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Saturday, September 17, 2005

'OUR FAMILY': A reader writes about rebuilding after Katrina:
We must help these people. They are our family. If not, then why have a country? The President sent a message of hope and healing. It was not only appropriate but necessary. What the President also did was to lay out a recovery plan that embodies many of the policies advocated by conservatives: enterprise zones, entrepeneurship, home ownership, involving religious organizations, suspending Davis-Bacon, etc. This is show time. A real world test of battling ideologies. If it works well then we will see an historical change in the philosophy of government in this country. If not, then it's back to the drawing board.
I agree that the president's message conveyed hopeful and wise elements, especially enterprize zones and other market-smart approaches. Still, I don't like the absence of White House price tag, even a ballpark figure. On the one hand, this is a president whose advisors are business-friendly and this encourages me to think he'll get strong counsel against FDR/LBJ type "let government do it" responses to Katrina. On the other hand, the current budgets are unsustainable and adding to them is sheer madness, regardless whether the source of the deficits is Katrina, Medicare prescriptions, or Iraq. Rep. Mike Pence's Operation Offset is an obvious starting point toward fiscal sanity. Nation as "family"? Fine by me, but the present American family doesn't need any additional dysfunction. Families that live beyond their means, and do so chronically, are headed toward ruin. The president's plan to borrow $200 billion to "clear away the legacy of inequality" is like a family invading the kids' college fund or your own retirement fund to pay for monthly expenses. I'm all for helping people at times of need, but not in ways that reinforce a culture of dependency, or ways that in ways that are financially/fiscally dumb. "Why have a country?" The Constitution provides some interesting clues. It's good to read it now and then. I'm just not persuaded that the Founders had bankruptcy in mind as the inevitable endpoint when they decided on the phrase "promote for the general welfare."

Friday, September 16, 2005

BUSH'S MOMENT: There's a wide consensus that Bush rose to the leadership occasion in the aftermath of September 11. I'm less sure about his response to Katrina. I just don't like where his compass seems to be pointing. Here I refer not to the slowness of the federal relief response, but to the president's rhetoric about rebuilding New Orleans.
"As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality," Bush said at the cathedral. Polls suggest a majority of Americans believe the president should have responded quicker to Katrina. High percentages of blacks tell pollsters they believe race played a role in the slow response by all levels of government.
Bush is sorely mistaken if he thinks the way to raise his standing in the polls — or to cement his legacy as president — is to suddenly morph into FDR. Among those who were most devastated by Katrina — the poorest of the poor — are those who were supposed to get better lives from America's anti-povery program, a series of initiatives that mostly fostered greater dependency and ignored the crucial teaching of life skills toward self-betterment. The idea of simply throwing more money at deep social pathology, in the name of "eradicating povery," is disastrously misguided. There's no doubt that real people experienced real suffering due to the relief delay. Let's also remember this was a Category 5 hurricane that didn't arrive like a thief in the night. A city that exists below sea level had several days' advance notice of the storm. That seems important to bear in mind. Above all, let's not buy into a mass-contrition experience based on some idea that the way to expiate the "sin" of our lack of preparedness is to throw massive money in the wrong directions with no real accountibility. If anything, maybe Bush should exercise even more than usual — if that would be a way to discourage him from frenetically committing himself to the wrong kind of athleticism toward a national tragedy. Try this: When in doubt, don't spend. Let's act with deliberation and social intelligence as we turn toward rebuilding New Orleans. For heaven's sake, we've got to be market savvy. Let's use enterprise zones and tax abatement wherever possible; let's definitely not add a new layer to the existing welfare state mentality. And of course, let's ensure that government and private charity join to help feed and house those in greatest need. That's what a safety net is for. Meanwhile, Tom Delay seems truly committed to abandoning the principles by which the GOP came to power in the House — cutting spending and reducing the size of government:
Declining calls to offset emergency funding with budget cuts, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay declared an "ongoing victory" in the battle against wasteful government spending. There's no fat left to cut, he said. Heritage Foundation budget analyst Brian Riedl disagrees. "There is so much fat in government spending that it is hard to know where to begin cutting," writes Riedl, who goes on to make some specific suggestions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

MORE GENDER FOOLISHNESS: What a delight to watch Roberts respond with elegance, class and facts to scurrilous attempts by Feinstein and Biden to tar him with the usual radical feminist brush. Adopting her famously sanctimonious "Oh, I am so virtuous it's hard to sit still" tone, Feinstein began by reciting to Roberts a series of supposedly unflattering comments he'd written about women. Why did he write as an associate White House counsel that, "'Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good?'" Feinstein demanded to know. Never one to be accused of false modesty, California's senior senator spoke not just for herself but for all Americans of the female persuasion: "As the only woman on the committee, I have an additional role to play in representing the views and concerns of 145 million American women during this hearing process." Feinstein continued: Why write in response to female lawmakers concerned about the pay gap, "'Their slogan may as well be, from each according to his ability, to each according to her gender?'" Without breaking stride, Roberts politely replied that the first comment was a joke about whether it was good to have more lawyers. The second, he said, was written in the context of a memo making clear the administration's support for equal pay for equal work. Roberts then noted that his wife works as an attorney and that he would fight for his daughter's full civil and legal rights in the workplace. Feinstein's disappointment registered immediately. She obviously thought she had Roberts cornered, and now she realized just how mean-spirited and petty her interrogation had sounded. "Well, I don't want to belabor the point," she offered timidly — not once but twice. Translation: Gotta get out of this one, fast. Meanwhile, presidential aspirant and noted plagiarist Joe Biden began by boasting that he had done a lot more than simply offer legislation forbidding violence against women: "I know people say they wrote things. I mean, I actually did write that my little old self, with my staff." Then Biden livened things up by flashing his bright upper bicuspids (it may have been a smile) and accusing Roberts of not objecting to, oh, beating up women. Biden's allegation — ridiculous on its face and easily refuted by Roberts, despite two manic interruptions by the Delware senator — was clearly aimed to shore up Biden's quest for feminist support in his impending presidential campaign. Here's what matters abut yesterday's exchanges. Simply shouting "sexism" no longer sufficies to win an argument, any more than allegations of "racism" automatically confer moral superiority on the demagogues who typically level the charge. Radical feminists used to be able to get away with declaring that pay for comparable work is identical to pay for comparable worth, but not any more. "Work" and "worth" may rhyme, but the differences are profound — as true equality crusader Warren Farrell has made clear again and again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

ANTI-ROBERTS LEARNING CURVE: It's quite remarkable what Democrats have learned about the Supreme Court in the process of preparing their campaign to keep John Roberts from joining it. Apparently most Democratic members of the Senate are only now learning that Supreme Court appointments are for life! And because a lifetime can be a longtime, John Roberts must face the most extreme scrutiny. They seem to be afraid that Roberts' thinking won't evolve in the right direction over time. Actually that's a fair point. Ted Kennedy's views about confirmation hearings have definitely changed. He once declared that Thurgood Marshall (who became a longtime member of the Supremes) had every right not to answer senators' questions:
"We have to respect that any nominee to the Supreme Court would have to defer any comments on any matters which are either before the court or very likely to appear before the court."
Four decades later, Kennedy, seemingly a lifetime senator, insists that Roberts must prove his suitability for a lifetime appointment by answering every question. You know, just like Kennedy did in the wake of his unfortunate driving accident a longtime, lifetime ago. Oh, the grandstanding to come in these next few days of the first Supreme Court confirmation hearing of the Internet Age...
NEW ORLEANS NEGLIGENCE: I agree with those who say it's not to time to play "blame games" about the New Orleans nightmare. But we can — and should — be serious about assessing responsibility. It's a simple fact that local and state official represent the first line of defense in natural disasters. It's a fact that Mayor Ray Nagin said he didn't load the now-drowned school buses with passengers because he wanted to find buses with greater comfort. It's a fact that Nagin later revised his story to say he waited to find the right drivers. It's a fact that New Orleans had an advance plan for emergency evacuation that doesn't mention the federal government playing the chief role. It's a fact that Governor Kathleen Blanco had authority to call in the National Guard, but she waited. It's a fact that those who weren't evacuated by bus were herded into the Super Dome with no plans for food and water. It's a fact that Mayor Nagin prevented the Red Cross from bringing in food and water, as if the Super Dome's new occupants were being housed there only temporarily, as if the availability of food and water would spread the wrong message: "If you feed them, they will come." None of this is surprising. Those who died were among the poorest, which is really to say the least self-sufficient and the most dependent upon a culture of low expectations. Nagin and Blanco reflect that same culture: "Wait for someone to take care of us, and blame them when they don't give us what we want, when we want it." Ben Johnson has the story at Frontpage Magazine. And Brendan Miniter makes a strong case that the poor of New Olreans were failed long before Katrina.

Monday, September 12, 2005

UMPIRES, JUDGES & THE LEFT: John Roberts used a simple yet strong metaphor in his opening remarks. Comparing a judge's role to that of an umpire, Roberts said: "I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat." That reminded me of the story about the three umpires who got together after a day at the park. One umpire declares, "There's balls and there's strikes and I call 'em the way they are." Another responds, "There's balls and there's strikes and I call 'em the way I see 'em." The third says, "There's balls and there's strikes, and they ain't nothin' until I call 'em." The third empire speaks for all judges who see themselves as legislators, the Founders as well-meaning but provincial guys from a lost age, and the public at large as beyond contempt. If Bush accomplishes nothing other than getting two or maybe three justices of Roberts's caliber onto the high court, he can be forgiven even for going along with the domestic spending spree, including the highway bill.
FEINSTEIN ON THE FRINGE: Over the years, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has managed to convey to skeptical Americans that California isn’t a total political nut house. She’s done this chiefly by not being Barbara Boxer, the state’s junior senator and senior loon. To her credit, Feinstein has carved out a role as a respected centrist, especially with her DLC-like foreign policy voting record. Still, her comments at the opening John Roberts’ confirmation hearings suggest Feinstein may be trying to shore up her ratings with Americans who prefer their politics incoherent. Putting Roberts on notice that she intends to ask his views about the separation of church and state, DiFi launched into a lecture about the importance of learning from history. "Millions of innocent people have been killed and tortured because of their religious beliefs," she declared. So far, so good. Then came this strange tangent:
"I recently traveled to Europe where I saw monuments enshrining the tragedies that have occurred in the name of religion. In Budapest along the River Danube there are 60 pairs of shoes covered in copper: women’s, men’s, small children’s. "During World War II, Hungarian fascist and Nazi soldiers forced thousands of Jews including men, women and small children to remove their shoes, as a final humiliation, before shooting them and letting their bodies fall and drift down the river. These shoes represent a powerful symbol of man’s inhumanity."
Call me dense or insensitive or both — but I’m thinking the murders count as horrific regardless of the shoes. Seems we’ve got ourselves a solid "hate crime" even without using footwear to elevate the mass murder charge. The left views Roberts as already too sympathetic to religion, yet here's a United States senator lecturing him on the religious indignity of shoeless mass murder — and sermonizing on the need to keep religion and government separate. Am I missing something here? Like: Why is she telling this to John Roberts?