Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Kathleen Parker has some thoughts about Hillary, and what she is really up to. Note this new Zogby Poll: McCain would beat Hillary, 54-35%.

A note on the Durbin apology

Robert Novak asserts that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley instrumental in forcing Senator Durbin to apologize:

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin may never have apologized for his remarks about the Guantanamo detention camp had his fellow Democrat, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, not described his comments as a ’’disgrace.’’

Durbin did not personally call Daley, but his frantic staffers were on the phone to the mayor’s office Tuesday asking that Daley tone down or even retract what he said. Daley made clear he would do no such thing. Durbin’s staffers claimed that the senator’s expression of regret the previous Friday should suffice, but the mayor insisted on a full-fledged apology.

Poll on Supreme Court nominees

This National Journal Poll shows that 71% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats would like Bush to pick a conservative nominee for the Supreme Court who’d spark a fight in the Senate.

Kelo decision

Here is the full Kelo vs. New London decision.

The Big Sleaze

The Belmont Club uses Philip Marlowe the gum-shoe’s ability to connect dots with the Washington Post’s article on the U.N.’s Oil for Food program.

Sarkozy moves right

According to the International Herald Tribune French "Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a leading contender to succeed President Jacques Chirac in 2007, is pitching his rhetoric to the right in the aim of capturing the votes of 50 percent of the backers of the far-right National Front, a key Sarkozy campaign strategist said Thursday." Sarkozy is the law and order candidate. His party’s chief polster, Manuel Aeschlimann, said this: "The idea is to try to win voters who are not naturally inclined to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy, but who will do so if he addresses their demands." Aeschlimann made clear that he ought to go after those voters who vote for the
National Front (Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party):
"We think 50 percent of them could be persuaded to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy if we make law and order a priority." There are already indications that this is happening, as Sarkozy’s party picks up support, so the National Front declines.

Kelo decision, cont.

Here is R.J. Pestritto’s blog on the Kelo decision at The Remedy.

Kelo vs. New London

This is George Will on yesterday’s Supreme Court decision
that expands the meaning of eminent domain. The Court has opened wide a gate that should remain shut, or nearly shut. This is an awful decision, as John Moser immediately pointed out (also see the Comments section). No doubt NLT will have more to say about this as time goes on. The only thing I want to note here is only the possible good political effect this case might have, especially given that Bush will the chance to place new people on the Court. Two folks (not academics) stopped me this morning in the market to say how angry they were about this decision. Private property has a very meaningful and concrete meaning for citizens, and they are not amused that one private party can now take the property of another. There are many ways the GOP will be able to use this decision, and placing better people on the Court is only one of them. And they had better take advantage of it. This will have consequences.

Brandishing Steel

Dan Balz reports on the latest Democratic demands for resignation: Karl Rove said some things that they didn’t like, so of course, he should resign. If that weren’t enough Ted Kennedy, the quagmire driver (as in deep water), called for Rumsfeld to resign. I especially note here that the attack on Rumsfeld came one day before the
Prime Minister of Iraq arrives to talk with President Bush. Tacky.

As for the Rove comments, I think he could have been a bit gentler. I think I would have. Yet, it amazes me how liberals are taking this up. This is a mistake. Here is the critical paragraph from Rove: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."
I agree with
Jonah Goldberg: "And a dumb thing for the Democrats. Pounding the table about how Democrats aren’t insecure therapy-seeking wimps doesn’t seem like a very helpful argument for the Democrats to be having in the national media."

A serious blow to private property

The Supreme Court has ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut is perfectly within its rights under the eminent domain laws to seize property from its homeowners and turn them over to a corporate conglomerate for private purposes. In a 5-4 split decision, the Court decided that the language "for public use" in the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment is flexible enough to include use by private firms, as long as this can be justified on the grounds of "new jobs and increased tax revenue."

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the decision, which had the support of Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. In her dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote:

Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded -- i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public -- in the process.

For any liberals who may be reading this, take careful note of which justices chose to defend the rights of the individual homeowner (the little guy), and which ones took the side of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Welcome, Foolish Mortals....

Okay, time for a little break from politics. My heart skipped a beat when I found this little gem. I now have a project to work on with my 11-year-old nephew when he comes to visit next month. And best of all, the download is free!

Thank you, Ray Keim, for reminding me why I lo-o-ove the internet!

Explaining my relative silence

I’m in Boise, helping lead a seminar for schoolteachers on the American Founding. They’re good people who are taking their responsibilities seriously. And we seminar leaders are pedalling pretty hard to give them intellectual red meat.

My partners in crime include Will Jordan, Peter McNamara, Jim Read (who will be swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco in a few weeks), and Jon Schaff, a fellow blogger who contributes to the South Dakoa Politics blog. Our host is Scott Yenor, though he is present by his absence, working under this institutional umbrella.

Our dinner partner this evening was Rob Dayley, a former Oglethorpian, who led us to the absolutely funkiest (in a good way) section of Boise--Hyde Park.

Back in Atlanta, my wife reports that, when questioned about my absence at a swim meet (we won; kids swam well), she replied that I was in Boise, which elicited an incredulous response: Why would anyone go to Boise? I know the answer.

Supreme Court Speculation

The comventional wisdom has been that Chief Justice Rehnquist would announce his retirement from the court in the next week or ten days.

’The Weekly Standard’s’ Bill Kristol offers what he calls informed speculation that Sandra Day O’Connor will announce her retirement in the next week and that Alberto Gonzales will be nominated to replace her. Kristol speculates that Gonzales will be slightly more conservative than O’Connor and that Rehnquist will announce his retirement when O’Connor’s replacement is confirmed. He expects Gonzalez to be named Chief Justice at that point and a hard core conservative to replace Rehnquist as an Associate Justice.

Here’s a MainStreamMedia report on the top candidates for a Supreme Court replacement.

Taft hires lawyer

Ohio’s Governor Robert Taft "has hired one of Columbus’ leading criminal lawyers, his spokesman said Tuesday - the same day Taft disclosed that he had failed to report golf outings in which he had participated.

Spokesman Mark Rickel said Taft has hired William Meeks, a high-profile lawyer in Columbus who often handles government ethics cases, and who deals only in criminal-defense cases."

Democratic Senate prospects

Here is an optimistic view of the Democrats’ propects to pick up the U.S. Senate in 2006.

With at least six legitimate targets for the Democrats, the Senate is officially in play for the first time this cycle. We’re not naïve. Minnesota and Maryland won’t be easy for the party to defend. Add North Dakota and Democrats have their work cut out for them. But on the plus side, Republicans haven’t found A-list recruits in places like Nebraska, Washington and Florida. While those three seats won’t be easy for the Democrats to defend, things could be much worse.

There is a list of all the seats up, with some justification for what the writer calls the most vulnerable or interesting.

Arnold the Great?

Pete DuPont on Arnold’s great courage and vision. He thinks Arnold’s "19-month career is easily the most visionary and strongest gubernatorial leadership performance in modern American history." His last paragraph:

Democratic state treasurer (and a likely Schwarzenegger 2006 opponent) Phil Angelides says, "This special election will be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Iraq." Most likely that means the Democratic Party will end up in the Saddam Hussein role, for when a man of strength and vision goes to war for propositions that will increase individual opportunity, he usually wins big.

On leopards and lions

This is impressive. A 73 year old Kenyan grandfather
reached into the mouth of an attacking leopard and tore out its tongue to kill it. And this is from Ethiopia (via Kipling?): An
abducted 12 year old girl who had been beaten by seven men trying to force her into a marriage was found being guarded by three lions who apparently chased off her captors. "They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," a policeman said.

Durbin’s non-apology

There are a lot of stories about Dick Durbin and his so-called apology (Was this an apology Trent Lott could have given?). Although he will not be
censured by the Senate, not everyone is happy about his so-called apology. One calls it icky, and another says that’s not enough and his fellow Democrats should remove him from his leadership position. Hugh Hewitt has more.

Conservatives are Still Winning

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist can’t understand why American conservatives seem depressed lately. Sure, the Bush administration has suffered a few minor setbacks, but these are not at all atypical of second-term presidents. But, the two journalists remind us, "There are two
questions that really matter in assessing the current state of
conservatism: What direction is America moving in? And how does the
United States compare with the rest of the world? The answer to both
questions should encourage the right."

Their article (sorry, for subscribers only) reminds us that George W. Bush won with an out-and-out conservative message, and that a full one-third of voters self-identified as "conservative," as opposed to only one-fifth who called themselves "liberal." As a result, "Mr. Bush could afford to lose "moderates" to
Mr. Kerry by nine points -- and still end up with 51% of the vote, more
than any Democrat has got since 1964."

Mickelthwait and Wooldridge also encourage conservatives to look at divisions within the GOP in a more favorable light:

The Democrats would give a lot to have a big-tent party as capacious as the Republicans’. One of the reasons the GOP manages to contain Southern theocrats as well as Western libertarians is that it encourages arguments rather than suppressing them. Go to a meeting of young conservatives in Washington and the atmosphere crackles with ideas, much as it did in London in the heyday of the Thatcher revolution. The Democrats barely know what a debate is.

Indeed, the two point out, "the left has reached the same level of fury that the right
reached in the 1960s -- but with none of the intellectual inventiveness." They have no sort of agenda aside from knee-jerk opposition to every administration policy.

Mickelthwait and Wooldridge, by the way, are the authors of the recently-published book The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, a history of the revival of the American Right since the 1960s, which ranks high on my summer reading list.

Religion and politics in Canada

My friend John von Heyking had an editorial in today’s Calgary Herald. Responding to a recent call by Canadian gay activists to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that oppose gay marriage (also discussed here), John offers the following arguments:

[Gay activist Kevin] Bourassa’s argument implies that any kind of political statement is partisan. His argument inflates what counts as “political” to the point that any statement about culture is necessarily political. This leads to a radically secularist and statist view restricting churches to tend to their own communities, like marrying their own members and perhaps running a soup-kitchen. But they are prohibited from engaging and criticizing the overall culture, which common sense tells us affects the way people think of marriage and contributes to the need for soup-kitchens.

His argument is radically secularist because it seeks to restrict religious voices, except his own, from participating in public debate.

Mr. Bourassa’s argument is also statist, though it comes on the wings of a libertarianism that seeks to liberate individuals, and on the wings of equality because it views tax exemptions as special pleading. It’s statist because, by collapsing all of culture into politics, it gives the state a license to dominate culture, instead of letting culture develop from autonomous sources and communities. Society needs robust autonomous communities because individuals acting alone are too weak to secure their rights.

His argument is also statist because it removes the ability of organizations to express pre-political rights that enable all citizens to express our consent to government. It also removes their right to manage for themselves the often conflicting moral claims that their religious affiliations make on their political affiliations.

While John makes his argument for a Canadian audience, it certainly applies in spades south of the border as well. If liberty is connected with pluralism, and if churches are among the principal sources of pluralism, then they must be protected above all when they resist and criticize (bear witness against) the dominant culture. While their tax-exempt status may be a matter of legislative grace, it is an exemption that recognizes and respects their claims to transcend the "merely political." To punish or burden churches that conscientiously speak out is precisely to place limits on religious liberty. Such a measure would not be neutral as between religion and irreligion (at least a plausible, if not necessarily the most plausible reading of the First Amendment), but positively hostile to religion (which the First Amendment surely does not require). Not to put too fine a point on it, Mr. Bourassa’s proposal is totalitarian in intent. Let’s hope he doesn’t succeed and hope that his U.S. counterparts aren’t inspired (so to speak) to imitate him.

Intolerant Tolerants

Fred Bills is a recent graduate (and future lawyer). He remembers a party he attended--
shall we say in his youth--at Ohio University, the political question raised, and how a conversation did not follow. He brings Harvard President Summers into his thought on toleration of diverse opinions on our colleges. Not bad. 

The Bolton vote

John Podhoretz at The Corner nails down the meaning and the effect of the Bolton vote yesterday.

Politics is about perception, and the perception among Democrats is that President Bush is on a downward slide. If the opposition to John Bolton’s nomination began as a foreign-policy critique, it has now become a simple matter of power politics. The Democrats have decided that blocking Bolton is the test case of their continuing relevance. The president will almost certainly have to make a recess appointment for Bolton, and he might as well declare publicly that the Democrats are acting in bad faith and that he is acting to fill a critical job because the opposition party is playing politics with a critical foreign-policy job. No more negotiating over the Syria documents or the names of the intelligence officers. That’s a Democratic dodge and a dangerous one where the separation of powers is concerned.

I would only add that for me this is where hard-ball politics gets interesting. The liberal perception is that Bush’s is weak and weaker, as time goes by. They think they smell blood. There are continual references in the MSM about his lame-duck status, low poll numbers, and so on. If I am right about Bush and his people, this is where they will begin to take advantage of the lack of esteem in which they are held. Now begin to use (as they have many times in the past) their underestimation of him to his advantage. This counterattack will reveal itself in other ways, not just on Bolton. We should be prepared to be surprised. And the Demos will be unprepared, I’ll wager.

Spanish protest against same-sex marriage

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Spain to protest the bill in front of the parliament supporting gay marriage. The march had the full support of the Catholic Church. The bill, which will become law in July, will become the most liberal in Europe (including that in the Netherlands). This is the BBC’s report on the march.

This reminds me of story I heard from a lawyer. The tiresome jury selection process continued, each side hotly contesting and dismissing potential jurors. Bob Smith was called for his question session.
"Property holder?"
"Yes, I am, Your Honor."
"Married or single?"
"Married for twenty years, Your Honor."
"Formed or expressed an opinion?"
"Not in twenty years, Your Honor."

Hollywood slump

Apparently, Hollywood is in its worst slump in 20 years. Overall movie revenues skidded for the 17th-straight weekend, tying a slide in 1985 that had been the longest box-office decline since analysts began keeping detailed records on movie grosses.

On Rehnquist’s replacement

Elizabeth Bumiller writes for the NY Times on the upcoming search for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s replacement. More names are mentioned than in yesterday’s Post’s account.

AFL-CIO collapse?

Howard Fineman’s take on the divisions in the AFL-CIO.

The House of Labor is divided against itself, and it’s not clear it can stand. For reasons of philosophy, money and ego—the Potomac power mix—the slice of America that used to be called "Big Labor" may soon collapse. A breakup would have broad implications in the workplace, pitting one set of unions, and one vision of unionism, against another. In politics, it would create competing spheres with one of them—the renegades—more willing to work with Republicans and more focused on organizing drives than on electoral politics. "In terms of Democratic politics, it’s a disaster," says Rick Sloan, the Machinists communications director. "It would eviscerate our ground capabilities in ways Karl Rove and Tom DeLay will try to exploit."


Jackson, TN celebrates June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth), the day the slaves in Galveston, TX, learned they were free. A hundred and forty years ago today Union General Gordon Granger brought the news. He stepped off the boat, unto the beach and read this:

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free labor.

These reports from Houston,
Ft. Wayne, IN, and other places, indicate that the once well observed day is being revivified. Also see

Real torture

Powerline and Democracy Project remind us of what real torture looks like.

Sunday reading

Just returned from a quick trip up to Maryland (to help celebrate my dad’s 75th). Gave money to the Washington Post to pass the time at Reagan. There were at least a few things worth reading, among them Robert Kagan’s latest, asking us to consider what might have happened had we not invaded Iraq, this piece on Iranian intellectual life (are large audiences for Richard Rorty and Juergen Habermas, as well as best-seller status for Nietzsche, signs of hope? you be the judge), and this long front-page article on Robert Byrd’s Klannish past. Dick Durbin’s oafish present merited only an unsigned little piece buried in the front section.

When I finished with the paper (a less all-consuming chore than it once was), I polished off the last bit of this book on Christian education, by Nicholas Wolterstorff, which could profitably be read by all the Southern Baptists considering whether to leave the public schools.

It was great to celebrate my dad’s day, but also great to be back home, thanks to one airline, two public transit systems, a nephew, and my parents. Now on to course prep, blue books, and girding my loins for another trip (this one to gaze on the famous blue turf of Boise State).

Porter Goss interview

Porter Goss is interviewed by Time. The first two questions and answers:

WHEN WILL WE GET OSAMA BIN LADEN? That is a question that goes far deeper than you know. In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we’re probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice. We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you’re dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHERE HE IS. WHERE? I have an excellent idea of where he is. What’s the next question?

Durbin’s grotesque words

Mark Steyn doesn’t (at first) question Senator Durbin’s patriotism, he starts off with his sanity!

One measure of a civilized society is that words mean something: "Soviet" and "Nazi" and "Pol Pot" cannot equate to Guantanamo unless you’ve become utterly unmoored from reality. Spot the odd one out: 1) mass starvation; 2) gas chambers; 3) mountains of skulls; 4) lousy infidel pop music turned up to full volume. One of these is not the same as the others, and Durbin doesn’t have the excuse that he’s some airhead celeb or an Ivy League professor. He’s the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Don’t they have an insanity clause?

Of course, you have to read the whole thing. Let Steyn’s words remind us that words are not idle things, and Durbin’s grotesque words have meaning. Durbin and others like him should learn this, and failing that, should at least quiet their wild and whirling words and know that words without thoughts never to heaven go. Steyn concludes:

This isn’t a Republican vs Democrat thing; it’s about senior Democrats who are so over-invested in their hatred of a passing administration that they’ve signed on to the nuttiest slurs of the lunatic fringe. It would be heartening to think that Durbin will himself now be subjected to some serious torture. Not real torture, of course; I don’t mean using Pol Pot techniques and playing the Celine Dion Christmas album really loud to him. But he should at least be made a little uncomfortable over what he’s done -- in a time of war, make an inflammatory libel against his country’s military that has no value whatsoever except to America’s enemies. Shame on him, and shame on those fellow senators and Democrats who by their refusal to condemn him endorse his slander.

On Rhenquist’s replacement

The Washington Post assumes that on Rhenquist’s retirement no one currently on the Court would be elevated to Chief and thinks that the three top candidates are Gonzales, Luttig, and Roberts, although other possibilities are mentioned.