I'd been asking this question lately, but admittedly was too lazy to look into it. Thankfully, the New York Times did my legwork over the weekend: "But scientists say that although the threat from the current avian flu virus is real, it is probably not immediate." Not to discount completely the risk, fears, and preparations, but that's hardly scientifically rigorous, is it? Just about any possible catastrophe would qualify.
The Spectacle Blog
So George Will, the arbiter of all things conservative, has weighed in on Rep. Tom Tancredo and, through him, the immigration issue looming over the Republican Party. So how does Will treat immigration and Tancredo seriously? He implies that the immigrant's grandson is a hypocrite and treats him as the loose cannon of the party. But the kicker, the real smear, the final sentence shows all of Will's cards: "So Republicans may have found their Al Sharpton, a candidate who simply has no interest in being decorous."
Excuse me? If Tancredo's the Republican Party's Al Sharpton, who's his Tawana Brawley? Will could have chosen many other undiplomatic Democrats (Howard Dean comes to mind), yet he chose Sharpton. George Will's not ignorant of Sharpton's racist past. Instead of having the gall to smear Tancredo openly, he slips it in at the buzzer. How lame.
David Brooks, the designated conservative on both the New York Times op-ed page and the PBS NewsHour, knows which way the wind blows. "After a while you get sick of the DeLays of the right and the Deans of the left," he wrote in the Times on Sunday. Unlike other conservative commentators who have been busy repositioning themselves -- Bill Kristol, George Will, Charles Krauthammer -- Brooks did not mention Harriet Miers, although he did cite Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Alexander Hamilton. When he turns away from the "push and shove of today's weary political titans" and gets "back to basics," Brooks said, he finds himself "invigorated."
And that's fine; and that's also how you get to be a designated conservative: You take the high ground. In this case it was clearly marked: between DeLay and Dean. The high ground is usually not that easy to define; but its distinguishing quality is that to stand there you must join hands with liberals.
In keeping with Wlady's good example, and because nobody watches MSNBC any more, it's my duty to report Judge Robert Bork's take on Harriet Miers.
Asked his opinion of the Miers nom, Bork replied, "I think it's a disaster on every level." Why? Bork said,"...this is a woman who's undoubtedly as wonderful a person as they say she is, but so far as anyone can tell she has no experience with constitutional law whatever. Now it's a little late to develop a constitutional philosophy or begin to work it out when you're on the court already. So that -- I'm afraid she's likely to be influenced by factors, such as personal sympathies and so forth, that she shouldn't be influenced by. I don't expect that she can be, as the president says, a great justice."
Because you would otherwise have to pay to access Maureen Dowd's New York Times' column, I am happy to do the altruistic thing and give you a Mo Snippet of the Day. Today, in "The Trouble With Harry," she hisses at the right for its opposition to the inadequate Harriet Miers, whose selection by President Bush has given liberals a new lease on life.
"Those on the left are perfectly happy to look away from mediocrity," she writes, "because they were spared the lesser of two evils, because they were spared the nightmare of a reactionary maniac."
Oh, what's the deal with Harriet as "Harry"? Earlier Dowd discovered Miers' friends often call her that. There was a time when feminists like Mo loved it when independent women were known by men's names, as for example the vengeful "Alex" in Fatal Attraction. So who's more dangerous? A progressive maniac like, say, "Alex," or a reactionary maniac like, say, Michael Luttig?
Of course, it's not out of the question that Dowd intends her cheap bites to serve as examples of her droll humor. If so, by her standards, in her final paragraph today, she is absolutely giddy:
Russ Potts, the sometimes Republican, always bombastic independent candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial race, really cracked up this week. When Larry Sabato wouldn't admit him to Sunday night's televised debate because he hadn't reached a 15% threshold in any poll, he sued. That's a sure sign of a good sport.
Please, Mr. Melville. Now that we have learned that I engage in wishful thinking, that the president's speech was "just plain dumb," and that Victor Davis Hanson is the official historian of "that parallel universe," may we risk injecting some facts into this conversation?
I don't know on what basis you maintain that what Gen. Petraeus told me is not fact. If there are contrary facts we should know, then out with them, man. And while we're doing so, let me reflect on another conversation I had on 16 September. It was with a chap named Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. He told me, directly and without hesitation, that the people in Tal Afar, in early September, sent their delegates to ask the Iraqi central government to come into their town and clean out the terrorists. That operation, which concluded around the time I spoke to Gen. Casey, was enormously successful. American and Iraqi forces captured or killed about 80% of those sought in Tal Afar. How could this have happened if the Iraqi government and its armed forces weren't respected by the leaders of Tal Afar? And those leaders, by the way, are a mixed bag including Turkomans.
Mr. Babbin is a very knowledgeable guy, and I am sure he's right: Iraqi troops are "getting better." But I think he's doing a little wishful thinking when he says they're "respected and accepted by the population." More accurately, I think, the Shia may respect other Shia, and the Sunnis other Sunnis, and the Kurds other Kurds (assuming clan, tribal and family rivalries don't get in the way).
But level 1 or 2 troops aside, the larger point is that the president's speech was just plain dumb. The fight against terrorism is not nearly the same as the old fight against Communism, no matter how hard Bush tried to equate the two. Communism was centralized, dominated by Moscow; terrorism is free-floating and often ad hoc. For example, the Bali suicide bombers, we now learn, had nothing to do with Al Qaeda.
Also in his need to simplify everything in sight, the president linked the Beslan school slaughter with "radical Islam." In fact, Chechen-Russian animosities go back to the early Czars, and the Beslan atrocity was fueled by a sick nationalism.
As the winds continue to howl against GWB from the right, may I offer a word of caution? Last night at the National Review 50th Michael Novak and I recalled similar periods of discontent from conservatives towards President Reagan. If I were to remind you of the provocations now, you might snicker, as they have drifted into the past and lost their sting -- but really we were worried about the President's friendliness with Gorby and moments of seemingly selling out to Big Government.
As for GWB he needs our help and our criticism. We can give both and not lose our virtue. By the way, at the honoring of Bill Buckley yesterday in the Old Executive Office Building the President appeared before a few hundred members of the conservative movement and surprised me. He looked hearty. He was sharp-witted and genial. Most importantly, he seemed vigorous and ready for the fray. I would not count him out or even down.
I just received the second pro-Miers email from the GOP this afternoon. This one begins:
This week, President Bush announced his choice to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as the next Supreme Court Justice: Harriet Miers. Ms. Miers is an extremely well-qualified and fair-minded individual who is committed to interpreting the law instead of legislating from the bench.
With Ken Mehlman and Ed Gillespie making their rounds about town on this nomination, their efforts appear only to be beginning.