Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Upcoming Intelligence Revelations to the UN

This is the Michael Isikoff article in the current Newswek which claims that the Bush Administration will release super-sensitive electronic intercepts obtained by the National Security Agency that proves that Iraq has lied, cheated, etc. While no serious person doubts that this is true and while it is may be necessary to release some sensitive information for the sake of nailing down the Security Council (and to give a way for the French to say, "Oh! OK, now we are persuaded and will not veto") I hope that we are not releasing more than we have to. Good read. Two coffees.   

Columbia Tragedy notes

What an awful, heartbreaking, event. May they Rest in Peace. These are brief bios of the seven astronauts lost. This is the President’s speech. Here is the art of the fourteen year old Holocaust victim Petr Ginz that Colonel Ramon took into space. This is Peggy Noonan on the tragedy. And here is a Reuters story on the reaction to the tragedy in Baghdad. They are happy. Why am I not surprised?

Theological Reflections on Bush’s Speech

Gregory Dunn has a fine essay on Bush’s speech, he calls it "God and Empire: Some Theological Reflections." The last paragraph is worth quoting by way of encouraging you to read the whole thing:

"The most remarkable moment of Bush’s
speech is his closing: not "God bless America," as he often
says, but the more explicit "May he guide us now, and may
God continue to bless the United States of America." This
should not be missed: he closes with a prayer. As we strive
to be just, we need guidance, so we humbly ask God for it.
And we remember that the phrase "God bless America" is
not a statement or a command but a supplication. Liberty
may be our right, but divine favor is not. So we humbly ask
for it. Our situation is precarious. (It always is.) So we

The Death of the U.N.?

This is a great Charles Krauthammer piece arguing this:
"After the Blix report, France has nowhere to hide. It is the moment of truth for
France, and, in a larger sense, for the United Nations. The United Nations is on
the verge of demonstrating finally and fatally its moral bankruptcy and its
strategic irrelevance: moral bankruptcy, because it will have made a mockery of
the very resolution on whose sanctity it insists; strategic irrelevance, because
the United States is going to disarm Iraq anyway."

This is true but incomplete. Because I maintain that what is most likely to happen is that the U.S. will end up saving the UN from irrelevance by persuading the French (Russia and China are no problem) to go along; the French will not be courageous enough (or principled enough) to be responsible for the veto (and for making the UN irrelevant since the UN is their only hope to maintain any kind of French relevance) so they will, in the end, go along with us. That is what is most likely to happen. They will probably end using the Colin Powell briefing next week as the excuse to get back into the fold; they will say they have been persuaded by the new information. But, despite my opinion, the Krauthammer piece is worth a good coffee. 

The Left’s Take on the State of the Union

Here is Robert Scheer, the lefty in his ancient malice, writing in the rancourous and the hard-left The Nation. He says that the state of the Union is lousy and President Bush either doesn’t know it, or doesn’t care. This is worth reading because it gives a good and clear overview of what the now off-the-wall left really thinks about Bush and the world. He says that the international coalition that Bush has already assembled "amounts to a fig leaf named Tony Blair and a motley collection of nations one
can buy on EBay." The collection of nations (about fifteen) includes not only Britain but a number of Arab states, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, and so on. So these are the nations one can buy on EBay! Fine. The left is putting itself in a real fix. Soon it will be doing nothing but supporting countries like France and Germany who--for their own petty and base reasons--are opposing American policy or supporting the UN Security Council because it might be persuaded to oppose American interests all the time. And then, when they realize that the Security Council in the end will support American policy (the French are not going to veto!), the left will then want to abolish the Security Council and argue that the General Assembly (by majority vote) is worthy of support because it is more likely to oppose our policies.
The left will say anything and do anything to oppose American interests; anything is better America. They have given away whatever authority they ever had; no one trusts them anymore.

First the Committee . . . Next to the Floor

The Washington Post offers this article today about the Senate Judiciary Committee finally voting D.C. Circuit nominee Miguel Estrada out of committee. The one piece of information that is somewhat new in the story is that Hatch is trying to get a full floor vote on Estrada by next week. My sources tell me that there could be a vote as soon as Tuesday. The Dems are threatening a filibuster, but look for members from border states and with large Hispanic populations to get cold feet. Even so, I don’t think that Senators Feinstein and Boxer will flinch from their lockstep devotion to liberal obstruction, thereby leaving themselves open to their anticipated negative votes on Estrada being used against them in their next respective elections.

The Post article itself demands a couple of clarifications. First, the article begins by using the term "[t]he Republican-run Senate Judiciary Committee . . . ." Last time I checked--and much to the Post’s chagrin--the entire Senate was "Republican-run." Post readers tend to be aware of such minor things like mid-term elections. The adjectival surplusage looks more like well-poisoning.

Second, we have the classic use of "scare-quotes" around "languishing"--a term Senator Hatch used to describe Mr. Estrada’s and other judicial nominees’ status during the interregnum Democratic control of the Senate precipitated by Senator Jeffords’s switch-in-time-that-saved-none. Yet languishing hardly seems like an inappropriate or partisan term to describe the 631 days that Mr. Estrada, who was deemed unanimously "well-qualified" by the ABA, has been forced to wait for a simple committee vote. Indeed, languishing is precisely the right term. The Judiciary Committee should therefore move expeditiously on Judge Cook, Mr. Sutton, and Mr. Roberts--all of whom have been waiting for 632 days for the Committee to do its duty and give them a vote.

Terrorist Reed Sentenced to Life

Richard Reed got the maximum life sentence in federal court today. Note what the U.S. District Judge William Young said:

"We are not afraid of any of your terrorist
co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We
are Americans. We have been through the fire

You are not an enemy combatant — you are a terrorist. You are not a
soldier in any war — you are a terrorist. To call you a soldier gives you far
too much stature. You are a terrorist and we do not negotiate with terrorists.
We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice."

More on Bush’s State of the Union Address

One of the problems with delivering a State of the Union address today is the expectation that it must address every important issue in a meaningful way. Can’t be done, of course. Which is why we should take note of the ways President Bush framed some important issues concisely and astutely, even though he did not take the time to delve into them more substantively in his 1-hour speech.

Case in point: strife in the Middle East. Within the proverbial "25 words or less," here’s how he suggested the U.S. approach the crisis in the Middle East:

"In the Middle East we will continue to seek peace between a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine."

Quod erat demonstrandum.

If you like Stephen Schwartz....

You may well enjoy the Claremont Institute’s conference, "American Citizenship in the Age of Multicultural Immigration." It will be held March 20-22, at the Chapman University School of Law, in Orange, California. The conference is cosponsored with the generous support of the Salvatori Center of Claremont McKenna College and Chapman University School of Law. The conference is free and open to the public. A major publication is expected from the papers.

Principal speakers include Paul Gigot of The Wall Sttreet Journal, Joel Kotkin, assistant attorney general Viet Dinh, and frequent Ashbrook speaker William B. Allen, not to mention Peter W. Schramm. Papergivers and respondents (including Stephen Schwartz) include a cast too long to name here, but please check in the next day or two for a brief announcement and the preliminary program.

The Futility of the Inspection Process

Here is George Will with a very good essay on why the administration can’t reveal everything that it knows, and why the inspection process is futile. A good coffee.  

The Cowboy Way

Here is Jonah Goldberg with a good essay on Bush’s speech and his way. The concluding paragraph:

"President Bush laid things out clearly when he said, "We will not deny, we will
not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other
presidents, and other generations. We will confront them with focus and clarity
and courage." And it struck me; the first metaphor for Bush was still the best.
He is a cowboy, in the best sense of the label. He’s got a moral compass that
points true north even if he’s got to zigzag to get there. He speaks plainly. He’s
not dumb, but he also doesn’t need to be the smartest man in the room because
he’s got right — ’providence’ in his words — on his side, and he knows the
difference between shinola and other substances. This may not explain the
dynamics of why Saddam’s got to go right now. But after he’s gone, when the
Iraqi prisons and archives of terror are opened and the Iraqi people are free,
Bush can simply say of Saddam, in cowboy parlance, "He needed killin’"; and
everyone will understand."

Saudis Betrayal of Islam

This is a good book review of Stephen Schwartz’s The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror (Macmillan) showing how Wahhabism has taken the place over. Thanks to Pejman.

Iraq to Chair UN Conference on Disarmament

I know this is ironic, but facts are more interesting than fiction in politics. Iraq is to become the Chair of the UN Conference on Disarmament in May. It may be a double irony because by then Iraq may be disarmed, run by better guys, and could actually have something to say about how disarmament should work! That this announcement follows the announcement made a few months ago that Lybia is going to Chair the UN Commission on Human Rights, just adds to the ironies. And I have nothing else to say about the UN. This is perfect.

Europe and America United

This is the article from the London Times signed by eight European leaders in favor of Bush’s stance on Iraq. It also appeared in today’s WSJ, and has appeared in papers throughout Europe. Here is the BBC report on it. Notice that Tony Blair is quoted as saying that France and Germany should not be allowed to speak for Europe. This should be headline news. Notice how the countries--I just mention in passing as a geopolitical observation--encircle the ancien regime of France and Germany. Here are the signers:

José María Aznar, Spain

José Manuel Durão Barroso, Portugal

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy

Tony Blair, United Kingdom

Václav Havel, Czech Republic

Peter Medgyessy, Hungary

Leszek Miller, Poland

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark

New Worthy Blog Site

Ken Masugi, Ben Boychuk, Tom Krannawitter, Bruce Sanborn, and others have some good reflections on the Claremont Institute’s new blog, called "The Remedy." Have a look. There is already a good conversation developing on Bush’s speech.


Ken Masugi has a wonderful and high-minded piece on Bush’s State of the Union Speech. He praises it highly and the way he does so may surprise most you. Although it is a short essay, linger over it with a cup of Java.  

NYTimes Befouls Itself Re Estrada

Alt’s perceptive piece calls to mind of course the whole problem of the Judiciary Committee (let alone the NY Times) making the call on who gets to become a judge. It is a clear violation of the separation of powers. A committee of the Senate cannot personate the entire Senate. A grave constitutional responsibility cannot be delegated to another body, without or within the Senate. This calls to mind the whole problem of fragmentation of power in Congress, in the committees and subcommittees. Whether the new Republican majorities in both Houses will use their powers wisely (often meaning ruthlessly)remains to be seen. Can this Congress control itself and control the bureaucracy?

American Honor

A little more reflection this morning on the State of the Union speech (after I shovelled six plus inches of snow from the walkway; the good news is that it wasn’t minus four this morning!): It was a fine, sober, and eloquent speech. Maybe not his best, but he has already given three or four perfect ones. The first part was a bit prosaic (and some of the proposed federal programs are not appealing and/or unconstitutional) and yet, oddly, often touching. It’s odd how in an honest man even the prosaic and the questionable become interesting and plausible. The second part was perfect. The words were fine, and the pauses spoke volumes. Clearly, this is the man for a crisis. The moral tone, the self-confident American (dare I say cowboy?) mode gave heart to those around the world who know the truth of American principle and value American power. We have fought to make strangers free, and we are not going to stop. And some of us will die. We are willing to pay that price; we are honored to so so.

It must be said that the political consequences of his hard stance on Iraq will be great. There are three good general things that will result from the speech: friends will be heartened by his manly eloquence, fence sitters cannot imagine a rhetoric equally persuasive, and our enemies will be demoralized, their courage will show gaps. Although details of its effects (and the follow up with the Security Council) are hard to predict, it is certainly the case that chance will follow his design more than not. The UN will be persuaded in the end by the speech, by Powell’s follow up, and by the Blix Report. They may be squishy, but are not completely imprudent, nor are they without self-interest; and they do fear irrelevance, the greatest terror in the heart of an international bureaucrat.

An Unacceptable Editorial

The New York Times this morning editorializes that Mr. Estrada is "An Unacceptable Nominee." Their reasons deserve scrutiny. First, they point to the fact he has "a reputation for taking extreme positions" and "that his interpretation of the law is driven by an unusually conservative agenda." What evidence does the newspaper of record cite for this proposition? The statements of Paul Bender. Bender, whose ideological extremism was well-known and reported during his tenure at the Justice Department is the only person to make these statements. As I argued here here in NRO, Bender has been widely discredited for taking positions that are outside the mainstream on issues such as child pornography, and for lapses in judgment that caused the American Arbitration Association to remove him from the position as arbitrator. Indeed, citing to Paul Bender for his view on whether or not someone is idelogical or within the mainstream would be like a federal judge citing to Bellesiles for a statement about the history of guns. (Oh wait, Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit actually did that--although at least he had the good sense to pull that citation. Howard Bashman has this story on his How Appealing site.)

The Times editorial then criticizes Estrada and the Justice Dept. for failing to release internal legal memos from Estrada’s time in the Solicitor General’s office. But every Solicitor General since Lincoln has signed a statement saying that this is a remarkably bad idea. Thus, given the statements by Clinton Justice Department officials, it becomes abundantly clear that this isn’t a political move by the Bush Justice Department--but rather this is an overreach by Judiciary Committee members who are acting at the behest of the Ralph Neas brigade.

If the Republicans were attempting to block a qualified Hispanic nominee like Mr. Estrada using such scurrilous attacks, the New York Times would be screamining racism. Considering the fact that the Times genuinely fears that Mr. Estrada may be a viable Supreme Court candidate in part because he is Hispanic, such allegations may be well founded against Mr. Raines’s Times.

I’m Baaack!

Rumors of my death were mildly exaggerated. For good or for ill, I should be back in the saddle this week.

Pres. Bush’s State of the Union Address

If you never heard the president speak before, you could get a pretty fair picture of what the man stands for from his speech tonight:

He’s a man of his word, a man of the American founding, a man of God, and, yes, a former governor.

Bush was smart to leave the best, the most important, for last: foreign policy, where his sense of duty and honor came through with conviction and purpose. Examples: "Let me put it this way: they’re no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies." And, "They’re learning the meaning of American justice." Can anyone imagine Clinton or Carter saying this of terrorists that no longer walk this earth because of the sinews of American power?

He clearly put forth an American foreign policy that sees prevention, not reaction, as the best means of national defense. Taking a page from Hadley Arkes, he noted that while America will consult with the United Nations--Feb. 5 to be exact--"the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others." This is one tough hombre, a man who takes his oath of office seriously-- to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Peter already stole the best line of the speech(and I quote from memory), that "the gift of liberty that Americans prize is not their gift to the world but the gift of God to humanity." Not a bad rendition of the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. Quite refreshing to have a president who thinks the American founding is worth setting one’s sights by.

The president once again reminded the American people that they are a nation under God, which means both His favor and His judgment. In discussing his faith-based initiative, Bush alluded to a Christian hymn with the line about "power, wonder-working power," and he closed the speech with an invitation to place "our confidence in a loving God." It’s no surprise our Republican president spoke of an America he hoped would promote "a culture that values every life," while the Democratic response (via Washington State Gov. Locke) endorsed "the right to choose." Perhaps the governor should brush up on that other Locke to learn aright where rights derive from.

Thankfully, Bush devoted the first (and least memorable) part of the speech to the presidential wish list for Congress. This reminded me that his compassionate conservatism has a lot to do with his experience as a governor. State governments are supposed to administer programs and whatnot, something we should hear less about from a conservative Republican president. Federal dollars for R&D to produce hydrogen-powered automobiles? That said, his promotion of economic growth as the key to higher employment rates and greater tax revenues was a return to standard, conservative fiscal policies.

"Free people will set the course of history." A simply statement of the president. May the United States rise to the challenge and responsibility of this maxim.

State of the Union, notes

I thought it was an excellent, even eloquent speech . The second half was better, the part on Iraq was very fine. I must say that the part on AIDS in Africa was moving; American liberality of spirit revealed. There were sections, phrases, that were lovely, poignant, full of pith. Quick examples:

"The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others..."

"And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country--your enemy is ruling your country."

"America is a strong Nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and sacrifice for the liberty of strangers."

"Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity."

Classical Education

I bring to your attention the first of a series of articles that will be running on the Ashbrook site by Adjunct Fellow Terrence Moore, the Principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools (Colorado). The on-going series is called "The Principals Perspective," and the first installment is entiled "A Nation Still at Risk." This is good stuff. Keep it in a file somewhere; you will get more of Moore! He is identified more fully at the end of the essay.

"My purpose in these articles will not be primarily to
criticize existing educational institutions or to point fingers
of blame at those who have sapped the native curiosity of
our young people by using that most powerful weapon of
mass mental contraction: boredom. Rather, I hope to offer
an alternative view of learning, which, while it may seem
fresh and different, is actually old and venerated. We may
call this approach to education ’classical.’ Classical
education has a history of over 2500 years in the West..."

Likud Wins Big

Labor was crushed in today’s Israeli elections; it suffered its worse loss ever.

Administration to Reveal Clissified Info on Iraq

Bob Woodward writes in today’s WaPo that the administration has decided to reveal some classified information that shows that Iraq has banned weapons systems which it has been able to conceal them from inspectors. They are to do this next week.

Blix Report and Consequences

I’m on the run today, so I’ll just point you to Andrew Sullivan’s analysis of the Blix Report (here is the Report’s text) and Colin Powell’s effort and position. It is very good, I think. The crux here is that the Report came in very critical of Iraq; it was fun watching the network news flunkies trying to get around a problem they didn’t expect.
Here is a New York Times story on Powell as hawk. May confusion among our enemies continue!

Early Achievers Have Shorter Life Spans

This study out of Canada could be devastating news for those young who are (overly?) ambitious politically. The study examined over 1,500 governors (male) who served and died by 1978, and found that comparing age of election to age of death, men
elected governor at a relatively young age also tended to die at an earlier
age. This also seems to be true for early achievers in other professions. Some of us will live long and prosper, I’m sure of it.

Karl Rove & Some Politics

Karl Rove did one of those not especially useful over-luncheon interviews with the Christian Science Monitor a few days ago, and here is Mary McGrory’s predictable liberal reaction in the WaPo. It’s sniping and petty. It just makes me like Rove more! I have seen Rove give talks at colleges (replayed on C-Span) and I am impressed. He is a thoughtful guy, knows quite a bit of political history, and has a plan. He is certainly one of the most impressive political advisors to any president in my memory. No wonder he makes their political enemies angry. I hope he keeps it up. Here is the recent "Democracy Corps" poll by Carville/Greenberg/Shrum and their Memo on it (both in PDF). Notice that they warn the Democrats not to "dare make the mistake of the last two years and rely for the Republican slippage. This poll shows the Democrats’ image no stronger than in November..." Yup, they have their work cut out for them.

Blix Report and Odds & Ends on Iraq

Here is the Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s speech to the Council of Foreign Relations last Thursday. And Colin Powell told Italian newspaper Corriere
della Sera in an interview, according to this AP dispatch from Milan:
"The United States possesses several pieces of
information which come from the work of our
intelligence that show Iraq maintains prohibited
weapons." Here is a report on how Jordan and other Arab states have become part of the "coalition of the willing." And here is the text of the Blix Report to the U.N. on Iraq.

Colin Powell’s Education

Here is Hadley Arkes’ way of welcoming Powell back into the fold, and suggesting to the president what he should do in the State of Union Address. Not only thoughtful, but, typical for Hadley, clever and amusing. Here are the first two paragraphs:

"Colin Powell had put himself through one of the priciest ventures in adult education as he was sandbagged last
week by the French, and discovered that his scheme of working through the United Nations was not only a
path leading nowhere, but a path leading off course. By working through the U.N., the administration made the
media and the public suggestible to the notion that the problem hinged on the elusive matter of "inspections" and
disarmament. But the problem is the regime itself in Iraq and its deep involvement in the network of terror aimed at
the United States. And by seeking a coalition, a multilateral project, Powell helped to build the sentiment, now
ascending in the polls, that we may not defend our own country without the endorsement of the U.N., with its
collection of exotic despotisms, and so-called "allies" who have nursed an hostility to us.

It is about time then to deliver the Sam Spade version of the State of the Union Address as it
bears on Iraq. Or at least a variant on the version done by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese
Falcon. It was not a gesture merely of machismo when Bogart said to Mary Astor (in a
paraphrase) that when your partner is killed, you’re expected to do something about. It
doesn’t matter, he went on, whether you particularly like him or not; you’re expected to do
something about it."

Iraq’s Links toTerrorists

Here is Bill Safire’s march of logic in today’s New York Times on whether or not there are links between Iraq and terrorists, concluding with Colin Powell’s statement the other day in Switzerland: Iraq has "clear ties to terrorists groups, including Al Qaeda."

What’s Wrong with the Historical Profession?

From the History News Network, here’s a little puff-piece on last weekend’s March on Washington, comparing it favorably to the peace marches of the 1960s.

Curious as to why there’s no mention whatsoever of the march’s sponsorship by hard-core Stalinists? Check out the byline; the author, Norman Markowitz, "is a member of the editorial board of Political Affairs, the theoretical journal of the CPUSA."

That a high official in the Communist Party can hold an academic post at an institution like Rutgers is disturbing enough; that leading mainstream historians have chosen to give him a soapbox on a forum that has among its goals "to remind us all of the complexity of history" and to uncover "the superficiality of what-happens-today-is-all-that-counts journalism" is outrageous.

CIA’s Special Operations Group

This Time article is worth a read, not because it is complete (how could it be on such a subject?) but because it touches on just enough facts to make your palm sweat and make you ponder the possibilities in this new war. Surely, this is fascinating, of great potential value as well as mischief. For example, the CIA’s paramilitary operations were responsible for the Predator attack in Yemen (Bush did not have to approve it). Also note that according to the story Rumsfeld is not amused that the CIA has its own army. George Tenet started putting this together five years ago. Three coffees.      

Powell, Putting on His Boots

This Newsweek article makes perfectly clear that Secretary of State Powell is
no longer a "dove," if he ever was one. His newly found hard-line voice both irritates the UN wimps and heartens the good guys. The story isn’t deep (and, of course, it’s biased), yet it makes perfectly clear that Powell has had it with not only Iraq, but with Old Europe. And, back on the cowboy theme, I was amused to see this quote in the article from President Bush last fall. He was talking to Vaclav Havel: "I know some in Europe see me as a Texas
cowboy with six-shooters at my side. But the truth is I
prefer to work with a posse.” One coffee.  

Marine Delays Deployment for American Idol

The Marines allowed singing Lance Cpl. Gracin to delay his deployment to Kuwait until after he appears on "American Idol."

Israel’s Mossad

This is a brief article on the famous Mossad. Worth a read, linger over some of the details offered; although keep in mind that Mossad is not the only intelligence agency the Israeli’s have. Some argue that their military intelligence is even better. Two coffees.   

Diversity of Thought in Ann Arbor

George Will explains the kind of diversity the University of Michigan should be in favor of: Diversity of thought. This means there ought to be preferential treatment in admission for conservative students. He has a test the university could give to incoming students. Amusing.

How to Avoid the Inspections Trap

Martin Indyk and Kenneth Pollack explain how Bush can avoid the inspection trap. Good article. Both were in the Clinton administration. One coffee.