Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Broken Army

Here is an Illinois National Guardsman’s response to Rep. Murtha’s "broken Army" comments. Short and to the point. (via Instapundit).

On messy constitution making

I like Justin Paulette’s retelling of the messy ways in which the American Constitution was ratified because the disorderly nature of the process comes through to clearly. Then he wants you to think about Iraq. Can they do it? Has it been messy, what with shouting and boycotts and revisions and killings? Yet, human nature being what it is, there is plenty of room for optimism. Or, put another way, we have opened the Pandora’s box of freedom in Iraq and the region.  

Beowulf and Angelina Jolie

I discovered yesterday while sitting in the dentist chair and thumbing through People magazine (nothing else there, really!) that Angelina Jolie will be starring in a Robert Zemeckis animated adaptation of Beowulf. As my son and I are now reading the excellent Robert Nye version of the story, I am beginning to wonder if there is some cosmic connection between the books I read to my children and the cartoons Hollywood is producing. Probably not. But I hope they keep the Nye telling of the story in mind in producing this film. Consider this beautiful description of the character of Beowulf: "Beowulf had made the best of all he had, putting each imperfection to work in the service of his integrity. Thus, his real strength lay in the balance of his person--which is, perhaps, another way of saying that he was strong because he was good, and good because he had the strength to accept things in him that were bad."

Eloise Anderson and "The Great Racial Divide"

It won’t be out for a while but NLT readers should keep an eye and an ear out for a forthcoming Claremont Institute monograph from Eloise Anderson titled, The Great Racial Divide: Why Conservatives Fail to Pesuade Blacks. Advance praise for the piece comes both from our distinguished and fearless lead blogger, Peter Schramm who said:

"Eloise Anderson’s unflinching and common sense approach to understanding this quintessentially American problem is a must read for any serious person contemplating the future prospects of the Republican party--not just with black voters but across the board. It is a must read for any serious person who wants to understand the true nature of the racial divide in America and who is looking for practical ways to encourage its healing."

and from Shelby Steele who says the following:

"In The Great Racial Divide Eloise Anderson puts her finger precisely on what is missing in the new "compassionate conservatism:" the resonant understanding that black Americans come to modern conservatism out of an experience of betrayal and exclusion. She tells us that it is not enough now to just offer blacks the great truths of the conservative movement. Conservatives must examine their own indulgence in "states rights" arguments, the "southern strategy," the creation of majority-minority congressional districts, their accommodation to identity politics at the expense of integration, their occasional openness to the notion of black intellectual inferiority, and so on. More clearly than any other black conservative, Anderson articulates the racial challenge of modern conservatism: to be deepened by a fuller understanding of the black American experience. This monograph should become a manifesto of the Republican Party."

Further, having edited the piece myself and talked at length with Ms. Anderson about it, I can tell you that I think her ideas are some of the most original and thoughtful I’ve seen in years. I will keep you posted on the publication release date.

Arnie Meltdown

And NLT readers thought Ohio GOP politics were interesting . . . In the wake of the defeat of all four of his ballot initiatives last month, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made the wise decision to replace his chief of staff, Patricia Clarey (who was supposed to lead that effort). Unfortunately, he replaced her with one Susan Kennedy, a longtime committed Democrat and one who worked in the Gray Davis administration! It is, I confess, utterly baffling. Arnie claims that he wants to move beyond partisan politics. Of course he does. Word is Maria was pretty peeved about the special election. But this does not bode well for his political future. In claiming that Ms. Kennedy, who served as executive director of the California Democratic Party and executive director of the California Abortion Rights Action League, was the "best" choice available, Schwarzenneger further distanced himself from his base with insult added to injury. Also see this from the Los Angeles Times, this from, this from The Remedy and finally several posts at Local Liberty.

Alito and parental rights

From Bench Memos we learn of this decision, joined by Samuel Alito (though he didn’t write it), in a suit brought by parents regarding a survey, including questions about sex, administered to middle school and high school students. I wrote about a previous and much more inflammatory decision here.

I haven’t had time to do more than skim the decision, but my first impression is that the reasoning is much more nuanced than that of the 9th Circuit decision and that it embodies a sober and limited understanding of the place of constitutional adjudication in our political order. The school authorities here seem to have had good intentions, but to have made a hash of administering the survey (unlike in the Palmdale case, where they clearly didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag about the substance of the questionnaire).

At first glance, the decision vindicates my general line of argument that judicially-enforceable parental rights don’t extend as far as some of us parents might like and that the appropriate response is heavy parental involvement (in schools, school board politics, and in "privatization").

Judge Alito and his brethren look good by comparison with their colleagues on the 9th Circuit.

Alito update

This story suggests that Democrats will try to make an issue of this memo regarding the case I discussed here.

Here’s the relevant passage from the memo:

Our point is that,
even after Akron, abortion is not unregulable. There may be an
opportunity to nudge the Court toward the principles in Justice O’Connor’s Akron dissent, to provide greater recognition of the states’ interest in protecting the unborn throughout pregnancy, or to dispel in part the mystical faith in the attending
physician that supports Roe and the subsequent cases.

I find this approach preferable to a frontal assault on
Roe v. Wade. It has most of the advantages of a brief devoted to the overruling of Roe v. Wade: it makes our position
clear, does not even tacitly concede Roe’s legitimacy, and signals that we regard the question as live and open. At the
same time, it is free of many of the disadvantages that would accompany a major effort to overturn Roe. When the Court hands
down its decision and Roe is not overruled, the decision will not be portrayed as a stinging rebuke. We also will not forfeit the opportunity to address--and we will not prod the Court into summarily rejecting--the important secondary arguments outlined above. [Footnote omitted.]

I’ve only skimmed the memo, which strikes me (on this quick reading) as thoughtful and well-argued. The footnote I omitted above cites the law review arguments everyone cites that criticize Roe. As I noted earlier, I hope that Judge Alito doesn’t run away from this position, which is certainly defensible on legal and constitutional grounds, well within the mainstream of scholarly legal opinion, and, I expect, relatively popular with a broad swath of American public opinion.

Here’s the NYT article, which provides this interesting bit of context for the memo:

Charles Fried, a professor at Harvard Law School and the Reagan administration solicitor general in 1985, said he called Mr. Specter on Thursday to play down the significance of Judge Alito’s role in the memorandum. In an administration adamantly opposed to Roe v. Wade, Professor Fried said, Judge Alito had recommended avoiding a direct attack in favor of a piecemeal approach through lesser regulations.

There’s also this:

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas and a strong administration ally, said Judge Alito’s memorandum should ease concern about his abortion views, not heighten them.

"This latest memo demonstrates that even as a government lawyer Judge Alito did not advocate a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade, which is what his critics have accused him of plotting," Mr. Cornyn said.

You can find Judge Alito’s SJC questionnaire here and other new DOJ documents here and here.

Update: Ed Whelan notes that the Sandra Day O’Connor of 1983 and 1986 was not a big fan of Roe. I’ll add that Judge Alito, in the "infamous" memo wanted to push the Court in the direction of O’Connor’s dissent in Akron. Would the Sandra Day O’Connor of the 1980s be unacceptable to PFAW et al today?

Congressional reading habits

Human Events Online talked to some members of Congress about books they’re reading. No Homer, no Plato, no Shakespeare, though many mentioned Scripture and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) mentioned Federalist #10. Biographies and autobiographies were high on people’s reading lists. Sam Brownback liked biographies of British abolitionist William Wilberforce, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) liked Barry Goldwater’s autobiography, and John Thune began with William Manchester’s magisterial biographies of Winston Churchill. Hillary Clinton couldn’t answer "on the fly"; guess her people needed to run a focus group first.

Hat tip: Katie Newmark.

Birthday Thoughts

John Andrews at The Remedy reminds us that this week marks the birthdays, not only of Winston Churchill, but also of Mark Twain and C.S. Lewis. He poses a great hypothetical question for each of these three heroes as regards our time.

I will leave it to others who have posted here and posted well about Twain and Churchill to continue in that good work. But as my daughter and I are now deep into the world of Narnia (planning to finish book 7 just in time for the release of the movie) I offer this from book 6 The Silver Chair : Prince Rilian and the children (along with Puddleglum--the strange pessimistic creature who accompanies them on their journey) are about to embark on an escape from the Witch’s lair that is most dangerous. There is some hesitation as they realize they are likely to die in the effort to save Narnia and themselves.

"Friends," said the Prince, "when once a man is launched on such an adventure as this, he must bid farewell to hopes and fears, otherwise death or deliverance will both come too late to save his honor and his reason."

The Future of Europe?

Between this story about a Belgian woman who (through her husband) became a convert to a radical version of Islam and a suicide bomber and the riots in France last month, the future of Europe begins to look bleak indeed. How can the secular culture of today’s Europe combat this kind of fanaticism? What does it offer to capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of their people? With so little to inspire them, the spread of radical Islam in Europe will become more than just an immigration problem. It seems to be becoming a conversion problem. Perhaps Ann Coulter mispoke after all when she called some years ago for stepped up Christian missionary efforts in the Islamic world. Perhaps where we really need them is in Europe.

Military recruiters in high schools

David Schaefer blows the whistle on the spokeswoman for the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools, which opposes military recruitment in high schools. Turns out there may be more than meets the eye.

Democrats and religion

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has some tongue-in-cheek advice for Democrats who don’t wish to sound overly secular.

Abortion: the road not taken

George Will summarizes and comments on this speech, which is "must reading" for anyone who wishes to think seriouly about the constitutional politics of abortion.

GWB’s Annapolis speech

Here’s the text of the speech. Here’s the webpage from which you can download the strategy document. A crucial chunk of the executive summary:

Victory Will Take Time

Our strategy is working: Much has been accomplished in Iraq, including the removal of Saddam’s tyranny, negotiation of an interim constitution, restoration of full sovereignty, holding of free national elections, formation of an elected government, drafting of a permanent constitution, ratification of that constitution, introduction of a sound currency, gradual restoration of neglected infrastructure, the ongoing training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and the increasing capability of those forces to take on the terrorists and secure their nation.

Yet many challenges remain: Iraq is overcoming decades of a vicious tyranny, where governmental authority stemmed solely from fear, terror, and brutality.

It is not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy, able to defeat its enemies and peacefully reconcile generational grievances, to be in place less than three years after Saddam was finally removed from power.

Our comprehensive strategy will help Iraqis overcome remaining challenges, but defeating the multi-headed enemy in Iraq -- and ensuring that it cannot threaten Iraq’s democratic gains once we leave -- requires persistent effort across many fronts.

Our Victory Strategy Is (and Must Be) Conditions Based

With resolve, victory will be achieved, although not by a date certain.

No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one.

But lack of a timetable does not mean our posture in Iraq (both military and civilian) will remain static over time. As conditions change, our posture will change.

We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year, as the political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience.

While our military presence may become less visible, it will remain lethal and decisive, able to confront the enemy wherever it may organize.

Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete.

Here’s the WaPo story; here’s an AP story, though not the one noted by Power Line; and here’s the NYT story.

Mac Owens rather liked the speech:

Our demagogues have pandered to the fears and weaknesses of the American rather than to their virtues and strengths. In his Naval Academy speech, President Bush did just the opposite, exercising his “duty [as one whom the people have] appointed to be the guardians of [their] … interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.”

Today’s speech is the opening salvo in a campaign of public diplomacy to reinvigorate the war effort and restore public support for our enterprise in Iraq. It coincides with the release of the president’s Iraq strategy document, which is important in and of itself. The fact is that the United States has always had a strategy for Iraq, but any strategy worthy of the name must be adaptable.

What critics mean when they say there is no strategy is that they don’t like what the president is doing, although none have offered any alternative but withdrawal. By publishing the outline of his strategy, the president makes it impossible for his critics to take the easy way out. now they will have to put up or shut up…if only.

So did Rich Lowry.

Here’s an account of the predictably negative Democratic response: where once at least a few of them called for more boots on the ground, the chorus now is that our presence is provoking the insurgency. Nancy Pelosi has gone further, actually endorsing John Murtha’s plan for a rapid withdrawal and claiming that at least half the Democratic caucus agrees with her. Bill Kristol thinks this is a bad, nay "disastrous," move:

Pelosi’s endorsement today of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq makes the House Democrats the party of defeat, the party of surrender. Bush’s strong speech today means the GOP is likely to be--if Republican Congressmen just keep their nerve--the party of victory. Now it is possible that the situation in Iraq will worsen over the next year. If that happens, Bush and the GOP are in deep trouble. They would have been if Pelosi had said nothing. But it is much more likely that the situation in Iraq will stay more or less the same, or improve. In either case, Republicans will benefit from being the party of victory.

My bottom line: a very good speech (more please!) and a hollow response, largely bereft of any serious thinking.

Update: Hillary Clinton’s triangulation seems to be costing her with the wing (or is it body?) of the Democratic Party.

Happy Birthday Sir Winston

Today is Winston Churchill’s birthday.

Have you bought this book yet? Makes a wonderful stockking stuffer for Christmas. . .

Sheehan’s book signing

Because I noted here that Cindy Sheehan’s book signing was a bust, you ought to know that she has replied , and has accused
"right wing" (this excludes the WaPo, I’m guessing) sites of doing her a disservice.

CIA’s covert action

John Hinderaker on the CIA’s war against the Bush administration: "The CIA’s war against the Bush administration is one of the great untold stories of the past three years. It is, perhaps, the agency’s most successful covert action of recent times." Also see this.

The human (?) face of abortion

Some of you may have missed this article, in yesterday’s LAT. No one comes off looking good.

Don’t forget, oral arguments in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood will be held today.

Hat tip: Mere Comments.

Oh, Christmas tree!

My latest TAE Online column, blaming our holiday woes on Sandra Day O’Connor (with an assist from the ACLU), is available for your reading pleasure and/or ridicule.

Edward Teller and his courage

Michael Lennick, who is directing something on Edward Teller for TV, writes this (which includes a so-called "last" interview in 2002) on Teller for American Heritage of Invention and Technology. It’s not necessarily favorable, but both Teller’s huge ability and his love of this country comes through. I had a few words to say about him here, and this is another long interview with Teller. The father of the Hydrogen bomb once said: "If I claim credit for anything, I should not claim credit for knowledge but for courage." Teller died September 9, 2003. He was 95.

Al Qaeda

The Economist asks whether al Queda is losing support in the Arab world. Also note these two paragraphs, which Daniel Drezner brings to our attention:

"Noteworthy in all these subtle shifts is the fact that they are, by and large, internally generated. Few of them have come about as a result of prodding or policy initiatives from the West. On the contrary, the intrusion of foreign armies into Iraq, the consequent ugly spectacle of civilian casualties and torture, and the continuing agony of Palestine, have clearly slowed down the Arab public’s response to the dangers posed by jihadism.

Now, or so it seems, it is the cooling of the Palestinian intifada, a slight lowering of the volume of imagery featuring ugly Americans in Iraq, and a general weariness with jihadist hysteria that have allowed attention to refocus on the costs, rather than the hoped-for rewards, of “resistance”. At the same time, the rising tide of American domestic opposition to the war has begun to reassure deeply sceptical Arabs that the superpower may not, after all, be keen to linger on Arab soil for ever."

Men, young and old

Wretchard has a touching note on Randy Cunningham’s confession, and his past glory. He concludes with an A.E. Houseman poem,
"To an Athlete Dying Young." Worthy.

The latest Sheehan-exploiter

The execrable David Duke joins the list of people exploiting Cindy Sheehan’s loss. Hat tip: Power Line.

From Latvia to Ireland

This Washington Post story is about one Janis Neulans, a Latvian, finding work in Ireland. While it focuses on this individual, the article claims that about 450,000 workers have migrated from the former Eastern Bloc countries (since 2004) to Ireland, Britain, and Sweden, looking for work.

The John M. Olin Foundation: R.I.P.

John J. Miller notes that the John M. Olin Foundation Board of Trustees will hold its final meeting tomorrow. Miller’s book about the Foundation is discussed here. I expressed my gratitude to the Foundation here.

Movies and moral education

Thomas S. Hibbs has an interesting article on moral education and teenagers, focusing on the new Jane Austen and Harry Potter movies. By the by, he calls our attention to this book. I’d add this website, which, though less explicitly devoted to moral education, contains excellent resources for the moral and philosophical study of great books and film.

Born alive

This is pretty gruesome: The London Times reports that a "A government agency is launching an inquiry into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions." Abortion on demand is allowed in Britain up to 24 weeks — more than halfway through a normal pregnancy and the highest legal limit for such terminations in Europe.

Gubernatorial and Congressional Democrats

These two articles, read together, shed some light on the political opportunities--and challenges--that the Democrats face. My favorite line comes from Wyoming governor Dave Freudenthal, a graduate of Amherst College: "If I had stayed in Massachusetts I probably wouldn’t be a Democrat," he said. "But out here, historically Democrats have always been interested in the issues of average people."

Retail giants

Sebastian Mallaby comes to the defense of Wal-Mart against its leftist critics.

And this year, unlike last, Target is partnering on-line with the Salvation Army. Not that I’m complaining about this, but I’m still on the lookout for good old-fashioned red kettles.

Commerce in its place, and charity in its.

Westphalia, Joschka Fischer, and Networks

Does the Treaty of Westphalia still have a hold on a world wherein nation-states are in some sense being replaced by distributed networks of people? Traditional boundaries are being skipped in many ways, not the least of which is terrorist organizations. Wretchard expands on this: "Viewed from one angle, modern Islamic terrorist cells are not so much a return to the forms of the 8th century as new structures made possible by 21st century technologies." A few very thoughtful pages follow. (Some of the comments are also worth reading.)
Note this paragraph:

"But most States are an anti-network; in fact the ultimate hive, where drones swarm in vast pyramids around a Dear Leader, a Great Helmsman or a Driver of the Locomotive of History. And if the United States has one advantage over other states in an age of network warfare, it is because in some respects America is an anti-state; ideally, though not always in practice, a framework within which individuals can thrive. In this respect America was conceptually at variance with the scheme of Westphalia whose key precept was state sovereignty: in America sovereignty was useful mainly to allow the growth of individual freedom. For years European intellectuals have secretly suspected America of really being a religion masquerading as a country. And if that is true the First Republic is ironically well adapted to meet the Jihad on the intellectual battlefields of the 21st century."

Happy (?), er, holidays (?)

’Tis the season. Almost every year there’s a kerfluffle somewhere about a civic display. This year, we have Boston’s holiday tree, which offends some (including the supplier) in an attempt not to offend others.

Samuel Alito had a few things to say about such matters here (on Jersey City’s "’holiday’ displays," which included a Christmas tree, a creche, a menorah, some Kwanzaa ornaments, and some secular figures) and here (on a child’s Thanksgiving poster in a public school).

The talking heads also have much to say, with battling books by John Gibson (The War on Christmas) and Bill Press (How the Republicans Stole Christmas).

Hat tip: the invaluable Religion Clause.

Update: Boston’s tree is a Christmas tree again, but it turns out that lots of places have holiday trees, including, until yesterday, the U.S. Capitol.

SCOTUS and abortion

This Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood (more resources here; scroll to the end) a case dealing with a parental notification law in New Hampshire. These articles note that Judge Alito’s confirmation could lead the Court to rehear the case if Sandra Day O’Connor would provide the decisive fifth vote for either side.


Cindy Sheehan and her supporters--about 200 of them--have been demonstrating near the Bush ranch in Texas. The poor turnout is blamed on both the holiday and the bad weather (some rain). Maybe. But note that the article mentions that there were two-and-a-half-times as many people (circa 500) who turned out at the ranch to call on Bush to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to release detained opposition party leaders in that country.

Also note these photos from Sheehan’s book signing. No bad weather in the tent, I would say.