Saturday, August 22, 2009

Terrorists Go Scot Free

The release of the Lockerbie terrorist is exactly what we should have expected.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
August 21, 2009, 0:30 p.m.

There was precious outrage in some mainstream media quarters Friday over the Obama administration’s pusillanimous reaction to Scotland’s release of PanAm 103 bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. But what were they expecting?

Megrahi has been transferred home to Libya. The release of the Lockerbie terrorist was said to be on humanitarian grounds, because Megrahi is said to be terminally ill. The action, though, was totally discretionary on Scotland’s part and could have been stopped by Britain. The Obama administration did nothing meaningful to stop it from happening. Perhaps the White House and the State Department were too embarrassed to try. In June, when they made arrangements with Bermuda’s prime-minister to transfer four of the Uighur detainees (trained jihadists) from Guantanamo Bay to the tiny island, they cut the British government out of the secret negotiations — even though Britain, aside from being our closest ally, is responsible for the foreign policy and national security of Bermuda, its protectorate.

Laughably, the president is reported to have called for the terrorist to be placed under house arrest and to have “warned” Colonel Gadhafi “not to give him a hero’s welcome.” Here’s AP’s report of what happened next:

Despite the warning, thousands of young men were on hand at a Tripoli airport where al-Megrahi’s plane touched down. Some threw flower petals as he stepped from the plane. . . . He was accompanied by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who was dressed in a traditional white robe and golden embroidered vest. The son pledged last year to bring al-Megrahi home and raised his hand victoriously to the crowd as he exited the plane. . . .

At home, al-Megrahi, 57, is seen as an innocent scapegoat the West used to turn this African nation into a pariah. At the airport, some wore T-shirts with his picture and waved Libyan and miniature blue-and-white Scottish flags. Libyan songs blared in the background. “It’s a great day for us,” 24-year-old Abdel-Aal Mansour said. “He belongs here, at home.” Moammar Gadhafi lobbied hard for the return of al-Megrahi.

Megrahi, who was convicted and sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment, served eight years in prison.

By contrast, Binyam Mohammed, the accomplice of “Dirty Bomber” Jose Padilla who plotted a post-9/11 second wave of mass-murder attacks targeting American cities, is now living free (and on public assistance) in England after President Obama released him outright, without prosecution. Mohammed had previously been detained as an enemy combatant by Pres. George W. Bush.

Obama’s Justice Department, meanwhile, gave a lesser-charges plea deal to Ali Saleh Kallah al-Marri, another member of al-Qaeda’s second-wave plot. The deal caps Marri’s potential sentence at 15 years and permits the judge to impose as little as the time Marri has already served, meaning about six years.

Consider the human context in which those decisions were made: Several high officials in the Obama Justice Department, including Attorney General Eric Holder, must be recused from participation in various terrorism matters on conflict-of-interest grounds. This is because they or their firms represented numerous terrorists in litigation against the United States over the past eight years. And the Justice Department recently hired Jennifer Daskal, a left-wing activist from Human Rights Watch, to help shape its detainee policies. She has worked in behalf of terrorist prisoners for years. To give just a thumbnail sketch, Daskal has expressed doubt about the guilt of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (arguing that we may have tortured him into admitting to the atrocities he has repeatedly bragged about committing); has lamented that one detainee, “a self-styled poet,” suffered abuse in U.S. custody when he “found it was nearly impossible to write poetry anymore because the prison guards would only allow him to keep a pen or pencil in his cell for short periods of time”; and has argued on behalf of terrorist detainee Omar Khadr, who was 15 when he allegedly launched the grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer, because a prosecution of Khadr would violate his “rights as a child.” (Next month, Khadr will be 23.)

President Obama’s circle of friends includes Rashid Khalidi, a cohort of and flak for Yasser Arafat, the master terrorist responsible for two intifadas and the murder of U.S. diplomats in Sudan. It also includes the unrepentant former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

The Los Angeles Times observes that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered only muted criticism of the Megrahi release (she found it “deeply disappointing”). Mrs. Clinton was first lady when President Clinton pardoned (i.e., commuted the sentences of) 16 Puerto Rican terrorists whose organizations, including the FALN, had carried out numerous bombings in the United States. The pardons were transparently an effort to appeal to Hispanic voters in New York, where Mrs. Clinton was a candidate for the U.S. Senate. On his last day in office, moreover, Clinton also released Weather Underground terrorists Susan Rosenberg (whose 58-year sentence was thus commuted to 16 years) and Linda Sue Evans (whose 40-year sentence was thus commuted to 15 years).

In the Justice Department, pardon issues are overseen by the deputy attorney general. The DAG at the time of these Clinton commutations was Eric Holder. The Los Angeles Times adds that Holder meekly expressed regret that the interests of justice “have not been served by” Scotland’s release of Megrahi.

Obviously, the fecklessness of the Obama administration in response to Scotland’s release and Libya’s celebration of a terrorist who murdered 270 people, including 189 Americans, is outrageous. But the Obama administration is staffed with appeasers who all but ensure outcomes of this sort. What did we think the attitude of other countries was going to be when we put these folks in charge?

National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books, 2008).

NCAA vacates all reason with Memphis ruling

by Mark Kriegel
Updated: August 20, 2009, 6:17 PM EDT

Mark Kriegel is the national columnist for He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Namath: A Biography and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, which Sports Illustrated called "the best sports biography of the year."

Only an institution as perversely legalistic and blindly arrogant as the NCAA could "vacate" a university's Final Four appearance.

I was at the Meadowlands in '96, when John Calipari's Massachusetts team lost to Kentucky, and in San Antonio 12 years later when his Memphis squad lost in overtime to Kansas. Now comes word that Calipari is two for two, that Memphis' glorious campaign, like that of UMass, is to be deleted from the record books.

Derrick Rose and John Calipari

So should I expunge the memory as well, to pretend that Mario Chalmers' three-pointer, the famous shot that sent the game into an extra period, never happened? And what of the fans from, say, UCLA, who traveled to Texas to get beat by a player who, it now turns out, shouldn't have been playing? Derrick Rose had 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists while holding the Bruins' Darren Collison to 1-of-9 shooting. I'm sure Bruins fans would love to forget that. Maybe it would help ease their pain if the NCAA reimbursed them for the price of their tickets to the vacated games.

Actually, it's easier to pretend these games never happened than it is to imagine the NCAA parting with a cent. This game's all about money, which brings me back to Calipari.

His '96 UMass team was dirty. His '08 Memphis team was dirty. But now as then, the coach keeps getting richer. Thirteen years ago, while the NCAA was investigating the Minutemen, he took a gig with the Nets as coach and director of basketball operations. It paid about $3 million per, pretty good money back in the dark ages. This time, as investigators were uncovering the fugazy tales of Rose and his brother, Calipari was negotiating with Kentucky. His deal in Lexington runs almost $32 million for eight years.

The purely coincidental similarities don't stop there, either. Back in '96, he didn't know anything about the cash and the jewelry agents were lavishing on his star player, Marcus Camby. I'm sure he had absolutely no idea — none at all — that an assistant athletic director was leaving comp tickets for the agents.

Likewise, 13 years later, one of the sharpest coaches around again finds himself in a state of blissful, lucrative ignorance. How was he to know that Derrick Rose didn't take the SAT himself? How was he to know that Rose's brother received $1,713.85 in illicit benefits from the university, including free transportation, lodging and meals?

Apparently, it was too much for Calipari to say: "Hey, Derrick, what's your brother the AAU coach doing on our charter flights? How's he paying for it?"

Or to wonder why a Chicago kid — who had already failed the ACT three times — finally qualified for college eligibility by taking the SAT 283 miles away in Detroit?

Then again, Calipari understood as well as anyone: don't ask, don't worry.

I'm probably being too hard on Calipari, who might be almost as good a coach as he is a hustler. After all, he only does what the system allows him to do. Kentucky knew. A few months ago, AD Mitch Barnhardt issued a press release commending his new coach for being "forthcoming and honest about the NCAA inquiry" during the interview process. Even university president Lee Todd deigned to be quoted in a release, saying he was "confident that Coach Calipari was not involved in any way."

Of course not. Everything went as forecast. Memphis' record — including those games won by its long-gone coach — have been "vacated." It had to return the trophy. Then, in perhaps the final indignity, Paul Dee of the Infractions Committee explained the NCAA's position on a conference call.

"The coach is the important person on any team," said Dee.

Then what about this coach, he was asked, who presided over a now-vacated season?

"No allegations were brought against the coach," he said. "Therefore we did not go through that exercise."

Still, you wonder: was Calipari in a position to know better?

"There was no allegation that the coach knew or should have known so we didn't go forward with that inquiry."

Sounds as though the NCAA has vacated common sense along with Memphis' record. Yes, I know Calipari wasn't individually charged or investigated. But if the infractions were serious enough to expunge a school's Final Four season, then the guy who runs the team for that university — "the most important person" in Dee's words — should bear some real responsibility. So, too, should the university that hires a coach with an investigation still pending.

Instead, Calipari was rewarded. He may not be a cheater, but he had almost 32 million reasons to look the other way.

Now the NCAA wants me to imagine that Memphis' 2007-08 season never happened. It's much easier to imagine Calipari being introduced as the next coach of UCLA, just weeks before Kentucky vacates its next appearance in the Final Four.

Stimulus hits a pothole

And Obamacare can't be rationalized on economic or medical grounds because it's not about that. It's about moving America left.

Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
Friday, August 21, 2009

The other day, wending my way from Woodsville, N.H., 40 miles south to Plymouth, I came across several "stimulus" projects – every few miles, and heralded by a two-tone sign, a hitherto rare sight on Granite State highways. The orange strip at the top said "PUTTING AMERICA BACK TO WORK" with a silhouette of a man with a shovel, and the green part underneath informed you that what you were about to see was a "PROJECT FUNDED BY THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT." There then followed a few yards of desolate, abandoned scarified pavement, followed by an "END OF ROAD WORKS" sign, until the next "stimulus" project a couple of bends down a quiet rural blacktop.

I don't know why one of the least fiscally debauched states in the Union needs funds from "the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" to repair random stretches of highway, especially stretches that were perfectly fine until someone came along to dig them up in order to access "stimulus" funding. I would have asked one of those men with a shovel, as depicted on the sign. But there were none to be found. Usually in New Hampshire, they dig up the road, regrade or repave it, while the flagmen stand guard until it's all done. But here a certain federal torpor seemed to hang in the eerie silence.

Still, what do I know? Evidently, it's stimulated the sign-making industry, putting America back to work by putting up "PUTTING AMERICA BACK TO WORK" signs every 200 yards across the land. And at 300 bucks a pop the signage alone should be enough to launch an era of unparalleled prosperity, assuming America's gilded sign magnates don't spend their newfound wealth on Bahamian vacations and European imports. Perhaps if the president were to have his All-Seeing O logo lovingly hand-painted onto each sign, it would stimulate the economy even more, if only when they were taken down and auctioned on eBay.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, India, China, Japan and much of Continental Europe the recession has ended. In the second quarter this year, both the French and German economies grew by 0.3 percent, while the U.S. economy shrank by 1 percent. How can that be? Unlike America, France and Germany had no government stimulus worth speaking of, the Germans declining to go the Obama route on the quaint grounds that they couldn't afford it. They did not invest in the critical signage-in-front-of-holes-in-the-road sector. And yet their recession has gone away. Of the world's biggest economies, only the U.S., Britain and Italy are still contracting. All three are big stimulators, though Gordon Brown and Silvio Berlusconi can't compete with Obama's $800 billion porkapalooza. The president has borrowed more money to spend to less effect than anybody on the planet.

Actually, when I say "to less effect," that's not strictly true: Due to Obama, one of the least-indebted developed nations is now one of the most indebted – and getting ever more so. We've become the third most debt-ridden country, after Japan and Italy. According to last month's IMF report, general government debt as a percentage of GDP will rise from 63 percent in 2007 to 88.8 percent this year and to 99.8 percent of GDP next year.

Of course, the president retains his formidable political skills, artfully distracting attention from his stimulus debacle with his health care debacle. But there are diminishing returns to his serial thousand-page, trillion-dollar boondoggles. They may be too long for your representatives to bother reading before passing into law, but, whatever the intricacies of Section 417(a) xii on page 938, people are beginning to spot what all this stuff has in common: He's spending your future. And by "future" I don't mean 2070, 2060, 2040, but the day after tomorrow. Democrats can talk about only raising taxes on "the rich," but more and more Americans are beginning to figure out what percentage of them will wind up in "the richest 5 percent" before this binge is over. According to Gallup, nearly 70 percent of Americans now expect higher taxes under Obama.

But the silver-tongued salesman sails on. Why be scared of a government health program? After all, says the president, "Medicare is a government program that works really well," and if "we're able to get something right like Medicare," we should have more "confidence" about being able to do it for everyone.

On the other hand, says the president, Medicare is "unsustainable" and "running out of money."

By the way, unlike your run-of-the-mill politician's contradictory statements, these weren't made a year or even a week apart, but during the same presidential speech in Portsmouth, N.H. At any rate, in order to "control costs," Obama says we need to introduce a new trillion-dollar government entitlement. It's a good thing he's the smartest president of all time and the greatest orator since Socrates because otherwise one might easily confuse him with some birdbrained Bush type. But, if we take him at his word, then a trillion-dollar public expenditure that "controls costs" presumably means he's planning on reducing private health expenditure – such as, say, your insurance plan – by at least a trillion. Or he'll be raising a trillion dollars' worth of revenue. Either way, under Obama nothing is certain but death panels and taxes – i.e., a vast enervating statism and the confiscation of the fruits of your labors required to pay for it.

That's why the "stimulus" flopped. It didn't just fail to stimulate, it actively deterred stimulation, because it was the first explicit signal to America and the world that the Democrats' political priorities overrode everything else. If you're a business owner, why take on extra employees when cap-and-trade is promising increased regulatory costs, and health "reform" wants to stick you with an 8 percent tax for not having a company insurance plan? Obama's leviathan sends a consistent message to business and consumers alike: When he's spending this crazy, maybe the smart thing for you to do is hunker down until the dust's settled, and you get a better sense of just how broke he's going to make you. For this level of "community organization," there aren't enough of "the rich" to pay for it. That leaves you.

For Obama, government health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture in which all elections and most public discourse will be conducted on Democrat terms. It's no surprise that the president can't make a coherent economic or medical argument for Obamacare because that's not what it's about – and for all his cool he can't quite disguise that. Apropos a new poll, the Associated Press reports that Americans "are losing faith in Barack Obama."

"Losing faith"? Oh, no! Fall on your knees and beseech the One: "Give me a sign, O Lord!"

But he has. They're all along empty highways across rural New Hampshire: "This Massive Expansion Of Wasteful Statism Brought To You By Obama Marketing Inc."


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Today's Tune: Ramones - Baby, I Love You

(Click on title to play video)

Paedophile pensioner given Viagra on the NHS - despite string of attacks on children

By Daniel Bates
The London Daily Mail
Last updated at 2:14 AM on 20th August 2009

A paedophile with a 30-year history of abusing children is being prescribed Viagra on the NHS - and there is nothing the authorities can do to stop him.

Roger Martin, 71, merely has to visit his GP to obtain the libido-enhancing drug, even though experts warn it will enable him to continue preying on children despite his age.

The probation officers who oversee Martin are powerless to interfere with the administration of prescription drugs.

He does not have to tell his GP about his criminal past and even if he does, doctors cannot take convictions into account.

Martin suffers from numerous illnesses including diabetes, for which Department of Health guidelines say Viagra can be prescribed.

He has forced himself on a string of youngsters and his latest assault was on an 11-year-old girl last year.

But when he was sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court yesterday a judge chose not to send him to prison after being persuaded he 'wouldn't be able to cope' with a spell behind bars.

Last night Martin, a widower, claimed he 'wasn't doing anything wrong' by taking Viagra. But child safety campaigners and MPs reacted with horror and demanded the loophole be closed.

Claude Knights, director of children's charity Kidscape, said: 'I am shocked that someone has been given a chemical aid to sexual activity when they are misdirecting their urges. It gives them a chance to abuse more children.'

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said: 'This is a bizarre and outrageous example of where common sense gets thrown out of the window in preference to so-called human rights and political correctness.

'Someone needs to get a grip here and start thinking about what's in the public interest instead of ticking boxes like a robot.'

Martin, of Dogsthorpe, Peterborough, has a history of sex offences dating back to 1978 when he was convicted for having unlawful sex with a 15-year-old baby-sitter.

He pleaded guilty to his latest offence of touching an 11-year-old inappropriately when she visited his sheltered accommodation home in December 2008 to do some cleaning for pocket money.

Judge Nicholas Coleman ordered him to attend a three-year sex offenders' treatment programme and banned from having contact with children indefinitely.

Last night he said his Viagra use was 'a personal thing really'.

He added: 'I live on my own and I don't have any female company and I don't think I'm doing anything wrong.'

Review: Bruce Springsteen at Comcast Theatre

By Eric R. Danton on August 20, 2009 12:29 AM
The Hartford Courant

Overheard in Hartford Wednesday afternoon: "Has Bruce Springsteen worn out his welcome?"

No, he has not.

It's a fair question, given that he's now played here four times since October 2007, including a performance Wednesday night at Comcast Theatre that clocked in at darn close to 3 hours.

But he wouldn't keep coming back if there weren't interest, and there was plenty of that this time around, even on one of the hottest days of the summer.

The sweltering weather made for a sweaty show on stage and in the crowd, but there was something special about the vibe that created: a sort of superheated rock 'n' roll delirium as Springsteen dug deep into his catalog for concert rarities and sat them next to some of his biggest and best songs.

"Do you feel the spirit?" he shouted early on, and the answer was yes. Well, either that or it was dehydration.

Nah, let's go with spirit. Bruce sure felt it on the inky hot rock 'n' soul number "Spirit in the Night," drummer Max Weinberg swinging the song as Springsteen made forays into the crowd, clasping people's forearms and accepting a proffered beer, which he tossed back with a few quick gulps.

He dove into working class anthems, sounding defiant on "Out in the Street" and trapped on "Johnny 99," guitarist Nils Lofgren adding fiery lap steel as Springsteen wet him down with a sponge from a bucket near the drums.

The rarities included the cynical "Murder Incorporated" and "Be True," an outtake from sessions for his 1980 album "The River." It was one of the more reflective moments, along with the restless yearning of "My Love Will Not Let You Down" and "American Skin (41 Shots)," one of Springsteen's most pointed social commentaries.

There were moments of levity, too: Springsteen collected song requests on signs from people in the audience, and the band arranged a few of them on the spot, including joyous versions of Johnny Rivers' "Mountain of Love" and the Manfred Mann hit "Sha La La."

He pulled back from the deep cuts toward the end of the show with an impressive run to end his main set. "Lonesome Day" led to "The Rising," and then the lights came on for "Born to Run," the audience singing at top volume in a wringing catharsis.

Next came the buoyant "Rosalita," building to waves of saxophone from Clarence Clemons, followed by a deeply soulful version of "Thunder Road." It was a little less urgent and a little more wistful, and Clemons' iconic solo at the end shone out like a beacon for true believers.

Springsteen and the band had already played 24 songs by that point, but he seemed loath to stop. He pushed onward with another four songs in the encore: the folk songs "Hard Times Come Again No More" and "American Land," followed by "Dancing in the Dark" and, finally, a medley of "Twist and Shout" and "La Bamba."

Set list

1. Sherry Darling
2. Badlands
3. Out in the Street
4. Outlaw Pete
5. Spirit in the Night
6. Working on a Dream
7. Seeds
8. Johnny 99
9. Murder Incorporated
10. Something in the Night
11. Raise Your Hand
12. Mountain of Love
13. Sha La La
14. I'm on Fire
15. Be True
16. My Love Will Not Let You Down
17. Waitin' on a Sunny Day
18. The Promised Land
19. American Skin (41 Shots)
20. Lonesome Day
21. The Rising
22. Born to Run
23. Rosalita
24. Thunder Road


25. Hard Times Come Again No More
26. American Land
27. Dancing in the Dark
28. Twist and Shout/La Bamba

Film Review: "Julie & Julia"

Two for the Stove

The New York Times
Published: August 7, 2009

This movie has been designated a Critic's Pick by the film reviewers of The Times.

In an understated but nonetheless climactic scene in Nora Ephron’s “Julie & Julia,” Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and her editor, Judith Jones (Erin Dilly), struggle to come up with a title for the culinary doorstopper Julia has spent the past eight years composing. It’s not an especially suspenseful moment — pretty much anyone who has cooked an omelet knows what the book is called — but it gives Ms. Ephron and the audience a chance to savor the precise nature of Julia Child’s achievement.

Jonathan Wenk/Columbia Pictures

Meryl Streep stars as Julia Child in "Julie & Julia."

The book is “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” — not “How To” or “Made Easy” or “For Dummies,” but “Mastering the Art.” In other words, cooking that omelet is part of a demanding, exalted discipline not to be entered into frivolously or casually. But at the same time: You can do it. It is a matter of technique, of skill, of practice.

The impact of that first volume of “Mastering the Art,” and of Child’s subsequent television career (which is mostly tangential to the movie’s concerns), is hard to overstate. The book stands with a few other postwar touchstones — including Dr. Benjamin Spock’s “Baby and Child Care,” the Kinsey Report and Dr. Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat” — as a publication that fundamentally altered the way a basic human activity was perceived and pursued.

Not that Ms. Ephron’s breezy, busy movie traffics in such sweeping historical ideas, except occasionally by implication. Nor does she infuse the happy, well-fed life of her Julia (the main source for whom is a memoir Child wrote with Alex Prud’homme, her great-nephew) with too much grand drama. “Julie & Julia” proceeds with such ease and charm that its audacity — a no-nonsense, plucky self-confidence embodied by the indomitable Julia herself — is easy to miss.

Most strikingly, this is a Hollywood movie about women that is not about the desperate pursuit of men. Marriage is certainly the context both of Julia’s story and of Julie’s (about whom more in a moment), but it is not the point. The point, to invoke the title of a book whose author has an amusing cameo here (played by Frances Sternhagen), is the joy of cooking.
In the vernacular of many American kitchens, “Mastering the Art” is better known simply as “Julia,” and many a kitchen debate has been settled by an appeal to its authority. Should we separate the eggs? Turn the roast? What does Julia say?

In 2002, more than half a century after Julia and her husband, Paul, arrived in France — a debarkation that provides the movie’s opening scene — a young woman named Julie Powell decided to answer that question in the most literal and systematic way imaginable. A would-be writer working at a thankless office job and living with her husband in Long Island City, Queens, Ms. Powell spent a year cooking every single recipe in “Mastering the Art” and writing a blog about the experience. The blog led to the memoir that provided Ms. Ephron’s movie with its title and the lesser half of its narrative.

A downtrodden cubicle inmate named Julie Powell (Amy Adams) decides to prepare all 524 often-daunting recipes in said cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and blog about it.
Photo: Jonathan Wenk/Columbia Pictures

Trimming some fat from Ms. Powell’s rambling book (and draining some of the juice as well), Ms. Ephron’s script emphasizes the parallels between the lives of her leading characters, who never meet. (They appear on screen together only when Julie watches Julia on television). Julie (Amy Adams) and Julia have loving, supportive husbands — the affable Chris Messina is Eric Powell; the impeccable Stanley Tucci is Paul Child — who only occasionally express impatience with their wives’ gastronomic obsessions. (Paul by arching an eyebrow, Eric by storming out of the apartment.)

Both women take up cooking out of a restless sense of drift — “I need something to dooooo,” Julia exclaims — and both pursue it in the service of a latent but powerful ambition. Publishing success is the happy ending to both tales, and Ms. Ephron, a literary and journalistic star before she was a filmmaker, is unequivocal in her celebration of the joys of such triumph.
Julie, in an early scene, is humiliated by a table full of college friends who flaunt their BlackBerrys, assistants, real estate deals and lucrative glossy-magazine gigs. But by means of failed aspics and triumphant sauces, Julie shows them all up. And Julia, similarly, overcomes the xenophobia and sexism of the French culinary establishment and the myopia of an American publisher and becomes the person we know as Julia Child.

As does Ms. Streep. By now this actress has exhausted every superlative that exists and to suggest that she has outdone herself is only to say that she’s done it again. Her performance goes beyond physical imitation, though she has the rounded shoulders and the fluting voice down perfectly.
Often when gifted actors impersonate real, familiar people, they overshadow the originals, so that, for example, you can’t think of Ray Charles without seeing Jamie Foxx, or Truman Capote without envisioning Philip Seymour Hoffman. But Ms. Streep’s incarnation of Julia Child has the opposite effect, making the real Julia, who died in 2004, more vivid, more alive, than ever.

In Mr. Tucci Ms. Streep finds, as in “The Devil Wears Prada,” a perfect foil. Like the character he plays, he is gallant and self-assured and able to assert a strong sense of his own presence even as he happily cedes the center of attention. Together, their mastery of the art is so perfect that even quiet, transitional scenes between them are delightful. (And when Jane Lynch shows up as Dorothy, Julia’s sister, the delight ascends to an almost indecent level of giddiness).

If only Mr. Tucci and Ms. Streep were in every movie, I thought to myself at one point, as, in a state of rapture, I watched them sit still on a couch looking off into space.

The problem is that when they aren’t on screen in this movie, you can’t help missing them. Ms. Adams is a lovely and subtle performer, but she is overmatched by her co-star and handicapped by the material. Julia Child could whip up a navarin of lamb for lunch, but Meryl Streep eats young actresses for breakfast. Remember Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada”? Amanda Seyfried in “Mamma Mia!”? Neither do I.

The deck is further stacked against Ms. Adams by the discrepancy between Ms. Powell’s achievement and Ms. Child’s, and by a corresponding imbalance in Ms. Ephron’s interest in the characters. The conceit of parallel lives is undone by the movie’s condescending treatment of Julie and also by its ardent embrace of the past at the expense of the present.

From the very start, Paris in the late ’40s and early ’50s is — well, it’s postwar Paris, a dream world of fabulous clothes, architecture, sex, food, cigarettes and political intrigue. And New York in 2002 is made, a little unfairly, to seem drab and soulless by comparison. Queens, demographically the most cosmopolitan of the five boroughs and something of a foodie mecca, is treated with easy Manhattanite disdain, as a punch line and punching bag.

The unevenness of “Julie and Julia” is nobody’s fault, really. It arises from an inherent flaw in the film’s premise. Julie is an insecure, enterprising young woman who found a gimmick and scored a book contract. Julia is a figure of such imposing cultural stature that her pots and pans are displayed at the Smithsonian. The fact that Ms. Ephron, like Julie herself, is well aware of this gap does not prevent the film from falling into it. All the filmmaker’s artful whisking can’t quite achieve the light, fluffy emulsion she is trying for.

But an imperfect meal can still have a lot of flavor, and the pleasures offered by this movie should not be disdained. Julia Child knew what to do with a broken sauce or a half-fallen soufflé: serve it anyway, with flair and without apology. What would Julia say? What she always said: Bon appétit!

“Julie and Julia” is rated PG-13. It has mild profanity, and the indulgence — in exquisite moderation — of a few choice vices.


Opens on Friday nationwide.

Written and directed by Nora Ephron; based on “My Life in France” by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, and “Julie & Julia” by Julie Powell; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Richard Marks; music by Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Mark Ricker; produced by Ms. Ephron, Laurence Mark, Amy Robinson and Eric Steel; released by Columbia Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 3 minutes.

WITH: Meryl Streep (Julia Child), Amy Adams (Julie Powell), Stanley Tucci (Paul Child), Chris Messina (Eric Powell), Jane Lynch (Dorothy McWilliams), Linda Emond (Simone Beck), Erin Dilly (Judith Jones) and Frances Sternhagen (Irma Rombauer).


Full Stomachs, and Full Marriages Too (August 2, 2009)

Film Food, Ready for Its ‘Bon Appetit’ (July 29, 2009)

Spare Times (August 7, 2009)

Slide Show
Comedy, Cooking and Romance

Interactive Feature
Behind the Scenes With the Dishes


By Ann Coulter
August 19, 2009

(1) National health care will punish the insurance companies.

You want to punish insurance companies? Make them compete.

As Adam Smith observed, whenever two businessmen meet, "the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." That's why we need a third, fourth and 45th competing insurance company that will undercut them by offering better service at a lower price.

Tiny little France and Germany have more competition among health insurers than the U.S. does right now. Amazingly, both of these socialist countries have less state regulation of health insurance than we do, and you can buy health insurance across regional lines -- unlike in the U.S., where a federal law allows states to ban interstate commerce in health insurance.

U.S. health insurance companies are often imperious, unresponsive consumer hellholes because they're a partial monopoly, protected from competition by government regulation. In some states, one big insurer will control 80 percent of the market. (Guess which party these big insurance companies favor? Big companies love big government.)

Liberals think they can improve the problem of a partial monopoly by turning it into a total monopoly. That's what single-payer health care is: "Single payer" means "single provider."

It's the famous liberal two-step: First screw something up, then claim that it's screwed up because there's not enough government oversight (it's the free market run wild!), and then step in and really screw it up in the name of "reform."

You could fix 90 percent of the problems with health insurance by ending the federal law allowing states to ban health insurance sales across state lines. But when John McCain called for ending the ban during the 2008 presidential campaign, he was attacked by Joe Biden -- another illustration of the ironclad Ann Coulter rule that the worst Republicans are still better than allegedly "conservative" Democrats.

(2) National health care will "increase competition and keep insurance companies honest" -- as President Barack Obama has said.

Government-provided health care isn't a competitor; it's a monopoly product paid for by the taxpayer. Consumers may be able to "choose" whether they take the service -- at least at first -- but every single one of us will be forced to buy it, under penalty of prison for tax evasion. It's like a new cable plan with a "yes" box, but no "no" box.

Obama himself compared national health care to the post office -- immediately conjuring images of a highly efficient and consumer-friendly work force -- which, like so many consumer-friendly shops, is closed by 2 p.m. on Saturdays, all Sundays and every conceivable holiday.

But what most people don't know -- including the president, apparently -- with certain narrow exceptions, competing with the post office is prohibited by law.

Expect the same with national health care. Liberals won't stop until they have total control. How else will they get you to pay for their sex-change operations?

(3) Insurance companies are denying legitimate claims because they are "villains."

Obama denounced the insurance companies in last Sunday's New York Times, saying: "A man lost his health coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because the insurance company discovered that he had gallstones, which he hadn't known about when he applied for his policy. Because his treatment was delayed, he died."

Well, yeah. That and the cancer.

Assuming this is true -- which would distinguish it from every other story told by Democrats pushing national health care -- in a free market, such an insurance company couldn't stay in business. Other insurance companies would scream from the rooftops about their competitor's shoddy business practices, and customers would leave in droves.

If only customers had a choice! But we don't because of government regulation of health insurance.

Speaking of which, maybe if Mr. Gallstone's insurance company weren't required by law to cover early childhood development programs and sex-change operations, it wouldn't be forced to cut corners in the few areas not regulated by the government, such as cancer treatments for patients with gallstones.

(4) National health care will give Americans "basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable" -- as Barack Obama claimed in his op/ed in the Times.

You want to protect consumers? Do it the same way we protect consumers of dry cleaning, hamburgers and electricians: Give them the power to tell their insurance companies, "I'm taking my business elsewhere."

(5) Government intervention is the only way to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The only reason most "pre-existing" conditions aren't already covered is because of government regulations that shrink the insurance market to a microscopic size, which leads to fewer options in health insurance and a lot more uninsured people than would exist in a free market.

The free market has produced a dizzying array of insurance products in areas other than health. (Ironically, array-associated dizziness is not covered by most health plans.) Even insurance companies have "reinsurance" policies to cover catastrophic events occurring on the properties they insure, such as nuclear accidents, earthquakes and Michael Moore dropping in for a visit and breaking the couch.

If we had a free market in health insurance, it would be inexpensive and easy to buy insurance for "pre-existing" conditions before they exist, for example, insurance on unborn -- unconceived -- children and health insurance even when you don't have a job. The vast majority of "pre-existing" conditions that currently exist in a cramped, limited, heavily regulated insurance market would be "covered" conditions under a free market in health insurance.

I've hit my word limit on liberal lies about national health care without breaking a sweat. See this space next week for more lies in our continuing series.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why 'Obama-Care' is Failing

By Jonah Goldberg
Los Angeles Times
August 19, 2009

To listen to the White House and its supporters, in and out of the media, you would think that opposition to "Obama-care" is the hobgoblin of a few small minds on the right. Racists, fascists, Neanderthals, the whole "Star Wars" cantina of boogeymen and cranks stand opposed to much-needed reform.

Left out of this fairly naked effort to demonize a great many with the actions of a tiny few is the simple fact that Obama-care -- however defined -- has been tanking in the polls for weeks. President Obama's handling of healthcare is unpopular with a majority of Americans and a majority of self-proclaimed independents.

Focusing on the town halls certainly has its merits, but if you actually wanted Obama-care to pass, casting a majority of Americans as being stooges of racist goons may not be the best way to go.

Imagine if President George W. Bush, in his effort to partially privatize Social Security, had insisted that the "time for talking is over." Picture, if you will, the Bush White House asking Americans to turn in their e-mails, in the pursuit of "fishy" dissent. Conjure a scenario under which then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) derided critics as "evil-mongers" the way Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently described town hall protesters. Or if then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) had called vocal critics "un-American" the way Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) did last week, or if White House strategist Karl Rove had been Sir Spam-a-lot instead of David Axelrod.

Now I'm not asking you, dear reader, to do this so that you might be able to see through the glare of Obama's halo or the outlines of the media's staggering double standard when it comes to covering this White House. Rather it is to grasp that the Obama administration has been astoundingly incompetent.

Lashing out at the town hall protesters, playing the race card, whining about angry white men and whispering ominously about right-wing militias is almost always a sign of liberalism's weakness -- a failure of the imagination.

The left, broadly speaking, has been attacking conservative talk radio and all it allegedly represents for the better part of 20 years now. When Bill Clinton needed a convenient villain, he attacked Rush Limbaugh. When Bush emerged victorious from the Florida recount, liberals concluded that what they really needed was their own version of Limbaugh. Last March, at the first sign of resistance from congressional Republicans, Obama immediately complained that the GOP was Limbaugh's lap dog, and both the White House and much of the press corps went into anti-Limbaugh campaign mode.

It's funny how these supposed champions of the Enlightenment can't grasp that people can disagree with them for honest reasons. Instead, we simply must be Limbaugh's automatons, which is to say racist, fascist thugs.

In addition to the slander, such complaints are monumentally, incandescently lame coming from a party that controls Washington. Indeed, according to liberals themselves, these evil-mongers are a tiny minority, a bunch of "Astro Turf" frauds. So why not ignore them and get on with the work you were elected to do?

Well, because they can't -- or won't.

One of the reasons the term "Obama-care" has become a journalistic convention is that there is no bill. You can't talk about Obama's actual healthcare plan because there isn't one. There are a bunch of competing bills, proposals, ideas swirling around the halls of Congress like flotsam in a sewer. As even Robert Reich, Clinton's Labor secretary, recently conceded, the failure to put forward a concrete proposal allows opponents to pick from a menu of scary ideas and possibilities, all of which can be labeled Obama-care.

Suspicion of bad motives are only reinforced by Obama's determination to steamroll to victory. Indeed, Democratic dudgeon that the town hall protesters don't want the civil debate we desperately need is hysterical, given that Obama wanted this over before the August recess. No wonder the president who thought the time for talk was over long ago now doesn't like the talk he's getting.

Some might say the real story is to be found in the eroding support from independent voters and Blue Dog Democratic congressmen. Or in the panic among seniors that Obama will raid Medicare. Or in his inability to get progressive Democrats to agree to a bipartisan approach. Or maybe the real story is Obama's manifest inability to sell a program he's invested his presidency in.

But no. Obama wants the debate to be about angry white men. And, as lame as that is, that's what's happening. It won't make Obama-care a reality, but it will shift the blame from where it rightly belongs.

Copyright 2009, Tribune Media Services Inc.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Novak: 1931-2009

by Fred Barnes
The Weekly Standard
08/18/2009 2:10:00 PM

Robert Novak terrified Washington. Elected and appointed officials, Democrats and Republicans, lobbyists and self-styled defenders of the "public interest" -- few were comfortable when Novak had them in his sights. Nor should they have been. The reason was simple: Bob Novak didn't play political games. He wasn't partisan. If he came across useful information about anyone, it would appear in his syndicated column. Novak died today at 78.

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2007 file photo, syndicated columnist Robert Novak, left, and his attorney James Hamilton, leave federal court in Washington. Novak, who was a central figure in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case, has died. (AP)

It's not too much to call Novak journalism's last honest man in Washington. Ideologically, he was conservative, the more so the older he grew. He was quite up front about this. But he didn't cover for his allies or mistreat his adversaries. If a conservative Republican disappointed him, Novak would let you know.

He was unique in another way: his reporting. His column, which he wrote for four decades with Rowland Evans, had a slant and plenty of analysis. Its strength, however, consisted of big scoops or nuggets of fresh reporting. No other columnist could match this. Appearing three days a week in the Washington Post, it was a column that couldn't be ignored.

The relentless, remorseless reporter -- the Prince of Darkness, as he fashioned himself publicly -- was only one side of Bob Novak. The other was a kind man, a patriot, a doting grandfather, a pal of liberal and conservative journalists alike, and a mentor to many younger men in the media, including me.

I was a reporter for the now-defunct Washington Evening Star newspaper when I met Bob Novak in 1973. He was already a world-famous columnist. We were both covering then-Vice President Gerald Ford. We struck up a conversation -- about basketball.

He was an astute fan of the game and we got season's tickets together the next year -- and for 35 years after that -- for the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) NBA team. Novak rarely missed a game.

He also was a fan of the University of Maryland for reasons too obscure for me to go into. When Maryland won the NCAA basketball championship in 2002, Novak and his son Alex attended every game, home and away. Meanwhile, he kept up a heavy schedule of TV appearances, speeches, reporting trips, and heavily reported columns. Novak was the hardest working man in journalism.

Novak mixed basketball and reporting. He went to China in 1978 and made a huge splash when he visited Democracy Wall in Beijing and interviewed Chinese leader Teng Hsaio-ping. On the way home, he stopped in LA to see a Maryland basketball game, flying home to Washington on the team plane. He told me later that only one person on the plane opened a book during the flight and it wasn't one of the "student athletes." It was Novak.

He wasn't always a conservative. In the 1960s and into the 1970s, he was a moderate Republican legendary for punching out a Goldwater delegate who was harassing him at the 1964 Republican convention in San Francisco. And even when he became a conservative, he wasn't a conventional one.

Novak became a champion of supply-side economics before Ronald Reagan had even heard of the newest version of free market economics. And in column after column, he wrote about the new apostle of the supply-side message, Jack Kemp. Along with Bob Bartley of the Wall Street Journal, Novak was responsible for popularizing supply-side and making it the economic policy of the Reagan administration.

President Reagan was one of Novak's few favorites in the White House, though he knew President Johnson well and indeed married a woman, Geraldine Williams, who worked for him. And Novak split with both President Bushes on their wars in Iraq. He favored a non-interventionist foreign policy.

His last major scoop was the revelation that Valerie Plame, a CIA employee, was behind her husband's trip to Africa and later attack on President George W. Bush. Democrats blamed the Bush White House for the leak, but it turned out Novak had heard about it from State Department deputy secretary Richard Armitage.

Born Jewish, Novak converted to Christianity at age 66 after an encounter with a young Catholic woman at Syracuse University. Her comment that he needed to make up his mind about his faith prompted him to join the Catholic church a year later.

That episode is the subject of one chapter, entitled Conversion, in his memoir, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years of Reporting in Washington. There aren't many great books about Washington, but Novak's is one, all 639 pages of it. The book is dedicated to his wife, "my intrepid and loving partner."

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Robert Novak, R.I.P.

Faith, freedom, and free enterprise.

By Larry Kudlow
National Review
August 18, 2009, 5:19 p.m.

Now we say good-bye to Robert Novak, who passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 78. Yet another conservative icon has left us. He was a good friend, and an amazing reporter. In fact, I believe he was the best reporter of his generation, which spans all the way back to the Eisenhower years.

Bob had a lot of opinions — conservative opinions; Reaganesque opinions. But his pursuit of journalistic detail, facts, scoops, and stories that no one else got was remarkable. He was “old school” in this respect, which is why he was so esteemed by political allies and critics alike.

Shoe leather is a term that comes to mind, and doggedness, and very hard work. Bob had a deep distrust of government. But even during the Reagan years, when I confess to being a source, Bob would write tough stories about the administration he supported. That was the thing about Bob: He was both a conservative icon in terms of his unswerving political beliefs, and a journalistic icon in terms of his unyielding tradecraft.

His last book, The Prince of Darkness, is a phenomenal account of Washington over the last 50-some-odd years. And it is a brilliant account of politics by a guy who refused to trust politicians, even the ones he favored. I can’t think of anybody today who writes the way Bob Novak wrote.

I knew him well, from tons of television work. We actually had a show together for a year back in 1990. It was called Money Politics. It was produced by Neal Freeman and it ran every Sunday until the deep recession turned it off.

Down through the years I had many an encounter with Bob on CNN’s Crossfire. Even though we agreed on most issues, he’d still come after me for one thing or another. You had to be on guard. Bob was a hoot.

He also was an anti-Communist hawk on foreign policy and a supply-sider on the economy. In The Prince of Darkness he wrote that Jude Wanniski’s The Way the World Works was the most influential book he ever read.

Down through the years Bob proselytized for the work of Wanniski, Art Laffer, Bob Mundell, Jack Kemp, and many of us lesser lights in the movement. He believed in low tax rates to grow the economy and a gold-backed dollar to keep prices stable. Sounds almost quaint today, in Obama’s very-big-government Washington. But it really was the heart of the successful Reagan economic revolution.Back in July 2007, after the publication of The Prince of Darkness, I interviewed Bob once again on CNBC. He was as sharp as a tack and remarkably conversant on everything. We had him on for almost the whole show. It was a real treat.

One of the great things about Bob was how he stood by his friends through thick and thin. I know this from personal experience. Though I first met him in the late 1970s, our friendship became much closer after I crashed and burned over alcohol and drug abuse in the mid-1990s. He congratulated me for moving on, and he exhorted and encouraged me in my new full-time career in broadcast journalism and column-writing. I loved him for that. Bob was a tough guy, but not with his friends. He was loyal. So am I.

Over the past twelve years Bob became a strong and devout traditional Catholic. He converted at the age of 66 as he came to grips with faith and embraced Jesus Christ. He did so on very personal terms, without any drama, but his belief was strong and deep. He came to believe that Christ died for us and our sins and for our salvation. As he looked back on his own life, and his several brushes with death, he came to understand that Jesus saved him and had a purpose for him.

As a Catholic convert myself, I often spoke with Bob as he neared his final decision. I had been received into the Church a few years earlier, and Bob would call me not so much for advice, but to talk about my decision. I always told him to follow his heart and his instincts. He did, with enormous grace.

In the past year and a half, conservative giants Bill Buckley, Jack Kemp, and now Robert Novak have departed. These were very different people, but they were all phenomenal leaders. They dedicated their lives to faith, freedom, and free enterprise. I was blessed to know all three men very well. They had an immeasurable influence on my life.But for today I am saddened by the passing of my friend Bob Novak. May he rest in peace.

— Larry Kudlow, NRO’s Economics Editor, is host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report and author of the daily web blog, Kudlow’s Money Politic$.

Robert Novak, Long-Time Conservative Columnist, Dies at 78

Washington's 'Prince of Darkness' Broke High-Stakes Scoops

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 18, 2009 1:03 PM

Robert D. Novak, 78, an influential columnist and panelist on TV news-discussion shows who called himself a "stirrer up of strife" on behalf of conservative causes, died today at his home in Washington of a brain tumor first diagnosed in July 2008.

FILE- In this Aug. 15, 1958 black-and-white file photo, Associated Press staff reporter Robert Novak is shown at work as he talks on the telephone in the Senate Press Gallery on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Mr. Novak's "Inside Report" syndicated column, shared for 30 years with the late Rowland Evans, was important reading for anyone who wanted to know what was happening in Washington. Mr. Novak and Evans broke stories about presidential politics, fiscal policy and intra-party feuds. Their journalism, which reported leaks from the highest sources of government, often had embarrassing consequences for politicians.

In recent years, Mr. Novak was best known for publicly identifying CIA operative Valerie Plame. His July 14, 2003, column was printed days after Plame's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly claimed that the Bush White House had knowingly distorted intelligence that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Africa.

The column triggered a lengthy federal investigation into the Plame leak and resulted in the 2007 conviction of a top vice presidential aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for perjury and obstruction of justice. President George W. Bush later commuted Libby's prison term.

Mr. Novak was accused by prominent journalists of being a pawn in a government retribution campaign against Wilson. Mr. Novak, who had called the U.S. invasion of Iraq "unjustified," denied the allegation.
He wrote that his initial column was meant to ask why Wilson had been sent on a CIA fact-finding mission involving the uranium. Then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage mentioned Plame's CIA position to Mr. Novak, and Bush aide Karl Rove confirmed it.

In a 2006 column, Mr. Novak wrote that Armitage "did not slip me this information as idle chitchat. . . . He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column." Armitage told The Washington Post that his disclosure to Mr. Novak was made in an offhand manner and that he did not know why Plame's husband was sent to Africa.

Mr. Novak lamented that the Plame story would "forever be part of my public identity" despite having written columns he said were more important.

Until the Plame controversy, Mr. Novak had largely been known as a strong anti-Communist in his foreign policy views. He also was an leading advocate of supply-side economics, a belief that tax cuts would lead to widespread financial prosperity.

David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union lobbying organization, said that Mr. Novak helped transform supply-side economics from a fringe idea into a tenet of President Ronald Reagan's economic policy. Keene called Mr. Novak "a giant of the profession" who "gave respectability and visibility to conservative ideas and positions in the 1970s, when they were mostly dismissed."

Mr. Novak was a congressional reporter for the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal before he teamed with Evans in 1963 to write a Washington-based political column for the old New York Herald-Tribune. "Inside Report" ran in almost 300 papers nationally, including The Post. Mr. Novak continued the column after Evans's retirement in 1993. Evans died in 2001.

Focusing on political intrigue rather than starchy analysis, they had an immediate effect with news about Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater's likely nomination as the Republican presidential candidate in 1964.

The Goldwater story led a Newsweek profile about the duo that helped shape their formidable reputation. But as Mr. Novak wryly noted, the Newsweek account was written by his close friend Michael Janeway.
"Little in Washington is on the level," Mr. Novak wrote in his 2007 memoir, "The Prince of Darkness," which had long been his nickname.

He earned that sobriquet in the early 1960s for what he called his swarthy looks, poor skills as a raconteur and "grim-visaged demeanor." He said that his unsmiling pessimism was a stark contrast with the upbeat spirit of the Kennedy administration and its many admirers in elite journalism circles and that he was a strikingly different type of Washington insider than his business partner Evans, a debonair Georgetowner at ease on the city's dinner circuit.

Mr. Novak was considered by many Washington colleagues to be far more generous than the scowling character he assumed on television debate programs such as CNN's "Crossfire," but he said the more combative aspect of his personality was heightened on television.

He wrote in his memoir, "I found myself engaged on issues I seldom wrote about: capital punishment, gay rights, abortion and gun control. I was never asked to take any position I opposed, but the process had the effect of hardening my positions."

The format of such shows as "The McLaughlin Group" and "Crossfire" pitted liberals such as Bill Press and James Carville against conservatives such as Mr. Novak and Pat Buchanan and left them to spar on divisive social issues.

The TV programs helped define Mr. Novak's reputation as a self-professed "right-wing ideologue." He wrote in his autobiography that he rarely disliked those with whom he appeared combative -- one significant exception was then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, whom the columnist called a populist demagogue and "habitual liar."

On one episode of "Face the Nation," Mr. Novak insisted that the candidate reveal which members of the diplomatic corps Carter objected to as "fat, bloated, ignorant" and unqualified except for being Nixon financiers. Carter declined to answer, and Mr. Novak persisted: "Can you name one, though? You make the accusation all over. There are only four ambassadors, governor, who have contributions to Mr. Nixon. Are any of them that fit that category?"

New York Times television critic Walter Goodman wrote in 1993 that Mr. Novak along with McLaughlin and Rush Limbaugh showed "a cruder face of conservatism. The insurgents do not trade in intellectual display. . . . Their fire is directed mainly at liberal Democrats, but their styles offer an implicit rebuff to the Republican establishment."

Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University's journalism school, said Mr. Novak "took great pleasure in playing the bad guy, the heavy, like guys in pro wrestling who come out all dressed in black. He'd sort of sneer and say the mean thing, so he developed that as part of a character he played on TV. It works with the medium to have a bad guy, and most journalists don't want to do that."

Robert David Sanders Novak was born Feb. 26, 1931, in Joliet, Ill., into a family that voted Republican. He said he became attracted to politics after his father, superintendent of a gas production plant, let him stay up late to listen over the radio to the 1940 Republican Party convention.

His family's heritage was Lithuanian Jewish, but Mr. Novak said he grew disenchanted with liberal sermons at synagogue and fell away from religion until undergoing a conversion to Catholicism in the late 1990s because of "spiritual hunger."

After attending the University of Illinois, where he began his journalism career, he reported for the Associated Press in the Midwest before the wire service sent him to Washington in 1957. He said his devotion to work helped end his first marriage, to an Indianapolis socialite named Rosanna Hall. In 1962, he married Geraldine Williams, then-secretary to a top aide of then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.

She survives, along with their two children, Zelda Caldwell of Washington and Alexander Novak of Bethesda, and eight grandchildren.

In Washington, Mr. Novak's early mentor was Willard Edwards, a Chicago Tribune reporter of such anti-Communist sympathies that he often sat on the dais with members of a Senate internal security subcommittee.
Edwards introduced the young reporter to politicians whom many in the press corps considered radioactive for their far-right ideology. Important tips from those congressmen helped Mr. Novak land scoops and win a reputation for aggressive coverage of Capitol Hill.

Bruised feelings, Mr. Novak wrote in his memoir, were often soothed over many cocktails. He added that his healthy ego was useful in handling inevitable complaints from powerful people.

When he printed an accurate tip that Alexander M. Haig Jr., President Gerald R. Ford's chief of staff, was out of favor with the president and would soon lose his job, Mr. Novak said he received an irate call from Haig, who threatened to sue for $5 million.

"Al," he replied, "you're out of luck. I don't have $5 million."

Mr. Novak wrote several books about Republican politics, but he said it was his skill at wooing members of both major parties that led to newsmaking exclusives.

A few months before he became presidential candidate George McGovern's running mate in 1972, Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) had confided to Mr. Novak, "McGovern is for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot. Once middle America -- Catholic middle America, in particular -- finds this out, he's dead."

Eagleton insisted his name not be linked to the quote, and Mr. Novak reported at the time that the quotation came from "one liberal senator." The column caused a political furor.

Mr. Novak said he faced enormous pressure by Democrats to reveal his source, and some accused him of making up the quotation. Mr. Novak kept his promise to Eagleton and did not name him as the source until after Eagleton died in 2007.

A similar high-profile debate arose over Mr. Novak's refusal to name his source for the Plame column. After the column appeared, Mr. Novak endured threats to his family and attributed the loss of his work at CNN to the ordeal. He also amassed legal fees of $160,000.

In his memoir, Mr. Novak said he would not have used Plame's name if the CIA director or the agency's spokesman told him it would have endangered national security or Plame's life. A CIA spokesman had twice warned Mr. Novak not to print Plame's name but could not reveal why to Mr. Novak because her status was classified.

Mr. Novak told Washingtonian magazine in November that he would not hesitate to run the column again. "I'd go full speed ahead because of the hateful and beastly way in which my left-wing critics in the press and Congress tried to make a political affair out of it and tried to ruin me," he said.

"My response now is this: The hell with you. They didn't ruin me. I have my faith, my family and a good life. A lot of people love me -- or like me. So they failed. I would do the same thing over again because I don't think I hurt Valerie Plame whatsoever."


Link Is Forged by Rockefeller and Goldwater
In their first political column, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak explored a campaign-season collaboration between left-leaning Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and right-leaning Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater. As Novak wrote 45 years later: "Like many of my 'scoops,' it proved ephemeral."

Behind Humphrey's Surge
This column, highlighting Sen. George McGovern's support for "amnesty, abortion and the legalization of pot," contributed to the defeat of his presidential candidacy.

Mr. Ford's Advisers: Gen. Haig Must Go
Evans and Novak predicted, accurately, that President Ford's chief of staff was on his way out -- a column that prompted threats from Haig.

Supply-Side Triumph
Devoted supply-siders, Evans and Novak cheered the "triumph of supply-side economics as the reigning doctrine of Republicanism."

Mission To Niger
Novak's best-known column, in which he publicly identified CIA operative Valerie Plame.

My Leak Case Testimony
After the conclusion of the Plame leak investigation, Novak wrote about his role.

Death of the Chief
The death of Chief Illiniwek epitomizes such unsavory aspects of contemporary American public life as political correctness, hypocrisy and bureaucratic tyranny.

Arm's-Length Leniency
In the Libby case, President Bush made a Solomonic decision -- if King Solomon had actually split the baby and given halves to rival mothers.

Why Lott Cashed It In
For Trent Lott, like many in today's Congress, big money trumps public service.

A Column's 45 Years
On May 15, 2008, Novak claimed the nation's current longest-running syndicated political column.

How a Tumor Is Changing My Life
"I thought 51 years of rough-and-tumble journalism in Washington had made me more enemies than friends," Novak wrote, "but my recent experience suggests the opposite may be the case."

Memories of working for Robert Novak

By: David Freddoso
Commentary Staff Writer
August 18, 2009

There I was, 27 years-old and still working my first job in Washington. And I was staring down Robert David Sanders Novak.

"Writing an editorial," he told me, "is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. It gives you this a nice, warm feeling, and no one notices."

with Karl Rove

I wasn't a source -- I was a job applicant. This was Novak's way of counseling a young, conservative writer to stick to factual reporting as much as possible, to avoid becoming a career commentator. After asking me a series of questions -- all of which surely violated some federal employment law ("Do you plan on getting married soon? What are your politics?") -- Novak hired me as his assistant.

In late 2004, when I started working for him, Novak was writing three news-filled columns every week. By itself, the column was more work than most people could handle, but it was only a small part of what he did in a typical week. At age 74, and still recovering from a broken hip, he was also making two or three appearances on CNN's Crossfire each week. He was producing and appearing on Capitol Gang, which taped every Friday for Saturday night. He made brief Monday afternoon appearances with Judy Woodruff on the CNN segment called "Novak's Notebook." He was still doing a show then called "The Novak Zone," in addition to writing about one-third of the 4,000-word Evans-Novak Political Report every two weeks.

As if that wasn't enough, he was also writing his memoir at that time, The Prince of Darkness. He would produce a new chapter every two to three weeks for me and his other two staffers to copy-edit. The final, 667-page product is formidable, but consider that Novak's first draft was twice that length -- and just as gripping, in my opinion. (By unfortunate necessity, some great material had to be left on the cutting-room floor.)

If Novak's schedule seems unrealistic or ridiculous to you as I've recounted it above, just imagine how I felt as I watched him stick to it, week after week.

Novak was a master of using time well, which is part of why he was so effective. Despite his dark public image, he was not a mean or angry man -- in fact, he was a very dear friend to me and a kind, generous man. But he could become very angry when someone was impeding his work. That was how he got so much done.

On one particular day in 2007, I was the problem. I had been out of cell phone service range for 90 minutes, watching some of the Republican presidential candidates address conservatives at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington. I ducked outside after Mitt Romney's speech to find eight messages waiting: "David, I could just ***ing kill you right now. Where the hell are you?"

In that brief period, the boss had somehow lost his column for Monday -- he couldn't figure out where he had saved it on his computer an hour earlier.

There are a lot of famous stories in circulation about Bob Novak, and surely many of them will find their way into print this week -- the blowup with James Carville and the Plame Affair, for example. But the man I'll always remember is the one who used to call me late at night with his Microsoft Word problems: "The screen just turned all blue;" "It just doesn't look the way it's supposed to;" "Why is everything I type red and underlined?" I once had to talk him through "recovering" a file he had accidentally minimized on his screen. Sometimes I wondered whether he ever slept.

I will also remember that even if Novak needed a lot of help with some aspects of the modern world, he never needed help understanding its politics or finding a story in it. He worked tirelessly, and he spoke with everyone. That's how he kept his must-read news column running so hot for so long and with such consistency. He could always find something fresh and newsworthy with which to treat his readers in every column.

Novak's column, Inside Report, was the joy of his working life. He never cared much about his performance on television, but he'd always ask your opinion of his column. And the most important columns were not always the ones that got the most attention. The throwaway tip he got from Richard Armitage in July 2003 was the one that caused the biggest political mess. But, to offer just one example, his less-noticed column of July 30, 2007 might have prevented U.S. involvement in a bloody new war over Kurdistan.

I spoke to Novak only a few times in the last year of his life. I was told that his illness was hard on him in his final days, and he was unable to see a small group of us Novak alumni a few weeks ago.

When he was forced to retire -- and he never would have retired otherwise -- I wondered whether perhaps God, whom he found late in life, was giving him a chance to experience rest and peace while he was still alive. God willing, he rests now in peace.

For the Left, war without Bush is not war at all

By Byron York
San Fransisco Examiner Columnist
August 18, 2009

Remember the anti-war movement? Not too long ago, the Democratic party's most loyal voters passionately opposed the war in Iraq. Democratic presidential candidates argued over who would withdraw American troops the quickest. Netroots activists regularly denounced President George W. Bush, and sometimes the U.S. military ("General Betray Us"). Cindy Sheehan, the woman whose soldier son was killed in Iraq, became a heroine when she led protests at Bush's Texas ranch.

That was then. Now, even though the United States still has roughly 130,000 troops in Iraq, and is quickly escalating the war in Afghanistan -- 68,000 troops there by the end of this year, and possibly more in 2010 -- anti-war voices on the Left have fallen silent.

No group was more angrily opposed to the war in Iraq than the netroots activists clustered around the left-wing Web site DailyKos. It's an influential site, one of the biggest on the Web, and in the Bush years many of its devotees took an active role in raising money and campaigning for anti-war candidates.

In 2006, DailyKos held its first annual convention, called YearlyKos, in Las Vegas. Amid the slightly discordant surroundings of the Riviera Hotel casino, the webby activists spent hours discussing and planning strategies not only to defeat Republicans but also to pressure Democrats to oppose the war more forcefully. The gathering attracted lots of mainstream press attention; Internet activism was the hot new thing.

Fast forward to last weekend, when YearlyKos, renamed Netroots Nation, held its convention in Pittsburgh. The meeting didn't draw much coverage, but the views of those who attended are still, as they were in 2006, a pretty good snapshot of the left wing of the Democratic party.

The news that emerged is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have virtually fallen off the liberal radar screen. Kossacks (as fans of DailyKos like to call themselves) who were consumed by the Iraq war when George W. Bush was president are now, with Barack Obama in the White House, not so consumed, either with Iraq or with Obama's escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan. In fact, they barely seem to care.

As part of a straw poll done at the convention, the Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg presented participants with a list of policy priorities like health care and the environment. He asked people to list the two priorities they believed "progressive activists should be focusing their attention and efforts on the most." The winner, by far, was "passing comprehensive health care reform." In second place was enacting "green energy policies that address environmental concerns."

And what about "working to end our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan"? It was way down the list, in eighth place.

Perhaps more tellingly, Greenberg asked activists to name the issue that "you, personally, spend the most time advancing currently." The winner, again, was health care reform. Next came "working to elect progressive candidates in the 2010 elections." Then came a bunch of other issues. At the very bottom -- last place, named by just one percent of participants -- came working to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's an extraordinary change in the mindset of the left. I attended the first YearlyKos convention, and have kept up with later ones, and it's safe to say that for many self-styled "progressives," the war in Iraq was the animating cause of their activism. They hated the war, and they hated George W. Bush for starting it. Or maybe they hated the war because George W. Bush started it. Either way, it was war, war, war.

Now, not so much.

Cindy Sheehan is learning that. She's still protesting the war, and on Monday she announced plans to demonstrate at Martha's Vineyard, where President Obama will be vacationing.

"We as a movement need to continue calling for an immediate end to the occupations [in Iraq and Afghanistan] even when there is a Democrat in the Oval Office," Sheehan said in a statement. "There is still no Noble Cause no matter how we examine the policies."

Give her credit for consistency, if nothing else. But her days are over. The people who most fervently supported her have moved on.

Not too long ago, some observers worried that Barack Obama would come under increasing pressure from the Left to leave both Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, it seems those worries were unfounded. For many liberal activists, opposing the war was really about opposing George W. Bush. When Bush disappeared, so did their anti-war passion.

Byron York, The Examiner's chief political correspondent, can be contacted at His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on

Today's Tune: Dion - Written On The Subway Wall

(Click on title to play video)

The Panel

What death by bureaucratic fiat might look like.

The Wall Street Journal
August 17, 2009, 11:04 P.M. E

It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance.

—President Barack Obama in a New York Times interview on how costly medical decisions should be made.

The people behind the long table do not know what they've become. The drug of power has been sugared over in their mouths with a flavoring of righteousness. Someone has to make these decisions, they tell their friends at dinner parties. It's all very difficult for us. But you can see it in their eyes: It isn't really difficult at all. It feels good to them to be the ones who decide.

"Well, we have your doctor's recommendation," says the chairwoman in a friendly tone. She peers over the top of her glasses as she pages through your file.

You have to clear your throat before you can answer. "He says the operation is my only chance."

"But not really very much of a chance, is it?" she says sympathetically. Over time, she's become expert at sounding sympathetic.

"Seventy percent!" you object.

Martin Kozlowski

"Seventy percent chance of survival for five years—five years at the outside—and even that only amounts to about 18 months in QALYs: quality-adjusted life years."

"But without this procedure, I'll be dead before Christmas."

You try to keep the anger out of your voice. The last thing you want to do is offend them. But the politicians promised you—they promised everyone—there would never be panels like this. They made fun of anyone who said there would. "What do they think we're going to do? Pull the plug on grandma?" they chuckled. The media ran news stories calling all rumors of such things "false" or "misleading." But of course by then the media had become apologists for the state rather than watchdogs for the people.

In fact, the logic of this moment was inevitable. Once government got its fingers on the health-care system, it was only a matter of time before it took it over completely. Now there's one limited pool of dollars while the costs are endless.

"You have the luxury of thinking only of yourself, but we have to think about everyone," says the professor of ethics. He's a celebrity and waxes eloquent every Tuesday and Thursday on Bill Maher Tonight. "This isn't the free market, after all. We can't just leave fairness to chance. We have to use reason. Is it better for society as a whole that we allocate limited resources for your operation when we might use the same dollars to bring many more high quality years to someone, say, younger?"

"I'm only 62."

He smiles politely.

"Look, it's not just about me," you argue desperately. "My daughter's engaged to get married next year. She'll be heartbroken if I'm not there for it."

"Maybe you should have thought of that before you put on so much weight," says the medical officer. "I mean, you people have been told time and again . . ."

But the chairwoman is uncomfortable with his censorious tone and cuts him off, saying more gently, "Perhaps your daughter could move the wedding up a little."

The member in charge of "stakeholder" exceptions shakes her head sadly as she studies your file. "If only you could have checked off one of the boxes. It would be awful if you were penalized just because of a clerical oversight."

It begins to occur to you that this is how you are going to die: by the fiat of fatuous ideologues—that is to say, by the considered judgment of a government committee. They are going to snuff you out and never lose a minute's sleep over it, because it's only fair, after all.

That logic is implacable too. Free people can treat each other justly, but they can't make life fair. To get rid of the unfairness among individuals, you have to exercise power over them. The more fairness you want, the more power you need. Thus, all dreams of fairness become dreams of tyranny in the end.

You know you should keep your mouth shut. Be humble—they like that. But you speak before you can stop yourself.

"What you're doing here is evil," you cry out. "You're trying to take the place of God!"

"Sir, this is a government building!" says the chairwoman, shocked. "There's no God here."

Mr. Klavan is a contributing editor to City Journal. His latest novel is "Empire of Lies" (Harcourt, 2008).