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Last Rights

Jed Babbin's united stand. Alberto Gonzales at a loss. Hemingway's white elephants. A Tancredo victory scenario. Plus more.

1.22.07

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UNITY TICKET
Re: Jed Babbin's Happy Trails:

As a regular reader of Jed Babbin's columns I would like to add my regrets and best wishes I'm sure he's receiving from TAS contributors, staff, and online loyalists. I believe in this final article he has brought up a theme that should be emphasized: the value of the "conservative coalition." The concept that he refers to of bringing together all sorts of people of conservative mien but differing approaches is the key to the success and importance of TAS. Once again Jed has said what many of us have wanted to about the large world of conservatism. Bon Voyage and fair sailing to Jed from one of his many admirers.
-- George Wittman

I'm sorry to see you go, Mr. Babbin. I've always enjoyed your columns on the Spectator web site.

May you enjoy fair winds and following seas in your new endeavor.
-- R. Goodson
Vero Beach, Florida

Heartiest congratulations to Jed Babbin on his new position at Human Events. While I'm sorry to see him leave TAS, Events is one of my daily visitation sites for conservative news and views, so it's not like he's disappearing into thin air.

As he states, it's time for all conservatives from the various sites to unite and "craft the future of the conservative coalition and our nation." I couldn't have put it better if I tried.

Best of wishes, Jed, and come back when you can. But we'll be looking for your words of wisdom at Human Events.
-- Jim Bjaloncik
Stow, Ohio

God speed, Mr. Babbin. And thanks for the memories.
-- C. Vail

LAST RIGHTS
Re: Jeremy Lott's Oh Boy, Alberto:

Who'd have thought that Mr. Scottish Law himself, Arlen Specter, would know Constitutional law better than the attorney general of the United States?
-- Paul DeSisto
Cedar Grove, New Jersey

I wonder if Jeremy Lott, and Arlen Specter were available in WWII they would be concerned about habeas corpus "rights" for German and Japanese POW's...

How absolutely asinine it is to raise these issues over folks trying to kill our troops on the battlefield. I hope we keep these clowns incarcerated for the duration, or execute them.

I could give a damn less about their "rights."
-- Jim Karr
Blue Springs, Missouri

Jeremy Lott speaks of the Constitution "conferring rights" and in the next sentence claims that the first amendment "grants freedom of speech." I learned and have always contended that the founders wrote the constitution and particularly the bill of rights as constraints on the government. They assumed that rights were God-given and the state needed to be restrained from trespassing on those rights.

So I would have written "guaranteeing rights" and "protecting freedom of speech."

Or could what I learned in high school 50 years ago be obsolete?
-- Robert Randall
Nashville, Tennessee

While Jeremy Lott is correct in pointing out what AG Gonzales should have said regarding treatment of enemy combatants, he errs in the use of two words. The Constitution neither "confers" nor "grants" rights. It recognizes and protects these rights, disallowing any attempt by the government to deny its citizens these inherent rights.
-- Kathleen

The reason that the AG came off as not very agile in his commentary is that, quite simply, he's not. His appointment as attorney general was to punch the Hispanic ticket in the Cabinet, and to pay off loyal service to the President.

Let's not worry about the qualifications of any of our Cabinet. The overall perception is much more important. The Bush administration made, and continues to make, mistakes in Cabinet appointment decisions. Norman Mineta and Colin Powell are two others that immediately come to mind. At least our current AG is trying to be the best he can.

Politics, again, make it difficult for us to keep our Republic, given by the Founding Fathers.
-- R. Goodson
Vero Beach, Florida

In my recent memory, John Ashcroft was the only Attorney General who had the brains and internal fortitude for the office he held. Alberto Gonzales, is one of those super-cautious, not too bright men who populate our government. He got there as a Friend of Bush and by never making a controversial decision of any kind. Pretty face, not much else.

Who can ever forget during the 9/11 Commission Hearings, John Ashcroft hauling out Jamie Gorelick's memo directing the construction of a wall between FBI and CIA? The look on her face as General Ashcroft read her own words to her was priceless. I miss that man -- our government needs many more like him!
-- Judy Beumler
Louisville, Kentucky

Here we go again! Attorney General Gonzales, defending the indefensible and having no ground on which to stand, had to resort to arguments that a second semester law student would be embarrassed to assert. Am I to believe that this man, praised so highly as a pillar of legal scholarship and wisdom at confirmation time, doesn't even know the nature of "rights," as that term is used in our founding documents?!! I think there must be some alternative explanation. Haven't the Republicans just about worn out the Stupid Card?

The Republicans became known as the Stupid Party for behaving in ways that not only offended common sense, but betrayed the philosophical underpinnings of their supposed cause. What always seems to get left in the lurch by these "stupidities" is our heritage as a nation of free individuals and the nearly completely forgotten notion of states' rights. What always seems to come out ahead is the socialist (dare I say totalitarian?) drift "to the nanny state and beyond!" (as Buzz Lightyear might say).

For perhaps the first time in my life, I feel obliged to offer at least conditional props to Senator Specter. I can't imagine what got into him, except that his pandering to the liberals happened to coincide with their libertarian heritage, perhaps to his consternation. Many things may be said of the senior Senator from Pennsylvania, but that he is a friend of our Constitutional heritage of freedom must be least among them....

I'm fed up with the simplistic explanation that our Republican leadership is merely stupid, and I refuse to accept it. Of course Mr. Gonzalez knows full well the nature of rights. It's merely politically convenient to undermine them. Of course our elected officials know the limits of Constitutional power, but they know far better the personal and political benefits of undermining them. Just ask Senator Specter about his voting record.

Republican voters are easy marks. They are bound above all by a patriotism that supersedes selfish personal interests, in contrast to the Democratic Party, which is built largely on a shifting but vastly numerically superior coalition of selfish interests. Republican voters are likewise loyal to a fault. The many letters appearing daily on this page excusing this or that abomination perpetrated against core Republican premises attests to that. Republican voters also are hamstrung by their persistent faith that the pandering of the Republican Party to this or that perhaps vulnerable Democratic demographic will be the last one. It's rather like believing an alcoholic promising that "just one more drink" will be the last one, but it does bespeak a deep well of faith in human nature....
-- Mark Fallert
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Just think: Harvard Law School-educated Alberto Gonzales was not just a former member of the Texas Supreme Court, but also White House Counsel and, for three years, General Counsel to then Gov. George W. Bush. How can he not grasp what our rights are and how they're conferred?
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

HEINOUS CRIMES
Re: Christopher Orlet's Turkish Blood and Lawrence Henry's First Principles: Why We Fight:

The murder of Hirant Dink, an Armenian-Turkish journalist in Istanbul, is a heinous crime, and the murderer(s) should be brought to justice. One thing is certain, though, his murder is in no way in the interest of Turkey.

You state that the murderer must have been alone and was not part of a sophisticated group because his gun and hat were found on him. Is this perhaps because some people wanted to pin him with the murder plot, as well as pulling the trigger? When Mehmet Ali Agca shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1981, there were similar cries of "murderous Turks." Yes, he did pull the trigger, yet it was found out that he was an agent of Russian/Bulgarian underworld organizations.

In 1973, an Armenian-American named Sassoonian assassinated Mehmet Baydar, the Consul General of Turkey in Los Angeles. There were dozens of other Turkish diplomats who were killed by Armenians around the world. Surely you will agree that such senseless murders are reprehensible, regardless of who the murderers or their victims are. Sassoonian is now in jail for life; so should the murderer of Hirant Dink be.

Turks have stated their outrage at this murder by holding demonstrations and crowding the spot where Mr. Dink was killed with candles and flowers. No one in their right mind condones this murder. Perhaps, one good thing that might come out of this sad episode is that the infamous Article 301 will be lifted from the Turks' lawbooks.
-- Mrs. Erkin Baker
Metro-St. Louis

I read "First Principles: Why We Fight" and "Turkish Blood." I forwarded both to a friend, who has been in Turkey (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Bosnia). You guys are hot this week. Keep up the good work.
-- Jeremy L. Griffith
...from a bunker in Southwest Asia

WHITE ELEPHANTS
Re: G. Tracy Mehan, III's The Experience of Abortion:

At age nineteen I read "Hills Like White Elephants" and in my naiveté tried to figure out if the topic was abortion. I concluded that it was, and I found the short story to be quite disturbing.

At age thirty-five I received a gut-wrenching phone call telling me that my sister had been checked into the psychiatric ward of a hospital after suffering what used to be termed an emotional breakdown. As she came down from the medication they had given her certain facts emerged. Two years prior her husband had demanded, at the threat of divorce, that she abort her baby, to which she acquiesced. As the gravity of what she had done sunk in it became something she was unable to accept. In the years that followed she struggled with depression, and almost needless to say given how such things go, her husband divorced her anyway. At age thirty-nine I received a phone call telling me that she had committed suicide.

It seems to me that in its banality "Hills Like White Elephants" is so poignant that I wonder if it was written from some degree of first hand experience. And while I'm speculating let me throw some additional information into the mix. "Hills Like White Elephants" was written in 1927. In 1933 Hemingway went on an African safari using a 30-06 with 220 grain bullets with which he killed, among other things, a lion and a cape buffalo. That round is on the light side of marginal for such use, so much so that it's borderline suicidal to try. In 1936 Hemmingway wrote what some consider the greatest short story ever written, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." In that story Mr. Macomber hunts lion and cape buffalo with a 30-06 using 220 grain bullets. [Spoiler alert] In doing so one of the creatures kills him but in the process Mr. Macomber gains back his dignity, pride, and personhood, be it ever so fleetingly. In 1961 Hemingway committed suicide at the muzzle of a shotgun.

It should not go unmentioned that the term "white elephant" refers to an unwanted gift, the very thing many consider pregnancy to be. According to Hemingway's son Patrick, Ernest Hemingway never shot an elephant as he considered it wrong to do so. Apparently Hemingway believed elephants to be our equals. I can't help but wonder if there was more going on there than just fondness for elephants. Putting all this information together and having watched firsthand the effects abortion had on a loved one I reserve the right to speculate whether Hemingway was struggling with the same issue, with the same tragic conclusion.

Abortion destroys more than just the baby. The proper response to the realization of its gravity and horror is not suicide, but rather, requesting God's forgiveness for allowing it to occur in our midst and then working for its abolition. In same way that our country once had to confront the sin of slavery we must now confront and abolish this sin. May God have mercy on our nation if don't and may it not take a civil war to do so.
-- Unsigned

Mr. Mehan said the "national debate over abortion usually centers on the legal and political controversies." Moral and religious arguments motivate the debate. For good reason, too. It's estimated that America has allowed the legal infanticide of almost 40 million -- maybe nearly 44 million -- unborn humans. These horrific statistics approach the combined military and civilian related deaths estimated for World War II.
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

CAN TANCREDO WIN?
Re: W. James Antle III's Tancredo Time:

The premises and doomsday consequences that W. James Antle III offers in his sympathetic review of Rep. Tom Tancredo's decision to form an exploratory committee to seek the Republican presidential nomination in '08, raises, perhaps, a larger question: can Tancredo, running against formidable odds and making mistakes, still win? Undoubtedly, his campaign will not have the financial or party's structural support that the incumbent in the White House did; yet, call it foolish optimism, but it appears to me that Tancredo's candidacy has hit the popular nerve that can lead to victory: the support of the vox populi. Tancredo earlier claimed that he would be "delusional" to consider running for the presidency, but the events of the past weekend have transformed that chimera into a realistic scenario.

The force feeding by President Bush of the RNC to violate their rules and accept Sen. Mel Martinez (R.-FL) as "Honorary Chairman" of the GOP is, to me, another indication that our commander-in-chief is tone deaf to the best interests of his party, and to the overwhelming number of Americans. I have never ever understood this president's callous persistence in this matter; it defies reason and common sense. As I previously wrote in these pages (Nov. 2, 2006), "...the issue of immigration will be, bar none, the most contentious issue of the 2008 presidential primaries and elections."

The denizens of the White House cannot be oblivious to any or all of this; surely they know that "the path to citizenship," supported by Martinez and the president, is the path to political suicide by the GOP. They also know that Senor Martinez is, along with Sen. Hagel, co-author of SB2611, the most sweeping amnesty of illegal aliens ever proposed. Yet, despite dissent from the RNC members from his own state of Texas, and the foreknowledge that funds to finance elections are being withheld, this presidential madness continues. The myopia of both parties over the last twenty years in not enforcing current immigration law, and that issue alone, has made Tom Tancredo's candidacy viable, even if he is short and hasn't good hair.

The issue of enforcement of current immigration law will not go away; no society can survive that selectively decides what laws to implement, and which to disregard. Antle dreads Tancredo's loss to the House of Representatives, saying it would be a serious blow to efforts to control illegal immigration. That is demonstrably so, but leaders of the House Immigration Caucus, led by Reps. Steve King (IA), Vergil Goode, (VA), Charlie Norcross (GA), and Walter Jones (NC) et al. remain to fight the good fight, and keep the faith. Although Antle is correct in saying that no formal decision by Tancredo has been made to run, I can tell you that committees are being formed around the country to that end. Tom Tancredo is a man of his word: his brief is that we cannot remain an open and safe society when we allow millions into our country and have no idea who they are, and why they are here. He plans to address that situation, and anyone who has met him, including your scribe, believes him, and it has nothing to do with the fact that our surnames end in the same vowel. Let the games begin...

Tancredo has, to use the Chinese proverb, begun his journey of 1,000 miles by taking the first step. There would be a delicious irony here were he to win. This administration, which banished Tancredo for his steadfast dedication to the rule of law, saying that his shadow should not darken the White House, might just have to show him where the silverware is.

Pax tecum
-- Vincent Chiarello
Reston, Virginia

SERIOUSLY UNSERIOUS
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's Getting Serious:

I wish Lisa Fabrizio was right and that Bush was, in fact, taking off the gloves in the Middle East. Alas, Lisa is only dreaming. If there were a real change in U.S. policy Moqtada al-Sadr, the murdering militant Shi'ite "cleric" and leader of the Mahdi Army would already be dead or in prison. After all, it was over two years ago that the then U.S. Governor of Iraq, Paul Bremer, rightly ordered al-Sadr arrested after that chubby little murderer had openly called for killing U.S. soldiers. Indeed, al-Sadr is directly responsible for the deaths of dozens of U.S. and allied troops, not to mention thousands of Iraqi civilians, yet he is not only free, but now a major political figure in Iraq.

We could make a long list of things that need to be corrected before U.S. policy in Iraq can succeed, but this one necessity; ending al-Sadr, is a good "litmus test." As long as al-Sadr is running around free; indeed, as long as the illegal Mahdi Army still exists, then U.S. policy in Iraq is not serious and will not succeed.

Unfortunately, in spite of the little, temporary "surge" in U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. policy in the Middle East continues its stumbling, punch drunk path towards certain failure.

Pleasant dreams, Lisa. Shall I wake you in six months?
-- R. L. Markley
St. Martin du Mont, France

LET'S NOT OVERDO IT
Re: Thomas J. Craughwell's
'Bishop, I Have the Pope on Line One':

It think a better way than Thomas J. Craughwell's "Bishop I Have the Pope on Line One" analysis is this:

Pre-Vatican II liturgy stressed God's transcendence: the sense that God is beyond us and ineffable mystery and Other. (I reject the term "Totally Other," used by some theologians, such as Karl Barth, since such a God is of no interest to me, in more than one sense.)

Post-Vatican II liturgy stresses God's immanence: the sense that God is present and near us and somewhat like us, and able to be understood to some degree.

Every theologian who wrote for a Commonweal special issue on the 25th anniversary of the liturgical changes said that a sense of the sacred or an appropriate sense of mystery had been lost.

The conservative liturgical spirit one finds in some current seminarians is a response to this lack and an attempt to redress it.

It would not be good to overdo things again. Is God transcendent or immanent? Yes.
-- Richard L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

JUMPING SHIP
Re: The "Misrule Britannia" letters in Reader Mail's Immigration Showdown:

I am embarrassed to have to agree with today's readers' letters on the subject of Hal G.P. Colebatch's "Sinking the Royal Navy." Embarrassed because of the weakness of our political leaders taking us down the road towards global serfdom and humiliation; embarrassed because we will soon neither have the will nor the ability to meet our commitments and punch above our weight as an ally and friend to those actively fighting terrorism, but mostly embarrassed because we have, as a voting nation, allowed the socialists their ruinous governance of this once glorious nation. USA -- beware the beguiling peril of the left; you truly are being warned! It is enough to make me want to emigrate. Oh I nearly forgot. I am -- at the end of the month.
-- Graham Constable
Oxford, England

PHONE TAG
Re: Gary Long's letter (under "Tancredoic Emotions") in Reader Mail's Immigration Showdown:

In response to Gary Long's statement: "Think about that the next time you have to 'Press 1 for English.'"

I feel that I have in a large part solved the problem, at least for myself. At times it takes a while but I rarely push any buttons or use voice prompts anymore. I have found that if you push no buttons, you will usually be connected to a representative after a short wait. For the "just say" prompts, just keep repeating "agent" or "representative" and again, after a few "I did not understand" responses, you are usually connected to a real person.

Finally, although this is a bit off the subject, when I am connected on a "Help line" to India, Bangladesh, Laos, Indonesia or other countries and the person on line speaks with a heavy, often non-understandable accent, I continually repeat the following: "I'm sorry, I really cannot understand what you are saying. Please connect me with someone who speaks better English." They get upset, but that's the breaks. I do get a person who speaks English most of the time. If they refuse to connect me, I hang up and redial until I get someone I can understand.

While I realize that this may be "cutting off my nose to spite my face," it gives me personal satisfaction that, at least in part, I am fighting a nasty system and for the most part get to speak English, with real people whom I can understand.
-- C.D. Lueders
Melbourne, Florida

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