Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More on The Man in Black

While Schramm and I have disagreed before on the subject of country music, I must join in his well-deserved praise of Johnny Cash. At 71, Cash was nominated for--of all things--an MTV video award. In fact, he received the second highest number of nominations of any artist. The particular video which received such acclaim was the Man in Black’s rendition of "Hurt," a remake of a Nine Inch Nails song. He lost the award for best Male artist video of the year to Justin Timberlake in a decision which clarified that I have very little in common with the MTV set.

Cash’s video is haunting, telling the story of a broken man as only Cash could. It is interspersed with clips of Cash throughout his career. For those who have not seen it, the video is worth a look. You can stream it from Amazon at high speed here and for 56k dial up here.  

Johnny Cash

I’m off to Atlanta this morning (back late Sunday) but I had to bring this to your attention. The man in black has died. I have been listening to Johnny Cash ever since I can remember and I have always liked his songs, and have thought of him as a characteristically American man. Honest and solid, one who wore his loves and hates on his sleeve. He always gave the impression of depth and solitude. He knew what it meant to shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die; what it meant for the law and the killer’s soul. I hope he lands on the right side of the line. R.I.P.

The world-wide war on terror

Doug Sanders writes in the Toronto Globe and Mail that there is much that is going on in what he calls the Fourth World War, the international war on terror, that is not quite visible. He expands on a few of these, including the case of Djibouti, on the horn of Africa. Interesting. 

Iraqi public opinion survey

Karl Zinsmeister reports on the first scientific opinion polling in Iraq. And, you shouldn’t be all that surprised, the poll found that the Iraqis are pretty sensible, glad we are there, and so on. Not long, read the whole thing, then watch Dan Rather and CNN tonight to see what they want you to think.

Arnold on O’Reilly

Rich Lowry at The Corner has some thoughts on Arnold’s ten minute or so interview with O’Reilly last night. I saw maybe about half of it, and I agree with Lowry: it was a silly performance, embarassing; I thought the guy was smoking something, he couldn’t stop talking and what he said was mostly silly. If this is an indication of how his mind and mouth really works, he should drop out of the race. Here is Lowry:

"I thought he was laughably bad last night-literally. He seemed faintly ridiculous, very uptight and very committed to his platitudes. When he implausibly said-twice-that his feelings were hurt by being dis-invited to that Hispanic event, I couldn’t help snickering. His answer about running his Hummer on hydrogen-or whatever he was trying to say-was inadvertently funny. And his ’I still have to study border control’ answer to the question about militarizing the border may have worked a couple of weeks ago, but he really needs to have answers to important policy questions. Maybe my judgment’s off because I’m a jaded pundit, but he doesn’t seem to have advanced any from the level of his ’Tonight Show’ performance, and may be getting worse..."

A Dean and Wesley Clark marriage?

The Washington Post reports that Howard Dean has asked Wesley Clark to be his running mate, should Clark decide not to run. Paul Bedard notes that Democratic Party operatives would love Clark to run, McAullife said: "It would be very good for the Democratic Party to have a four-star general traveling around the country." I am still betting that Clark gets in the race.

Do not despair

Ralph Peters also reflects on the war, and what victory and defeat may mean. He leans toward understanding this war as never-ending, in the same sense in which the fight against crime is never ending. Maybe. But he is right in saying that we should avoid despair, "the preferred narcotic of the intellectual classes," and avoid thinking that our victory thus far will have perfect results. 

Battle joined, outcome in doubt

George Friedman of Stratfor writes a few good pages entitled, "Two Years of War." I pass it along because it is thoughtful, not necessarily because I agree with it. And also because Stratfor is a pay site and only rarely can I pass something on to one and all. This is one of those times; their analyses are always interesting. Worth two or three strong anti-pessimistic brews. Remember, wars are always in doubt, even if you are now winning, until you win.   

Rumsfeld interview

Secreteray of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was interviewed by JIm Lehrer on PBS yesterday. There are some notable paragraphs:

DONALD RUMSFELD: I think so. I think we’ve had to face the vulnerabilities that are there for the 21st century. And they weren’t there in that way for us. With these two big oceans and friends North and South, we’ve had a rather protected, safe environment. With terrorists being able to get access to jet airplanes and laptops and wire transfers and all kinds of electronics, with the proliferation of technologies that relate to a chemical and biological and radiation weapons and you look forward and you think, that’s going to be a quite different world, there are two or three terrorist states that are potentially going to be nuclear powers in the next three or four, five, eight, ten, twelve years. That creates a different environment that we’re going to be living in.

JIM LEHRER: How about here?

DONALD RUMSFELD: I think that people have registered that. They’re concerned for their safety. We are free people. We don’t want to live in fear. We don’t want to be terrorized. We know there’s no way to defend against it. The only way to deal with it is to go after the terrorists where they are. We’re killing, capturing terrorists in Iraq which is a... Baghdad today which is a whale of a lot better than Boise.

Other thoughts on 9/11

Andrew Sullivan has a good paragraph, and then one that he wrote on this day two years ago. Lawrence Kaplan of The New Republic thinks that we had better not revert to a 9/10 kind of normalcy. John Podhoretz explains why we fight. President Bush’s speech at the National Cathedral on September 14th, 2001 is worth re-reading.

Two years ago today

It’s been two years. We awoke as if from a deep dream. The post-Cold War petty issues of the Clinton years turned into dust, as did many human bones in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Life became serious again when we realized that there were people out there willing to attack and kill us because of who we are. Perhaps we should have realized that earlier, perhaps we should have even noted it after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Never mind that for now. We do know it now and we know it because of what happened on September 11, 2001. The horror, the blood and dust, and death. And then the heroism and then the calculated response. Do not let the current politics, the current disgareement over means in the war against terror, allow this massive fact to be made less clear. Let us dispute how we make war on our enemies tomorrow. Today let us remember the event, and let our proper anger be channelled into trying mightily to prevent its recurrence. Let us renew our faith that right makes might and rededicate ourselves to the great task before us, that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth. And may the honored dead rest in peace.

Ken Blackwell speaks

Ohio’s Secretary of State Ken Blackwell will speak today at the Ashbrook Center. If you click on his name you can listen to it live. It begins at 12:30. He will be speaking on religious freedom.

Edward Teller

Edward Teller has died at the age of 95. I noted a few months ago that he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. May this good man Rest in Peace.

Why is Howard Dean doing so well?

Andrew Busch explains why Howard Dean is the hot commodity among Democrats in the presidential race. This does not surprise Busch, and it shouldn’t surprise us. He is the only plausible Democrat running from outside Congress; he is also the only candidate who has successfully tapped into the "angry Democrat," perhaps the pivotal figure of the Democratic race; and he stands unequivocally against the war in Iraq, and thereby is able to take advantage of the budding anti-war movement that had developed before the war, but was squashed (temporarily) by our quick victory. A good read.  

Clinton’s wife and his general and the lesser Democrats

Sorry that I couldn’t blog yesterday, we had some technical difficulties, now fixed. Note this NY Times report of the widely anticipated meeting of Hillary and her staff about her future. There were about 150 people attending the meeting. Very revealing and very slippery stuff. It would seem that she is not simply out of the picture for even 2004. Especially note this remark by Bill Clinton that was overheard by a reporter. This is very revealing, and the sentiment shouldn’t surprise anyone. "During cocktails in the back yard, one group heard former President Bill Clinton say that the national Democratic Party had "two stars": his wife, the junior senator from New York, and a retired general, Wesley K. Clark, who is said to be considering a run for the presidential nomination." Do you want to bet this would be a good ticket?

In the meantime the lesser nine debated again, with Al Sharpton showing his cleverness and wit and all of them showing their hatred of President Bush. It is very dangerous to attack the president as if he were an incompetent, an idiot, a fool, and one who is incapable of making good decisions on anything. This is not only demagoguery, but it is terrible imprudent: it is not a sentiment that you can refine. They are painting themselves into a box. Bill Buckley has some thoughts on this. Here is the Washington Post report on the debate. No wonder that Hillary is thinking and that Bill’s general is prepared to continue public service in another form. Here is a story out of South Carolina on how Clark’s entry into the race would shake up the current competitors. And, not unrelated to Clark (he is from Arkansas), Zell Miller is warning that the Democrats are losing the South.

How to avoid disaster in Iraq

David Forte writes a fine and thoughtful piece on our efforts at political consolidation in Iraq: "There have been a series of unexpected surprises, no one of which carries weight in itself, but taken in sum, they are slowing and even endangering the movement for political consolidation." Forte looks at the whole picture, negatives and positives, and concludes that we must maintain the political and military initiative. Very good read.  

The Costs of War

USA Today has a front page article with this not-so-short title: "Monthly costs of Iraq, Afghan wars approach that of Vietnam Missions’ tabs expand deficit but are still less than 1% of U.S. economy." The point is this, according to the piece: "The monthly bill for the U.S. military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan now rivals Pentagon spending during the Vietnam War, Defense Department figures show." In Vietnam we spent $494 billion during the eight years between 1964 to 1972 (in current dollars, adjusted for inflation; it was actually $111), for an average of $61.8 billion per year. We are now averaging $5 billion per month, "a pace that would bring yearly costs to almost $60 billion." Does this mean anything, because I can feel my feet squishing into a quagmire?

A few paragraphs later the panicked reader finds this out: it turns out that the Vietnam war amounted to
"about 12% of the size of the economy, while now, the costs [in Iraq] are equal to only about 0.5% of the economy, according to Steve Kosiak, a budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments." I wonder what percentage of the economy the Korean war ate up, or World War II? I bet the latter was over 100% of GDP.

Wesley Clark on Chris Matthews

I saw five minutes of Chris Matthews’ interview of Gen. Wesley Clark. The conversation revolved around Bush’s speech, Iraq, and the war on terror. Clark was vehement in his criticism of almost everything the administration has done: Iraq shouldn’t have happened, took away from the war on terror; we need more troops in Iraq; we were utterly unprepared for what would follow the war; we shouldn’t have gone alone; we have created more terrorists than there would have been without Iraq; there is no policy, no strategy. It was pretty comprehensive. At one point he said something like this (paraphrase, but close), "This administration thought that going into the Middle East would like playing hop-scotch, that they would just hop from one country to another, as they pleased." He was clear and vehement. The president, in short, is a miserable failure. Not exactly the tight-lipped and careful commentary on CNN that we got used to. If he is not going to run for president, I’ll eat my Irish hat. On the other hand, it is possible that he is running for secretary of state.

Bush’s Speech

Here is last night’s speech in full. I thought the speech was sober and workman-like and full of constancy, unflinching and optimistic. It was a good speech. These were things he had to say considering: 1) the bashing he has been taking from both the media and the Demos; 2) that things in Iraq are a little tougher militarily than we had hoped they would be; 3) that the rebuilding effort in Iraq is really a building effort, the infrastructure was in much worse shape than we knew, the darn thing was held together by band-aids; 4) that Iraq is part of the effort to fight terror world-wide. I also liked the fact that he asked for more money, and was specific about it. The fact that he didn’t ask for more troops is probably because he is waiting to see how the UN gambit works out; if it doesn’t, I am betting he’ll ask for some more troops.

It seems to me that those of us who are generally supportive of the administration with regard to the war effort at least, ought to keep in mind that the hits he takes from his political opponents (and from the elite media, who only report body counts) is par for the course. As Winston said, when there is a great deal of free speech, there is always a certain amount of foolish speech. This is to be expected, even if it is irritating. It is especially irritating when it slips from one thing to the next, now it’s you haven’t found bin Laden, now it’s a quagmire, now it’s not enough troops, now it’s no WMD’s, now it’s no uranium from Africa, now it’s a quagmire, now it’s being unilateral, now it’s not being able to do anything about the Palestinian-Israeli problem, now it’s a quagmire, now it’s you are an incompetent idiot, now it’s we can’t trust you, and, by the way, you are spending much-too-much money on the war, and the economy is in a depression, you are the worst president since Hoover, and so on. You get the drift: criticism, always tending toward despair. Now, if you are a GOP party guy only interested in Bush’s re-election, I don’t think this should worry you. This tactical uncertainty (and lack of strategic insight) on the part of his opponents shows they have no idea what’s going on, and, even more important, they would not know what to do if they were in charge. I am not worried about them. Those that speak breathe despair with every other breath do not prosper. What should concern the rest of us, is whether or not the administration is doing the right things regarding the war. Have they made the right decisions, and are they carrying them out? What should we be willing to give up, if anything, in order to get some UN support? On such matters, we can get into large disputations, and we should. In the meantime, I see no reason why W. and his people shouldn’t be trusted. They know we are at war, and this is serious. Sometimes their stern and mostly thoughtful view doesn’t get through the clutter. I think it did last night, and the President’s view may be authoritative again for another week or so; until another death in Iraq indicates--at least to his strategically dull tactical adversaries--that maybe we are in a quagmire and are already spending as much on this war as we spent on Vietnam, never mind World War II. And then something new will happen and his opponents will re-calibrate their tactical rhetoric again. And we’ll do it all over. Isn’t this fun?

Arnold the foreigner

Daniel Weintraub whips Gray Davis for saying this about Arnold: "You shouldn’t be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state." In one good paragraph Weintraub explains, if effect, why there should be a recall on this guy. If there was any doubt that he could defeat the recall, this statement proves otherwise, in my humble opinion. He’s toast. This may explain why Bustamante has changed his strategy. He is no longer asking people to vote "no" on the recall; he is only asking people to vote for him. It won’t help him.

All Tapped Out

It seems that the folks at The American Prospects blog "Tapped" disagree with my latest NRO article, in which I state that the Democrats discriminate against qualified conservative minorities. Here is the core of their argument:

Accepting Alt’s theory of Democratic motivations, racism still didn’t have anything to do with the filibuster. Democrats, by his account, filibustered Estrada because Estrada was likely to become a young, conservative Supreme Court justice. Any other equally conservative nominee who was equally likely to be put on the high court would have been treated the same way.

Tapped’s arguments fail for several reasons. First, they state that any "equally conservative nominee" would be subjected to such treatment. But there is no evidence that he "unduly" conservative. In fact, that was the whole argument against Estrada: the Dems claimed that they didn’t know enough about him to make a judgment. It would be good if Tapped could keep its pretextual reasons for filibuster straight.

Next, Tapped is wrong as a matter of its interpretation of federal antidiscrimination law, which is the standard that I was applying in stating that the 45 Democratic Senators discriminated against Estrada. Note that they state that anyone equally conservative and "equally likely to be put on the high court" would have been treated the same way. Thus, because it is well known that Bush wants to place a Hispanic on the high court, the Democrats used ethnicity as a proxy for upward mobility.

But the point of antidiscrimination laws is that we don’t allow employers to look at race, ethnicity, and gender--particularly as a proxy for other characteristics otherwise unrelated to those factors. Indeed, under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, a complaining party need only demonstrate that ethnicity "was a motivating factor for any employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice." 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2. As I explained in my article, Title VII does not apply to judicial nominees. However the reasoning is useful: just as a shopkeeper can’t refuse to hire someone who is Hispanic because he uses Hispanic heritage as a proxy for stereotypical factors, Democrats can’t hide from the charge that they discriminated by saying that they were using Hispanic heritage as a proxy for upward mobility. In both cases, Hispanic heritage is a motivating factor in the decision. In both cases, discrimination has occurred.

Hunting bin Laden

ABC News is reporting that we are closing in on bin Laden. The hunt is taking place in a 40 square mile area known as the Waziristan region of Pakistan. A surprisingly long story, with some interesting details. Also note this WaPo article from a few days ago that recounts alQaeda’s plans for a front in Iraq.  

Edwards Drops Out . . .

Presidential contender John Edwards has announced that he will not seek reelection as Senator in North Carolina "in order to devote all of [his] energy to running for president." Unless he makes a Clintonian comeback, I think that this is a calculation to put his name on the second line of the ticket. This of course means that his seat, which would have been a gimme for for the Democrats, is now up for grabs. The New York Times reports that earlier speculation points to Erskine Bowles running for the seat for the Dems.

NCC Needs A Better Defense

John Eastman’s comments on my essay make a great deal of sense. Let me respond: I didn’t draw the black guy for my narrator-- there are several different ones, an administrator told me. I don’t dissent from John’s description of the opening show. He’s right-- it dealt soberly with topics that are often demagogued. But there was, to speak academically, too much Gordon Wood (head of the Center’s Academic Advisory Board) in it, with all the lamentable political consequences. In one sense the narration posed the people (the Declaration) versus the Constitution (the document the people need to redefine, ceaselessly).

And John may be right in his "Vatican II" defense of the people vs. the educational elite. Would that such a defense were the case! If the hierarchy of the Catholic Church deserved a cleansing.... I prefer the political views of people at a baseball stadium to those at the APSA.

The statues of the founders are "life size"--they may have appeared as giants to John, who (like me) is short in stature, but I appreciate this point as well.

But do people who leave feel like cutting these giants down to size and moving beyond them-- or do they shock the historicism and progressivism we inherit from the middle exhibit out of us?

To reiterate: we have seen worse at the Smithsonian, in DC. And to hear the introductory film at Independence Hall praise that place for the recognition by the United Nations was beyond disgust.

Bush speaks tonight

A new Zogby Poll has found that Bush’s number have reached the lowest point since 9/11. "Less than half (45 percent) of the respondents said they rated his job performance good or excellent, while a majority (54 percent) said it was fair or poor." Do watch his speech tonight. There are large and consequential games afoot that go way beyond poll numbers.