Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Rabbi Lapin on Mel Gibson’s Passion

Rabbi Daniel Lapin discusses Mel Gibson’s upcoming film, "Passion," which portrays the life of Christ.

In some quarters, the movie has been portrayed as rabidly anti-Jewish. Rabbi Lapin begs to differ.

The movie will be released on Feb. 25th.

Ryan Anderson

You’ve heard about this 26 year old National Guardsman in Washington aiding the enemy? Michelle Malkin has looked into it a bit, and has come up with some interesting/pathetic stuff: he is an off-balance Muslim convert.

Haiti crisis

The situation in Haiti is getting worse. About fifty people have already died in what looks to be an uprising against Aristide. The counter attack is being readied by the government. You find this in the BBC report: "The United States has said it does not want to see any kind of ’regime change’.

It is difficult to assess the impact of that statement but it is certain to cause a lot of disappointment.

In many of the marches here over the past few weeks, the call has been for President Bush to come and ’take back’ Clinton’s mistake, as they call it.

President Bill Clinton was in charge when American marines came in here and re-restored President Aristide to power in 1994 (the president was forbidden to stand for a second term in 1995, but was re-elected in 2000)."

Kerry vs. Bush and 1968

I think Daniel Henninger nails the meaning of John Kerry’s candidacy (and George Bush’s):

"John Kerry was present at the creation of the moral and intellectual voyage of post-1960s Democrats. He helped map its course. He testified in 1971 against the Vietnam War as a young veteran before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He appeared as an antiwar spokesman on "60 Minutes" and "The Dick Cavett Show." John Kerry was a celebrity among Primary Democrats as Bill Clinton never was during this important period. As a Southern governor, Mr. Clinton learned about the inevitable left-right compromises of public policy in ways that rarely tainted the austere ideological experience of Mr. Kerry in the liberal northeast and Washington. (This may well disadvantage Mr. Kerry in the election.)

"We have in George Bush a president for whom the formative event of his political life is not Vietnam and the years after but September 11, a catastrophic attack on American soil by an organized global enemy. With his doctrine of pre-emption for threats to U.S. security, his destruction of the Taliban and overthrow of the Hussein regime in Iraq, Mr. Bush has largely broken free of the political period that shaped John Kerry’s career. Mr. Bush argues that he is dealing with a world and enemy that has not previously existed. But with Iraq, 30 years of Primary Democratic belief instinctively reappears as resistance, led again by John Kerry. If George Bush’s sense of right purpose flows directly from September 11, 2001, so too does many Democrats’ from what John Kerry was doing and thinking in 1968 in the Mekong Delta."

Conservatives and Kerry’s anti-war record

New York Times runs this story, "Conservatives Shine Spotlight on Kerry’s Antiwar Record," and its about what you’d expect. Note the references to Mac Owens article in the current NR, as well as to this Weekly Standard article on Kerry’s anti-war book in 1971, "The New Soldier." This book is now on my desk, by the way. (No, I didn’t pay a $150 for it, got it through other methods!) The Times also mentions this site.

What was Saddam thinking?

Tom Shanker’s article in yesterday’s New York Times on what the Saddam (and the Iraqis) were thinking before the war is worth a look. He starts: "A complacent Saddam Hussein was so convinced that war would be averted or that America would mount only a limited bombing campaign that he deployed the Iraqi military to crush domestic uprisings rather than defend against a ground invasion, according to a classified log of interrogations of captured Iraqi leaders and former officers."

More on Kerry

The Philadelphia Inquirer runs a story on the Kerry-intern reports (rumors, if you like). Drudge follows up, and Drudge quotes Kerry on Imus this morning when he denied it all. The Sun has some more: the woman in question is 24 year old Alex Polier:

"There is no evidence the pair had an affair, but her father Terry, 56, said: ’I think he’s a sleazeball. I did kind of wonder if my daughter didn’t get that kind of feeling herself. He’s not the sort of guy I would choose to be with my daughter.’

Terry, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, added: ’John Kerry called my daughter and invited her down to Washington two or three years ago. He invited her to be on his re-election committee. She talked to him and decided against it.’”

Russia emptying

Nicholas Eberstadt writes on the crisis in Russia in both fertility rates and death rates. While the fertility rate is very "European" (i.e., very low) and a problem, its death rate is an even bigger problem (and one that other European countries can’t match). Over the the four decades between 1962 and 2002, life expectancy at birth in Russia fell by nearly five years for males. He explains why this is so, and he thinks it will have massive political consequences for Russia and the world. By, the way, in a speech yesterday Vladimir Putin lamented the death of the Soviet Union. Not good.

Amusing Photo

House in the country… $1 million.

Three luxury cars… $150,000.

Leaving town during a cold Michigan winter without turning the water pipes off in your garage… Priceless.

Whitman & Lincoln

James L. Swanson writes a brief review of a new book by Daniel Mark Epstein called Lincoln and Whitman. I have been reading into it for about a week, and it is certainly worth reading, indeed I found it irresistable. This, despite the fact that he conjures up some possibilities--he takes liberties--that may be misleading, in the end. Epstein claims that it is probable that Lincoln read Leaves of Grass in 1857 when his law partner brought it into the office (by then Emerson had proclaimed Whitman a great poet) and that Lincoln was much affected by Whitman so that his literary and speaking style were made better. This is possible, but we already know that the Bible and Shakespeare had a greater influence on him, and, perhaps most important, the ordinary speech of ordinary men is what he heard above all else, what his ear was tuned to, and what his mouth and pen replicated. Just to remind you of some of Whitman’s work here is When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d", and "O Captain! My Captain!"

Attacks on Bush & Kerry?

This Reuters story helps explain the media push regarding Bush’s National Guard Service. Note the title of the story, "Bush, Kerry Both Face Attacks on Vietnam Records." Get it? Attack Bush for being only in the Guard (and having missed, probably, some meetings), and then note that John Kerry is a decorated Vietnam vet, and then all the stories that will come out about his anti-war activities will seem to be just ill-will from those who didn’t serve as honorably as he did (and those that served "only" in the National Guard).

Jane Fonda defends Kerry

Jane Fonda says a few words in defense of John Kerry. Thanks, Jane, this will help.

Kerry Sex Scandal?

According to The Drudge Report, the mainstream press is actively investigating charges that a woman who has recently fled the country did so because she was involved in a sexual relationship with John Kerry. According to the story, the other Democratic candidates know all about it, and it explains why Howard Dean has remained in the race despite his poor primary performances. Wesley Clark is reported as predicting that the Kerry campaign might well "implode" over this issue.

Of course, this is the Drudge Report we’re talking about here, so it’s best to take this with a grain of salt, but it’s obviously something worth following closely in the coming days.

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. We should celebrate this--as Hawthorne called him--"essential representative of all Yankees," and we should be glad that we know why we love him. He knew why the Union was worth saving, and he saved it. He could think and write and talk and laugh, even in the midst of bloody war. In this

Fragment on the Constitution and the Union he nails the connection between the Declaration and the Constitution. The Gettysburg Address enshrines in the American memory both the start and purpose of the Union, thereby clarifying our self-understanding as a people. And it shows that the self-evident truth has now become a proposition; one doesn’t have to be a Euclid scholar to know the large political implications this has for the future, or the military implications it had in 1863: the new birth of freedom would depend on a military vitory. The Second Inaugural is not only fitting and eloquent, but explains why the war came and why it may continue--even after the cause of it is gone--and touches on how man’s purpose and understanding may differ from the of God. Thank you Father Abraham, and happy birthday.

The Press is insane (and biased)

Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics has a few choice paragraphs on how the press is making itself look like (again) as if they’re insane. He recounts a press briefing with Scott McClellan after he released some information on Bush’s Guard duty. Bevan thinks it looked like he had entered a "vortex of insanity." You can follow the useful links. Bush serves, gets an honorable discharge, and becomes a war president. The press is doing the dirty work of his Democratic opponents by throwing muck around around, pretending it is their duty. If the President were a Democrat, this wouldn’t be happening. Does anyone out there think the press is not biased? No. Bill Hobbs has more to show how the so called "facts" the press is using, are not facts after all. This non-story is more revealing about the nature and bias of the media than of anything else. Attack, attack, confuse, confuse, and then say, "Oh, OK, we dug up the facts and it was a non-story after all. Let us now praise ourselves." Here is a letter to the editor from a retired fly-boy Colonel who was in the same unit with W. telling the press to "knock it off."

Kerry and VVAW

William Hawkins has a couple of thoughts on Kerry’s work with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, his continued membership in it, and what VVAW stands for now.

Sherrod Brown slapped around by Powell

Secreteray of State Colin Powell did not allow Ohio Congressman Sherrod Brown (D) to get away with the National Guard AWOL issue. He fought back. I saw a minute of it on the news this morning, and I thought it was great. A petty politician trying to use his moment in the sun (Powell was testifying in front of the House Committee on International Relations) being turned on by a man of dignity and character, a large man. Powell should reveal his anger more often. It was powerful.

Kerry and gay marriage

I thought that this sort of clarification would take a while longer, but, what do you know, it turns out that Kerry just might be a Massachussets liberal! This AP story reports that John Kerry, "who opposes gay marriage and hints he might support a limited ban, just two years ago signed a letter with other congressional colleagues urging the Massachusetts legislature to drop a constitutional amendment outlawing homosexual nuptials.

And when Kerry opposed federal legislation in 1996 that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, he compared the law to 1960s efforts in the South to criminalize interracial marriages and accused his supporters of engaging in the ’politics of division.’

’This is an unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and mean-spirited bill,’ Kerry declared then even as 85 senators and President Clinton supported the measure."

Kerry’s testimony

John Kerry’s full testimony in 1971 may be found here. (The one I posted on earlier was incomplete, it turns out). Thanks to "The View from the Core."

Bob Arnot and bias in the news

Bob Arnot, who has been reporting for NBC from Iraq, has not had his contract renewed. He is calling NBC’s coverage of news from Iraq "biased," and claims that network reporting from Iraq is not covering the good-news stories. This shouldn’t shock enyone; we know of the bias. This is just another confirmation.  

Women in the Arab world

This dozen-page Carnegie Paper, considers "Women’s Rights and Democracy in the Arab World." Not great, but has some useful information in it. Note citations to the Arab Human Development Report 2002 (and 2003), which I recommend.

Blankley on Grand Strategy

Tony Blankley opines on the "Grand Strategy" as talked about in the Boston Globe article and how it may play out in the campaign and why it would be to Bush’s advantage.

John Kerry’s other Vietnam record

Do note the dead tree version of National Review (Feb 23, 2004) is out and the cover story is by Mac Owens. It is called "But Was it True?" This refers to what Kerry said in 1971 about the Vitnam War and the men who served in it. A must read.    

Kerry’s problems

Hugh Hewitt has a short paragraph on what is going to become Kerry’s problem in this campaign. He includes a couple of useful links, including Kerry’s infamous testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April, 1971.

Kerry’s march to victory

Andy Busch reflects on John Kerry’s march to victory, how and why it happened, and why it may not be such a good thing for the Democratic Party to have a nominee who only had about three weeks on the hot seat. I agree.

AP Wire Report: Clark Drops Out of Race

My (Virginia) local news reported tonite that Wesley Clark has dropped out of the presidential race. He’ll return to Little Rock to announce his decision later this week. We may not have the good general to kick around any more, but his surrogate (read: sponsor) Hillary is sure to surface for the 2008 election. Yes, that assumes two things: (1) Hillary will NOT accept the Democratic nomination for VP this July even if Kerry is stomping Bush in the polls, which is typical for the lead convention, and (2) Bush will win re-election.

Burglar mowes lawn

Man in Alabama is caught removing furniture from house, guy pulls a gun on him, forces him to mow the lawn with a push-mower until he figures out what to do (has no phone) then takes burglar’s license. Burglar gets twenty years; he had been arrested nineteen times, and was on parole.

John Kerry wins

Here is the Washington Post story on Kerry’s victories in Tennessee and Virginia. Some interesting details, e.g., Dean ran strong in Northern Virgina, etc. This seems to end the possibility that Clark remains a viable candidate. And Edwards, who came in second in both states, is now going to run for the VP slot, if he stays in. Dean should be finished after Wisconsin. So the deed is done. The unsmiling Kerry--not seeming very happy after these two important victories--will be the nominee. A bit sad, all this, I think. Other things (like issues) aside, I think he will prove a tedious candidate. The more folks will see of him, the more the enthusiasm will decline.


This short Boston Globe piece laments our inability to use the language as we should. Becky and I were pondering the beginning of Richard III this afternoon, and I was--again-struck by "sent before my time/Into this breathing world." It should be our occupation to be plain. (via The Remedy)

Joe Trippi talks

This is kind of interesting. A story on how Joe Trippi is recommending that the e-mail list of donors and supporters (circa 600,000) that Howard Dean has gathered NOT be given over to the Democratic Party. These folks signed on with Dean, the person, and not necessarily the Demo nominee, he says. Also note that he blames the downturn in Dean’s fortunes on the effects of the Gore ednorsement. He said that sparked a torrent of media scrutiny and attacks from rival candidates. But in this Reuters story he blames the internet for Dean’s downfall.

"Internet activism that thrust up the Howard Dean U.S. election campaign later hobbled the organization’s ability to respond to criticism in the weeks before the primaries, Dean’s former campaign manager said on Monday.

Joe Trippi, who resigned after defeats in Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, said the direct involvement of so many Internet supporters deprived the campaign of the traditional weapon of political surprise.

’We were having a real problem with how to say, "We could be in real trouble here,"’ Trippi told a technology conference of the tactical trouble the Dean campaign had in balancing the need to keep supporters informed."

Fom Gunatanmo to home

This is the story of the fifteen year old recently released from Guantanamo, and what he had to say about his captivity.

Kerry Leading

According to ’The Corner’ at NationalReviewOnline, John Kerry is coasting to victories in today’s primaries in Virginia and Tennessee. Doesn’t that mean the race is over?


Sources say the race in Tennessee and Virginia looks something like below, as of noonish:


Kerry 46

Edwards 28

Clark . 15

Dean 7


Kerry 48

Edwards 25

Clark 1 1

Dean 8

David Brooks as Bush’s Speechwriter

Today, the usually brilliant but always stimulating David Brooks has penned a NY Times op-ed that offers what Bush should have said to Tim Russert last Sunday in
"Bush on Bush, Take 2"
. Can’t say that I agree with but half of it, though it does clarify a key issue of the presidential campaign--Bush’s view of and approach toward global terrorism--and how Bush will have to remind voters of the connection between his policies (foreign and domestic) and his character.

I do not think Bush would be successful saying to the American people, as Brooks suggests, "I am a war president." Of course, we are at war, but the rhetoric the president uses to remind us of this fact need not be so blunt as to mislead the nation into thinking Bush is enamored of war-making. He will be more persuasive by November 2nd if he continues to defend our intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq (and points beyond, if necessary) as promoting our nation’s defense first and foremost, and only secondarily for its effect on making those nations and the world at large a freer place.

Aristotle teaches us that not only the force of logic or argument but also a speaker’s character and his audience’s disposition help or hinder his ability to persuade. The logic of Bush’s war against terrorism makes sense, but his rhetoric must accommodate the sentiments of the American people. Exit polls showing that Democrats rank terrorism as last on their list of concerns this election year say more about the Democratic candidates’ rhetoric than they do about what Americans really think about the grand scheme of things, foreign and domestic.

It will be Bush’s task to sketch this grand scheme of things that the Democrats so blithely take for granted: namely, that the world is a dangerous place, America is the main target of this threat, and therefore we cannot afford the luxury of allowing fairweather allies or a chimerical "world community" to determine if, when, and how to take the fight to our enemies. Domestic concerns (like the deficit) are important but can only be discussed responsibly in light of the pressing matter of national self-preservation.

Brooks and others on the Right are correct in pointing out the need for better speaking "off the cuff" from our president. As Lincoln once noted in a law lecture: "Extemporaneous speaking should be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech." The "business" of attracting votes is important enough for Bush not to neglect this facet of his job. The American people can be grateful that his principles and convictions are good and steadfast, but they will not vote accordingly if his impromptu remarks do not show this.

Cheney rumors

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post passes on the rumors that Vice President Cheney is getting a lot of flack from even pro-Bush folks, and maybe he should not be on the ticket. This will continue; rumor mongering is part of politics. In the meantime, Bush’s approval rating moved up three points in the CNN Poll, to 52%.

Al Gore raving & ranting

Some newscast last night reported on a speech Gore gave in Tennessee on Sunday night; he was yelling and screaming about how Bush was just like Nixon, the worst president even, and so on. The minute or so that I saw was quite extraordinary, if not shocking.

Chris Suellentrop of "Slate" has a few good thoughts about Gore’s raving and what it means. Very thoughtful and meaningful. The Democrats have to keep on eye on this guy, if he does things like this at their convention, it cannot possibly be to their advantage. Andrew Sullivan calls it a "deranged rant" and thinks that this crude anti-Bush anger may have peaked: Gore is always a good indicator of where things are not. And, alas, that may mean that Bush scepticism may be on the rise, which he thinks is more dangerous (for Bush). He’s right. Insultsunpunished ("Al Gore has lost his mind") links to an audio of the speech if you are up to it. (via Powerline)

The Death of Character?

Robert Heineman reviews James Davis Hunter’s The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil. A serious subject, a pretty good book, and a good review. A paragraph, for the flavor: "The result, as Hunter has so ably shown, has been to render the concept of character vacuous. Moral education has become an oxymoron, and, in the form dictated by modern psychology, has become a potential danger to American society. Any creed or organization that challenges the need for non-judgmental universality is quickly moved outside the bounds of legitimate public discourse. At the same time, those beliefs that do not so challenge, no matter how quirky or foolish, are seen as within the realm of policy discussion. As a consequence, robust public debate, with its attendant analysis of ideas and creation of new proposals, has been effectively stifled while the most superficial and non-threatening forms of rhetoric continue to be seen as worthy of attention."

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for January

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Curt Mayhew

Tony Williams

Amy Lee

Richard Nelson

Brian Baird

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter February’s drawing.

Kerry v. Bush on Viet Nam War Service

Mac Owens sheds light on the charges lodged by the Kerry campaign regarding George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard during the Viet Nam War.

Courtesy of National Review Online.

Bush on Churchill

Here is the speech of President Bush on the opening of the Churchill exhibit at the Library of Congress that I couldn’t find earlier. (Thanks to Scott Johnson).

Churchill and the Great Republic

There is a new exhibit at the Library of Congress called "Churchill and the Great Republic." It is worth a look, emphasizing as it does, his connections and appreciation of things American. He called America "The Great Republic." President Bush opened the exhibit last week, I saw his very good speech on C-Span, but, alas, it is not to be found on line.

Bush-Russert transcript

Here is the transcript of President Bush’s interview with Russert. I did not see the interview, but some folks at The Corner seem critical of it. Just reading the transcript, I thought it was perfectly O.K. I may be missing something.

WMD’s in Russia

This Boston Globe article claims: "Twelve years after the collapse of the Soviet Union left weapons of mass destruction scattered throughout Russia and its breakaway republics, most of the fallen empire’s vast arsenal remains intact and dangerously underprotected, according to new military data compiled over the past year."

Turks in Chechnya

This is not good news: Russia claims that most of the mercenaries killed or captured in Chechnya are Turks.

A Grand Strategy of Transformation

Here is the Nov-Dec, 2002 Foreign Affairs article,

"A Grand Strategy of Transformation" by John Lewis Gaddis I refered to below, but neither Powerline or I could find. Thanks to a reader for sending it along.

Saddam’s mistake, phantom WMD’s

David Gelernter writing in the Los Angeles Times reflects on the "happy error" that it took phantom WMD to rid the world of a great evil. It wasn’t Bush’s or Blair’s mistake, it was Saddam’s mistake. He claims we can learn much from this "comedy," and maybe we ought to "institutionalize the phantom-WMD maneuver. It was all a mistake, but it worked beautifully." But, more seriously, George Will warns President Bush that he should speak more clearly than he has about WMD, and other issues.

Grand Strategy of the U.S.

Because this is the silly season, we continue to get nothing else from Bush’s political opponents on foreign policy than an emphasis on no WMD’s in Iraq and the view that the threat was not imminent, as Bush had claimed. This is both wrong and misleading (never mind for the moment the continued misquotations by the liberal press and it’s use by his opponents). The real questions that will have to be addressed in this campaign are much more important than that and generally fall under the term "grand strategy." Bush has one--loosely called the Bush Doctrine--and he is implementing it. It has to do with so-called preemption, unilateralism, and hegemony. Of course, reasonable people may disagree with it, yet there it is and it cannot be ignored. The historian John Lewis Gaddis was interviewed at length for this Boston Globe story on this issue. He has a book coming out on it in April (and has already written on it as Powerline notes). The book will be essential reading on the subject not because it will the last word, but because it will be first very public example of the conversation that has already begun, and which ought to be had, especially in an election season. And it will be a good start to that conversation. Please read the Boston Globe article with care, and file it. You will need it and more will be added to your file over time. This will mean--self-evidently--that we will have to have a conversation about very fundamental things, never mind the understanding that John Quincy Adams, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Ronald Reagan had of American ends and means in the world.

I only note in passing the reference in the article to Bush as Prince Hall being transformed by 9/11 into Henry V. If his opponents don’t see this possibility, they might as well keep their day job. With such large issues moving through the world, this is not the time to underestimate your political opponents. They do so at their peril, and to the disadvantage of the conversation that ought to take place.