Flipping the Calendar

As usual this time of year, I’m creating new categories for the new year. This is especially important for those of you who come here directly to the baseball category page, which should now be here. Update your bookmarks accordingly. Also note that posts about the 2008 presidential race will be in the Politics 2008 category.

The Wedge Worked!

As I have noted before, Democrats are very proud of themselves for using the destruction of embryonic stem cells for medical research as a wedge issue, one that seems to have been a crucial factor in some of this year’s Senate races, notably Missouri. Conservative concerns about the horrifying incentives created by turning the tissue of unborn humans into an input in scientific research were brushed off as hysteria.
No longer; the inevitable is now with us:

Healthy new-born babies may have been killed in Ukraine to feed a flourishing international trade in stem cells, evidence obtained by the BBC suggests.
Disturbing video footage of post-mortem examinations on dismembered tiny bodies raises serious questions about what happened to them.
Ukraine has become the self-styled stem cell capital of the world.
There is a trade in stem cells from aborted foetuses, amid unproven claims they can help fight many diseases.
But now there are claims that stem cells are also being harvested from live babies.

Read the whole thing, in all its horrifying detail. Only those unfamiliar with human nature could have failed to predict this.
Those Democratic campaign consultants must be so proud. But then, they won the election, didn’t they?

Quick Links 12/14/06

*One of the more doleful implications of a very narrowly divided polity is the places it leads partisans to go in search of that one last vote that turns an election, a court, a majority, a presidency. So it is difficult for Republicans to resist the temptation to hope for a change in the Senate upon the news that South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson is in critical condition after what may or may not have been a stroke. The right thing to do, of course, is to wish Senator Johnson and his family well (this is especially so because Tim Johnson, whatever his ideology, is not a loathesome human being like Ted Kennedy). Thinking otherwise may be only human, but it’s a reflex to resist.
All things considered, it probably would be for the better if more states had laws that require the appointment of a replacement Senator of the same party, followed by a special election, if an incumbent dies or needs to be replaced – I believe such a law is in place in Hawaii, which has a GOP Governor and two elderly Democratic Senators, and a similar law (the details of which I forget) was enacted in Massachusetts when John Kerry was running for president. That said, existing practice in the absence of such a statute is to replace the Senator however the governor wants, as happened when the Republicans lost Paul Coverdell’s Senate seat in Georgia and John Heinz’s seat in Pennsylvania (both of which the GOP recaptured at the next election), or when Jesse Ventura appointed an independent to fill out Paul Wellstone’s term.
*Count Rudy Giuliani and John McCain with the skeptics about the Iraq Study Group. As of Sunday, Mitt Romney was ducking the issue and saying he hadn’t read the report, although a commenter at RedState has a purported statement from Romney that likewise hits the right notes in rejecting consensus for its own sake and rejecting negotiations with Iran and Syria. Still, there’s a worrisome pattern to Romney’s delayed reactions. The GOP needs its next candidate to be someone who can roll with the punches and drive the public narrative.
On the other hand, Syria loves the ISG report:

The United States will face hatred and failure in the Middle East if the White House rejects the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Syria warned on Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Syria’s ruling party’s Al-Baath newspaper urged President Bush to take the group’s report seriously because it would “diminish hatred for the U.S. in region,” AP reported.

*Academic Elephant over at RedState notes a movement (see also here and here and here), apparently with at least tacit U.S. approval, to break up the current governing coalition in the Iraqi Parliament so as to remove the increasingly ineffectual al-Maliki as leader, build a new coalition that does not depend on the support of Muqtada al-Sadr, and set the stage for a second and hopefully final military showdown with the Sadrists. This would be a necessary step to finishing the job in Iraq.
*This is just a really cool article about turtles. It also pretty well captures the NY Times science section, which still does about the best stuff in the paper – but the headline writer couldn’t resist going for an anti-people headline that is really only a small part of the article.
*Great New Republic profile of Sam Brownback, once you make allowances for Noam Scheiber’s view of the Catholic Church as a secretive cult. I’m not inclined to support Brownback for president because I don’t think he can win (not least of which, the man isn’t exactly Mr. Charisma), but I probably agree with him on more issues than most of the other candidates. He’d make a great Senate Majority Leader someday.
*Peter King (the football writer, not Peter King the Congressman) admits error, supports Art Monk for the NFL Hall of Fame.
*I’m all for attacking terrorism at its roots, but poverty ain’t it. It’s political and religious extremism married to anti-American and anti-Israel ideologies.
*Justices Scalia and Breyer debate the divisive issue of unanimity.
*Eliot Spitzer under pressure from Democratic legislators to allow drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. New York moved to require more secure driver’s licenses after September 11 by requiring social security number background checks before issuing a driver’s license. Little faith though I have in our new Governor, you would think he won’t be this indifferent to law enforcement and security concerns, let alone allowing the privileges of citizenship without its burdens.
*I’m sorry, this is just hilarious.
*Linda Greenhouse on the shrinking Supreme Court docket. This point is a useful fact:

One [reason] is the decreasing number of appeals filed on behalf of the federal government by the solicitor general’s office. Over the decades, the Supreme Court has granted cases filed by the solicitor general’s office at a high rate. In the mid-1980s, the office was filing more than 50 petitions per term. But as the lower federal courts have become more conservative and the government has lost fewer cases, the number has plummeted, opening a substantial hole in the court’s docket.
As recently as the court’s 2000 term, the solicitor general filed 24 petitions, of which 17 were granted. Last term, it filed 10, of which the court granted 4. This term, the solicitor general has filed 13 petitions; the court has granted 5, denied 3 and is still considering the rest.

This, I’m less convinced of:

In private conversations, the justices themselves insist that nothing so profound is going on, but rather seem mystified at what they perceive as a paucity of cases that meet the court’s standard criteria. The most important of those criteria is whether a case raises a question that has produced conflicting decisions among the lower federal courts.

I can certainly attest from my own practice that I routinely encounter issues of federal law that are deeply unsettled or as to which a circuit split exists (in areas like securities law, RICO, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, class action procedure, etc.). The Court has been wise to trim its docket from the days of the 1960s-70s; the quality and care with which opinions are crafted has noticeably increased, and it’s crucial for the Court to get things right because it often will not return to a particular question again for decades, if ever. But if the Court really wants to take on a few more cases it should have no problem finding appropriate vehicles to clarify unsettled issues.
*Consumer fraud statutes as a remedy for descendants of slaves? (See p. 14). (H/T). I know at least under New York’s consumer fraud law, you need to show some loss beyond than just having bought something you would not otherwise have bought, and Justice Breyer has worried about the free speech implications of such lawsuits, which I guess puts him to the right of Judges Posner and Easterbrook on this one.
*DC District Court finds that its jurisdiction over the Hamdan habeas petition has been validly stripped.

ACLU: Democratic Victory Renders Election Law Claims Moot

OK, that’s not precisely how they put it, but this letter ending a major dispute over voting machines in Ohio would not have been written if the plaintiffs had any reason to claim that the just-completed election showed evidence of disenfranchisement. (H/t).
Which is sort of a shame – the underlying Sixth Circuit decision, if appealed to the Supreme Court, could have given the Court the opportunity to clarify a point I always thought was implicit but not properly explained in Bush v. Gore (see here, here and here): that the real risk of unequal protection of the law was not the existence of differing standards for vote-counting but rather the use of a standardless post hoc, non-statutory judicial remedy devised only after the election (and by an appellate court, no less, reversing the judgment of the trial court and overturning the pre-litigationstatus quo). In short, what the Court in practical effect did was to apply a heightened level of scrutiny to judicial remedies in election law cases filed after the election has taken place and not based on neutral rules laid down before the voting was done.

Um, Never Mind

Patterico catches the LA Times yet again stirring up unnecessary racial animus in a feature story and then burying in a correction the real facts that destroy the entire point of the article. You should go and read the whole thing, but the central point is that there is a big difference between a population that is 69% white male and one that is 69% white – the latter figure being smaller than the proportion in the population as a whole.

Quick Links 12/4/06

*This essay on the Democrats’ coming move to strip funding from missile defense programs is one of the best I have read on the subject of SDI. This is an especially good point about the Democrats’ insistence that the program be shown to be 100% effective before money is spent improving or deploying it (a rather different tack than they take when dealing with, say, medical research or alternative energy sources – or global warming, for that matter, even though unlike the battle against combustible fuels money spent on missile defense is a single, transparent cost and imposes no burdens on individual liberty):

[L]ike software, most successful weapons systems are best debugged after being deployed. And some weapons systems were never tested at all before deployment.
Complex weapons systems have often been used successfully without proper testing. In 1940, Britain’s new air defenses – radars, ground observers, anti-aircraft guns and squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes – had never been tested against even a small scale simulated attack. Yet they won the Battle of Britain. Likewise in the 1991 Gulf War the first two E-8A ground surveillance radar aircraft had only just begun a long testing process when they were shipped to Saudi Arabia. During the war they performed magnificently and now these aircraft are in high demand all over the world.
For decades, critics of advanced technology weapons have pointed to testing failures to support their drive to cancel the programs. Yet test failures are a normal part of the development process of any weapon system. Consider the M-1 tank. Its early tests were riddled with failures, yet now it is one of the most effective tanks in the world.

Yes, missile defense is expensive and unlikely to ever be 100% foolproof, and yes, we have other means of deterrence. But especially if we are unwilling or unable to act militarily to stop nations like Iran from getting nuclear weapons, the reduction in the potential threat to the U.S. and its key allies is enormous, and well worth the money. But then, it’s never really been about the money but about guys like Carl Levin having an ideological fixation on stopping missile defense no matter the underlying facts. The Democrats’ move will also break faith with and alienate one of our key allies, Japan. As usual, when they get on one of their left-leaning foreign policy jags, the Democrats treat the actual commitments of our allies as a worthless trifle.
*This December 2005 Iraq analysis from Steven den Beste looks prescient now. I’m still deeply alarmed by the mounting indications that Maliki is taking orders from Sadr and Sadr is taking orders from Iran. We are now locked in a battle for regional supremacy to see if the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Taliban-Al Qaeda axis can strangle democracy in its crib in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon – a battle that looks more and more everyday like the battles we fought in Central America in the 80s and Southeast Asia in the 70s against Communism.
*Patterico catches the LA Times consistently telling only part of the story of a discrimination lawsuit against the LAFD. This is one of those stories I had seen and thought there was something missing from it – Patterico fills in the blanks, which make the whole episode sound more like a sophmoric prank than racism.
What galls me is this, from an LAT editorial:

Scathing audits have outlined the LAFD’s erratic disciplinary policies, poor leadership and hostile work environment, yet those reports have failed to dislodge the frat-boy culture. Maybe a public airing of its dirty laundry will.

Now, fixing a bad disciplinary system is fine, and stamping out racism is a noble cause. But a “frat-boy culture” is the concern of the law, why? These are firemen. They run into buildings that are on fire for a living, buildings that have a nasty habit of collapsing on or under them or otherwise acting in a highly dangerous and unstable fashion. Fire departments, like military organizations and police departments, are sustained in their dangerous mission by their unique institutional cultures. People who haven’t walked a mile in their boots should be very hesitant to tamper with that culture.
*Speaking of employment law, the Democrats are also poised to add homosexuals to the list of protected classes who can raise the shield of federal litigation to prevent them from being fired or passed over for promotions. Via Bashman. Now, in theory, private businesses (as opposed to, say, religious organizations) should not be able to fire people because they are gay. But anyone with even passing familiarity with the three-ring circus of employment law can tell you that these statutes do not exist in theory – they are, instead, a practical weapon reached for by the kinds of people who get fired from jobs, and usually deservedly so, or to force companies to go through all sorts of contortions in figuring out the proper demographic composition of layoffs rather than just running the best business case.
What is more, what is often an issue is whether a person is perceived as being a member of a protected class, or what the employer knew about their membership in that class. Now, it’s usually not hard to figure out who is black, or a woman, or in a wheelchair, but after that things get complicated, and with sexual orientation we enter unchated ground. Do we really want to create a whole cat-and-mouse industry over employers’ knowledge of their employees’ sex lives? A federal gaydar jurisprudence? (“The court finds that the company’s awareness that the plaintiff enjoyed men’s figure skating. Summary judgment denied.”) If there’s one thing the Democrats are experts at enacting, it’s the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Or maybe, for their backers in the plaintiffs’ bar, not so unintended.
*Good RCP Blog look at Barack H. Obama. I’m split on whether, as a matter of practical politics, this really is Obama’s moment to run at the top of the ticket. On the one hand, his liberal record will only grow the longer he is in the Senate, especially now with a Democratic majority, blunting the appeal of his rhetorical moderation. The usual rule is that you run when people want you to run – that’s the moment. On the other hand, it seems awfully presumptuous to run after one unfinished term in the Senate, when he has manifestly not accomplished anything. My guess is that moreso than John Edwards in 2004, Obama would be well served by running for VP even if on a losing ticket.
*Speaking of finding the right moment, the GOP field seems to be attracting people whose moments would appear to have passed – like Tommy Thompson and Frank Keating, two star GOP governors from the 1990s.
*Matt Welch takes a harsh look at John McCain from his perspective as a left-leaning libertarian. I loved the subtitle.
*In the same vein, a couple of links about Rudy Giuliani here and here.
*Via Instapundit, Eugene Volokh notes a decision from the Washington Supreme Court recognizing an individual right to bear arms. This only sharpens the conflict I noted three years ago with a Ninth Circuit decision holding that California could impose tort liability on legal sales of firearms within Washington State.
*Not me, but might as well be.
*TV sictom/romantic comedy comes to the factory floor. I will be more than a little surprised if Hollywood gets this one right and is entertaining in the process.

Defending the 17th

It’s a hardy perennial in the more philosophically-oriented conservative circles, despite its manifest political infeasibility: the argument that the Seventeenth Amendment should be repealed or should never have been passed. While this argument does have its virtues, I disagree. Regardless of whether it was a good idea at the time, repealing the 17th Amendment today would only weaken the mechanisms that are essential to conservative policies and conservative philosophy. Specifically, restoring to state legislatures the power over the election of Senators would make the Senate less directly accountable to the people and insulate the federal courts even further from public accountability, would increase rather than decrease state spending of federally-raised revenues, and would increase the importance and influence of gerrymandering over public policy and electoral politics.

The Role of the 17th Amendment

Just to review, the Framers of the Constitution provided that the House of Representatives would be elected directly by the people; the Senate would be elected by the state legislatures; and the President and Vice President would be the top two vote-getters in the electoral college, which would be elected by the people of each state. It was a carefully drawn compromise designed to balance parts of the government responsive to the people with those insulated from popular pressures, and to balance the interests of the nation as a whole, the interests of states, and the interests of local districts. Senators, with extended six-year terms, were given unique responsibilities not given to the House, such as the ratification of treaties, the confirmation of federal judges and executive officers, and the trial and removal of officers (including the President) impeached by the House. The sole power given to the House over the Senate is the power to originate “[a]ll Bills for raising Revenue,” although the Senate is permitted to offer amendments to such bills, a power that in practice renders the House’s privilege largely meaningless. Const. Art. I Sec. 7 cl. 1.

The Framers were wise and worldly men, but even they weren’t perfect, which is why they made the Constitution subject to later amendments. The part of the system dealing with presidential elections broke down almost immediately and had to be scrapped to abolish the practice of saddling the President with a hostile Vice President, and the electoral college soon thereafter became a formality, with voters and candidates alike assuming that the electors (who today aren’t even named on the ballot) were automatic proxies for the candidates they pledged to support. The House has remained unchanged since 1789, but its responsiveness to the people was limited almost from the outset by the venerable practice of gerrymandering, so named after a man who signed the Declaration of Independence and was a delegate to the Constitutional convention.

The current system of direct election of Senators was instituted by the 17th Amendment, one of a pair of “progressive” amendments ratified in the spring of 1913 as Woodrow Wilson entered the White House; the other was the 16th Amendment, which overturned Supreme Court decisions to give the federal government, for the first time, explicit authority for an income tax. Before 1913, federal sources of revenue were spotty and dependent on tariffs. At the time, proponents of the 17th Amendment argued that it would reallocate power from vested financial interests to the people – a project expressly intended to facilitate liberal economic programs of expanded federal regulation.

Federal power, federal spending and federal regulation, of course, have grown exponentially in an almost unbroken march since 1913, and opponents of the 17th Amendment often argue that making Senators once again answerable to the States would thus shift power back from the federal government to the states. In my view, that bell cannot be un-rung, at least in this way, and the desire to make Senators into creatures of the state legislatures fundamentally misunderstands the way politicians behave. More specifically, critics of the 17th Amendment fail to understand that the goals of repeal would fail utterly so long as its companion, the 16th Amendment, remains on the books.

I. Accountability

The first and most significant reason to prefer direct rather than indirect election of Senators is that direct election means direct accountabillity to the voters. It’s true, of course, that the voters have a checkered record of holding federal officeholders accountable on issues of spending, regulation and arrogation of federal power. But time and time again we have seen that the directly elected branches of government, and only the directly elected branches of government, will stand up for conservative principles on taxes, national security, and especially social issues. Why? In part because of the “elite consensus” phenomenon, where people who answer only to other politicians end up listening only to other politicians and the things they believe in, rather than being compelled to tailor their ears as well as their messages to the population as a whole.

If you want examples, look no further than the world’s most prominent examples of indirect government – the European Union and the United Nations. Both consist of representatives appointed by governments rather than elected by the people. And both are easily captured by faddish political correctness and infamously disinterested in limited government. If you like the EU and the UN, if you adore federal regulatory agencies and the federal judiciary, you will love an indirectly elected Senate.

Or look at parliamentary systems, including our own systems for electing legislative leaders. Throughout Europe, parliamentary systems are famously unresponsive to “populist” concerns they deem to be beneath their notice, like crime and immigration. Here at home, both parties often end up with congressional leadership that is out of step with the majority of the party’s voters – how many rank-and-file Democrats would vote for Nancy Pelosi, if given a chance? Did you vote for Trent Lott? No, but your Senator may have.
Or consider the issue of judicial nominations. Your red-state Senate Democrat will run for re-election, it is true, on a menu of issues – but he or she can be pounded for obstructing good judges or supporting bad ones. It’s the Senator’s own vote. This was a key issue in a number of Senate races in 2002 and 2004. But it’s much harder to hold a local state legislator responsible for those votes in far-off Washington, cast by someone else. The state legislator will have his or her own record to run on as well, and probably much deeper local community ties that help him or her to get re-elected regardless of votes on Senators who vote on judges who vote on social issues – or, specifically, judges who vote to take social issues out of the hands of state legislators who may not want to have to vote on them anyway.

Experience has shown that better government, and more in line with conservative principles, comes about when government officials can be held directly accountable for the things they support and oppose, while liberal priorities are best promoted when lines of accountability are blurred and power removed from those who can be fired by the electorate. Let us not cast away that lesson in a vain pursuit of 1912.

II. Spending

The accountability issue takes on a particularly problematic cast when you consider spending. One of the developments that disturbs me most about federal spending, whether it’s done through pork-barrel earmarks, block grants, or entitlement programs, is the tendency to use the vast revenue-raising powers of the federal government to raise money, and then kick it back to states and localities to spend. More local control of how funds are spent may be the lesser of evils here, but either way, state and local officials are getting the retail political benefits of handing out goodies, without being held responsible for having extracted the money from taxpayers for things they might not have agreed to pay for if given the choice. Because the money comes from the vast federal till, people are less apt to think of it as coming out of their own, local community. (I discussed some detailed examples from my own congressional district here).
The dynamic is bad enough as it is under the current system. If you think we could solve this accountability shell game by creating a class of Senators whose only constituency is state legislators . . . well, it just wouldn’t work. State legislators would love nothing more than to solve all their budgetary problems by taking handouts raised by the federal treasury (I discussed a classic example of this plea in the 2003 Democratic response to the State of the Union – or just listen to Hillary Clinton some time and count the number of references to federal money being sent to state and local governments). Put another way: an indirectly elected Senate would be AFSCME’s dream.

III. Gerrymandering

Consider: the Senate is the only legislative body among the two Houses of Congress and the various state legislatures where the elected officials don’t get to choose their voters. At present, state legislatures (or, in a few states, nonpartisan commissions) get to draw the district lines for the state legislature and for the House. And those lines not only lead to a lot of partisan mischief but also to efforts to place incumbent-entrenchment above even the interests of the parties.
Today, the Senate alone is free of that concentration of power, providing a genuine democratic check on the power of the gerrymander. Having Senators elected by the state legislature would remove that check.


I haven’t discussed here all the possible objections, but these three stand out. Conservatives should stand for accountable government because our principles are best enforced directly by the people. Whatever the original intention of the 17th Amendment, it has become an ally in that battle, and should not be disregarded.

So You Say John Kerry Was Only Joking?

Charlie Rangel’s not:

I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.

Sure, some people join the military because the best way of advancement available to them, and maybe that’s particularly true in Rangel’s Harlem district – it was true of Rangel himself, by his own account (though I somehow doubt that that is the only motivator even for soldiers from Harlem, either). But the incoming Chairman of one of the House’s most powerful committees has been in Congress for 36 years, and has no excuse for his ignorance about the nature of the all-volunteer military.
UPDATE: A commenter at RedState linked to this November 2005 Heritage Foundation study of the economic background of military enlistees (it also quotes Rangel making the same point four years ago):

Put simply, the current makeup of the all-vol­untary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average sol­dier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area. We found that the military (and Army specifically) included a higher proportion of blacks and lower propor­tions of other minorities but a proportionate num­ber of whites. More important, we found that recruiting was not drawing disproportionately from racially concentrated areas.

Notably, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the data shows a distinct shift away from lower-income, less-educated recruits after September 11 – which is unsurprising. People who join the Army mainly to get job training and education, after all, are the ones who are less likely to enlist during a war.

Now, Why Did He Do That?

An article in the New York Times, discussing the fact that nothing has changed on the NSA wiretapping front – the program to listen to international al Qaeda phone calls (even ones entering or exiting the U.S.) continues with no Congressional action to give it clearer legal authority and no resolution to the court cases – begins oddly:

When President Bush went on national television one Saturday morning last December to acknowledge the existence of a secret wiretapping program outside the courts, the fallout was fierce and immediate.

If you didn’t know the history, you’d almost believe that the President up and spilled the beans on this secret program on his own initiative – curiously absent is the role of the Times itself in revealing the program, an essential part of the news story (as well as of the political controversy) that the Times can’t bring itself to mention.

Election’s Not Over

The last Democrats trailing in close races are gradually throwing in the towel (most of the similarly situated Republicans did so a while ago). That leaves two races:

Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), the subject of an FBI bribery investigation, will face fellow Democrat Karen Carter in a Dec. 9 runoff, and Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Tex.) will face former congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez (D) in a Dec. 12 runoff.

In his FREEZER, people.

I’ve Been MSM’d!

You can read my coverage of the Federalist Society Convention at RedState here and here. At lunch at the convention on Thursday I sat down and started chatting with the other people at my table, one of whom introduced himself as Neil Lewis of the New York Times. I introduced myself by my name and city (as well as giving him my impromptu RedState.com press pass and giving him permission to quote me by name) and we talked about the aftermath of the elections; it was obvious that he was working on a story that would include the reactions of Federalist Society members to the Democratic takeover of Congress. Lewis seemed pretty much a Times reporter from central casting, a pleasant middle-aged bearded guy in a suit, with a bit of a tone of pretension in his voice and quick to quibble with a woman at our table who said she enjoyed Fox News and found it fair and balanced.
Let’s see how Mr. Lewis quoted me in Sunday’s paper:

How glum was the mood? “Well, I guess I’ve just about climbed back from the ledge – the one I was about to jump off of,” said Daniel McLaughlin, a New York lawyer who attended the convention. Mr. McLaughlin said he could not stop fretting over who would be confirmed to the federal bench in the next two years.

The part in quotes is, in fact, an accurate quote, albeit leaving aside the smile I delivered it with. (I should add that I thought that the line about coming in off the ledge was self-explanatory; I added the latter part when he asked for clarification). “Could not stop fretting” is another matter. As I have said to several people, I told him that I was more concerned about the loss of the Senate than the House because I’m concerned about getting the president’s judicial nominees confirmed, but I didn’t intend to leave him with the impression of despair; what I added was that since there were still 52 Senators left who voted for Justice Alito, my main concern was getting floor votes. That part didn’t fit the theme of Republicans hanging their heads in defeat, I guess, and so it was blurred into “fretting”.
All in all, a fairly typical mainstream media treatment – not a fabrication, no made up words; nothing so dramatic. In fact, as I said, the part in quotes is accurate, and might have bothered me a bit less if it stood on its own. And yet, there had to be a bending and selective truncation of my words to fit a pre-selceted narrative. Which, by now, is not news.

Don’t Build The Fence?

Mickey Kaus sees signs that the Democrats will try to prevent the border fence from being built. This would be an obvious example of overreaching – while the politics of immigration are vexing and the public may be willing to accept a compromise solution including legalization of existing illegals and a guest worker program, public opinion will turn very quickly against the view that there should be no additional enforcement on the border.
(Of course, knowing the Dems they will counter the perception of lax enforcement by adding a bunch of additional funding for new Border Patrol agents but no meaningful authority for them to accomplish anything, thus treating enforcement of the law as just another jobs program for unionized government workers)

Too Little, Too Late

Bush meets with the heads of the Big Three automakers. Why? I can’t imagine. The meeting is just empty theater. And the Democrats in Michigan killed the GOP candidates for Governor and Senator over Bush’s failure to stage this pointless meeting before the elections. Holding it now accomplished nothing. Holding it in October, when it might have mattered, would have been something else.

Abortion and Illegal Immigration

A Missouri state legislative panel concludes that one of the causes of illegal immigration is an artificial labor shortage created by abortion:

“We hear a lot of arguments today that the reason that we can’t get serious about our borders is that we are desperate for all these workers,” [the panel’s chairman] said. “You don’t have to think too long. If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it’s not too surprising we would be desperate for workers.”
National Right to Life estimates that there have been more than 47 million abortions since the Supreme Court established a woman’s right to an abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The immigration report estimates that there are 80,000 fewer Missourians because of abortion, many of whom now would have been in a “highly productive age group for workers.”

What’s interesting is that the Washington Post article presents this argument as something of a curiosity, but is unable to identify any possible counterargument, relying on Missouri Democrats who called the report “ridiculous and embarrassing” and “a little delusional”.
Now, you could argue – not persuasively, I would add – that illegal immigration is not caused primarily by the available supply of cheap labor and demand in a labor market that wants more of it. Or you could argue, somewhat more persuasively, that the real driver is the demand for illegal labor, i.e., a labor black market in workers who will underbid the minimum wage and other expensive labor laws, in which case more American workers would not matter that much. Or you could affirmatively argue, albeit rather cold-bloodedly, that keeping the population of workers down through abortions is good because it drives up wages. But it seems hard to argue with the more general observation that the nation has fewer workers available as a result of 47 million abortions.

The Last Don

In many ways the summary announcement Wednesday that Don Rumsfeld would be stepping down in favor of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense was more distressing than the elections themselves. It’s not entirely clear exactly how much Rumsfeld was fired as opposed to quitting, but at a minimum it’s obvious that he wasn’t begging to leave and Bush wasn’t begging him to stay, so given the timing immediately following a bad election the public is reasonably interpreting this as Rumsfeld being sacked.
Was it time for Rumsfeld to go? Maybe. Certainly Rumsfeld had his characteristic flaws, specifically that as a former Navy pilot his zeal for flexibility and mobility in warfare sometimes seemed to give short shrift to the value of infantry. Equally certainly, his critics were often motivated by the most parochial of interests, as his quest for modernizing the military made many enemies among those wedded to the status quo. An outsider to the Pentagon can never truly assess the value of each of his initiatives, though it seems unfortunate that a man of his energy and institutional knowledge will not be around to see to the end his program of reform.
In the specific case of Iraq, while the Bush Administration is losing a man with tremendous faith in the mission and unmatched determination, at the end of the day the importance of Robert Gates is secondary; Gates is, whatever his other virtues and vices, the classic professional manager. If President Bush keeps faith with the mission, I have no doubt that Gates will carry it out; if he doesn’t, it would take more than Don Rumsfeld to set him straight.
What is dismaying is the timing and handling of the announcement. It came too late to help embattled Republican moderates in districts and states unhappy with the Iraq war, yet too soon after the elections to be read as anything but a show of weakness and capitulation to Bush’s political enemies. Perhaps it is true that the Democratic takeover of the House made it necessary that Rumsfeld dedicate himself full time to appearing at investigative hearings while someone else takes the reins of the war, but concessions to a party more interested in score-settling than in winning the war do not inspire confidence in President Bush’s steadiness in the final two years of his term.
Then again, like it or not, Rumsfeld himself would be the first to admit that you can’t win wars without the support of the public and the Congress and a decent effort at media relations. With all three now having turned decisively against Rumsfeld, his ability to do his job going forward was probably fatally compromised anyway.
Despite the shabby treatment he received from the president, I can’t weep too much for Rumsfeld himself, for two reasons. First, Rumsfeld is a veteran bureaucratic infighter who has himself been the moving force behind more purges and palace coups than you could count; just to name a few, he has variously been suspected of engineering the 1965 overthrow of House Minority Leader Charles Halleck by Gerald Ford, the 1970 purge of the notorious Terry Lenzer from the Office of Economic Opportunity, the 1975-76 purge of moderates and “realists” (including Henry Kissinger and Nelson Rockefeller) from the Ford Administration, leading to promotions for Rumsfeld to Secretary of Defense and Dick Cheney to White House Chief of Staff, as well as numerous power plays within the Bush Administration, resulting in Rumsfeld outlasting Colin Powell, Jay Garner, Paul Bremer, Andrew Card, and a constellation of generals, among others. He’s the ultimate grownup, he knows how the game is played, and his turn was due to come eventually. Hs will retire to a position of great prominence and personal wealth and with the respect and loyalty of many in Washington, the military, and the GOP.
And second, of course, he has had a tremendous run. He started once upon a time as the youngest Defense Secretary in the nation’s history and ends as the oldest, and he will leave office having held the job for the longest continuous tenure as well as the longest total tenure, having been the only man to serve in the post twice. He has been hugely influential in many ways within Washington since his arrival as a congressional staffer in 1957, and his protege remains as the Vice President. His legion of aphorisms have entered the popular consciousness, from “known unknowns” to “you go to war with the army you have,” to of course the sneering phrase “Old Europe” and the stir it created within Europe itself. And in the end, the fate of the Iraq project will guarantee Rumsfeld’s place in history for good or ill, regardless of the circumstances of his departure, just as MacArthur is judged today mainly on his conduct of the war in the Pacific, the occupation of Japan and the landing at Inchon rather than his losing battle with Harry Truman.
There are tough decisions ahead about Iraq, as the reality on the ground has changed over time and the strategies needed to meet that reality will have to be adjusted just as they have been adjusted in the past. It is unfortunate that a man as gifted, energetic and knowing in the ways of the Pentagon as Don Rumsfeld will not have a place at the table to make those decisions. But then, the genius of the American system of war-making is that no one man is indispensable.

The Day After

Well, that was no fun. Some disjointed thoughts:
*We lost the battle. Now, it’s up to the President to make sure that doesn’t result in losing the War.
*It’s been a long time since Republicans have had a bad mid-term loss, so we forget that this is normal. Certainly 2006 was not significantly worse than 1982 or 1986. Ask President Dukakis if a Democratic sweep in the sixth-year midterms is an omen for the next election.
*There are three things Republicans should not do that separate us from our adversaries in how we handle defeat.
First, we should not blame the voters. While I continue to believe that sticking with the GOP was the right decision, the bottom line is that our leadership and candidates just gave people too many reasons to vote against them. I can’t blame the voters for rejecting them, even if in some cases they took their more general frustrations out on good and decent public servants like Jim Talent. (Well, OK, I do sorta think the voters in Michigan will get what they deserve for deciding they want 4 more years of Jennifer Granholm’s economic policies, but other than that).
Second, we should not mutter darkly about voter fraud, voter “intimidation,” etc. Where there are specific and provable problems, as there sometimes are, we should highlight those. But we should not undermine faith in the process just on vague suspicions and fantasies that we were robbed in secret.
Third, we should not try to win with lawyers and vote-counters what we could not win at the polls. On that, I agree 100% with Leon Wolf.
*A sign of how bad last night was in New York is that even the scandal-plagued Alan Hevesit won after Spitzer renounced him and all the New York .
*John Cole should get his wish: a Congressional majority that combines the fiscal discipline of Robert Byrd and the integrity of Alan Mollohan.
*The defeats that hurt the worst: Talent, Santorum and presumably Steele in the Senate, and Ehrlich in Maryland. All of them are real stars. A couple of the good House conservatives also bit the dust, along with a fairly long list of deadwood. The silver lining is that nearly all the people with ethics or personal scandal problems got swept away.
*There were a few bright spots. Tim Pawlenty, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mark Sanford all won their governor’s races, Pawlenty surviving narrowly in Minnesota, and good Republicans won the governor’s mansions in Florida and Alaska (I know less about the new GOP governor in Nevada). In the House, Roskam defeated Duckworth, Heather Wilson seems to have survived, Bachmann beat Wetterling, Musgrave and Shays won (if anyone doubted that there is still a big tent), Reynolds, Kuhl and Walsh won in upstate NY.
*On the Republican side, if you are handicapping 2008, the winners are the outsiders – Rudy, Romney, Newt, especially since Newt’s entire theme is “the Revolution Betrayed”. The biggest loser is George Allen; even if the final ballot-counting somehow rescues him, he ran about the worst campain I have ever seen in terms of frittering away natural advantages and 15 years of good will with Virginia voters, running on things that were barely if at all relevant (Webb’s novels) or made him look more conservative than Allen (Webb’s views on women in combat). John McCain is probably also a loser; as Ken Blackwell was forcibly reminded yesterday, when voters get sick of the insiders they don’t much care that you were an outsider among the insiders.
On the VP side, Condi Rice’s stock probably dropped, as any 2008 GOP candidate will want at least a cosmetic degree of separation from Bush on Iraq; the stock of Pawlenty and Sanford as VP candidates is through the roof this morning, and one of them may even be tempted to run for the top job.
*On the D side, harder to discern winners and losers, but remember this: Hillary ran under the best possible conditions, in a deep blue state in a Democratic year, with tons of money against an overmatched and underfunded opponent who got no media traction. Those conditions allowed Eliot Spitzer to draw 69% of the vote (Chuck Schumer got 71% in 2004). Hillary drew 67%. Which goes to show that she starts with a guaranteed third of the electorate that just will not pull the lever for her under any conditions. Apply that nationally to states less Democratic than New York and conditions less favorable than 2006, and see where it gets you.
*Speaking of George Allen, the moment when the Allen-Webb Senate race turned from a low-level longshot bid to a nail-biter was, of course, the “macaca” controversy triggered by a young Webb staffer looking to provoke a confrontation with the candidate.
The anti-Allen campaign escalated that recently with a heckler shoving people over to get close to the candidate so as to hurl an unsubstantiated accusation at him and provoke a confrontation with the candidate. This resulted in the heckler getting (well-earned but probably hoped-for) rough treatment from Allen’s staff and a spate of additional bad publicity for Allen.
My prediction: if Webb hangs on to what looks like a victory (though all the ballots have not been counted yet), these kinds of tactics will be validated, especially among the lefty activist base, and we will see a lot more efforts to generate controversy by hecklers and other “guerilla” campaigners seeking verbal and physical confrontation. Whether or not one of them crosses the line to Travis Bickle territory, that is likely to lead to ever more stage-managed and security-controlled events and ever fewer genuine, open interactions between our elected officials and the people they work for.
*There is, as there ought to be periodically in any movement, some soul-searching to be done after yesterday’s setbacks, and I agree with the general view that for the most part, with only limited exceptions, Republicans suffered at the polls less for what we believe in as conservatives than for the failure to live up to those ideals.
But in our haste to blame the leaders of the party, let us not overstate the case. I hear it said sometimes that President Bush is somehow not really a conservative. Now, it is true that Bush has not governed as a small-government conservative, and the cause of smaller government is certainly an important one for conservatism. President Bush has failed to stand up for conservative principles on a few other fronts, and it is right for us to point that out. But conservatism is a philosophy, not an all-encompassing litmus-test-intensive ideology, and it has many different elements (I have a long-brewing essay on that topic that I should try to finish some time over the next several weeks). As I said the other day, Bush is the second-most-conservative president we have had since Coolidge, and he has taken principled stands on a number of key conservative priorities and stuck by them, notably on national security and war, lower taxes, and the nomination of conservative judges. And his doing so won him election in 2000 and re-election with a majority of the voting public in 2004.
In 2008, we will again run candidates for the White House and Congress who are conservatives in broad outline and on key priorities, but who may compromise on some specific issues. Perhaps, as is quite likely, they will offer different compromises than President Bush has. I can live with that, if the compromises are ones I can live with. Getting back to first principles is important and worthy, even necessary. But we should not pretend that absolute purity will be necessary to do so, or even feasible in rebuilding a majority coalition and winning national elections.

Today Is Our Day

Even here and now, on Election Day, you can still hear the grumbling of disaffected Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians who will tell you that our elected representatives in Washington, and their leaders, deserve to lose this election. Many of us have felt the same way at some point or another over the past two years.
But this is not their day. This is our day. You can hear that in the GOP’s emphasis on GOTV – an acknowledgement that, in those states and districts where the politicians have failed to persuade the persuadable and swing the swingable, the job of saving our majorities at the end comes down not to the party’s leaders but its voters. They vote all year long; we vote for representatives in Washington but once every other year. And we live with who we vote for.
The question you have to ask yourself, or ask of anyone you know who still feels that way, isn’t what the politicians deserve. It’s what we deserve. Why should we and our posterity be punished for their mistakes with the kind of folly that a Speaker Pelosi and a Majority Leader Reid would visit upon us?
Today is our day. Don’t vote for the politicians on the ballot. Vote for yourself, your family, your country.

Predicting Tuesday

“Republicans prepare for the worst as disaster looms in midterm elections”
Such a typical headline that we have seen lately; the Left and the media (but I repeat myself) seem utterly certain of a GOP collapse.
There are a lot of reasons to question that certainty, which I won’t get into here except to say that while it could be the case, way too many people have been way premature on the Democrat side in declaring victory in the Congressional races (the governor’s races are, in fact, trending strongly Democratic). And the foreign press has been the worst of all, and will face the rudest awakening Wednesday morning if the GOP manages to hold on against the tide with a majority in the House and 52 or more GOP Senators.
If you put a gun to my head, I’d say the most likely result is a Republican setback of a lower order than, say, 1986 – a net loss of between 20 and 25 House seats, giving narrow control to the Democrats, and of 4 Senate seats, leaving a 51 seat GOP majority (how stable that would be depends on whether Lincoln Chaffee is one of the survivors). And as this RedState diary aptly explains, at least a handful of the potential Democratic gains are odd one-off races like Bob Ney’s seat, Tom Delay’s seat and Mark Foley’s seat, heavily Republican districts that are likely to come home in 2008.
Anyway, I’m not ready to do the postmortem on why Republicans did so badly or did better than expected until we see what actually happens. But I do think the people taking victory laps before the race has been run are the ones who seem most likely to regret it.

The 109th Congress

With the re-election of the second-most-conservative Republican president of the past 75 years, the retention of a solid Republican majority in the House, and 55 Republican senators including a raft of new Republicans elected in 2002 and 2004, it was understandable that conservative hopes for the 109th Congress would be sky high. To hear some people talk, we were supposed to have the Big Rock Candy Mountain of Conservatism, where conservative judges hang from the trees, you can pick constitutional amendments on social issues right off the vine and bathe in pools of entitlement reform, where it rains tax cuts in the morning and spending cuts in the afternoon, and you can go to sleep on a bed of tort reform to the gentle hum of tough border enforcement off in the distance.
Congress, of course, doesn’t work that way, never has. If you don’t believe me, look at all the years over the past four decades when the Democrats held both Houses of Congress and the White House was in the hands of a Democrat or a politically weak and beleaguered Republican, and they still couldn’t even get legislation on national health insurance to a floor vote.
That’s not to say that conservatives lack for reasons to be disappointed in the fruits of the majority. But as disgruntled conservatives consider whether to come home and vote Republican again on November 7, they also have to remember that there have been reasons to be happy with the accomplishments of the 109th Congress (even aside from the mischief that the very fact of a Republican majority prevents a Democratic majority from doing). I present a short but significant list of areas in which the 109th Congress has gotten results for us. A number of these came with some or even significant bipartisan support, but in nearly all cases the results would have been very different under Speaker Pelosi, her team of arch-liberal committee chairs, and a Senate run by Harry Reid and Dick Durbin with key committees chaired by Patrick Leahy, Ted Kennedy and Carl Levin.
This list focuses only on accomplishments that actually got passed into law, although some good bills passed the House but not the Senate. And the GOP caucus also in one case (federal funding for embryonic stem cell research) provided the votes to sustain a presidential veto. Also, for those who are focused on the charge of a “do nothing” Congress (an oldie from the 40s! old slogans never die!), I haven’t mentioned here other legislation whose merits for conservatives are more debatable, like the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, the SAFE Port Act, and the Pension Protection Act.
1. The Courts.
In two short years we have seen the Senate confirm John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Roberts’ ascension to Chief Justice solidified the legacy of William Rehnquist, while Justice Alito should be a more reliable judicial conservative than Sandra Day O’Connor. Plus, the existence of a solid GOP majority was undoubtedly a factor in convincing President Bush to drop Harriet Miers (Reid’s preferred candidate) in favor of then-Judge Alito.
Despite Democratic obstruction and delay, we have also seen the confirmation of 15 Circuit judges: Bill Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown, Brett Kavanagh, Priscilla Owen, Kimberly Ann Moore, Jerome Holmes, Neil Gorsuch, Bobby Shepherd, Michael Chagares, Thomas Griffith, David McKeague, Richard Griffin, Sandra Segal Ikuta, Milan Smith, and Susan Bieke Nielson (Judge Nielson has since died). Many, though not all, of these are well-known judicial conservatives. The Senate has also confirmed 35 federal District Court judges. You may not think that’s enough, but it’s more than would get through a Democratic Senate; of that we can be sure.
2. National Security
The President has particular authority and responsibility for military and foreign policy matters. But Congress has a role to play too. Some of that comes in the form of appropriations to continue the war effort, appropriations that could be held up by Democratic committee chairmen in the next Congress. But it is also reflected in legislation. This Congress passed two significant pieces of legislation. In March 2006, Congress renewed the Patriot Act, which was due to expire and which provides essential tools to fight the War on Terror. Just the past month, Congress – in a deal brokered among two factions, both led by Republicans – passed the Military Commissions Act, resolving by statute a difficult and knotty set of questions about the handling of detainees, questions that will be with us for the duration of the war.
3. Immigration
No, Congress has not passed comprehensive immigration reform – but then, there are legitimate reasons why not, given deep divisions in the public and even among members of the Republican coalition on this issue. But as neoliberal commentator Mickey Kaus spent months arguing, there is a strong consensus on building a fence along the border with Mexico as at least a first step towards reducing the torrent of illegal immigrants crossing that border. Sometimes, starting with the easy questions makes sense, and so at the end of its term in October the 109th Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, which provides for 700 miles of fencing in the areas of the border that the Border Patrol has the most difficulty policing. Some may argue that the Republican leadership only got this done because the voters they depend on at election time were demanding that something be done about immigration. To which I respond: precisely. Because Nancy Pelosi’s caucus would not see the same necessity.
4. Taxes
Given the major cuts in the income, capital gains, dividend and estate taxes in 2001, 2003, and 2004, it is not surprising that new and additional tax cuts have not been a major priority for this latest Congress. And for now, the Bush tax cuts are not quite in danger of expiring in the immediate future. But at least one significant tax bill passed in this Congress, with the passage in May 2006 of the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act, which extended the capital gains and dividend tax cuts out from 2008 to 2010, created relief for 2006 from the Alternative Minimum Tax, and offered tax breaks on the conversion of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs.
The battle over making the remainder of the tax cuts “permanent” (i.e., so that Congress can’t raise taxes merely by letting them expire) will go on – if there is a Republican majority to carry it on.
5. Spending
The federal budget is a massive and ever-expanding thing, and to be frank, the fight against overspending has been suppressed by dynamics at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue: Congress is institutionally set up to demand federal spending in every state and district, and President Bush simply hasn’t led any battles for major reductions in spending.
For all of that, though, this Congress did manage to pass into law or rule three steps towards restraining the runaway spending train. In February 2006, the Deficit Reduction Act was signed into law, bringing with it a projected savings of $40 billion (more here from the CBO and here from the Heritage Foundation on the House version of the bill). Even granting the congenital unreliability of government budgetary forecasts and even though about a quarter of the savings come from projected revenues from an analog spectrum auction by the FCC (which doesn’t count as a spending cut in my book), the Deficit Reduction Act did at least trim tens of billions of dollars from entitlement programs, which is the biggest part of the budget and the hardest one to cut.
Two other spending reforms were passed in September of this year. The first was a new rule of procedure in the House of Representatives, H. Res. 1000, which requires a list of earmarks and the Representatives requesting them, even (or perhaps especially) earmarks dropped into bills at the conference stage (i.e., when the House- and Senate-passed bills are being reconciled). Per the “Boehner protocol,” at least as long as the current Majority Leader is in place, H. Res. 1000 will be applied broadly and without loopholes to all new bills containing earmarks, regardless of form.
The other was a bill, passed and signed as the culmination of a campaign begun in the blogosphere, entitled the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, a/k/a the Coburn-Obama bill, which provides for a public database of federal grants and contracts.
H. Res. 1000 and the Coburn-Obama bills don’t cut a dime by themselves, but anybody who knows Washington can tell you that changing the procedures is half the battle; by providing increased public and media oversight over earmarks and pork-barrel spending – as well as simply a better mechanism for Members to see what they are voting on and at whose behest – the rule and the bill together provide a first step towards getting the pork problem under at least the beginnings of control.
6. Free Trade
This Congress passed two significant free trade acts, the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (CAFTA), signed in August 2005, which opens markets in Latin America, and the United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act in September 2006, which eliminated trade barriers for an ally in the Middle East. That is, if you are keeping track, two more examples of less government and more liberty – and with the benefit of making more friends abroad. Given the anti-free-trade tilt of the post-Clinton Democrats, a Republican majority is crucial to getting trade deals done.
Free trade pacts with Peru and Vietnam remain pending for the next Congress.
7. Lawsuit Reform
This is perhaps the one I’m most intimately familiar with, and one that has had immediate practical significance – the Class Action Fairness Act, passed in February 2005. Like a lot of subjects on this list, reform of the civil justice system will likely take many incremental steps, but this one went right to work, immediately re-routing scores of multimillion-dollar nationwide class actions with nationwide effects out of the handful of plaintiff-friendliest state court jurisdictions and into federal court to be governed by uniform national procedural standards (including the fact that federal courts are less likely to apply a single state’s law to a lawsuit involving people from all over the country). Though it operates to transfer power from state to federal government, CAFA is actually a significant boon to federalism by reducing the ability of any single state to export its laws and the biases of a particular locale to the nation as a whole.
Not such a terrible job for two years’ work, two years in which much attention was consumed by natural disasters at home and war abroad and during which the House leadership underwent a significant mid-course reshuffling. More can, and should, be demanded of future GOP majorities. But much less should be expected if those majorities don’t survive November 7.

The First Law of Holes

No time to write this morning except to note that this whole Kerry story is helped along greatly by Kerry’s utter inability to ever admit he is wrong. I will leave you with something I wrote two years ago this week in the closing days of another election:

[W]here, I would ask, is the evidence that Kerry is better at admitting mistakes than Bush? This is a guy who brought all sorts of political grief to himself by stubbornly refusing for three decades to admit that he was wrong to repeat false charges, under oath and on national televison, that smeared his comrades in Vietnam as guilty of pervasive war crimes. Has Kerry admitted he was wrong to oppose nearly every aspect of the foreign policy strategy that President Reagan pursused to great effect in the closing and victorious chapter of the Cold War? Has he admitted he was wrong to oppose the use of force to kick Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991? Maybe I missed something, but I don’t even recall him admitting he was wrong for trying to slash the intelligence budget in the mid-1990s following the first World Trade Center bombing. Indeed, one of the most common threads throughout Kerry’s behavior in this campaign has been his unwillingness to take any personal responsibility for mistakes, from blaming his speechwriters for things that come out of Kerry’s own mouth to picayune things like blaming the Secret Service when he falls down on the slopes. As Jonah Goldberg notes, Kerry’s “liberal hawk” backers may argue that the decades of bad judgment in Kerry’s past are rendered inoperative by September 11, but Kerry’s stubborn insistence that he hasn’t changed in response to September 11, and that he had the right answers all along even when he wrote a book in 1997 that barely mentioned Islamic terrorism, gives the lie to the notion that Kerry is a model of self-reflection. Even the man’s own supporters can’t seriously defend the proposition – on which many of them heaped well-deserved scorn during the primary season – that Kerry has been consistent from the start on whether Saddam was a serious threat that justified a military response. Yet there Kerry stands, insisting to all the world what nobody believes, that he hasn’t changed his position. Preferring Kerry to Bush because Bush won’t admit mistakes is like preferring fresh water to salt water because salt water is wet.

But We’re Controversial!

I saw a bit of a show on CNN or somewhere following up on the Time cover story on the Dixie Chicks’ latest effort to revive the old controversy, and invest with Great Meaning for the national mood the fact that their current venture hasn’t created a great and visible wave of anger at the band.
Really: get over yourselves. As I wrote at the time, the Dixie Chicks’ problem wasn’t just the comments but the way they insisted on playing the whole thing as a morality play with their own fans cast as the villians, which turned out to be a good way to alienate a lot of those fans. Obviously somebody still buys their albums, whether people who agreed with their politics or people who decided they didn’t much care, but we should not be surprised that the rest of the world has moved on.

Ben Cardin’s Stem Cell Hypocrisy

So, Democrats think they have found a winning political issue with public funding of embryonic stem cell research. The issue seems to present a classic battle of science versus religion, and Democrats always know which side of that fight they want. And in fact, polls regularly show that many voters, weighing the benefits of improved healthcare against the loss of microscopic embryos, take the side of encouraging such research. As a result, pro-life Republican opponents of the research are often reduced to windy explanations of the distinctions between types of stem cells and between the government banning such research (which it has not tried to do) and simply refusing to fund it with taxpayer dollars.
But as was true with the Terri Schiavo case, I remain skeptical that public support for the liberal/Democratic position is as warm, deep, or unconflicted as it sometimes seems. Again and again, we face hard questions about when and where life begins, who gets to decide who is and is not a human being worthy of the law’s protection, what rights we have to end our own lives, and what rights we have to place the utility of living and speaking adults above the claims of the very old, the very sick, and the unborn. Sure, these questions are painful ones – even those of us who find it easy to see the taking of a human life in abortion sometimes weary of doing battle on behalf of microscopic embryos who are unlikely ever to find a home in a mother’s womb. But just as pro-lifers can be ambivalent on these issues, so are those who come out on the other side. To be an enthusiastic supporter of stem cell research that destroys embryos, or of pulling the plug on a living human adult whose quality of life has deteriorated almost to nothing, you have to have blithe, cold-blooded confidence that there is no moral issue at all in these questions. And I just don’t think most Americans are in that place.
As we have seen from Claire McCaskill’s effort to make the Missouri Senate race a single-issue referendum on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, Democratic campaign consultants clearly believe that the public shares their lack of moral ambiguity. And other Democrats are flogging this issue as well, now including Maryland Senate candidate Ben Cardin, who is running an ad with Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, exhorting Americans to spend their tax dollars on such research. (Apparently, Fox isn’t satisfied with public funding by his own home country; but even the Canadians have guidelines that betray their own sense that this is an issue fraught with moral peril, as well as dissenters from the governing status quo).
As Michael Steele’s campaign has pointed out, however, the problem with Cardin’s unbridled enthusiasm for throwing taxpayer money at stem cell research that destroys embryos is that Cardin voted against legislation designed to fund stem cell research that doesn’t destroy embryos. That’s a position so extreme even Maryland’s two liberal Democratic Senators, Barbara Mikulski and the retiring Paul Sarbanes, didn’t take it.
Apparently, Cardin isn’t in it for the benefits of the research – just for the political benefits he thinks he can get by demanding the destruction of embryos. What a great humanitarian Ben Cardin is.

Spencer for Ire

I can’t very well imagine anything stupider politically than Hillary Clinton’s US Senate opponent, John Spencer, criticizing Hillary’s appearance in an informal conversation with liberal Daily News columnist Ben Smith, generating days of front-page stories. As reported by Smith:

Spencer and his wife, Kathy, by chance, sat beside me on a Friday morning JetBlue flight to Rochester. Spencer read The New York Times, I read The New Yorker, and early in the trip, Kathy opened New York magazine to its cover story on Al and Jeanine Pirro, the troubled state attorney general candidate.
The story prompted John Spencer to offer his opinion that Jeanine was a smart woman with potential, but who listened too closely to her consultants.
He also said that, as a recovering alcoholic, he understood and sympathized with Al’s psychological problems.
The casual conversation then turned to a black-and-white picture of Pirro, dated to 1978, that appeared in the magazine. The three of us remarked on how much her looks have changed, and speculated (fairly cattily, on all sides) on whether she’d had “work” – that is, plastic surgery.
“Work?” Spencer interjected. “What about Hillary?”
Spencer then launched into an unprovoked riff about Clinton’s appearance.
“You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew,” he said of Clinton’s youth. “I don’t know why Bill married her.” He speculated she’d had “millions of dollars” of plastic surgery, and added that she looks good now. Spencer observed that “both of them” [Clinton and Pirro] must have had work done.

More Daily News coverage here, here, here, here and here, which is about twice as much coverage as Spencer has had all year.
Now, in context it is clear that Spencer was just speaking off the top of his head, but still – there is no subject that dovetails more perfectly with Hillary’s chief political strength than an entirely un-political critique of her appearance, which allows her to play the aggreived-on-behalf-of-all-women card for all it is worth, questioning whether a male candidate would face such criticisms, generally appealing to the insecurities many women face about their appearance as they reach her age, and making out the race as a put-upon woman against a mean male. (Heck, even my wife, who loathes Hillary, was tempted to not vote for Spencer over his decidedly ungentlemanly comments).
If there is one subject that Republicans need, desperately need, to leave be in the 2008 race, it’s Hillary’s appearance. Issues? Yes. Scandals? Yes. Personal character? Yes. But leave the gibes about her looks to the comedians. It’s neither nice nor wise.
(Of course, I should ask as a postscript – and I emphasize that I’m not doing this to let Spencer off the hook – where is Bill in all this? I know he is trying to learn to stay mum and let his wife fight her own battles, but another man has insulted his wife’s appearance and asked why Bill married her. Them’s fightin’ words, and unless I have missed a press acount somewhere he hasn’t stirred himself to defend her. Especially for a man who has repeatedly and publicly gotten caught cheating on his wife, you would think he would stand up and come out swinging on this one).

Clinton Justice Comes to Massachusetts

Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick insisted, during his years in the Clinton Justice Department, on inserting the federal government into the following state and local prison complaints:

In one 1994 Department of Justice letter, Patrick chastised correction officials in Syracuse, N.Y., for not providing “sufficient sporting/recreation equipment to afford prisoners the opportunity to participate in large muscular activity.” Among the injustices cited by the DOJ were “under inflated basketballs” and “only 1 operative basketball hoop.” . . .
+In a 1995 letter to Lee County, Miss., prison officials he complained that air conditioners in individual cells “do not provide minimum ventilation for the purposes of fresh air supply, air exchange and overall cooling.” The jail was also cited for not serving juice or milk.
+In a July 1995 letter to Grenada City, Miss., jail officials he called for clean linens weekly. A month later Patrick sent another letter to Virginia jail officials saying clean linens should be provided three times per week.
+Tuna sandwiches were served too warm in a tiny jail in Dooly County, Georgia.
+Meals at a Mitchell County, Georgia., jail were served too cold in styrofoam or plastic containers “not designed to maintain proper food temperatures.”
+Virginia Beach officials failed to provide white underwear to inmates.
One of Patrick’s sharpest attacks was on the Maryland prison system for alleged mistreatment of inmates at the state’s “Supermax” facility, which at the time housed 105 killers and 19 rapists. The facility includes solitary units where violent inmates are sent for jailhouse violations, including attempted escapes and assaults on staff.
In a 1996 letter obtained by the Herald, Patrick slammed Maryland prison officials for serving “lukewarm” food and denying inmates their rights to “exercise,” “fresh air” and “natural light.” He also complained about a requirement that psychiatric visits be supervised by guards, a rule put in place because inmates masturbated in front of a female doctor.

Now, I’m all for trying to solve the genuinely serious problem of prisoner-on-prisoner violence, including gang violence and sexual assault in our prisons (although it’s still questionable whether this needs to be a federal rather than a state issue); the blithe societal assumption that prison time includes prison rape really goes further than a decent society should allow.
But prison rape is one thing; lukewarm tuna fish sandwiches are entirely another. You would like a governor who knows the difference.

Worlds Collide

Not the usual intro to a story about a low-profile statewide race in Wisconsin:

Sex! The Green Bay Packers! Sex WITH the Green Bay Packers!
The usually ho-hum race for Wisconsin secretary of state is being spiced up by one candidate’s naughty tell-all book about her bed-hopping exploits with Green Bay football legends during the team’s glory days under Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.
Sandy Sullivan, a 65-year-old Republican with no political experience, self-published a gushing memoir in 2004 titled “Green Bay Love Stories and Other Affairs” in which she claims she was the girlfriend of Green Bay Packers Paul Hornung and Dan Currie, deflected a pass from Hall of Famer Don Hutson and was on the receiving end of a saucy comment from Richard Nixon.

I also did not realize the La Folletes, like the Tafts, were still active in politics.

Inside the Pundit’s Studio

So, despite ending up on the cutting room floor, I did get a learning experience out of my appearance on “The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch” on Thursday. First of all, as to at least one way they get guests: I got the call Thursday around 10am from The Weekly Standard, which the show’s bookers had called on account of my article on scandals. The taping of the show was around 2:30-3pm. Once I agreed to do the show, they put on an assistant who ran through some pre-interview questions – which ended up being very different from the questions Deutsch asked, although in both cases they mainly walked through the 10-category framework of my article.
They initially offered to send a camera crew to me, but ended up telling me to go to a studio on Fifth Avenue in Midtown (they offered to send a car but given hiw close it was to my office I chose to walk – crosstown traffic can be terrible). The building was one of those utterly nondescript 70s-era Midtown office buildings; the studio had a front desk, a room or two for shooting, a little closet-like makeup room and a couple of waiting rooms – basically, it was set up like a small dentist’s office. I had to sit still through the makeup routine – I had never worn makeup before except on Halloween, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t that heavy (though I made sure to wipe it all off before leaving, especially since I was headed to court after the taping).
Eventually they sent me in to the studio, which was just a couch facing a camera, with blindingly bright lights above and below on either side. If I turned to the right I could see a monitor showing me – but there was no monitor anywhere showing the host, wherever it was he was taping his part from. I was also surprised by how little direction I got – you would think that, having all but picked me out of the phone book with no idea if I had any TV experience, they would have spent more than a sentence or two with me on what to do on camera (basically just: look at the camera), but then it’s a busy show with a lot of guests. I sat and listened to Deutsch run through intros with other guests, and to the House page hotline message that he ultimately ended the show with, but basically had no idea what the rest of the show had been about or what anyone else had said before me. The whole disembodied nature of the thing lent it a decidedly unreal air – an interview by a host I couldn’t see, no clue what the rest of the show looked like, and when I was done I basically just got up and walked out with nobody giving me any further information. I would have at least thought that there would be something to sign or a cheesy little souvenir or something, or maybe someone saying farewell with an insincere assurance that I did well. But that’s TV for you, I guess.
Live and learn. Now, next time someone asks me to be on national TV…

BASEBALL/ Politics and Baseball

The New Republic has a silly effort to compare the Mets to the Democrats. Much as I do both baseball and politics on this site, I try not to mix the two, and I have mocked similar efforts in the past.
That said, if we are just having fun with the numbers, it’s time to update one of my favorite factoids: The Hated Yankees haven’t won a World Series with a Republican in the White House since 1958. In fact, the Yankees won their first pennant in 1921, and since then:
Democratic Administrations: 40 seasons, 19-3 in the World Series
Republican Administrations: 45 seasons, 7-10 in the World Series
(If you are wondering, just for comparison, the Mets have won 4 division titles, 3 pennants and 2 World Championships with a Republican in the White House, compared to 1 pennant and 2 Wild Cards under Democratic presidents; they’ve also had 9 last place finishes during Democratic administrations compared to 4 under Republicans).

A (Very) Modest Proposal

Shouldn’t Congress bar federal funds from being spent on any project named after a current elected official? I mean, I realize that legislating against the self-interest of the legislators isn’t the most likely thing, so maybe let’s rephrase that – shouldn’t challengers pick up this suggestion? One of the enduring temptations for the Robert C. Byrds of the world, after all, is to seek out federal funds for projects in their states and districts that will be named in their honor. How does this not horrify anyone who even pretends that these folks are guardians of our money? What possible argument could be made, openly, for opposing such a proposal?

How Wrong Was Josh Marshall?

Plenty Wrong.

Now that it has been revealed that the main source for Bob Novak’s column “outing” Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA employee was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s right-hand man at the State Department and (like Novak) no fan of the Iraq War, with Karl Rove and a CIA spokesman merely confirming what Novak had already been told by Armitage – and that the White House was kept in the dark for many months, at a minimum, about Armitage’s role – it is clear that there was never any validity to the notion that Novak’s column was the result of some neo-conservative cabal seeking retaliation against Wilson and his wife for Wilson’s publication of a NY Times Op-Ed detailing what should have been a classified intelligence-gathering mission to Niger. This “neocon retaliation” theory was, as you will recall, the central and original theory of why the Plame story was a scandal at all, rather than a one-day story of a run-of-the-mill imprudent leak, and not even in the top ten as far as the most damaging leaks of the past five years.

Joe Wilson himself, of course, was the original source of this theory. But I thought it would be instructive to look back at one of the main blogospheric advocates of that theory – Josh Marshall – to get a full sense of how long and hard he pushed this notion, and thus how badly he ended up leading his readers astray. (I may get to look back at some of the other top Plame-ologists of the Left, but Marshall was perhaps the most visible and this post is long enough as it is). In Marshall’s case, the conspiracy theory was particularly attractive because it fit in with his broader attack on Vice President Cheney and the “neocon” advisers in the Vice President’s office and the Defense Department – indeed, Marshall repeatedly tried to retail a particularly baroque explanation in which the “outing” of Mrs. Wilson was tied to forged documents passed through Italy relating to Niger.

I should start by noting that re-reading Marshall’s archives reminds me how slippery he is – he truly is a master of implying things without coming out and saying them. But the sheer volume of his posts on this story has, unsurprisingly, yielded up more than a few instances of Marshall actually saying what he intended his readers to believe:

Continue reading How Wrong Was Josh Marshall?

Great Moments in Public Education

X-rated handouts and teachers demanding a constitutional right to sex with their students.
On the latter, the people who mocked the slippery slope arguments yet again owe Justice Scalia and Senator Santorum an apology:

Emanuel relies heavily on a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Lawrence vs. Texas, that struck down as unconstitutional a state law prohibiting “deviate sexual conduct” between same-sex adults. The nation’s highest court in that ruling took note of the “emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex.”
The legal ramifications of the Lawrence ruling are still a matter of considerable debate. Emanuel, in his brief and oral arguments, quoted noted constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, stating in a 2004 Harvard Law Review article that Lawrence’s “full reach should prove expansive.”
Thursday, Senior Justice David M. Borden asked just how expansive: “Has any court put blinders on and said you can’t look at the relationship” between the sexual partners?
“I think Lawrence comes close,” Emanuel replied. “I have no illusions. This is a difficult claim we’ve brought before the court. But Lawrence provides a basis for a good-faith claim. This is not a frivolous case.
“As of today, no court has yet adopted the position we’re advocating, that Lawrence represents a fundamental right to sexual freedom,” Emanuel said.

As I said at the time, I hold no brief for anti-sodomy laws, but the erosion of the principle that laws grounded in community moral standards are a rational and permissible basis for democratic lawmaking is a dangerously intrusive and anti-democratic, as well as irredeemably inconsistent with two centuries of constitutional tradition.


Libertarian Megan McArdle isn’t too happy with a lot of the Bush Administration’s moves on detainees and surveillance, but at least she has perspective:

[I]f you think that the things the Bush administration is doing could, in the future, help less benign governments to seize horrifying power — well, I’ll agree with you, but only if you also acknowlege that the same could be said for every president since Hoover, and that in fact FDR takes the gold prize for Doing Things That Could Be Used to Install a Dictator. Indeed, FDR is probably the closest thing this country ever came to having a dictator, and we can thank a lot of fast tap-dancing by the Supreme Court and the Senate for not getting us closer still. If FDR doesn’t terrify you, then you will have a very stiff uphill battle explaining to me why Bush does.

Don’t Mess With Mama

There is, it is true, something creepily anti-Semitic (given the history of what anti-Semitism sounds like) about asking a candidate, in a televised debate, the following:

It has been reported, your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish. Could you please tell us whether your forebears include Jews and, if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?

I mean, wouldn’t you expect the next question to be a request for his papers?
For all of that, though, it seems to me that the larger lesson of this flap about the question and George Allen’s response, when combined with earlier questions about whether Allen had learned the word “macaca” from his mother, is that you don’t mess with a man’s mother, ever. I’m guessing that voters in Virginia who watched that debate understood that without having to have the newspapers explain what it all means.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

A Republican tidal wave isn’t going to emerge from nowhere, but Jim Geraghty sees signs that may point to better tidings by Election Day. This may, as Howard Fineman suggests, be a “dead cat bounce,” but falling gas prices in particular are yet again robbing the Democrats of a crucial talking point down the home stretch (as job growth did in 2004).
Geraghty’s been right before, of course, with his pep talks in 2004. While I remember 1996 and 1998 quite well, the fact is that the elections of 2002 and 2004 are the only ones that have really been blogged (with the flood of timely information that entails), and that have taken place after September 11. Which means that it may be hard for Republicans like me who saw almost everything break right in those elections to correctly identify the signs of a true strong home stretch versus the dead cat bounces that Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush enjoyed in the late Octobers of their races against Clinton.

Democrats Finally Identify Iraq Policy: Hold Hearings

Because, you know, the one thing we haven’t had is a debate about the war.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that participates in hearings with me
Shall be my brother

Yes, Harry Reid has figured out the answer in Iraq:

Accusing Republicans of failing to adequately monitor the conduct of the war in Iraq, Senate Democrats on Wednesday announced their own series of hearings into what they called a failed policy.
“Three years into war, the American people still don’t have a clear picture of what’s gone wrong in Iraq — or how to set it right,” said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
“We’ve been going backward for too long,” he said.
Democrats said they had invited Republicans to attend the hearings, which will start in Washington on Monday and move across the country in October and November — before and after the November 7 congressional elections in which control of both houses are at stake.
Reid and other top Democrats told a news conference the current Congress had conducted fewer oversight hearings than previous wartime Congresses. They said lawmakers held 152 days of hearings on the Korean War and 328 days on Vietnam.

A moment of silence, please, for all those who courageously held hearings in past wars. History may little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that chairs a hearing now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Job Creation, Granholm Style

Cut taxes? Nope. Reduce red tape? Nah. How about building prisons instead of factories:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced Monday she has signed a bill designed to give more options toward possibly reopening a former youth prison in Baldwin.
The prison now could be used for out-of-state prisoners, a Michigan prison population, county prisoners or federal detainees.
The measure is designed to help the local economy by possibly rejuvenating one of the area’s largest employers.

Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with opening prisons – but the state that was once the engine of the world’s auto industry deserves better than aspiring to be America’s Jailer.

Quick Links 9/20/06

Yeah, another bunch of links and quick hits, heavy on politics and war.
*First of all, for my own purposes I should note here that as of this week I have been at my law firm for 10 years. A milestone, of a sort.
*This putatively hostile profile of Mitch McConnell makes him sound like the ideal leader for a legislative majority – a guy who’s a brilliant master of parliamentary rules and techniques, a workhorse rather than a showhorse who has a keen understanding of how to hold his caucus together and has been an instrumental player in some of Bill Frist’s biggest successes. The authors criticize him for not writing “landmark legislation” or taking to the airwaves, but they have to concede that McConnell has done, in his fight against campaign finance regulation, the very thing the Framers most hoped a a Senator would do – wage an unpopular one-man battle against landmark legislation that is simultaneously self-interested (by protecting incumbents) and hostile to our constitutional guarantees of free speech. And as for his partisanship, (1) the authors don’t really even pretend that Tom Daschle wasn’t an arch-partisan and (2) “bipartisan” legislation is usually a warning to watch your wallet anyway.
*While I share David Frum’s frustration that Bush didn’t spend more of his UN speech pressing the case against Iran, I thought this passage in the speech was one of the best articulations yet of why the battle against tyranny in the region is so important to the battle against terrorism – as Bush’s predecessor would say to himself, “it’s the propaganda, stupid”:

Imagine what it’s like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You’re 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government. While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country’s shortcomings. And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom. For many across the broader Middle East, this is the dismal choice presented every day.

This is, by the way, a signal difference from the Cold War – the Communist bloc may have fed its citizens propaganda, but at least they were literate and educated, and thus easier to reach with a contrary message. Illiteracy is a particular problem in Egypt and one of the reasons why Egyptian society presents a greater danger than, say, Iraq or Iran of the populace embracing Islamist nutcases if given the vote.
*Links on the continuing saga of the threats of violence against the Pope for implying that Islam preaches violence: was Pope Benedict trying to build pressure for Christians to receive the treatment in Muslim lands that Muslims receive in Christian lands?; the archbishop of Sydney isn’t backing down; David Warren on the BBC; and Fr. Neuhaus at First Things has some reflections. More detail on the violence and threats of violence here, here, here and here. Josh Trevino offers trenchant analysis, especially this parallel:

There’s an illuminating historical incident from the tenth century that deserves wider dissemination, and that the Pope might have used in lieu of Manuel II Paleologue’s quote. That Emperor was the last to enjoy a full reign in a free Empire; but nearly four hundred years before, the Empire was enjoying a resurgence. Manuel II Paleologue ruled barely more than Constantinople itself – but Nikephoros II Fokas ruled from Italy to the Caucasus, and from Bulgaria to Syria. He was a longtime foe of the Muslim Caliphate, and he observed that a signal advantage of the Muslims was their jihad doctrine. The Orthodox Church then – as now – regarded war as a regrettable necessity, with emphasis on the regrettable part, and soldiers returning from war would be made to perform some manner of penance before again receiving communion. By contrast, Nikephoros II Fokas observed that the Muslims who went to war were directly fulfilling the commandments of their faith, and were accordingly more motivated, violent, and relentless. The Emperor decided that the Christians needed a similar spiritual edge, and so he asked the Patriarch Polyeuktos in Constantinople to declare that any Christian who fell in battle was automatically a martyr. In effect, he requested a Christian version of jihad. The Patriarch and the entire Church hierarchy, so often in that era mere tools of Imperial policy, refused. The Emperor was forced to back down, and within a few short centuries, the Empire was overrun by the Muslims.

Trevino also points out something else. While the founder of Christianity was martyred by the State and the Church endured three centuries of persecution from its founding, Islam began as, and has for most of its existence been, the religion of power and the powerful, united with the State. There are examples of Muslims living under both the culturally light yoke of colonialism (in British India and the brief Western mandates over the former Ottoman territories from 1918 until just after WW2) and Communist opression (mainly in Kazakhstan and the other southern republics that left Russia at the collapse of the Soviet Union), but Islam for the most part does not share the heritage of other faiths in surviving separate from and in opposition to the State. None of this suggests that Islam is necessarily or by nature bad or dangerous, but it does underline why Islamic doctrines have been such potent and hard-to-defuse weapons in the hands of actual and would-be tyrants.
*I had hoped to get to the issue of the Senate Intelligence Committee reports on pre-Iraq-War intelligence sooner and in more detail, but I have only thus far had the chance to read parts of the reports. Critics of the reports have been out in full force on the Right – Stephen Hayes says the report glosses over Saddam’s history with jihadist extremists, as does Deroy Murdock, Byron York looks at the fact that Chuck Hagel, a Republican on the committee, had a former Kerry campaign staffer on the committee staff, Wizbang has a link here to a piece that appears to rehash some of Hayes’ reporting, and here to a CNN report from 1999 (quoted by Hayes in his book) claiming that Saddam offered asylum to bin Laden. Read and judge for yourself – like I said, I haven’t had time to digest all of this yet.
*From the National Law Journal on the Supreme Court’s new term:

“There are some stand-out cases and each of them will test whether this is a ‘restrained’ Court,” said constitutional law scholar Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine University School of Law, referring to the abortion, affirmative action and punitive damages challenges.


Kmiec concedes that it is “very difficult at first blush” to see why a conservative, restrained court would take the [partial-birth] abortion challenges, since there is no circuit split and there is a recent precedent.
“Maybe the answer is: It’s not a fully restrained court, especially in this case where Justice Kennedy has been waiting to prevail, and justices [Clarence] Thomas and [Antonin] Scalia have not fully signed on yet to the Roberts-Alito method of decision-making,” said Kmiec.

Um, the Executive Branch has asked the Court to reverse lower court rulings that struck down an Act of Congress. I don’t care what your judicial philosophy is in deciding a case like that, the Court is almost always going to take a case in those circumstances; it would be a serious dereliction of its institutional role not to.
*A female Supreme Court justice in Yemen? Baby steps.
*Lawrence of India: funny how this statute didn’t get mentioned in Justice Kennedy’s discussion of international precedents in Lawrence v Texas. Remember, foreign law only counts if it helps one side.
*Jane Galt has more on the illnesses of Ground Zero workers.
*Correction: Hekmyatar wasn’t actually captured.
*Ricky West on Keith Olbermann’s guest list.