Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

French Foreign minister in Israel

This story about the visit of French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum is worth reading. It is not the Douste-Blazy’s advantage. (via Oxblog).

Libby and the reporters

To follow-up on Joe’s point, just below, note this well-posed question from the Wall Street Journal, What was the exact role of Robert Novak, the journalist whose column unmasked CIA operative Valerie Plame? There are many things I don’t understand about all this, and this is one of them.

Reporters in the prosecution of Libby

I’m not going to get involved in speculating about Libby’s guilt or innocence, but these two articles point to the central role of reporters in the case against him. This has two consequences, both problematical for the profession of journalism.

First, any decent defense attorney is going to work pretty hard to impeach the reporters as witnesses, which means putting their careers under a microscope. It’s hard to imagine anyone emerging from such scrutiny unscathed. And it’s hard to imagine these three (Tim Russert, Matthew Cooper, and Judith Miller) not serving as stand-ins for their respective news media (television, news magazines, and newspapers), at least in the public mind (to the extent, of course, that anyone pays attention to this).

Second, once these three testify against Libby, any source is going to think twice about promises of confidentiality and about speaking to journalists in anything other than the most bland and innocuous manner. News-gathering will get more difficult, and the people who are willing to say "interesting" things may be different from those who actually have "interesting" things to say.

Update: There’s more along roughly the same lines here.

McClay on the use and abuse of history

Here’s the text of a wonderful lecture given at the Heritage Foundation (scroll down if you want to find a downloadable MP3 file). From smart critiques of a history that serves only to disconnect us from our past to celebrations of Lincoln’s own superior understanding of the role of history, this is a tour de force, Here’s something pretty close to a conclusion:

Perhaps it is not too fanciful to propose that the Constitution itself is our epic, or what passes for one, in function if not in form. It too functions as a text standing at the very core of our national identity. It too serves as a cultural mirror, in which a people is able to see what it is, and is reminded of what it was, and should be. It too is a vessel of American myth and memory. It is an amalgam of both creed and culture, particularly if read, as Lincoln insisted it should be, in conjunction with the Declaration of Independence. Although it does not narrate a shared story, it certainly presumes one, the long and complex Anglo-American experience that produced our understanding of constitutionalism, federalism, individual rights, religious liberty, and separation of powers.

The fact that it does not does not seek to personify the American experiment, does not make Washington the new Aeneas, or indeed name any names at all, may be precisely why it is peculiarly suited to be the object of republican veneration. People will always disagree, and properly so, about the veneration of any particular leader, perhaps even George Washington himself. But the Constitution itself ought to be another matter.

This is an important essay that deserves wide readership.

The Libby indictment and resignation

This is the site for the U.S. District Court, and this is the five count Indictment (PDF file, 22 pages). ABC News is reporting that Libby has resigned.

Teaching and higher ed

Bill McClay has smart things to say. A taste:

It will be a good thing if parents and students become more demanding, and it will be a very good thing if more sources of information are made available to them about what constitutes good teaching and where it is taking place--and not taking place. There is a huge and completely unanswered need for college guides that are as frank, intelligent and unsparingly honest about the quality of undergraduate instruction as consumer guides are about, say, cars and stereo equipment. Unless, that is, we think of higher education as nothing more than a credential and a badge, a source of social prestige that we buy for ourselves and our kids. In that case, we will continue to get what we pay for.

Read the whole thing.

We want a warrior!

The concluding line from Peter Lawler’s characteristically smart and sympathetic post-mortem reconstruction of Harriet Miers’s judicial philosophy 

Special counsel

It is said that the special counsel will release the paperwork at noon. Perhaps it will be in his website also. I’m tired of looking at headlines like this (WaPo), Rove said to be spared, for now, so I’m going to lunch.

Back to the 1980s?

In the news today, Sylvester Stallone announced that he’ll make another "Rambo" movie. This, on top of the previously announced news that he’ll make another "Rocky" movie.

This might be taken as news that Hollywood has no new ideas. But look for Jay Leno to revive one of his old jokes, namely, that Stallone could do a "Rocky vs. Rambo" movie (and why not? Hollywood gave us "Alien vs. Predator"), in which Stallone would simply punch himself to death.

It also reminds me of the nickname we had for Peter Schramm out in Claremont in those days: "Schrambo."

Now back to work.

The Miers aftermath

If you’re looking for coverage of the relationship between the White House and the conservative movement, there are these WaPo articles and this Washington Times piece. E.J. Dionne, Jr. gloats about how difficult it will be for Republicans to return to their strategy for dignified judicial nomination processes. And the Post editorializes in the following vein:

The Miers debate gave the lie to a common Republican assertion that the judicial nomination wars are a struggle between liberals demanding particular results from the courts and conservatives bent on fidelity to a coherent judicial methodology. Rather, there are people in both parties for whom results on social issues trump everything; similarly, there are people on both sides for whom seriousness about the law as a discipline independent of politics remains the lodestone of a good judge.

This is surely true, though the proportions on both sides are, so far as I can tell, quite different. The bulk of the conservative concern about Miers stemmed from the fact that she didn’t seem to have a coherent theoretical basis for judicial restraint. And while half the Democrats in the Senate did bow to the inevitable and support the appointment of John Roberts, the liberal interest groups--and every Democratic Senator with presidential ambitions (I’m assuming Joe Lieberman no longer has any)--offered results-driven opposition.

Update: Hugh Hewitt echoes some of Dionne’s points, with more nuance and without the gloating.

Michael McConnell again

Jon Schaff takes note of the favorable mentions of Michael McConnell, a potential nominee I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and, finally, here). There will be some conservative opposition to McConnell, such as that offered here, but anyone who objects to a nominee because he’s insufficiently partisan has disqualified himself as a serious commentator on judicial matters. Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

The tipping point

Hotline claims to know how this Miers decision worked:

"The tipping point came within the past several days. GOP Senators privately communicated to WH CoS Andy Card that unless they had access to hard evidence that Miers was conversant in constitutional issues, there was no way she would be confirmed. Her performance in private meetings was weak, at best, these senators told Card. Throughout the day yesterday, says a senior Senate aide, there were "conversations throughout the day at the staff level." Late yesterday, Senate Maj. Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) called Card and told him in no uncertain terms that Miers would probably not be confirmed. An aide: "He provided frank assessment of situation in the Senate. [The] lay of land on committee." After that call, according to White House sources, Bush and Card met privately with Miers, and they decided jointly that preserving WH privilege on documents was too important a principle to risk. Miers officially informed Bush at 8:30 pm ET. As late as 8 p.m., one White House aide said the WH counsel’s office was rushing to finish a revision to the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire. (It arrived after 11:00 pm ET). Word began to spread through conservative Washington last night. The White House office of political affairs notified allies at about 8:30 a.m ET this morning but swore them to secrecy until the White House released the President’s statement.

Also note this valuable chronology from the Wall Street Journal.


Esoteric laughter. Hat tip: John von Heyking.

More on the Miers withdrawal

Harriet Miers should be commended for withdrawing her name from consideration. And the President should be praised for understanding that he has done the right thing in "reluctantly" accepting her nomination. In the long run, this misstep by the White House will not be remembered (does anyone remember that Reagan nominated Ginsburg to the high court, and then withdrew his name?). Here is the official White House statement on Miers by President Bush. This is Miers’s letter (PDF file) to the President. The reason offered for her withdrawal was scripted a few days ago by Charles Krauthammer (i.e., executive privilege on her paperwork), but the real reason, of course, is that she was losing everyone’s support, as I explained here, four days ago. Some conservatives are worried that Bush will now nominate Gonzales. This will not happen because he would have the same problems with the executive privilege issue over confidential papers with Gonzales that he said he did with Miers. Bush is likely to go with a known conservative, at least in part because he fears losing his base. I am hoping that he will look carefully at Alice Batchelder, again.

Joe Knippenberg wrote this on Harriet Miers last night, just hours before she withdrew. Joe was not pleased with a speech she gave twelve years ago. He called it "muddled and imprecise," unworthy of a good lawyer. I am betting that Joe is not displeased that she backed off.

Moving right along

Having spent a few hours last night writing this now irrelevant piece, I’m ready to move on. Let’s honor an honorable woman who was miscast as a Supreme Court Justice, encourage the President to revisit his distinguished short list of nominees...quickly, await his next announcement, and, in the mean time, think about something else.

My recommendations include Jonah Goldberg’s thumbnail history of American conservatism, Antonin Scalia’s piece in First Things, Frederick W. Kagan’s essay on Iraq strategy, and this excellent treatment of the constitutional issues surrounding gay marriage.

Miers Withdraws

Read the story here.

Clarity from Iran

In case we needeed it, here is some clarity from Iran. Iran’s president on Wednesday declared that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and warned Arab countries against developing economic ties with Israel in response to its withdrawal from Gaza. France, Spain and others are lodging diplomatic protests.

There’s one in every crowd

Thanks to Hunter Baker, I was able to attend this event last night, along with a couple of Oglethorpe students.

Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order. First, the Georgia Family Council is a polished professional organization that does good work, not only in the state legislative arena, but in the trenches dealing with genuine social problems (divorce and absent fathers). Second, Jim Daly, the President and CEO of Focus on the Family, is an interesting choice as successor to Dr. James Dobson. Much of his experience with FOF is in the international arena, where, he observed, it’s often easier to work on issues of family and fatherhood with pragmatic Chinese and South African leaders than it is with Western Europeans and Canadians. In addition, Daly himself is the product of a highly dysfunctional family; he feels and understands in his bones the problem his organization is addressing.

Third, silent auctions raise more money when you serve something stronger than iced tea to the bidders. (I know this from experience.) Fourth, my Oglethorpe guests acquitted themselves very well in conversations with grown-ups.

Finally, there was at least one NLT reader in the room, indeed at my table (and it wasn’t Hunter or his lovely wife). The internet is a wonderful thing.

A Bridge of Steele

Michael Steele (R), has announced that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sarbanes.

Ramirez Cartoon

Miers, losing

Republican Senators who have met with Harriet Miers continue to be unimpressed. She is also losing the public’s support, according to Gallup.
Tony Blankley also recommends that her nomination be withdrawn.

Miers on the courts and social issues

I’m still chewing this speech and this speech over. My first response is not to be impressed by the clarity of the thought and to be a little disturbed by some of the opinions expressed. I’ll have more later. In the meantime, you can read this WaPo story.

Thucydides and Us, Take 2

I’ve elaborated on this post in this column. I’ll leave you, dear readers, to judge whether the elaboration is an improvement.

While you’re at it, you might take a look at this piece by Victor Davis Hanson from last week’s LAT.

Guelzo on Gettysburg

It’s always appropriate to reflect on the greatness of Lincoln, and so the Richmond Times-Dispatch (as in Richmond, Virginia) ran a Sunday column by our friend Allen Guelzo, who tidily and masterfully explains why Lincoln deserves the title "Great Emancipator." I know, it’s a bit early to commemorate Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (Nov. 19, 1863), but Guelzo’s column is truly a cerebral pause that refreshes. Give it a perusal.   

More Galston/Kamarck

James Pinkerton highlights the role of religion in Galston and Kamarck’s "The Politics of Polarization." Noting a recent visit by evangelist Joel Osteen to the New York metro area, he observes that, while Osteen is "entirely apolitical," it is hard to overlook the potential political consequences of the faith-based worldview he is promoting. Since Osteen’s New York metro audience is two-thirds African-American and Hispanic, this is bad news for Democrats, if they cannot overcome the well-documented public perception that they are hostile to religion.

Iraq’s Constitution

The formal annoluncement has been made that the Iraqi Constitution has been approved by the voters. Elections will be held in December.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks passed away. She was 92. One little lady, one little act--refused to give up her seat on the bus because of her color--had massive consequences. RIP. Also see, Booker Rising and La Shawn Barber and this and this.


Lech Kaczynski, the president-elect of Poland, is making clear that his administration is pro-American, and he is taking a tough line toward Germany and Russia. The Germans are worried. Interesting, nicht wahr?


One afternoon a wealthy lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw
two men along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his
driver to stop and he got out to investigate.
He asked one man, "Why are you eating grass?"
We don’t have any money for food," the poor man replied. "We have to eat
"Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I’ll feed you," the
lawyer said. "But, sir! I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there,
under that tree"
"Bring them along," the lawyer replied. Turning to the other poor man he
stated, "You come with us also."
The second man, in a pitiful voice then said, "But sir, I also have a
and SIX children with me!"
"Bring them all, as well," the lawyer answered.
They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as
the limousine was. Once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the
lawyer and said, "Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us
with you."
The lawyer replied, "Glad to do it. You’ll really love my place -- the grass is almost a foot high."

Fund on Miers

This is John Fund’s take on how the Harriet Miers nomination came to be, and how it was botched. Not a pretty story, if true. Near the end of his piece he says: "I believe it is almost inevitable that Ms. Miers will withdraw or be defeated."

Stitching Shakespeare

John Simon elegantly notes that because we know so little about the life of Shakespeare, his life requires some stitching. He thinks that the authors of the two books he is reviewing are handy with the needle and therefore calls them "sartorial successes."

Harriet Miers will withdraw

I now have an opinion on what will happen with Harriet Miers: She will withdraw her nomination before the start of the Judiciary Committee hearings. This opinion is not based on the latest George Will column that explains why she cannot be defended, nor is it based on my discovery of the tacky Harriet Miers’s Blog. My opinion is based on overhearing private conversations (i.e., reading between the lines in press reports), getting a sense of her declining fortunes from Senators and staffers who have been inclined to support her, and my visit to the local watering hole last night.

Even overlooking the congenital anti-Bush bias in the MSM, press reports make clear that the more would-be-defenders of Miers get to know her (visits to their offices, reading responses to written questions, etc.), the less they like her. This is supported by private, off-the-record opinions I get a whiff of now and then indicating that almost everyone who has had dealings with her during the last few weeks has come to regret that she has been nominated. And, if she doesn’t withdraw, this negative opinion will come to a peak during the Judiciary Committee hearings, to everyone’s huge embarrassment. Since neither political interest nor honor will not allow this to happen, she will not make it to the scheduled hearings.

My second reason for thinking that she will withdraw is the sampling of the opinion of local citizens, culminating in last night’s visit to the tavern. I haven’t been to O’Brian’s since July (the department had dinner with James Muller; I had a steak and drank water, by the way) and last night had the opportunity to sample the opinion of a number of people who came by to say they were glad to see me alive and so on. These are good, conservative, Republican folks, always giving Bush the benefit of the doubt; trusting Bush. Not this time. They have become convinced that this nomination is a huge mistake and their thoughtful conversation convinced me that they are right: the best thing Bush can do is to ask her to withdraw because she has no support. I was a bit surprised how deliberate and thoughtful their logic was; neither bitter nor vengeful, just the common sense of the subject. One man, a Marine, said this was like a bad love affair: the more you got to know Miers, the less you liked her. Very clarifying, I thought. It’s over. Never mind the justice of the thing. It’s over. Now the only thing left is for either Bush or Meirs to find a graceful way out. Perhaps

this will help.

The good guy in the White Hat

If you are under the impression that one man cannot make a huge difference for good in our public life, you haven’t heard of David Brennan. The Columbus Dispatch runs a front-page story, "The self-appointed superintendent," on Brennan, the choice movement, and his charter schools. He is almost single-handedly responsible for the choice movement in Ohio. His schools are enticing mostly black innercity children away from public schools, and there are waiting lists to his schools. I’ve been to some of his schools and have been deeply impressed. Good article.   

2006 = 1994?

That’s the burden of this article, though it does contain a few hedges like this one:

"It’s not as easy as it looks," said former representative Robert S. Walker (Pa.). Walker sees plenty of parallels between his crowd of 1994 GOP House revolutionaries and the young Democrats, but he notes that the Republicans started laying the groundwork for their takeover in the early 1980s, at least a decade before their electoral coup. "I can understand why people say an opportunity is presenting itself," Walker said. "But it does take more than a couple of election cycles to change things."