Saturday, June 09, 2007

Clemens Claims 349th Career Win in 07 Debut

NY Yankees 9, Pittsburgh 3

June 9, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Rocket returned with a win.

Roger Clemens shook off some early rust and gave the surging New York Yankees the lift they were looking for, leading them to a 9-3 victory Saturday over the Pittsburgh Pirates in his long-awaited season debut.

Pitching in pinstripes for the first time in four years, Clemens labored through the first few innings but got more effective as the afternoon wore on. He struck out seven in six solid innings and retired his final seven batters, leaving with a signature fist pump just before receiving a playful tap on the rear from Derek Jeter.

Making his latest comeback, the 44-year-old Clemens allowed three runs, five hits and two walks against the punchless Pirates, who entered with the lowest on-base percentage in the National League (.312).

Alex Rodriguez drove in two runs for the Yankees, who have won a season-best five straight and eight of 10 overall. Robinson Cano had three hits.

After spending the past three seasons with his hometown Houston Astros, Clemens came out of retirement again when he agreed May 6 to a prorated, one-year contract with the Yankees worth $28,000,022 -- the last two digits matching his uniform number.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner had three tuneups in the minors and was originally scheduled to return to the Yankees last Monday at the Chicago White Sox, but his outing was pushed back because of an ailing groin.

Clemens, who helped New York to two World Series titles and four AL pennants from 1999-2003, got a huge hand from the sellout crowd of 54,296 as he walked to the mound. Just before the first pitch, Jeter came in from shortstop for a quick chat and a pat on the chest.

Clemens struck out Ryan Doumit with his 108th and final pitch, pumped his fist in familiar fashion and then walked slowly to the dugout as Elton John's "Rocket Man" played over the loudspeakers. Jeter ran up behind him, spun excitedly and tapped him with his glove.

That's the kind of spark and enthusiasm the Yankees (29-31) hoped Clemens' presence would provide after they slumped through the first third of the season.

For one day at least, it did.

"This is the start of something we hope will be very special for us the rest of the way, at a point in our season where we think we're making a statement about who we are," manager Joe Torre said.

Though his low 90s mph fastball was far from overpowering, Clemens (1-0) earned his 349th win -- eighth on the career list. He finished the day with 4,611 career strikeouts, passing Randy Johnson for second place behind Nolan Ryan (5,714).

The Rocket, who dominated the Pirates while with Houston, also improved to 6-1 in nine starts against Pittsburgh.

Brian Bruney, Kyle Farnsworth and Luis Vizcaino finished up with scoreless relief.

Clemens gave up a clean single in the first to leadoff batter Jose Bautista, who advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Adam LaRoche's two-out single.

The Yankees quickly gave Clemens a 3-1 lead in the bottom half. Jeter's double put runners at second and third before Rodriguez hit an RBI groundout. Jeter scored on Jorge Posada's single, and Cano added an RBI single off Paul Maholm (2-9).

Clemens couldn't hold it. With two outs in the fourth, he walked light-hitting Ronny Paulino before Jack Wilson hit a two-run double over right fielder Bobby Abreu's head to tie it 3-all.

Posada's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fifth put the Yankees ahead, and they made it 6-3 in the sixth on Abreu's RBI single and Rodriguez's sacrifice fly off John Grabow.

Center fielder Melky Cabrera made a leaping catch to take away extra bases -- and possibly a home run -- from Paulino in the seventh.

Cano opened the bottom half with a double and the Yankees added two runs on a throwing error by left fielder Jason Bay and an RBI grounder by Johnny Damon.

Maholm dropped to 0-5 in his past six starts.


The Pirates placed reliever Salomon Torres on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow and purchased the contract of RHP Masumi Kuwata from Triple-A Indianapolis. The 39-year-old Kuwata was a famous starter in Japan, but he will work out of Pittsburgh's bullpen. He missed the first two months of the season after injuring his ankle in a March 26 spring training collision with umpire Wally Bell. ... To make roster room for Clemens, the Yankees optioned reliever Chris Britton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and transferred rookie RHP Phil Hughes (strained left hamstring) from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. ... The Yankees pulled off a pair of double steals in the sixth and hit three sacrifice flies overall.

Right from the Beginning

Bill Buckley and look inside his second baby.

June 06, 2007, 6:00 a.m.


Firing Line, July 15, 1971.
California governor Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr. discuss the question "Is it possible to be a good governor?"

Linda Bridges, a National Review senior editor, is a living, breathing institutional memory — of NR and of everything Buckley. And so it was only natural that she would share her knowledge, experience, and endearing stories with the world as she has, with John Coyne Jr., in the new book Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement . Linda recently took some questions from colleague Kathryn Lopez, NRO editor, on the book and on the man who started it all.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Where would the conservative movement be without William F. Buckley Jr. Is that the goal of your book — answering that question?

Linda Bridges: Well, that’s part of it, and a big part. But an equally important question is: Who is Bill Buckley, and what is he like when he’s not out in the public arena? And, Who are his friends and collaborators, and how has he worked with them, both at National Review and more broadly in the conservative movement?

Lopez: You refer to NR’s 20th anniversary party as “a modest affair at the Plaza.” Not too modest, I assume?

Bridges: No, not too modest. There were six hundred glamorously dressed people crowded into arguably the most beautiful ballroom in New York; those present included Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, and Clare Boothe Luce (and also folks on the other side of the political spectrum like Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor). The buffet, planned by Pat Buckley, was described by several columnists as “Lucullan,” and Bill’s favorite jazz pianist, Dick Wellstood, led a fine little combo.

It was ten years later — at the 30th anniversary party, attended by President and Mrs. Reagan — that Pat had the Plaza prepare her signature chicken pot pie for the guests, who had paid $175 to attend. This freaked out at least one liberal columnist. “How,” Dave Rossie sputtered, “do you explain a $175 chicken pot pie to people who scrounge for food in garbage cans?”

Lopez: What will readers of your book be most surprised to learn about WFB? Was there anything you were surprised to learn?

Bridges: I can’t say there was anything I was surprised to learn by the time John Coyne and I started to write this book. But remember, I’ve worked for and with Bill for more than 35 years. Also, I had done some biographical research in the course of various projects I worked on for him — I prepared the descriptive catalogue that accompanied the Firing Line archive to the Hoover Institution, and I helped him round up the material for his collections Miles Gone By and Let Us Talk of Many Things.

But there were things about him that surprised me when I first learned them many years ago, and that I think will surprise many readers. Most striking, I think, is the fact that while he thrives on public controversy and has a real instinct for the jugular in debate, he hates personal confrontations and unpleasantness. And the obverse of that is his real kindness in situations where many people would have torn a strip off someone who made a dumb and costly mistake.

Lopez: Is there any one piece you’ll forever be proud of having worked on at NR?

Bridges: Oh, far too many to mention. But the ones that I would cite in particular are the piece that I did quoting heavily from the Bukovsky Papers, which detailed the Soviet use of psychiatric hospitals to punish dissidents; and a Solzhenitsyn piece where I handled the complicated negotiations with his translator.

Lopez: Do you have a favorite WFB piece? Book?

Bridges: Book — I guess I’d have to say Miles Gone By, since that’s a collection of so many favorite pieces. To name just a handful: his Yale 40th reunion; “The Last Years of Whittaker Chambers”; his account of his childhood at Great Elm in Sharon, Connecticut; his first meetings with ten people who would become close friends; his obituary of his mother; and the piece he describes as “my Hamlet, my Gettysburg Address, my Ninth Symphony”: “Why Don’t We Complain?”

But I’d also have to list some of the novels, especially Saving the Queen, Stained Glass, See You Later Alligator, and The Redhunter — this last the story of Joe McCarthy, with a wonderful subplot about the Senator’s fictional sometime assistant, Harry Bontecue.

And The Unmaking of a Mayor, an offbeat gem of a campaign book. And the one he called, while he was writing it, “my Catholic book,” Nearer, My God. And . . . No, I’d better stop there.

Lopez: With so much nonfiction to write, why did he bother with Blackford Oakes?

Bridges: Well, initially because of a challenge posed by Doubleday editor Sam Vaughan — at that time a friendly acquaintance of Bill’s, who has since become a close friend. As John and I recount in the book, Sam asked Bill what he had recently read that was interesting. When he mentioned a popular spy-thriller, Sam said, Why don’t you write a spy novel? And after some back-and-forthing on the terms of the deal, he did.

Why did he keep writing them? Because he had things to say about the Cold War, about the nature of the United States and the Soviet Union, that he found he could say more effectively by illustrating his points through his characters’ actions and reactions.

Lopez: We all know WFB as The Right Wordsmith. But you’ve been editing him for decades. So let us in on a secret: What are his grammar flaws? Flaw?

Bridges: None, really. That is, he sometimes slips — say, on agreement of subject and verb — but those are really just typos; it’s not that he doesn’t understand the grammatical point.

Oh, well, I guess William Shawn, the longtime editor of The New Yorker, would say that Bill’s idiosyncratic punctuation constitutes a grammar flaw. “Mr. Buckley,” Mr. Shawn once told him, “I really do not think that you know the correct use of the comma.”

If you broaden the question a little, then I would say his principal writing flaw is having a tin ear for popular culture. Back in the Seventies, before I inserted the correct version into the NR stylebook, he twice put on the cover of NR the unchantable chant: “Ho ho ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is bound to win.”

Lopez: What story did you have to cut from the book but really wish you didn’t have to?

Bridges: There were no Bill stories that we cut once they were written, but there’s one I wish we had tracked down in time to include. It’s the story of how Bill saved his friend Reggie Stoops from drowning. It was in the Long Island Sound in winter, and their dinghy had capsized half a mile from shore. They had made it nearly all the way when Reggie said he couldn’t go on. Bill wouldn’t accept that. This wasn’t Reagan-as-lifeguard stuff: half frozen himself, Bill didn’t actually pull Reggie the remaining 50 yards. But he sang at him, and prayed at him, and ordered him not to give up.

Lopez: What’s your most fun Mrs. Buckley memory?

Bridges: Well, my favorite Pat story is not a personal memory of mine — I was told it by others who were there (including her husband). But it has to do with the time in Switzerland when the Buckleys’ dear friends (though political opponents) Ken and Kitty Galbraith came to visit them, bringing along a friend of theirs, none other than Ted Kennedy. The Galbraiths lived in Gstaad, the Buckleys in Rougemont, a few miles down the valley. They spent a pleasant afternoon together, and then the Galbraiths had to continue down the valley towards Geneva, while Kennedy stayed on. Finally it was time for him to return to Gstaad, and rather than take the train he asked if he could borrow a car. “You certainly may not,” said Pat. “There are three bridges between here and Gstaad.”

As for personal memories, I don’t have anything that can compete with Rick Brookhiser’s or Van Galbraith’s first encounter with Pat. But there was a brief conversation last summer that gives a window on her relationship with her husband. He and three friends had just set out on a week’s sail in Maine and New Brunswick. Their second morning out, my office phone rang. It was Van telling me that the engine had broken down and giving me the information I would need in case the boatyard called here. Then he said, “Bill asks you to call Patsy and tell her we’re having engine trouble but we’re all perfectly fine.” I rang her and delivered the message. Her voice was sharp: “Why didn’t he call me himself?” Well, I explained, their cell phones weren’t working up there in the wilds, and because of Bill’s emphysema he didn’t want to make the trek to the nearest pay phone. This time she gave a peal of laughter, followed by “Thank you very much for calling.”

Lopez: Who were “Buckley Democrats”? Should Republicans be courting them in 2008?

Bridges: The term refers to WFB’s New York City mayoral race in 1965. “Buckley Democrats” were mostly white ethnics, many of them Catholic, who supported the police when they were accused of brutality, who wanted neighborhood control of the schools, and who resented the burgeoning welfare state. They also (though this wasn’t so much an issue in the mayoral race itself) were patriotic Americans who were angry at the growing anti-Americanism on campuses and in the left wing of the Democratic party.

Fifteen years later many of these Buckley Democrats became Reagan Republicans, and most of them (or their offspring) have remained Republicans ever since. But whatever party these people now belong to, Republican candidates should indeed be courting them — as well as voters in other parts of the country who might not share the Buckley Democrats’ ethnic and religious characteristics but who are hard-working mainstream Americans. The way to do this, we would say, is by running on a platform of smaller government, meaning lower taxes and less regulatory intrusion in our lives; reform of the legal system, in terms both of criminal justice and of tort law; and a strong defense, including continued work on the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Lopez: What was it about Ronald Reagan that made most at NR, as you say, think of him as “our guy”?

Bridges: He said all the right things, and said them in language that resonated with people of all sorts of backgrounds; and his record as governor of California showed that he really believed the things he said. Sure, we at NR might disagree with him on this individual point or that (and in the book John and I recount a few times when Bill and/or National Review took Reagan pretty sharply to task). But unlike Nixon or either of the Bushes, there was no need for the sort of calculation: “He’s good on X — can we put up with Y?” Reagan was one of us.

Bob Klapisch: Rocket will fuel big energy boost

Bergen County Record

Saturday, June 9, 2007

NEW YORK -- During his first tenure in pinstripes, Roger Clemens would shock his teammates by rubbing heating liniment all over his body -- practically cooking his skin before taking the mound in order to stimulate every nerve ending. Crazy? You bet, but that's what made the Rocket so unique: Pitching in an altered state was his natural state.

When he walks into the clubhouse this morning, Clemens will be greeted by a legion of Yankees who obviously know of him and respect him. But Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu -- not to mention youngsters such as Robbie Cano and Melky Cabrera -- have no idea that a John Wayne-type leader is about to join their ranks.

This much is certain: No one had better get in the Rocket's way, at least not after the countdown begins to that other world Clemens travels to when he's pitching. He's the anti-Damon, as focused as the center fielder is playful. Imagine the newer Yankees' shock when they hear Clemens shouting at himself between innings in the dugout runway, beating himself up over pitch location.

That's unheard-of behavior among the laid-back Yankees. Derek Jeter, Mr. Cool, doesn't act that way. Damon, Mr. Nice Guy, certainly doesn't. Manager Joe Torre doesn't give off that kind of intensity. For all their talent, the Bombers mostly sleep-walked through the first two months of the season, leaving them a million miles out of first place.

Can Clemens change that? The Yankees would be wrong to think one player – a pitcher, no less – can remake their profile. But it'll be a different clubhouse starting today, and it's not impossible to imagine that energy spilling over onto the field.

If so, this will be the smartest $18 million general manager Brian Cashman has ever invested, just because there are no David Justice-like trades to make this year. Unlike 2000, when Justice was acquired from Cleveland and single-handedly took the Yankees to the World Series, Cashman already has made his move. It's Clemens and tightly crossed fingers from here to October.

"The fact that Roger is who is he, definitely helps you believe you'll have an advantage over the other team," Torre was saying on Friday afternoon. "Roger commands attention and respect. We're starting to feel good about ourselves, and Roger's presence adds to that."

Of course, the Yankees are rightfully cautioning against expectations that exceed the capabilities of a 44-year-old man. Remember, Clemens suffered a strained groin after his third minor league start, so it's anyone's guess how he'll respond to a more taxing assignment today against the Pirates.

The stadium will be sold out. The dejà vu will cover the Yankees like a second skin. The Rocket will take a deep breath, and for one moment of magic, it'll feel like 1999 or 2000 again, back when he threw 96 mph fastballs and the Yankees were just as untouchable.

That's the kind of script Torre and Cashman dream about, although they know the reality will be somewhat grainier. The Rocket's fastball is now clocked at a more modest 90-91 mph, and he rarely uses it in strikeout situations. Instead, the right-hander relies on the splitter and two-seam fastball, trying to out-think and outguess hitters who are no longer intimidated by his arsenal.

While Clemens' skills have eroded since he left the Yankees in 2003, his ability to control hitters' bat speed has become more polished. One scout who has followed the Rocket's progression this year says: "I think he's actually a better pitcher than he used to be. In terms of getting outs, you can pretty much count on him giving you a good game."

And that's all the Yankees are asking for. Forget the blowaway radar gun readings, or the double-digit strikeout totals. None of that matters anymore. Torre would be happy with five or six solid innings in a low-scoring game, which is more than the Yankees have been getting from Matt DeSalvo and Tyler Clippard for the last month.

Clemens is about to give the Yankees the aura of invincibility they've been lacking. Now, as Jorge Posada put it: "We feel we can win every game in a series. We need that confidence."

If first impressions count for anything, it should be a profitable June for Clemens. He's scheduled to face three National League teams -- the Pirates today, the Mets on Friday and the Rockies in another 10 days -- before hunkering down against the more challenging American League lineups.

We'll know long before the All-Star break if the Yankees are getting their money's worth from Clemens. But if nothing else, they're getting an attitude upgrade. As much of a stranger some Yankees are to the Rocket, he's equally unaware how soft the Bombers have become, and how they've been replaced by the Red Sox as the division's tough guys.

Think the Rocket will let that stand? Just wait until the final 45 minutes before game time today, when he affects that million-mile stare, and he gives off a vibe that says – even to teammates – no trespassing.

After that comes the liniment. The Yankees should consider this fair warning.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Mark Krikorian: Amnesty, R.I.P.

A Bad Deal Dies

June 8, 2007 5:30 AM

How could the Senate amnesty bill have possibly failed? It was supported by the president, the majority party and prominent members of the minority, plus Big Business, Big Labor, Big Media, and Big Religion.

And yet the motion Thursday night to end debate and move to a final vote on the bill was soundly rejected, failing to garner even a majority, let alone the necessary 60 votes.The reason was simple — public outrage.

Immigration is one of those areas where public and elite views differ widely (for instance, see here and here). But most of the time that doesn’t really matter, because immigration seldom ranks high enough in voter concerns for politicians to take much notice. This gives lawmakers and bureaucrats a relatively free hand to cater to the preferences of businesses and racial-identity groups and anti-borders activists in promoting ever-higher immigration levels and ever-looser enforcement.

But that only works when you’re pushing bills or administrative measures that are relatively narrow and targeted. Most people have no idea what H1b visas are, let alone whether they should be increased or decreased. The attorney general’s decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of Central American illegal aliens is something most reporters — let alone ordinary readers — don’t understand, and thus receives little scrutiny in the media.

The accumulation of such small measures has a large effect, but it’s hard for non-specialists to see, and so it continues, like the proverbial frog sitting still in a pot of water while the temperature approaches boiling.

But when you assemble a huge “comprehensive” Frankenstein’s monster of a bill, stitching together body parts from all different aspects of the issue, it’s a different story. Then the media, and thus the public, start taking notice. And people don’t like what they see.

The result has been an intense outpouring of sentiment against the bill. Senators Chambliss and Graham were actually booed at their own state Republican conventions. Protesters gathered at the district offices of Senators Lott and Kyl . Sen. Alexander made the mistake of holding a town meeting — at which he got an earful about the bill. Republicans in Arizona were tearing up their registration cards and the Republican National Committee saw a 40 percent drop in small-donor contributions.

And every Senate office was inundated by phone calls and faxes — hundreds-to-one against the bill.

The role of blogs and columnists and think tanks in fueling and directing this outrage was essential, with National Review Online and the Heritage Foundation deserving special honors. But senators can still write them off as part of the Washington game rather than real people and real voters. One of the key groups focusing actual grassroots outrage was Numbers USA, which soared past a third of a million members because of public anger over the bill — and these are real citizen activists busily phoning and faxing, not a tally of passive small donors.

It seems that the overreaching of amnesty advocates has politicized a lot of people, and not just conservatives, over the non-enforcement of the immigration law. And that’s a good thing too — if the White House concludes that amnesty is unattainable, there will be a strong temptation to end the enforcement show that’s been staged over the past six months or so, with workplace raids designed to bolster the administration’s credibility on the issue. A vigilant citizenry will be required to ensure that doesn’t happen — that enforcement is not only not discontinued, but that it’s expanded, so we can end the Bush administration’s “silent amnesty” and get to work implementing a real strategy of attrition through enforcement.

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and an NRO contributor.

Christopher Sandford: True Grit

This article first appeared in the June 2007 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.

A remark one often hears from the current crop of film critics is that John Wayne might indeed merit the iconographic status conferred on him by tens of millions of ordinary cinemagoers around the world, were it not for the troubling matter of his alleged evasion of military service during World War II—an issue, it would seem, of rather greater consequence to the more ideologically pristine of the professional reviewers than it is to the civilians who actually pay to watch the movies.

We can only admire the pundits’ own unstinting patriotism, freedom from self-righteousness, exquisite probity, and universal wisdom—particularly the last, in having an opinion about everything. Wayne himself was by no means as self-assured as many of his detractors, and he winningly remarked that “most acting is forgotten in a day, as any good actor knows.”

This was one of his guiding principles, and those who hated him were infuriated not merely by his unparalleled fame, and the quietly disciplined manner in which he went about achieving his uniquely relaxed style, but by the way in which he never aggrandized his profession or believed that a person influences the course of events purely because he happens to “slap on makeup [and] dance around in tights” for a living. He was a standing reproach to the sort of performer who takes himself very seriously indeed and thinks that his work is destined to guide affairs of state.

Wayne was born a century ago, on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa, where he was baptized as Marion Robert Morrison. The all-important name change came about with his first starring role, in the 1930 movie The Big Trail, and, for all the critical sniggering, seems relatively modest compared with that of certain modern counterparts. (To give just two examples, both of a different political stripe from Wayne, the pleasantly demotic-sounding “Alan Alda” entered the world as Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo, while this year’s Best Actress for her performance in The Queen is better known to her loved ones as Ilynea Lydia Mironoff than she is as “Helen Mirren.”)

Wayne had an austere and, it seems reasonable to assume, character-building Midwestern upbringing broadly similar to that of Ronald Reagan, four years his junior. Both men were the product of an only fitfully successful father (an itinerant druggist, in Wayne’s case) and a more obviously formidable mother. Both families eventually migrated to Southern California, where, in a decidedly mixed review of his new surroundings, Wayne recalled,

I had to ride to school on horseback. The horse developed a disease that kept it skinny. We finally had to destroy it, but the nosey biddies of the town called the humane society and accused me, a 7-year-old, of not feeding my horse and watering him.

It was around this time that the boy became “Duke,” because he had an ever-present Airedale terrier of that name; he appears to have been closer to it than to any human relative.

In 1925, Wayne won a football scholarship to the University of Southern California and took a summer job as a scene-shifter and uncredited bit player for nearby Fox Studios. While there, he fell in with the director John Ford, already a veteran of some 60 silent films, turned out at the rate of roughly one per month, whose later product included such screen classics as Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Beginning in 1928, Wayne would appear in more than 20 of Ford’s features, not least among them 1939’s Stagecoach. Here, we’re treated both to a riveting character study and to incomparable action in the form of a protracted Indian attack featuring Yakima Canutt’s celebrated stuntwork. Wayne’s own arrival on the scene as the Ringo Kid remains one of the more arresting entrances in cinema: The audience first sees him framed against the towering flat mesas of Monument Valley, an indelible image that established his quintessentially American, larger-than-life persona that came to assume mythical proportion in such films as The Long Voyage Home and Howard Hawks’s Red River. Of the latter, in which Wayne played a maniacally driven and yet not unsympathetic cattleman named Tom Dunson, Ford remarked, “I never knew the big son of a bitch could act.”

The Searchers (1956) is widely regarded as Wayne’s finest and most complex performance and remains as fresh today as it was more than a half-century ago. It is a continually gripping, sometimes chilling saga, spanning a biblical seven years, which, on one level, works as a straightforward chase story. Wayne’s character, Ethan Edwards, seeks revenge on an Indian named Scar for the kidnap of his young niece. Far from being a mere prototype for the likes of the Death Wish franchise, however, The Searchers offers several beautifully underplayed performances, and Wayne is a revelation as a man given to brooding self-doubt verging on despair, even as he doggedly pursues his quarry. At least one erudite critic has invested the character of Ethan Edwards with classical gravitas and made the connection to Achilles’s fury on the theft of his war prize by Agamemnon. That may be a stretch, but Wayne’s portrayal does have a sense of haunting moral melancholy beneath the obsession that firmly belies the macho stereotype.

Howard Hawks once said of Wayne that his greatest skill lay not so much in his being an all-action hero as its exact opposite. “He [was] observant. He could always find what it had been in an earlier scene that led, logically, to what he was doing just then. Nobody quite grasped the poetry in the flow of film like he did.” It may seem odd to speak of John Wayne and poetry in the same breath, but, in addition to Ethan Edwards, there were to be a number of exquisitely nuanced roles down through the years: His splendidly named Captain Brittles in Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, for example, has a tension, a depth, and a poignancy about him that Wayne’s many imitators could only feebly approximate. Part of the appeal came from the vast physical presence of the man (Wayne remains one of the few actors to have mastered the art of lumbering gracefully), but those increasingly craggy Mount Rushmore features were surely only half the story. Time and again, Wayne manages to combine a stoicism and a vulnerability that embody both sides of the classic frontier myth. The films may not always have been realistic, but, by and large, they felt real and they felt right: If they weren’t, strictly speaking, what the West was like, they were what audiences like to think it was like. By showing us the characters’ inner faltering, Wayne offers a more rounded view of the march of our nation’s history than was provided by Clint Eastwood, at least until the latter embarked on his Late Period with 1992’s Unforgiven.

Wayne’s own latter-day output included the breezy self-parody True Grit (1969), in which he played a hard-drinking Western lawman with an eyepatch, and its mildly lackluster sequel, Rooster Cogburn. These were not the career choices of a man abandoned to his own myth. Along the way, there would also be a variety of less distinguished fare, of which 1963’s McLintock!—in which Wayne treats his estranged wife, played by Maureen O’Hara, to a public spanking—represents a leaden nadir, at least from the feminist standpoint. His final role, as the graying cowboy John Bernard Books in The Shootist (1976), took no small degree of courage to carry off: It’s the tale of a onetime gunslinger who attempts to live his last days dying of cancer in peace, but cannot escape his reputation. Although Wayne had bridled at the psychobiographical interpretation that certain of his films evoked, this one accurately reflected his real-life struggle. In 1963, he’d had a tumorous lung removed; he underwent further major surgery in 1978 and died of stomach cancer in June 1979, aged 72.

As Wayne was a more accomplished actor than might be gleaned from his enduring public image—a male Statue of Liberty—so, too, his politics defied easy characterization. It is true that, from time to time, he delivered propaganda tools of considerable handicraft but limited artistic value. In 1968, at the depths of the Vietnam War, Wayne and his son Michael brought to the screen the seven-million-dollar “epic” The Green Berets, a clichéd salute to the Special Forces about which even the Department of Defense had its doubts. In the context of an implausible yarn about the kidnap of a Vietcong general, the film is content to trot out the stock characters: an Irishman named Muldoon; a noble and largely mute Negro; a cynical journalist; and a feisty neighborhood kid with a pet dog. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the reviewers greeted the Waynes’ military-recruitment exercise with restraint, but, for once, the public joined the critical consensus. Although the film eventually recouped its costs, the U.S. box-office take was less than a third of that of True Grit.

In that fast-dawning Age of Aquarius, which transformed the nation into a cultural and political war zone, Wayne represented an almost archaic figure: the unabashed patriot who helped sustain the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, paid his annual dues to the John Birch Society, and—as if there could be anything worse—supported Barry Goldwater for president. Less well publicized was his extreme personal generosity and espousal of a whole raft of causes not typically associated with the far right. Wayne not only gave his time and money unstintingly but dispensed his favors to those in no position to return them. There is at least one well-equipped children’s ward in a depressed area of Los Angeles that owes its existence to him. Further, he spoke out, 30 years before it became the vogue, on a wide range of environmental and (what would now be called) animal-rights issues. I happen to have spent some of my summers in the early 1970’s on the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington state, where Wayne was known to appear regularly on board his boat The Wild Goose. As I remember, he was more than happy to deflate his public image and was frequently to be seen, sans toupee, engaging the locals in a detailed discussion of the islands’ world-renowned but chronically underfunded bird sanctuary. It was later found that he had quietly donated a five-figure sum of money to the enterprise.

Who knows exactly what happened when Wayne was faced with the prospect of military service? At the time of Pearl Harbor, he was 34 years old, with a shaky marriage and four young children to support. He had just completed a breakthrough performance (in Stagecoach), after 12 years of unrewarding B-movies and bit parts. Perhaps Wayne had his current employer, Republic Pictures, lobby to obtain 3-A status (“Deferred for [family] reasons”) on his behalf. Perhaps the studio needed no encouragement to do so. At any rate, the War Department had already made provision to keep the movies alive by all means possible, the theory being that they contributed to national morale by proving that aspects of normal life could be sustained. From 1941 to 1945, Wayne completed 18 pictures, entertained the troops in the Pacific Theater as part of a USO revue, and toured indefatigably in support of the War Bond Drive. He never sought to varnish or obscure his military record, or lack of it, and ruefully acknowledged toward the end of his life that it would continue to be “manna to whole generations” of critics. He was not mistaken in this belief. Meanwhile, it seems reasonable to assume that the infiltration of the real world by other, more deluded movie stars will continue.

Christopher Sandford is a Seattle-based journalist and author. His biography of Roman Polanski will be published by Century in September.


Gandolfini says he has happily buried the 'Sopranos' character who ate at him

Friday, June 08, 2007

Associated Press
From the Newark Star-Ledger

There was no decisive moment, no seismic shift, no ceremony when James Gandolfini put "The Sopranos" behind him. But he has. Comfortably.

"I was told that it would be a transition," he said and shook his head. "Not much. It's very calming to move on."

In a rare interview last week, Gandolfini reflected on how his relationship with his character soured over time and how he'll miss the writing, but not the grinding work, of one of the most praised series in television history.

Gandolfini has played gangster-in-therapy Tony Soprano -- earning raves, clout and unsought celebrity -- since the debut of the HBO drama in January 1999. The only piece of unfinished business is the finale, which appears Sunday at 9 p.m. and brings to a close a saga as powerful and oddly relatable as anything ever seen on TV.

"Sopranos" fans surely will be left wanting more. But not Gandolfini.

"The character has been with me for so long," the 45-year-old actor said, "it's a relief to let him go."

For 86 episodes, Gandolfini submerged himself in the fiendish, tormented character. He channeled the dark world of series creator David Chase. He was regularly summoned to his own psychic danger zone. All in all, the experience was "wearing," he says.

There was a physical toll, also. "The Sopranos" revolves around Tony, which meant Gandolfini had an exhausting workload.

"But in a way, being tired helped me play the character. If the guy had to look good and be handsome and happy, the hours we worked would certainly not help. They helped me a great deal," he said with a laugh. "I was allowed to be grumpy and tired and look like (garbage)."

Whatever awaits Tony Sunday night -- he was last seen atop a bed in a safe house, an assault weapon in his lap, on guard for an attack by hit men from New York -- Gandolfini said he has already laid the fictional New Jersey mob boss to rest.

Time after time, Gandolfini felt a sense of the end at Silvercup Studios in Queens and on locations such as Tony's home turf in Essex County. All during April, a member of the large "Sopranos" cast would shoot his or her last scene with Gandolfini and depart. Then the star would shoot a last scene with another cast member, who would disappear.

"There wasn't any grand finale," he said -- then suddenly remembered his last scene with Steven Van Zandt, who played Tony's loyal consigliere Silvio since the beginning.

"This is no indication of my feelings toward anyone else, but, for some reason, that really hit me when he left. Wow!"


Gandolfini, who recently signed a production deal with HBO, reflected on "The Sopranos" while taking a break from screening footage for a documentary he's making about U.S. soldiers who recover from near-fatal injuries in Iraq.

Consenting to an interview at HBO headquarters in New York, the famously media-shy actor was down-to-earth and deferential, yet was a formidable presence even without Tony's cockiness and mobster cred. His voice, while reflecting his New Jersey background (he was raised in Bergen County), was richer, more robust than Tony's astringent delivery.

Nursing coffee from a foam cup, he spent nearly an hour in agreeable give-and-take, drawing the line only when one too many questions delved into his acting technique: "Oh, please! Who gives a (damn)?" he scoffed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be abrupt."

He missed no chance to deflect credit toward his colleagues.

"I might be in a lot of scenes, but the crew is in every scene," he pointed out. "The crew is there 16 hours a day, every day.

"And the cast totally propped me up in many scenes. After three or four scenes sometimes I was adrift, and because (the editor) could cut to such other good actors, they were there to help me."


It was a two-way street, according to Michael Imperioli, who played Tony's hothead nephew Christopher, now dead (thanks to Tony's coldhearted intervention after a car crash a few episodes ago).

"Every time you go and do a scene with this guy," Imperioli said at the start of the season, "he manages to give 105 percent. That rubs off. That makes you work harder."

"I had the greatest sparring partner in the world, I had Muhammad Ali," said Lorraine Bracco, who, as Tony's psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi, went one-on-one with Gandolfini in their penetrating therapy scenes. "He cares what he does, and does it extremely well."

Saying goodbye to the crew and his co-stars was harder than saying goodbye to Tony, Gandolfini conceded.

Also hard: no more of those scripts. "Good writing will bring you to places you don't even expect sometimes," he said. "It's a ride that I was along on, with everybody else."

And like everybody else, he couldn't help feeling appalled by Tony's brutish misbehavior. After shooting a scene in which Tony did something despicable, Gandolfini would sometimes upbraid his own character.

"I would say, God, what a --!"

Upon making this unpublishable outburst, Gandolfini helpfully added a family-friendly version: "What a jerk!"

So did he like this jerk who was part of him for so long?

"I used to," he said. "But it's difficult toward the end. I think the thing with Christopher might have turned the corner."

That was a soulless display: Fed up with his nephew's shortcomings, Tony pinched shut the nostrils of the gravely hurt Christopher, ensuring he would die inside the wrecked vehicle.

Gandolfini thought a moment, and more of Tony's depraved ideas came to mind: "Maybe the gambling thing with Hesh. And maybe the thing with Tony Sirico (as Paulie Walnuts) on the boat.

"It's kind of one thing after another. Let's just say, it was a lot easier to like him before than in the last few years."

Back then, maybe it wasn't so easy for Gandolfini to like himself. Early on, his kinship with Tony mostly stemmed from "that infantile temper that I certainly possessed much more of when I was younger."

Meanwhile, the writers fleshed out Tony by cribbing from Gandolfini -- in particular, his temper.

"In the first year, maybe they would see that sometimes when I have anger, it's very funny. So they go with that. When I break something, it's funny. So they're gonna put it in again. And then I realize that I'm continually breaking things. So then I'm getting more angry because I have to continue breaking things. And then they decide, 'Well, we've broken enough (stuff).'

"It was a learning process for all of us, I think."

All in the service of David Chase's vision.


Pantomiming the pull Chase exerted over him like everything on "The Sopranos," Gandolfini playfully hooked his index finger in the corner of his mouth as if he were a trout at the end of Chase's line.

A decade ago, Gandolfini was certainly hooked when he read Chase's pilot script. A character actor in his mid-30s who had grown up in Park Ridge, he knew Tony was a role he was born to play. He also realized the cards were stacked against a beefy, balding, little-known actor.

But four years earlier, he had made a brief appearance in Tony Scott's comically bloody thriller, "True Romance," in a two-fisted confrontation with its star, Patricia Arquette. That performance won him his audition.

Watching "True Romance" also provided Edie Falco with her first peek at the actor who would play her husband in "The Sopranos."

"I sort of knew the name James Gandolfini," recalled Falco. "Then I watched the film, and he's in a scene where he beats the living daylights out of a woman. I thought, 'Ohhhhhhh, okay. Welllll, let's see how this goes.'"

And how did it go? "It was maybe the most perfect working relationship," said Falco, who has won three Emmy Awards as Carmela Soprano.

Now it's over. One concluding episode, shrouded in secrecy, remains to be shown. The interiors of the Soprano home have been struck from Studio X at Silvercup. And Gandolfini, now done with Tony, is looking ahead to other roles, perhaps as Ernest Hemingway in a film he's developing for HBO.

"I don't even think I've proven myself yet," he said. "The Tony character was from New Jersey, I'm from New Jersey -- there's not a lot of stretching going on here."

Then he paused and reconsidered. "In some ways, there is. In a lot of ways. But I have yet to begin the fight, I think."

Grand night for Alex, Joe

A-Rod's slam helps secure Torre's 2,000th win


Friday, June 8th 2007, 4:00 AM

CHICAGO - Joe Torre posted his 2,000th victory last night, but the number three was a much more significant one for the Yankees' manager.

That's because the Bombers' 10-3 win over the White Sox, nailed down by a ninth-inning grand slam from Alex Rodriguez, was their third consecutive victory, marking their first such streak in more than a month.

The win left the Yankees 10-1/2games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and 6-1/2 games behind the Tigers in the wild-card race. More importantly, it gave the Yankees (27-31) a series win in Chicago and victories in six of their last eight games.

"We haven't won three in a row in a long time," Torre said. "When you lose the first game of a series and win the next three, that's really huge."

Torre became the 10th manager in big-league history to record 2,000 wins, leaving him nine shy of Leo Durocher on baseball's all-time list.

"When I took this job 12 years ago, I was closer to losing 2,000 than I was to winning 2,000," said Torre, whose career record is 2,000-1,733 with the Mets, Braves, Cards and Yanks. "Without the opportunity here, I wouldn't have been close. I thank the Steinbrenner family for allowing me to do this. It's been a great ride."

"I'm happy for him; he deserves it," said Derek Jeter, who hugged Torre as they came off the field. "He's a Hall of Fame manager whenever he decides to call it quits. He's the best."

Alex Rodriguez celebrates after connecting for a grand slam in the ninth inning last night.

Bobby Abreu continued to tear it up in June, stroking a key two-run double to snap a 1-1 tie in the eighth.

"Bobby keeps validating what he's been all about here," Torre said. "He's fitting right in the No. 3 hole right now."

Mariano Rivera recorded the final five outs, picking up his seventh save.

He got some key help from Rodriguez, who turned a one-run lead into five with his ninth-inning grand slam, his 22nd homer.

Mike Mussina showed marked improvement from his last start, holding the White Sox to one run on four hits over six-plus innings. After a subpar outing in Boston, Mussina isn't ready to declare himself fixed after one start.

"The question is, can I go out and do it again?" Mussina said. "Doing it once in awhile here and there isn't going to do it. It's got to be every time. The next time, I'll go out and try to duplicate what I did tonight."

Mussina struck out four and did not issue a walk in the no-decision, but he was miffed that Torre pulled him in the seventh after just 79 pitches.

"I understand his thinking, but the seventh inning with 79 pitches?" Mussina said. "I know I haven't been pitching that well. You've got to earn it back, I guess."

Jose Contreras impressed early against his former team, limiting the Yankees to one run on three hits over the first seven innings. But the Yankees broke out in the eighth, scoring three times against Contreras and a pair of relievers.

Mussina looked like his vintage self, allowing just two hits through the first four innings. He had thrown just 46pitches, putting him in position to go deep into the game, something he has not done often this season.

Bobby Abreu (left) and Derek Jeter congratulate A-Rod after his slam.

With the Yankees holding onto a 1-0 lead in the seventh, Jim Thome led off with an infield single, as Josh Phelps and Robinson Cano both backed off the weak grounder for a second, thinking the other was going to make the play. Paul Konerko followed with a single, putting runners at first and third with no outs.

That's when Torre walked to the mound, calling in Mike Myers to face A.J. Pierzynski.

Pierzynski singled in Thome to tie the game. Scott Proctor came in from the bullpen and got the next three hitters out, stranding the go-ahead run at second base and taking the momentum back from the White Sox. The Yanks turned that momentum into a three-run eighth, taking the lead back.

Kyle Farnsworth gave back two of those runs before Rivera was summoned in to get the final five outs. He got out of the eighth with a one-run lead, but the Yankees scored six times in the ninth, four on A-Rod's slam, to put the game away and get Torre his milestone.

Having gone 6-4 on their 10-game road trip, the Yankees head home for nine interleague games against the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Mets.

"You want it to continue," Jeter said. "We played well in Boston and we played well here. Now we're going home, so we need to carry that into the home stand. That's our focus now."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Srdja Trifkovic: A French Lesson for George W. Bush

A French Lesson for George W. Bush
by Srdja Trifkovic

Brice Hortefeux

The head of France’s newly established Ministry of Immigration and National Identity, Brice Hortefeux, has ruled out the possibility of mass legalization of illegal immigrants, saying that government policy would be firm and pragmatic.

In line with his Ministry’s avowed task to control the inflow of immigrants and protect French values and cohesion, he declared that “massive legalization” is out of the question because “it doesn’t work.” Announcing a policy guided by “firmness and humanism,” he announced tough new quotas for the number of illegal immigrants authorities should arrest and expel each month.

In a meeting with security officials, Hortefeux reiterated President Sarkozy’s goal of 25,000 expulsions by the end of 2007, and he set a year-end goal of 125,000 arrests for illegal entry or illegal residence. He also stressed the need to expand the system of paying illegal immigrants to return to their country of origin of their own accord. Those volunteering to leave, as part of a program started in late 2005, usually receive $4,700 per couple, with $1,350 each for the first three children.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon echoed his minister’s announcement by declaring that “Europe is no El Dorado,” and announced that “the French Republic will be extremely firm. It will ensure laws are applied . . . Generosity is not opening wide the borders without thought for how people will integrate, how they will live, how they will subsist.”

Such statements and policies are in marked contrast to the bipartisan clamoring for mass amnesty of unkonwn millions of illegal aliens in the United States, justified by the deterministic claim that “they are here to stay anyway”—and motivated either by greed, or by the cultural-Marxist ideology of revolutionary transformation through “multiculturalism.”

It should be noted that before the energy crisis of the 1970s France resembled the United States, rather than the rest of Europe, in that it encouraged permanent immigration. Unlike the United States, however, the political class in France has responded to the evident inability or unwillingness of millions of (primarily Muslim) immigrants to integrate into the host society by legitimizing the debate about identity, culture, legality, and the link between immigration and national security. The views that would be routinely branded as “nativist” or “racist” by the dominant elite in this country, such as immigration zéro, were embraced by then-Prime Minister Edouard Balladur as far back as 1993.

Le Pen was defeated in the second round of the presidential election in May 2002, but he did come second (imagine Buchanan, or someone like Buchanan, doing that here!) and his ideas have had such an impact that he has accused Sarkozy of stealing them. And unlike the United States, where businesses, labor unions, ethnic interests and the Left have forged an unholy alliance that jointly lobbies for open-door policy and blanket amnesties, there are no major pressure groups in France advocating greater immigration. Employers are subjected to rigorous fines if caught hiring illegals, labor unions are loath to allow further erosion of wages, and immigrant lobbies’ inevitable Islamism makes broader alliances unlikely.

While many French conservatives do not trust Sarkozy and suspect that this seasoned operator will turn out to be just another consensus politician, his very pragmatism may prompt him to let M. Hortefeux carry out his promises and pursue a sanguine immigration policy. His neo-Lepenist rhetoric yielded tangible political dividends in the second round of the presidential election last month, and he must know that softening the stand on immigration could cost him a fifth of the residual FN vote in the future—without wooing any Socialist supporters to his camp in return.

The emerging new consensus in France is a direct consequence of the riots almost two years ago. The country used to pride herself on her ability to turn outsiders into Frenchmen, but that was possible when most of them were Italians and Spaniards, Poles and Russians . . . who were culturally assimilable. They came in tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands even (notably the Pieds-Noirs after the fall of Algeria, many of them non-French Southern Europeans), but not in the millions. The Muslims did, and it is estimated that they now account for over ten percent of France’s population and a quarter of all newborns. They live in compact communities in which it is no longer possible to buy wine in a local store. Their leaders regard their faith and culture as superior to that of the host society. Those who have doubts wisely keep quiet, or else risk a knife slash across the face.

M. Fillon’s “extreme firmness” may well be France’s last chance to stem the tide: over three million new voters, at least half of them Third World immigrants, have been added to the electoral roll following the rioting in October-November 2005; another two million will follow suit before the next election. They are voting, as their counterparts in America vote, for the parties reconciled to or actively supportive of the nation’s eventual self-liquidation. A mere one percent of eligible Muslim voters, to take but one example, cast their ballot for Sarkozy last month, compared with over 90% for his opponents. They are the unnatural allies of that half of the French electorate which is dependent on the state for wages, benefits or pensions. In 2012 they will present a formidable force in favor of reestablishing the statist status quo.

Whether Sarkozy will make a serious attempt to prevent such outcome remains to be seen. For now, however, we can only wish President Bush would say or do some of the things that French government ministers have been saying and doing over the past week.

Srdja Trifkovic :: Jun.05.2007 :: News & Views :: 9 Comments »

Robert Novak: Edwards' Worn-Out Welcome

Chicago Sun-Times
June 07, 2007

The dynamic performance by John Edwards in Sunday's Democratic presidential debate, assailing his competitors for the nomination, got high marks from political reporters, Republican politicians and left-wing activists. But not from the Democratic establishment. Once their great hope for the future, Edwards now is massively unpopular among party regulars, who neither like nor trust him.

The performances at the Goffstown, N.H., event by the two front-runners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were error-free if a little leaden. Edwards, the third man in the big presidential field, supplied the fireworks by taking on Clinton and Obama. On the surface, he seems a perfect candidate: eloquent, smart, handsome and shrewd. Is he reminiscent of the two slick Southerners who were the only Democrats elected president in the past 40 years? Yet the prospect of an Edwards-led ticket evokes deep apprehension inside the party that he would be another flawed nominee.

His nomination is not that remote a possibility. For decades, Democratic leaders have exerted little influence on the making of the party's nominee, with decisions ceded to primary voters. Edwards is staking everything on the Iowa caucuses, where he periodically leads in the polls. If he begins the delegate selection process with a victory there, he could be unstoppable (as John Kerry was after he won Iowa).

Even though Edwards may end up being the party's nominee, prominent Democrats are surprisingly candid about him. Mark Siegel, a 35-year party insider, told me: "He came to Washington as a 'New Democrat,' but he's not that kind of Democrat anymore. He's into class warfare."

Edwards has not worn well with party colleagues. Campaign consultant Bob Shrum was enthusiastic about Edwards after working on his 1998 Senate victory in North Carolina and unsuccessfully advised Gore to make him his 2000 running mate. But Shrum chose Kerry over Edwards as his 2004 presidential client. In his newly published memoir, "No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner," Shrum explains: "I was coming to believe he wasn't ready; he was a Clinton who hadn't read the books."

During the 2004 primaries, Democratic activist James Carville was enchanted when Edwards shifted his centrist posture to a populist depiction of "Two Americas." Carville told me -- and then repeated it on CNN -- that Edwards was the best stump speaker he ever had seen. When I asked him this week whether he still thought that was true, Carville replied: "Maybe he's not as good now."

In fact, Edwards's populist rhetoric sounds about the same today as it did three years ago. The big change is his performance away from the podium. Seldom has a presidential candidate undergone a trifecta like Edwards's this year -- reports of the $400 haircut, a $55,000 honorarium from University of California at Davis for a speech on poverty and the $500,000 hedge fund salary -- without his campaign imploding.

Such mishaps appear to be of Edwards's own making rather than accidental, as was suggested by the scene after the New Hampshire debate. Edwards's wife, Elizabeth, entered the spin room Sunday and took issue with passages in Shrum's memoir. She claimed Shrum misquoted her husband as saying of gays during his 1998 campaign, "I'm not comfortable around those people." At that same time, an Edwards aide attacked Shrum's honesty. Answering a book account of a nine-year-old encounter is not a good approach for a presidential candidate.

The ardor for a politically accident-prone Edwards has also cooled in the labor movement, where an endorsement from the Change to Win coalition led by Andrew Stern and James P. Hoffa is now far less likely than it was in December. Hoffa reportedly still regards Edwards as the most pro-labor presidential candidate but doubts whether he can be nominated.

So Edwards must rely on true believers who will brave the bitter Iowa cold in the dark of night to attend caucuses. That's the kind of voter impressed by Edwards lashing out at Obama and especially Clinton on the war. Iowa Democrats in 2004 pulled back from catastrophe at the 11th hour and abandoned Howard Dean when they contemplated the impact of a Dean victory. Party leaders hope Iowans will take a similarly hard look at John Edwards.

Victor Davis Hanson: The Lessons from D-Day

General Eisenhower instructs troops prior to Normandy invasion.

June 07, 2007

Sixty-three years ago this week, we landed on the Normandy beaches. As on each anniversary of June 6, 1944, much has been written to commemorate the bravery and competence of the victorious Anglo-American forces.

All true. But as we ponder this achievement of the Greatest Generation that helped lead to the surrender of Nazi Germany less than a year later, we should remember that the entire campaign was, as Wellington said of Waterloo, a near-run thing.

Our forefathers made several mistakes. They attacked nonexistent artillery emplacements. Planes dropped paratroopers far from intended targets. Critical landing assignments on Omaha Beach were missed.

Once they left shore, it got worse. Indeed, D-Day was soon forgotten in the nightmare of GIs being blown apart in the Normandy hedgerows by well-concealed, entrenched German panzers.

Apparently, no American planners - from Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall down to the staff of Allied Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower - had anticipated either the difficulty of penetrating miles of these dense thickets or the deadliness of new German model tanks and anti-tank weapons.

So we landed in Europe with the weaponry we had - and it was in large part vastly inferior to that of the Wehrmacht.

The most brilliant armored commander in U.S. history, George S. Patton, had been sacked from theater command for slapping an ill soldier the prior year in Sicily. Gens. Omar N. Bradley and Bernard L. Montgomery lacked his genius and audacity - and tens of thousands of Allied soldiers were to pay for Patton's absence at Normandy.

We finally broke out of the mess, after using heavy bombers to blast holes in the German lines. But again, these operations were fraught with foul-ups.

On two successive occasions we bombed our own troops, altogether killing or wounding over 1,000 Americans, including the highest-ranking officer to die in the European Theater, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair. The nature of his death was hidden from the press - as were many mistakes and casualties both leading up to and after Normandy.

When the disaster in the bocage near the Normandy beaches ended over two months after D-Day, the victorious Americans, British and Canadians had been bled white. Altogether, the winners of the Normandy campaign suffered a quarter-million dead, wounded or missing, including almost 30,000 American fatalities - losing nearly 10 times the number of combat dead in four years of fighting in Iraq.

News from the other fronts during the slaughter in Normandy was no better. Due to blunders by American generals in Italy, the retreating German army had escaped the planned Allied encirclement - and would kill thousands more Allied soldiers in Italy during the next year.

Disturbing reports spread about the simultaneous advance and brutality of Stalin's Red Army on the Eastern Front. Some in the American government began to worry that a war started over freedom for Eastern Europe might end up guaranteeing its enslavement - Stalin's storm troopers merely replacing Hitler's.

While we were ground up in the hedgerows, in the Pacific theater thousands of American amphibious troops were lost during the Marianas campaign. True, we kept winning gruesome amphibious assaults, but we didn't seem to learn much from them.

Instead, far worse carnage lay in store at places named Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. All these bloodbaths near the end of the war were characterized by the sheer heroism of the American soldier - who suffered terribly from intelligence failures and poor leadership of his superiors.

What can we learn, then, on this anniversary of the Normandy campaign?

By any historical measure, our forefathers committed as many strategic and tactical blunders as we have in Afghanistan and Iraq - but lost tens of thousands more Americans as a result of such errors. We worry about emboldening Iran by going into Iraq; the Normandy generation fretted about empowering a colossal Soviet Union.

Of course, World War II was an all-out fight for our very existence in a way many believe the war against terror that began on 9/11 is not. Even more would doubt that al-Qaida jihadists in Iraq pose the same threat to civilization as the Wehrmacht did in Europe.

Nevertheless, the Normandy campaign reminds us that war is by nature horrific, fraught with foolish error - and only won by the side that commits the least number of mistakes. Our grandfathers knew that. So they pressed on as best they could, convinced that they needn't be perfect, only good enough, to win.

The American lesson of D-Day and its aftermath was how to overcome occasional abject stupidity while never giving up in the face of an utterly savage enemy. We need to remember that now more than ever.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War." You can reach him by e-mailing

Maggie Gallagher: Al Gore's Hell on Earth

June 07, 2007
Maggie Gallagher

Al Gore calls it, "The Assault on Reason," but his brand of environmentalism sounds a lot more like a new form of faith.

In his book "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore confesses that global warming: "offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission ; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose ; a shared and unifying cause ; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise ...

"When we do rise, it will fill our spirits and bind us together. Those who are now suffocating in cynicism and despair will be able to breathe freely. Those who are now suffering from a loss of meaning in their lives will find hope." When we rise, "we will experience an epiphany as we discover that this crisis is not really about politics at all. It is a moral and spiritual challenge."

Transcendence, epiphany, loss of meaning, hope . No, this is not really about politics, or science either, is it, Al? Al Gore's new role is prophet, calling us urgently to convert on carbons or perish, lest rising temperatures create Hell on Earth.

Environmentalism, as a movement, seems to breed such prophets. The mother of them all was Rachel Carson, whose 100th birthday we just finished celebrating. "Silent Spring," which launched modern environmentalism, began with an outright fable, a secular Eden: "There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings." But lately, an "evil spell" threatened to "silence the rebirth of new life." Many of Rachel Carson's scientific claims -- such as that pesticides were causing cancer -- were not consistent with the scientific evidence, points out John Tierney in the science section of The New York Times this week.

In a fat, rich country like America, the kind of "chemophobia" Carson championed only led us to waste money on various kinds of nonessential cleanups. In the developing world, the fear of DDT has led to massive human deaths from malaria over the last 40 years. But somehow the halos on environmental prophets remain unaffected by the human destruction their dogmas wreak.
I am not qualified to evaluate the scientific case for global warming. But three things about global warming give me pause.

1. It transforms the United States, as the world's most successful economy, into the chief evildoer in the world;

2. It justifies a massive extension of government power to regulate all aspects of our lives;

3. It makes having children a sin against the Earth. (Indeed, China recently justified its coercive one-child policy on carbon-reducing grounds.)

Arguments from nature almost never work in any other American context. Try talking about limiting people's sexual behavior, artificial reproduction or experiments on human embryos because "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature," and see what happens. Al Gore tries to tell you that it's because, in this case, the religion is backed up by solid science. I don't think that explains it.

Science is an open, nonideological endeavor, which means scientific truths are constantly being revised. Only some of these scientific truths end up entering the cultural bloodstream. Maggie Law: The amount of scientific evidence needed to establish a moral truth is inversely proportional to the degree to which this truth is congruent with liberalism's moral ends.

Efforts to cut off the scientific debate and to malign the characters of nonconforming scientists are another disturbing sign. If opposition to global warming measures is to be portrayed as an "assault on reason," then the voices of reason who oppose them must be shut down.
The thing is, for Al Gore and his followers, global warming is just such a doggone convenient truth.

Ann Coulter- Bush's America: Roach Motel

Ann Coulter

June 7, 2007

Republicans' defense of President Bush's immigration bill is more enraging than their defense of Harriet Miers. Back then, Bush's conservative base was accused of being sexist for opposing an unqualified woman's nomination to the highest court in the land. Now we're racists for not wanting to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

I don't know why conservatives like Linda Chavez have to argue like liberals by smearing their opponents as racists. Oh wait, now I remember! Their arguments are as strong as liberals' arguments usually are.

Apart from abortion, no subject produces so much disingenuousness as America's immigration policy, both legal and illegal. For nearly 50 years, Americans have been intentionally lied to about our immigration laws.

In 1965, Teddy Kennedy overhauled immigration law with the specific purpose of effecting a dramatic change in the nation's demographics. Bobby Kennedy had civil rights, so Teddy needed something big: He would preside over a civil rights bill for the entire Third World! My word, but that man could drink in those days.

With his 1965 immigration act, Kennedy embarked on entirely transforming American culture for no good reason. (You know how people always say the same arguments against illegal immigrants today were once made about the Irish to show how silly those arguments are? If only the U.S. Senate had had an "Irish Need Not Apply" sign!)

Until that point, immigration law basically took a laissez-faire approach, with country quotas attempting to replicate the traditional immigration patterns. Most immigrants to America had historically come from Great Britain, Germany, and Scandinavian countries. Consequently, immigration quotas roughly reflected that balance, with smaller numbers of immigrants admitted from other countries.

But in an angry, long-awaited payback to WASPs, Kennedy decided he was going to radically transform the racial composition of the country. Instead of taking 15 immigrants from England and three from China, America would henceforth take three from England and 15 from China. Payback's a bitch, Daughters of the American Revolution!

Some of those hardworking immigrants who just want a chance to succeed were arrested in a plot to blow up JFK Airport last week.

Most immigrants still come from a handful of countries; Kennedy simply changed which countries those would be. In 2005, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the overwhelming majority of immigrants came from only 10 countries, none of which had sent a lot of immigrants to America for the country's first 200 years: Mexico (161,445), India (84,681), China (69,967), the Philippines (60,748), Cuba (36,261), Vietnam (32,784), the Dominican Republic (27,504), Korea (26,562), Colombia (25,571) and Ukraine (22,761).

In 1960, whites were 90 percent of the country. The Census Bureau recently estimated that whites already account for less than two-thirds of the population and will be a minority by 2050. Other estimates put that day much sooner.

One may assume the new majority will not be such compassionate overlords as the white majority has been. If this sort of drastic change were legally imposed on any group other than white Americans, it would be called genocide. Yet whites are called racists merely for mentioning the fact current immigration law is intentionally designed to reduce their percentage in the population.

We needed to have "more discussion" about Iraq for nearly two years before finally invading. When will we be allowed to begin discussion of a government policy enacted by stealth 40 years ago specifically intended to decimate one particular ethnic group in our own country?

If liberals think Iraqis are genetically incapable of pulling off even the most rudimentary form of democracy, why do they believe 50 million Mexicans will magically become good Americans, imbued in the nation's history and culture, upon crossing the Rio Grande? Maybe we should dunk Iraqis in the Rio and see what happens.

And as long as we're adopting an open-borders policy for immigration, how about opening the borders for emigration? As it stands, anyone can come in and start plotting terrorist attacks or collecting government services right away. But the rest of us can never escape having to pay for it.

You can leave the country, you can renounce your citizenship – but you still owe taxes for 10 years. The government does not allow us to stop supporting welfare recipients in America, millions more of whom it plans to import under Bush's bill. That's not a free market – it's a roach motel.

If these free-marketeers at the Wall Street Journal want the free movement of people, how about letting us freely leave after they've wrecked the country?

In Samuel P. Huntington's book Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity, he asks: "Would America be the America it is today if in the 17th and 18th centuries it had been settled not by British Protestants but by French, Spanish or Portuguese Catholics? The answer is no. It would not be America; it would be Quebec, Mexico, or Brazil."

I don't want to live in Mexico, Quebec, or Brazil. But now I guess I have no choice, since "open borders" means I can never leave.

Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

President Ronald Reagan: The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc

(June 6, 1984 Normandy, France)

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them here. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your "lives fought for life and left the vivid air singed with your honor."

I think I know what you may be thinking right now -- thinking "we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day." Well, everyone was. You remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him -- Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, "Sorry, I'm a few minutes late," as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come form the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold, and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore; The Royal Winniped Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's "Matchbox Fleet," and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do. Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance -- a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It's fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II: 20 million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We're bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.