Washington Prowler

Wlady’s Corner(March 24 - March 30, 2003)

first postings

By 3.24.03

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Dear Reader Mailers: I was wondering why mail from you was slower than usual this week. The problem has now been fixed, but it appears that several days of mail sent by Prowler readers to the post-merger address of editor@spectator.org vanished in a black hole. That won't happen again, but I'd love it if you could resend what might have vanished. Hate to lose something precious. (posted 3/27/03 4:47 p.m.)

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Daniel Patrick Moynihan, RIP (3/27/03 3:09 a.m.)
Younger Americans may not know that Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the longtime Democratic senator from New York who declined to run for re-election in 2000 and thus made way for Hillary Clinton, was a conservative hero of the first order. Not only because of his service in the Nixon White House or his longtime friendships and intellectual bonds with leading neoconservatives. The first time I laid eyes on him he was skulking across a college campus in the spring of 1976, hoping not to be noticed. Perhaps because he had been noticed as never before in the previous year, which brings me back to his status among conservatives. In 1975 President Ford named him U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Of a sudden, America never had a more eloquent or defiant defender, at a time -- post-OPEC's rise, post-Nixon's ouster, post-defeat in Vietnam -- when it really needed one. Before that increasingly pro-Soviet, Third Worldish, nonaligned body, Moynihan spoke for civilization. Progressives and home and abroad have never forgiven him. That's how there are. And he was something else.

In early 1976, The American Spectator devoted its cover to "The Importance of Moynihan," calling his ambassadorial tenure a "Happy Hour at the United Nations." In a memo to Spectator editor Bob Tyrrell published in that issue, Leonard Garment, Moynihan's counselor at the UN, described his boss from the inside:

"You'll remember that before he was appointed he published an article in Commentary (March 1975) called 'The United States in Opposition' where he declared his hope that the American United Nations spokesman would come to be 'feared for the truths he might tell' and would 'shout to the heavens' the case for liberty. He didn't change his mind after his appointment. When I came to work for him last August, he laid out his general plan of action in these terms: Let's not worry about getting fired. As a matter of fact, let's try in a responsible way to get fired. That's the only hope we have of doing a few useful things while we are here.

"As a consequence, he was cheerfully loose in the job. His lack of concern about guarding his tongue or position was put on public display at 9:45 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, when he presided over a meeting of the United States delegation members, staff officers, and secretaries, lecturing on the United Nations' follies of the moment, inviting information and disagreement, wisecracking, evenhandedly denouncing the 'Stalinoid sons of bitches' in other delegations (named), and the 'disgraceful' action of one or another high-ranking official in the United States Government (also named). He kept strange hours, talked to strange groups, slept fitfully, napped randomly, and did most of his own work. He wrote his own major speeches and cables. He knew precisely where he wanted to take his Mission. And he was passionate in his belief that the success in doing so depended on words -- reading, writing, delivering, dissecting words....

"It has been said that Moynihan's strategy from the start was to seek a confrontation with the Third World. The reverse is true. His intention was to challenge the totalitarian states at the level of language and ideology..."

It was a hellish time. "As you know," Garment continues, "the spirit of the Special Session did not last long. Oil, anti-Semitism, and Soviet manipulation introduced the Zionism resolution, a lunatic inversion so identifiably evil and so perversely unpredictable in its consequences that its adoption may come to mark a point of not return for the United Nations. There was an assortment of other defeats for the West, but nothing so grotesque as this return to the language of the Nazis. Against these defeats stands the discovery that the old ideas of freedom and pride of country still have the power to move and rally and unify. And the discovery of a voice...Again, Bernard Levin's words: 'Mr. Moynihan has begun to sound the trumpet to end a long retreat; it sounds sweet in my ears, and I suspect that it may awaken echoes long silent in the minds of many who have almost cease to hope.'"

Not everyone appreciated Moynihan's Mission. In the same Spectator, Peter J. Rusthoven cited Newsweek's description of what it called "Moynihan's Outburst." Garry Wills called Ambassador Moynihan "an imaginative and lovable phony." The Nation magazine called him "the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time." Britain's UN representative Ivor Richard, writes Rusthoven, "chastised Moynihan for 'cowboy behavior' and practicing the diplomacy of a 'Wyatt Earp.'"

As Rusthoven put it, "Moynihan's crime, in the eyes of his detractors, is precisely that he has responded too vigorously, too truthfully, too straightforwardly to the ever escalating litany of hatred and nonsense that is his daily task to confront."

Let's close with an example of what Moynihan said to insult the good goons of the UN:

"Every day at the UN, on every side, we are assailed because we are a democracy. In the UN today there are in the rang of two dozen democracies left; totalitarian Communist regimes and assorted ancient and modern despotisms make up all the rest. Nothing so united these nations as the conviction that their success ultimately depends on our failure."

How much has changed?

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Quote of the Day (so far), from Howard Kurtz: "The reason we're all spending so much time debating media coverage of the war is that there's never been a war where reporters interviewed soldiers who were on the ground firing or had just been wounded. A hundred things may go right, but if five things go wrong, you're watching them live and in technicolor." (3/26/03 9:46 a.m.)

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The Lolita Menace (posted 3/25/03 10:23 p.m.)
Most of the national capital area has its mind focused on the war in Iraq (not on Iraq, as some of the networks would have it). But not necessarily in Fairfax County, Virginia, where a high school principal sent out this recent missive to parents, as scrupulously laid out as a text authored by, say, Al Gore. We live in titillating times that clearly call for some new regulations and reaching out to the community:

"Finally, as we look to warm weather, a number of staff, parents, volunteers, and visitors have commented on the dress students are wearing to school in the bitter cold. Based on the skimpiness in cold weather, we anticipate problems in the spring. Bare midriffs, underwear worn on the outside or which is visible because low riding pants/skirts, and clothing advertising alcohol or other problem substances are among the areas of concern which distract and affect the learning environment. Some items of clothing appear to be almost intentionally designed to ride up (or down) with motion, so that a great deal of skin ends up showing. The issue is a county wide concern and the School Board is considering some regulations. Locally, if we see a young person with problem attire, we will ask them to put on a sweater. If it repeats, we will contact the parent, and on occasion may take photographs for the parent because some students actually change clothes en route to school. This allows parents to see what we're seeing. We ask for your help in this matter."

Mr. Principal goes on to "offer the following guidelines: While the choice of clothing is at the discretion of parents and children, certain types of clothing which are unacceptable include, but are not limited to, the following: bare midriff, transparent or mesh shirts or blouses, low cut or revealing clothing, clothing which advertises alcoholic beverages or promotes violence and/or drug use, clothing which displays profanity or obscenities. Halter-tops and tops that are backless or strapless are not appropriate for school. Underwear worn outside or protruding above the top of pants or skirts are also not acceptable. Despite current fashion trends promoting low pants and short shirts, your child's stomach should not show at school..."

In signing off, the principal assures parents that "our commitment to excellence continues."

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Some Instant Analysis (posted 3/25/03 1:51 p.m.)
Depending on who you talk to or what you read, the war is going either well or badly for the U.S. (How's that for going out on a limb?) This split appears to be a continuation of prewar divisions of opinion, and not just at home. "World Media Turns Wary Eye on U.S.," reports the Wall Street Journal. "The war in Iraq is arguably the first in which skeptical coverage by non-U.S. media ... is front and center," the Journal's reporter writes. An editorial today in the French newspaper Libération, warns (or should I say gloats?): "The 'police' war, a war of liberation imagined by the hawks of Washington, will undoubtedly not take place. While the war grows more warlike, i.e. fatal, destructive and painful, even an American military victory will sound in the end like yet another political defeat for the United States."

On the other hand, a Canadian like David Warren offers joy to Andrew Sullivan's heart (though Sullivan admits to not being a military expert) by saying the war is going "fabulously well" -- and making a good case that it is.

Domestically, meanwhile, a certain theme is emerging, though it seems to absolve the media for its early over-optimism. A letter writer to the New York Times makes the point well: "The hubris of the Bush administration may be coming back to haunt it as the war in Iraq continues.... It appears the Iraqi regime has learned form its military mistakes in the first gulf war. Unfortunately, the war may be longer and bloodier than most people expected." Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who at least isn't Paul Krugman, observes today: "What troubles me most about the way the invasion has begun is that the war plans seem to be based not just on our first-rate military expertise, but also on hunches by ideologues in Washington who have never set foot in Iraq."

Related to this are worries that our ground forces are overextended and too small in number and thus sure could use backup from another Army division, a point not only made by Army ground commanders to Washington Post reporters, but also raised as a worry with an otherwise confident Ralph Peters in a special Post op-ed.

The war is less than a week old. Already we've experienced mood swings that are almost embarrassing in nature. After all, this is real war, involving real ground troops (recall how Clinton didn't dare risk using them in Kosovo) over a huge terrain, in a country about which most of us, frankly, know nothing. Understanding military progress will take more than instant analysis and querulous criticism, that old recipe for political madness.

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MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS (posted 3/24/03)
There, we've done it. Our merger is complete. Now you can read The American Prowler and The American Spectator at the same address, Spectator.org (though TheAmericanProwler.org's previous addresses will remain in force and take you directly to our new location). Some might think we've done this under cover of war, or the Oscars, or even the NCAA playoffs. Not really, since somehow we found time to watch coverage of all three, about which you'll hearing plenty in this space in the coming hours and days. This won't be a "blog," since that's a word that sounds like slop. But at all times of the day there may be occasion to pass along some important tidbit, or truism, or even truth. So good-bye weekly editor's note. Hello to more daily appearances than the time Monica Lewinsky's lawyer hit every Sunday news show on network and cable. Watch this space for more.

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.