Saturday, August 29, 2009

Necks Overflowing With Rivers of Metaphor

The New York Times
August 28, 2009

It seems like too much futile work in the heat of August — work bound to lead only to phony conclusions — to decipher how the sanguivorous have become the meat and drink of popular culture at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

Though here we are in the summer of 2009 with the rage for “Twilight” continuing, the vampire movie “Thirst” claiming this year’s jury prize at Cannes, the supernatural series “Being Human” on BBC America, and others arriving on CW and AMC.

HBO’s “True Blood” has been credited with revivifying the channel’s fortunes. The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, which inspired the series, currently occupy seven of the top 20 spots on The New York Times’s paperback mass-market fiction best-seller list. The show, a mishmash of Flannery O’Connor aspirations and Anne Rice pop blood hunger, threatens to surpass “Sex and the City” as the most-watched series in HBO’s history after “The Sopranos.”

But “True Blood” is nothing like its mob-world forebear or anything else on HBO. Where “The Sopranos” had restraint and vast ambition, “True Blood” has excess and gall. During the current season, its second (the penultimate episode will be shown on Sunday), it has become an allegory for nearly every strain of tension in American life, despite a premise that suggested a more contained agenda. When “True Blood” appeared, it was easy to assume it was a metaphor for late-stage capitalism gone haywire, not simply because it began with an insolent store clerk reading Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” but also because the show seemed predicated on an interest in the retail addict’s belief that we’re made of what we buy.

Set in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps, the series imagines vampires living among us, assimilating uneasily but subsisting on a new form of nourishment: synthetic blood sold in bars and convenience stores, negating the need (if not the desire) to make value meals out of human bodies. The hot vampire in town is Bill Compton, played by Stephen Moyer, with the same potato-flesh complexion as the character of Edward Cullen in the filmed adaptation of “Twilight.” Despite the progress they’ve made, vampires, like women bent on avoiding Botox, still can’t subject themselves to the murderous effects of sunlight.

Bill’s lack of availability for lunchtime patio dining makes him no less appealing to Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), an orphaned mind-reading waitress, who when the series began was a virgin looking at a very limited number of days of continued sexual ignorance. Bill has a courtly reserve to him, one he has kept up at least since the Civil War. It is the women of Bon Temps whose metabolisms run rapid with appetite. They like to bed down with vampires and accessories.

“True Blood” doesn’t care where those accessories come from. It isn’t interested in what we buy; it cares whether we really are who we sleep with. The sex is served in such luridly voluptuous, viewer-satiation-guaranteed portions that the show feels like nothing else on television, by which I mean television that isn’t available exclusively on $15.99 hotel-room pay-per-view. “True Blood” is also like little we’ve seen on the larger screen in years, a vestige of the ’80s forged from the musings of Adrian Lyne and the camera of David Lynch at a time when studios, unburdened by the need to sell DVDs at Wal-Mart, submitted to greater sexual permissiveness on film.

The reactionary gender politics that often attended such permissiveness are embedded in “True Blood,” even as the show’s creator, Alan Ball, works aggressively to prove what a fired-up liberal he is. As if we’ve consistently skipped those parts of the newspaper that have recounted the scandals of Jim Bakker or Ted Haggard, Mr. Ball insists on telling us that right-wing religious extremism is frequently linked with an untenable moral and sexual hypocrisy.

A Congressional candidate who makes vampire bashing (read: gay bashing) part of his platform is buying V, vampire blood with a Viagra effect on civilians, from a drag queen on the black market. Mr. Ball, as he did in “American Beauty,” which he wrote, and “Six Feet Under,” which he created and where eros and thanatos did battle every week, shoots his metaphors as if activating an armed squadron. Standing in for a hundred Jerry Falwells and the Curse of American Sexual Paranoia, one detractor on the show declaimed, “Vampires have taken our jobs and our women, and their very blood turns our children into addicts, drug dealers and homosexuals!”

The current season has set up a showdown between a psycho Christian cult called the Fellowship of the Sun, which runs a kind of conversion camp called the Light of Day Institute, and the vampires (and vampire sympathizers) the cult aims to destroy. At the same time it is libidinous women to whom bad things keep happening — and who make bad things happen.

No one in the fellowship is quite as terrifying as Maryann (Michelle Forbes), a not-entirely-human Dionysian nut job, who cooks up pot pies made of dubiously acquired organs and poses the greatest threat to the moral foundation of Bon Temps with her penchant for hypnotizing the town into states of violent, orgiastic rapture. When she is around, eyeballs start bleeding black. She wants everyone to be getting it on all the time. She also likes human sacrifice. Unchecked sexual freedom apparently isn’t what we’re supposed to be signing up for, either.

“True Blood” charges along under the spell of its own unmodulated id. That Mr. Ball seems tenuously at the rudder of his ideological ship doesn’t bother the millions of viewers who cannot get enough. “Sex and the City” — that was merely nun’s play.

Trustfund Ted

By Daniel J. Flynn on 8.28.09 @ 6:08AM
The American Spectator

"After all is said and done, Ted Kennedy is still the man in American politics Republicans love to hate," Republican strategist Lee Atwater, himself the victim of brain cancer, observed in 1990. Though attitudes toward Senator Kennedy softened because of his illness, he remained a figure with few admirers who weren't also colleagues, constituents, or political fellow travelers. Kennedy votaries who dismiss criticisms of the late senator as the product of partisanship or ideological bitterness tell themselves a comforting lie. Scores of Democrats shared Kennedy's politics. None elicited the heated response in conservative direct mail, campaign ads, or red-meat speeches. Ted Kennedy's politics, rather than blinding conservatives to Ted Kennedy's virtues, blinded liberals to his vices -- which were large and many.

Following a car crash that claimed the life of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, Kennedy wears a neck brace on his way to her funeral, Hyannis, Massachusetts, July 22, 1969. Kopechne died when the senator drove off a bridge connecting Martha's Vineyard and Chappaquiddick islands. Kennedy swam ashore but Kopechne was not able to leave the car.(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The caricature that Ann Richards and others painted of George H.W. Bush -- "born on third base and thought that he hit a triple" -- more resembled Ted Kennedy, a gregarious rogue enabled by wealth, power, and a famous last name. The privilege that shielded the playboy senator from the consequences of his actions acted as a double-edge sword by ensuring that he also never learned from the mistakes he didn't suffer from.

Despite ranking in the bottom half of his class at Milton Academy, Ted Kennedy matriculated into America's most prestigious university in 1950. Grades? He was a Kennedy. His three older brothers and father had graduated from Harvard. Why couldn't he? Unable to perform in the classroom as he performed on the football field, the youngest of the Kennedy brood hired a classmate to take his Spanish exam. Those who had bent the rules to admit him abided by them in expelling him. Joe Kennedy was furious -- that his son got caught, not that he cheated.

When the immature Kennedy impulsively enlisted in the Army to save face, he discovered that his contract obliged him to a longer period of service, and exposed him to the dangers of combat. An outraged Joe Kennedy responded, "Don't you even look at what you're signing?" His father, one of the richest men in America, "fixed" the matter with a few phone calls. Ted's four-year contract became a two-year stint, and the possibility of a soldier's life on the front lines in Korea was rectified with a posh assignment in Paris guarding NATO's headquarters.

Ted Kennedy is perhaps the only senator who never -- save for his Army respite from Harvard -- held a steady paying job prior to landing one in that august body. This infuriated his opponent, Edward McCormack, in the 1962 Massachusetts Democratic primary. "If his name was Edward Moore, with his qualifications," the state's attorney general remarked in a debate, "your candidacy would be a joke." But starting at the top was the Kennedy way. If Joseph Kennedy could go from stock swindler to chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Robert Kennedy could become attorney general of the United States without ever having tried a case in court, then certainly President Kennedy's kid brother could, just three years out of law school, win a place in the U.S. Senate.

"Of course, I'm hurt," Edward McCormack reflected immediately after his loss. "I think it's unjust that he should even try for the nomination. Two years ago, I led all candidates in this state at the polls. Right now I hold the most important elective office held in this state by a Democrat. Then along came Teddy Kennedy out of the blue. If this is politics, if they can get away with this, then I don't want any part of politics."

A few years later, Ted Kennedy got away with it again. After finishing ninth in a field of 31 in a regatta, Kennedy spent a Saturday partying with six unmarried women and a group of married men. Pounding rum and cokes, Kennedy absconded from the booze barbecue with Mary Jo Kopechne, whom he drove to her death off a narrow, unlit bridge without guardrails. For almost ten hours, the senator dried out, called numerous acquaintances, and tried to get his cousin to go along with a cover story that Kopechne had been alone at the wheel -- but did nothing to alert authorities to his party companion's plight. Political fixers fixed him with a neck brace, produced a renewed driver's license for the unlicensed senator, and released incomplete phone records -- exposed by the New York Times a decade later -- that erased the calls he made between the time of the accident and the time of his reporting it. Characteristic of the treatment he had received his whole life, Kennedy avoided jail and overwhelmingly won reelection the next year. His mother responded by initially disinheriting Ted's cousin, her orphaned nephew, who refused to go along with her son's subterfuge.

Like his previous mistakes, the accident did nothing to alter Kennedy's misbehavior. Here, caught in broad daylight in the marital act on the floor of a posh Washington restaurant. There, waking his son and nephew to carouse the Palm Beach bars on Good Friday -- leading to accusations of a rape occurring within earshot of the senator. Whereas assassinations and World War II kept his older brothers forever young, Ted's reckless behavior made him the Peter Pan of the Senate. Though his jet-black hair turned snow white, and his football physique transformed into a Fritos physique, Ted Kennedy remained in suspended adolescence for most of his 47 years in the elected office.

Insulated by the consequences of his behavior, Kennedy was also shielded from the consequences of his policies. He was the champion of busing who kept his own children far from the public schools; an advocate of publicly funded campaigns who bankrolled his political career with his family's shadowy financing; an icon of feminists who used women like Kleenex, serially harassed members of the opposite sex, and spent ten hours attempting to rescue his political career as he denied the young women suffocating in an air pocket in his Oldsmobile professional rescue attempts; and the primary booster of socialized medicine who assembled a dream team of neurosurgeons to consult on his treatment for brain cancer. The proverbial limousine liberal was made real in Trustfund Ted.

Particularly galling to Senator Kennedy's amazed antagonists was the manner in which those that he wronged rewarded rather than punished their transgressor. Edward McCormack's family chose Kennedy to deliver a eulogy at his funeral. In anticipation of the 1976 race for the presidency, Joe and Gwen Kopechne offered that they would cast their votes for Kennedy should he run. More than a half century after expelling Ted Kennedy, Harvard awarded him an honorary degree and celebrated him at The Game, where Harvard Stadium's confused spectators were left wondering how Ted Kennedy '54 could have caught a touchdown pass in the 1955 Harvard-Yale game.

"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life," Ted eulogized slain brother Bobby in 1969. More than four decades later, Ted Kennedy's conservative detractors are wondering why the senator's admirers aren't heeding such advice.

Daniel J. Flynn, the author of A Conservative History of the American Left, blogs at

Things only a Kennedy could get away with

And by not calling his bluff on Chappaquiddick, Americans became complicit in it.

Syndicated column
Orange County Register
Friday, August 28, 2009

We are enjoined not to speak ill of the dead. But, when an entire nation – or, at any rate, its "mainstream" media culture – declines to speak the truth about the dead, we are certainly entitled to speak ill of such false eulogists. In its coverage of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's passing, America's TV networks are creepily reminiscent of those plays Sam Shepard used to write about some dysfunctional inbred hardscrabble Appalachian household where there's a baby buried in the backyard but everyone agreed years ago never to mention it.

In this case, the unmentionable corpse is Mary Jo Kopechne, 1940-1969. If you have to bring up the, ah, circumstances of that year of decease, keep it general, keep it vague. As Kennedy flack Ted Sorensen put it in Time magazine:

"Both a plane crash in Massachusetts in 1964 and the ugly automobile accident on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 almost cost him his life …"

That's the way to do it! An "accident," "ugly" in some unspecified way, just happened to happen – and only to him, nobody else. Ted's the star, and there's no room to namecheck the bit players. What befell him was … a thing, a place. As Joan Vennochi wrote in The Boston Globe:

"Like all figures in history – and like those in the Bible, for that matter – Kennedy came with flaws. Moses had a temper. Peter betrayed Jesus. Kennedy had Chappaquiddick, a moment of tremendous moral collapse."

Actually, Peter denied Jesus, rather than "betrayed" him, but close enough for Catholic-lite Massachusetts. And if Moses having a temper never led him to leave some gal at the bottom of the Red Sea, well, let's face it, he doesn't have Ted's tremendous legislative legacy, does he? Perhaps it's kinder simply to airbrush out of the record the name of the unfortunate complicating factor on the receiving end of that moment of "tremendous moral collapse." When Kennedy cheerleaders do get around to mentioning her, it's usually to add insult to fatal injury. As Teddy's biographer Adam Clymer wrote, Edward Kennedy's "achievements as a senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne."

You can't make an omelet without breaking chicks, right? I don't know how many lives the senator changed – he certainly changed Mary Jo's – but you're struck less by the precise arithmetic than by the basic equation: How many changed lives justify leaving a human being struggling for breath for up to five hours pressed up against the window in a small, shrinking air pocket in Teddy's Oldsmobile? If the senator had managed to change the lives of even more Americans, would it have been OK to leave a couple more broads down there? Hey, why not? At the Huffington Post, Melissa Lafsky mused on what Mary Jo "would have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history … Who knows – maybe she'd feel it was worth it." What true-believing liberal lass wouldn't be honored to be dispatched by that death panel?

We are all flawed, and most of us are weak, and in hellish moments, at a split-second's notice, confronting the choice that will define us ever after, many of us will fail the test. Perhaps Mary Jo could have been saved; perhaps she would have died anyway. What is true is that Edward Kennedy made her death a certainty. When a man (if you'll forgive the expression) confronts the truth of what he has done, what does honor require? Six years before Chappaquiddick, in the wake of Britain's comparatively very minor "Profumo scandal," the eponymous John Profumo, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for War, resigned from the House of Commons and the Queen's Privy Council and disappeared amid the tenements of the East End to do good works washing dishes and helping with children's playgroups, in anonymity, for the last 40 years of his life. With the exception of one newspaper article to mark the centenary of his charitable mission, he never uttered another word in public again.

Ted Kennedy went a different route. He got kitted out with a neck brace and went on TV and announced the invention of the "Kennedy curse," a concept that yoked him to his murdered brothers as a fellow victim – and not, as Mary Jo perhaps realized in those final hours, the perpetrator. He dared us to call his bluff, and, when we didn't, he made all of us complicit in what he'd done. We are all prey to human frailty, but few of us get to inflict ours on an entire nation.

His defenders would argue that he redeemed himself with his "progressive" agenda, up to and including health care "reform." It was an odd kind of "redemption": In a cooing paean to the senator on a cringe-makingly obsequious edition of NPR's "Diane Rehm Show," Edward Klein of Newsweek fondly recalled that one of Ted's "favorite topics of humor was, indeed, Chappaquiddick itself. He would ask people, 'Have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?'"

Terrific! Who was that lady I saw you with last night?

Beats me!

Why did the Last Lion cross the road?

To sleep it off!

What do you call 200 Kennedy sycophants at the bottom of a Chappaquiddick pond? A great start, but bad news for NPR guest-bookers! "He was a guy's guy," chortled Edward Klein. Which is one way of putting it.

When a man is capable of what Ted Kennedy did that night in 1969 and in the weeks afterward, what else is he capable of? An NPR listener said the senator's passing marked "the end of civility in the U.S. Congress." Yes, indeed. Who among us does not mourn the lost "civility" of the 1987 Supreme Court hearings? Considering the nomination of Judge Bork, Ted Kennedy rose on the Senate floor and announced that "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit down at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution."

Whoa! "Liberals" (in the debased contemporary American sense of the term) would have reason to find Borkian jurisprudence uncongenial but to suggest the judge and former solicitor-general favored resegregation of lunch counters is a slander not merely vile but so preposterous that, like his explanation for Chappaquiddick, only a Kennedy could get away with it. If you had to identify a single speech that marked "the end of civility" in American politics, that's a shoo-in.

If a towering giant cares so much about humanity in general, why get hung up on his carelessness with humans in particular? For Kennedy's comrades, the cost was worth it. For the rest of us, it was a high price to pay. And, for Ted himself, who knows? He buried three brothers, and as many nephews, and, as the years took their toll, it looked sometimes as if the only Kennedy son to grow old had had to grow old for all of them. Did he truly believe, as surely as Melissa Lafsky and Co. do, that his indispensability to the republic trumped all else? That Camelot – that "fleeting wisp of glory," that "one brief shining moment" – must run forever, even if "How To Handle A Woman" gets dropped from the score. The senator's actions in the hours and days after emerging from that pond tell us something ugly about Kennedy the man. That he got away with it tells us something ugly about American public life.


The Get-Cheney Squad

By Patrick J. Buchanan
August 27, 2009

"Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

George Orwell's truth comes to mind as one reads that Eric Holder has named a special prosecutor to go after the "rough men" who, to keep us sleeping peacefully at night, went too far in frightening Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the engineer of the September massacres.

Yet, it seems now indisputable that those CIA interrogators, with their rough methods, got vital intelligence that saved American lives, as Dick Cheney has consistently contended.

According to The Washington Times, which reviewed the newly declassified CIA documents, those interrogators "produced life-saving intelligence that disrupted numerous terror plots."

They elicited the names of al-Qaida agents who planned anthrax attacks on Westerners and a massive bombing of Camp Lemonier, the U.S. base in East Africa. They got the names of 70 recruits al-Qaida deemed "suitable for Western attacks" and of the men who made the bomb used on the U.S. consulate in Karachi.

Iyman Faris, an al-Qaeda sleeper agent and truck driver in Ohio, is serving 20 years because of information the CIA got from KSM and associates.

Other operations aborted include al-Qaida "plots to fly airliners into buildings on the West Coast, setting off bombs in U.S. cities and planning to employ a network of Pakistanis to target gas stations, railroad tracks and the Brooklyn Bridge."

What were the "inhumane" techniques CIA interrogators used to uncover these plans for the mass murder of Americans?

"Interrogators lifted one detainee off the floor by his arms, while they were bound behind his back with a belt," reports The Washington Post. "Another interrogator used a stiff brush to clean a detainee, scrubbing so roughly that his legs were raw with abrasions. Another squeezed a detainee's neck at his carotid artery until he began to pass out."

The CIA, we are told, used mock executions to frighten captives and threatened to kill KSM's children and rape his mother. Power drills were brandished in interrogation rooms.

Were any children killed? No. Was anyone's mother raped? No. Was the power drill used? No.

Was anyone executed in front of a witness to make him talk? No. It was faked, as Sean Connery faked it in "The Untouchables" to get an underling to blab to Eliot Ness, aka Kevin Costner, about how he could take down Al Capone's mob.

As for threatening to kill the children of our enemies, we did not do that in "The Good War." Instead, what we did was kill them in the thousands every night in air raids over Germany and Japan.

In the Tokyo firestorm of February 1945, the Dresden raid in March, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, we killed grandparents, mothers, fathers, wives, sisters, daughters and sons of the enemy in the scores of thousands on each of those days.

Can it be that the same United States that honored Col. Paul Tibbets and put his Enola Gay, which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, on display in its Air and Space Museum is going to prosecute a CIA agent for faking an execution and threatening, but never intending, to kill the children of Khalid Sheik Muhammad?

Why is Barack Obama allowing these prosecutions to proceed?

In 2004, career lawyers at Justice looked over the same reports and concluded that prosecutions would not serve the national interest. Obama has himself said he wants to move on.

Now, he and Holder may not like what was done back then, but who does? And where is the criminal intent? These agents are not sadists. They were trying to get intel to abort plots and apprehend terrorists to prevent them from killing us. And they succeeded. Not a single terrorist attack on the United States in eight years.

Do we the people, some of whom may be alive because of what those CIA men did, want them disgraced, prosecuted and punished for not going strictly by the book in protecting us from terrorists?

In its lead editorial Tuesday, "Following the Torture Trail," The Washington Post declaims, "The real culprits in this sordid story are the higher-ups, starting with former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Richard B. Cheney who led America down the degraded path of state-sponsored torture."

But why is Obama yielding to the clamor of a left that will not be satiated until Cheney and Bush are indicted as Class A war criminals? Is that in the national interest? Is it in Obama's interest to tear his country apart to expose and punish these CIA agents?

In the 1960s, Robert Kennedy and the boys at Justice set up a "Get Hoffa Squad" to take down Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. It was a vendetta that succeeded.

This vendetta will not. For, on the issue of national security, as Barack will painfully discover, he is not more trusted than Dick Cheney or the rough men at the CIA who did the harsh interrogations of terrorists, to keep us sleeping peacefully at night.


Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, reviewed here by Paul Craig Roberts.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy's death heralds Camelot's end

By John Kass
Chicago Tribune
August 27, 2009

With Sen. Ted Kennedy dead at 77, the political iconographers on Wednesday were working feverishly, like alchemists over a fire.

The Kennedy legacy has always been about American royalty and the appetites of kings and the use of myth, and that myth was always Camelot, those shining knights and the idealistic boy who drew the sword from the stone. With the death of the Massachusetts Democrat, finally, mercifully, let's let Camelot go.

The iconographers on the political right, including some who call themselves Christians, were busy damning his soul to hell for walking away from that crash at Chappaquiddick 40 years ago.

He let young Mary Jo Kopechne drown in the Oldsmobile, her body twisting to find pockets of air in that submerged car as he made it to shore, then waited hours to sober up, put his clout together and save his political career.

Some critics hated him for his politics. Others hated him because his only punishment for Chappaquiddick was that he couldn't be president and so was sentenced to the job of senator for life. Most were upset that the media canonized him as a liberal lion and used Camelot to shield him. It doesn't really matter now.

But can you call yourself a Christian and hope that a man's soul be damned?

On Wednesday, many on the political left -- including some made visibly uncomfortable with any talk of souls -- busily ignored Mary Jo, just as they've always ignored her. But they grabbed onto Camelot for one last ride, and used a dead Kennedy to push for nationalized health care.

"They'll use him for sympathy points on the health care thing," a national Democrat told me on Wednesday. "How far they'll use him I don't know. But they'll use him."

With so much Kennedy adulation and hatred in the air, I had the good fortune to read what his sister-in-law once said about myth and history and Camelot.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy ignited the Camelot myth in Life magazine just one week after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.

To graft Camelot and the Kennedys in the American mind, she needed a partner and chose pro-Kennedy journalist Theodore H. White.

After that interview, the idealism of the boy king who drew the sword from the stone was permanently ceded to the Kennedys, first to John in death, then to his brother Robert, who was later assassinated.

But it protected Ted Kennedy the best.

Camelot was so powerful that even before Ted Kennedy's death, there were clumsy attempts to graft it onto our current president from Chicago. Invariably they'll try again.

What worried Jacqueline Kennedy in 1963 were the historians. She asked White to rescue her late husband from all those "bitter people" who'd write the histories. She beat them to it with Camelot.

According to White's notes of the interview, Mrs. Kennedy repeated again and again how she and her husband loved the musical "Camelot." She said the president especially loved one of the songs.

"I'd get out of bed at night and play it for him, when it was so cold getting out of bed ... on a Victrola, 10 years old -- and the song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot, sad Camelot, 'Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.'

"There will never be another Camelot again," Mrs. Kennedy told White.

White got the message. He understood her gracious command. And so did the editors of Life. It was the Kennedys and Camelot. It's been that way ever since.

You'll see what's left of Camelot in the news coverage of the senator's funeral over the weekend. It's all been ground together, through the alchemy of modern American politics.

And if there is a Kennedy legacy, it's not his political philosophy so much as the bizarre American yearning for royalty and myth.

During her interview with White, Mrs. Kennedy also spoke of drama and history in those moments before photographers made the iconic pictures on the day the president was assassinated.

"Everybody kept saying to me to put a cold towel around my head and wipe the blood off. Later I saw myself in the mirror, my whole face spattered with blood and hair. ... I wiped it off with Kleenex. ... History! ... I thought, no one really wants me there. Then one second later, I thought, why did I wash the blood off? I should have left it there. Let them see what they've done.

"If I'd just had the blood and caked hair when they took the picture. ... Then later I said to Bobby -- what's the line between history and drama? I should have kept the blood on."

That line between history and drama for the Kennedys was never very thick, like the line between American realism and our yearning for royalty, and for comforting political myths.


By Ann Coulter
August 26, 2009

With the Democrats getting slaughtered -- or should I say, "receiving mandatory end-of-life counseling" -- in the debate over national health care, the Obama administration has decided to change the subject by indicting CIA interrogators for talking tough to three of the world's leading Muslim terrorists.

Had I been asked, I would have advised them against reinforcing the idea that Democrats are hysterical bed-wetters who can't be trusted with national defense while also reminding people of the one thing everyone still admires about President George W. Bush.

But I guess the Democrats really want to change the subject. Thus, here is Part 2 in our series of liberal lies about national health care.

(6) There will be no rationing under national health care.

Anyone who says that is a liar. And all Democrats are saying it. (Hey, look -- I have two-thirds of a syllogism!)

Apparently, promising to cut costs by having a panel of Washington bureaucrats (for short, "The Death Panel") deny medical treatment wasn't a popular idea with most Americans. So liberals started claiming that they are going to cover an additional 47 million uninsured Americans and cut costs ... without ever denying a single medical treatment!

Also on the agenda is a delicious all-you-can-eat chocolate cake that will actually help you lose weight! But first, let's go over the specs for my perpetual motion machine -- and it uses no energy, so it's totally green!

For you newcomers to planet Earth, everything that does not exist in infinite supply is rationed. In a free society, people are allowed to make their own rationing choices.

Some people get new computers every year; some every five years. Some White House employees get new computers and then vandalize them on the way out the door when their candidate loses. (These are the same people who will be making decisions about your health care.)

Similarly, one person might say, "I want to live it up and spend freely now! No one lives forever." (That person is a Democrat.) And another might say, "I don't go to restaurants, I don't go to the theater, and I don't buy expensive designer clothes because I've decided to pour all my money into my health."

Under national health care, you'll have no choice about how to ration your own health care. If your neighbor isn't entitled to a hip replacement, then neither are you. At least that's how the plan was explained to me by our next surgeon general, Dr. Conrad Murray.

(7) National health care will reduce costs.

This claim comes from the same government that gave us the $500 hammer, the $1,200 toilet seat and postage stamps that increase in price every three weeks.

The last time liberals decided an industry was so important that the government needed to step in and contain costs was when they set their sights on the oil industry. Liberals in both the U.S. and Canada -- presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter and Canadian P.M. Pierre Trudeau -- imposed price controls on oil.

As night leads to day, price controls led to reduced oil production, which led to oil shortages, skyrocketing prices for gasoline, rationing schemes and long angry lines at gas stations.

You may recall this era as "the Carter years."

Then, the white knight Ronald Reagan became president and immediately deregulated oil prices. The magic of the free market -- aka the "profit motive" -- produced surges in oil exploration and development, causing prices to plummet. Prices collapsed and remained low for the next 20 years, helping to fuel the greatest economic expansion in our nation's history.

You may recall this era as "the Reagan years."

Freedom not only allows you to make your own rationing choices, but also produces vastly more products and services at cheap prices, so less rationing is necessary.

(8) National health care won't cover abortions.

There are three certainties in life: (a) death, (b) taxes, and (C) no health care bill supported by Nita Lowey and Rosa DeLauro and signed by Barack Obama could possibly fail to cover abortions.

I don't think that requires elaboration, but here it is:

Despite being a thousand pages long, the health care bills passing through Congress are strikingly nonspecific. (Also, in a thousand pages, Democrats weren't able to squeeze in one paragraph on tort reform. Perhaps they were trying to save paper.)

These are Trojan Horse bills. Of course, they don't include the words "abortion," "death panels" or "three-year waits for hip-replacement surgery."

That proves nothing -- the bills set up unaccountable, unelected federal commissions to fill in the horrible details. Notably, the Democrats rejected an amendment to the bill that would specifically deny coverage for abortions.

After the bill is passed, the Federal Health Commission will find that abortion is covered, pro-lifers will sue, and a court will say it's within the regulatory authority of the health commission to require coverage for abortions.

Then we'll watch a parade of senators and congressmen indignantly announcing, "Well, I'm pro-life, and if I had had any idea this bill would cover abortions, I never would have voted for it!"

No wonder Democrats want to remind us that they can't be trusted with foreign policy. They want us to forget that they can't be trusted with domestic policy.

British Lion Muzzled

by Robert Spencer

Britain is sinking fast, and in too many ways its government is its people’s worst enemy.

Jihadists struck London on July 7, 2005 and Glasgow on June 29, 2007, and many still operate in Britain -- but how bad is it now? To begin finding out, I spent the last week in London, visiting mosques and discussing the situation with locals.

What I saw wasn’t shocking, but quite depressing.

I went to London to work on a documentary on the Islamization of Europe with operatives from the Christian Action Network, which last year produced the shocking documentary Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around the U.S. For that film, CAN’s Jason Campbell visited many of the Jamaat ul-Fuqra terror compounds which dot the rural American landscape, generally to the consternation of the locals and in the face of the indifference or impotence of law enforcement authorities.

Last week, Jason and I walked around inside some of the most notorious mosques in Britain. One by one, we visited them. The North London Central Mosque, aka the Finsbury Park Mosque, the old haunt of the one-eyed, hook-handed jihadi Abu Hamza, who now faces extradition to the U.S. for his role in terror plotting. The expansive and prosperous Islamic Cultural Centre on Baker Street. The likewise large (and rapidly expanding) East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, and the Stockwell Green Muslim Centre, where teenagers are recruited for jihad. There Jason and I both felt a distinct level of menace as we passed through the place.

We also went by the Masjid-e-Ilyas near the site of the 2012 Olympics, where Muslims want to build the largest mosque in Europe, capable of holding 70,000 people. But there we were not allowed in.

Unrecognized inside the mosques we were able to enter, I was warmly received as a potential convert and laden with books and pamphlets explaining the wonders of Islam -- including, courtesy the Finsbury Park Mosque, a copy of the Koran with illuminating commentary: “The purpose for which the Muslims are required to fight,” we’re told, “is not, as one might think, to compel the unbelievers into embracing Islam.”

Feel better? Don’t. “Rather, its purpose is to put an end to the suzerainty of the unbelievers so that the latter are unable to rule over people. The authority to rule should only be vested in those who follow the Truth Faith; unbelievers who do not follow this True Faith should live in a state of subordination.” So much for liberty and justice for all.

The current state of Britain came most clearly into focus, however, not when we visited the mosques, but when we tried to have dinner. I had an illuminating dinner with a group including the notable British author and freedom fighter Douglas Murray that turned out to offer a bracing introduction to British dhimmitude: the dinner had to be moved at the last minute since the proprietors of the George Restaurant in the aptly-named Isle of Dogs district of London didn’t like us discussing jihad and Islamization on the premises. This was despite the fact that the dinner had been planned to be on-camera and had been cleared with the George in advance.

In fact, when I returned to the George the next night with the producers of the film, we were not allowed entry because the previous night we had been discussing jihad and Islamic supremacism.

Were the proprietors of the George Restaurant hard-line Leftists who viewed jihadists as their allies in the struggle against American imperialism? Or were they frightened by the prospect of the local Muslims, who live in that area in considerable numbers, exacting revenge against the place for daring to host a meeting of the Resistance?

Most likely they were afraid of their own government, which frowns upon those who question the wisdom or viability of the multicultural paradise they are intent upon creating. For when we finally tried to assemble in another place a roundtable of concerned British citizens to discuss the problem of the Islamization of Britain, one by one the British participants dropped out. If they appeared on camera, we were told, the government could and probably would threaten their livelihood.

If the British government makes the stakes too high for its own people to speak publicly against the policies that have brought into Britain thousands of people intent upon destroying the British state and imposing Islamic law, then all is nearly lost.

It’s no wonder that British citizens are turning to noxious racist parties like the BNP: the elites have abandoned them. This is a time for the British people to summon untapped resources of courage, and for the British government to recover its vision. Otherwise all will be lost, and soon.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad," and "Stealth Jihad" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some important lessons from Ted Kennedy

Posted By Roger Kimball On August 26, 2009 @ 4:53 am

[See the update at the end of this piece]

I am deeply grateful for the contribution that Ted Kennedy, who died last night, made to my education. Until Kennedy delivered his intemperate tirade against Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in the summer of 1987, I hadn’t known that a United States Senator could brazenly lie to his colleagues and the American people and get away with it. I’m not talking about little fibs, or broken promises, or private dissimulations: all that I took as standard operating procedure in a fallen world. No, Ted Kennedy raised — that is to say, he dramatically lowered — the standard by standing up on the floor of the Senate and emitting one lie after the next against one of the finest legal minds America has ever produced. “Robert Bork’s America,” he said

is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit down at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of democracy.

A breathtaking congeries of falsehoods that, were they not protected by the prerogatives of senatorial privilege, would have taken a conspicuous place in the annals of malicious slander and character assassination. In The Tempting of America, Judge Bork recounts his incredulity at this tissue of malign fabrication. “It had simply never occurred to me that anybody could misrepresent my career and views as Kennedy did.” At the time, he notes, many people thought that Kennedy had blundered by emitting so flagrant, and flagrantly untrue, an attack. They were wrong. His “calculated personal assault, . . . more violent than any against a judicial nominee in our country’s history,” did the job (with a little help from Joe Biden [1] and Arlen Specter [2]). Not only was Kennedy instrumental in preventing a great jurist from taking his place on the Supreme Court, he also contributed immeasurably to the cheapening of American political discourse. The fact that “bork” has entered the language as a transitive verb is, I’ve always thought, a final unfairness. Really, the verb should involve the name “Kennedy.” Less staccato, I admit, but in that scenario, the malfeasance was practiced not by Robert Bork but Edward Kennedy and his cronies.

Indeed, Kennedy was a veritable fount of enlightenment. A waddling argument for the wisdom of term limits, he showed the world how, provided you came from a rich and unscrupulous family, you can get caught cheating [3] on a Spanish test at Harvard and still manage to graduate a few years later.

But of course, Ted Kennedy’s most important lesson for the world involved Mary Jo Kopechne, the secretary he let drown in 1969 when he drove his car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island late at night after a party. Kennedy said he endeavored to rescue the girl. Maybe. But what we know he did was contact several aides to work out a story. He waited until after the police discovered the car and Kopechne’s body the next morning before informing the police about the incident. He received a two-month suspended sentence for leaving the scene of an accident after causing an injury. Wikipedia calmly notes that “Questions remained about Kennedy’s time line of events that night, about his actions after the accident, and the quality of the investigation and whether official deference was given to a powerful politician and family.” Do you think, just possibly, that unusual deference was shown to Ted Kennedy?

The Kennedy family has issued a eulogistic statement [4] about the death of the Senior Senator from Massachusetts. Right and proper, I suppose, but I couldn’t help recoiling from its lists: “Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply — died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port.”

“Edward M. Kennedy,” I heard echoing behind those words, “Liar, cheat, drunk, philanderer, and — let’s not forget — inadvertent murderer.”
The tsunami of sentimental pap about Kennedy is already churning, gushing, rushing to inundate the public with a nauseating and untruthful fairy tale about the “Lion of the Senate.” The Lyin’ in the Senate is more like it. Kennedy was 77 when he was taken off last night, Mary Jo Kopechne had just turned 29 when Kennedy’s car veered off the bridge in Chappaquiddick and he wriggled free and swam to shore, leaving the young woman trapped in the car to drown.

* * * Update: In response to news of the death of Ted Kennedy, a friend did a little research into the Kennedy’s legislative history [5] and concludes that “There is not one thing he proposed that deals with helping people who actually work for a living, or a business, or promoting capitalism. It is an absolute litany of destructive liberalism. He is the absolute worst.”

URLs in this post:

[1] Joe Biden:
[2] Arlen Specter:
[3] get caught cheating:
[4] eulogistic statement:
[5] legislative history:

A Positive Balance

By George Will
The Washington Post
August 26, 2009

WASHINGTON -- At the Democrats' 1960 convention in Los Angeles that nominated John Kennedy, his 28-year-old brother Ted was standing with the Wyoming delegation when it sealed the victory. He was then a sibling for minor missions. He would become the most consequential brother.

US President Barack Obama listens as US Senator Ted Kennedy gives a speech in April 2009. Kennedy, the last of the storied band of brothers who appeared born to rule, has died after losing a battle with brain cancer, his family said.(AFP/File/Saul Loeb)

His two political brothers were young men in a hurry: John became the youngest elected president at 43; Robert died at 42, seeking the presidency as soon as possible after the murder of his brother. Ted came to embody the patience of politics. Charisma is less potent than the smitten imagine; endurance is not sufficient, but is necessary.

There is the arithmetic of the Constitution and then there is the life of the institution. The Constitution makes a senator 1 percent of one-half of one of the three branches of the federal government. But the intangible and unquantifiable chemistry of personality in a little laboratory like the Senate made Ted Kennedy forceful.

In the Senate, as elsewhere, 80 percent of the important work is done by a talented 20 percent. And 95 percent of the work is done off the floor, away from committees, out of sight, where strong convictions leavened by good humor are the currency of accomplishment. There Ted Kennedy, who had the politics of the Boston Irish in his chromosomes, flourished. What Winston Churchill said about Franklin Roosevelt -- that meeting him was like opening a bottle of champagne, and knowing him was like drinking it -- was true of Ted Kennedy, too.

He was an unapologetic liberal in an era during which liberalism lost ground. It began to recede in 1966, when he had 43 Senate years ahead of him. His most famous speech, to the 1980 convention, is remembered for its "the dream shall never die" peroration, but much of it was robust condescension regarding Ronald Reagan, whose subsequent landslide victory was proof of a political tide that would not be turned by ridicule. Kennedy's second-most memorable speech, a remarkably meretricious denunciation of Robert Bork, demonstrated the merely contingent connection between truth and rhetorical potency.

It is an old axiom: "All men are by nature equal/But differ greatly in the sequel." This presidency-obsessed nation should note that most of Ted Kennedy's achievements were sequels to his presidential possibilities. He may have known, in the realism of his fine political mind, that his behavior at Chappaquiddick, 40 years ago last month, would be an insuperable obstacle to his presidential ambitions, about which he seems to have been deeply ambivalent. When he unsuccessfully challenged an incumbent president of his own party for the 1980 nomination, he was at last liberated from the burdens of his sense of duty and of other peoples' expectations and ambitions.

Kennedy served in the Senate for almost 47 years, more than a fifth of the life of the Constitution. He arrived in 1962, before passage of the important civil rights laws, and before the more humane sensibilities that those laws helped to shape. For most of his career he served with the only two senators whose tenures were longer than his -- South Carolina's Strom Thurmond and West Virginia's Robert Byrd, still serving at 91. The latter was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The former was an unyieldingsegregationist until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- which a larger percentage of Republican than of Democratic senators voted for -- began changing Southern electoral arithmetic. Ted Kennedy participated in unmaking the society that made them.

The last of Joe and Rose Kennedy's nine children, Ted died 14 days after his sister Eunice. It is arguable, and he might have cheerfully conceded, that Eunice was the most consequential Kennedy, at least as measured by the selfless enlargement of happiness. She lived a luminous life, perhaps because of the dark fate of the third oldest of Ted's siblings.

Rosemary was mentally retarded. She was lobotomized and institutionalized. This grotesque response by Rosemary's father to her handicap became a blessing for subsequent mentally disabled Americans, whose afflictions summoned Eunice to her vocation of amelioration.

Let us pay the Kennedys tributes unblurred by tears. Although a great American family, they are not even Massachusetts' greatest family: The Adamses provided two presidents, John and John Quincy, and Charles Francis, who was ambassador to Britain during the Civil War, and the unclassifiable Henry. Never mind. It diminishes Ted to assess him as a fragment of a family. He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.

The Reagan Revolution and Its Discontents

His presidency was better than expected, but worse than desired.

By Steven F. Hayward
August 26, 2009, 4:00 a.m.

Some years ago I had occasion to hear Sir Martin Gilbert, then in the midst of producing the official biography of Winston Churchill, discuss how he became interested in writing history. His answer was simple — curiosity. As a small boy, he wondered why bombs were falling from the sky on London, why he was being packed aboard a ship and sent off to relatives in Canada, why his uncle in the army came back from captivity in Asia some years later weighing less than 100 pounds. “I wondered what this meant,” he said, “how it could happen, and what caused it. . . . [T]he absence of explanations for what seemed important things made a vivid impression on me, and I wanted to try to figure out, if I could, why many things were as they were.”

A similar, though far less dramatic, set of circumstances explains why I have spent the better part of a decade doing something rather egregious according to current publishing conventions — writing a long, old-fashioned, two-volume narrative history of Ronald Reagan and his effect on American political life (The Age of Reagan) — even though the events it discusses would seem to have been thoroughly covered and well understood by this point.

When I was in the first grade, in the fall of 1964, I knew two things with certainty. First, my mother and father were crazy for Barry Goldwater — the only candidate for whom they ever affixed a bumper sticker on their cars. Second, I knew that Goldwater would win, because all my schoolmates said their moms and dads were for Goldwater, too. Needless to say, I was bewildered when, the morning after, I heard the news that Goldwater had not only lost, but lost badly. The beginning of my political education began with the realization that there must be a wider and different world beyond my suburban community.

Anyone my age or older has their own recollection of those turbulent years. I was curious about why my father, a combat veteran of World War II and Korea, would shake his head over the headlines in the evening newspaper about the latest events in Vietnam (we still had evening papers in those days). I puzzled over why my anti-Communist parents would nonetheless describe our John Birch Society neighbors as “kooks.” Amid all the confusions and shocks of the time, it became axiomatic around our family dinner table that the new governor of California, the former TV and film star, should and probably would some day become president.

So I set out in the late 1990s to write copiously about Ronald Reagan. I did this in the first instance to understand better the times in which I had lived, but secondly and more importantly, because I was sure, even as late as ten years ago, that Reagan would end up not eulogized but “Coolidgized” — in other words, like that other once-popular president of the past (Calvin Coolidge), Reagan was likely to fare poorly at the hands of the media-academic complex.

But along the way, over the last decade, a surprising and unexpected thing happened: Reagan’s reputation started to soar, and even liberals started to like him — but not all of him, to be sure, and therein lies the need for a broad-gauge narrative history of the man and his times.

Liberal writers and scholars who once scorned Reagan, such as John Patrick Diggins, Richard Reeves, Sean Wilentz, Douglas Brinkley, and, most recently, James Mann, have produced unexpectedly positive assessments of Reagan and his presidency — an upward revision that rivals the belated esteem that Dwight Eisenhower received at the hands of historians, starting a decade or so after he left office. This admiration is limited and qualified, however; once the accounts move beyond the Cold War and some of the previously unknown aspects of Reagan’s personal writing, such as his copious letters and diary, the accounts of Reagan are sorely lacking. One is tempted to paraphrase Reagan’s famous movie line: “Where’s the rest of him?”

Apart from the Cold War, the usual narrative is that most of Reagan’s presidency ranged from fiasco (such as his economic policy) to disaster (the Iran-Contra scandal), just as many historians incorrectly judge Winston Churchill’s pre–World War II career as largely a failure or a disaster. This disjunction between Reagan’s Cold War statecraft and his domestic statecraft is a major interpretive mistake. Above all, too many treatments of Reagan try to abstract him from his ideology, which is, to borrow G. K. Chesterton’s phrase, like “trying to tell the story of a saint without God.”

Conservatives, meanwhile, commit a symmetrical mistake. Although Reagan was and remains the hero of conservatives and Republicans, over the last decade many conservatives have forgotten the aspects of the Reagan presidency that disappointed or frustrated them to various degrees. As a result, they are not taking seriously some fundamental challenges of conservative governance that the Reagan experience poses. Much of the admiring conservative literature about Reagan, like that written by liberals, also focuses chiefly and too narrowly on the Cold War story.

The epilogue of the second and concluding volume of The Age of Reagan is entitled “The Reagan Revolution and Its Discontents.” I wrote it to draw attention to the lacunae in the conservative Reagan literature and commentary. The election of Barack Obama gives it a whole new salience, as leading liberals tell us that the present moment represents the repudiation or obsolescence of Reagan and Reaganism. Robert Reich, for example, says that Obama’s economic policy “drives a nail in the coffin of Reaganomics. We can basically say goodbye to the philosophy espoused by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.” Democratic strategist Robert Shrum says that “Obama is not only unwinding Reagan’s policies, he is offering a Rooseveltian paradigm that justifies government pragmatically.”

Above all, I want to draw attention to some of the constitutional dimensions — constitutional in the broad, Aristotelian sense of the term — that should be drawn from the Reagan years.


What was the Reagan revolution anyway? How revolutionary was it? And what should those who wish to emulate Reagan today learn and apply from Reagan’s story? To answer these questions it is necessary, first, to understand the unity of Reagan’s statecraft, and second, to appreciate the way Reagan perceived his statecraft in constitutional terms.

Understanding the unity of Reagan’s domestic and foreign statecraft is not easy, partly because the domestic side is much more complicated; it lacks the personal drama of the Cold War against the Evil Empire. Reagan never stood in front of the Federal Trade Commission or the Environmental Protection Agency and said, “Mr. Regulator — tear down this rule!” But he figuratively had this attitude. One revealing diary entry from 1986 reads: “The villain in the case is the Fed. Drug Administration [he meant the Food and Drug Administration], and they are a villain.”

Reagan’s statecraft, at home and abroad, should be seen as a unity for one crucial reason: He saw it as a unity. Lincoln once wrote that all nations have a central idea from which all its minor thoughts radiate. The same can be said of leading statesmen. Reagan’s central idea can be summarized as the view that unlimited government is inimical to liberty, both in its vicious forms, such as Communism or socialism, and in its supposedly benign forms, such as bureaucracy.

That Reagan regarded statism as a continuum, rather than a dichotomous problem of the East and West, was made clear in his 1982 speech in Westminster, where he said: “There is a threat posed to human freedom by the enormous power of the modern state. History teaches the dangers of government that overreaches — political control taking precedence over free economic growth, secret police, mindless bureaucracy all combining to stifle individual excellence and personal freedom.” Reagan’s conflation of “secret police” and “mindless bureaucracy” was no mere coincidence, as his next sentence made clear: “Now, I’m aware that among us here and throughout Europe there is legitimate disagreement over the extent to which the public sector should play a role in a nation’s economy and life” — in other words, “I know you’re not all as freedom-loving as me and Margaret Thatcher” — “but on one point all of us are united: our abhorrence of dictatorship in all its forms.”

President Ronald W. Reagan salutes military personnel gathered in his honor Oct. 12, 1986, during a visit to Keflavik, Iceland.

The point is: The same principles that animated Reagan’s Cold War statecraft also directed his domestic-policy vision. Now, this isn’t especially remarkable to recall, and in fact the critics who nowadays want to consign Reaganism to the dustbin of history like to recall with scorn the part of his First Inaugural Address where he declared: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem. . . . It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government.”

However, I think both friend and critic have lost sight of the important way in which Reagan viewed his project as a restoration of constitutional government as the Founders intended it. In other words, Reagan conceived of his project not as a revolution but as a restoration.

This is made clear in the immediate sequel in his Inaugural Address. Reagan continued: “It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed” (emphasis added). Note here that Reagan didn’t rest his argument against the growth of government on grounds of efficiency or effectiveness, but on the constitutional ground of consent. This had been a constant theme of Reagan’s political rhetoric for more than 20 years, but one that was rarely heard from America’s political class — even from other conservatives. He was careful, though, to qualify his critique of government:

It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. . . . Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work — work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back.

While this is not revolutionary, it is controversial, as it challenges the basic premises of the modern, centralized administrative state. Liberals in 1981 could scarcely have imagined hearing such heresy from the presidential podium. Although many liberals had been shaken by the disasters of the preceding 15 years, from Vietnam and the Great Society through President Carter’s ineffectual rule, there was never a point at which the fundamental premises of modern liberalism were attacked from the pinnacle of American power. The moment seemed very far removed from the days when a liberal intellectual such as Robert Maynard Hutchins could declare: “The notion that the sole concern of a free society is the limitation of governmental authority and that that government is best which governs least is certainly archaic. Our object today should not be to weaken government in competition with other centers of power, but rather to strengthen it as the agency charged with the responsibility for the common good.”


Reagan was the first president since FDR who spoke frequently and substantively about the Founders and the Constitution. This is a remarkable and telling fact. Woodrow Wilson also spoke often on these subjects, but quite differently than FDR did. While Wilson was openly critical of the founding because of its emphasis on limited government, FDR’s invocations of it were mischievous — he appeared to be defending or proposing a restoration of the principles of the founding while in fact attempting a wholesale modification of our constitutional order. After FDR, our presidents practically ceased making reference to the founding or the Constitution — until Reagan arrived.

It is also significant that Reagan rejected the reformist assertion that the presidency, or our democracy in general, was inadequate to the times.

From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?

Reagan had so fully internalized the thought of so many of his political forebears, such as Jefferson, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, that it is not clear whether he knew he was paraphrasing them. Where he got his principles, though, is no mystery. In his First Inaugural Address, in 1801, Thomas Jefferson said: “Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.” Unlike Hutchins and other liberals, Reagan didn’t think Jefferson’s philosophy was “archaic.”

Did Reagan succeed in curbing the size and reach of the federal government? The answer appears to be no, at least if total federal spending or the size of the federal bureaucracy is used as the main metric. Although Reagan had some success in keeping the growth of government spending below what it would have been under a second term of Jimmy Carter (indeed, far below what Carter’s last five-year budget plan had projected), over the long run the Reagan years appear to have been a small speed bump on the road to serfdom. Between 1981 and 2006 (the last year for which I ran the numbers for my book), inflation-adjusted federal spending grew by 84 percent, while the population grew by only 30 percent. If per capita spending had grown only at the rate of inflation, federal outlays in 2006 would have been $800 billion lower than they actually were — under, remember, a Republican president and a Republican Congress.

On the other hand, in 1981 federal spending accounted for 22.2 percent of GDP; in 2006 it was 20.3 percent. So the growth in the economy over the last generation has allowed federal spending to soar way beyond the rate of population growth while falling slightly as a portion of GDP. William Voegeli commented on this in The Claremont Review of Books:

This measure hovered in a very narrow band for the whole era, never exceeding 23.5% or falling below 18.4%. Adding expenditures by states and localities confirms the picture of a rugby match between liberals and conservatives that is one interminable scrum in the middle of the field. Spending by all levels of government in America amounted to 31.6% of GDP in 1981, and 31.8% in 2006.

The difficulties Reagan had controlling spending and the growth of government were not lost on conservatives during and immediately after his presidency. The case for disappointment, verging at times on betrayal, was made often while Reagan was in office. For example, the Winter 1984 issue of Policy Review contained a symposium called “What Conservatives Think of Reagan.” Now recall that in early 1984 the Democrats were engaged in a spirited nomination battle to see who could best reestablish old-school liberalism and overthrow the Reagan usurpation. As late as December 1983 some polls found Reagan trailing the putative strongest Democratic challenger, Sen. John Glenn, and it was far from clear that the economic expansion that had shown signs of robustness in 1983 would continue.

In the midst of this uncertain political situation, conservatives such as Sen. William Armstrong (R., Colo.) said: “What’s the sense of having a Republican administration and a Republican Senate if the best we can do is a $200 billion deficit?” Terry Dolan, head of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, complained: “There has been no spending cut. There has been no turnover of control to the states. There has been no effort to dismantle the Washington bureaucratic elitist establishment. . . . The question when Reagan got elected was whether he was going to be closer to Eisenhower as a caretaker or to Roosevelt as a revolutionary. He’s been generally closer to Eisenhower, preserving the status quo established by previous liberal administrations.” On and on the conservative commentariat fulminated. Conservative journalist M. Stanton Evans: “This has been essentially another Ford administration. It has been business as usual, not much different from any other Republican administration in our lifetime.” Paul Weyrich: “The radical surgery that was required in Washington was not performed.”

President Reagan posing outside the oval office. (June 6, 1983).

In the early years after Reagan left office, the refrain of disappointment continued. Midge Decter wrote in Commentary in 1991: “There was no Reagan Revolution, not even a skeleton of one to hang in George Bush’s closet.” “In the end,” concurred William Niskanen, chairman of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, “there was no Reagan Revolution.” The late Thomas B. Silver argued: “Judged by the highest goal he set for himself, [Reagan] was not successful. That goal was nothing less than a realignment of the American political order, in which the primacy of the New Deal was to be challenged and overthrown. It cannot be said that Reagan in any fundamental way dismantled or even scaled back the administrative state created by FDR.”


Two observations should be made regarding this kind of disappointment. First, much of the conservative discontent derived from the categorical imperatives of ideological fervency, which are the lifeblood of party politics and political activism but often distract from perceiving real changes and achievements. Liberals talked much the same way about FDR and the New Deal back in the 1930s; many liberals thought the New Deal fell far short of what it should accomplish. The New Republic lamented in 1940 “the slackening of pace in the New Deal” and fretted that “the New Deal has been disappointing in its second phase.” John Dewey and Minnesota governor Floyd Olson, among others, complained that the New Deal hadn’t gone far enough to abolish the profit motive as the fundamental organizing principle of the economy, and Norman Thomas scorned FDR’s “pale pink pills.” Historian Walter Millis wrote in 1938 that the New Deal “has been reduced to a movement with no program, with no effective political organization, with no vast popular party strength behind it, and with no candidate.” There’s just no pleasing some people.

This leads to my second observation, which concerns a central aspect of party politics that was poorly perceived or actively misrepresented, especially by the media in the 1980s, and is still not adequately recognized by historians. Here again a comparison of Reagan and FDR is helpful. Both men had to battle not only with the other party, but also with their own. Both men by degrees successfully transformed their own parties, while at the same time frustrating and deflecting the course of the rival party for a time. This, I suggest, is the heart of the real and enduring Reagan Revolution (or Age of Reagan).

Liberal ideologues who despaired over the limits of the New Deal overlooked that FDR had to carry along a large number of Democrats who opposed the New Deal. Reagan’s experience was similar, as he had to carry along a number of Republicans who were opposed to or lukewarm about his conservative philosophy. This problem would dog Reagan for his entire presidency. Robert Novak observed in late 1987: “True believers in Reagan’s efforts to radically transform how America is governed were outnumbered by orthodox Republicans who would have been more at home serving Jerry Ford.”

Keep in mind that if it had been within the power of the GOP establishment in 1980, the presidential nomination would surely have gone to Gerald Ford, George Bush, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, or John Connally. By 1980 many Republicans in Washington were victims of the political equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome, in which hostages come to sympathize with their captors. Having been in the minority for so long, many Washington Republicans had absorbed the premises of establishment liberalism, offering what amounted to a slightly lower-budget version of the Democratic platform.

Reagan’s dramatic landslide election in 1980 posed two problems: Democrats had to figure out how to oppose Reagan; Republicans, how to contain him. Today we speak of the three liberal Republican senators (one of them now a Democrat) who backed Obama’s stimulus package. In 1981, there were as many as 15 such senators in the Senate Republican caucus (which had gained twelve seats and taken control of the Senate in the 1980 election). Old establishment bulls like Charles Percy, Charles Mathias, John Warner, Robert Packwood, Slade Gorton, Larry Pressler, Lowell Weicker, Robert Stafford, John Chaffee, and Mark Hatfield were distinctly unenthusiastic about Reagan and laid repeated roadblocks in his path. On a bad day, this number included Bob Dole, Howard Baker, and Pete Domenici as well. Hatfield, the new chairman of the Appropriations Committee, didn’t care much for Reagan’s proposals to cut social spending, eliminate cabinet departments, or privatize the Bonneville Power Administration (“over my dead body,” Hatfield roared). Packwood, his fellow Oregonian, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, openly attacked Reagan as an obstacle to a Republican realignment.

Much of the time, these liberal GOP senators acted as though they were in opposition. They shared little or none of Reagan’s ideological or partisan spirit, giving proof to Eugene McCarthy’s quip that the principal function of liberal Republicans “is to shoot the wounded after the battle is over.” Reagan noted this problem from time to time and privately expressed a high degree of contempt for Hill Republicans. While I have not tallied up the references in Reagan’s published diaries, reading through them, one gets the impression that Reagan complained as much about timid Republicans on Capitol Hill as he did about Tip O’Neill and the Democrats, if not more. In a 1984 diary entry, complaining about Hatfield’s opposition to an administration position on the budget, Reagan ruefully comments: “With some of our friends we don’t need enemies.” In another diary entry, Reagan referred to Sen. Lowell Weicker as “a pompous, no good fathead.” More than once, after a disappointing show of support from congressional Republicans, Reagan wrote in his diary, “we had rabbits when we needed tigers.”

The lesson of FDR and Reagan is that changing one’s own party can be more difficult than beating the opposition. FDR grew impatient as fellow Democrats blocked his legislative agenda during his second term, and thus he attempted to purge the Democratic party of anti–New Dealers in the 1938 election cycle. This gambit failed worse than his court-packing scheme and resulted in a rout at the polls, as Democrats lost 71 House seats and five Senate seats.

Reagan, whether by temperament or conviction or both, rejected any notion of leading a Republican purge. To the contrary, Reagan replicated his two-front struggle against liberalism and establishment Republicanism within his own senior staff at the White House, resulting in the well-advertised split between the so-called “ideologues” and “pragmatists.” Movement conservatives bristled at seeing the GOP establishment so well represented in Reagan’s inner circle, and to be sure, the “pragmatists” were more adroit at infighting and using press leaks in attempts to alter Reagan’s course.

At the same time, movement conservatives and the media alike did not perceive how well this arrangement served Reagan, or indeed how it matched his California experience, in which Reagan had blended moderates from the campaign of his vanquished primary foe, George Christopher, with movement conservatives. Reagan tried to explain it in this exchange from a 1981 press conference:

Question: Can I ask you one more question? There have been specific reports that your secretary of state and secretary of defense are not getting along and that they argue in front of you. Can you comment on those reports?

President Reagan: The whole Cabinet argues in front of me. That was the system that I wanted installed.

Though the partisans of the distinct camps in the Reagan White House would be loath to admit it, their feuding probably contributed to better policy-making. An attempted Reaganite purge, of either the party or his own staff, might well have backfired and snuffed out the spontaneous slow-motion revolution within the party that was already under way, and that gained new momentum in the 1990s under the spur of figures such as Newt Gingrich. Gingrich was frequently included among conservatives who expressed frustration with Reagan. “Ronald Reagan is the only coherent revolutionary in an administration of accommodationist advisers,” Gingrich complained in 1984. “The problem was that Reagan’s people were so excited by victory, they forgot they didn’t control the country. They didn’t control the House and they didn’t really control the Senate. They didn’t in fact have real power, but psychologically they acted as if they did.”


In light of the obstacles in Reagan’s path, it is remarkable that he was able to accomplish as much as he did, notwithstanding his failure to work a full reversal of the administrative state. The arrival of Obama has changed the scene, with an ambitious push to break out of the historic range of the size of government, perhaps once and for all, amid the current economic crisis. Here one of Reagan’s nearly forgotten initiatives comes to mind. In 1987, when his political fortunes were at low ebb on account of the Iran-Contra disaster, Reagan launched an initiative for what he called the Economic Bill of Rights. In a neat reversal of FDR’s famous call for a statist-oriented economic bill of rights late in his presidency, Reagan proposed a package of constitutional amendments requiring a balanced budget, a two-thirds majority vote of Congress for any tax increases, a federal spending limit of some kind, and a line-item veto for the president.

President Reagan posing on the White House Colonnade. (August 17, 1984).

To be sure, there was no chance that Congress (including a newly Democratic Senate) would enact these ideas in 1987, or probably at any time in Reagan’s presidency. They may or may not be good ideas to write into our fundamental charter. Still, it is an easy thought experiment to imagine how such measures would constrain Obama’s ambition if they were in place in some form today.

One other aspect of Reagan’s constitutionalism had more importance than it seemed at the time, and that was the very public fight that Attorney General Edwin Meese provoked over original intent. This was one high-profile argument that Reagan delegated, but a number of his radio commentaries in the 1970s had opposed judicial activism and championed constitutional originalism, so we know he was solidly behind Meese. There is a lot to be said on both sides of this controversy, which is not clear-cut, but suffice it to say that in picking this fight, the Reagan administration revived a constitutional debate that liberals thought was over and done with.

So the picture is decidedly mixed. Reagan transformed the Republicans into a party much more in his own image, just as FDR did with the Democrats in the New Deal. He successfully curbed some of the excesses of liberalism, though he did not turn back liberalism itself. The inexorable logic of modern American government is to expand by degrees; this is the intended legacy of the Progressive and New Deal transformations, which were constitutional in purpose and effect.

Why didn’t Reagan succeed more in reducing the size and influence of the federal government in domestic affairs? Reagan was more successful in rolling back the Soviet empire than he was in rolling back the domestic government empire chiefly because this is a harder problem. Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana has commented sagely: “The Reagan years will be for conservatives what the Kennedy years remain for liberals: the reference point, the breakthrough experience — a conservative Camelot. At the same time, no lesson is plainer than that the damage of decades cannot be repaired in any one administration.”

Reagan’s second solicitor general, Charles Fried, wrote: “The Reagan administration tried to make a revolution. It proposed dismantling large parts of the welfare-bureaucratic state which had grown up over the previous half-century. Revolutionary as it was, it required (in Danton’s phrase) boldness, more boldness, ever more boldness. This boldness was not always in evidence, and often when it was it met ignominious defeat at the hands of Congress, the news media, and timorous Republicans.”

Reagan’s would-be successors should recall Machiavelli’s counsel that “there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” If there is ever to be a sequel to the Reagan Revolution, his successors will need to keep the counsel of boldness in mind; they will also need to remember Reagan’s constitutional outlook and adapt it to new times, rather than just looking back at his sunny disposition and “faith in America,” which is what all too often passes for “Reaganism” today.

If I seem to emphasize the negative aspects of the Reagan years, it is only because I grow tired and impatient with the most common form of Reagan nostalgia today, which is more reminiscent of his “morning in America” campaign of 1984 than of his much sharper and purposeful campaign of 1980. Reagan deserves better than that. He remains the beau ideal of a modern conservative statesman, whose skills and insights are worthy of the closest study and emulation. But as William F. Buckley Jr. reminded the Philadelphia Society during Reagan’s presidency, the most powerful man in the world is not powerful enough to do everything that needs to be done. Gary McDowell, one of Ed Meese’s Justice Department aides who worked on the original-intent portfolio, offers a suitable summary, with which I will close: “Domestically Ronald Reagan did far less than he had hoped, he did far less than he had promised, less than people wanted — and a hell of a lot more than people thought he would.”

— Steven F. Hayward is the F. K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counter-Revolution, 1980–1989.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yankees captain Derek Jeter having season for ages at 35

By Mike Lupica
New York Daily News
Tuesday, August 25th 2009, 4:00 AM

This was Paul O'Neill, great Yankee, talking about a great Yankee named Derek Jeter Monday, O'Neill talking about a season in which Jeter has done just about everything right and has been as much an MVP for this Yankee team as Mark Teixeira:

"You kind of come into this year thinking, 'Don't let this be the one when Derek starts to slip.' And what you get instead is a year like this, when he's this kind of leader and this kind of player on the best team in baseball. So you didn't want this to be the year when he started going the other way, and now it turns into one of the great years the guy's ever had."

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 17: Derek Jeter(notes) #2 of the New York Yankees stands ready at the plate during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics in a Major League Baseball game at the Oakland Coliseum on August 17, 2009 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The game against the Red Sox on Sunday night wasn't one the Yankees needed. The worst they could do was leave Fenway 5-1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox, and still ahead of the Angels for the best record in the league. But the Yankees didn't want to lose two of three to the Red Sox after the way they've been playing since the All-Star break. They didn't want to lose a series in Boston so soon after sweeping the Red Sox at the Stadium. And they had been beaten, 14-1, the day before.

So of course it was 1-0, Yankees, after the first pitch of the game from Josh Beckett. Did the game matter a little more than usual, even with their big lead in the AL East? Sure. But they all matter to Jeter. He showed up Sunday night because he always does. The season that began with people worried more than ever about his range at shortstop has become something quite different, something to remind you just what Jeter has always meant to the Yankees and what he still means now that they have their best chance in years to win it all again.

Paul O'Neill talked with clear admiration Monday about the season Teixeira has had, about numbers from Teixeira that O'Neill described as "gaudy." He talked about how the Yankee batting order has organized around Teixeira, from Jeter and Johnny Damon ahead of him to Alex Rodriguez and the guys behind him.

But then he was back to talking about his old teammate.

"I'm not saying he read all the things people were saying about his defense at the start of the season, because knowing him he didn't," O'Neill said. "But I have a feeling he was aware of them. And you have to know that somebody as good as Jeets has been for this long would take that as a challenge, to show people they're wrong, whether he'd ever admit that or not. Or put it another way: It doesn't take much to light a fire under a guy who's had a fire going every single day of his career anyway."

Again, this is O'Neill talking. O'Neill, who did all that winning once he got here from Cincinnati, who was as tough a player and as much of a pro as anybody else on one of the best Yankee teams of all time, the Yankee teams that won four World Series in five years between 1996 and 2000 and came within a half-inning of making it five of six. He knows what he watched with Jeter then, knows what he is watching now.

SEATTLE - AUGUST 16: Derek Jeter(notes) #2 of the New York Yankees fields a ground ball against the Seattle Mariners on August 16, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Yankees 10-3. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

"The thing about him," O'Neill said, "is that he's always known exactly who he is. He's never tried to be anybody else, or do things he can't do. He doesn't try to hit home runs the way A-Rod does. He knows he's not going to be the kind of run producer that Teixeira is. He's Derek Jeter. He's going to get hits and score runs, and he's going to be the guy you want up in a big spot as much as anybody the Yankees have.

"The number one part of his game, as far as I'm concerned, is his consistency. He's solid at the plate and in the field every day, and there's no way to put a proper value on that across a season as long as ours is in baseball."

So the captain of the team, the guy who feels like captain of baseball in New York, is on a big rip right now, one so good over the last two weeks you were shocked when he went hitless on Saturday afternoon at Fenway. He is hitting .332 for the season and has 16 home runs and 57 RBI and has scored 86 runs and has nearly a .400 on-base percentage and has made a grand total of six errors.

He even gave you one of those plays in the hole the other night against Victor Martinez, backhanding the ball and spinning and getting airborne and getting the slow Martinez easily at first.

He is having the kind of all-around season for the Yankees that Dustin Pedroia had last season for the Red Sox, when Pedroia ended up MVP. There was nobody on a contending team having enough of a banging offensive season to take it away from Pedroia, the way Teixeira will probably take it from Jeter. But then Justin Morneau beat Jeter out of an MVP a few years ago even though Jeter hit .343.

People will look at the Yankees and see what a game changer Teixeira has been, and you can throw in the way he's played first base. It doesn't change how valuable Jeter has been to the Yankees, in all phases of the game. At the age of 35, he has even stolen 21 bases. He performs at the highest level of his game the way Mo Rivera still does, all this time after 1996.

The last word on this comes from O'Neill.

"The easiest way to describe it is this: Derek Jeter is still great at being Derek Jeter."