Saturday, August 25, 2007

Perfidy of the Private Sector, 24/7

Let's see here. Ten years ago, twenty years ago, the failure of the mortgage lending industry to make most subprime loans was called "redlining." Now, the overwhelming willingness on its part to find ways to qualify almost everyone is called "unfair/unsound lending practices". That in a nutshell is a good history of Hillary's intellectual development. There's just no pleasing some people.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

He's Oh So Sorry

I see that the ineffable Larry Tribe, Harvard law professor and man of action, has apologized to the widow of the late Professor Bernie Siegan for having written Senator Joe Biden in 1987, questioning Siegan's "competence as a constitutional lawyer and sincerity as a scholar." Siegan had been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, but never was confirmed.

Maybe Tribe sincerely feels bad and believes that his words were misguided. Or maybe he believes that Hillary will be president and that she might nominate him to the Supreme Court, and that the time is now to backtrack on his treatment of Siegan so that the Republicans might be induced to refrain from engaging in a little payback. Call me a cynic, but I believe the latter.

The Vietnam Fallacy

Since long before the actual invasion, any number of commentators suggested that our involvement in Iraq would enmesh us in "another Vietnam." The Democratic Party even ran a lame nominee for President largely (it seems) on the sense that as an anti-Vietnam war veteran, Sen. Kerry would command the respect and admiration and trust of enough Americans to win the Presidency. As things have continued to remain tough (though perhaps improving a bit over the last few months) the comparisons have continued to roll in.

Jonah Goldberg over at NRO makes a point, though, that had always niggled at me a bit, but that I had never seen properly expressed. Sure, there's a conventional wisdom about Vietnam that says it was a mistake to get in - and there are plenty of reasonable arguments on that side. But it seems to me wildly inflated to suggest that our withdrawal and South Vietnam's subsequent defeat was either (a) a good thing for the U.S. or (b) a benefit to the Democratic Party. Consider the thirty-odd years since our withdrawal and tell me which party has done better politically? Part of the Republican success has been predicated on the sense that the Democratic Party is not to be trusted with our national security and a central part of that distrust was its mushiness on the Cold War. And central to that sense was the Dems' evolution into the anti-Vietnam War party, perhaps best exemplified by McGovern's presidential campaign in 1972.

I grew up in a military family with a father who had flown B-52 and C-130 missions over Vietnam and I understood from early on that the Democrats could not be trusted because they didn't understand or were willing to take it to the enemy - and Vietnam was the clearest example. Two anecdotes. Sometime around 1980 we were at my grandparents' house and my aunt mentioned that she had gotten the new Jane Fonda workout tape. My dad, whom I had never heard swear before, turned around and barked, "What!? You're watching that b**ch!? I had friends die because of her!" Clearly, the anti-war folks were anathema to dad. A couple of years ago, as a new (untenured) faculty member, I was chatting with an older (tenured) professor who was exercised because some of the anti-Kerry guys had used the term "traitor" (or something like that) and, as a veteran, there's hardly anything worse to be called, he fumed. Being untenured, I sort of smiled and nodded, walked to my office and thought to myself: well, that's likely true, but the overheated, cynical and false claims Kerry made after returning from Vietnam (most notably at the Winter Soldier conference) were themselves deeply offensive and meant that folks like my dad (and I, for that matter) couldn't ever vote for anyone like him.

If Iraq is going badly next summer, the GOP will take it on the chin electorally. But the Dems won't gain any long-term advantages by making themselves the agents of withdrawal. Why do you think the smartest candidate for the nomination - Sen. Clinton - has been the most resistant to the withdrawal siren? Americans, I think, don't particularly like to fight long, drawn-out wars but even more they hate to lose them.

A Poor Man's Amanpour

Usually I don't stop by to tout my regular offerings. Visitors here know that I generally do a column a week for The American Spectator and one for Human Events.

But I thought I would make an exception for today's piece at Spectator. It provides an important response to CNN's mini-docu-series, God's Warriors, presented by their Queen of Moral Equivalency.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Deflated Hopes

Fascinating headline on Yahoo today:


Drat! I thought the previous record of 7633.9 would stand the test of time. Showing once again just how fleeting are our achievements in life.

Congress, More Unpopular Than Ever

According to a recent Gallup poll, Congress got a whopping 18% approval rating. That makes President Bush seem like a rock star in comparison. In the 33 years since Gallup first started the poll Congressional ratings have only been this low one other time, and that was in the early 90s when the House banking scandal came to light. The president’s approval rating, while low at 32%, gives him quite a leg up on Congress. Of course the press won’t play it that way, so all we’ll ever hear about is a “deeply unpopular president.”

One interesting aspect of the poll is that the Democrats are loosing support from their own:

Frustration with Congress spans the political spectrum. There are only minor (but not statistically meaningful) differences in the approval ratings Democrats (21%), Republicans (18%), and independents (17%) give to Congress. Typically, partisans view Congress much more positively when their party is in control of the institution, so the fact that Democrats' ratings are not materially better than Republicans' is notable.

The nine-point drop in Congress' job approval rating from last month to this month has come exclusively from Democrats and independents, with Democrats' ratings dropping 11 points (from 32% to 21%) and independents' ratings dropping 13 points (from 30% to 17%). Republicans' 18% approval rating is unchanged from last month.

If you’ll remember back in November Republicans lost control of Congress because of lukewarm support from their base and Independents moving toward Democrats. They have now lost that advantage. I love the irony here, because in the campaign Democrats were withering in their criticism of the Republican Congress, but they offered no alternative other than how rotten Republicans are so vote for us. Now it seems that most Americans think the Democrats are rotten too.

Now what? If Republicans would simply go back to 1994, remember what they stood for when they took control of Congress, and govern that way again this Democrat Congress will be short lived.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Dean's Listless

As a resident of South Florida, I was thrilled to see the headline: Dean Downgraded.

Imagine my dismay when I read the article and found that Howard Dean is still Mr. Chairman. Poor Arafat, to have his title besmirched in this way.

Now Here's Some Religious Bigotry

I've been skeptical of the campaign Hugh Hewitt has been waging in his multi-media, multi-part defense of Mitt Romney, in particular of his efforts to tar anyone who says anything negative about Mormonism as a religious "bigot." (I don't think it's right to rule Romney out of bounds simply because he holds certain religious views I find wrongheaded, but I also don't think that a candidate's religious views are somehow sacrosanct when reflecting on who one wants to lead our country. His or her religious views tell us something about their moral and rational judgment, after all).

For a real example of what seems to me to be outright religious bigotry check out this post over at CQ regarding how the Louisiana Democratic Party is wheeling out that old anti-Catholic nastiness against the Republican candidate, Bobby Jindal. Jindal's a Catholic and has written a number of apologetic defenses of the faith, which the Louisiana Dems have decided makes him "anti-Protestant." It's a smear and utterly groundless (and I say that as one of those still "protest"-ing and who disagrees with some of Jindal's theological claims). Louisiana politics has always been a bit nasty, but this is despicable.

Monday, August 20, 2007

As Britain Steps Down, France Steps Up

Who'd a thunk it? I've always blamed France for the Iraq war, and of course that was right, as we shall see in a minute.

But first, as the new Gordon Brown regime evacuates the slim UK force from Basra, Nicolas Sarkozy's new foreign minister paid a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday and offered to help. The world is stunned, but they shouldn't be. Bernard Kouchner, a founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), is a most amazing man:

Now we are turning the page. There is a new perspective. We want to talk about the future. Democracy, integrity, sovereignty, reconciliation, and stopping the killings. That's my deep aim.

Why, just recently, I meself resolved to turn the page when maneuvered into discussing Iraq with my friends from the left: Don't mention Bush. Already, things have gone unfathomably smoother that way. (And never underestimate a little success on the ground, no matter how tenuous.)

Now, way back when The New Republic was a credible magazine (two months ago), it ran a fascinating article by Paul Berman on Kouchner and the Iraq War that's a must-read except you can't because it's behind their subscription wall. (The enterprising must-reader can get behind it by removing "" from his stored cookies.)

Only, by then, everything was already going to hell, from Kouchner's point of view. He was already furious--judging, at least, from what he went on to write during the next year. He was furious at his own government, in Paris. Bush and the United States had been putting ever more pressure on Saddam and had been making it ever more obvious that, unless Saddam caved, the invasion was guaranteed to go ahead. The French should have done everything possible to make these American threats look ever more fearsome.

Instead, Chirac's French foreign minister was running around the world actively campaigning against the American policy. Kouchner was convinced that, by agitating so energetically against the American invasion, French diplomacy was only sustaining Saddam in his fantasy that somebody, somewhere, was going to rescue his regime. This was a disaster. The no-war policy was the enemy of the less-than-war possibility. After the invasion, when the American investigators had finally managed to interview Saddam and some of his generals in their prison cells, we learned that, until the last moment, Saddam did imagine that, because of objections in the Security Council, the United States was not going to invade. This was Kouchner's fear entirely--what he had warned against in his manifesto in
Le Monde.

Indeed---had France gotten the US/UK's back, Saddam and his lovely sons Uday and Attila would have abdicated and be sunning themselves on the Riviera as you read this instead of joining their hundreds of thousands of victims six feet under. Instead, the corrupt Chirac regime set about building a critical mass of world opposition to toppling Saddam & Sons. The US and UK were on the clock, and so they made the precipitous decision to drop a few bombs and try to take him out. The die was cast, but the timing was dictated by France, not---according to popular belief---America and Britain.

The TNR article continues unsparingly with Kouchner's disagreement with casting the die and invading, his disdain for Bush's rhetorical clumsiness in playing the WMD card in the court of world opinion instead of what Kouchner saw as a slam-dunk humanitarian argument (although that could have been more Blair's idea, seeking UK legal cover), disagreement with disbanding the Ba'athist army (although it largely disbanded itself), and a revulsion with Paul Bremer's---and the Bush Administration's, it must be admitted---autocratic stewardship of the resulting mess (can't think of any objection there).

But his greatest revulsion was reserved for the Western left (and as an official of France's Socialist Party and with a plan for global health care, a member of the left himself), with its mindless anti-globalist knee-jerk anti-American opposition to even the clearest of moral imperatives, because Kouchner is one of those idealists who believes that if you hear a man killing his wife in the next apartment, you have a moral duty to break in and stop it.

He thought about the European peace movement. The mass marches against the war, the placards, the slogans, the chanting crowds--every last aspect of this movement reminded him of the grossest errors of the left-wing past. "In our generation," he told [close friend Daniel] Cohn-Bendit, "antiwar marches used to offer protection to the worst Stalinist regimes, the most frightening massacres, and because of this, I wouldn't let myself take part anymore--nor would you, Danny. God knows how often we heard people shout, 'Down with Bush!' But I didn't hear even the tiniest cry, 'Down with Saddam!' And let's not even mention--or rather, we had better mention--the anti-Semitic incidents...

Kouchner's argument about Iraq mostly focused on a specific reality, and this was the scale of the disaster in Iraq under Saddam's rule. The grimness of the human landscape in Iraq, together with the plea for help that so many Iraqis had been making for so many years, sufficed to justify the invasion, even without reference to worldwide principles. Yet where were the champions of the humanitarian cause, the human-rights militants, who should have responded to these pleas? Kouchner wasn't concerned about the orthodox left--the traditional left that had always been wrong about totalitarian movements, the left that pictured America as the fountain of evil, the left that had never wanted to overthrow Milosevic, the left that, in February 2003, was perfectly content to march in the streets side by side with the supporters of Saddam and the wildest of Islamist totalitarians, as masses of people had done in the giant antiwar demonstrations in Paris and London...

The tenor of Kouchner's comments on the intellectuals and human-rights and humanitarian militants suggested pretty plainly that, in his judgment, a huge number of people had betrayed their own best principles--had done this out of anti-American spite, or out of loathing for Bush, or who knows why, but they had done it. A dismaying situation: America, in its maladroit fashion, had just succeeded in overthrowing the worst tyranny of modern times, and the world's intellectuals were virtually quivering in indignation that such a thing had taken place.

A leftist mugged by reality and repulsed at his own side's obtuseness---a neo-con, if you will, at least by European standards. (Although to be called one might destroy him in the eyes of his enlightened fellows. Shhhhhhhhh.)

Paul Berman's article has many other wonders, few of them complimentary to the Bush Administration, about the man Bernard Kouchner, but he's worth our time to learn of him. A most amazing man:

You'll see, history will say that the Americans liberated the Iraqis, whatever the future may be, even if they did it poorly...The Americans have led a legitimate war on the basis of bad and false reasons, and, unfortunately, without the international community. In the long run, they will win, even so--but badly.

At this moment in time and history, winning badly will have to do, and I believe Bernard Kouchner is just the guy to help us do it.