Saturday, July 31, 2010

Juiced Meddlers

No one ever bothered to answer my question of a few weeks back about whether a proclivity for meddling leads one to embrace liberalism or vice versa. C'mon guys! It's not like I'm asking why there is something rather than nothing.

No matter. Someone else tackled the subject for us (sort of) and has written an entire book about it: Control Freaks: 7 Ways Liberals Plan to Ruin Your Life. According to the author, Terence Jeffrey, liberals are not just meddlers, they're control freaks, i.e, meddlers on steroids. Anyway, he's interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez over at National Review Online and it's worth a look.

My favorite exchange:
LOPEZ: When did you know you weren’t liberal?

JEFFREY: At the age of reason.

Troubled Waters

Along with her Congressional Black Caucus colleague, New York Democrat Rep. Charlie Rangel, it seems California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters is also facing charges of serious ethics violations.

Standby for the accusations of racism.

But, you know, I think only a very few care anymore. I beginning to believe that we're crossing, if we haven't already crossed, some invisible threshhold in this country. It's not just that the charge of racism has suffered from overuse, like the boy crying wolf. It's that the boy has been cynically crying wolf. People not only don't believe him anymore, they resent him for it.

So, call me a racist if you like, if it makes you feel better, or superior. When you're done, let's get back to the issue at hand. Shall we?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mayberry Medicine

For the record, the Sage of Mount Airy had nothing to do with this.

Imagine There's No Country, cont.

Here's a follow up to yesterday's post with another thought about the Left's long-standing hostility toward the nation-state.

As many have noted, America is a nation of immigrants. Unlike most countrys in human history, its success as a nation has been achieved chiefly not by appeals to a common blood, nor a common race, nor even a common heritage, but rather by an appeal to a common creed. To be an American is to embrace the ideas that inform the first two chapters of the Declaration of Independence, that clearest "expression of the American mind", and to do so "freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion." If you do so, then in a meaningful, but still unrealized sense, you are an American, and are so whether you come from Kansas or Kenya.

But because we are a nation defined chiefly by creed, some are tempted to embrace along with that creed, an illusion. As I mentioned yesterday, among the characteristics that define a modern nation-state is territorial integrity. Without it, a nation-state exists in name only, that is, it doesn't exist really. The illusion to which the Left is tempted is that, because of the unique success of the creed in fostering a genuine sense of nationhood, territorial integrity is unnecessary. Hence, "open borders" comes to seem to some a very real possibility. But open borders means no borders, and no borders means no country.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Imagine There's No Country

After the announcement of yesterday's Federal court ruling enjoining the meat of Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law, I was channel surfing and happened to stop at CNN for a few moments. What grabbed my attention was a kind of "man-on-the-street" interview some reporter was conducting in New York City. He was with a group of immigrants from the Dominican Republic gathering in part for the purpose of celebrating the judge's injunction. The reporter was careful not to ask any of them about their own immigration status, but as they were dressed more or less like professional people, one was in fact a doctor, I suspect they all were legal. At the end of the interview, however, he did ask them if they were bothered by the fact of illegal immigration at all. They weren't, and neither, did it seem, was the reporter.

There is something fundamentally dishonest about the Left's stated objections to the Arizona law. I'm not referring here to their tactic of deliberately refusing to use the word "illegal" when refering to it in order to imply that those who support it are against immigration altogether. Nor am I referring to the not-so-subtle charges of racism they routinely level at the law's supporters. I'm not even referring to their cynical use of both these tactics for the purpose of driving a wedge between Latinos and the Republican Party. To be sure, they do all this and more, and for just these reasons. But it's not their chief motivator.

The dishonesty of the Left is this: What really motivates them is a long-standing hostility to the existence of nation-states at all.

Among the important defining characteristics of a modern nation-state is territorial integrity. Without it, a nation-state exists in name only. That is, it doesn't exist really, as in real estate. Therefore, for the Left, a policy of "open borders", as it would erode and ultimately destroy territorial integrity altogether, and thereby the nation-state along with it, is a very useful strategy. But it's actually more than that for them, it's a moral imperative. Why? Because, as they see it, borders of any kind, territorial integrity of any kind, divides people.

To seek to ameliorate the many things that divide human beings and cause conflict among them, is, I suppose, a noble enough goal. But to seek to erase them altogether is foolishly naive, dangerous even. What the Left fails to understand is that the modern nation-state, as a historical phenomenon, developed largely to manage and mitigate those very divisions, not cause them. The nation-state emboddies the wisdom of the fence: "Good fences make good neighbors."

The cause for the divisions among men is not to be found in the existence of nation-states, rather, it is located in man's very nature. In Federalist #10, James Madison famously argued that the causes of "faction", that is, divisions among men, are "sown in the nature of man."
So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.
That is, men are such that even without sufficient cause to divide, they'll invent reasons to do so nevertheless. Such, it would appear, is our sad lot.

Of course, the Left steadfastly refuses to recognize that nature and imagines that the divisions that exist can be successfully eliminated through new and improved human institutions. As a result, they eagerly anticipate and work hard for the extinction of the nation-state, especially, it seems, for the withering away of the nation-state that is the U.S.A. I just wish they were a bit more honest about it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"And you were right not to doubt."

Thus said President Ronald Reagan to the assembled at Pointe Du Hoc commemorating the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. That sentence, besides kindly assuring the surviving veterans of the justice of their cause, boldly challenged a key assumption of modernity. It has always been one of my favorites.

At the First Things blog, R.R. Reno makes a similar point by highlighting the dangers of a too critical mind, a mind trained to question everything, to remain forever open. Reno instructs us that an intellectual posture of this nature carries with it at least as many costs as it does benefits. I would only add that it leads also to a life filled with fear. At best, a life passed, one can hardly say lived, forever frozen in exactly the same spot. It's a very short piece and definitely worth a look.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"We think in English"

So said Founder Alexander Hamilton to George Beckwith, the unofficial British envoy at the time, "and have a similarity of prejudices, and of predilections." If you're so inclined, there's an interesting string over at the No Left Turns blog about language and, among other things, its connection to culture and whether or not, for example, a democratic culture requires a particular language to support its successful institutionalization.

I've never read Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, but was always intrigued by the title. Its implication about language, as well as that suggested by Hamilton's comment to Beckwith, has always struck me as true. It's also true that in the study of Western political philosophy, we typically distinguish the Anglo-American tradition from that of Continental Europe. For what it's worth, I'll take ours over theirs. They talk funny.

Half a Global Warming

While the east coast of the U.S. sizzles, Peru freezes. OK, OK, OK. The "warmers" are half-right. I can hear'em now: "Peru's in the southern hemisphere, you idiot!" Should that matter?

Judging the Court

Adam Liptak writes today in the New York Times of the Supreme Court's move to the ideological right since John Roberts assumed the position of Chief Justice five years ago. I suppose I could just say, "Thank God!", and leave it at that. But it is testimony to how much the Main Stream Media and their liberal Court watchers still play the role of gatekeepers and agenda-setters that a return to an understanding of a judge's proper role as that of narrowly interpreting the law and the Constitution, of being constrained by that understanding, is in any sense ideological.

For a conservative, a proper judge must strive to eschew his own ideology when he rules; his personal policy preferences should matter not a whit. For a liberal, by contrast, those preferences are all that matter. In fact, those preferences, if they are sufficiently and dependably liberal, are what qualify him to be a judge in the first place.

Between a liberal and a conservative understanding of a judge's role, the difference is not simply a matter of degree, either more left or more right, but a difference in kind. As has been pointed out countless times, but apparently still not enough, a liberal judge is really no judge at all. He is instead a Supreme Legislator. Remember that when you vote this fall for the real legislators, the senators, who confirm or deny a judge's appointment to the bench.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tangled Webb

Virginia Democrat Senator James Webb has taken time out of his busy schedule to pen a piece for the Wall Street Journal calling for an end to race-based government set asides. Has he forgotten which party he now calls his own?

When Webb switched parties a few years ago, running and winning as a Democrat, I told a friend that this just might work out for us after all. I thought he might be as big a pain in the #$% for them as he had become for us. Well, I was wrong. He's been a loyal liberal Democrat soldier on every significant vote since he's taken office.

So, do I believe him when he happens to sound like a conservative again? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Kinda ironic, ain't it?"

I think you should read this short review of the movie Restrepo by James Bowman of The American Spectator. The movie is about the war in Afghanistan but the review is about several things. One, is an understanding of the always difficult to define "irony". Another is an appreciation of why abandoning the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding homosexual service in the military would be disastrous. But it's also just a good example of a good movie review. Enjoy!

Firing at the USDA

"So Sage, what do you have to say about the firing of Shirley Sherrod, the USDA official let go for her video-taped racist remarks that, as it turns out, were not so racist after all?"

"First I've heard of it. I was on vacation. Was it in the New York Times? Did CBS cover it?"

OK, Andrew Breitbart screwed up. He was determined to respond aggressively to the repugnant and unsubstantiated charges of racism routinely leveled at Tea Party members by this Administration, by Democrats everywhere, by the Main Stream Media, and, most recently, by the NAACP. He thought he'd found a smoking gun that might level the playing field for a change. It backfired...sort of. (I know, I'm mixing metaphors, but I'm hot.)

He and conservatives everywhere who enthusiastically embraced this story as it was first reported should be duly chastened. This is NOT the kind of thing WE do. It IS the kind of thing THEY do. I'm not talking about fighting fire with fire. THAT we don't do enough of. I referring, rather, to the leveling of charges before we know all the facts. Innocent people, like Ms. Sherrod, often get hurt. THEY don't care. WE do.

As both sides in our ongoing political struggles were harmed in this episode, might it serve to motivate those inclined to routinely wield the charge of racism as a political weapon to disarm. Since the end of Jim Crow, absolutely no good has ever come of its use.

Finally, what does this say about the Obama Administration? Thin-skinned, knee-jerk, and amateurish come to mind. Not good qualities if you're trying to convince the public you're qualified to run, well, everything.

Now, touch gloves and return to your corners.

Second City Silence

After very publicly promising to reveal, well, everything, it seems deposed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will not testify in his defense after all. For a man who could never manage to keep his foul mouth shut before, this is big news indeed. Apparently his attorney advised against him taking the stand. Hmmm? Ya think any enterprising reporter from the Main Stream Media will be moved to dig into the "real" reason? Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Graham Crackers

As expected, Elena Kagan's nomination for a seat on the Supreme Court was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee. While the votes for and against her fell almost without exception along strict party lines, the lone defector was, sadly, pretty much expected as well. Making not a whole lot of sense, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham explained his vote for Ms. Kagan.
What's in Elena Kagan's heart is that of a good person who adopts a philosophy I disagree with, she will serve this nation honorably, and it would not have been someone I would have chosen, but the person who did choose, President Obama, I think chose wisely.
What a disappointment this man has been as a senator. After achieving national attention as a member of the House Judiciary Committee recommending the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, he won in 2002 an easy victory for the Senate seat once held by Strom Thurmond. While he made many South Carolina Republicans nervous with his new friendships in Washington, John McCain and Hillary Clinton, for example, as well as with the policies he championed, Gang of 14, closing Guantanamo, amnesty for illegals, etc. (the "et ceteras" keep growing), he was nevertheless reelected in 2008, and by an even wider margin than in 2002.

But that was then. I'm not sure of his plans, but if he seeks reelection in 2014, he'll doubtless face a serious challenge from within the party and, as things stand, he'll lose. The Republican party of SC, the party of Jim DeMint, has lost its patience with Lindsey Graham.

It's a shame too. When he wants to be, he's a very articulate spokesman for the conservative cause. But it increasingly appears he doesn't want the job. In fact, it appears he's growing ever more content to, effectively, raise his middle finger not only to the cause, but to his party and to the people of SC who elected him. They'll have to wait a few years, but they'll return the gesture in due course.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Size Matters

Over at National Review Online, Kevin Williamson offers a useful reminder for when we cast our votes this fall. He warns that when it comes to spending, or rather, over-spending, the GOP has no better record than the Democrats.

Fair enough. Heck, I'd go even farther and say that to blindly trust any politician on any issue is foolhardy. That's not cynicism, by the way, it's realism. But it's not the same as saying that, between the parties, there is really no difference.

First of all, there are a host of other issues to consider besides fiscal responsibility. On many, on most, of those other issues, the parties clearly divide and those divisions are important. But even if we limit our comparison to their records on taxing and spending, there is still a very important distinction to be made.

Unfunded spending, or debt, is troublesome to say the the least. To lack the political will to properly fund government spending is irresponsible and politicians who refuse to demonstrate that will should be held accountable by the voters.

But there remains still a very important, an essential distinction between the parties. To shortchange the funding of a relatively small government, one properly understood to be limited in scope and reach, is one thing. But to underfund a huge government, one that in principle knows no limits, is another altogether. It is possible, even if admittedly often ineffective, to remind, to scold, to shame a Republican politician that the government for which he is authorizing spending, if not funding, is out of bounds. But it is in principle impossible to make the same argument to a Democrat.

Now that is something to remember this fall.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Great Reckoning, cont.

"There's something happening here..." So goes the first line of the Buffalo Springfield rock anthem to the country's shifting societal tectonic plates during the 1960's. While most of us can mumble the first line, the actual title of the song is "For What It's Worth".

Well, for what it's worth, check out the latest piece by NRO's Jonah Goldberg. He, too, senses that something is up, that the normal rules for judging what's happening politically just don't seem to apply exactly.
But what about when the rules change? For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters — and scares over alleged ones — help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it. According to the rules, populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less. According to the rules, Americans don’t care about the deficit during a recession.
Is he right? Will, as a result, this November's elections register 7 or 8+ on the political Richter scale? Or will they simply be another momentarily disturbing, but then quickly forgotten tremor? "You say you want a revolution." Well, do you?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Chew on This

I guess no one is going to bite at my what might admittedly be a "chicken or egg" question? Don't remember?

Again: Does the embrace of liberalism make one a meddler? Or does a penchant for meddling lead one invariably to liberalism?

The question came up again, for me anyway, when I learned that the Obama Administration had appointed a, get this, "Health Food Czar". I guess, by now, nothing should surprise us.

But I'm still curious, so let me rephrase the question: Is there any issue, problem or not, about which a liberal, a meddler, or a meddling liberal will simply shake their and say, "Yea, but it's none of my business"? To turn it around, I say almost exactly that very thing about a whole host of issues. Does that propensity mark me as a conservative or does my conservatism school me to think in that way?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Al Qaeda is Racist", cont.

President Obama and his Administration's observation in the wake of the Uganda bombings that "Al Qaeda is racist" has some chuckling that this is simply a case of political correctness run amok. I think not, and stand by yesterday's post that the Administration's initiative, if that's what it is, reveals a fundamentally racist perspective. That is, at some level they actually accept the perverse notion that the murder of people of white European stock is less objectionable than the killing of black Africans. Why? Well, because they somehow deserve it, of course. But even if the chief motivation is other than that, criticism more than derision is warranted.

First, let's assume it is indeed simply a case of a very liberal Administration's reflexive political correctness. What policy prescriptions can we expect to flow from it? Consider the un-named White House official's comment: "Al Qaeda recruits have said that al Qaeda is racist against black members from West Africa because they are only used in lower level operations." What does this mean? If Al Qaeda were to institute a more aggressive affirmative action program to recruit black terrorists to higher levels of leadership within the organization, then the Obama Administration would get off their back? "Sure, they're murdering terrorists, but at least they're not racist. You gotta giv'em that." Please. (That reads more like derision, doesn't it? Oh well, what can you do?)

Second, if the Administration thinks it's pursuing some clever, Metternich-like, preemptive foreign policy, winning the hearts and minds of black Africans before Al Qaeda does, it instead only demonstrates its rank amateurishness. Liberals are so practised, and so relatively successful, at playing the race card here in the U.S., they think it will work in a similar fashion around the globe. But it won't. Black Africans, without the same history of slavery and Jim Crow, do not think of race in the same way Americans do. To put it bluntly, race hustling doesn't, and won't work there.

While I guess it's encouraging to see this Administration passionately moved by the murder of innocents at last, it would be better still if this "post-racial" president actually lived up to his billing as just that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Al Qaeda is Racist"

I suspect I won't be the only one to notice this report. It seems President Obama was interviewed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and was asked, naturally enough, for his reaction to the bombings in Uganda that occurred during the World Cup. What the President chose to focus on, and White House officials later reinforced, was that Al Qaeda, targeting black Africans as it did, revealed a particularly racist strain to their already twisted ideology. The President:
What you've seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself. They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains.
Are you finished shaking your head?

In the first place, the naivete of the President's observation is astounding. Al Qaeda, along with every Al Qaeda wannabe everywhere, is a demonstrably equal opportunity murderer. Did he honestly think black, brown, or anything other than white skin would somehow protect you from these killers?

In the second place, and I'm going to say it plainly, what is revealed hereby is not Al Qaeda's racism, but the President's. Deal with it!

National League Wins!

Led by Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann's bases-clearing double in the 7th inning, the National League All Stars prevailed last night over their American League counterparts for the first time since 1996. Finally! I'm a lifelong National League fan and one of those baseball paleoconservatives that thinks the Designated Hitter rule an "abomination that causes desolation." So, for my league to win is less about the thrill of victory than it is about justice. Let's just say that last night, might was again in the service of right.

Much has been made of the American League's dominance of the mid-summer classic in recent years. Too much, I think. Sports scribblers and commentators have been far too eager to draw attention to the American League's long string of victories, as if it were the strangest of all phenomena in the history of the All Star game since it was first played in 1933. But their memories are too short.

In the 25-year period from 1961 to 1985, the National League won all but 3 games. (There was one tie.) In the 25-year span from 1986 until last night, the Junior League won all but 5. (Again, there was one tie.) So, for now at least, they're more or less even. With the National League's victory last night, has the tide turned again? I, for one, certainly hope so. Play Ball!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Meddling Liberals

OK, here's a genuine question: Does one's embrace of liberalism make one a meddler? Or, is it the other way around? Does a penchant for meddling lead one invariably to liberalism?

I can already anticipate at least one answer: Does it matter? Either way they're a pain in the $%&.

Small and Flat

Ross Douthat, in another piece, makes a very interesting distinction between those conservatives who desire chiefly a "smaller" government and those who want mostly a "flatter" one. By "small" he's referring to the overall size and scope and by "flat" he means less redistributive. That is, it can be big, but still refuse to use that power to pursue the illusive/impossible goal of equality by redistributing income or wealth.

Do I have to choose? I say give me both. Nevertheless, it's worth a quick look.

The Double Standard, cont.

Since the Swiss government's refusal to extradite put him back in the news, note the difference in the amount of coverage and the level of outrage directed at film director and auteur pervert Roman Polanski versus that aimed at Mel Gibson for his sins. I'm just saying.

"Conservative Class Warfare"

Some time back I tackled the subject of populism. I was frustrated by the fact that although it was a term that remained largely undefined, it still served for many conservatives as an all-purpose slur directed at just about any movement of the people that resulted in the call for the use of the blunt instrument to simply, and simplistically, "throw the bums out." Insofar as populism was characterized chiefly by resentment, I understood completely the slur. But, if it was understood differently, and I maintained that it could be understood differently, then there were times like now when I might actually call myself a populist as well.

While he never uses the word, Ross Douthat does indeed bring a richer understanding of the populist phenomenon. His focus is on forcing the affluent to actually pay the full price for their financial mistakes.
The left-wing instinct, when faced with high-rolling irresponsibility, is usually to call for tax increases on the rich. But the problem, here and elsewhere, isn’t exactly that we tax high rollers’ incomes too lightly. It’s that we subsidize their irresponsibility too heavily — underwriting their bad bets and bailing out their follies. The class warfare we need is a conservative class warfare, which would force the million-dollar defaulters to pay their own way from here on out.
Subsidizing the taking of foolish risks, not to mention underwriting failure itself, not only introduces the problem of moral hazard, it's just bad business. We're paying for it now and apparently will continue to do so for as far as the eye can see.

But it's more complicated than that. If we subsidize a poor or working class individual's purchase of a small first home, even if the risk is great, the size of the note we collectively hold is relatively small. As a result, the consequences to the country of their failure to pay is relatively small as well. But, if we subsidize the much larger purchases of a middle or upper-middle class individual, a second-home condo on Miami Beach, for example, then we're on the hook for a much larger note if they fail to pay. And that, spread across the entire country, is precisely what has happened.

Now if that be populism, with the resultant class warfare, then hand me a pitchfork.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Roman Holiday

It looks like Roman Polanski will get away with it after all. The Swiss government's decision to deny extradition will apparently make sentencing the famous film director for his crime nearly impossible.

That's bad enough, but what is more distressing is the apparent decision by much of the media to sanitize the details of the case when reporting it. Most of them fall back on some euphemistic dodge like "Polanski's sexual relations with a minor." The truth is that in 1977 he drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year old girl. He pleaded to a lesser charge in exchange for a, frankly, ridiculously light sentence. It was from that sentencing that the pervert and coward fled the country. In anything like a just world, this creep would never have made another movie, good or bad.

But even more distressing still is that in spite of the well-known, but little reported, facts, he continues to enjoy the support and defense of far too many elites. Distressing, but not surprising.

Felons for Franken

After an 18-month study of the 2008 election, Minnesota Majority, a conservative watchdog group, is charging that Democrat Senator Al Franken's narrow victory over then-incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman was accomplished by the counting of illegal votes cast by convicted felons. While Senator Franken has yet to comment on the charge, might we reasonably expect him to defend the felon vote as an important part of the Democrat Party coalition? Along with illegal immigrants and dead people, of course.

Do As I Say

New York Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner and former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin tied the knot this past weekend. Officiating at the wedding was former President Bill Clinton. (You just can't make this stuff up.) Reports are unclear, but apparently an appropriate decorum was maintained throughout the ceremony. When Clinton asked Rep. Weiner if he promised to "forsake all others", no one in the wedding party was heard to laugh, or even seen to smile. Unknown is whether or not the former President ever "hit" on the attractive bride.

Hot Air

Washington Post columnist and undaunted "warmer" Eugene Robinson just won't give it up. In much the same way he dismisses all criticism of the Obama Administration as racist, he derides all arguments against climate change as "silly". But, to be fair, Robinson is looking for common ground among the differing parties. In fact, his column's very title is a call to "let cool heads prevail."

Well, maybe the common ground is to be found in Los Angeles where, when they're not enraged over Arizona's new illegal immigration law, cooler heads can indeed be found. Why there? Apparently, the City of Angels is experiencing cooler, unusually cooler than normal summertime temperatures.

How might Mr. Robinson explain that particular anomaly? Why, climate change, of course, but I doubt he'll pen a column about it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Me, Myself, and I

Charles Krauthammer highlights the contrast between President Obama's enthusiasm for publicly pointing out and apologizing for America's many sins, real and imagined, and his penchant for the use of the first-person singular when talking about anything to do with the current Administration. Whatever else you might think of Barack Obama, modest is not a descriptive that immediately comes to mind. Two autobiographies before the age of 50, and before even having accomplished all that much? Please.

But, to be fair, Krauthammer does concede that a certain narcissism is hardly unique among those who have called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home. A favorite saw of mine is that it is virtually impossible to overestimate the ego of any politician, president or not.

Nevertheless, I used to think former president Bill Clinton's modern era record for gasp-producing megalomania was beyond reach. You'll recall that when he established the mark, the competition was extremely robust. In fact, among his more challenging competitors was even our current vice president. When it came to being gratingly self-serving, Joe Biden was once a force to be reckoned with. He was easily among the country's top five. But I digress.

To return to Clinton, you'll remember that in 2005, five years after leaving office, he was called upon to deliver a eulogy at the funeral of Rosa Parks. He used the occasion to tell a personal story about when word reached Arkansas of Mrs. Parks' famous refusal in 1955 to forfeit her seat on a public bus for a white person as well as her subsequent arrest for the same act. It seems her refusal inspired the then 9-year old future president to seat himself in the back of the bus with the black passengers in an ostentatious display of solidarity with them. (Yep, that's the story he told. But don't get distracted, this is not about Clinton's trouble with telling the truth.) You see, even the death and funeral of this famous civil rights-era icon was still somehow about him. And, that when it came to participating in the grand struggle for equal rights for black Americans, not even Rosa Parks had anything on Bill Clinton.

Can we expect a young Barack Obama ever to rise to this level? Only time will tell. But, as Krauthammer demonstrates, he's off to a pretty good start. I would only add that in his pursuit of the record he does enjoy one huge advantage over Bill Clinton. As self-absorbed as Clinton was, and remains, ego gratification is clearly not the single most important goal in his life. As we know, there is at least one other thing even more important than that...and I'm not talking money!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It seems former Delaware Senator Joe Biden has found an office that suits him to a tee. Note the first line of this POLITICO piece describing how Biden is actually thriving as VP:
Despite his wartime portfolio, Vice President Joe Biden seems to be one of the few people around the White House who actually is enjoying his job these days.
Now consider John Adam's, our very first vice president, assessment of the job:
My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.
A perfect fit, I'd say.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Uncomfortably Honest

We learn, sadly, that Christopher Hitchens, that, what, "complicated" man of the Left, is suffering with throat cancer. As I understand it, this is very serious. We wish him the best.

However, and in spite of it all, he has managed somehow still to produce a memoir, the recently published Hitch-22. A very good review of it, and assessment of Hitchens as well, is available at National Review Online by David Horowitz. It's a bit long, but well worth it. As far as I'm concerned, Horowitz's best line summarizing the man is found where he writes of "the oddities of Hitchens’s compartmentalized life." Perfect. Only a man capable of extreme compartmentalization could embrace the many apparent contradictions that describe Christopher Hitchens. While the review is quite critical, Horowitz calls him a friend nevertheless. Evidently, he penned the piece before learning of Hitchens' cancer.

But, actually, this post is not about Hitchens, it's about Horowitz. If you don't know who he is, I think you need to familiarize yourself with him.

David Horowitz is a self-described "red-diaper baby". He had a long and prolific association with the radical Left during the 1960s, but then in the 1970s, along with his colleague Peter Collier, began to have "second thoughts". He left the Left for good in the early to mid-80s, voting for Reagan in 1984, and began to cross swords with his former friends with much the same intensity that he used to reserve for his antagonists on the Right. You'll find him, among many other places, at fighting the good fight. Check it out.

I don't think it's exactly correct to call him a neo-con, nor adequate to say that he simply grew up, or enjoyed some epiphany, as so many others who have made the journey from Left to Right have done. With Horowitz there is genuine pathos. He is not merely embarrassed by, ashamed of, and repentant for his former life. I think what distinguishes Horowitz is that his past haunts him...still. As he sees it, his hands are not only dirty, they are in fact stained with actual blood as he was once an eager participant with undeniable evil. I read his autobiography, Radical Son, some years ago and it is suffused with an uncomfortable honesty. You squirm as you read it, for him and for yourself.

But for that reason, David Horowitz is one of our nation's most reliable witnesses. He knows of what he speaks. You should know him too.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Price Good Men Pay

I was browsing the Internet the other day and came across this famous adage of Plato's:
The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.
What struck me about it this time around was not so much the moral its intention was to communicate, as it was the reason the adage became necessary in the first place. That is, it struck me that even then, circa 400 BC, in what we are typically taught was the highly developed Hellenic political culture, in Athens, the most politically refined of all that culture's cities, good men, the best men, would rather do something else than involve themselves in its politics. Instead, they had to be shamed into service.

This reinforced my long-held belief that, as a rule, the very best men in any society are simply not interested in its politics, and that, as a result, we should remain always suspicious of the motivations and capabilities of those who are. Survey, in your mind, the current American political landscape and tell me that isn't true.

Canadian Best Wishes

Consider this "Happy Independence Day!" greeting from one of our good friends in the Canadian press. Typically when I read something like this, I'm strongly tempted to respond with a vigorous, "@#%& you, and the horse you rode in on!" But for some reason this time it only made me giggle. Note just the first three paragraphs:
We can only hope that our American friends enjoy their national holiday weekend. Let them wave their flags, enjoy their picnics and show their love of country, because they need a holiday.

It is disturbing these days for the country’s friends to watch the Great Republic’s politics, to wonder about its economy, to tremble at its deficits, and to shake their heads at its Supreme Court that has struck down corporate contribution limits in politics and reaffirmed the right to bear arms, to the intense joy of the gun lobby.

The United States gave itself the most gifted President in several generations, handed his party a majority in both houses of Congress, only to watch his presidency be swamped by the doleful legacy of the Bush years, a worldwide recession and its parlous aftermath, and a ferocious Republican opposition bent on a search-and-destroy mission of his presidency.
It would appear that the Administration's grand project of recapturing the lost good will of foreign nations is working after all...for Obama, that is. For the rest of the country, I'm not so sure.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Got a big shindig at the house planned for this Sunday. To celebrate Independence Day, of course. But in between the time I've spent worrying about and attending to the details of preparing for the party, hayrides, fireworks, and all, I've still managed to find more than a few moments to think about this wonderful country of ours.

This year, for some reason, my mind kept returning to when I was a boy growing up during the Sixties. I still remember how extremely proud I was as I came to know what it meant to be an American. As I learned in gradeschool and elsewhere our exciting history, our unmatchable achievements, our unchallenged status as Number One, I felt not so much blessed as just plain lucky. I suspect it was kind of like a kid reared in the Bronx during the Fifties. The Yankees had been great for some time, they were still great then, and would continue to be so, with Mickey Mantle in the lineup, for as long as anyone could imagine. That kid never had to choose to be a Yankee fan, he was one by birthright, and with all the bragging rights that came with it, even though he, himself, had done absolutely nothing to earn them.

Oh what great fortune to be called an American. Celebrate!