Friday, January 18, 2008
January 16, 2008
Republican presidential hopeful, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, shakes hands with supporters at a campaign stop in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008.
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
Unluckily for McCain, snowstorms in Michigan suppressed the turnout among Democratic "Independents" who planned to screw up the Republican primary by voting for our worst candidate. Democrats are notoriously unreliable voters in bad weather. Instead of putting on galoshes and going to the polls, they sit on their porches waiting for FEMA to rescue them.
In contrast to Michigan's foul weather, New Hampshire was balmy on primary day, allowing McCain's base -- Democrats -- to come out and vote for him.
Assuming any actual Republicans are voting for McCain -- or for liberals' new favorite candidate for us, Mike Huckabee -- this column is for you.
I've been casually taking swipes at Mitt Romney for the past year based on the assumption that, in the end, Republicans would choose him as our nominee. My thinking was that Romney would be our nominee because he is manifestly the best candidate.
I had no idea that Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire planned to do absolutely zero research on the candidates and vote on the basis of random impulses.
Dear Republicans: Please do one-tenth as much research before casting a vote in a presidential election as you do before buying a new car.
One clue that Romney is our strongest candidate is the fact that Democrats keep viciously attacking him while expressing their deep respect for Mike Huckabee and John McCain.
This point was already extensively covered in Chapter 1 of How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): Never take advice from your political enemies.
Turn on any cable news show right now, and you will see Democratic pundits attacking Romney, calling him a "flip-flopper," and heaping praise on McCain and Huckleberry -- almost as if they were reading some sort of "talking points."
Doesn't that raise the tiniest suspicions in any of you? Are you too busy boning up on Consumer Reports' reviews of microwave ovens to spend one day thinking about who should be the next leader of the free world? Are you familiar with our "no exchange/no return" policy on presidential candidates? Voting for McCain because he was a POW a quarter-century ago or Huckabee because he was a Baptist preacher is like buying a new car because you like the color.
The candidate Republicans should be clamoring for is the one liberals are feverishly denouncing. That is Mitt Romney by a landslide.
New York Times columnist Frank Rich says Romney "is trying to sell himself as a leader," but he "is actually a follower and a panderer, as confirmed by his flip-flops on nearly every issue."
But Rich is in a swoon over Huckabee. I haven't seen Rich this excited since they announced "Hairspray" was coming to Broadway.
Rich has continued to hyperventilate over "populist" charmer Huckabee even after it came to light that Huckabee had called homosexuality an "abomination." Normally, any aspersions on sodomy or any favorable mentions of Christianity would lead to at least a dozen hysterical columns by Frank Rich.
Rich treated Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" as if it were a Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda film. (On a whim, I checked to see if Rich had actually compared Gibson to Riefenstahl in one of his many "Passion" reviews and yes, of course he had.)
Curiously, however, Huckabee's Christianity doesn't bother Rich. In column after column, Rich hails Huckabee as the only legitimate leader of the Republican Party. This is like a girl in high school who hates you telling you your hair looks great.
Liberals claim to be enraged at Romney for being a "flip-flopper." I've looked and looked, and the only issue I can find that Romney has "flipped" on is abortion. When running for office in Massachusetts -- or, for short, "the Soviet Union" -- Romney said that Massachusetts was a pro-choice state and that he would not seek to change laws on abortion.
Romney's first race was against Sen. Teddy Kennedy -- whom he came closer to beating than any Republican ever had. If Romney needed to quote "The Communist Manifesto" to take out that corpulent drunk, all men of good will would owe him a debt of gratitude.
Even when Romney was claiming to support Roe v. Wade, he won the endorsement of Massachusetts Citizens for Life -- a group I trust more than the editorial board of The New York Times. Romney's Democratic opponents always won the endorsements of the very same pro-choice groups now attacking him as a "flip-flopper."
After his term as governor, NARAL Pro-Choice America assailed Romney, saying: "(A)s governor he initially expressed pro-choice beliefs but had a generally anti-choice record. His position on choice has changed. His position is now anti-choice."
Pro-abortion groups like the Republican Majority for Choice -- the evil doppelganger to my own group, Democratic Majority for Life -- are now running videos attacking Romney for "flip-flopping" on abortion.
Of all the Republican candidates for president, Romney and Rudy Giuliani are the only ones who had to be elected in pro-choice districts. Romney governed as a pro-lifer and has been viciously attacked by pro-abortion groups.
By contrast, Giuliani cleverly avoids the heinous "flip-flopper" label by continuing to embrace baby-killing. (Rudy flip-flops only on trivial matters like illegal immigration and his own marital vows.)
And, of course, Romney is a Mormon. Even a loser Mormon like Sen. Harry Reid claims to be pro-life. So having a candidate with a wacky religion isn't all bad.
At worst, Romney will turn out to be a moderate Republican -- a high-IQ, articulate, moral, wildly successful, moderate Republican. Of the top five Republican candidates for president, Romney is the only one who hasn't dumped his first wife (as well as the second, in the case of Giuliani) -- except Huckabee. And unlike Huckabee, Romney doesn't have a son who hanged a dog at summer camp. So there won't be any intern issues and there won't be any Billy Carter issues.
It's also possible that Romney will turn out to be a conservative Republican -- at least more conservative than he was as governor of Massachusetts. Whatever problems Romney's Mormonism gives voters, remember: Bill Clinton came in third in heavily Mormon Utah in 1992.
COPYRIGHT 2008 ANN COULTER
January 18, 2008
Fred Thompson is not the most inspiring speaker in the GOP race for President. Nor is he the best looking or the smoothest talking among the candidates running. He doesn't have Mitt Romney's hair or Mike Huckabee's glibness. He isn't as aggressively positive as Rudy Giuliani. And while his personal story is compelling, it can't compete with John McCain's inspirational journey from POW to the gates of the White House.
But Fred Thompson is perhaps the most substantative candidate to run for President in many years. He has taken the time to think about what should be the relationship between the government and the governed. He has framed his thoughts within the context of a set of bedrock conservative principles that animates his thinking and generates sound ideas about where America should be headed.
There is a heft to Thompson, a seriousness of purpose that none of the other candidates can match. It is most pronounced during the debates where Thompson's answers to questions are more subtle and nuanced than those of his rivals. His sometimes laconic style zings his opponents with brutal accuracy. Often, the candidate will answer a question by stating "Yep" or "Nope" and pause a few seconds to gather his thoughts. What follows is almost always coherent and is informed by years of experience in government.
His now famous moment during the Des Moines Register debate where he refused to raise his hand like a schoolboy when the moderator asked who believed in global warming was a metaphor for the entire Thompson campaign; keeping the Mickey Mouse to a minimum while trying to be as substantative as possible with the voters. In short, Thompson is running the campaign his way and not in a manner dictated by any previous candidate's success or any criticism that comes his way from media pundits.
He has well thought out policy positions - "White Papers" the campaign calls them - have won him almost universal praise from sources as wildly divergent as the Washington Post and the National Review.
For instance, the Wall Street Journal had this to say about Thompson's tax plan:
"However, what's refreshing about the Thompson plan is that it goes well beyond the current Republican mantra to make "the Bush tax cuts permanent." That is certainly needed, but the GOP also needs a more ambitious agenda, especially with economic growth slowing. The flat tax has the added political benefit of assaulting the special interests who populate the Gucci Gulch outside Congress's tax-writing committee rooms. Lower rates and simplify the tax code, and you instantly reduce the opportunities for Beltway corruption. It is both a tax policy and political reform.
ABC had this to say about his plan to save Social Security:
Republican presidential contender Fred Thompson's plan to save Social Security and protect seniors, which he introduced Friday afternoon in a Washington, D.C., hotel, differs starkly from standard election year pabulum on the subject in one key way: He's actually treating voters like adults.
If all of this is true, why is Fred Thompson fighting for his political life this Saturday in the South Carolina primary?
It is a question that, if Thompson's bid falls short, will be asked by many who saw the former Tennessee senator's entry into the race as a godsend. In the end, the candidate must look to his own efforts and the way the campaign began.
Leaving aside the question of whether Thompson's September entry into the race could be considered "too late" there is the reality of how that campaign was conducted. Looking back, one could see it was unfocused, even aimless, in its first weeks with the candidate himself trying to find his voice. His early efforts were spotty and sometimes dreadfully boring. By many reports, voters came away perplexed and not a little disappointed.
Thompson's Socratic style of addressing those early crowds was a good way to discuss issues on a substantive level but a lousy way to run for president. Voters more attuned to snappy, one sentence solutions to the problems of the world coming from other candidates found that when listening to Thompson, they had to think, not react emotionally.
In this way, Thompson appealed to people more on an intellectual level. This was fine as far as it went but it brought him few converts and elicited nothing but contempt from the media.
How often have we heard the refrain that the American people wanted a campaign that dealt with issues not personalities? Well, here was Fred Thompson supposedly giving people what we were told they wanted and his once robust poll numbers began to plummet. Seeking an explanation, reporters and pundits who saw Thompson arrived at the conclusion that the candidate didn't want it bad enough, that he had no "fire in the belly," that he hated campaigning and didn't extend himself as the other candidates were doing.
There may be a glimmer of truth in some of that conventional wisdom. Perhaps the candidate believed it was enough that he put his ideas on the table and let the American people decide whether or not they were worthy of consideration. Indeed, Thompson has said as much in the past. What perhaps the candidate didn't realize is that fighting for those ideas and tying them to overarching themes is the most effective way to reach the voter.
But for whatever reason - the befuddlement of the press over his style of campaigning or a perceived lack of energy and desire - the candidate found himself at the end of November trailing badly in the polls. It was then that the campaign seemed to find itself and Thompson found those themes as well as his issues and tied them together. Crowds began to react more positively. It appeared the candidate himself was more energized and active.
But Thompson was pushing against weeks of very negative press and a conventional wisdom that had all but written him off. It was a daunting task to turn the campaign around but he has. Now he must convince voters in South Carolina and beyond that the conventional wisdom about his candidacy is wrong and that he deserves a second look.
His most recent appearances in South Carolina have shown an entirely different candidate than the one who appeared unfocused and low key during the first three months of his campaign. He has now found his mission; that the campaign is for the heart and soul of the Republican party and the future of the old Reagan coalition. When speaking in this vein, the candidate exudes a passion that may have been lacking in his earlier campaign stops. It carries over into his contrasting the records of his opponents with his own as he hammers away at their lack of true conservative credentials. He still talks specifics and issues but in a way that delineates his positions from those of his rivals. In short, he has found the bridge between a way to campaign effectively without sacrificing his belief that the voters hunger for substance in their candidate.
Thompson still pauses and thinks before he answers questions either from the media or voters. He speaks in complete sentences. He treats voters like "adults" as ABC mentioned above. In this sense, he is the anti-soundbite candidate. Whether Thompson's no-nonsense approach to campaigning will give him victory will depend largely on whether voters are moved to support a man who views running for president not as the fulfillment of raw ambition but as a chance to serve the people.
Rick Moran is associate editor of American Thinker.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
Trinity United Church of Christ/Religion New Service
Senator Barack Obama with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. in a 2005 photograph.
Election 2008: Since we first drew attention to Barack Obama's Afrocentric church a full 12 months ago, other media have weighed in. And additional disturbing information has come to light.
At the core of the Democratic front-runner's faith — whether lapsed Muslim, new Christian or some mixture of the two — is African nativism, which raises political issues of its own.
In 1991, when Obama joined the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, he pledged allegiance to something called the Black Value System, which is a code of non-Biblical ethics written by blacks, for blacks.
It encourages blacks to group together and separate from the larger American society by pooling their money, patronizing black-only businesses and backing black leaders. Such racial separatism is strangely at odds with the media's portrayal of Obama as a uniter who reaches across races.
The code also warns blacks to avoid the white "entrapment of black middle-classness," suggesting that settling for that kind of "competitive" success will rob blacks of their African identity and keep them "captive" to white culture.
In short, Obama's "unashamedly black" church preaches the politics of black nationalism. And its dashiki-wearing preacher — who married Obama and his wife and now acts as his personal spiritual adviser — is militantly Afrocentric. "We are an African people," the Rev. Jeremiah Wright reminds his flock, "and remain true to our native land, the mother continent."
Wright once traveled to Libya with black supremacist Louis Farrakhan to meet with terrorist leader Muammar Qaddafi. Last year at a Chicago gala, Wright honored his old pal Farrakhan, who's fond of calling whites "blue-eyed devils," for lifetime achievement.
It comes as little surprise then that Wright would think Israel a "racist" occupier of Palestinians, while describing the 9/11 attacks as a "wake-up call" to "white America" for ignoring the concerns of "people of color."
Wright makes the Rev. Jesse Jackson look almost moderate and patriotic. Yet this is whom Obama picked to baptize his daughters, plus to act as his "sounding board" during his presidential run.
The candidate already has heeded his church's "nonnegotiable commitment to Africa," spending an inordinate amount of his campaign time on the Kenyan crisis, for one. Obama has close family ties to Kenya, and even founded a school in his ancestral village — the Senator Obama School.
In the bloody conflict there, which already has claimed some 700 lives, Obama appears to have sided with opposition leader Raila Odinga, head of the same Luo tribe to which Obama's late Muslim father belonged.
Obama's older brother still lives there. Abongo "Roy" Obama is a Luo activist and a militant Muslim who argues that the black man must "liberate himself from the poisoning influences of European culture." He urges his younger brother to embrace his African heritage.
Beyond family politics, these ties have potential foreign policy, even national security, implications.
Odinga is a Marxist who reportedly has made a pact with a hard-line Islamic group in Kenya to establish Shariah courts throughout the country. He has also vowed to ban booze and pork and impose Muslim dress codes on women — moves favored by Obama's brother.
With al-Qaida strengthening its beachheads in Africa — from Algeria to Sudan to Somalia — the last thing the West needs is for pro-Western Kenya to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists.
Yet Obama interrupted his New Hampshire campaigning to speak by phone with Odinga, who claims to be his cousin. He did not speak with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.
Would Obama put African tribal or family interests ahead of U.S. interests?
It's a valid question, and one voters deserve to have debated regardless of the racial and religious sensitivities. Thanks to a media blackout of these issues, the electorate has yet to benefit from a thorough vetting of Obama.
We have to wonder how much of the national agenda Africa would consume under an Obama administration. Of the six "world threats" Obama lists in stump speeches, at least half of them concern that chronically troubled Third World continent.
Yes, some of his African priorities are noble, such as fighting AIDS and genocide. But how much U.S. aid, resources and presidential time would he devote to them? How much is enough? If Bill Clinton was America's "first black president," would Barack Hussein Obama be our first president for Africa?
Then there is the issue of his Muslim past. Obama, 47, was raised by two Muslim fathers and attended Islamic classes in Indonesia.
He denies being Muslim, however, and says he "embraced Christ" while answering the altar call 20 years ago at Trinity. (Contrary to anonymous e-mail rumors circulating, Obama never took the oath of office on the Quran. He used a Bible, and Vice President Dick Cheney swore him in during his Senate ceremony.)
This merely raises another concern, beyond that of the controversial church he chose to baptize him. If Obama were ever Muslim, even as a youth, he would now be viewed as an apostate, which in radical Islam is punishable by death. As Mideast expert Daniel Pipes has noted, a President Obama could be the target of a fatwah.
Still, his Muslim heritage is not the signal issue before the electorate. It's his Afrocentric church, which preaches black socialism and black nativism, and his family ties to an African tribe that's fanning the flames of Marxism and militant Islam in a country once considered strongly democratic and a friend of the U.S.
"I believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change," Obama has asserted. He also says his faith has led him to question "the idolatry of the free market."
If a President Obama's foreign and domestic policies are anything like the Afrocentric doctrine he's pledged to uphold, Americans will pay a hefty price, including those among the growing black middle class.
Thursday, January 17th 2008, 4:00 AM
Brett Favre added to his Packer lore with his great performance against the Seahawks last weekend.
In Green Bay they think their story is better than the Giants' story because of Brett Favre, who wasn't supposed to ever get near another game like this. In Green Bay they think their team is the team of destiny in pro football, because Favre now gets one more game like this at Lambeau Field. He only fits the place the way DiMaggio fit the Stadium and Jackie Robinson fit Ebbets Field and the old Knicks fit the Garden.
"Brett has played where he was supposed to play," a great old football man named Ron Wolf was saying Wednesday from his home in Jupiter, Fla., a long way from Lambeau.
The story of Favre as a Packer, as famous a Packer now as Vince Lombardi or any of the old Packers, as famous as old Curly Lambeau himself, always has to start with Wolf, start when he was still a personnel guy with the Jets, start with a scouting trip to Southern Miss during Favre's senior year there.
"I wish I could embellish the story and tell you I knew what he would become, that he would do all the things he's done and still be playing the way he's playing at the age of (38)," Wolf said. "But I can't." Wolf laughed softly then and said, "What I can tell you is that I am glad I looked at the right tape on him before I left Southern Miss that day."
He was on his way to Jackson State the next day, as he recalls, maybe a couple of Louisiana schools after that. Favre still wasn't right after a summer car accident, even if he would end up beating Alabama later that season, and have Alabama coach Gene Stallings describe him as "larger than life" when it was over that day. Wolf liked what he saw on tape, wasn't overwhelmed, was about to get back into his car for the drive to Jackson State when a Southern Miss coach named Thamas Coleman - "a Civil War name," Ron Wolf said yesterday - said this:
"Before you go you ought to take a look at what the young man looked like as a junior."
Ron Wolf did. And thought he was looking at the best college football player in the country. He went back and told Dick Steinberg, the Jets general manager. The Jets didn't have a No.1 pick. They tried to trade up, couldn't. The Falcons took Favre ahead of them, even though Jerry Glanville, the Atlanta coach at the time, didn't want him.
Then Wolf went to Green Bay to run the Packers and traded the No.1 pick he had for Brett Favre, and early in the 1992 season he went in at quarterback for the Packers. Now, after 442 touchdown passes and 61,655 passing yards and 8,758 pass attempts and 5,377 completions - after a streak of consecutive games as a quarterback, 253, that is better than Cal Ripken's streak - he gets one more championship Sunday at Lambeau. In the coldest football place in this world, Favre is a hot ticket all over again.
The Packers were supposed to be too young, Favre was supposed to be too old. Right. If it wasn't for the season the Patriots are having, the Patriots who try to get to 18-0 this weekend in what has become an opening act to Favre against the Giants, what Favre has done, in what a lot of people thought should be his first year of retirement, would have been the back page of football every single Sunday once he got rolling.
The Giants think they're the ones with all the magic going for them? Tell them at Lambeau.
"It wasn't just that he wasn't supposed to be a contender anymore," Ron Wolf said. "It was that he'd been totally written off. You know I've got a lot of time now to exercise my fingers on the keyboard, and patrol the Internet a little bit. And I saw something a few months ago on one of those dot-com's where they were ranking the quarterbacks in the NFC. I read through the first 12 names and guess whose name wasn't there? Brett's. I wanted to call the guy who wrote it and say, you pick any of those other NFC quarterbacks if there's a game you need to win. I'll still go with Brett Favre."
There was another pause at the other end of the phone and then Ron Wolf, who sat in a coaches' room once and found the player they all look for in sports, the one who can change everything, said this about Brett Favre: "He still carries all that unbelievable inside him."
There Favre was in the snow last Saturday, as much snow as even he had ever seen across all the years at Lambeau, bringing his team back from 14-0 down along with ex-Giant Ryan Grant, who dropped the ball twice early and then picked himself like a champion and ran through the snow for 201 yards. But it was Favre who people remember best from the day, because he is still Favre, because he has been one of the biggest and most theatrical sports stars of his time, because he has been more fun to watch than any quarterback in football history.
Carrying all that unbelievable inside him still. Underhanding that ball in the snow on Saturday after he had nearly fallen on his face, like it was the football version of Jeter's flip against the A's that time.
When Jimmy Connors made that run to the U.S. Open semis in 1991 at the age of 39, his old friend Ilie Nastase said, "Jimmy is getting what we all want: One more time." Brett Favre gets one more time, at Lambeau, on Sunday. Tell them at Lambeau somebody else is destiny's darling in football. Better yet, try telling No. 4.
AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Texas Tech's Bob Knight was his usual rambunctious self during a win over Texas A&M. Afterward, he thanked the crowd for its help.
LUBBOCK — As poorly as Texas A&M played Wednesday night, it's a wonder Texas Tech's Bob Knight wasn't credited with the 900th and 901st victories of his illustrious coaching career.
It will only count as one, but it was a big one as Knight's Red Raiders put on a clinic in dismantling the 10th-ranked Aggies 68-53before 11,268 fans at United Spirit Arena.
"It was an albatross," Knight said of the prospects of his 900th victory, "and we got rid of it. I'm glad it's over."
Knight, NCAA Division I's all-time winningest men's basketball coach, recorded another milestone in shockingly easy fashion. After the first 111/2 minutes, Knight's motion offense and man-to-man defense turned A&M as cold as the teeth-rattling weather outside. To mix metaphors, it was a complete meltdown for Mark Turgeon's Aggies.
"We were peeing down our legs out there," Turgeon said as the Aggies fell to 15-2 and 1-1 in Big 12 play. "I'm not sure we can play much worse. I kept looking for somebody to do well and nobody would do it."
The victory improved Tech's overall mark to 10-6 and evened its Big 12 record at 1-1 heading into Saturday's game at Oklahoma. The Aggies' road doesn't get any easier, either. They visit Kansas State on Saturday.
It looked like this might be Tech's night when A&M's 7-foot freshman center DeAndre Jordan managed to get whistled for two fouls in the game's first 31 seconds. But the outcome virtually was decided in the later stages of the opening half.
Tech limited the Aggies to just one field goal and three points over the final 81/2 minutes of the half.
When the game ended, the large contingent of Tech students obeyed the public-address announcer's plea to stay in their seats and not rush the court after the Raiders' third straight victory over A&M.
"When fans rush the court," senior Tech guard Charlie Burgess said, "it's because they were surprised their team won. This was not a surprise."
Martin Zeno led Tech with 19 points, while Trevor Cook added 14, hitting three of four 3-pointers. Pacing A&M were Joseph Jones and Josh Carter with 11 points each.
It wasn't necessarily that the Raiders played all that well in the opening 20 minutes. It was more that A&M was exceedingly bad.
In the second half of their last game, the Aggies hit 70.8 percent their shots against Colorado. They followed that with a first half Wednesday night that saw them:
Hit 23.1 percent of their field goals (6 of 26);
Commit 13 turnovers and 11 fouls;
Make only 4 of 8 free throws and 1 of 7 three-pointers.
For game, the Raiders limited A&M to 34 percent shooting (18 of 53) as the Aggies, committing a season-high 20 turnovers, lost their second true road test in as many tries. The other was at Arizona on Dec. 2.
"When you're playing all home games and playing the schedule we played, sometimes you can hide weaknesses," Turgeon said. "I think all of our weaknesses came out tonight."
Tech outscored A&M 20-4 over the final 111/2 minutes of the first half.
The second half began totally differently. A Carter 3-pointer triggered a 6-0 in the first 45 seconds, prompting Knight to take a quick timeout to stop the bleeding.
"We've not dealt well with adversity in games," he said. "So that was about as good as we've been in that context."
The strategy worked. A&M pulled within 41-34 on a 3-pointer by Dominique Kirk with 13:45 left, but the Raiders answered with a 15-1 run, including a pair of treys by Cook, to rebuild their lead to 56-35 with 7:45 remaining.
All-time men's coaching wins
1. Bob Knight 900
2. Dean Smith 879
3. Adolph Rupp 876
4. Jim Phelan 830
5. Eddie Sutton 798
6. Mike Krzyzewski 789
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
PAUL JOHNSON is the author of several bestselling books, including the classic Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, A History of the American People, A History of Christianity, Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, A History of the Jews,Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney, Art: A New History, George Washington: The Founding Father, and most recently, Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including National Review, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator, the Daily Telegram, and the Daily Mail. In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on November 1, 2007, on board the Crystal Symphony, during a Hillsdale College cruise from Montreal to Miami.
Heroes: What Great Statesmen Have to Teach Us
IF WE LOOK at what heroic statesmen can teach us, the sartorial dimension—what they wear—is indicative. Prince Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian who created Germany in its modern form, always put on uniforms when he addressed the Reichstag on an important constitutional issue. His successor as Chancellor, Betthman-Hollweg, had himself specially promoted from major to colonel so that, when declaring war in 1914, he could speak to the Reichstag from a suitable rank.
The English and American traditions and instincts are quite different. George Washington might wear a uniform when the Republic was in danger, to indicate his willingness and ability to defend it. As a rule, however, he deliberately stressed his civilian status by his dress. He was anxious to show that, unlike Cromwell 150 years before, he would not use his military victories to become a Caesar. His self-restraint fascinated contemporaries. After American independence was secured, King George III asked an American, “What will George Washington do now?” He was told: “I expect he will go back to his farm.” The King commented, in frank admiration: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man on earth.” And that is what he did. When he finally—and reluctantly—accepted political office, he waited to be summoned by election. The importance of Washington’s behavior should never be underrated, contrasting, as it did, so markedly with the behavior of Napoleon Bonaparte a few years later. It illustrated all the difference between a civil and a military culture. In statesmanship, personal self-restraint in the search for and exercise of power is a key lesson to teach.
The Duke of Wellington, for instance, though known as the Iron Duke and the victor in some 50 battles, would never have dreamed of appearing in Parliament in military attire. On the contrary: he fought the Battle of Waterloo in dark blue civilian dress. Winston Churchill, too, never set foot in the House of Commons as a soldier. He loved uniforms and often wore them on non-Parliamentary occasions, including his semi-nautical rig as an Elder Brother of Trinity House. He had a right, too, to dress up. For he had taken part in active campaigns in Asia and Africa, and in 1899, at the Battle of Omdurman, had taken part in one of the last successful cavalry charges in the history of warfare. At the Potsdam Conference in 1945 he appeared in Royal Air Force uniform, one of his favorites. Marshall Stalin, as he liked to call himself, appeared in the white full dress uniform of a Marshall of the Red Army. But my award for statesmanship goes to the third member of the Big Three, Harry S Truman, who wore a neat blue civilian suit. No one had a better right to military rig. He was, ex officio, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. He had seen action in the First World War as an army major, and took an active part in the Reserve throughout the interwar period, probably knowing more about the military state of the world—and periodically issuing well-argued warnings—than any other member of Congress. But he rightly followed Washington’s example and stuck to the constitutional proprieties. How sensible he was became clear later when he had to deal with the popular but difficult General Douglas MacArthur.
It is worth noting that one of the greatest victories of the 20th century, the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War at the end of the 1980s, was achieved by three eminently civilian heroes: Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The popes always wear white, the symbol of peace. Mr. Reagan, quite capable of acting heroic roles on screen, never succumbed to the temptation of wearing uniform in office. Margaret Thatcher was a war leader as well as a great leader in peace. She showed considerable courage during the Falklands War, a hazardous business for Britain with its limited military resources, but she never once stepped outside her strictly civilian role, even sartorially—though, as I often noted, she could snap her handbag with a military ring.
Statesmen at War
War is the most serious business that statesmen-heroes have to undertake, and a proper understanding of the precise frontier between civilian and military decision-making is one of the most valuable lessons they teach, never more so than today. In Western democracies like the United States and Britain, the civil power, elected by the people, has the sole right to declare war and make peace. In the conduct of operations, it must lay down clear objectives and give the military commanders their orders accordingly. But then, having done that, it must leave the way to secure these objectives, subject to the rules of law, to the professional commanders. It is not for the military to dictate policies, as General MacArthur tried to do, but equally it is not for the politicians to tell the generals how to fight.
This last rule has been broken several times in my lifetime, and always with disastrous results. The first occasion was during the brief Suez War of 1956, which the British Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, with his French allies, launched against Egypt. Eden was a man of peace who hated war, and got involved in this one reluctantly. He made many mistakes. He acted in a secretive manner, not taking into his confidence the House of Commons or even all his Cabinet colleagues, and above all his American ally, President Eisenhower. As a result there was great opposition to the war, at home and abroad, once it was launched. But his most serious mistake was to fail to give his military commanders clear orders about their objectives, and then leave them to get on with it. He tried to fight a kind of limited and political war, with the generals and air marshals restrained by political factors in what weapons they could use. He even told the Royal Air Force not to use bombs above a certain weight. The confusion of the commanders about what they were supposed to be doing was a factor in the war’s failure, which ended with an ignominious Anglo-French withdrawal, dictated by political factors. The Suez War was a historic demonstration of how fatal to success it is to muddle politics and military operations together.
That being so, it is astonishing to think that, only a few years later, the United States made exactly the same mistake in Vietnam. It has always struck me as tragic that the decision whether or not America should get involved in Vietnam was not taken while President Eisenhower was still in the White House. He had seen, from his ample experience in World War Two, how vital it was for politicians to settle the objects of war, and soldiers the means to secure them. Confusion of the two roles, he learned in the Mediterranean and European campaigns of 1942 to 1945, invariably proved costly. My guess is that Eisenhower would have decisively rejected any direct U.S. involvement, and would not have agreed to any plan which meant fighting a land war there. In the unlikely event of his agreeing to fight a war, however, he would have insisted on fighting it properly—that is, going all out for total victory with all the resources America could command—just as he had done with the invasion of occupied Europe in June 1944. That was the simple but logical view of a man who had exercised power from both sides of the political-military divide: avoid war if you possibly can, but if you can’t, fight it to win at all costs.
Unfortunately, Eisenhower was in retirement when the time for decision came. John F. Kennedy agreed to enter the war, and Lyndon B. Johnson agreed to extend it. At no point did either president formulate clear war aims or issue precise orders to their military commanders based on such aims. When I went to see President Johnson in 1967 and had an opportunity to discuss the Vietnam War with him in the White House, I was dismayed to find him imprecise about his war aims. He used such phrases as “contain communist advance” and “defeat communism.” But he did not lay down any object which could be secured by military means, and I wondered what exactly were the orders he issued to his generals or how they understood them. Johnson, like Eden before him, interfered almost daily in the conduct of operations, especially in the bombing war, deciding himself when and where raids should take place and what bombs to use, trying at times to orchestrate his military operations with his peace ventures. The mistakes Eden made at Suez were repeated, on a larger scale and for a longer period, and the predictable and disastrous results were of a correspondingly greater magnitude.
Let us turn now to Iraq, and see how the same considerations apply. In the first Iraq war, we were responding to the unprovoked invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s forces. This was a matter directly involving the United Nations. If Mr. Reagan had still been in the White House, I have no doubt that he and Mrs. Thatcher would have adopted stern war aims, involving not just the liberation of Kuwait by armed force but the replacement of the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic one under Western and U.N. supervision. Unfortunately Reagan had been succeeded by a much less clear-sighted, albeit well-meaning, president, George Bush Sr. It was not even clear, at first, that America would insist on reversing the invasion and occupation rather than be content with containing Iraqi aggression at the Saudi Arabian frontier. This disastrous response was jettisoned by the most forceful pressure from Margaret Thatcher, who insisted that Iraq be ejected from all Kuwait’s territory. This was done, under a U.N. resolution, with the military assistance of over 50 allies in Operation Desert Storm. But there was no agreement about the future war aim of removing Saddam and his militaristic regime. The generals had no instructions to “go on to Baghdad” and therefore halted operations when Saddam and his forces asked for an armistice. Alas, by that time Margaret Thatcher was no longer in office and had been succeeded by the weak and uncertain John Major. There was, in fact, weakness in both Washington and London, and as a result Saddam Hussein was left in power.
It is important to remember all this when we consider the present situation in Iraq. In the first war, the outrage the world felt at the brutal Iraqi conquest of Kuwait was overwhelming, and to destroy his regime and replace it by a peaceful and democratic one made obvious and popular sense. I have no doubt that when George Bush the younger authorized the second war against Iraq, he had in mind to complete the business left unfinished by the first—the son showing resolution where the father had shown doubt. But the actual reasons given for the second war were quite different, and much less plausible, and so carried less weight with the world. Many people failed to follow or agree with the line of argument which led from 9/11—an unprovoked act of aggression similar to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait—to the subsequent American attack on Iraq. They welcomed the overthrow of Saddam and his regime, and his subsequent trial and execution. But they were not clear why America was occupying Iraq as part of its worldwide fight against terror.
It seems to me that this confusion, originating in the first Iraq war and deepened in the second, lies at the root of our present difficulties. What successful statesmanship in the past teaches us, again and again, is that clarity of aim is paramount, above all in the deadly serious business of war-making. The Allies in the First World War were never clear about why they were fighting it—and Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, it can be argued, added to the confusion. Therein lay the weakness of the Versailles settlement, which laid the foundations of another conflict. In the Second World War, the Allies agreed on at least one thing: the unconditional surrender of Germany and the total destruction of the Nazi regime. It was not everything but it was something. By contrast, it is worth adding, the Western victory in the Cold War—achieved not by military force but by politics, economics, ideology and psychology—had no provision for what was to happen in Russia. There was no decommunization, as there had been deNazification in Germany after 1945, no trial of communist leaders for crimes against humanity, and none of the efforts, so successful in postwar Germany, to demonstrate the benefits of political and economic freedom and the rule of law. The result was to leave the communist apparatus intact beneath the surface—especially its most resilient and ruthless part, the secret police. And it is the secret police, personified in the presidency of Mr. Putin, who have inherited the state. Russia is no longer capable of challenging the United States and the West militarily, as it did until the late 1980s. But it is still capable and ready to make a great deal of trouble for us all, on a scale which makes Saddam’s Iraq seem insignificant.
Five Keys to Democratic Statesmanship
All these examples are reasons why I say that the ability to see the world clearly, and to draw the right conclusions from what is seen, is the foremost lesson which great men and women of state have to teach us. But there are many more, of which I would single out the five most important.
First, ideas and beliefs. The best kind of democratic leader has just a few—perhaps three or four—central principles to which he is passionately attached and will not sacrifice under any circumstances. This was true, for instance, of Truman, of Konrad Adenauer of Germany, Alcide de Gasperi of Italy, and Robert Schuman of France—all the outstanding men who did most to raise Europe from the ashes of the Second World War and who built up the West as a bulwark against Soviet advance and a repository of a free civilization. It was also true of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the two outstanding leaders of the next generation who carried on the work. I am not impressed by leaders who have definite views on everything. History teaches it is a mistake to have too many convictions, held with equal certitude and tenacity. They crowd each other out. A great leader is someone who can distinguish between the essential and the peripheral—between what must be done and what is merely desirable. Mrs. Thatcher really had only three musts: uphold the rule of law at home and abroad; keep government activities to the minimum, and so taxes low; encourage individuals to do as much as they can, as well as they can.
There are also, of course, statesmen who are necessarily dominated by one overwhelming object dictated to them by events or destiny. Thus Abraham Lincoln felt all else had to be sacrificed to the overwhelming necessity of holding the Union together, behind the principles of 1776. Likewise, Charles de Gaulle, in 1940, advanced the simple proposition that France was not defeated and incarnated it in his person. The way in which both men concentrated all their thoughts, energies, and skills on one end are lessons in single-mindedness and the power this can bring to action. A statesman must also be able, for a spell, to place one object of policy before all others, and this Winston Churchill did in 1940, when keeping Britain in the war by successfully preventing a Nazi conquest took precedence over all other aims. Such concentration of effort is itself a product of clarity of vision which includes a strong sense of proportion.
Next comes willpower. I think the history of great men and women teaches that willpower is the most decisive of all qualities in public life. A politician can have immense intelligence and all the other virtues, but if will is lacking he is nothing. Usually a leader has it in abundance. Will springs from unshakeable confidence in being right, but also from a more primitive instinct to dominate events which has little to do with logic or reason. Churchill had it. De Gaulle had it. Margaret Thatcher had it, to an unusual degree. It could be seen that, surrounded by her male Cabinet colleagues—whose knowledge and technical qualifications were often superior—she alone possessed will, and one could almost watch them bowing to it. Of course, will is often in history the source of evil. Hitler came from nothing to power, and the absolute control of a great nation, almost entirely through the force of his will. And it remained in him virtually to the end. Stalin’s dictatorship in Russia, and Mao Tse-Tung’s in China, were also largely exercises in personal will. Mao’s overwhelming will, we now know, led to the deaths of 70 million fellow Chinese. The cost of a misdirected will is almost unimaginably high. Those three or four simple central beliefs behind the will must be right and morally sound.
A third virtue is pertinacity. Mere flashes of will are not enough. The will must be organically linked to resolution, a determination to see the cause through at all costs. There are dark days in every venture, however just. Washington knew this in his long, eight-year war. Lincoln knew this in his long and often agonizing struggle with the South. One aspect of pertinacity is patience. Another is a certain primitive doggedness. One learns a lot about these things by studying Martin Gilbert’s magnificent record of Churchill’s leadership. “It’s dogged as does it” is an old English proverb. True enough. But doggedness should not be confused with blind obstinacy—the obstinacy of a George III or a Jefferson Davis. As with will, resolution must be linked to sound aims.
Fourth is the ability to communicate. The value of possessing a few simple ideas which are true and workable is enormously enhanced if the leader can put them across with equal simplicity. Ronald Reagan had this gift to an unusual degree—quite unlike his co-worker, Margaret Thatcher. While Reagan charmed and mesmerised, she had to bludgeon. There was a comparable contrast between Washington, who had no skill in plausible speechmaking, and Lincoln, not only a great orator for a set occasion, but a man whose everyday remarks carried enormous verbal power. But where words fail, example can take their place. Washington communicated by his actions and his personality. He was followed because Americans could see that he was an honest, incorruptible and decent man. Mrs. Thatcher too governed by personality. The Russians called her the Iron Lady. You do not need to charm when you are manifestly made of iron. It is a form of communication in itself.
The fifth and last of the virtues we learn about heroes is magnanimity: greatness of soul. It is not easy to define this supreme quality, which few even among the greatest leaders possess. It is a virtue which makes one warm to its possessor. We not only respect and like, we love Lincoln because he had it to an unusual degree. It was part of his inner being. And Churchill, who also had it, made it one of the top quartet of characteristics which he expected the statesman to show. A passage he penned as the First World War was about to end reads: “In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, good will.” This is a sentiment which all those in public life should learn by heart. It encapsulates the lessons of history better than entire books.
Pope John Paul II
* * *
I would like to end by stressing that my perception of heroic virtues is not inclusive. I merely stress the central and essential ones. One thing you learn from history is that a hero who can make the public laugh as well as admire is likely to have a strong and lasting hold on its affections. Here again Churchill stands high. He made us laugh even in the darkest days of 1940, when in reply to the Nazi jibe that “England in three weeks will have her neck wrung like a chicken,” he said, simply but forcefully: “Some chicken! Some neck!” As a teenager, when I had the chance to meet him in 1946, I was bold enough to ask: “Mr. Winston Churchill, sir, to what do you attribute your success in life?” He replied, instantly: “Conservation of effort: never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down.” There was a delicious irony with which this supreme man of action put the case for the sedentary, even the supine. Abraham Lincoln, too, loved irony. He often achieved an effect with jokes where mere oratory would not work so well. And Mr. Reagan communicated and ruled through his enormous collection of one-liners, which he suited to all occasions. And a joke can often enshrine truth, as for instance when I heard him say: “I’m not too worried about the deficit. It’s big enough to take care of itself.”
Margaret Thatcher was often criticized for having no sense of humor. Not true. I once heard her tell a joke to great effect. At the end of a long wearisome dinner with ten speeches, she—as Prime Minister—was scheduled to speak at the end. I could see she was furious. She began: “As the last of ten speakers, and the only woman, I have this to say. The cock may crow, but it’s the hen who lays the eggs.” I think I was the only one to laugh. The rest were shocked. I reminded Mrs. Thatcher of this recently, and she was delighted. She said: “My father told me that joke.” And that itself is a reminder that we learn from our parents at the fireside in our childhood perhaps as much or more than from anyone. But from the heroes of the past we learn, too, and what they teach, by the example of their lives and words, has the special quality of truth by personal example. Thus the good hero lives on, in our minds, if we are imaginative, and in our actions, if we are wise.
By Michael Whitcraft
When one thinks of Saint Francis of Assisi, often what comes to mind are images of a soft and weak man immersed in a pacified landscape, full of birds and bunny rabbits who are awestruck at every word that falls from his lips. However, reality frontally challenges this limp-wristed portrayal.
This is evident from Frank Rega’s controversial new book, Saint Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims. The author successfully dispels many of the myths spread about the saint’s persona. He states: “To reduce this saint to a glorified social worker, a nature lover, or ‘the first hippie’ is a great disservice to his true heritage.”
On the contrary, Mr. Rega paints the true picture of Saint Francis: a saint of prayer, courage and action, who, contrary to the claims of many modern biographers, actually supported the Crusades.
The second section of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims proves this contention. This part stands alone, for those who are only interested in reading about the saint’s correspondence with the Muslims. However, it is sandwiched between two other sections, which recount the saint’s life before and after his missionary journey to the Middle East. Together, these three sections make up an informative and highly readable biography of the Seraphic Father.
The book’s main thrust and most interesting section deals with Saint Francis’ true position in face of the Muslims. He felt a tremendous desire for their salvation and even risked torture and death to bring them the Gospel. However, he explicitly denounced Islam as a false religion that leads to damnation.
Thus, addressing himself to the Sultan, Saint Francis said: “If you do not wish to believe, we will commend your soul to God, because we declare that if you die while holding to your law, you will be lost; God will not accept your soul.”
This contrasts with the false idea of ecumenism commonly promoted today. The author explains: “Saint Francis’ dialogue with the Sultan was a dialogue of conversion to Jesus Christ, not a dialogue of finding common ground in order for the two religions to coexist peacefully.”
Mr. Rega also refutes the misconception that Saint Francis was opposed to the Crusaders taking military action to regain the holy land. While the saint wanted the Muslim’s conversion above all, he felt that war was justified if they did not accept Christ and adamantly held to the regions they had stolen from Christian hands.
Thus, when the Sultan argued that the Crusaders were not following the Gospels which taught that one should turn the other cheek when offended, he quickly rejoined quoting Our Lord’s words taken from the same discourse: “if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee.”
Saint Francis explained:
Here He wanted to teach us that every man, however dear and close he is to us, and even if he is as precious to us as the apple of our own eye, must be repulsed, pulled out, expelled if he seeks to turn us aside from the faith and love of our God. That is why it is just that Christians invade the land you inhabit, for you blaspheme the name of Christ and alienate everyone you can from His worship.
Mr. Rega’s work is filled with evidence to support his own Crusade against those revisionists who would like to paint a less virile Saint Francis. He decries those for whom Saint Francis: “was not a bold Christian evangelist, but a timid man, whose goal was to have the friars live passively among the Saracens and ‘to be subject to them,’ rather than convert them to the True Religion.”
This book is a must-read for those whose minds have been sullied by the effeminate portrayals of Saint Francis that have been widely circulated. It can serve to shatter this false impression and reveal the true spirit of a great saint.
New York Daily News
Wednesday, January 16th 2008, 9:38 AM
Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who was once a Giant assistant, rides on the shoulders of tackle Forrest Gregg (l.) and guard Jerry Kramer after defeating the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II.
There are miniature Green Bay mugs sitting atop Vince Lombardi's modest gravestone at Mount Olivet cemetery in Middletown, N.J. On the ground there is a contemplative photo of the great coach in his salad days, forever victorious, eternally a Packer.
He is laid out here alongside a narrow roadway in Section 30, across from some cherry trees, next to his wife Marie.
Somebody has contributed a Super Bowl XXXI flag to commemorate the latest Green Bay championship, over New England. And then there is a recent addition, placed neatly between the evergreen bushes: A $74.27 ticket stub from the Packer game at Giants Stadium last September.
If he were alive, Lombardi would no doubt be shocked by the price of that seat, while approving of the Packers' impressive victory that day. But then he also was an offensive coordinator for the Giants, and might have had mixed emotions about the upcoming NFC title game on Sunday.
Lombardi might even have given the Giants one of his more famous pep adages: "It's not whether you get kicked down, it's whether you get up."
You travel up and down New Jersey's biggest highways these days to find the heart and inspiration of the old-style Packers.
The great Lombardi quite literally rests not far from the Garden State Parkway and is a rest stop on the Turnpike.
And it is here that his legacy is both cherished and vaguely threatened.
M. Roberts for News
Buried at Mount Olivet in Middletown, Lombardi is a part of Garden State lore.
He lived among us once, when he wasn't quite bigger than life, long before his death at 57 of intestinal cancer in 1970. Lombardi was raised in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and flirted for years with the notion of becoming a priest. But then he became a teacher and football coach at St. Cecilia in Englewood, and the rest is the stuff of celebrity biography.
Lombardi captured five NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls. He was rumpled and dignified at the same time, somehow. He became the personification of the American professional football coach, the first icon of his kind. He was more than a man. He became the embodiment of an entire profession.
"It's just a small gravestone, but we get a lot of people coming here, looking for it," said JoAnn Christopher, an office worker at the cemetery. "A lot of high school football coaches come to touch it. I don't know if it really helps, but they think it does."
It isn't just here in Middletown. There are little memories of Lombardi scattered all over the metropolitan area. Here at Fordham is where Lombardi studied so diligently for years. Outside Camp Alvernia on Long Island, a small metal sign marks where Lombardi practiced his own high school football.
And then there is the famous rest stop on the Turnpike, the ultimate, kitschy honor for a coach who might have smiled through those gap teeth at the silliness of it all. The area is north of Exit 18E/W, about four miles from Giants Stadium, and Lombardi now shares his service oasis with Burger King, Nathan's, Cinnabon, TCBY and Sunoco - $3.21 per gallon of Ultra 93, another shocker for the ghost of Lombardi.
It is at this unassuming rest stop where Lombardi is potentially under siege. At present, his name sits alone atop the main building - the same honor afforded native New Jerseyans Walt Whitman, Thomas Edison, Clara Barton, James Fenimore Cooper and Grover Cleveland at other stops. But just a few months ago, State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) tentatively suggested that the state should sell the naming rights of these landmarks to the highest corporate bidder.
Lombardi, Barton and Edison could become PNC Bank, Prudential and Izod.
"It's a lot easier than raising tolls," Lesniak said.
That might not quite be true, from a public-relations standpoint. There is considerable resistance afoot already, when it comes to erasing these famous New Jersey monikers from the roadsides of the Turnpike. Rest-stop diners yesterday were fairly unanimous in their disapproval of such a development.
"Lombardi is important to football," said Bill Ripley of New Milford, Conn., a Jets fan. "I wouldn't want them to change it."
Vincent Ferrara of Bayonne suggested a compromise.
"It's fine if they split it, like the Lombardi/Citibank rest area," Ferrara said. "You've got to keep the founding fathers of New Jersey along with any corporate name."
What would Lombardi himself think? A framed biography and quotes from the late coach hang on a small wall inside the dining area of the rest stop. You read those quotes, and start believing Lombardi wouldn't give up his rest stop without a fight.
"Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit," he once said.
You lose the rest stop, who knows what's next?
January 14, 2008 10:56 AM
A lot of Americans who believe in the right to own guns were very disappointed this weekend. On Friday, the Bush administration’s Justice Department entered into the fray over the District of Columbia’s 1976 handgun ban by filing a brief to the Supreme Court that effectively supports the ban. The administration pays lip service to the notion that the Second Amendment protects gun ownership as an “individual right,” but their brief leaves the term essentially meaningless.
Quotes by the two sides’ lawyers say it all. The District’s acting attorney general, Peter Nickles, happily noted that the Justice Department’s brief was a “somewhat surprising and very favorable development.” Alan Gura, the attorney who will be representing those challenging the ban before the Supreme Court, accused the Bush administration of “basically siding with the District of Columbia” and said that “This is definitely hostile to our position.” As the lead to an article in the Los Angeles Times said Sunday, “gun-control advocates never expected to get a boost from the Bush administration.”
As probably the most prominent Second Amendment law professor in the country privately confided in me, “If the Supreme Court accepts the solicitor general’s interpretation, the chances of getting the D.C. gun ban struck down are bleak.”
The Department of Justice argument can be boiled down pretty easily. Its lawyers claim that since the government bans machine guns, it should also be able to ban handguns. After all, they reason, people can still own rifles and shotguns for protection, even if they have to be stored locked up. The Justice Department even seems to accept that trigger locks are not really that much of a burden, and that the locks “can properly be interpreted” as not interfering with using guns for self-protection. Yet, even if gun locks do interfere with self-defense, DOJ believes the regulations should be allowed, as long as the District of Columbia government thinks it has a good reason.
Factually, there are many mistakes in the DOJ’s reasoning: As soon as a rifle or shotgun is unlocked, it becomes illegal in D.C., and there has never been a federal ban on machine guns. But these are relatively minor points. Nor does it really matter that the only academic research on the impact of trigger locks on crime finds that states that require guns be locked up and unloaded face a five-percent increase in murder and a 12 percent increase in rape. Criminals are more likely to attack people in their homes, and those attacks are more likely to be successful. Since the potential of armed victims deters criminals, storing a gun locked and unloaded actually encourages crime.
The biggest problem is the standard used for evaluating the constitutionality of regulations. The DOJ is asking that a different, much weaker standard be used for the Second Amendment than the courts demands for other “individual rights” such as speech, unreasonable searches and seizures, imprisonment without trial, and drawing and quartering people.
If one accepts the notion that gun ownership is an individual right, what does “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” mean? What would the drafters of the Bill of Rights have had to write if they really meant the right “shall not be infringed”? Does the phrase “the right of the people” provide a different level of protection in the Second Amendment than in the First and Fourth?
But the total elimination of gun control is not under consideration by the Supreme Court. The question is what constitutes “reasonable” regulation. The DOJ brief argues that if the DC government says gun control is important for public safety, it should be allowed by the courts. What the appeals court argued is that gun regulations not only need to be reasonable, they need to withstand “strict scrutiny” — a test that ensures the regulations are narrowly tailored to achieve the desired goal.
Perhaps the Justice Department’s position isn’t too surprising. Like any other government agency, it has a hard time giving up its authority. The Justice Department’s bias can been seen in that it finds it necessary to raise the specter of machine guns 10 times when evaluating a law that bans handguns. Nor does the brief even acknowledge that after the ban, D.C.’s murder rate only once fell below what it was in 1976.
Worried about the possibility that a Supreme Court decision supporting the Second Amendment as an individual right could “cast doubt on the constitutionality of existing federal legislation,” the Department of Justice felt it necessary to head off any restrictions on government power right at the beginning.
But all is not lost. The Supreme Court can of course ignore the Bush administration’s advice, but the brief does carry significant weight. President Bush has the power to fix this by ordering that the solicitor general brief be withdrawn or significantly amended. Unfortunately, it may take an uprising by voters to rein in the Justice Department.
— John Lott is the author of “Freedomnomics", upon which part of this article is based, and a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.
January 16, 2008 12:00 AM
At a press conference, Governor Romney describes his fiscally conservative approach to budgeting (Photo courtesy of http://www.mittromney.com)
I need a man. A man who can say “No.” A man who rejects Big Nanny government. A man who thinks being president doesn’t mean playing Santa Claus. A man who won’t panic in the face of economic pain. A man who won’t succumb to media-driven sob stories.
A man who can look voters, the media, and the Chicken Littles in Congress in the eye and say the three words no one wants to hear in Washington: Suck. It. Up.
The Michigan primary put economics at the top of the political radar screen, and the Democrat presidential candidates have been doling out spending proposals, stimulus packages, housing market rescues, and other election-year-goodie pledges like Pez candy dispensers gone haywire. Which leading GOP candidate represents fiscal accountability and limited government? Who will take the side of responsible homeowners and responsible borrowers livid at bipartisan bailout plans for a minority of Americans who bought more house than they should have and took out unwise mortgages they knew they couldn’t repay?
I don’t want to hear Republicans recycling the Blame Predatory Lenders rhetoric of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Jesse Jackson. Enough with the victim card. Borrowers are not all saints. There’s nothing compassionate about taking money from prudent, frugal families and using it to aid their reckless neighbors and co-workers who moved into McMansions they couldn’t afford or went crazy tapping their home equity and now find themselves underwater.
Economist Tyler Cowen points out the problem of predatory borrowing — something you never hear politicians spotlight. He notes, “As much as 70 percent of recent early payment defaults had fraudulent misrepresentations on their original loan applications,” according to research on more than three million loans done by BasePoint Analytics. “Many of the frauds were simple rather than ingenious. In some cases, borrowers who were asked to state their incomes just lied, sometimes reporting five times actual income; other borrowers falsified income documents by using computers. Too often, mortgage originators and middlemen looked the other way rather than slowing down the process or insisting on adequate documentation of income and assets. As long as housing prices kept rising, it didn’t seem to matter.”
Message to Washington: Stop treating every defaulting borrower like Mother Teresa.
At last week’s FoxNews debate in New Hampshire, the He-Men of the GOP field went all mealy-mouthed when asked about the signs of recession. Mitt Romney asserted our need to “stop the housing crisis.” Does he mean the government should insulate borrowers and lenders from culpability? Continue to artificially prop up housing prices? If so, why? If not, then what?
Last month, Mike Huckabee told an NPR reporter unequivocally that it “is not the purpose of government to prop people up from every poor decision they make.” Amen, Reverend Huckabee. But at the New Hampshire debate, he sheepishly avoided tough pronouncements and instead voiced support for President Bush’s Hillarycare-Lite housing bailout since it “didn’t involve tax dollars.” Yet.
Huckabee is comforting himself and his followers with semantic self-delusion. The Bush measures — including a subprime interest-rate freeze, a proposed expansion of the freeze to cover prime-rate borrowers, and a push to increase the availability of so-called jumbo mortgages and to lift the $417,000 loan cap — are the camel’s nose under the tent. Eventually, responsible taxpayers will pay.
As for “Straight Talk” Senator John McCain, he immediately pitched federal education and job-training programs for laid-off workers. “We need to go to the community colleges and design education and training programs so that these workers get a second chance. That’s our obligation as a nation.” It is? This is conservative? This is the alternative to Clintoncare? No, this is Clintoncare. Why can’t Americans be expected to pay for their own schooling and retraining?
Fred Thompson, supposedly the conservative’s conservative, asserted the need for a fiscal stimulus: “I think that has to be considered somewhere along the line if the economy calls for it.”
McCain and Romney want expansion of the Federal Housing Administration to allow borrowers to refinance — on the backs of taxpayers. Rudy Giuliani wants government aid for borrowers who were “cheated.” No word on what he would do to borrowers who did the cheating.
As we head toward Super Tuesday, the subprime mess and the economy will dominate — and the Do Something Democrat candidates will turn their spigot of overextended-homeowner sob stories on full blast. Do Republicans want a clear alternative to liberal-nomics? Or will you settle for a lip-service conservative who will reward fiscal recklessness with only slightly less government intervention than the Dems?
I’m still looking for Mr. Right. Remember: You’ll have me at “Suck. It. Up.”
Michelle Malkin is author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
January 15, 2008 / 8 Shevat 5768
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud walks with US President George W. Bush after dinner in Riyadh. Bush appealed to oil producers to act over "very high" prices, broaching a sensitive topic on the second day of talks with Abdullah of OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia.
During his recent trip to Israel, President Bush visited several places that re-affirmed his faith, including Bethlehem and the Sea of Galilee. Then exhibiting far greater faith than believing Jesus could walk on water, he asserted that "peace" could be had between Israel, the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors. One exhibition of faith has some historic roots and witnesses; the other is rooted in fantasy.
Since 1937, there have been 18 formal attempts by commissions, conferences, resolutions, summits and other gatherings to persuade the Jewish lamb to lie down with the Arab lion. All have failed. This latest attempt by President Bush, like those of presidents before him, will also fail, no matter the level of rhetoric or pressure on Israel to "do more." As Hillel Halkin writes in the January issue of Commentary magazine, "When time after time a problem cannot be resolved, it is reasonable to suspect that it may be unresolvable, at least in the manner in which it is conceived."
That manner of false conception is that the Palestinian side, in conjunction with Arab and Muslim states, will stop trying to destroy Israel if a new state is created in the region. From such a state, enhanced by a "right of return" that would flood Israel with enemies of Zionism and encourage those committed to Israel's destruction that the end of the Jewish state is at hand would come the final days of Israel's modern existence.
As the president's visit neared, one might have expected the Palestinians, were they interested in peace, to at least tone down anti-Israel rants. According to Palestinian Media Watch, the government-controlled television station instead "intensified its rhetoric calling for the destruction of Israel by advocating the "liberation" of Haifa, Tiberias, Acre and Tel Aviv," cities that do not figure in the debate over Israeli "occupation" of Palestinian land.
Amidst all of this, President Bush suggested more Israeli concessions to the Palestinians might have to be part of a peace agreement (such as dismantling homes on land claimed by Palestinians), while promising a monitoring process that supposedly would police any agreement. The monitors would not be given enforcement powers. The fallacy of such a monitoring process can be seen in previous agreements, which required the Palestinian side to cease terror, stop using television to insight violence against Jews, reform textbooks that teach hatred of Jews and Christians and respect a ceiling in the number of Palestinian police allowed to carry weapons.
The Palestinian government has failed to comply with a single agreement. Rather than acknowledge they are waist deep in the "Big Muddy," the big fools in the Bush administration say to "push on."
There is not a credible statement, action, sermon or policy utterance by anyone in the Arab-Muslim-Palestinian world that gives any hope for a repeal of their expressed goal to destroy Israel and "liberate" Arab land. Honest enemies will say that includes land "occupied," beginning in 1948, when Israel became a state at the behest of the United Nations.
Instead of a credible plan for countering global jihadists and Palestinian "liberationists" committed to Israel's (and America's) destruction, the Bush administration continues to practice a faith rooted in self-deception. If, after all of Israel's concessions, her enemies have failed to take a single step toward peace, what makes anyone think that more concessions will turn a one-way street into a two-lane thoroughfare?
Even if a deal is concluded, the best that can be expected from the Palestinian side is a temporary lull in the violence followed by the creation of a pretext for more violence and demands for new concessions.
President Bush repeated a familiar line in Israel that he believes G-d's gift of freedom is to every person, not just Americans. If that is so, why don't those in oppressed Arab and Muslim states overthrow their dictatorial leaders? Why don't these "un-free" people support the freedom in those countries to which some flee instead of seeking to undermine them and separate themselves from culture and national life? Their idea of freedom is to be free of our freedom and impose Sharia law on all.
Instead of stepping into this unresolvable (by America) breach, it may be time to step back, let the parties fight it out and — as in Northern Ireland — reach a peace agreement on their own, after both sides are exhausted and sick of fighting.
This latest Bush push for peace can only bring more war and less stability for America's "friend."
Palo Alto Open Space Preserve
Tom Ferris / Security-Protocols
It was front-page news on the January 14th issue of the San Francisco Chronicle that blacks by the tens of thousands have left the San Francisco Bay area since the 1990 census.
Since my book Applied Economics analyzed this situation a few years ago, it was nice to see that the information has finally reached the San Francisco Chronicle, though they have yet to explain the politics and the economics behind the exodus.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not peculiar to the San Francisco Bay Area and blacks are not the only group being forced out of upscale liberal communities in California. It is much the same story in Monterey and Los Angeles, for example.
Skyrocketing housing prices are forcing out families with children, as well as blacks and other people with low or even moderate incomes.
But these runaway housing prices in California did not just happen for no reason.
Prior to 1970, California housing prices were very similar to housing prices in the rest of the country. In more recent times, it has not been uncommon for California homes to cost three times what homes cost nationwide.
What happened in the 1970s was that severe government restrictions on building became common in coastal California. With supply restricted and demand not restricted, it was inevitable that prices would soar beyond many people's ability to pay.
The main impetus behind severe restrictions on building is environmentalist zealots who demand that vast amounts of land be set aside as "open space" on which nothing can be built.
It is not uncommon for substantial proportions of all the land in an entire county -- sometimes more than half -- to be set aside as "open space."
Environmentalists often talk as if they are trying to save the last few patches of greenery from being paved over, when in fact 90 percent of the land in the United States is undeveloped and forests alone cover more area than all the cities and towns in the country combined.
Behind much of the lofty and pretty talk are some ugly and selfish realities.
People who already own their homes in an upscale community pay no price for making it hard for others to move into their community. On the contrary, the value of the homes they already own shoots up when they restrict the supply of new homes.
In other words, they can keep out the less affluent people -- or, as they put it, "preserve the character of the community" -- while benefiting themselves economically in the name of green idealism.
"Open space" laws are just one of the weapons in their arsenal. Other legal impediments to building include so-called "smart growth" policies, historical preservation laws, and zoning boards and coastal commissions with arbitrary powers to limit or forbid building.
The financially ruinous powers of delay that these and other laws and institutions can impose on anyone wanting to build anything can be illustrated by a current legal case involving a developer who has for 15 years been prevented from building in the coastal California town of Half Moon Bay.
A judge recently awarded him $36 million in damages but that decision has been appealed. Anyone familiar with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals knows that anything can happen there -- including more years of delay.
Someone once said that the ability to tax is the ability to destroy. So is the ability to delay.
When a business sets standards or policies with adverse effects that fall disproportionately on minorities, courts call that a "disparate impact" and equate it with discrimination.
But the same liberals who applaud that approach when it comes to businesses would be appalled if the same standard were applied to their own environmentalist restrictions that force vast numbers of blacks out of their own upscale liberal communities.
Nor do black "leaders" who are quick to cry "discrimination" and "racism" in other contexts. Apparently it all depends on whose ox is gored.
Copyright 2008, Creators Syndicate Inc.
Monday, January 14, 2008
January 14, 2008
Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Arthur H. Rosenfeld, a California Energy Commission member, said reducing electricity use could prevent power cutoffs.
Last December, President Bush signed an energy bill that will ban the sale of Edison's incandescent bulb, starting with the 100-watt bulb in 2012 and ending with the 40-watt bulb by 2014.
You say, "Hey, Williams, what's wrong with saving energy, reducing our carbon footprint and stopping global warming?" Before you get too enthused over governmental energy-saving efforts, you might ponder what's down the road.
The California Energy Commission has recently proposed amendments to its standards for energy efficiency (www.energy.ca.gov/2007publications/CEC- 400-2007-017/CEC-400-2007-017-45DAY.PDF).
These standards include a requirement that any new or modified heating or air conditioning system must include a programmable communicating thermostat (PCT) whose settings can be remotely controlled by government authorities. A thermostat czar, sitting in Sacramento, would be empowered to remotely reduce the heating or cooling of your house during what he deems as an "emergency event."
Say you disagree with the czar's temperature setting for your house, the California Energy Commission is one step ahead of you with the provision: "The PCT shall not allow customer changes to thermostat settings during emergency events." In other words, the thermostat must be configured in a way that doesn't allow the customer to override the czar's decision.
Some people might agree with this level of government control over their lives, but if these amendments become law, you can safely bet other intrusive energy-saving proposals are waiting in the wing.
For now, California's energy Nazis are simply testing how much intrusiveness Californians will peaceably accept. I can easily imagine California's Energy Commission requiring remotely controlled main circuit-breaker boxes that control all the electricity coming into your house. That would enable the energy czar to better manage your use.
Say you're preparing a big dinner. The energy czar might decide you don't need so much heat in the rest of the house. Or, preparing a big dinner might mean the energy czar would turn off the energy to your washing machine and dryer while the electric stove is on.
There's no end to what the energy czar could do, particularly if he enlists the aid of California's Department of Health Services. Getting six to eight hours sleep each night is healthy; good health lowers health costs. So why not make it possible for the energy czar to turn the lights off at a certain hour?
California's Department of Education knows children should do their homework after school rather than sit playing videogames or watching television. The energy czar could improve education outcomes simply by turning off the television, or at least turning off all noneducational programs.
Of course, there could be a generous provision whereby if an adult is present, he could use a password to operate the television.
You say, "Williams, you must be mad. All that would never happen." That's the same charge one might have made back in the '60s, when the anti-tobacco movement started, if someone predicted that the day would come when some cities, such as Calabasas, Calif., would outlaw smoking on public streets.
Back in the '60s, had someone predicted that there would be bans on restaurants serving foie gras; citations for driving without a seat belt, that the government said would be unnecessary if cars had air bags; and school bans on kids having peanut butter sandwiches in their lunchbox, I'm sure people would have said that would never happen.
California's Energy Commission, along with its legislature, has the power to mandate that all existing — as well as new — heating and cooling devices have programmable communicating thermostats by 2009. After all, it's never too early to start saving energy or prepare for an "emergency event." The reason they won't is because they would encounter too much political resistance. Their agenda is far more achievable using techniques dear to all tyrants: There's less resistance if liberty is taken away a little bit at a time.
Walter E. Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist and professor of economics at George Mason University.
Monday, January 14, 2008
U.S. President George W. Bush, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, are seen during an official departure ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, Jan. 11, 2008. President Bush said Friday that he would return to the Mideast in May to continue pushing the Israelis and Palestinians toward a peace treaty and celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
The Palestinian “right of return” entered the lexicon of American policymakers in December 2006, when the Iraq Study Group Report urged the U.S. government to support Israel-Palestinian negotiations that addresses what it termed a “key final status issue.” That recommendation came as a mild shock, given that the “right of return” to Israel is transparently a code phrase to overwhelm Israel demographically, thereby undoing Zionism and the Jewish state, and so a notion never before a goal of official Washington.
A year later, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino adopted the term, though without much notice. Out of seemingly nowhere, she informed journalists at a press briefing on November 28, 2007 that “The right of return issue is a part of the road map and it's going to be one of the issues that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to talk about during … negotiations.”
Indeed, on schedule, “right of return” emerged as a motif before and during George W. Bush’s recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, when he mentioned it three times publicly:
· January 4: In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Bush announced himself “optimistic that we can have the outlines of a state defined. In other words, negotiations on borders and right of return and these different issues can be settled.”
· January 9: At a joint press conference with Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he referred to the core issues of the conflict as “territory and right of return and Jerusalem.”
· January 10: In a parallel joint press conference with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, he stated that the two-state idea “really doesn’t have much bearing until borders are defined, right of return issues resolved, Jerusalem is understood, … [and] the common security measures will be in place.”
In a different setting, also on January 10, Bush, somewhat elusively, stated his belief that “we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue.” Is the “right of return” to be one of those new international mechanisms?
(1) Despite the major shift in policy implied by the U.S. government adopting the “right of return,” the media has largely missed the story, as “The Lurker” documents in “Censoring Bush’s call for Palestinian ‘right of return’.” In particular, the Jerusalem Post reported on this reference, then posted a second story denying it.
(2) When the Iraq Study Group Report first appeared, analysts puzzled over the “right of return” mention, as one person close to the process explained: “It’s hard to know whether that language got in there because of carelessness – I know there were many revisions up to the very last minute – or whether it was a deliberate attempt to fuse something to the Bush rhetoric which wasn’t there before.” Retrospectively, it appears that the reference was indeed intentional – and quite successful in its purpose. “The Lurker” concludes, perhaps correctly, that James A. Baker, III, lead author of the Iraq Study Group Report, “has once again become a major factor in setting U.S. Middle East policy.”
(3) This is only one of several problematic statements from the Bush administration, such as the president’s morally equivalent reference to “terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis” or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s calling the Arab-Israeli conflict the central issue of the Middle East and seeing Palestinians as analogous to Southern blacks.
(4) Bush prefaced his January 10 comment by asserting, “I’m the only president that’s really articulated a two-state solution so far,” and he is right. Put differently, he is the only U.S. president to promote a “Palestine” and now to call for a Palestinian “right of return.” More broadly, throughout his presidency, Bush has marched to his own drummer on the Arab-Israeli issue, offering novel and personal solutions to a century-old problem and throwing out the rulebook on Arab-Israeli diplomacy.
(5) One can only guess how often Bush raised the “right of return” in his private conversations with Israelis and Palestinians, and with what intensity and pressure.
(6) Looking ahead, to the last year of the Bush presidency, quoting myself: “should the Israelis resist a joint U.S.-Palestinian position, I see a possible crisis in U.S.-Israel relations of unprecedented proportions.” I am not predicting this will happen but noting that the pieces are all in place for such a development.
Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).