Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Dubai

Is Dubai the "impossible city"? "On the one hand, it’s more cosmopolitan than eastern Germany and southern Italy, more tolerant than Poland or Louisiana, and consumers spend more here than in Munich or Madrid. But on the other hand it’s a dictatorship, almost a rogue state, a desert regime without a parliament or a political opposition, without trade unions, political parties or associations. All books and newspapers are subject to censorship. Sharia law is observed, including corporal punishment, and all Jews are strictly banned from entering the country." (via Arts and Letters Daily).

Confederacy of Dunces

La Shawn Barber has a big thought about the Virginia Senate race, and a race word. (via Instapundit). 

Saturday Soundings

Fascinating article in the latest issue of The Nation, analyzing the attempt of left-wing philanthropists to mimic the legendary infrastructure of the right through an effort called the Democracy Alliance. I recommend it as a pick-me-up for anyone down about Republican chances in the election: if this is what the left is up to, they can count on resuming their long-term decline after a brief blip in this election. It bears all the hallmarks of stupid liberal policy: excessive centralization and an obsession with process.

Samples:

A secondary problem is the struggle these well-meaning wealthy Democrats have had in getting their own house in order. Since its inception, the Alliance has been unabashedly elitist, while also poorly run. The criteria for choosing winners have been maddeningly opaque and the grants themselves contradictory. Far from speeding up the funding of progressive organizations, the Alliance has slowed certain things down.

Meanwhile, for would-be recipients, the process of applying for money was bewildering: completely secret and seemingly changing all the time. . . The small number of groups chosen, some of whom were already well funded, and the secrecy of the process infuriated organizations excluded from the club. No one knew exactly why the nine groups had been picked. Funding progressive infrastructure was all well and good, but no one bothered defining precisely what "progressive" meant. The partners themselves, with their business backgrounds, focused on the process by which groups were funded, not what they would do with the money. "There was an almost complete lack of actual substance," one adviser to a major donor said of the Atlanta meeting. The groups were selected to mirror the right but were far less anti-establishment than their conservative counterparts.

In the second round of funding, however, the Alliance fell into the common liberal trap of needing to be all things to all people. After two grant cycles the Alliance is overextended. . . To date the Alliance hasn’t been deeply involved in idea creation in the same way conservatives have been. . . A funding shortfall only partially accounts for the Alliance’s inattention. There are philosophical reasons as well. Idea creation takes time, media development is expensive and both are risky. And the Alliance is highly risk-averse.

Clearly they have their work cut out for them, especially since this (scroll down a bit for the chart) is how so many of their target audience conceive the right. Looks to me like LSD is making a comeback.   

Chemerinsky on the Public Expression of Religion Act

Liberal law prof (almost a redundancy, I know) Erwin Chemerinsky argues that by denying plaintiffs’ attorneys (from the ACLU and Americans United, for example) the ability to collect their fees if they win a case under the Establishment Clause, the Public Expression of Religion Act would deprive Americans of the opportunity to vindicate their rights:

Such a bill could have only one motive: to protect unconstitutional government actions advancing religion. The religious right, which has been trying for years to use government to advance their religious views, wants to reduce the likelihood that their efforts will be declared unconstitutional. Since they cannot change the law of the Establishment Clause by statute, they have turned their attention to trying to prevent its enforcement by eliminating the possibility for recovery of attorneys’ fees.


Those who successfully prove the government has violated their constitutional rights would, under the bill, be required to pay their own legal fees. Few people can afford to do so. Without the possibility of attorneys’ fees, individuals who suffer unconstitutional religious persecution often will be unable to sue. The bill applies even to cases involving illegal religious coercion of public school children or blatant discrimination against particular religions.

Aren’t there generous secularists and separationists who are willing to bankroll such challenges? There are plenty of good things, like school choice, which could be funded by government, but often aren’t. In some cases, the philanthropic sector has picked up the ball. Why not let Establishment Clause challenges be another arena in which we rely on the generosity (to use the word generously) of those who wish to pursue that particular agenda?

Chemerinsky assumes that the sorts of challenges he wants to encourage are always meritorious, but Congress--entitled, as it is, to its own assessment of the judiciary’s record in these matters--begs to differ. The legislative branch is certainly free to decide whether or not encouraging such suits, and implicitly approving of the string of decisions that inspired, and will be extended by, them, is a desirable goal of public policy. To my mind, little or no harm would come from reining in the separationist litigators and, in effect, compelling them to choose their cases more carefully, since they’re spending their own--or rather their donors’--money.

A last thought: if Chemerinsky is so interested in defending the litany of rights currently upheld by the courts, would he be willing to support an analogous mechanism for discouraging frivolous lawsuits? Suppose the plaintiffs lost. Could it be possible under law for the defendants to recover their court costs? Turnabout would seem to be fair play. (Perhaps this is already possible. If so, I ’m hoping that one of our attorney readers will set me straight.)

NIE supports GWB

So says this piece from Down Under. A snippet:

The NIE states: "We assess that the Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists." Well, let’s assume that’s correct. My question is: And? What follows from that assessment? Israel is also a cause celebre for jihadists. Does that mean we should abandon it? If the answer is: "No, that’s a ridiculous proposition", then it is logically equally ridiculous in the case of Iraq.

Of course, there are people who think we should abandon Israel, who would probably also argue that to respond in any way to jihadist provocations or to offend their sensibilities is to pour fuel on the fire, to which there is this response:

Non-action has its own consequences. There is a strong case to be made, and certainly one I support, that non-action is exactly what caused the original growth and strength of jihadism in the lead-up to 9/11. Would the world have been safer if we had continued to avoid retaliatory action? I don’t think so.

The Which Blair Project

Couldn’t help that headline, as I read this terrific Gerard Baker column on the "Americanization of British politics" under Tony Blair.

Sample:

Mr Blair’s speech this week too was suffused with American echoes and cadences. A friend commented to me in the middle of the peroration that it sounded increasingly like Martin Luther King’s dramatic final declamation to the startled crowd in Atlanta.

“I may not get there with you,” Mr Blair, the soon-to-be martyred leader seemed to be telling his people. “But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land” — of city academies and foundation hospitals. If he had told us that he had a dream that one day all the little Brownites and all the little Blairites would hold hands together like sisters and brothers there wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house.

 

Friday Follies

Remember when Nixon said something like, "If the president does it, it’s not illegal"? Well, I fully expect my green friends to say something like "If nature pollutes, it’s not pollution" in response to this story in this morning’s Washington Post.

I was on the road yesterday in Chicago, where, because the in-house ethernet service was down at the Drake Hotel, I wasn’t able to file "Thursday Thoughts." The Drake’s internet server was down for the entire 24 hours I was there, which is simply astounding these days. I left a scortching note for the manager.

Tomorrow and Saturday

I will speaking tomorrow to the staff of the Harvard SALIENT and other conservative student organizations tomorrow at 530pm in Sever 103. You are invited and feel free to contact me for more details.

On Saturday, I will be speaking briefly with Paul Cantor, Bill Kristol, Michael Sandel, and others at the Memorial for Delba Wintrhop at the Mansfield home on Raymond Street in Cambridge at 1130am.

Freedom Fighter, from San Jose to Vietnam

Cong Thanh Do is back in the U.S.A. after spending 38 in jail in Vietnam.

"Do’s arrest exposed a double life he had led for seven years. By day, he was an engineer at Applied Materials. By night, he was an online freedom fighter who wrote political essays under a pen name, Tran Nam, who pushed for an end to Vietnam’s one-party communist system.

He and his wife had fled Vietnam by boat, arriving in the United States as political refugees in 1982. Even as he settled into the routines of family life, fathering three children and starting a bakery on the side, Do never gave up on hopes of helping reform his native country.

’I have a very nice, comfortable life here in the United States. But a part of me is always in Vietnam,’ said Do, 47. ’I’ve always wanted to do something for Vietnam, so the people can enjoy what I do: democracy.’"

What’s going on?

Fouad Ajami offers a complex and unwieldy take on an unwieldy and complex region.

Grade Inflation

Here’s an article by the courageous Stanley Kurtz on the causes and possible cures for grade inflation. In honor of Harvey C-minus Mansfield, we have to give his analysis some thought. But we also have to remember that Harvey ended up having to give both real grades and ironic grades. The ironic (or typically high Harvard) grade is the one actually recorded, the other is a more accurate evaluation of the student’s work. Harvey ddesn’t want students penalized for taking his class. And Kurtz reminds us that a B at Harvard is a genuinely subpar grade. An unironic Harvard C-minus is vritually inconceivable, although very old people tell me it once was what a B is now.

Harvard and the other elite schools put professors at more ordinary colleges in an awkward situation. Nobody is going to think a B at my college is anywhere near as good as a B at Harvard, but a B at Harvard is not so good. So wouldn’t my ironic position have to be to give someone who would have earned a B at Harvard an A? A fair number of my majors right now could, I think, scrape by with Bs at Harvard. Some could do better still, but I’m left with no grade for them.

Another pressure comes at colleges with schools of education, which often give lots and lots of As based on the principle of mastery grading. If you perform each of the sundry tasks of the course competently, you get an A. So A doesn’t mean excellent, but adequate across the board. Education schools, of course, are all about "the culture of assessment," but that really means detailed quantitative proof of adequate achievement of all the "learning outocomes."

The great injustice of grade inflation is to the admirable, overachieving student who can’t be properly rewarded for his or her outstanding work. The result is an overemphasis on standardized national tests, such as the GRE and LSAT, which should properly be viewed as supplementary, not primary, information concerning a student’s achievement and promise.

I don’t share Mr. Kurtz’s optimism that a war against grade inflation could be won, but I urge him to join us in the trenches any try.

End of term red meat or dead meat

I posted a note on yesterday’s parental notification vote over at Knippenblog.

There was also a roll call on the Public Expression of Religion Act, which would prohibit plaintiffs’ attorneys from collecting legal fees for cases in which they successfully challenged a publicly-sponsored religious display. I think the bill has merit--given the cost and unpredictability of litigation, the very threat of a suit might be sufficient to cause some defendants to surrender--but I’m not at all confident that it will pass the Senate in the waning days of the term.

Republican House, Democratic Senate?


According
to the astute Democratic analyst Mickey Kaus, the odds are now that the Repubicans will retain the House and lose the Senate. There are enough Senate races now that are even or leaning Democratic according to the actual poll numbers to produce a Democratic takeover. And the historical tendency has been for all the close Senate races to break one way or the other in the final days. Right now, most of the close races show a slight to rather pronounced Democratic trend. But don’t despair. The trend on House races is reassuring. And the Senate races really could break either way, if the break theory really does hold up.

Andy Busch podcast

I had a brief conversation about the elections with Andy Busch a few hours ago.

Testosterone and Brain Cell Depletion

Too much testosterone can kill brain cells! Does this explain Clinton’s explosion? O.k., that was too easy. But just to prove that I’m really not anti-science, take a look. Interesting and, perhaps, relevant. What say you Prof. Lawler?

Waziristan = Talibanistan?

Tony Blankley reflects on some sobering news about a "separate peace" between Pakistan and Waziristan:

Whatever is going on in Pakistan (and we must hope that the men who replace Musharraf sooner or later will not be more sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and will be at least as careful in controlling their nuclear weapons), our effort to stand up Afghanistan and suppress the Taliban and al Qaeda in the region has suddenly taken on an even more formidable dimension.


There are no ready solutions to the dilemma. With Pakistan now hors de combat, our already undermanned forces in Afghanistan will soon have to engage the tribal regions of northwest Pakistan -- fighting some of the world’s most resourceful and cruel fighters in the most unforgiving lands on earth.

Read the whole thing, as well as this.

Update: And then read this for a somewhat more hopeful analysis of the events. I’d love to think that RC2 is right that this actually frees our hands somewhat in Waziristan.

Update #2: This WaPo article offers some more information, but doesn’t settle anything. This AP story offers evidence that Taliban activity has increased since the Pakistanis signed the accord.

Legal vs. natural parenthood

Tom Cerber calls our attention to this study, which details the way in which legal definitions of parenthood are moving futher and further away from our our most natural experiences.

Wag the finger

I like Kathleen Parker’s take on the Clinton interview, his narcissism and "his inner Gollum."  

Mozart cancelled

Is art "falling on its knees before the terrorists" in
Germany?

Hayward podcast

I talked with Steve Hayward for fifteen minutes yesterday on Bill Clinton’s interview and the elections. Although I am going to be talking with others, I will make a point of talking with both Hayward and Busch every week through the elections. 

Good blogger daughter

This morning, as I was consulting with my daughter (8 going on 14) about what she would wear to track, she announced that she had seen on the news that current temperatures were in the mid-40s. I didn’t think that could be right (high 50s is more like it, going up to the upper 70s), so she gave some ground. "You know, Daddy," she whispered, "the news lies." My response:
"Not about the weather, honey, not about the weather."

Too easy to fact-check.

Enough

Forget immigration as a hot-button issue. Sooner or later flyers are going to say "enough!" if the government doesn’t stop idiocy like this.

Your partisan duty

Get married, preferably before November, but certainly before 2008. and have children as quickly as possible. I live, by the way, in the Congressional district with the third highest marriage rate. The number one district is right next door.

Civic literacy

Pete Du Pont calls attention to this report showing an astonishingly low level of civic literacy among American college students. I haven’t been able to download the whole report yet, but Du Pont summarizes the results:

As for the 50 colleges that participated in the program, the best-scoring students were not from the institutions one might expect. Rhodes College, Colorado State University and Calvin College were the top three, with senior students averaging between 9.5 and 11.6 percentage points higher than freshmen.


At the other end of the scale were 16 schools that showed "negative learning"--that is, seniors scored lower than freshmen. Cornell, UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins were the worst three, their seniors scoring between 3.3 and 7.3 percentage points worse than their freshmen. And on the negative list were some other very prestigious universities: Williams, Georgetown, Yale, Duke and Brown.


How did these educational failures come to pass? ISI concludes that "students don’t learn what colleges don’t teach." In other words, in colleges where students must take more courses in American history they do better on the test, outperforming schools where fewer courses were completed. Seniors at the top test-scoring colleges "took an average of 4.2 history and political science courses, while seniors at the two lowest-ranked colleges . . . took an average of 2.9 history and political science courses." Similarly, higher ranked colleges spent more time on homework, 20 hours a week at fourth-ranked Grove City College and 14 or 15 at low-ranked Georgetown and Berkeley.

Here are the full rankings, for those of you who care about such things. Kudos to our friends at Rhodes, whose students registered the greatest increase over their college careers. There are other interesting tables here, which enable you, among other things, to see the absolute scores of the students at various institutions, and to take a look at which questions students seemed to do best adn worst on.

I can’t wait to see whether and how defenders of the status quo in higher education try to spin these results, which seem quite striking. Inside Higher Ed shows the way, offering this banal truth:

The report also found that some of the most prestigious colleges in the United State had lower rankings on the survey questions than did less prestigious institutions.

That seems right, but they’re squandering an opportunity to do so much more with such promising prospects, who know a lot coming in, and often less coming out.

Update: Here’s the one story I could find about the press conference describing the study.

Pop Culture to the Rescue

From an unlikely blog, this reminder from The Beverly Hillbillies that politics ain’t beanbag:

Granny: "Remember what William Jennings Bryan said, ’fight hard but fight clean’?"
Jethro: "But you ain’t fightin’ clean Granny"
Granny: "Course I ain’t, William Jennings Bryan was a loser!"

Happy Wednesday.

Wednesday Wonders

Democrats are having gas pains: the pump price keeps falling! Heavens: there goes a talking point. Here’s Rich Lowry and Rick Newman on the amusing spectacle.

Rural-Metro Partisan Divide Closing?

Here’s Michael Barone’s incisive and detailed analysis of the congressional races. He attempts to explain why Republican support has declined in rural areas but has held steady or even picked up in metropolitan ones. One theory: Rural Americans bear most of the burden of fighting the war in Iraq, while urbanites have the most to fear from terrorists. It could be, though, that Republican metro-success may depend on the peculiarities of particular races--in MD the Republicans have an attractive African American candidate who is doing comparatively well among black voters, in NJ the Democrats are stuck with a crook. It’s also the case the NJ is one of the few states that the Republicans recruited the challenger they wanted most.

Countering the counterculture

Bill McClay has a nice little piece in the new issue of Touchstone. A snippet:

Not so long ago, the quest for liberation from social convention carried certain perils. But now we have made that quest into a new social convention in its own right, with its own canons of respectability, such as the routine celebration of books and movies and other works of art solely on the grounds that they are “troubling” or “transgressive,” qualities now deemed to be peculiarly meritorious in and of themselves, quite apart from their specific content.


Of course, one of the many dirty little secrets of this dirty little ethos is that it rests upon a veiled form of class snobbery. There must always be certain unnamed “others,” the gaping suburbanites and mindless rubes who are thought to sustain and uphold the philistine conventions from which “we” perpetually need to be liberated. But those “others” seem increasingly shadowy and hard to locate. The specter of a monolithic “red state” America is an easy way of positing the continued pernicious existence of such benighted “others.”


But as a resident of a certifiably red state, I can authoritatively testify that we are all Bobos on this bus—or at least most of us. The new convention has been triumphant beyond its wildest dreams, and now suffuses our popular culture and our advertising, assimilated into the mainstream in the most remarkable and incongruous ways.

Read the whole short thing.

Don’t Praise or Blame Strauss!

Here’s an analysis of the connection, or lack thereof, between the political philosophy of Leo Strauss and our current foreign policy. It features fascinating analyses of little-known texts of Strauss. Among Nathan Tarcov’s conclusions is that Strauss taught moderation when it came to the universalistic aspirations of the West. If Strauss erred, it was on the side of underestimating prospects for the spread of liberal democracy, an error (if error it is) that President Bush certainly has not made. But in the end "Strauss can remind us of the permanent problems, but we have only ourselves to blame for faulty solutions to the problems of today." That also means we should praise ourselves and not Strauss if we’ve gotten anything right in addressing those problems. By posting this article I’m not endorsing it all, but it is well worth a close read.

Here’s Looking at You, Democracy!

There’s going to be a sort of one-day conference at Berry on November 9 on Democracy in Athens, America, and Rick’s, or on Plato, Tocqueville, and CASABLANCA.

The featured speaker will be James Pontuso of Hampden-Sydney College, editor of POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY GOES TO RICK’S and fine books on the dissidents Solzhenitsyn and Havel.

Much of the conference will showcase the good work Berry students are doing on Plato, Tocqueville, and films this semester.

But we also are soliciting a few presentations from scholars on the above topics. Better still would be accounts of ways they are connected--Plato and Tocqueville, Tocqueville and CASABLANCA etc.

The date is November 9. Unfortunately, litte to no funding is available for travel or honoraria. (Let me know your situation and I may be able to work with you.) Contact me very soon if you want to participate--plawler@berry.edu. (I hope posting that address doesn’t flood me with blog groupies.)

In honor of this conference, I’m soliciting your opinions on 1.The relevance of Tocqueville for understanding America today and 2. CASABLANCA as political commentary.

A busy political day

As I noted yesterday, I had a full plate of state-level political leaders on campus today.

Governor Sonny Perdue addressed an auditorium full of students, faculty, staff, and guests this morning, focusing on the themes of trust and leadership. Without explicitly referring to Aristotle, he offered a concrete example of why the optimal size of a political order is one in which everyone is a friend of a friend. For Perdue, trustworthiness has to be established personally, and hence all politics must ultimately be personal. Hard to manage in a state with over 8 million inhabitants and in a reelection campaign whose budget is approaching $15 million, but worth holding up as a touchstone. Stated another way: character matters, and you can tell a lot about a person by looking at his (or her) family.

As you can tell, this wasn’t a political speech, but was meant rather to reach a college-age audience, who have likely given more thought to family and friendship than they have to political life. It worked as a civic lesson, and it worked as a way of conveying the dignity and decency of public life. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more appropriate message to counter the premature cynicism of so many of my students.

Perdue connects well with his audience and impressed the unscientific sample of students with whom I spoke afterward. The student introducer and questioners also acquitted themselves well, the former managing to convey something of the Governor’s personality and the latter posing questions that were well-formulated and respectful, focusing on the Governor’s promotion of Georgia’s international profile and on public support for private higher education.

A short while later, I hosted Mary Margaret Oliver, a long-time Georgia state legislator who has focused much of her career on child and family issues. As she is unopposed for reelection, she could be very forthright and pointed in the issues and questions she raises. A slightly left-of-center Democrat (who once had statewide political aspirations), Rep. Oliver argued that state government spends too much time and effort on economic development and not enough on education and health care. We worry too much, she argued, about jobs, and not enough about the 40% of those who enter high school in Georgia, but do not graduate.

While she tried to cast this contrast in terms of class (with governors--including her old State Senate suitemate Sonny Perdue, once a Democrat--spending too much time associating with the "super-rich" who bring capital and jobs to the state), I think that there’s a more plausible explanation. Rep. Oliver spoke movingly about the plight of a "permanent underclass," of toddlers who, without state intervention, would be at the mercy of their drug-addicted mothers. It’s extremely hard, she said, to know what to do. How do you intervene? How many chances at rehabilitation do you give the mother? (If I’d been anything other than the good host, I might have asked her here what she thought of state funding for faith-based drug rehabilitation, but I held my tongue.) In short, there are limits to what the state can do in dealing with problems that she came very close to conceding were intractable. And surely there are even greater limits to what a state can do in the relatively short terms allotted to political leaders who have to be able to point to successes in the face of an adversarial environment if they’re to win reelection. It’s much easier to point to the billions of dollars of new investment and the thousands (or tens of thousands) of jobs that have been created on your watch. Those are metrics everyone can understand and about which it’s relatively easy to boast. And, of course, jobs are, for the most part, uncontroversial (unless they’re held by illegal immigrants).

After listening to Rep. Oliver, I’m reminded of something that Rousseau said (which I’ll have to paraphrase badly, since I don’t have the text in front of me): today’s politicians talk incessantly about commerce and money; their predecessors spoke about morals. Rep. Oliver doesn’t want them to talk about money so much, but I’m not sure that she wants them to talk about morals and character in a way that might--just might--begin meaningfully to address some of her very real concerns regarding the least among us.

All in all, a busy and interesting day. The more I listen to these state-level political figures, the more I’m convinced that Georgia has an impressive stock of genuine public servants. Sounds corny and pollyannaish, I know, but I haven’t encountered a stinker yet. (People assure me that there are some, but they seem to be allergic to speaking at Oglethorpe.)

What to Order in American Restaurants

Here are some excellent tips from the outstanding libertarian scholar Tyler Cowen on dining well in American restaurants. They’re very simple and clear. Two I’ve embraced: 1. Especially in expensive restaurants, you get more bang and taste for your buck if you stick with appetizers and side dishes. 2. Don’t waste money and calories on desserts--they’re almost always a disappointment, comparatively speaking.

Tuesday Thoughts

Reaction--pro and con--still pouring forth about Clinton’s performance on Fox News, from Dick Morris, Andrew Klavan in the LA Times (is he related to Cliff from Cheers?), and John Dickerson on Slate.com. Consensus seems to be that it was a calculated outburst.

And don’t miss Time magazine today on Why the Democratic Wave Could Be a Washout. Happy Tuesday.

November prospects

Another straw in the wind.

Y’all come

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 26th, at 10:45 a.m., Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue will be speaking in Oglethorpe University’s Lupton Auditorium.

I’m hosting other speakers as well--State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver at noon on the same day; State Rep. Karla Drenner at noon on Thursday, September 28th; and Alan Essig, Executive Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, on Tuesday, October 3rd, at noon.

I’m speaking down at Mercer University in Macon on Thursday, November 16th.

Last but not least, I’m looking forward to attending this conference.

This is "Dhimmi"

A few days ago we had some discussion about the meaning of "dhimmi." Well, this about epitomizes it. Apparently the British police have agreed to consult with a panel of Muslim authorities before authorizing further raids on suspected terror cells.

Hat tip: Tammy Bruce.

Rumsfeld

Yesterday’s New York Times ran a front page story on Rumsfeld and how he plays squash:
"Mr. Rumsfeld took up squash more than 20 years ago when he was a business executive. Rather than tricky bank shots off the walls, a move that better-skilled players favor, Mr. Rumsfeld plays with power, hitting the ball hard and ending points quickly. And he relentlessly attacks his opponent’s confidence." Surprise.

Jay Nordlinger has a good interview with him on NRO (and it is essentially reprinted in the dead tree version of the current issues of National Review). "It’s a tough picture. It’s difficult."

Monday Musings

Several faithful NLT readers took issue with my remonstrance yesterday of Bill Clinton’s blown gasket on Fox News. Well, courtesy of the indispensible Patterco, we know that Chris Wallace asked Don Rumsfeld exactly the same question two years ago, and somehow Dandy Don didn’t lose his cool:

Wallace (to Rumsfeld):I understand this is 20/20 hindsight, it’s more than an individual manhunt. I mean — what you ended up doing in the end was going after al Qaeda where it lived. . . . pre-9/11 should you have been thinking more about that?

. . . .

What do you make of his [Richard Clarke’s] basic charge that pre-9/11 that this government, the Bush administration largely ignored the threat from al Qaeda?

. . . .

Mr. Secretary, it sure sounds like fighting terrorism was not a top priority.

Also, I missed this terrific piece in the LA Times last week on "Head-in-the-Sand Liberals," written by a liberal who gets it.

Sample:

Perhaps I should establish my liberal bone fides at the outset. I’d like to see taxes raised on the wealthy, drugs decriminalized and homosexuals free to marry. I also think that the Bush administration deserves most of the criticism it has received in the last six years — especially with respect to its waging of the war in Iraq, its scuttling of science and its fiscal irresponsibility.

But my correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world — specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.

On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that "liberals are soft on terrorism." It is, and they are. 

Islam Needs a Pope, Not a Luther

Well, here’s a gutsy article by Jonah Goldberg in USA TODAY (!) that contains complicated and controversial historical, political, and theological claims, including the one found in my title. I’m sure every Starbucks in America is buzzing with animated theological-political (as the Spinozans and Straussians say) conversation this morning.

Is the Chief Justice a Judicial Activist?

Here’s an article that claims he may become one, although he’s been reasonably passive so far. The author cites as evidence two of Roberts’ dissents--one would have declared Oregon’s right-to-die law unconstitutional, the other would have sharply curtailed the authority of the EPA. It’s understandable why someone would have considered either of those decisions by the Court activist, although it does depend on your definition of activism.

Um. . .

From a wire service story out this evening:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Sept. 24) - A car dealership’s planned radio advertisement that declared "a jihad on the automotive market" has drawn sharp criticism for its content but will not be changed, the business said Saturday.

Several stations rejected the Dennis Mitsubishi spot, which says sales representatives wearing "burqas" — head-to-toe traditional dress for Islamic women — will sell vehicles that can "comfortably seat 12 jihadists in the back."

"Our prices are lower than the evildoers’ every day. Just ask the pope!" the ad says. "Friday is fatwa Friday, with free rubber swords for the kiddies."

CAIR is not amused.

Militants Against Our Toxic Food Environment

Here’s a libertarian polemic against the "new prohibitionism." Articles like this are always overblown. But they do cause us to think about possible connections between our increasing clamor for laws against risk factors (or for health and safety) and our increasing indifference to moral virtue in the more old-fashioned sense.

Ohio elections

I have done a few newspaper interviews over the last week or so on the upcoming elections. One reporter actually laughed at me when I told him that I thought both Blackwell and DeWine would win! No wonder. Look at the polls; that’s the only thing they think they understand about politics; they think polls are politics. I think reality is politics, and I think I see reality more clearly than the MSM and the polls do! The Columbus Dispatch runs an above the fold front page story on their latest poll: Strickland leads Blackwell, 52-33%, and "shows that a near-sweep of statewide races appears within the grasp of Ohio Democrats." The poll was based on 1,791 "randomly selected" registered voters. Note also that Sherrod Brown (D) leads Sen. Mike DeWine, 47-42%. Also note that DeWine gets 16% of the black vote, while Blackwell gets only 15%! Does anyone really think this is the case? Get serious. This pollster is a thief.

But, the story is an easy and quick read (and see the details of the poll), so I won’t try to recapture any more of it (although also note that in the poll the Dispatch called Blackwell’s running mate Charles, instead of Tom Raga!). The thrust of the story is that Blackwell is "struggling to keep fellow Republicans in the fold." Every poll has Strickland ahead (none lower than 50%).

Despite the facts (as the social scientists would say) I see no reason to change my opinion about the elections (either in Ohio or nationally; see Joe’s post below). If the so-called scientific polling stays as is three or four days before the elections, then I will re-think things: then the GOP will take a very serious beating and not only in Ohio. But the numbers will not stay; and they are not meaningful even today. So, on this pretty Ohio day, I will get on Isabel, place a Blackwell bumber sticker on her, and do some campaigning!

Popular vs. Judicial Activism

George Will reports on a likely successful initiative on the Michigan ballot this fall to make the state’s law colorblind. Those spearheading that effort, including one of our country’s most admirable and effective troublemakeers--Ward Connerly--and the young woman who actually got the Supreme to side with her against the University of Michigan’s quota system, but not on ccolorblind principles--Jennifer Gratz, have fended off all sorts of thuggish intimidation from various educational and political elites. In GRUTTER and GRATZ, the Supreme Court, arguably in an act of judicial restraint (I’m not endorsing the lame particulars of O’Connor’s opinion in GRUTTER), refused to declare all affirmative action in education unconstitutional. So now the people of Michigan are going to act, quite constitutionally, to remove all legal controversy from the issue. Surely a large part of the cure to Judicial Supremacy is to see that the people must act, usually acting through their representatives, in those cases when the Constitution is not clear enough to produce a legitimate judicial resolution. I could now start to talk about abortion.

November rumblings

Both the WaPo and the WaTi are running articles suggesting, at the very least, that the tide is running in a Republican direction right now.

Two points worth noting, the first from the WaPo:

The president’s support among Republicans has risen, and once-balky GOP voters apparently have begun to coalesce around vulnerable House incumbents, operatives on both sides believe. "Republicans seem to be awakening and coming back to their partisan senses," said a Democratic strategist, who would discuss private data only on the condition of anonymity.

Democrats see independent voters, who continue to register disapproval of Bush and Congress, as the key to victory. Republicans, citing low turnout in many primaries this year, believe many of those independents will not vote in November and are focused on mobilizing their own base.

Translation: everything will depend upon the ground game.

Second, from the WaTi:

[A]dditional polling data released by Gallup within the past week suggest that not only is the president changing voter attitudes about the war in Iraq, but that the Democrats’ inability to shape a strong message about dealing with terrorism and Iraq may be hurting them among their own base.


"Americans are more positive about the war on terror, and voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Bush on terrorism, rather than one who opposes him," Gallup said in a separate analysis. "By a slight margin, Americans tend to think that the country will be safer from terrorism if the GOP retains control of the House, rather than if the Democrats take control."


While a majority of Americans still disapprove of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, only one in four now "believe the Democrats have a clear plan on Iraq -- fewer than those who say this about the Bush administration," Gallup said.


"Also, Americans are about equally likely to say they would vote for a candidate who supports President Bush on Iraq as to vote for a candidate who opposes Bush," the pollsters said.


What should worry Democratic campaign officials "is the fact that only 14 percent say the Democrats have a clear plan, but Bush does not, while a greater percentage (23 percent) says Bush has a clear plan, but the Democrats do not," Gallup said.

Translation: Democrats fear that their full-throated endorsement of the "Demcoratic wing of the Democratic Party"’s position on Iraq will not help their chances, but neither does straddling the middle.

Target Practice

Another YouTube classic short film. Involving beer, "the cause of, and solution to, most of life’s problems," according to political philosopher Homer Simpson.

Worth a Read

Frank MIller, Batman and Sin City comic artist, offers this worthy brief reflection on patriotism.

(Yes, I can’t believe it either; I’m actually linking to NPR. I’m going to lie down now and take an aspirin.) 

Some questions for Damon Linker

In his review, Adrian Wooldridge notes the points you score against RJN and his associates regarding the infamous judicial usurpation symposium in First Things in 1996. As I was reading that section of your book this morning (on the bike in the clubhouse here--I get my reading in when and where I can), the following set of questions occurred to me.

What did you think of the controversy surrounding this symposium when you went to work for FT? Did you then hold the view that you now hold?

If you held the view you now hold, why did you accept a position at FT? Had the views of the principal protagonists changed in such a way as to overcome any obstacles to your employment?

If those views had in fact changed in such a way as to make your employment unproblematical for you, why not mention those second thoughts and reconsiderations in your book? (Perhaps I just haven’t gotten there yet.)

Or were you simply unaware of this apparently notorious controversy when you signed on at FT?

Sorry I haven’t finished the book yet. I have a few other things on my plate, including Governor Sonny Perdue’s appearance at Oglethorpe this coming Tuesday and a book review due at CRB in less than two weeks.

Sunday Scraps

Whoa, nellie! This should be good for ratings: Bill Clinton blows a gasket on Fox News. Apparently good old Bubba wags his finger at Chris Wallace as the veins bulge out on his neck. Remember the last time an indignant Bill wagged his finger at us?

And in the "Stupid Government Tricks" department (a category Letterman unaccountably never uses), this story about my county shows how government attempts to save money actually end up being more wasteful.