Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

My apologies

Peter’s illness has left an enormous void here at NLT (no doubt elsewhere as well), one that I couldn’t fill even under the best of circumstances. But my blogging circumstances this week have been less than ideal. I’m currently sitting in the tiny lobby of our resort complex, connecting through their wireless router. I have about an hour a day to catch up with email, cruise around the ’net, and blog. The rest of the time I have to suffer through sun, sand, and pool. But our time in this little share of paradise ends tomorrow, after which I’ll be up to my usual tricks. See y’all soon!

Political science at the Smithsonian

Many months ago, I took note of the case of Richard Sternberg, a Smithsonian research associate who was under fire for publishing an article on "intelligent design" in a journal he edited. Today’s WaPo has this update.

Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Sternberg has seen stress piled upon stress in the past year. His marriage has dissolved, and he no longer comes into the Smithsonian. When the biological society issued a statement disavowing Meyer’s article, Sternberg was advised not to attend. "I was told that feelings were running so high, they could not guarantee me that they could keep order," Sternberg said.

A former professor of Sternberg’s says the researcher has an intellectual penchant for going against the system. Sternberg does not deny it.

"I loathe careerism and the herd mentality," he said. "I really think that objective truth can be discovered and that popular opinion and consensus thinking does more to obscure than to reveal."

Nothing has shaken my sense that what we’re seeing here is the defense of an orthodoxy rather than encouragement of free inquiry.

The Sheehan Story, Week Three

The Sheehan story now looks to run on as long as the Iranian hostage crisis. No doubt CBS News will soon end its broadcast with a signoff line inspired by Cronkite’s "That;’s the way it is, on Day 325 of the Iranian hostage crisis."

Here’s today’s Sheehan commentary roundup, courtesy of realclearpolitics:

David Gelernter doesn’t care for Sheehan (LA Times). In the Wall Street Journal, Dan Henninger compares the media fascsination with Sheehan to their similar fascination with Natalee Holloway’s mom in the Aruba case. (By the way, hasn’t the media solved that case yet?) Finally, for liberals who are on decaf and blood pressure meds, there’s Ann Coulter’s take on the story.

One of the more interesting commentaries out is from Patti Davis, President Reagan’s rebellious daughter who has blossomed into a first class writer. In this piece, she offers a poignant personal reflection: "During the course of my life, I have accumulated a lengthy list of regrets that I seem incapable of editing down, but this regret remains perhaps the most prominent. It was so immature, so disrespectful, to essentially say to someone—in this case, my father—no, I have no interest in listening to what you want to say to me."

But then she goes on to show that she hasn’t quite learned her lesson, though. She thinks Bush should see Sheehan again. She should ponder Edmund Morris’s reflections on this question, with reminiscences about Patti’s own father.   

The Empty Dems

Don’t miss David Ignatius in today’s Washington Post. Money graph:

So where are the Democrats amid this GOP disarray? Frankly, they are nowhere. They are failing utterly in the role of an opposition party, which is to provide a coherent alternative account of how the nation might solve its problems. Rather than lead a responsible examination of America’s strategy for Iraq, they have handed off the debate to a distraught mother who is grieving for her lost son. Rather than address the nation’s long-term fiscal problems, they have decided to play politics and let President Bush squirm on the hook of his unpopular plan to create private Social Security accounts.

Because they lack coherent plans for how to govern the country, the Democrats have become captive of the most shrill voices in the party, who seem motivated these days mainly by visceral dislike of George W. Bush. Sorry, folks, but loathing is not a strategy -- especially when much of the country finds the object of your loathing a likable guy.

A Parent’s Standing

Like Steve, I have felt very little need to comment on the Sheehan story. No one can question the sincerity of her grief at the loss of her son. However, a post on TAPPED this morning causes me to break the silence. Garance Franke-Ruta offers the following quote from a Dana Milbank article in WaPo:

In a broader sense, none of the particulars about Sheehan matters: not her remarks about Israel and neocons, not her lefty politics, not her divorce and not whether she’s entitled to a second presidential audience. What matters is her ability is to serve as an icon, a symbolic rallying point for an antiwar movement. And all she needs to achieve that is the moral claim she already has, being the mother of a kid who was killed in Iraq.

I find this a bit ironic, because I have serious doubts about whether the source of her standing--her fallen son Casey--would have wanted her to do this. I spent 5 months in Iraq last year reporting for NRO and the Ashbrook Center, and I met a lot of Caseys—men who felt a sense of duty to serve, and men who understood why they were there. Remember: Casey did not just volunteer, he re-upped after the war started. The men in Iraq were appalled by the attempts of politicos in the U.S. to use the deaths and injuries of their comrades as anti-war rallying cries. They were appalled by Senator Kennedy’s grandstanding about the casualties as evidence of quagmire.

I must admit that I had my own fears about being used in such a way, which is why I wrote an article for Ashbrook and NRO which, thankfully, was never published. You see, my parents are liberal, and opposed the war. I feared that if I were killed in Iraq, either my parents, or Ted Kennedy-types might use my passing for their political ends. Admittedly, I do not think that my parents would have taken to the media blitz of Sheehan, but I could understand how their own politics might have entered into conversations with reporters who called, and the reporters could have used it to forward an agenda that I had seen far too vividly among the reporter-class in Iraq. I therefore drafted a final article which I left with my office, explaining why any politicization would be inappropriate based upon my experiences in Iraq. It is the sort of letter that I think most soldiers, who see the day-to-day good that is occurring in Iraq, would also likely write, given their comments to me in the field. Casey left no such letter to my knowledge, and while I cannot speak for him, my own experience with soldiers on the ground and with my parents, who I love but with whom I disagree, gives me graves doubts as to whether Cindy speaks for him either.

Able Danger

I’ve been watching this Able Danger train wreck unfold for the last week or so, believing that the conservative media was probably getting ahead of the full facts. Today Mickey Kaus suggests that what Able Danger came up with was a different Mohammed Atta.

I’ve met Mickey and like him, but sometimes I’m never sure whether he is pulling our leg on his blog. And even if something like this is true, it wouldn’t absolve the Clinton administration from the foolhardiness of the FISA "wall" between intelligence services and domestic law enforcement.

Roberts confirmation: learning from Thomas?

Manuel Miranda reminds us that a month before the hearings Clarence Thomas looked like a shoo-in too.

"Not for Me Your Grey-and-Pink Poodle FASCISM!"

My very favorite Saturday Night Live sketch ever, "Plato’s Cave," with Steve Martin as a Beat poet, aired in the fall of 1976. Bliss was it to be alive in those days.


I’ve wanted to stay far away from the Sheehan protest, which is generating more heat than light, but someone on a discussion thread noted the absence of any Sheehan-related analysis on NLT. Okay, I offer as Exhibit One James Lileks’ column, which is a pretty hard hit on the latest media darling.

Is Your City Left, Right or Center?

Here is a study that ranks America’s most liberal and conservative cities. Check it out: see how your metro area scores.

Running up the score on Roberts

I agree with Manuel Miranda that trying too hard to win friends on Roberts may well come back to bite the Bush Administration if and when there’s another nomination opportunity. They’re almost conceding that something approaching consensus should be the goal, which in effect hands a weapon to the obstructionists.

Roberts on the First Amendment religion clauses

Christopher Levenick has a very nice piece in the current Weekly Standard contrasting Sandra Day O’Connor and John Roberts on church/state matters. Here’s a telling paragraph:

O’Connor’s endorsement test ultimately relies on how people perceive themselves, whether they sense themselves as outsiders or full members of the political community. Her overwhelming concern is how people feel, rather than how they are actually treated. Unfortunately, subjective feelings are a notoriously unreliable legal criterion, and one that inevitably leads--as O’Connor herself learned in the Pledge case--to a tyranny of the easily offended. Roberts, in marked contrast, proceeds on the basis of tradition and of common sense, both of which suggest that religious establishments trespass the Constitution only when they preferentially receive public funds, or rely on the force of the state.

Read the whole thing.

Peter’s Address

For those of you thinking about sending your good wishes to Peter during his hospital stay, here is his address:

Peter Schramm

Intensive Care Unit - Room 10

Baylor Medical Center at Irving

1901 N. MacArthur Blvd.

Irving, TX 75061

Since he is in intensive care, flowers and gifts cannot be accepted--although a card would be fine.

Also, please refrain from calling the hospital to inquire about Peter’s condition. Occasional updates will appear on this blog, as appropriate.

More Rubbish

For a time in the late 1980s and 1990s it was a frequent theme that the U.S. was running out of landfills. It struck me then as another overheated mini-crisis, but it led to a number of counterproductive and inefficient laws and regulations. Today the New York Times discusses this exaggeration.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

Ashbrook Center

Update on Peter Schramm

While traveling on University business in Texas a week-and-a-half ago, Peter Schramm developed a severe case of acute pancreatitis. He is in critical condition in intensive care at Baylor Medical Center outside Dallas, where he is expected to remain for many weeks. He has a well-qualified and well-coordinated team of doctors and nurses looking after him, and he is receiving excellent care. Many members of his family and friends remain by his side.

I will keep you up-to-date on Peter's condition. I hope you will remember Peter, his wife Vicki, and their family in your prayers.

G. William Benz
President, Ashland University

Categories > Ashbrook Center

What If This Were Some Other Drug?

Michelle Malkin has the details of deaths associated with the use of the abortion pill RU-486. If this were any other drug (Vioxx perhaps??), "consumer groups" and other watchdogs would be screaming for the FDA to take it off the market.

Walken Candidacy Debunked

As I speculated in my post below, the Christopher Walken presidential candidacy is a hoax.

Hippo sweat

This sounds revolting, but if it works, days like today here would be even more pleasant than they already are.