Picture This (posted 6/30/03 1:38 a.m.)
Constitutional conservatives last week took their biggest lumps in years, it would appear. After all, diversity became officially recognized as a higher requirement than equality under the law, on top of which the high court discovered still newer areas of privacy the framers never imagined (and which, in any case, were thought to be the purview of the states' legislatures). For decades the worry has been that as a country we have drifted from the original principles that made our Constitution the miracle it seemed. Now we know the situation is a whole lot worse. Who in twenty-five years will remember why Justice O'Connor recommended a return to equality? Break someone's back it's not likely he'll walk again.
If anything is remembered it's that O'Connor's disingenuousness was never recorded as such. In establishment circles the liberal mind is encouraged to get away with whatever it wants. The topper might have come, appropriately enough, in an op-ed piece written for Sunday's Washington Post under the byline of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. The subject is "the Senate's role" in Supreme Court nominations, and guess whose authority Kennedy invokes to make his case? Yes, the very framers who otherwise ceased to exist last week. "When a president tries to ignore the Framers' careful decision to have the Senate share the appointment power," he wrote, "then the responsibility the Framers placed on us may require us to stand up to the president..."
He thinks so highly of the framers he even capitalizes their name. Thus Kennedy becomes the latest in a long line of permanent Democrats -- Patrick Leahy, the N.Y. Times, David Broder, Tom Daschle -- to send a warning shot at George W. Bush regarding any future nominations to the high court. (Weren't these the same liberals mocking Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war?)
A favorite argument of these folk is that Bush should consult with Democrats the way President Clinton consulted with Sen. Orrin Hatch before appointing, supposedly with Hatch's approval, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. On second thought, that's a great idea. The White House should take Democrats at their word, and insist they sign off on nominees who are as right of center as Ginsburg and Breyer are left of it. That may be the only way left to restore balance to the nominating process, not to mention the Supreme Court. Teddy's Framers would treasure whatever brief new life they're granted.
Rice-A-Roni (posted 6/24/03 4:07 p.m.)
What a great story. Rice University's Owls on Monday defeated mighty Stanford to capture the annual College World Series. It's the first time Rice has won a national championship in anything not having to do with academics. Though it appears the school won the baseball trophy on its own merits, think again. The NCAA, in its Supreme Court endorsed wisdom, has gone out of its way to help loser sports programs like Rice's. So where Stanford played nine players at time, Rice fielded 11. For every three strikes for Stanford, Rice received four. Its pitchers didn't walk anyone until the umpire called ball five. Its hitters enjoyed four outs an inning. When Rice was up it was only 85 feet from first to home. Stanford hitters had the usual 90 feet to traverse, but only after counting "one thousand one, one thousand two" before leaving the batter's box.
To its credit, Rice intends to defend its national championship next year. Talks are under way to augment its winning formula. That will mean 14 Owls on the field at once, 80-foot baselines when they're at bat, and five strikes and six balls for its designated hitters. We can't all be winners if former losers risk return to the cruel age of equal rules.
Standing Room History
Another remarkable story saw an obscure Croatian oust the defending champion in Monday's Centre Court opening match at Wimbledon. As the sports reports noted, it was the first time since 1967, when Charles Pasarell defeated Manuel Santana in the Wimbledon opener, that a defending champ had gone down this way.
As it happens, I was there 36 years ago, witnessing what now turns out to be a piece of history. Right after high school my parents sent me to Europe, in the company of a chaperon, my one and only sister. London was our first stop. On opening day we tubed to Wimbledon and purchased tickets which gave us entree to the entire grounds as well as the standing-room area to the side of the Centre Court net. I was happy to be there, particularly since I was familiar with Pasarell, a Hollywood-handsome star who played for UCLA. When he opened the match by booming four straight serves past Santana, I assumed it was going to be his day. It was. He won in four sets. My sister was thrilled.
Later we walked the grounds and saw other matches. Marty Riessen won his opener on Court 1. It might have been against the great Indian player Ramanathan Krishnan. What I remember about him is that he played with no visible emotion whatsoever. Indian women in saris in the sparsely filled grandstand watched with the same aloof demeanor. It was a lot more captivating than the tennis itself.
On one of the side courts Rafael Osuna was playing his first-round match. Years later this great Mexican would be killed in an airliner crash. On an even more distant side-court we watched through a fence along the walkway a young Australian named John Newcombe thrashing an unworthy French opponent (I'm pretty sure) in a match witnessed by maybe a dozen onlookers. From obscurity Newcombe would end up at Centre Court that year to win the men's singles championship, the first of three for him at Wimbledon. But this one would be the most memorable, given it came the last time the tournament was open only to amateurs and before strawberries and cream became its selling point.
Newcombe would also go on, many years later, to spend a late night on the town with George W. Bush, thanks to which Al Gore almost became president. But almost doesn't count in politics, nor in tennis. Unless someone in supreme authority decides that's unfair too.
Hard Times (posted 6/23/03 1:10 a.m.)
If there's one thing we've learned since George W. Bush won the presidency it's that liberals hate to lose. Just how much we don't even quite know, particularly since their biggest loss has come in the wake of what they were certain was their biggest victory when McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform became law. They wanted to eliminate the evil influence of soft money in politics, but in the process they also eliminated the role of hard money in their politics. Now they're beside themselves that President Bush is well on his way to raising some $200 million in hard money donations from individuals voters for his re-election campaign.
In the New York Times's view, it's all payback for the Bush tax cuts and -- horrors! -- bound to create new pressure for still further tax cuts. If the Times' choice of words is any indication, the paper is in full Bolshevik mode: "record-breaking binge of Republican money-raising ... the extraordinary gilded age of fat-cat politicking that has befallen the nation ... the G.O.P.'s perennial postmortem piñata for the rich ... the [Republican] party's dedication to the serial detaxation of upper-bracket Americans." That's one way to look at it, but names will never hurt the GOP. Democrats need to come up with the sticks and stones instead.
Twice on PBS's "NewsHour" last Friday, Democratic pundit Mark Shields showed his displeasure at the Republicans' decided hard-money advantage in the wake of soft-money's demise by calling it "short-term." But why short-term instead of permanent? He didn't explain, though he seemed to know something those less enlightened do not.
But of course: a letter in Saturday's N.Y. Times from the executive director of something calling itself "Public Campaign" in Washington denounced the $2,000 individual checks going to President Bush's re-election as "not representative of the American public." (Isn't that what the complaint against soft money was all about?) But, our executive director let on, "If we strengthened our public financing system for the presidential election..." That's it in a nut shell. If, having eliminated soft money, Democrats can't compete on the hard side, well then, they'll just have to make sure the government runs all campaigns. Welcome to the next great campaign finance reform cause. Who better to run it than the party of government and thus by definition more representative of the American public than it anyone thought possible.
Missing the Connection (posted 6/23/03 1:10 a.m.)
All is not quiet on the other anti-Bush front either. Lucianne.com has already amply ridiculed Walter Pincus's Washington Post "thumbsucker," "Report Cast Doubt on Iraq- Al Qaeda Connection." There was some evidence, yes, but just not as clear as President Bush claimed it was. Nitpicking by the usual nitwits, sounds like. Here's my favorite paragraph:
The president said some al Qaeda leaders had fled Afghanistan to Iraq and referred to one "very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year." It was a reference to Abu Mussab Zarqawi, a Jordanian. U.S. intelligence already had concluded that Zarqawi was not an al Qaeda member but the leader of an unaffiliated terrorist group who occasionally associated with al Qaeda adherents, the sources said.
Is there enough here for an al Qaeda lawsuit? It would allow Bush explain why he calls it the War on Terror and not a war on al Qaeda. Cultural insensitivity should not be allowed to stand.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports -- based on U.S. military sources -- that Saddam's crowd continues to recruit foreign "militants" to serve in the resistance to U.S. military occupation. The term "al Qaeda" does not appear in the story. Think it has to?
Gregory Peck, RIP (posted 6/13/03 1:14 a.m.)
Conservatives soured on Gregory Peck more than fifteen years ago when he lent his voice (literally, as they say) to the smears against Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. For what it's worth, it wasn't much of a career move, though perhaps it's more fair to say his career was winding down anyway. For all his great handsome looks and manly/gentlemanly decency, he was a movie star who peaked at some point in the 1960s, before they became the sixties. There was nothing vulgar about him, and thus increasingly less for him to do in the newer Hollywood. Nor was he talented enough to prevent the embarrassment any fan of his has to feel when watching him in such seventies fare as The Omen, The Boys From Brazil, or even MacArthur.
It must have been in the 1970s that I first saw him in his one great role, as the cynically charming American reporter opposite Audrey Hepburn as the runaway princess in the 1953 movie, Roman Holiday (imagine how good it would have been if directed by Billy Wilder). It was a relationship made in heaven, which is where it would have to be continued. There was no happy end, unless it can be said that understanding one's duty, as Hepburn's character inevitably did, offers satisfaction and meaning enough. Besides, her example knocked some sense into the callow character Peck played. A viewer could only be thankful for that, and for the natural superiority of certain women.
I was maybe 12 when I saw The Guns of Navarone. At that point in a boy's development, he was as perfect in the lead of that war flick as Yul Brynner had been in the gunslinging The Magnificent Seven. (Watching those movies now, I'm grateful to have liked them back then and glad I've moved on to other things.) Another memorable Peck movie from that period was On the Beach, based on Nevil Shute's anti-nuclear war novel, to which my parents didn't mind taking me. Peck plays a U.S. submarine commander who finds refuge in Australia, the last outpost still breathing after fallout from a nuclear exchange had already killed everyone in America and Europe. With Fred Astaire he competes for the attention of Ava Gardner. Knowing he has no chance, Astaire tries to kill himself in a road race. And forget about nuclear apocalypse. For Peck, winning Ava Gardner almost made it worth it. Besides, his sense of duty was an impeccable here as Hepburn's had been. Much as he'd like to die next to Gardner, he sails back with her blessing to the U.S., where his crew wants to die. But the final message is, despite Shute's and the filmmakers' intentions: better to have lived and loved ...
Which leads me to the one film we have been instructed to regard as his most outstanding: To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, the fix was in from the get-go, including Peck's Oscar as best actor, all in the name of an essential cause. (Just so you know, lying Hillary in Living History likens Vince Foster to Gregory Peck in the roll of Atticus Finch.) I remember going to the movie in 1962 with the sense that I was participating in the civil rights movement. A few more heroes like Peck/Finch and all our nation's problems would be over.
As with so much else, the film hasn't held up well. Oddly, when I saw it again a few years ago I was much more struck by the performance of Brock Peters as the doomed Tom Robinson. Peck as the public Finch almost seemed pro-forma.
We forget that what makes the film work is Peck as Atticus the widowed father opposite three marvelous children, especially Mary Badham as his daughter Scout. It's a reminder that primary credit for the movie should go to Harper Lee's novel about her childhood and her father. Without the book to guide it the movie would not have provided as sweet an example of deep love and affection between parent and children as exists on celluloid.
To Hillary and Back (posted 6/9/03 2:42 a.m.)
Has any country squandered its fabled free speech more? Even the commercials that interspersed Barbara Walters' interview with Hillary Clinton last night were studies in rectitude compared to the Big Lie those two society ladies cynically imposed on their audience of saps. The lie comes down to this (and what a thoroughly tired topic it is). Bill Clinton has been a serial philanderer since about the time the Boomers' summer of love institutionalized the notion. That's the kind of guy Hillary has been married to. It says so right there in a biography entitled "The Seduction of Hillary Rodham," a book its author David Brock remains very proud of.
Ms. Walters, who's been around, asks toward the end of the interview, after the Lewinsky matter was delicately broached, "What if he does some thing in the future that is similar?" That left me rolling in the aisle (though there's no aisle in our TV room). Earlier she had asked about Bill's courtship of Hillary 30 some years ago and why it took her two years to agree to marry him. Hillary replied it's because she wanted to forge her own path. No doubt that's partially true, as Richard Nixon sadly found out. But if you read the above biography you get a sense that Hillary knew full well what kind of chaser she was involved with and what she would have to look forward to him once married.
Ms. Walters, at her most daring, asked Ms. Clinton if she believed Gennifer Flowers or Paula Jones. No ma'am. But Hillary did perk up to allege that the Jones case was thrown out for good -- and Ms. Walters, at her most cowardly, never did follow up to ask why Bill C. eventually settled with Jones for $850,000.
In a nice twist, Hillary said she didn't believe the Lewinsky story because of all the false things that had been said about her.
She couldn't resist blaming Kenneth Starr for all dredging up the initial Clinton scandals, even though the latter were all being investigated by Robert Fiske well before Starr was appointed independent counsel.
She spoke movingly about all the "innocent people" caught up in the IC's investigations -- people heretofore presumed to have been hung out to dry by the Clintons.
To her earlier unfortunate use of "gulping" Hillary now added the phrase, "I had to get down on my knees." Of course, like any scoundrel she was hiding behind the notion that she did so to pray. Just for old times' sake, she exploited the safely dead Jackie Kennedy Onassis as an early confidante.
And so it went, with one major lost opportunity. With all that talk about the chill departure for and vacation at Martha's Vineyard, neither interviewer nor interviewer mentioned Bill Clinton's dramatic return to Washington a few days later to launch a few cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden. Surely Hillary could have told us that was the real start of the war on terrorism.
A D-Day F (posted 6/7/03 1:25 a.m.)
The dolt John F. Kerry is at again. On June 5 he thought it was June 6, though that was the least of it. He proceeded to brag about how much June 6 means to him, saying it's a date he never forgets. Why? Because it's the date on which he returned from his first Vietnam tour and also the date on which Bobby Kennedy died. More revealing, for a would-be commander in chief, is that he said nothing about June 6 being the anniversary of D-Day, the real reason we ever remember the date. A fifty-ninth anniversary doesn't matter? As a boy Kerry claims to have visited Omaha Beach. Apparently it left no lasting impression.