Just an update everyone: I leave for Uganda this Thursday, March 15th. I'll be there until April 1st at the earliest, or April 15th at the latest. Anyone who wants to know why I'm going can find all they need to learn on our web site,
www.bosco-uganda.org ...See you all again soon (I hope!)...T
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Just an update everyone: I leave for Uganda this Thursday, March 15th. I'll be there until April 1st at the earliest, or April 15th at the latest. Anyone who wants to know why I'm going can find all they need to learn on our web site,
Monday, March 12, 2007
Read it here, for you sure won't be likely to stumble upon it in the MSM-Drive By Media...T
A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bush administration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn't work. I wonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.
Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. The conventional wisdom in December held that sending more troops was politically impossible after the antiwar tenor of the midterm elections. It was practically impossible because the extra troops didn't exist. Even if the troops did exist, they could not make a difference.
Four months later, the once insurmountable political opposition has been surmounted. The nonexistent troops are flowing into Iraq. And though it is still early and horrible acts of violence continue, there is substantial evidence that the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed by the infusion of new forces, is having a significant effect.
Some observers are reporting the shift. Iraqi bloggers Mohammed and Omar Fadhil, widely respected for their straight talk, say that "early signs are encouraging." The first impact of the "surge," they write, was psychological. Both friends and foes in Iraq had been convinced, in no small part by the American media, that the United States was preparing to pull out. When the opposite occurred, this alone shifted the dynamic.
As the Fadhils report, "Commanders and lieutenants of various militant groups abandoned their positions in Baghdad and in some cases fled the country." The most prominent leader to go into hiding has been Moqtada al-Sadr. His Mahdi Army has been instructed to avoid clashes with American and Iraqi forces, even as coalition forces begin to establish themselves in the once off-limits Sadr City.
Before the arrival of Gen. David Petraeus, the Army's leading counterinsurgency strategist, U.S. forces tended to raid insurgent and terrorist strongholds and then pull back and hand over the areas to Iraqi forces, who failed to hold them. The Fadhils report, "One difference between this and earlier -- failed -- attempts to secure Baghdad is the willingness of the Iraqi and U.S. governments to commit enough resources for enough time to make it work." In the past, bursts of American activity were followed by withdrawal and a return of the insurgents. Now, the plan to secure Baghdad "is becoming stricter and gaining momentum by the day as more troops pour into the city, allowing for a better implementation of the 'clear and hold' strategy." Baghdadis "always want the 'hold' part to materialize, and feel safe when they go out and find the Army and police maintaining their posts -- the bad guys can't intimidate as long as the troops are staying."
A greater sense of confidence produces many benefits. The number of security tips about insurgents that Iraqi civilians provide has jumped sharply. Stores and marketplaces are reopening in Baghdad, increasing the sense of community. People dislocated by sectarian violence are returning to their homes. As a result, "many Baghdadis feel hopeful again about the future, and the fear of civil war is slowly being replaced by optimism that peace might one day return to this city," the Fadhils report. "This change in mood is something huge by itself."
Apparently some American journalists see the difference. NBC's Brian Williams recently reported a dramatic change in Ramadi since his previous visit. The city was safer; the airport more secure. The new American strategy of "getting out, decentralizing, going into the neighborhoods, grabbing a toehold, telling the enemy we're here, start talking to the locals -- that is having an obvious and palpable effect." U.S. soldiers forged agreements with local religious leaders and pushed al-Qaeda back -- a trend other observers have noted in some Sunni-dominated areas. The result, Williams said, is that "the war has changed."
It is no coincidence that as the mood and the reality have shifted, political currents have shifted as well. A national agreement on sharing oil revenue appears on its way to approval. The Interior Ministry has been purged of corrupt officials and of many suspected of torture and brutality. And cracks are appearing in the Shiite governing coalition -- a good sign, given that the rock-solid unity was both the product and cause of growing sectarian violence.
There is still violence, as Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda seek to prove that the surge is not working. However, they are striking at more vulnerable targets in the provinces. Violence is down in Baghdad. As for Sadr and the Mahdi Army, it is possible they may reemerge as a problem later. But trying to wait out the American and Iraqi effort may be hazardous if the public becomes less tolerant of their violence. It could not be comforting to Sadr or al-Qaeda to read in the New York Times that the United States plans to keep higher force levels in Iraq through at least the beginning of 2008. The only good news for them would be if the Bush administration in its infinite wisdom starts to talk again about drawing down forces.
No one is asking American journalists to start emphasizing the "good" news. All they have to do is report what is occurring, though it may conflict with their previous judgments. Some are still selling books based on the premise that the war is lost, end of story. But what if there is a new chapter in the story?
Click here for full article
Posted by Ted Pethick at 1:45 AM
Saturday, March 10, 2007
This from Victor Davis Hanson's blog - Works and Days - "The Washington DC press corps and high-ranking officials talk, spin, and network 24/7. Trying to sort out anything among any of them is impossible. These are the grunt soldiers with no rules of engagement in a vast ideological battle between the mainstream media and conservative administrations. "...How true. This is warfare by the criminalization of politics, and we'd better arm ourselves, in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood..T
You try to think of the right adjective—Kafkaesque, Orwellian, surreal?—to describe the Libby fiasco. I don’t know Mr. Libby, but met him on two occasions at dinners in Washington DC.
Both times he seemed to me the most widely read and affable in the room; he was also polite and well spoken, which is rare among the powerful in Washington. Despite all the mess, this much is clear.
1. During the lead-up to the war, one Joe Wilson, a sort of DC gadfly and has-been blowhard, was nominated to go to Niger by some in the CIA, most probably on the prompt of his own wife, to investigate reports of sales of yellowcake to Saddam Hussein. His selection is inexplicable, because the very idea of a Joe Wilson, on a government-sanctioned trip, to inquire, in discreet fashion, about sensitive transactions, is itself Orwellian.
2. He comes back, announces loudly and erroneously that he was on a mission chartered under the auspices of the VP—and that there is no evidence that there was any Iraqi interest in raw nuclear materials. This assertion, as Christopher Hitchens and others have written, was probably false.
3. The VP’s office and others are furious that this buffoon is lying about the circumstances of his trip, so they begin doing background on him, and discover the spousal connection and perhaps suspicions that he is staking out a partisan career. Almost immediately all sorts of reporters and government officials gossip about Valerie Plame’s CIA affiliation to explain his inexplicable selection. Her position, it turns out, is not covert—a fact that may or may not have been known at the time.
4. Apparently Richard Armitage is the first to disclose to a reporter the process how Wilson was chosen, in an interview with Robert Novak. No doubt he wanted to illustrate the conflict of interest involved in the Wilson selection, inter alia, to paint Wilson as either a showman or a partisan or both. As the national mood changes, given the absence of WMD caches in Iraq and the growing insurgency, Wilson sees an opening and suddenly becomes a cry-in-the-wilderness hero to the anti-war Left. I met him in this period in the Fox DC greenroom once, and heard him speak later at UC Berkeley at a journalism conference. Both times I came away thinking with friends like these, the Left didn’t need any more enemies. No wonder that Wilson was quickly let go from the Kerry’s 2004 campaign as a “consultant.”
5. A general allegation is made that government officials violated the law for partisan advantage by disclosing the identity of a covert CIA operative. The Left sees traction here in the storyline that the pro-war Republicans are shorting their own beloved CIA, irony given that past CIA whistleblowers who disclosed top-secret informatio lionized for it by liberals.
A special prosecutor is appointed. Fitzgerald immediately discovers that (A) Richard Armitage first disclosed Ms. Plame’s identity to Mr. Novak, and (B) there was apparently no crime in doing so. But he continues to ask questions from various reporters and officials about the nature of this feeding-frenzy, much of it caused by Mr. Wilson himself who seized the moment, as they say, by publicizing his own wife’s status, glamour, and anger, doing a book deal, magazine spread, and joining the Kerry campaign.
6. Fitzgerald apparently concludes that he has no proof of wrongdoing concerning the original charter of his special prosecutorship, given that Ms. Plame’s status was not covert. He also feels no need to or cannot prosecute Mr. Armitage or others either for violating federal statutes about CIA confidentiality or lying. His highest-ranking target, Mr. Libby, apparently alone will justify his original mandate, albeit on different charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. After hours of testimony from Mr. Libby, contradictions between his recollections and those of others are established, although it seems there is no common truth. Nearly all those interrogated at some point contradicted someone else.
7. Libby alone is charged. If his defense tactics were culpable, it was largely in the initial suggestion that Libby was a fall-guy. That suggested some sort of conspiracy where there was none. The defense had a right to be angry at Armitage, Ari Fleischer, and others who had talked to reporters about Plame, but none had done so in a conspiratorial fashion, and had simply cut their own deals without orchestration. Libby was culled out because he was the highest-ranking target that might justify the prosecutor’s time and expense, and because he either would not or could not strike some deal in the fashion that others had, formally or informally.
1. We now have a new branch of government—a symbiosis between a special prosecutor and the Washington DC judiciary. Given the available jury pool and justices in DC, together with the high-stakes, high-publicity of a special prosecutorship, any prominent conservative is fair game. An innocent or hung verdict spells financial ruin, a guilty one the destruction of a career.
All this is much like the ancient Athenian notion of ostracism, in which the prominent could be exiled and ruined simply by a populist vote on their high-profile stature that was felt to be a danger to an egalitarian Athenian ethos.
2. The Washington DC press corps and high-ranking officials talk, spin, and network 24/7. Trying to sort out anything among any of them is impossible. These are the grunt soldiers with no rules of engagement in a vast ideological battle between the mainststeam media and conservative administrations.
3. There is no sense of proportion or morality involved. One example: Richard Armitage comes off quite negatively. He knew he was the most culpable given the initial directive of the Special Prosecutor, and yet stayed quiet while the searchlight went on to others. This was especially reprehensible given his prior carefully crafted voice of conscious as a luke-warm supporter of the war.
4. We will never know all the power-plays, ego-trips, and vested reputations in all this. But apparently Fitzgerald had a lot on the line by going after Libby, and was willing to apply to him a standard not applied to others in or out of government. This does not mean necessarily that Libby’s testimony was not inconsistent, only that a degree of scrutiny was applied to it in a manner not done elsewhere.
5. All this reminds me again of wisdom from my late mother, a California superior and appellate court justice. She used to remind me that the most powerful people in government are not judges, not juries, not even legislators or executives—but state and federal attorneys, who act as judge and jury of sorts in selecting whom to prosecute. I say that because in the modern age, an indictment ipso facto can spell financial ruin and irrevocable loss of reputation. Our prosecutors must be above any hint of partisanship or grudge-holding, and must not see their offices as platforms for wide-ranging, Les Miserables obsessions.
Sadly, in this case, Mr. Fitzgerald got his one conviction, but in the process lost his own reputation as well.
Click here for full article
Thursday, March 08, 2007
This is from Michael Barone, as non-partisan as they come. He is outraged by the Libby trial, and justifiably so. Also, a progress report on the Iraq Surge...T
The Progress of the Surge
Embedded blogger and Special Forces veteran Michael Yon blogs on the progress of the surge in Iraq. Bottom line: It's going pretty well. Which raises a question: Why didn't we do this sooner? Yon, by the way, is reader-supported; you can contribute here. And here is another upbeat report from Mohammed and Omar Fadhil of iraqthemodel.com.
The Libby Verdict
I consider the prosecution of "Scooter" Libby a travesty of justice and the jury's verdict a tragedy, and I intend to write more about it. There's a huge contrast between the treatment of Libby, who now faces up to 25 years in jail, and that of Sandy Berger, who was allowed to plead guilty, with no jail time, to stealing documents from the National Archives. But in the meantime, let me share some worthy commentary. The Washington Post editorializes smartly and makes some important points.
"The trial has provided convincing evidence that there was no conspiracy to punish Mr. Wilson by leaking Ms. Plame's identity–and no evidence that she was, in fact, covert."
"It would have been sensible for Mr. Fitzgerald to end his investigation after learning about Mr. Armitage."
Which is to say, right at the beginning of his investigation. There was no violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which was the issue at hand. There was, thus, no warrant for requiring journalists to testify about sources, much less for jailing Judith Miller for 85 days. And there was no warrant for eliciting testimony from administration officials like Libby.
Third, the Post exposes Joseph Wilson for what he is: a liar and, in their words, "a blowhard":
"A bipartisan investigation by the Senate intelligence committee subsequently established that all of these claims were false–and that Mr. Wilson was recommended for the Niger trip by Ms. Plame, his wife."
The Wall Street Journal's editorial goes further and calls for an immediate pardon of Libby. It characterizes the gist of the offense:
" ... he has been convicted of telling the truth about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame to some reporters but then not owning up to it.Mr. Bush will no doubt be advised to wait for the outcome of an appeal and the end of his Administration to pardon Mr. Libby. We believe he bears some personal responsibility for this conviction, especially for not policing the disputes and insubordination in his Administration that made this travesty possible. The time for a pardon is now."
I agree. So does an outraged Clarice Feldman writing in the American Thinker blog.
Click here for full article
Friends, I haven't been this angry in quite some time. Sometime soon, someone has to wake up and declare, "We're mad as hell, and we're not taking it anymore!" They put us in jail, ladies and gentlemen! They let an avowed democrat activist, and journalist who is wring a book on the "story" become foreman of the jury in the most left-wing liberal city in the entire USA! That's two blatant conflicts of interest, right there...T
Lewis Libby has now been found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice for lies that had absolutely no legal consequence.
It was not a crime to reveal Valerie Plame' name because she was not a covert agent. If it had been a crime, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald could have wrapped up his investigation with an indictment of the State Department's Richard Armitage on the first day of his investigation since it was Armitage who revealed her name and Fitzgerald knew it.
With no crime to investigate, Fitzgerald pursued a pointless investigation into nothing, getting a lot of White House officials to make statements under oath and hoping some of their recollections would end up conflicting with other witness recollections, so he could charge some Republican with "perjury" and enjoy the fawning media attention.
As a result, Libby is now a convicted felon for having a faulty memory of the person who first told him that Joe Wilson (news, bio, voting record) was a delusional boob who lied about his wife sending him to Niger.
This makes it official: It's illegal to be Republican.
Since Teddy Kennedy walked away from a dead girl with only a wrist slap (which was knocked down to a mild talking-to, plus time served: zero), Democrats have apparently become a protected class in America, immune from criminal prosecution no matter what they do.
As a result, Democrats have run wild, accepting bribes, destroying classified information, lying under oath, molesting interns, driving under the influence, obstructing justice and engaging in sex with underage girls, among other things.
Meanwhile, conservatives of any importance constantly have to spend millions of dollars defending themselves from utterly frivolous criminal prosecutions. Everything is illegal, but only Republicans get prosecuted.
Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh was subjected to a three-year criminal investigation for allegedly buying prescription drugs illegally to treat chronic back pain. Despite the witch-hunt, Democrat prosecutor Barry E. Krischer never turned up a crime.
Even if he had, to quote liberal Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz: "Generally, people who illegally buy prescription drugs are not prosecuted." Unless they're Republicans.
The vindictive prosecution of Limbaugh finally ended last year with a plea bargain in which Limbaugh did not admit guilt. Gosh, don't you feel safer now? I know I do.
In another prescription drug case with a different result, last year, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (news, bio, voting record) (Democrat), apparently high as a kite on prescription drugs, crashed a car on Capitol Hill at 3 a.m. That's abuse of prescription drugs (BEGIN ITAS)plus a DUI offense. Result: no charges whatsoever and one day of press on Fox News Channel.
I suppose one could argue those were different jurisdictions. How about the same jurisdiction?
In 2006, Democrat and major Clinton contributor Jeffrey Epstein was nabbed in Palm Beach in a massive police investigation into his hiring of local underage schoolgirls for sex, which I'm told used to be a violation of some kind of statute in the Palm Beach area.
The police presented Limbaugh prosecutor Krischer with boatloads of evidence, including the videotaped statements of five of Epstein's alleged victims, the procurer of the girls for Epstein and 16 other witnesses.
But the same prosecutor who spent three years maniacally investigating Limbaugh's alleged misuse of back-pain pills refused to bring statutory rape charges against a Clinton contributor. Enraging the police, who had spent months on the investigation, Krischer let Epstein off after a few hours on a single count of solicitation of prostitution. The Clinton supporter walked, and his victims were branded as whores.
The Republican former House Whip Tom DeLay' name is currently under indictment for a minor campaign finance violation. Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle had to empanel six grand juries before he could find one to indict DeLay on these pathetic charges -- and this is in Austin, Texas (the Upper West Side with better-looking people).
That final grand jury was so eager to indict DeLay that it indicted him on one charge that was not even a crime -- and which has since been tossed out by the courts.
After winning his primary despite the indictment, DeLay decided to withdraw from the race rather than campaign under a cloud of suspicion, and Republicans lost one of their strongest champions in Congress.
Compare DeLay's case with that of Rep. William "The Refrigerator" Jefferson, Democrat. Two years ago, an FBI investigation caught Jefferson on videotape taking $100,000 in bribe money. When the FBI searched Jefferson's house, they found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer. Two people have already pleaded guilty to paying Jefferson the bribe money.
Two years later, Bush's Justice Department still has taken no action against Jefferson. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record) recently put Rep. William Jefferson (news, bio, voting record) on the Homeland Security Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), Democrat, engaged in a complicated land swindle, buying a parcel of land for $400,000 and selling it for over $1 million a few years later. (At least it wasn't cattle futures!)
Reid also received more than four times as much money from Jack Abramoff (nearly $70,000) as Tom DeLay ($15,000). DeLay returned the money; Reid refuses to do so. Why should he? He's a Democrat.
Former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger literally received a sentence of community service for stuffing classified national security documents in his pants and then destroying them -- big, fat federal felonies.
But Scooter Libby is facing real prison time for forgetting who told him about some bozo's wife.
Bill Clinton was not even prosecuted for obstruction of justice offenses so egregious that the entire Supreme Court staged a historic boycott of his State of the Union address in 2000.
By contrast, Linda Tripp, whose only mistake was befriending the office hosebag and then declining to perjure herself, spent millions on lawyers to defend a harassment prosecution based on far-fetched interpretations of state wiretapping laws.
Liberal law professors currently warning about the "high price" of pursuing terrorists under the Patriot Act had nothing but blood lust for Tripp one year after Clinton was impeached (Steven Lubet, "Linda Tripp Deserves to be Prosecuted," New York Times, 8/25/99).
Criminal prosecution is a surrogate for political warfare, but in this war, Republicans are gutless appeasers.
Bush has got to pardon Libby.
Click here for full article
Saturday, March 03, 2007
This is why I believe Rudy Giuliani has not only the best shot of winning the presidency next year, but why he would then make a great, not just good, president...T
Next year may see the party of the Sunbelt and Reagan, based in the South and in Protestant churches, nominate its first presidential candidate who is Catholic, urban, and ethnic--and socially liberal on a cluster of issues that set him at odds with the party's base. As a result, it may also see the end of the social issues litmus test in the Republican party, done in not by the party's left wing, which is shrunken and powerless, but by a fairly large cadre of social conservatives convinced that, in a time of national peril, the test is a luxury they cannot afford. For the past 30 years of cultural warfare, there has been only one template for an aspiring president of either party with positions that cross those of its organized activists: Displeasure is voiced, reservations are uttered, and soon enough there is a "conversion of conscience" in which the miscreant--Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, George Bush the elder, even the hapless Dennis Kucinich--is brought to heel in a fairly undignified manner, and sees what his party sees as the light. The Giuliani campaign seems to be departing from this pattern. And this time, a pro-life party, faced with a pro-choice candidate it finds compelling on other grounds, is doing things differently. It is not carping or caving or seeking a convert. Instead, it is making a deal.
One has to wend one's way back through the litmus test saga to see just how big this could be. In 1980, the parties for the first time took radically opposed views, with a plank in the Republican platform calling for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortion, while the Democrats (over the protests of President Carter) insisted abortion should be not only legal, but funded by taxpayers. Four years later, these planks, and the lobbies that backed them, were fully entrenched. By 1988, top tier candidates in both parties had undergone forced conversions; and in the 1990s, both sides attacked their dissenters full bore. In 1992--The Year of the Woman--Democrats famously silenced pro-life Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey at their New York convention, parked him up in the bleachers where no one could see him, and gave his slot to a pro-choice Republican. Four years later, pro-life groups pulled Republican nominee Bob Dole through a knothole, torturing him for a week before denying his suggestion that an expression of "tolerance" for those who dissented be inserted into the plank. As late as 2003, the Democratic candidates began their campaign season with a joint appearance at a NARAL fiesta, all eight of them tugging their forelocks before the group's leader and pledging allegiance, while a repentant Gephardt begged her forgiveness for the pro-life views he had been so ill-advised as to utter two decades before.
With this in mind, it was no minor matter when a small number of conservatives began to float ideas about how Giuliani and the party's activists might all get along. As early as August 2004, from the Republican convention in New York, David Frum was dispensing helpful suggestions: "He should not try to deny or conceal his own views," he wrote of the mayor. "He should not invoke Lee Atwater's 'Big Tent' . . . nor should he spend minutes and minutes parsing his views. . . . His job is not to persuade pro-life Republicans to agree with him, but to assure them that they can live with him." The Powerline blog weighed in in June 2005. "Some pundits think [Giuliani's] views on the social issues will bar him from getting the nomination," wrote Paul Mirengoff. "I disagree. . . . There is a national, largely bipartisan consensus that issues like gay marriage and abortion should be decided democratically, and not by the courts. If Giuliani emphasizes the process issue, and says . . . the key question is whether such issues are to be decided democratically, by legislatures, or autocratically, by judges, he could forge a solid Republican majority." National Review recalled a precedent. "The late Sen. Paul Coverdell," its editorial stated, "supported legal abortion. But once he won his primary, pro-lifers supported him since he promised to vote to ban partial-birth abortion, oppose public funding of abortion, and support conservative nominees to the judiciary."
The 2006 midterms, aka "the bloodbath," brought more people over. Texas pollster David Hill, writing in the Hill, observed that "Giuliani might bargain with the right. He's a transactional politician who might welcome the entreaty, and concede even more than McCain." Actually, Giuliani had been dealing already, by taking the bloggers and pundits' advice. In 2006, he campaigned for many pro-life candidates, spoke out against judicial activism, and cited the likes of Samuel Alito and John Roberts as the kind of judges he wanted to see on the bench. There has been some resistance, but since the start of this year a sizable cadre of social conservatives have declared either their willingness to consider supporting the mayor, or their intention not to write him off. Since Giuliani emerged as a possible candidate, people have known he would have to deal with the base of his party, but everyone thought this would involve a supplicant bending of the knee and begging leave of the Republican voters he had dismayed. No one imagined that so much of that base would come looking for him, and then make it their business to hand him a strategy. But that is what they have done.
Why has this happened now, after decades of litmus-test dictates? Four reasons come to mind.
(1) The War, Stupid: There is the war, which overwhelms everything as the major issue in the eyes of the base. No group in the country backs the war on terror as fervently as social conservatives, whose main criticism of the president's policy is that it has not been aggressive enough. To them, Rudy is the ultimate warrior, a man who not only survived 9/11 and rallied the city, but whose success in routing the gangs of New York is a template for engaging the Islamic terrorists, and an indication that he has the resolve and the relentlessness to carry this bloody task off.
They see him as a more ruthless version of George W. Bush, someone who would not have consented to less-than-aggressive rules of engagement; who would have taken Falluja the first time, and not have had to come back later; who would not have let Sadr escape when he had him; who would not have been fazed by whining over Abu Ghraib and Club Gitmo, and would have treated critics of the armed forces and of the mission with the same impatience he showed critics of the police in New York. As nothing else, the terror war sits at a nexus of issues dear to the heart of the base: the need to use force when one's country is threatened; the need to make judgments between good and evil; the need to protect and assert the moral codes of the Judeo-Christian tradition; the need to defend the ideals of the West.
"For a majority of the GOP primary electorate, it is the war, the war, the war (and judges)," writes the influential radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt. "The war on terror hasn't just changed Giuliani's profile as a crisis-leader," writes columnist Jonah Goldberg. "It's changed the attitudes of many Americans, particularly conservatives, about the central crisis facing the country. It's not that pro-lifers are less pro-life. . . . It's that they really, really believe the war on terror is for real. At conservative conferences, on blogs, and on talk radio, pro-life issues have faded in their passion and intensity. . . . Taken together, terrorism, Iraq, and Islam have become the No. 1 social issue." And the earth surely moved on February 21, when the writer Maggie Gallagher, as tough and principled as they come on abortion and marriage, allowed in her syndicated column that she just might consider the mayor. "I never voted for Rudy when I lived in New York City for one simple reason: abortion. . . . Why would I even think of changing my mind? Two things: national security, and Hillary Clinton's Supreme Court appointments." Keep your eyes out for more of these eye-popping moments. This one will not be the last.
(2) Not Your Father's Pro-Choice Republican:There were pro-choice Republicans before Giuliani, but they held no appeal for conservatives, and there was little desire to cut them a break. They were politicians like Christie Todd Whitman, Jim Jeffords, Lincoln Chafee, and the ladies from Maine, from the near-extinct school of northern-tier liberal Republicans, regarded as "soft" on a wide range of issues. Or they were like Bill Weld, a fiscal conservative but a libertarian otherwise, whose watchword on most issues was "anything goes." A great many things do not "go" with Rudy, an enforcer by nature, seen as a Puritan scold by most of his liberal critics, who deplored his crackdowns on porn and on crime. As he told the conservative attendees at the CPAC conference in Washington last Friday, quoting Ronald Reagan, "anyone who is with you 80 percent of the time is your 80 percent friend--not your 20 percent enemy." Previous pro-choice Republicans tended to look down on the social conservatives, to agree with the press that they were cringe-making yahoos, and to accept the condolences of the media for the terrible people they had to put up with in their party.
To the press, Rudy was one of those terrible people--too quick to defend the police when they were attacked on brutality charges; a fascist, a bully, and a prude. With most pro-choice Republicans, their views on abortion are only one of a set of positions and attitudes that arouse the ire of the base. Giuliani is that very rare animal, a pro-choice Republican who is also the furthest thing possible from a liberal on a wide range of issues (law and order among them). "In case after case, he refused to accept the veto of liberal public opinion," writes John Podhoretz in his New York Post column. "More than any other candidate in the race, Rudy Giuliani is a liberal slayer. When he rejects liberal orthodoxy, which he does often, he doesn't just oppose it. He goes to war with it--total, unconditional war." If you believe that the enemy of your enemy must be your friend, conservatives have no better friend than the mayor, bête noire and scourge of the limousine liberals, the race hustlers, the friends of identity politics, the opponents of capital punishment, the municipal unions, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the New York Times. Some will want him to be president, if only to annoy all these people--a temptation too big to resist.
(3) The Shape of the Field: Strict conservatives are not all that enthralled by any of the three main contenders--Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. This is their weakness, but also their strength, as they all tend to give each other cover along with other conservative stars. Did Giuliani leave his first wife? So did McCain. Did he leave his second wife? So did Newt Gingrich. Is he pro-choice and gay-friendly? So was Mitt Romney a scant four years ago. McCain is the only one with a firm pro-life record, but the base doesn't like him for a number of reasons, among them tax cuts, immigration, campaign finance reform, and being used by the press to score points against conservatives on too many things to enumerate.
Some day their prince may come--the conservative who hits all the bases--pro-life, pro-supply side, pro-tax cuts, pro-deregulation, and hawkish in foreign policy--but this day is not it, and that day may never arrive. In this case, as the base will be forced to cut slack to someone on something--on his public stances or his private life, on his past or present positions--they may want to do it for someone who in many ways truly excites them, who bonds with them on many issues, and who, so far at least, leads Hillary Clinton and all other comers in the polls.
(4) Mugged by Reality: After 30-plus years of fierce, intense arguments, much emotion, and many polls taken, both sides in the abortion wars have been mugged by reality, and realize that neither is likely to reach its major goals soon. Dreams of outlawing abortion on the one hand, or, on the other, of seeing it funded, legitimized, and enshrined as an unassailable civil right, have faded in the face of a large and so-far unswayable public opinion that is conflicted, ambivalent, and inclined to punish any political figure it sees as too rigid, too strident, or too eager to go to extremes. For this reason, no politician shrewd enough to make himself president is likely to go on a pro-life or pro-choice crusade. (Like Ronald Reagan before him, George W. Bush addresses the March for Life by phone and long distance; the new Democratic Congress, for its part, has wisely decided to leave the whole issue alone.) With this has come an understanding that, aside from the appointing of judges, and some tinkering with executive orders, the president's role is not large.
Purists will want someone whose heart is with them, but, in the real world, the state of the president's heart does not count: Support for abortion remained fairly high under Reagan and Bush 41, and began to fall off under Bill Clinton, the most pro-choice president in American history, strongly backed by the feminist movement, and pushed by his feminist wife. A strict constructionist justice appointed by a president who is pro-choice is no different from a strict constructionist appointed by a pro-life president, at least in the view of the practically minded, and better than an activist justice appointed by somebody else.
For some people, this argument will not be sufficient, and debates have now broken out among social conservatives. But the surprising thing is that these debates are occurring, which had not been foreseen or expected a few months ago. This is why early assessments of Giuliani's possible weakness may be misleading, among them polls indicating that many social conservatives would never back a pro-choice nominee. They do not show what might happen if the nominee pledged not to push for a pro-choice agenda, or if he were endorsed and supported by conservative icons who vouched for him, campaigned with and for him, and swore to their backers that he was all right.
The deal in the works has been carefully crafted to make sure that no one loses too much. Conservatives would be getting a pro-choice nominee, but one who would not push a pro-choice agenda, and one who would give them (as far as presidents can be sure in these matters) the kind of judges they long for. Giuliani would not be required to renounce his beliefs, merely to appoint the right kind of judges and to remain more or less neutral in a policy area in which, to be honest, he has never shown that much interest. The Republicans will remain the pro-life party--as desired by the bulk of their voters and required by the workings of the two-party system--though now with a larger, more varied, and in some ways more competitive field of candidates. And it is worth noting in this altered context that the Democrats also are starting to change. One of the reasons Democrats now run both the houses of Congress is that canny recruiters defied their own culture war lobbies and rammed a number of pro-life and pro-gun candidates down the throats of their interest groups, assessing correctly that control of Congress was worth a few unhappy activists. They are not yet at the point of nominating a pro-life candidate on the national level, but the lid has been pried open a crack. Someday, they too may find a candidate whom they find attractive--say, for irony's sake, a Bob Casey Jr.--except for this single and glaring impediment. And at that point, they too might deal.
And now, as the litmus test slowly expires, it is time to consider its costs. It has been a very good deal for the people who imposed it, but a very bad one for the country at large. It has meant that a candidate for national office must begin by embracing ideas that have been rejected by seven in ten of Americans, while a candidate who comes close to the center of public opinion would never be allowed to compete. It has made candidates for the post of commander in chief of the world's greatest power kick off their campaigns by groveling before leaders of interest groups, which does not make them seem leaderly and causes voters to lose all respect. Worst of all, it posed the real possibility that a candidate would come forth who seemed equipped to deal with a crisis, but who, because he held the "wrong views" in the eyes of the interest groups, would not be allowed to emerge. In Giuliani, some social conservatives think they have found such a candidate and do not want to waste him. And so, they are making a deal.
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Posted by Ted Pethick at 3:15 PM