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Friday, December 16, 2005

BAD BUSH, HEROIC CLINTON: Here's what the NYT claims about Bush authorizing domestic spying:
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
Here's how the same story would read during the administration of Bill Clinton:
Within only weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks, President Clinton moved decisively to authorize the National Security Agency to bypass burdensome regulations preventing the president from acting to protect the American people from domestic terrorism, according to government officials.
George W. Bush is the gift that keeps on giving — to his opponents. If Bush says yes, the Times says no. His very existence gives them reason for being. In about three years, Bush will be heading to Crawford for good. It's an even bet that Cindy Sheehan will follow in hot pursuit, but will the rest of his hating squad do? How will they summon the will to live?
IRAQ'S ACHIEVEMENT: The post-humanitarian left can't be bothered with celebrating the Iraqi people's electoral victory, any more than they were willing to allow themselves to be concerned with Saddam's rape rooms. Nope — these are the people who in 2001 worked hard to tally how many civilians died in Afghanistan as a result of America's post-911 efforts against the Taliban. If the number of civilian casualties exceeded the number of people killed in the attacks on the Twin Towers, American action in would be unjust. That the contemporary American left is primarily anti-American is self-evident, but it's worth noting that this is not true of all national radical moments. For most of the imperial years, French leftists were as proud of their Frenchness as were French conservatives. The great American baritone Paul Robeson hated Franco's fascism and embraced communist ideas, yet he claimed to do so as an American patriot. His "Ballad for Americans" wasn't great music, but Robeson's pride in being American was on full display; the ballad was not a hymn to alienation. Here's the point: On this day after the election — not surprisingly in the least — MoveOn.org leads with a request for funds to run a TV commercial demanding that all American troops leave Iraq by a date certain. Not a word about the brave Iraqis who risked everything for a purple finger; everything that falls short of perfection in Iraq is America's fault. It's worth noting that vast numbers of Sunni Moslems who boybotted previous elections cast ballots yesterday in droves. The Iraqi Islamic Army, an anti-American milita group, actually safeguarded the polls. "Sunni 'insurgents' are more committed to a peaceful, stable, democratic Iraq than the American left," notes Ben Johnson at Front Page Magazine. Meanwhile, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi announces her party won't even take a stand on Iraq in the 2006 elections. Translation: We don't care enough about Iraqi freedom to want to help advance it; but if the situation goes to hell we want to be in a position to say we told you so. Again, no surprise — it's nothing new. In his novel I Married a Communist, Philip Roth spoke of "the combination of embitterment and not thinking." This is all the resentment-driven American left is now — not much different, interestingly, from what the John Birch Society represented, back in the 1950s.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

DIZZY DEAN: A growing number of Democratic Party leaders are concerned that their party chairman may be a loose cannon. Oh, really? Howard Dean ran one of the most bombastic, ideologically polarizing presidential campaigns since George McGovern's. He never missed a chance to take hard-edged stands or to make provocative statements, for instance: his infamous declaration of neutrality on the matter of Osama bin Laden’s guilt for allegedly masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; and let's not forget his grudging admission that the world might be a better place with Saddam Hussein in jail. Dean's crusade self-destructed in the early primaries, resulting in a general consensus that he and his team ran a lousy campaign. Wait, it gets better. The candidate who showed himself to be politically tone deaf in his own misbegotten campaign decides he's cut out to run the nuts-and-bolts political machinery of the Democratic Party. Even crazier, the DNC takes Dean at his word that he would stay away from policy pronouncements and focus on electing Democrats. The simple fact is Dean has spent his term playing to the Michael Moore left with proclamations like his most recent: No way the United States cannot win the war in Iraq. Some say the Democratic Party is rudderless. Now that's a joke. The rudder's firmly in place, the doctor's at the helm and the destination appears to be the Bermuda Triangle. Talk about physician-assisted suicide.
COLOR BLIND KATRINA: The stats are in and the facts indisutable: Race was not a factor in deaths from Katrina. Don't expect Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to retract their demagogic accusations to the contrary. These two hustlers got what they wanted — yet another 15 minutes of attention — and surely both have more current con games to run. Jackson's most recent pathetic pandering: Tookie Williams is a "martyr."
A FRAUD CALLED FONDA: She cheerled for America's defeat in Vietnam, then made a financial killing as an exercise maven and author. She found time to marry one of the richest men in the world. America, you see, has been very bad for Jane Fonda, and she can't resist letting us know. Her term for the heroic men and women who volunteered to fight for Fonda's right to be contemptible: "killing machines." My term for Hanoi Jane: not utterable in a family-friendly forum.
Regarding your comment about matresses, well said. What's more, we've become a nation of "vidiots" — we're visually illiterate. We can't process the tsunami of visual stimulants pounding our nervous systems fast enough during the day which leaves the subconscious mind to deal with it overnight. No wonder we're zonked.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

EUPHEMISM EXPRESS: So Colin Farrell, actor, has a bad back. For relief, he turns to prescription pain killers. He checks into the hospital, publicist cites "exhaustion." OK, so look: I understand what "heat exhaustion" is, having courted it while running too long and too hard on too hot a day. But what's this general malaise called "exhaustion" that now seems so pervasive in Hollywood? Another favorite: "Doctors said the actor was dehydrated." Could these conditions be related to being stoned for one too many 24-hour periods in a row — maybe? I think I'll try these on one of my editors next time I miss a deadline. As explanations go, they might be more persuasive than: "Well, see, I binged a lot this past week and I'm really, really tired. Could we agree to call it unforeseeable?" (Hat tip to the contemporary left for so many helpful hints about how not to be responsible for my own actions.)
SLUMBER QUEST: And while I'm ranting: What's with America's search for the perfect mattress? I enjoy talk radio and listen to a lot of it, and I'm constantly struck by the number of commercials advertising the ideal sleep surface. Pay for it by noon, get it delivered that same day for a "perfect night's sleep," and of course there's the festive option of you and your sleep partner choosing how firm you want your side of the bed to be. Hey, I like a good night's sleep as much as anybody, and generally I get as much sleep as I seem to need. But: in a culture with drive-through coffee shops increasingly available; with TVs in every bedroom; with computers glowing like nightlights; with MP3 devices now attached to bodies like prosthetic devices — given all this, why do I keep thinking the mattress isn't probably the issue? (If I'm being too hasty here — if you yourself got a major mattress upgrade and you find yourself catching way better Zs than you ever dreamed possible — I'm all ears.)
FINEMAN'S FALLACY: Newsweek's Howard Fineman takes Bob Woodward to task for serving as "court stenographer" for the Bush administration. Fineman says Woodward should go back to being an outsider committed to "burning the beltway." This criticism (in addition to highlighting a little professional jealously on Fineman's part) reveals the extent to which the journalistic generation that cut its teeth on Watergate assumes that to be pervasively and choronically anti-establishment in one's reporting is the same thing as objectivity. No, I'm not saying the words and deeds of government officials should be taken at face value. And I can't say I admire Woodward for not disclosing his full role in Plamegate. But who does Howard Fineman (Newsweek's chief political correspondent) think he's fooling when he declares himself an "outsider"? Fineman is as much a journalistic insider as any reporter in Washington — and like most of the D.C. press corps, he has found it conveniently easy to be suspicious of the White House when its occupant became George W. Bush.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

GENE MCCARTHY: A Reticent Senator Who Inspired: That's how David Broder remembers the senator from Minnesota who challenged an incumbent president in what remains one of the most tumultuous years in American political history. I was not yet in high school when Eugene Gene McCarthy announced his anti-Vietnam candidacy for president. He struck me then as a thoroughly decent man who somehow wasn't like the rest. McCarthy was ironic, enigmatic, cerebral, and quixotic — closer to a Greek philosopher than a contemporary political leader. I became less impressed with McCarthy in his later years, when he didn't seem to know how to step away from the limelight yet also seemed incapable of making a useful contribution to political conversations. Still, I write these words neither as a biographer nor a historian. I write as one who was moved to political life by a man who was as willing to spar with his own party as with the Republicans, who left the political wars to write poetry, and who inspired a generation to believe they could make a difference. Rest in peace, Senator McCarthy.