Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Political invective needed

Eric Gibson bemoans the death of good political invective. Examples: Churchill said that Clement Atlee is "A sheep in sheeps clothing." In 1856, Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner called Illinois’s Stephen Douglas a "noisome, squat and nameless animal." Henry Clay was described by an adversary as "a being so brilliant yet so corrupt, which, like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, shines and stinks." Terry McAuliffe the other day said that Bush’s statements on the war are "ludicrous and insane." This will not do.

McWhorter on Jason Blair

John McWhorter comments on Jason Blair and his to be published book, "Burning Down My Master’s House." McWhorter is clear and hard. Sample: "The truth is that Mr. Blair is demonstrating a strain of modern American race ideology more pernicious than many realize. For blacks before the mid-1960s, decrying racism stemmed from sincere grievance. But for far too many blacks today, it has drifted into a recreational crutch, assuaging the insecurity at the heart of the human soul. A sad keystone of human nature is the balm of feeling superior. Gossip is a relatively innocuous manifestation; fashioning oneself as eternally battling a white America mired in ’racism’ is a more noisome one."

New Europe on Cuba

If you don’t think there is any difference between the New Europe and the Old, check out this letter to the editor by the former presidents of Hungary (Goncz), Czech Republic (Havel), and Poland (Walesa), on what Europe’s policy should be toward Cuba. Hardball.

The state of the war

Victor Davis Hanson is good, very good. In this piece for NRO he compares our current situation in Iraq with the summer of 1864. Read it all, but this will give the flavor: "We are near the end of such a pivotal summer ourselves, the type that defines not just a presidency, but an entire nation for generations to come. After the spectacular victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, public ardor for the conflict is temporarily cooling. Because of the past recession, the effects of 9/11, the tax cuts, and the cost of the war, we are running up billions in projected annual budget deficits. Our own McClellans and contemporary Copperheads deride the president as a miserable failure cheek by jowl with major newspapers."

And then check out how nicely Michael Barone takes apart the establishment media’s war coverage. Richard Butler, the former UN weapons inspector, speaking in Atlantic City, said that it doesn’t matter whether or not WMD are found; Saddam had them, "I held some in my own hands." The overthrow of Saddam was justified, he says.

Defense spending

Phil Carter has a few interesting thoughts on some problems we are having in Iraq, including communications and some other things that the military doesn’t have, and should. This then leads him into questioning some of the administrations’ priorities in defense spending. He concludes: "When the FY2005 National Defense Authorization Act comes to Congress, I think it’s high time we asked tough questions about where the Pentagon is putting its money. Do we really need to spend all this money on future transformation right now, with so much of our force stuck in Iraq? Shouldn’t we put more money into current operations, considering that we already have a 1-generation technology edge on our allies (e.g. Britain), let alone our enemies? $400 billion is a lot of money for defense, but it goes quickly when you spend $10 billion here and there for big programs like missile defense. I think we ought to spend more on our soldiers, sergeants and lieutenants, where the rubber meets the road."

BBC on the ropes

Even the BBC admits that it is worthy of criticism in the Gilligan-Kelly matter. The inquiry into
death of former weapons inspector David Kelly revealed that Gilligan, the BBC reporter, had a "slip of the tongue" when he claimed the government had inserted the 45-minute claim "knowing it was wrong". Dr Kelly had not said that, Gilligan had simply inferred it. In other words, he

simply made the thing up, it turns out. Here is some more info on it if you are interested in following the details. I, for one, have seen enough. I’ll just be interested in seeing the final spin that is put on it.

Scnadinavia turns away from socialism?

Eli Lehrer and Jeremy Hildreth write two good short pieces on the subject, one more generally on the Scandinavian countries and the other focusing on Estonia (one is below the other). I have spent some time in Estonia in the years just after the fall, and I can tell you that these Estonians are very good people (although they ought to work on their sense of humor!). Many hopeful signs here.   

Jimmy Carter encouraged Dean and Clark

CNN reports that Jimmy Carter said this: "Just two candidates have asked my opinion about whether they should run for president or not, and I’ve advised both of them to become candidates, and he’s [Clark] one of them." He identifed the other as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. In an interesting interview with The New York Times

Clark said that he "would have supported the Congressional resolution that authorized the United States to invade Iraq" but, on the other hand, he also said of Howard Dean’s opposition to the war: "I think he’s right. That in retrospect we should never have gone in there." This is a bit confusing. And
USA Today reports this: "Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign said he would participate in a Democratic presidential debate Thursday, then quickly backtracked, angering party officials and drawing criticism from his primary rivals." This doesn’t indicate a strong start for his campaign.

McClintock’s virtues

George Will writes very clearly about both the Ninth Circuit decision and the candidacy of Tom McClintock. I saw McClintock on C-Span the other day--I think it was a debate with the "blazingly undistinguished" (as Will calls him) Bustamante and a few others--and it was absolutely clear that McClintock is the superior candidate. He was the professor and the others were the flailing students. Here is Will: "Only one California candidate, State Sen. Tom McClintock, is, like Thatcher, a ’conviction politician’ prepared to discipline the nanny state. He has a Thatcherite charm deficit but -- perhaps these attributes are related -- determination to summon California, as Thatcher summoned Britain, up from infantilism.

He has her determination to revive what she called ’the vigorous virtues’ -- entrepreneurship, deferral of gratification, individual initiative, personal responsibility in making appetites conform to resources. Together these aptitudes can be called adulthood."

Wesley Clark essay

This is an essay by Wesley Clark from the September 2002 edition of The Washington Monthly. It is not impressive. It would seem that if he were president the war in Afghanistan (never mind Iraq) would not have taken place. Andrew Sullivan crushes it in five hundred words.

The silence about illegal immigration

Victor Davis Hanson calls for public conversation about the very large problem of illegal immigration. Along the way he chastizes both the libertarian right and the Latino elites for demanding de facto open borders. "The former prefer paying cheap wages to a perennial supply of hard-working unskilled laborers who live in the shadows of civic life, and cannot organize due to their illegal status. The latter see political capital in a large bloc of unassimilated potential voters who require group rather than individual representation."  

Clark-Hillary 2004?

Peter Lawler writes a fine piece on Wesley Clark. It was posted at NRO this morning, but I missed it, sorry. (I took a nap this afternoon, feeling simply awful). While he essentially agrees with me that Clark will blow everyone out of the water, including the Bobo candidate Howard Dean, he adds a nice twist about Hillary. It is entirely possible. Please read it all.   

A True American

Vernon Loeb writes a story about Army Spec. Hilario Bermanis’ becoming an American citizen: "Army Spec. Hilario Bermanis officially became an American yesterday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, proudly raising his right arm to take the oath of citizenship. It is the only limb he came back with from Iraq."   

Anti-abortion Legislation on the Move

UPI reports that the Senate is sending its version of a partial-birth abortion ban to the House for approval and/or modification. Speculation is that the President will have something to sign this fall.

Cockeyed Clark

Now that we have General Clark--you know, the first in his class at West Point Clark-- in the race, it might be wise to stay abreast of some of his thinking. So I have established a new category called "Cockeyed Clark." And this is the first installment. I bet there will be more. Note what he said on Meet the Press on June 15, 2003:

"The Bush tax cuts weren’t fair. The people that need the money and deserve the money are the people who are paying less, not the people who are paying more. I thought this country was founded on a principle of progressive taxation. In other words, it’s not only that the more you make, the more you give, but proportionately more because when you don’t have very much money, you need to spend it on the necessities of life."

A freshman asked me this morning if we could have a conversation sometime about what the differences are between the Republican and Democratic parties, since she wasn’t really sure. This may be a good place to start: Now what was that principle that this country was founded upon? Yup, that’s it, progressive taxation. Just in case anyone doubts that Clark is a Democrat.

Here is the full text. (Thanks to Eugene Volokh)

Report from Syria

Here is a report from Syria by a musician on tour. What’s it like? How are Americans thought of? What’s the difference beytween now and last year? What about Iraq? This is not a CNN report. Good read. (Thanks to InstaPundit).  

Wesley Clark’s Candidacy

We should always be prepared to be surprised in politics, yet, somehow, we never are. Gen. Wesley Clark’s entry into the Democratic campaign is very significant. The crop of nine dry-as-dust candidates have been nuked. The only one that will surive is Howard Dean, and he may not. It’s a new world for the Democrats, and I am confident that they are all losing sleep (as well as many staffers who will have shifted to Clark). This is a terrifying time for them. Except for Dean, they have not been able to engage the imagination of Democrats. Their petty poll numbers, and the lack of movement in those numbers, have been the scientific indication of an already well known fact: The nine are seen to be awkward, petty, slippery, and utterly uninspiring. The pudding has had no theme. Now it does. Clark has the authority that all of them have lacked. Furthermore, and this is no small point, it has become crystal clear in the last few days that Hillary and Bill are pushing Clark.

John Fund understands this. And, let’s face it, Bill Clinton is a giant among the current crop of pygmies. (In fact, there is no Democrat anywhere in the country that is anywhere near his equal. The only people who could have displaced his authority are Gore and Liebermann, and they failed). He dominates. Bill will continue to re-define the Democratic Party. He not only has the Party apparatus, now the candidate. And he is the one that can get the money. As John Fund notes, even if Clark doesn’t get elected president, Bush will not trounce him, as he would Dean. That will leave the Democratic Party in better shape for Hillary’s candidacy in 2008. And, in the unlikely case that Clark becomes president, the Clinton’s would be sitting in the front row. Even the New York Times story on Clark’s announcement understands something of the Clinton connection. I also understand that there are questions about Clark. Richard Cohen dwells on the fact that he is not likeable as a person: he is self-centered, brash, driven, hard on subordinates, and so on. He has no friends, so to speak. Well, Gore was no different, and he almost became president. But Gore wasn’t respected, and Clark is. That is sufficient, especially relative to Dean and the other eight, now, former Democratic candidates.

Lileks on Administration Critics

James Lileks has some characteristically poignant and witty comments in his daily "Bleat" regarding critics of the administration’s foreign policy. A sample:

...the same people who chide America for its short-attention span think we should have stopped military operations after the Taliban was routed. (And they quite probably opposed that, for the usual reasons.) The people who think it’s all about oil like to snark that we should go after Saudi Arabia. The people who complain that the current administration is unable to act with nuance and diplomacy cannot admit that we have completely different approaches for Iraq, for Iran, for North Korea. The same people who insist we need the UN deride the Administration when it gives the UN a chance to do something other than throw rotten fruit.

Ackerman on the Ninth Circuit

Bruce Ackerman, to his credit (he’s very liberal and went overboard on Bush v. Gore in 2000), sees right through the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on the recall, and shows how they are wrong in arguing that it is similar in any way to the Florida case. He claims, rightly, that "The present decision attacks states’ rights at their very core."

Oath of Allegiance change on hold

A few weeks ago I commented on the suggested change for the Oath of Allegiance: I was opposed to it, still am. Today’s Washington Times states that the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has withdrawn the proposed change. They claim that the changes were just being discussed in private, and they haven’t decided on anything yet. That’s fine, I accept that explanation. Yet, I am willing to bet, the public outcry about the proposed change (which was to go into effect today) may have had something to do with it. Former Attorney General Ed Meese wrote a very good letter objecting to the changes a week ago. Thanks, General Meese!

Dark Art of Interrogation

This is an interview with Mark Bowden (author of Black Hawk Down). It has to do with his lengthy article in the current issue of Tha Atlantic called, "The Dark Art of Interrogation." Alas, the article is not available on line, but very much worth reading (I read it on dead trees at the Atlanta airport). Very informative on what methods of interrogation of terrorists are, including "torture light."

Constitution Day

On September 17, 1787 the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created. They sent it on to the people in the several states for ratification and September 17th has been called, ever since, Constitution Day. The Ashbrook Center celebrates the great event by having a distinguished person reflect on some aspect of the Constitution. Tonight’s speaker will be the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Thomas Moyer. He will speak at 7:30 P.M. and you can listen to it live by clicking here.

Johnny Cash

Cal Thomas has a nice piece on Johnny Cash in The Baltimore Sun. "Typical Mr. Cash: honest, unpretentious, a man comfortable with anyone, from the powerful to the incarcerated. He had a face not to be looked at so much as to be studied. Like rings tell the age of a tree, each line on his face was part of a life story.

Mr. Cash hid little. He spoke openly about his wrestling matches with temptation. Some he’d won, others he’d lost. And he spoke unashamedly about the faith those stagehands mocked. He told me of his daily commitment based on Psalm 19:14: ’Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.’"

Wesley Clark

Mac Owens takes the first shot at Gen. Clark, since he will announce today. He quickly covers his virtues and vices as a military commander (and takes some good shots at the Clinton administration’s handling of foreign policy). More on Clark later. Yet I need to go out on a limb. So I predict this: He will enliven the campaign like no one else could (save Hillary) and it will end up to be a struggle between Clark and Dean, with Lieberman struggling to hold on to third position. Furthermore, this will become very clear with the first national polls that include Clark. And that should be within days. It is one of the ironies in politics that the day after Edwards formally announces, he is, in effect, finished. I bet he is not amused.

Howard Fineman thinks that Clark is getting a lot of support from the Demo elites, including many former Clintonistas, because he is the only one who can stop Dean. Clark is the un-Dean candidate. Indeed, The Washington Times reports that he is running at the urging of Bill Clinton.

David Frum thinks that Clark is the wrong candidate. Clark sums up the illusions and errors of the 1990’s, including his military campaign in Kosovo which "was based on an unending series of errors." Here is the WaPo profile of Clark. It’s pretty informative.

A Judge in Iraq

A friend had sent me this speech by a Judge Don Walters, a retired federal judge, who had been a member of a 12 man team sent to Iraq to evaluate their justice system. I wasn’t sure if it was real, started looking into it, and discovered that Glenn Reynolds had tracked it down, and it is for real. A good read, especially if you had been inclined to be opposed to the Iraq war, as Judge Walters was, until his trip, that is.

Update on the Ninth Circuit

Rick Hasen, whose Election Law blog provides excellent information--albeit from a liberal viewpoint--reports that Judge Thomas has requested the parties to submit briefs by 2 p.m. PDT tomorrow discussing whether this case should be heard by an 11 judge panel of the Ninth Circuit. This does not prevent the parties from seeking a stay of the order from Justice O’Connor, who is the circuit justice, or from asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. Anyone who doubts the capacity of the Supremes to take a case away from an en banc court need look no further than last year’s University of Michgan case, in which the Supreme Court decided to hear the undergrad case while a decision was pending before an en banc panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

That said, I will offer a couple of predictions. One, the Supreme Court really doesn’t want to have to deal with this case, so I predict that they will let the Ninth Circuit try to clean up its own mess. Two, the motion for stay which will inevitably be filed with O’Connor will be forwarded to the full court for a poll of all nine justices. She does not need to do so, but it is common practice in these high profile cases. How the court decides the stay issue is not dispositive of how they view the case, but it will provides some interesting tea leaves for court watchers to read.

And Then There Were 10 . . .

CNN is reporting that Wesley Clark will announce his presidential candidacy on Wednesday. At the very least, this will make the campaign much more interesting.

Bottom of the Ninth

Robert Alt has produced the must read article on the Ninth Circuit’s opinion on the California recall election. It makes clear many things, including the difference between the grounds of this decision and the Supremes in Bush v. Gore, which the Ninth Circuit claims to be in line with. All this is truly extraordinary and amazing and Alt understands the details, as well as the consequences should the Supremes not take it up. Please read.     

On the corruption of the press

John Burns of the New York Times writes in Editor and Publisher about the corruption of the press, especially as it relates to Saddam and how reporters, for their own interest, hid the truth. Andrew Sullivan has commented on it. The whole thing is worth reading, but here are a few good paragraphs:

"Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that this was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people’s stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper."

Reclaiming the Title

I should have an article up tomorrow talking about the Ninth Circuit’s opinion. Suffice it to say, the court applies an overly broad reading of Bush v. Gore, and creates a nebulous standard which would seem to place ever increasing obligations on the state.

More importantly, this seems to be the Ninth Circuit’s attempt to make clear that the Florida Supreme Court was just a flash in the pan, and to reclaim their rightful title as the real extremist court. The decision brings to mind the Simpson’s episode in which the family does a modified version of Hamlet. When a character begins to act out of sorts, Lisa, playing Ophelia, proclaims: "No one out-crazies Ophelia!" So with the Ninth Circuit.

Recalling the Recall . . . For Now

Looks like the California Recall is off until a sufficient number of voting precincts can assure a reliable means of voting to the citizens of California. The plaintiffs are asking for a six-month postponement, i.e., forget the special election and simply hold the recall at the next regularly scheduled election. See details in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion released today.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

On October 7, 2003, California voters will be asked to cast a ballot on some
of the most important issues facing the State, including an unprecedented vote on
the recall of a governor. However, forty-four percent of the electorate will be
forced to use a voting system so flawed that the Secretary of State has officially
deemed it “unacceptable” and banned its use in all future elections. The inherent
defects in the system are such that approximately 40,000 voters who travel to the polls and cast their ballot will not have their vote counted at all. Compounding the problem is the fact that approximately a quarter of the state’s polling places will not be operational because election officials have insufficient time to get them ready for the special election, and that the sheer number of gubernatorial candidates will make the antiquated voting system far more difficult to use.

Gay and Infectious in London

The BBC reports that gay men in England are intentionally exposing themselves the HIV as a "badge of honor." According to a study conducted by researchers at Brunel University,

"The prevalence of HIV in the UK among men who have sex with other men continues to rise and, in part, this can be attributed to the fact that HIV is being transmitted with a deliberate recklessness in the backrooms of London’s pubs, clubs and saunas . . . .

There is a tendency for some men to say ’now I’m HIV positive, I am truly gay’. They want to get into that caring more supportive world and the acquisition of a diagnosis is obviously going to help them do that."

Another reason to legalize gay marriage, just watch.

Kentucky Homicide?

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the Kentucky legislature is pushing forward on a "fetal homicide" measure that "would define a fetus as a person from the moment of conception and let police charge people with homicide for recklessly or intentionally terminating a pregnancy." It is being met with the usual cadre of opposition, but has an unusual amount of Democratic support this time, and both gubanatorial candidates back the bill.

Lamb Chops

CNN reports that England’s PPL Therapeutics, the biotech firm that brought us Dolly, has just been put on the block. The report notes:

The move is a fresh blow to Europe’s struggling biotech industry, which has achieved only a fraction of the success of its U.S. counterpart, and highlights the difficulty companies face in making money from scientific breakthroughs.

Just another example of why the United States need not yet fear the much dreaded "biotech brain-drain" that human cloning proponents predict every time a call is made for anti-cloning regulations.

Clinton rising, Rumsfeld fading

I have returned from Atlanta, but down with a cold or something equally debilitating. I flatter myself in repeating what Leonato says to Antonia in Much Ado About Nothing: "There was never yet philosopher/That could endure the tootache patiently." I’m going home in a few minutes, after a visit to the doctor (Vicki thinks I have pnemounia). The two paragraphs below were sent to me by a significant person, whom I shall call Bolingbroke. It is both perceptive and well written and, alas, seems true.

I have been watching television. I have seen Clinton in operation at an event in Iowa? with Harkin and some Demo candidates for president and then at Los Angeles’s AME something or other Church with Gray Davis present (live on Sunday). The man is rolling. He is better than he has ever been. He is utterly confident--disgustingly so, to one of certian persuasions, of course--more drawlingly folksy than ever, full of hogs and swill imagery, brilliantly and viciously partisan, painting the Democrats as pragmatic middle of the roaders favoring prosperity for everybody, and Republicans as captives of Big Business, a self-conscious celebrity, the obviously most important person in the room--or in the field--offering gratitude to everyone who had ever been associated with him--that is everyone--stirring energy and confidence in the crowd, as no one present could do. He alone is proof of the potency of the Democrat challenge; he will be everywhere, in California and elsewhere, where Democrats regroup in the coming months.

And I saw Donald Rumsfeld, in a tape of a September 10 or thereabouts national press club gig. The man has aged. He appears an old man as he never has, not in his appearance so obviously, as in the public workings of his famous mind. Self-doubt has crept in, as it should do in those who recognize that their faculties, on which they have relied confidently all their lives, are beginning to fail them. Private prediction--he has already put in for retirement and is waiting for the first graceful opportunity to effect it. Quiverings of uncertainty will shimmer throughout the administration and the public and will be readily recognized by our enemies. Handling his replacement will be a delicate and important part of the next stage of the administration’s ensuring all concerned that it is a ship on an even keel.