December 25, 2002
HEY, LOOK: David Frum posted the other day, exposing the breathtaking dishonesty of Bob Herbert's latest ugly attack on Ward Connerly. It wasn't plugged on NRO's mainpage, which has been static for the holiday since the 21st, but it shouldn't be missed.
MERRY CHRISTMAS: If that's your thing. Personally, I think the holiday we observed a few weeks ago, celebrating a miracle in a Middle Eastern war, was a lot more appropriate to the times than this "peace on Earth" nonsense.
(I'm kidding, of course, but only half-kidding. Catholics who are, like Rod Dreher, opposed to the notion of "reducing [their] faith... to whimpering pacifist platitudes" can't be too comforted by the Pope doing just that.)
December 24, 2002
THE WIRED MAJORITY LEADER
THE WIRED MAJORITY LEADER: Bill Frist was unanimously elected Senate Majority Leader on a conference call yesterday. An interesting tidbit from the AP: this "was the first time a Senate party leader had been elected by lawmakers dispersed throughout the country, said Senate historian Richard Baker. Senate leadership elections are normally done by secret ballot in a Capitol meeting room."
NOT SO FAST
NOT SO FAST: That Economist article is interesting, Dave, but Iain Murray says that "the indicators the Economist uses to support its thesis that America is right-wing have been cherry-picked or distorted." Don't miss his statistics-heavy post, if you didn't already catch it via Instapundit.
BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES (by David Weigel)
BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES: The Economist runs one of those stories it excels at - a graphic-heavy analysis of why Britain's Thatcherites have faded into a sideshow and America's Reaganites have become the governing class. When I lived in England in the late 1990s, I was struck by how much Thatcher was still hated there - a Labour campaign poster in 2001 showed then-Tory leader William Hague sporting her distinctive hair, with no comment, assuming that voters would see the mark of Thatcher and be disgusted. They were right - read the article to see why.
December 23, 2002
EBERT NEEDS A RESEARCHER (by David Weigel)
EBERT NEEDS A RESEARCHER: From the jolly critic's three-star review of The Two Towers:
The last third of the movie is dominated by an epic battle scene that would no doubt startle the gentle medievalist J.R.R. Tolkien.
Tolkien fought in World War I. I doubt he'd be rattled by a little dirt and CGI.
IN THE ESTIMABLE WORDS OF... (by David Weigel)
IN THE ESTIMABLE WORDS OF THE SIMPSONS' LOVABLE BARNEY: "It begins!"
Analysis will come when I am better-rested.
UPDATE: Bob Herbert chimes in, and concurs - the biggest surprise since the Scooby gang found out the evil old man was behind the ghost conspiracy all along. A quick lesson: A bad columnist writes sentences like this:
Many of the officials and operatives who threw Trent Lott overboard have voting records and campaign histories that are as bad as Senator Lott's, or worse.
A good columnist? He names one or two of these "many" officials to prove he isn't just pulling this out of thin air. Anything less is "I have here in my hand a list of 52 Communists in the State Department."
December 22, 2002
GANGS OF CHICAGO
GANGS OF CHICAGO: Last night I saw a movie about street gangs and their historical place in city politics, using thuggery and dirty tricks to inflate the vote tallies for the candidates with whom they were allied. A 19th century curiosity? Not quite. The Sunday Chicago Sun-Times today touts a special report with the front-page headline "GANGS HELPING POLS GET OUT THE VOTE." It's well worth the read, even in the clumsy four-stories-in-one-column online format.
AT THE MOVIES II
AT THE MOVIES II: I saw the The Two Towers on Wednesday. I've never read the book, and I saw the first Lord of the Rings movie only once and a whole year ago, so I was a little hazy on what was going on toward the begining. The effects are spectacular, and Patrick Ruffini is right about the "Rumsfeldian" commentary on warfare and the impotence of a neutral stance. Mostly, though, it's a big, fantasy battle scene; the rest is just details. Perhaps some of the book's serious themes have been lost (like I said, I didn't read it), but as cinematic junk-food, it's great.
AT THE MOVIES I
AT THE MOVIES I: I just saw Gangs of New York. I mostly liked it, though it was long and lumbering (a common Scorsese problem); the boring Cameron Diaz subplot could have been mostly cut. Maybe it's my inner 11-year-old boy talking, but my thought was "she's only interesting when she's stealing things; the kissing and talking's got to go."
I'm fascinated by this corner of history, and the depiction of it is riveting. The main to-avenge-or-not-avenge storyline is serviceable. And Daniel Day-Lewis is simply fantastic. Unfortunately, the "British DeNiro," for whom this is the first screen appearance in five years, has said "Nothing happened over the course of making Gangs of New York that made me think, 'Why don't I do this more often?'"
There's a mild spoiler in the white space that follows; it doesn't have to do with the plot, but I am going to discuss the very last shot of the movie. To read it, highlight it. (I've used those cumbersome [link] things because there's no easy way to hide linked text. Clicking on the links may also lead to spoilers.)
At the end of the movie, a shot of lower Manhattan dissolves into a series of later and later shots as the city is built up over the years. The twin towers of the World Trade Center dominate the last shot, and that's the end. It's a little unnerving, but Scorsese, who was already editing by September 11, 2001 has a good explanation: "I can't take them out, I don't want them out. Fighting, dying, the cycle of life creates the city -- it doesn't tear it down." [link]
I can't think of a more eloquent argument for re-building big. [link]
THE FISKIE: I have no complaints that Michael Moore is currently leading in the voting for the Robert Fisk Award for Idiotarian of the Year. But I cast my vote to keep Jean Chretien high in the running, on the theory that a guy who, between elections, has near-dictatorial power over 31 million people is the most dangerous in his idiocy. (Yes, Gerhard Schroder leads a country of 82.5 million, but I get the feeling that his idiocy isn't quite as bad as Chretien's-- more calculated opportunism and less ugliness. Plus, I'm not sure if Germany's political system is quite as crazy as Canada's.) [Link via Instapundit, of course.]
December 21, 2002
POLITICAL SEX: The article Dave highlights below suggests that you buy subscriptions to left-wing magazines and sex toys for the same reason. No, The Nation hasn't added Katrina vanden Heuvel centerfolds; you're supposed to buy a vibrator and erotic chocolates, not to enrich your sex life, but to addle the evil warmongers.
This reminds me of a question I asked a few months ago (specifically about academic postmodernists)-- do leftists even enjoy sex, or is all a joyless political statement to them?
But maybe I'm looking at this upside down. A recent Christian Science Monitor op-ed pointed out, by way of explaining why the antiwar author was repulsed by the antiwar movement,
Protesting wars today seems to be a way to cleanse one's private conscience rather than effecting public change - a case of opting out instead of getting stuck in and having the hard arguments. Going on an antiwar demonstration has become a way to declare your whiter-than-white credentials, and demonstrating to onlookers that you have cleared your own conscience.If so, then maybe it's not so much that leftists own vibrators for political reasons, but that their politics is all about self-gratification.
Has it really come to this - where being antiwar is more about saving ourselves than anyone else?
"MAKE RUMMY RASH!" (by David Weigel)
"MAKE RUMMY RASH!": A San Francisco Chronicle op-ed links vibrators to opposing the Republican party. What kind of life do Republicans lead? Let's see ...
- "for those not exactly thrilled with the aggro roguish direction of this nation"
- "make Dubya squint and mispronounce a polysyllabic word he doesn't really know the meaning of"
- "Get one for your Republican sister and just watch her three-minute husband scowl"
- "Read it next to the poor deluded WASP who's worshipping The Wall Street Journal on the subway and watch him squirm and snort" [Shouldn't he be reading Southern Partisan?]
- "sure to make heavily shellacked mannequin-faced Laura Bush titter and squeal and faint"
- "Just like Rummy and Dick and the oil execs at their weekly slumber party/kitten kickings!"
I'm done with shopping. I've already bought my friends a wind-up liberal cliche!
P.S. Why is it that when the U.N. does something liberals don't like (say sanctions on Iraq), it suddenly becomes "U.S. imposed"?
THE POST GETS IT (by David Weigel)
THE POST GETS IT: The Washington Post, in its Lott/Frist editorial expurgation, clearly and cleanly delineates what to make of Frist's voting record:
While neither Mr. Frist nor other possible contenders for Mr. Lott's position have been accused of making racially charged remarks, most of them have voting records on civil rights issues that track with Mr. Lott's -- a point duly noted by civil rights groups this week. That, however, should not be a political liability for the next majority leader. We do not equate conservatism with racism, and neither should any fair-minded American. It should be possible to hold views and positions that are at variance with those civil rights groups propound and still avoid being branded anti-equal-opportunity or an opponent of civil rights protections. We happen to find ourselves in agreement with many of the positions of civil rights advocates. But that does not mean those holding opposing views may not have an intellectually honest basis for their positions.
I swear, the talking heads (yes, all of them) and the NYT masthead should take a tutorial from these guys.
HYPERVENTILATION WATCH (by David Weigel)
HYPERVENTILATION WATCH: Did you ever see that sketch on the Kids in the Hall where Kevin McKinney gets a ride from a local who keeps making fat jokes about him, even though he's not fat? And when Kevin explains that he lost weight because everyone was making fun of him, the local kicks him out of the truck?
Josh Marshall's sort of doing the same thing.
He's trying to nail Frist on something, ANYTHING, and the pickings are slim. For the third time in 48 hours he's brandished the Marion Barry quote like a piece of the True Cross. And now he's criticizing the length of Frist's resume.
When I saw Jesse Jackson speak in 2000, he joked that George W. Bush's "resume started at age 45." You know ... that complaint kind of made sense.
JOE CONASON, WHO ARE YOU... (by David Weigel)
JOE CONASON, WHO ARE YOU FOOLING?: Joe Conason, the bitter New York Observer columnist who's now better known for his bitter Salon.com blog, is falling over himself to shame "the Senate" (I guess he means Republican senators) for falling for "the designs of Karl Rove." From the chunk available to non-premiumites:
Whatever marvelous qualities Sen. Bill Frist may possess, he has served one term in the Senate, and has pledged to serve no more than two. On the institutional merits, Frist's candidacy for majority leader is a joke.
The last Republican to run for majority leader after one full term was ... um ... Trent Lott, actually. He had been a senator for less than 8 years when he defeated the senior Thad Cochran to replace Bob Dole. Frist actually has a couple months on him. Marvelous qualities? As I've pointed out (if I may link to my own writings in a Altermanesque fashion) Frist was the chairman of the most successful round of Republican Senate campaigns since 1994 - and that's a role that has become a sort of proving ground for future leaders, as the (recently invented) leader job becomes more and more focused on photo ops. If he does choose to retire in 2006, as he reiterated as recently as 2000, he may still serve four years in the leadership - hardly a "joke." And Frist's public statements to Tennessee papers have been less frequent and vehement than those of Paul Wellstone, who broke the exact same pledge in 2002. So he might stay after all.
Watching a few hours of CNN, Fox and the other channel today, I heard at least four mentions of the fact that Frist is "only in his second term." And coming after the Diulio "Karl Rove runs the country with politics" furor, this is a problem ... how?
Stick to the racist smears, Salon.
FRIST AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE
FRIST AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Below, I noted that in the 2000 campaign, Bill Frist supported certain campaign finance laws. He was in favor of a ban on "soft money" and prohibiting PAC contributions to candidates, among other things. But as Dave notes below, he voted against the McCain-Feingold act, which banned soft money (among other things). What's going on?
As this play-by-play of the McCain-Feingold debate shows, Frist introduced a "non-severability" amendment. This means that certain parts of the bill would be connected, so that if one of these parts was found unconstitutional, the others would have to be thrown out as well. The bill's supporters saw this as an underhanded effort to weaken the bill, but Frist said that he was concerned that the bill could become unfairly tilted toward one interest or another if the courts dismembered it. Since Frist himself actually favored some of the bill's "reforms," this was probably an honest concern. If a free-political-speech stalwart like Mitch McConnell had introduced it, it could only be seen as a nakedly strategic move to kill the bill in the courts if it became law.
Frist's amendment was killed by a 57-43 vote, and Frist voted against the final bill. He's no McConnell, but at least he wouldn't vote for any old "reform" just so he could wear the "reformer" label. That's more than we can say about a lot of Senators.
FRIST BY NUMBERS (by David Weigel)
FRIST BY NUMBERS: We can expect to read a lot of sham profiles of Bill Frist now that liberal journalists have him in their sights. It's insightful to peel back the layers and read some stuff written before this week. Kirk Victor's Sept. cover story in the National Journal is a good place to start (especially because he floated the idea of a Frist leadership). It also hints that Frist may retire in 2006 - but term limits are sooooo 1994. Let's move on:
- Frist has been a workhorse on funding international AIDS prevention, criticized only for accepting program cuts from the White House. As far as federal spending goes - and he has opposed much other spending - this is not a bad area to be soft in.
- His supporters' chief criticism of his position on stem cell research (he opposed "therapeutic cloning") is that he's "not stepping outside the line and taking a single issue that is contrary to the [GOP] leadership." Somehow I don't think that will come to hurt him.
- He voted against background checks at gun shows and against trigger locks - he has voted for hardening penalties for bringing guns to school, but this is a policy dance that puts him square in the middle of American opinion. That's as good as you can expect from a party leader, in my opinion.
- He voted against McCain-Feingold in 2001 - one of only 41 senators to do so, when media pump-up for the bill was at its absolute height.
- He HAS voted to strengthen penalties for drug offenses - but here his votes were no different than Lott's, so he's not exactly a step down.
To view the Frist record in better light, go here.
Meanwhile, get ready for weeks of background research from liberals aimed at labelling Frist a racist whose record "mirrors" Lott's. As I predicted (sort of), The Times is geared up:
We will learn more about Bill Frist in the days ahead, including his thinking on the civil rights issues that tripped up Mr. Lott. One of the obvious lessons of the Lott firestorm is that the Republicans must give much more than a passing glance to the record of the person they choose to lead them.
What will their background research find? As far as rhetoric goes (and THAT was what destroyed Lott) Josh Marshall, consistently the best investigative blogger out there, was only able to come up with a lame quote from Frist's 1994 campaign. Memo to Marshall: What Marion Barry has to do with a Tennessee Senate campaign is that Frist was campaigning "against Washington," and Barry, fresh out of prison, was running for mayor that year to great national scrutiny. Tennessee voters knew who he was and were disgusted by the fact Washingtonians gave him a primary victory in September '94. Barry was a corrupt junkie first, an African-American second.
As for the rest of his record - he voted against extending hate crimes legislation to gays (passed 57 to 42), against setting aside 10% of highway funds for minorities (defeated 58 to 37), and against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. The latter bill, written by Ted Kennedy, was defeated 50-49 in a Republican senate, and it's a disgusting vote for libertarians. But the only sitting Republicans who supported it were Olymbia Snowe and Arlen Specter (and Jim Jeffords). Not the Republican mainstream.
Frist voted to end special funding for minority-owned businesses and voted to end federal affirmative action (failed 36-61). He is part of large caucus in the Senate that opposes affirmative action whenever it comes up. Liberals will fail if they try to equate these votes with racism.
In conclusion (finally) - Frist is something like a dream candidate for Republicans. He votes against measures supported by the self-appointed "civil rights" lobby with regularity - that's not racism. He votes with landslide majorities on soft, child-friendly gun laws, but against all other anti-gun legislation. And he has more tact than Trent Lott could learn to have in 10,000 years.
December 20, 2002
SO WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT...
SO WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT THIS FRIST GUY, ANYWAY?: Since Bill Frist is the heir apparent to the Majority Leadership, it's worth looking at his positions. No doubt, the sort of hit pieces we'll be seeing from the left (like the one Dave highlighted below) will be vastly unfair. The subhead here calling him an "anti-abortion hardliner" is certainly unfounded; the rape, incest, and life-of-the-mother exceptions are unacceptable to the real hardliners, who will abandon the GOP over the distinction (fourth item).
But Dave Kopel's concerns that Frist might compromise on gun rights do concern me. Further, looking at his campaign positions I see some worrisome signs. He campaigned for agro-pork and proudly supported the egregious Farm Bill. He's supported some hideous campaign finance "reforms" and some initiatives for economic "stimulus" that would get the federal government involved in municipal politics and probably not work very well.
I understand he has a made-for-TV missionary-doctor background and is often described as telegenic (I've never seen him speak). Glenn Reynolds says he's sharp even on arcane issues. Nominating him as a first choice to replace Lott, our guest-blogger cited social security reform as an issue Frist is strong on. Anything else, Dave?
THE SMEAR CONTINUES (by David Weigel)
THE SMEAR CONTINUES: Michelle Goldberg gets the front page of Salon.com with the latest liberal salvo against Bill Frist. Follow the bouncing logic: Trent Lott voted against Bill X. Frist voted against Bill X. Lott is a racist. Therefore, by extension, Frist is a racist.
I expect two or three hundred of these stories by January.
SCENES FROM A PARALLEL DIMENSION
SCENES FROM A PARALLEL DIMENSION: "No one compares to Bill Clinton when it comes to cutting to the chase and telling truths..." -Josh Marshall
The "truth" he's referring to is essentially what Dave discusses below, that Republican "strategy" is covertly racist. I suppose that depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.
OVERREACHING 101 (by David Weigel)
OVERREACHING 101: Anyone who's closely monitored the wires during the Lott story - anyone, say, who is a politics-obsessed college student on vacation - probably noticed that, in its final days, the scandal was no longer about Trent Lott. Bob Herbert was the first pundit with a national audience to suggest that the whole Republican party was racist. But the hardball started on Monday, when the AP reported (and I use that word with a grimace) that Lott and outgoing party whip Don Nickles had built similar votes on "civil rights" bills. Wrote Jim Abrams:
The NAACP says that over the past decade, Nickles and Lott have voted the same on almost every issue deemed important by the civil rights community. And in almost every case, their votes were contrary to the wishes of that community.
You could read that sentence ten more times and it wouldn't stop being surreal. According to this AP reporter, "civil rights" consist of whatever polices are favored by the NAACP. Then came the real sucker-punch:
On the other hand, both Nickles, of Oklahoma, and Lott, of Mississippi, win the highest ratings from conservative groups. In 2000, the American Conservative Union gave both 100 percent ratings on key votes.
If you're a conservative, those two paragraphs should make your blood boil. Conservatism is the opposite of civil rights? And just before and just after Lott resigned, as Bill Frist became his likely successor, we heard the same tune. Judy Woodruff asked Inside Politics viewers (no transcript yet): "Where does Bill Frist stand on civil rights?" She noted that both had voted against affirmative action and against hate crimes legislation. It's almost official. Civil rights are whatever the hell Al Sharpton and Kweisi Mfume say they are.
There is a serious chance that this view of race relations will haunt Republicans with more ferocity than it did before L'affaire Lott. We've never broken the grip that people like Sharpton and Mfume have on the term "civil rights." The idea that ending affirmative action or favoring school vouchers is racially progressive is still considered a joke.
But I think I see an opening. Eric Alterman offered today that "John 'No Other King but Jesus,' Ashcroft" was the "next stop on the Republican Confederate railroad." Tom Tomorrow and Josh Marshall begged readers to send questions to Larry King so he could grill Ashcroft on his interview with Southern Partisan magazine: "Should Ashcroft get a pass for some of the same stuff that's ending Lott's career?" And today Marshall intimates that Frist ran a racist campaign in 1994, when he defeated Jim Sasser. How? By criticizing Sasser's support for Marion Barry.
There is a serious effort to create momentum here, to use the media-driven assumption that Republicans who do NOT follow the NAACP line on race issues are vulnerable, and can be driven out. I think all these bloggers are aware that Frist and Nickles, if ousted, would have their replacements named by Democratic governors. But they're practically ensuring that the Lott scandal will backfire and make Democrats look ravenous. Reasons:
1.) Lott lost his position because the White House dropped him and supported a rival candidate. All of the bloggers in the world wouldn't have made a dent if Bush and Rove didn't see the political benefits of ousting Lott.
2.) Frist and Nickles have never endorsed segregation. As they are not segregationists, forthcoming endorsements are unlikely.
3.) Americans do not equate colorblind policies with racism. Most Americans oppose affirmative action. Most Americans are not racist.
4.) The Republican party has gained tremendous political capital by getting rid of Lott. The next time a racist charge is lobbed - and it could be in the pages of tomorrow's New York Times - it can point to the fact that it got rid of its Senate leader because he made a racist statement. Where's the Democratic leader who got ousted for his racist statements?
ADMINISTRATIVE ANNOUNCEMENT: JohnTabin.com will have its first guest-blogger today. David Weigel-- editor in chief of the Northwestern Chronicle, Northwestern University's conservative weekly, and erstwhile staffer for the political trade magazine Campaigns & Elections-- will be posting here later today. While I've been blogger's-blocked the past few days, he's had things to say but had technical difficulties with his site.
VICTORY: Lott resigned! Part of the reason I haven't blogged is this issue has continued to dominate my interest, but I couldn't think of anything new to say about it. Now, perhaps, we can find other things to worry about.
December 17, 2002
ZERO-SUM LOTT: In case you hadn't heard, Trent Lott declared last night on BET that he "absolutely" supports affirmative action, thus exchanging one brand of racist poison for another. I'm reminded of Jonathan Rauch's observation from last month about Jesse Helms:
In his world, if homosexuals win, heterosexuals lose. If blacks win, whites lose. In his 1990 Senate race, against a black opponent, he aired a famous—now infamous—television ad in which two white hands crumpled a letter while a voice-over intoned, "You needed that job, and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota. Is that really fair?" Democrats accused him of race-baiting. In fact, affirmative action is a problematic policy that in some cases does discriminate against whites and that its supporters should be called upon to defend. The trouble with the ad, rather, was that it strengthened rather than weakened racial preferences by presenting a false, zero-sum choice: Blacks (or whites) win, so whites (or blacks) must lose. It implied that you could vote for the interests of blacks or the interests of whites, but you had to choose.Realizing from the backlash to his birthday party comments that the civilized world no longer tolerates what racists see as "the interests of whites," Lott has concluded that to save himself he must embrace what racists see as "the interests of blacks." This is of course a false choice; no one is hurt more by affirmative action than successful blacks who-- because they have been institutionally treated as incapable of playing by the same rules as whites-- must live under the suspicion that they haven't earned their station in life. To make that arguement though, apparently requires either more intellectual compacity or more moral courage than Lott has.
Rauch's piece contrasts the principled conservatism of Ronald Reagan-- a dynamic visionary who insisted that everyone could win, that something better than a perpetual Cold War and economic malaise was within reach-- with the "bundle of prejudices" of Jesse Helms. "The difference between Reagan and Helms is the difference between a conservatism of hope and a conservatism of resentment," Rauch notes. Many have said that Lott's comments have no place in the "party of Lincoln," but they needn't go back that far; with his zero-sum racial worldview, Lott has no place in the party of Reagan, either.
December 16, 2002
NO MORE GORE
NO MORE GORE: He's not running. With the Guaranteed Loser out of the race and the Lott situation, I'm thinking, for the first time, that Bush might be vulnerable in '04. But that's an epoch away. (More reason for Lott to get out of the leadership now.)
The good news is that Joe Lieberman, the only Democrat who can be trusted with foreign policy, will now run. He probably can't win the nomination, but as Peter Beinert recently pointed out, Lieberman will tease the debate in the right direction.
(The above was actually composed early yesterday evening when the pre-announcement announcement, before 60 Minutes, first came out. Blogger thwarted every post attempt until I gave up and went to bed. Grrr...)
December 15, 2002
WHEN INSTAPUNDIT'S AWAY, I CAN...
December 14, 2002
TRENT UBER ALLES
TRENT UBER ALLES: Jonathan Karl reported on CNN this morning that, rumor has it, Lott is saying in private to his Senate colleagues that if he's forced to resign as Majority Leader, he'll resign from the Senate.
And just when I thought my contempt for this man couldn't grow.
As Karl mentioned, this is seen as a threat, because Mississippi has a Democratic Governor; if Lott resigned, a Democrat would presumably be appointed to replace him. Lest we forget, the Senate is divided 51-49, effectively (it's technically 51 to 48+1-- Jim Jeffords is nominally independent). Before the election, it was widely speculated that an effective 50-50 split would inspire Lincoln Chaffee to pull a Jeffords and throw the Senate back into Democratic control.
So Lott, supposedly a leader in the Republican party, is aiming an ICBM at the GOP Senate to preserve his own power. Mind you, to be a United States senator-- any senator-- is to wield more power than most people ever dream of. To even be in that sandbox is an honor, but Lott is saying that if he doesn't get the nicest shovel, he's not going to play anymore. There's a reason I'm using children in my metophor.
As Eugene Volokh's friend Dan Polsby pointed out, Lott may not be a racist, but he certainly has a depraved solipsism-- a belief in the "'it's all about me-ness' of the world." Lott doesn't seem to have figured out (or possibly to care) that every day he doesn't resign is hurting the party, to say nothing of the country. If Chaffee's defection really is a fait accompli (and it might not be), it would still be better to lose the Senate for a couple years than to keep Lott.
December 13, 2002
See how out of step Trent Lott remains?
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: I'm pretty sleep deprived, so maybe I'm just delirious, but I think I just watched the incoming Senate Majority Leader in a half-hour press conference broadcast on all the cable news channels (at least), to announce that segregation is wrong. Andrew Sullivan wrote earlier today that if the early rumors were true "and Trent Lott makes yet another apology this afternoon, we're entering the Twilight Zone." No kidding; this was truly surreal. I'm having the urge to parody Matrix dialogue...
"You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and read in the paper that Lott has resigned. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."Several months hence, when it is clear that, because this Lott-the-racist stuff comes up every time anything remotely productive hits the floor, the Senate is for all intents and purposes Democrat-controlled:
"Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?"
HANNITY FLIPS: Sean Hannity, earlier in the week one of Trent Lott's very few defenders, said today on his radio show that he can't see how Lott can possibly lead the party effectively now; he's been convinced by the growing chorus of conservative commentators he respects-- and the barrage of thoughtful emails he's received-- that Lott has to go. He even read this entire National Review Editorial on the air. Lott is not expected to resign during the press conference that's coming shortly (though if he were to surprise everyone-- and makes a liar of his spokesman-- it sure would be a coup for the bloggers predicting resignation). It's hard to see how apology attempt #5 is going to work; if he doesn't step down early next week, it'll be the triumph of one man's ego over the good of his party, not to mention his country (by which I mean: watch the debate on, well, just about everything be further poisoned by race-opportunists).
December 12, 2002
ADMINISTRATIVE ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm changing domain registrars; should there be any problem with the johntabin.com address during the transition, use johntabin.blogspot.com instead. But you've probably figured that out already.
SUCK REDUX: Jonah Goldberg joked the other day that Reason's blog, Hit & Run, is named for the way you kill someone on The Corner. Actually, it's clearly named for a weekly feature of the long-dead (and in re-runs) Suck.com, a site which was arguably a proto-blog-- meandering, entertaining essays with tons of links which for years set the web-content standard. Current Reason-ers Nick Gillespie, Brian Doherty, and Tim Cavanaugh were all Suck contributors. Cavanaugh wrote many of the Hit & Runs, which jumped from topic to topic and were hence the most blog-like of Suck essays.
I'm pretty pleased with the new Hit & Run, though it still has time to turn into the smug and tiresomely snide anti-warblog I was dreading. I find it especially interesting that the archive goes back to early November; the blog just went public on Monday. Apparently, they were practicing for a while.
December 11, 2002
SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS...
SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE LOTT: Trent Lott's latest attempt at apology, which I listened to on Hannity in the car today, was deeply unsatisfying. I had the same thought as
He said that he's kidded with Thurmond about the presidential run for years, when he says Thurmond should have won, it always brings a smile to Ol' Strom's face. Lott actually said at one point in the interview, "What am I gonna say, he should have lost?" Well, yes. Or don't bring it up.
I can't look into Trent Lott's soul. I don't know if he's a racist. (James Taranto's "Dixiecrat Lite" thesis seems pretty sound.) But the fact is, fairly or unfairly, he will now be widely perceived as a racist. One illustrative slice of the zeitgeist:
A hospital was dedicated in Chicago today; I caught part of the ceremony on CLTV, the local news channel (yes, we have a 24-hour channel for local news). There were many black politicians there, and one of them got some good laughs joking that he "invited Trent Lott, but he couldn't make it."
The only way to hush this chorus-- or at least to keep it from staining too indelibly Republicans at large-- is for Lott to go.
December 09, 2002
IRANWATCH: Some have complained about the media ignoring Lott's '48 fever, but at least it got mentioned on the Sunday shows. (I think that can be read as a victory for blogs, especially if the noise increases in the face of InstaPundit's relentlessness.) Unless PunditWatch missed something (unlikely), Iran didn't come up. But for you glass-half-full types, there were some wire stories; Timothy of The Flag of the World collected them. But as has been pointed out by Pejman Yousefzedah (responding to the OxBloggers), the New York Times line that the "axis of evil" comment disheartened Iranians is dead wrong.
LOTT'S GAFFE AND A BYRD...
LOTT'S GAFFE AND A BYRD TANGENT: The Senate Majority Leader swooning over Thurmond '48 is simply indefensible. Calls for his head are justified. (If you're reading this fairly soon after I'm writing it, you can go to InstaPundit's main page and just keep scrolling for more on this-- including links to Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel calling for Lott's ouster.) But I have to add that Josh Marshall's comment, that this is "Just another example of the hubris now reigning among Capitol Hill Republicans," is almost as offensive as Lott's. If Marshall really thinks that Jim Crow nostalgia is rampant among Republicans, he's blinded by partisan hatred. Since that's not his usual posture, I'll assume he meant it in a much narrower sense-- that Republicans think they can say anything they want. But this is not what Republicans want to say. At least, I hope not.
A left-of-center Beltway opinion journalist is allowed to shoot off in a way that a Senate Majority Leader shouldn't be. It may be worth noting that the Democrats had a former Klansman as Majority Leader as recently as thirteen years ago, but while regular readers know that Robert Byrd is not my favorite person, I actually defended the "white niggers" comment (which was ten years after Byrd left the Majority Leadership). This was before I was either blogging or writing professionally, so my defense appeared in now-dead internet discussion forums and an email to Andrew Sullivan.* My basic point was that Byrd meant "nigger" metaphorically as all the worst stereotypes of blacks, and was saying, correctly, that many whites fit those stereotypes, too-- and the stereotypes are thus stupid.
Maybe there's a defense that can be mounted for Lott, but I can't see it. His remarks strike me as way worse than the ex-Klansman's.
*I'm the "20-year-old reader" Sullivan refered to here (hard to believe this was nearly three years ago), noting Chris Rock's "black people and niggers" routine. I also fed him the tidbit about Eminem, though the interview I referred to was after Eminem's first major-label album (his second, more overtly gay-hating-for-shock-value album was out by the time this was posted); denizens of the Detroit underground probably wouldn't consider that "early in his career." It admittedly seems more like that now, though.
December 08, 2002
December 07, 2002
IRANWATCH: The government has demanded that student day demonstrations-- probably going on as I write-- be limited to campuses. Who knows how this is playing out. Incidentally, concerns that internet publicity might have somehow tipped the regime off are unfounded; everyone knew there'd be demonstrations today, because it's National Student Day a holiday commemorating student activism. I'd seen references to "student day," but until reading the AFP story above I didn't understand that it was an official holiday. "The event marks the bloody 1953 repression of student protests against a visit by then-US vice president Richard Nixon during the late shah's reign, in which three students were killed," says the article. Ironic that today's student movement has a distinct pro-American flavor.
December 06, 2002
WHINING ON THE RIGHT?
WHINING ON THE RIGHT?: I suppose I should reserve judgement until I actually read the article, but this seems like the same kind of sour grapes nonsense we hear from Gore loyalists over Florida. Careful election-night analysis by Dave Weigel determined, while Thune was still ahead, that Johnson would win by virtue of the Indian-heavy counties that were counted last. Fraud on those reservations could not have been large enough to swing the election unless there had already been significant fraud in counties that had been counted earlier, so when I do read York's cover story, I'll be looking for evidence of that.
IRANWATCH: I emailed Micahel Ledeen to ask what he knows about tomorrow's demonstrations in Iran-- which I suppose I should call "this afternoon's demonstrations," since it's already morning there. (Ledeen has his own sources in Iran which allow him to write stories like this.) He tells me they're already rounding people up and arresting scores of the students. Here he thought they were out of space in the prisons, Ledeen notes dryly.
CNN will have an extensive report on this, right after James Carville announces he is joining the Republican party, Bob Novak sings a paean to Israel, and the weather reports show frost in Hell. The Culture Minister wants to fingerprint US journalists in Iran. Are there US journalists in Iran?
ECONOMIC TEAM SWITCH-UP
ECONOMIC TEAM SWITCH-UP: Paul O'Neill had enough good ideas to be hated by The Nation, but National Review still called for his resignation. O'Neill managed to screw up both when he was wrong and when he was right: he often isolated himself politically, and was out of sync with the Administration in one way or the other.
But I think it was Larry Lindsey who was most responsible for the Bush Administration's economic incoherence-- "making Keynesian arguments for watered-down supply-side measures," as NR put it in its "Fire O'Neill" piece. Lindsey openly said he followed no particular school of economic thought, and that his grounding was Keynesian. His professed synthesis of schools proved practically untenable.
With luck, their replacements will do better; the names being tossed around sound promising. Phil Gramm and Dick Armey are favored by Steve Moore, Kathryn Jean Lopez informs us in her too-cute-by-half manner. But I have to wonder if those guys, now leaving the Hill, might have other retirement plans lined up.
BLOG VICTORY: The New York Times will publish the Augusta columns, previously spiked for dissenting from the editorial page. Yes, it was Newsweek that first brought it up, but Kaus and Sullivan kept the heat on. This is the first time I've commented on it, in part because the decline of the Times seems less and less interesting to me. I realize that their readership is not dropping (yet), but I'm personally reading the NYT less-- which makes it seem less important, even if it really isn't. But the impact of the blogs most certainly does interest me. If it interests you, scroll down and trace Mickey Kaus's relentless refusal to let the issue drop.
IRANWATCH: Glenn Reynolds points out a newly-posted official announcement of tomorrow's demonstrations in Iran on the same site where I first found the clue about it. "I think it's going to be an interesting weekend," says Glenn. To borrow a Reynoldsism: Indeed.
December 05, 2002
EMAILBAG: From the deluge of Instapundit hits I got the other day, I received a few private emails in addition to the comments you can find attached to the relevant posts. The message regarding "The Kerry Award" I already mentioned below. Another email pointed out that the "dead heat" I referred to in Louisiana was in a poll of registered voters generally, not likely voters specifically. The writer speculated that this bodes ill for Landrieu. His message had an amusing postscript, presumably attached automatically by the large corporation indicated in his email domain, threatening in part: “The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material.” So don’t tell anyone that Terrell is looking good going into the election.
A third emailer dragged out an old piece I wrote on an obscure controversy over the obscure religion of a briefly discussed potential appointee to an obscure regulatory board. The email, and my lengthy reply, are on the letters page.
December 04, 2002
MASS-CARNAGE AND ORGIES AND CHAOS
MASS-CARNAGE AND ORGIES AND CHAOS: I'm the first one interviewed in this clip, from the upcoming DVD An Evening With Kevin Smith. My head looks a little narrow in that link, but if you click on clip number 5 here, you'll see the un-squished, widescreen format. The DVD is a collection of clips from the director's appearances, mainly at college campuses; I was interviewed at Cornell (across town from my old stomping ground of Ithaca College). The last person interviewed in that clip ("I hope Jay shows up") is my friend Phil Haney; through the magic of editing, you'd never know that we were standing right next to each other unless I'd told you. Incidentally, if you follow the link on Phil's page to his band, you may not blame me.
AWARDS: As several people pointed out in the comments below (sometimes twice, thanks, no doubt, to impatience with the slow-functioning YACCS service), David Frum posted an apology for the "Wahabbi Democrat" remark in the second item here. Frum wins the award for class. Meanwhile, a reader who possibly confuses me with Andrew Sullivan suggests via email that I inaugurate "The Kerry Award" for "the biggest blowhard and self-impressed but empty-suit pompous ass in American public life." The award thing is Andrew's schtick, and I'd be a churl to swipe it. I did enjoy the description, though.
December 03, 2002
IRANWATCH: Found on the guestbook of an Iranian Student Movement website:
Lets all get out in the streets on December 7 and finish this government off. Then we can have a refrendom and decide our future. WE WILL WIn.Between this, the dead heat election in Lousiana, and the "disclosure" in Iraq (which could lead directly to war), this could be quite a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, newswise. Following their current pattern, the U.S. Media will probably ignore whatever happens in Iran, as they have all of the huge pro-democracy demonstrations there. Which, if this one really is the straw that breaks the mullah's backs, will make them look pretty clueless.
Samm from , Iran
KERRY ME HOME
KERRY ME HOME: Josh Marshall writes that "The Washington press corps doesn't much like John Kerry. And, as we learned with Al Gore, that's important." It is important, but not simply because, as I think Marshall is implying, it will mean unfriendly press treatment. It's important because the Washington press corps is overwhelmingly aligned with the Democratic party. If they don't like a Democratic candidate, the candidate has little hope with the public at large; he must indeed be quite unlikable. Mickey Kaus is actually running a contest for best explanation of Kerry's "loathsomeness." I think Mickey's own entry is a good start.
However, I do think David Frum's appellation "Wahhabi Democrat" is over-the-top. Even if Kerry is positioning himself as a "a return to ancient orthodoxies," it doesn't fit-- Wahhabis actually believe what they say.
December 02, 2002
THE JEWISH CRUSADER COALITION
THE JEWISH CRUSADER COALITION: That's what the new letter, attributed to al Qaeda, calls the targets in Kenya (this time and in 1998). I kind of like the sound of it, Jewish Crusader Coalition. Do they have a website? Where I can send donations?