice O’Connor’s and Justice Stevens’s Establishment Clause tests.

Church-state jurisprudence today is infected by modern-day squeamishness about public expressions of piety. This is a departure from, not the fulfillment of, America’s earliest constitutional traditions. The public recognition of God, in fact, was part of those traditions from the beginning.

Read the whole thing. 

Teddy bears and dogs

"Crazy" teddy bears are being criticized by "mental health advocates." The Vermont Teddy Bear Company says it will continue making the bears, even though the governor of Vermont has come out against the bear in the straight-jacket.
I have always loved teddy bears; they might even be better than dogs for human souls. I’m not sure that I would want one wearing a traight-jacket (their slogan is "crazy for you"), but that’s another matter. Silly stuff, no? Also note that a Florida court is questioning a police dog’s competence as a sniffing dog; it’s a probably cause issue. The dog has an imperfect record, therefore the druggy who was busted based on the dog’s sniffs should be set free. I side with the dog.

(Thanks to the Corner for the bear story)

Mapping the Global Future

The CIA’s think tank, The National Intelligence Council, has taken a year to produce Mapping the Global Future (PDF file, 123 pages). This is Dana Priest’s Washington Post story on it (just because I mention it doesn’t make it reliable, I hasten to add, so take care). The NIC also has a web site (interactive) to go along with the report, called International Futures. I have only glanced at the report, and note especially the section on China and India as especially interesting (at first sight) regarding geopolitics. It is predicted (this is not rocket science) that China and India will become "new global players--similar to the rise of Germany in the 19th century and the United States in the early 20th century" and they will "transform the geopolitical landscape, with impacts potentially as dramatic as those of the previous two centuries." Oh, goody! Back to our study of German history. My view is that we must pay special attention to India; it is underestimated in almost every respect.

Constitutional law final

Is this what the Founders intended? Or this?

There are several Supreme Court Justices who are eager to administer the global test, it seems.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a transcript of the debate, if ever one becomes available.

Update:One-stop shopping here at Powerline. Lots of links. More later.

The progressive Democrats

"The last thing this country needs is two Republican parties," said Senator Edward Kennedy in a speech yesterday at the National Press Club. On the other hand, Senator, if there has been a realignment, your only chance is to become the party that resembles the majority party, at least for thirty years or so. There is much more in the speech worth noting; the crux is that it is a speech entirely in the Progressive/Liberal tradition. Very creative, and boring. I point out, without comment, that Bob Shrum (aka Kennedy guy) has announced his retirement.
The New York Times: "He leaves Washington with a mixed record, having served as an adviser on 26 winning Senate campaigns, perhaps more than any other consultant, but also eight losing presidential campaigns, which may also stand as a record." Shrum will be teaching at New York University. And John Kerry is asking candidates for the DNC chairmanship--as he is vetting them--to stay neutral in the presidential campaign of 2008. This means he is actually thinking of running again.

Conservatism on campus

There’s a lengthy and detailed survey of campus conservatism in this article. None of it is terribly surprising for those of us in the business, but there are a couple of points worth noting. First, many of the students said that professorial proselytizing for the Left drove them even further to the right. And second, a number of students, despite personal opposition to homosexuality, took a "live and let live attitude," even with respect to civil unions. There’s lots more there. Read the whole thing. 

Update: More here. Question: are the creators of "South Park" the Aristophaneses of our time? Where is Paul Cantor when you need him?

Progress in India

Fareed Zakaria explains why a private street-cleaning movement in India (with 17,000 chapters) is a sign of great progress and why we should expect more from India. This is the sign of growing wealth, strength and confidence of Indian society. The state isn’t growing, but civil society is.

China should pay attention.

The Demos folly on Social Security

George W. Will has a well crafted and very persuasive Newsweek essay on how it will be very difficult for the Democrats to try to deny "the cohort most receptive to reform, those ages 18 to 29," of allowing Americans the choice of diverting a portion of their Social Security taxes in in tax-personal retirement accounts. The Demos are on a collision course "with the constituency that is the vessel of their hopes: voters 18 to 29 are the only age cohort John Kerry carried." Note the lovely Coolidge quote at the end of Will’s essay.

Andrew Sullivan should know better

Andrew Sullivan becomes unhinged over this statement by President Bush:

President Bush said yesterday that he doesn’t "see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord," but that he is always mindful to protect the right of others to worship or not worship.

Here’s Sullivan’s (over)reaction:

So, out of his beneficence, he won’t trample on others’ religious freedom. But the White House? That’s for Christians only. No Jews? Or atheists? Notice also the evangelical notion of a personal "relationship" with the Lord. That also indicates suspicion of those Christians with different approaches to the divine. I must say this is a new level of religio-political fusion in this administration. To restrict the presidency to a particular religious faith is anathema to this country’s traditions and to the task of toleration. The president surely needs to retract the statement.

Here’s Jonah Goldberg’s reaction, which is spot-on:

First of all, how new is this, really? Do we really think that Jimmy Carter, never mind George Washington, never said that having a relationship with the Lord was helpful to being president? This is how I read Bush’s remarks. Second, How different is this from the spirit of all of Bush’s previous statements (including in two national campaigns) in which he made it clear that he draws sustenance and strength from his relationship with God. I am flummoxed as to why Andrew should be surprised that Bush said it again. Third, the fear that Bush is suspicious of non-evangelical Christians or non-Christians rings a bit hollow considering that yesterday he nominated a Jew to run homeland security and before that he nominated [an Episcopalian](and longtime loyalist) to be his Attorney General. Given his latest hires, how exactly does this new level of "religio-political fusion in this administration" translate itself into policy?

Here, for those less inclined than Andrew Sullivan to fly off the handle is a much longer chunk of the Washington Times interview. The relevant passage (with context):

So that’s what’s on my mind. My enthusiasm is high for the job and looking forward to it. Put a good team together. This office is the kind of place where you sit here, people stand out there, and they say, "I’m going to tell him what-for," and they walk in here and they get just overwhelmed by the Oval Office and the whole atmosphere and the great beauty of this place, and they say, "Man, you’re looking good, Mr. President." [Laughter.] So I need people walking in here saying, "You’re not looking so good." And I put a good team together in the first four years; I’ve got a good team this second four years, and ready to lead.


Wesley Pruden, editor in chief: Well, Mr. President, your point there about faith and how we look at it — many Christians today think that faith is kind of under attack in America, and they’re even talking about whether you should use the Bible to take the oath of office. What would you say — what do you think is the proper role of your personal faith in the public arena?

Mr. Bush: First of all, I will have my hand on the Bible. I read the article today, and I don’t — it’s interesting, I don’t think faith is under attack. I think there are some who worry about a president who is faith-based, a person who openly admits that I accept the prayers of the people, trying to impose my will on others. I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit.

That’s what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have — or one of the greatest freedoms — is the right to worship the way you see fit. And on the other hand, I don’t see how you can be president — at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a — without a relationship with the Lord.

I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you’re not equally as patriotic if you’re not a religious person. I’ve never said that. I’ve never acted like that. I think that’s just the way it is. On the other hand, I think more and more people ... understand the importance of faith in their life.

America is a remarkable place when it comes to religion and faith. We had people come to our rallies who were there specifically to say, "I’m here to pray for you, let you know I’m praying for you." And I was very grateful about that.

This has gone on pretty long, so I’ll just note a couple of things from the interview, which is worth reading in full. The President leads with and situates his own faith in the context of religious freedom. His faith is personal and gives him strength. He recognizes his own fallibility and his own humanity (which includes the temptation to overstate his own powers and abilities) and consequently acknowledges his own need for a relationship with God. I would never argue, as Sullivan does, that GWB’s language here is "code" for an evangelical "personal relationship." It seems to me that any genuine theist in the Judaeo-Christian tradition would similarly acknowledge fallibility and dependence upon God. And I might not vote for someone who was so utterly confident in his or her own abilities as not to not to acknowledge fallibility. But not offering someone my vote is a far cry from not tolerating him or her. I’m not persecuting. I’m not imposing a formal legal religious test. All I’m saying is that--like the President--I find it hard to believe that a certain kind of atheist would be appropriately humble before the responsibilities of the office and appropriately cognizant of human limitations.

Finally, since I’m not convinced that Andrew Sullivan is as stupid or thoughtless as his reaction makes it seem, I’m forced to wonder why he said what he said. Any ideas out there?

Cosby on Fulfilling the Dream

Bill Cosby has a piece in today’s Detroit News, in which he continues his argument about the need for African-American parents to be more engaged in their children’s lives and education. Here is a taste:

Proper education has to begin at home. We must demand that our youth have an understanding of spoken and written English, math and science. We must transform our communities with a renewed commitment to our children, and that means parents must show that they value education. We don’t need another federal commission to study the problem.

What we need now is parents sitting down with children, overseeing homework, sending children off to school in the morning well fed, clothed, rested and ready to learn.

Some media people or government people, who are already ethnically insensitive, cannot hurt us if we begin to address and act on what is already epidemic. We will then be empowered.

The only question I had after reading this article is: how long will it be before Jesse Jackson’s "blame" coalition takes aim at Cosby?

The moral high ground in Washington state

The Wall Street Journal thinks Rossi shouldn’t pursue his challenge of the tainted election results in the Washington gubernatorial election. I’m inclined to agree that being a graceful loser is morally and politically the right thing to do, but I’m receptive to counterarguments.

Anybody out there got a good one?

The Baylor experiment

Here’s a useful summary of what’s going on at Baylor, whose president, Robert Sloan, wants to turn it into an excellent research university with an explicitly Christian worldview. There’s a lot to be said for this project, and some very good folks are saying it. Here’s a couple of letters from leading academics (not all conservative by any stretch of the imagination, especially if you include Nicholas Wolterstorff and Stanley Hauerwas in the mix). And here’s Richard John Neuhaus’ speech at Sloan’s inauguration.

I’ve kind of promised Peter a longer piece on developments at Baylor. Consider this the smallest down payment.

Back from Hungary

The flight from Vienna to Washington was a bit long, but other than that the trip went well. Looked after my mother, as we said our last to my father. Relatives, old friends of the family were around and pious and caring. There was excellent food and heavy wines and much poetry. A lot of poetry. Scratch a Hungarian and he bleeds poetry. Their revolutions always begin at the foot of a poet’s statute! Give them half a chance and they recite from memory, and do it well. Reading poetry is good for any occasion, and it is always done in perfect pitch. The Hungarians, by the way, are better off and happier than ever, the change in their disposition and habits since the old regime is palpable, entirely to their advantage. Gone is the bleak and dour predeliction you found under the tyranny; there is, rather, a visible charm and energy that is heartening to one who wishes them well. The habits of commerce and citizenship have been established. Walking around, save for the language and some architectual oddities it is almost impossible to tell if you are in Austria, Spain, or the land of the Magyars. This is not to say that their politics are simply just and reasonable and moderate (socialists are in power at the moment, for example) but it does mean that fear and oppression and the greyness of life is in the past, and buried.

Syria and Iraq

The always interesting Belmont Club offers this post, in which he argues that much of the Iraqi terrorism is being directed from Syria, most likely by Saddam loyalists. Evidence of a Syrian connection is widespread and might lead to cross-border raids by American special forces and Iraqi contingents. Clearly we can’t remain simply on the defensive forever, with Sunni and Syrian collaborators essentially paying next to nothing for their support of the rejectionist terrorists.   

Education vs. Literary Theory

This month’s Atlantic includes an essay by Walter Kirn which ranks among the best magazine articles I’ve ever read. Entitled "Lost in the Meritocracy: How I traded an education for a ticket to the ruling class," it tells the story of Kirn’s time at Princeton where, as a middle-class overachiever from Minnesota, he never really fit in. As many people in this situation do, he constructed a false identity for himself, and post-structuralist literary theory gave him just facade he needed. I’d reproduce the whole thing here if copyright laws let me; alas, I’ll have to include just these three paragraphs instead:

I chose to concentrate on English, since it sounded like something I might already know. I assumed that my classmates and I would study the classics and analyze their major themes, but instead we were buffeted, almost from day one, with talk of "theory," whatever that was. The basic meanings of the poems, short stories, and plays drawn from the hefty Norton anthologies that anchored our entry-level reading lists were treated as trivial, almost beneath discussion; what mattered, we learned, were our "critical assumptions."

I, for one, wasn’t aware of having any. Until I was sixteen or so, my only reading had consisted of Hardy Boys mysteries, books on UFOs, world almanacs, a Time-Life history of World War II, and a handful of pulpy best sellers linked to movies (The Day of the Jackal and The Exorcist stand out), which I’d read for their sex scenes. I knew a few great authors’ names from scanning dust jackets in the town library and watching the better TV quiz shows, but the only serious novels I’d ever cracked were Moby-Dick and Frankenstein—both sold to me by a crafty high school teacher as gripping tales of adventure, which they weren’t.

With no stored literary material about which to harbor critical assumptions, I relied on my gift for mimicking authority figures and playing back to them their own ideas disguised as conclusions that I’d reached myself. The deployment of key words was crucial, as the recognition of them had been on the SATs. With one professor the charm was "ambiguity." With another "heuristic" usually did the trick. Even when a poem or a story fundamentally puzzled me, I found that I could save face through terminology, as when I referred to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land as "semiotically unstable."

But Kirn was smart enough to know that it was all a scam, and managed to pull himself together in time to secure a scholarship to do graduate work at Oxford. Moreover, during the summer before he left for England he took ill with pneumonia. Confined to his bed, he started to do something new--he began reading, first The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, then Great Expectations, and on and on from there.

I apologize for referring readers to an article that’s available only to subscribers, but I consider this piece alone worth the price of a subscription. If you know someone who has one, try to get a peek at it.    

"Americanism" as religion

Here’s an extended case for American exceptionalism. The argument, in a nutshell, is that "Americanism" is essentially what became of Puritanism:

Americanism is the end-stage of political Puritanism, which in turn was the yearning to live in contact with God as a citizen of God’s new Israel.

The author, David Gelernter, a Yale professor of computer science who is a contributing editor for The Weekly Standard, marshalls some interesting evidence but admits that "[t]his is an unprovable proposition."

Here is perhaps Gelernter’s most provocative point:

To sum up Americanism’s creed as freedom, equality, and democracy for all is to state only half the case. The other half deals with a promised land, a chosen people, and a universal, divinely ordained mission. This part of Americanism is the American version of biblical Zionism: in short, American Zionism.

I leave it to those more learned than I am to evaluate thoroughly the evidence. That various and sundry American political figures have appropriated the rhetoric of covenantalism is undeniable. That they actually confused their city of man with a city of God is another proposition altogether. I don’t put it past all of them, either for reasons of theological-political fanaticism or of "secular humanism." But Lincoln, who is one of the central figures is Gelernter’s narrative, is careful to say only that Americans are an "almost chosen people." Gelernter notes this in passing, but does not give it the at least slightly ironic force I think it demands.

President Bush, who is often accused of taking precisely the line Gelernter seems to adopt is himself more careful, more Lincolnesque, if you will.

If you’re interested in more on this subject, go here.

Hat tip: HobbsOnline.

Democratic talent outside the beltway

In today’s WSJ, Brendan Miniter calls our attention to a few interesting Democrats who could eventually make some noise on the presidential scene--Governors Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, and Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Bredesen is in the process of wrestling down TennCare, a health insurance program that has in the past been touted as "HilaryCare Lite." If you want to follow his progress, you could do worse than check Instapundit (who, after all, teaches at the University of Tennessee) and HobbsOnline (Bill Hobbs works at Belmont University in Nashville).

What the Supreme Court Did (Or More Precisely Didn’t Do) in the Gay Adoption Case

Comments on yesterday’s post entitled "Supremes let Florida gay adoption ban stand" highlight the confusion that often accompanies the Supreme Court’s decision not to grant review in a case. The vast majority of the Supreme Court’s cases are taken for discretionary review. In order for a "discretionary" case to be heard, at least four justices must vote for review. Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court turns away many more cases than it hears. This is what happened yesterday with the gay adoption case: the Court simply chose not to hear the case. What does that mean? As a legal matter, absolutely nothing. It is black-letter law that the denial of review has no precedential value.

Of course, we can try to read the tea leaves to see what this means politically, and that is what the reporters, including Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSblog were doing. Yes, it probably means that the justices were recoiling from what would inevitably be construed as another step toward gay marriage. And yes, issues concerning adoption are traditionally state law matters, although the fact that the 11th Circuit had weighed in on the question rather than the Florida Supreme Court mitigates in some measure against such a rationale to deny review. The important thing to remember, however, is that this is all speculation. The Supreme Court yesterday chose not to hear the case. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that the outcome of that decision leaves in place the decision of the court below,* and thereby the law stands.

*[Editor’s Note: There is a pending challenge to the composition of the en banc 11th Circuit Court which also chose not to hear the case--specifically challenging the recess appointment of Judge Pryor, who cast the deciding vote not to hear the matter. Because I think it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will upset the historical practice of recess appointments, I feel confident saying that the decision below will stand.]

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for December

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Edward Crenshaw

Ed Lally

Steven Meservy

Don De Mello

Michelle Goodman

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter January’s drawing.

The Decline of Political Cartoons

James Lileks has some interesting ruminations on the state of political cartooning (cartoonery?) in America (scroll about halfway down the page). After surveying some recent examples, he concludes:

My reaction is usually one of four. One: if you think I’m that stupid, fine. Two: if you’re that stupid, fine. Three: if we agree, that’s nice, but I can’t exactly use your point in an argument because it’s usually the sort of reductio ad absurdum used by cynical adolescents who believe that artfully rephrasing a suspected hypocrisy invalidates every other aspect of your argument. Four: Nice drawing. I’m not saying the genre is over, or should be swept off the page - but it’s stale.

Supremes let Florida gay adoption ban stand

Read all about it here, here, and here.

Hat tips: How Appealing and SCOTUSblog, both of which you should bookmark.

The Dangers of Overturning Roe v. Wade

In the latest issue of The Atlantic (sorry, for subscribers only) Benjamin Wittes argues that the time has come for the Democratic Party to stop defending Roe v. Wade. Part of his argument is that the criticisms conservatives have made against it are not totally off the mark.

Since its inception Roe has had a deep legitimacy problem, stemming from its weakness as a legal opinion. Conservatives who fulminate that the Court made up the right to abortion, which appears explicitly nowhere in the Constitution, are being simplistic—-but they’re not entirely wrong. In the years since the decision an enormous body of academic literature has tried to put the right to an abortion on firmer legal ground. But thousands of pages of scholarship notwithstanding, the right to abortion remains constitutionally shaky; abortion policy is a question that the Constitution—-even broadly construed—-cannot convincingly be read to resolve.

Of course, this comes as no news to any conservative. But his more interesting argument concerns how a reversal of Roe v. Wade would place the Republicans in a deep dilemma.

Roe gives pro-life politicians a free pass. A large majority of voters reject the hard-line anti-abortion stance: in Gallup polling since 1975, for example, about 80 percent of respondents have consistently favored either legal abortion in all circumstances (21 to 34 percent) or legal abortion under some circumstances (48 to 61 percent). Although a plurality of Americans appear to favor abortion rights substantially more limited than what Roe guarantees, significantly more voters describe themselves as "pro-choice" than "pro-life." Yet because the Court has removed the abortion question from the legislative realm, conservative politicians are free to cater to pro-lifers by proposing policies that, if ever actually implemented, would render those politicians quite unpopular.

He makes a valid point; as long as Roe stands Republicans can fulminate against it, secure in the knowledge that they don’t really have to do anything about abortion. We’ve spent a good bit of time talking about the divide in the Democratic Party between moderates and ultra-liberals, but a reversal of Roe would on doubt expose a fault line within the GOP that is just as wide--the one separating die-hard pro-lifers from those of us who, while favoring certain restrictions on abortion, see considerable moral and practical problems with an outright ban.

The Democratic Attack on Blackwell

Timothy Carney argues persuasively over at NRO today that the farcical election protest conducted in Congress last Thursday was not aimed at President Bush, but rather targeted Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Carney notes that

A word count of the Congressional Record makes the case clearly: George Bush’s name was mentioned 109 times during the debate, while Ken Blackwell’s was mentioned 149. When you take into account that many of the Bush mentions were made by Republicans, and that every mention of Blackwell was in a statement by a Democrat, it is clear who the real target of Thursday’s proceedings was."

And, as Carney points out, for the Democrats, race matters:

Miguel Estrada knows how this works. Democrats, as their memos revealed, found Estrada "especially dangerous because. . . he is Latino." It’s not that Dick Durbin and Pat Leahy’s staff think Hispanics are inherently more "dangerous," it’s that they don’t want to be seen opposing one for the High Court, when all of America will be watching. He had to be stopped before then.

The attack dogs of personal destruction succeeded with their preemptive strike on Estrada, and now they’ll try with Blackwell.

Back in September of 2003, I made the argument that Democrats opposed Estrada in part based upon the fact that he was Hispanic

here. I received numerous angry emails from those who reminded me that Democrats are incapable of such racist behavior--arguments which seemed a bit less credible when the smoking gun memos were released. (Of course, the left has never actually addressed the merits of the memos. They are far more concerned about the fact that they were released.) Now it seems that the left is up to their old tricks--trumping up charges to thwart the career of a politician because he has the audacity to be conservative and African-American.

Independent Panel Finds That CBS Failed to Follow Journalistic Principles in Memogate

The independent panel’s report on the forged "60 Minutes" memos was just released, and it concludes that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel found that CBS compounded their error by a "rigid and blind" defense of the falsified report. In response, CBS asked three employees to resign, and terminated Mary Mapes, the producer of the "60 Minutes" segment. CBS’s story about this is here, and the full 200+ page Thornburgh-Boccardi report is available in PDF format here. As I am typing this, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard just cut to the heart of the matter on Fox News: "CBS wanted to hurt President Bush. It wasn’t that they were sloppy."

More McConnell Speculation

Today’s NY Sun considers the beltway buzz suggesting that 10th Circuit judge Michael McConnell is on the short list for the U.S. Supreme Court. Joseph Knippenberg has written about McConnell on this page here and here.

True Believers

Who would defend Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric convicted in 1995 of masterminding the first World Trade Center bombing? The typical legal answer is that in this country, we take the right to counsel seriously, and lawyers who are deeply opposed to the alleged criminal acts of the accused nonetheless offer their assistance to maintain the integrity of the system. Sure, some of the lawyers are out for their 15 minutes of fame, but those who represent terrorists aren’t really sympathizers, right? Not necessarily. David Horowitz has a disturbing article in today’s LA Times, in which he provides some background on Lynne Stewart, the blind sheik’s attorney, who is on trial for aiding and abetting her client. How extreme is she? Here’s a taste:

Stewart is on record as approving of "directed violence," which — as she explained to the New York Times — "would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism." The World Trade Center, for instance. Stewart also has endorsed Muslim jihadists in particular: "They are basically forces of national liberation," she told the Marxist magazine Monthly Review.

This is enough to confirm all Schramm’s worst thoughts about lawyers.

Lincoln as gay--yea or nay?

Philip Nobile offers us this absolutely devastating destruction of the late C. A. Tripp’s The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. Since Nobile was, for a time, Tripp’s collaborator, his insider’s account should be required reading.

Here’s Rick Brookhiser’s highly critical review of the same book from Sunday’s NYT. Over at NRO’s "The Corner", Brookhiser adds this:

The Weekly Standard has a piece by Philip Nobile, accusing C.A. Tripp (author of the book I reviewed) of plagiarizing him, and of bending evidence. The question of plagiarism I leave to the courts. Bending of evidence will be obvious to anyone who reads Tripp’s book. But the wierdness in Lincoln remains.

Two thoughts: First, I wonder which major media outlet will run the first favorable review of the book, or, indeed, if any will? Nobile’s claims of plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty--this early in the game--are formidable obstacles to the willingness of any serious reviewer to praise the book. Second, I think I’ll stick with my old standby Lincoln book--William Lee Miller’s Lincoln’s Virtues--in my "Moral and Political Leadership" class.

Update:Winfield Myers of Democracy Project has much more here.

Red State Democratic Senators Feeling the Heat Concerning Judicial Confirmations

The Lincoln (NE) Journal-Star ran an article today in which Senator Nelson responded to Dr. James Dobson’s suggestion that Nelson could be targeted for defeat in 2006 if he opposes President Bush’s judicial nominees. Nelson’s response was that he did not support obstructing judicial nominees, and that he joined only one filibuster: that of Henry Saad for the Sixth Circuit. He claims that he opposed Saad "because he was not allowed to read Saad’s background files and because both Michigan senators strongly opposed the nomination." Perhaps he should be asked to explain why he is following the lead of the Michigan senators, who are opposing Saad and three other nominees from Michigan not because of the qualifications of those judges, but because of a kind of nepotism. Indeed, Senator Levin has vowed to block all judges nominated from Michigan who do not have one key qualification: they must be his wife’s cousin.

Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see Nelson denouncing obstructionism--a move that I think other electorally vulnerable red state Democratic Senators are likely to mimic in the coming months.

The Left Discovers Federalism . . . Sort of

Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford offers an article on Slate entitled "The New Blue Federalists," in which he argues that federalism isn’t just for conservatives any more. On some points he is undoubtedly correct: Federalism as a principle is not explicitly partisan or ideological--a point I made nearly two years ago here, in an article arguing that the federal partial-birth abortion statute exceeds congressional authority found in the Commerce Clause. Yet on other points, Professor Ford’s thinking is a partisan muddle. Take the following, for example: "Sensible federalism has its limits: It must not allow states to limit the enjoyment of important rights, and it must allow for federal regulation of activities with significant interstate effects." This is his way of having his cake and eating it, too. Under Ford’s theory, we need not limit national power by any constitutionally meaningful test based on, oh, I don’t know, interstate commerce, but rather we should apply an outcome-based analysis. If we do this, I can assure you that the sacred cows of liberalism will remain within the contours of "sensible" federalism, while regulations that the liberals don’t like--e.g, federal drug laws--will be found impermissible. (Editor’s note: I have not taken a look at the briefs in the case, but I have been told that the plaintiffs make a very strong case that the federal drug laws exceed congressional commerce clause authority in the California case pending before the Supreme Court.) You’ll also note Ford’s loose use of the term "important rights." This permits him to keep elements of culture wars within the federal ambit, by failing to recognize that rights which are not constitutional are in fact reserved to the people and to the states.

While I am glad to see Professor Ford enter the fray on this question, I would be far happier to see a liberal with the intellectual seriousness to concede that federalism is a constitutional principle which cannot be ignored--one which assures the limited character of our federal government, and thereby makes impermissible laws and programs which are favored by both ends of the political spectrum.