State of the Union

Litmus Tests

“For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?” – David Frum (H/T Sullivan)

Yes; I seem to remember some people like that. Funny how the shoe fits less comfortably when it’s on the other foot.

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How Maliki Won

A very interesting piece by Nir Rosen on who has come out on top in Iraq’s civil war, which Rosen believes is over (for now).

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Creating a Monster

Remember last year’s story about Samantha Power calling Hillary Clinton “a monster?” No? Well, that’s no surprise. It wasn’t exactly “scoop of the year,” was it?

Except that, hang on

The Scottish Press Awards ‘scoop of the year’ gong has been given to Gerri Peev, a reporter on the Edinburgh-based Scotsman, who wrote up a comment her interviewee clearly asked to be off the record. As a result of Peev ignoring the request, Samantha Power a high-flying member of Barack Obama’s election team, had to resign last year.

For those who don’t recall: Power, then a senior foreign policy adviser for the Obama campaign, told Peev: “We f—-d up in Ohio. In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio’s the only place they can win… She is a monster, too – that is off the record – she is stooping to anything…”.

Peev probably shouldn’t have published those words, but she did. And her story came out near the height of the Obama-Hillary contest, thus generating huge amounts of press and Internet coverage. (It was also in large part because, at the time, millions of people rather agreed with Power’s assessment.)

Not quite Woodward & Bernstein. Certainly, Peev should never have been so commended for breaking a basic rule of journalism. Yet what’s worse is that such an ultimately trivial bit of news should have been deemed prize-worthy at all. Mind you, I can’t think of a better story to have come out of Scotland in the last 12 months.

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Tax Cuts & Torture

I see (via John Cole) that South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint greeted the departure of Arlen Specter by stating that, “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.”

It sounds nice, but his party stands for tax cuts and torture; and if you hear them prattling about limiting government, it is because they no longer control the reigns.

UPDATE: Sestamibi comments:

“. . . controls the reigns”????!!!

Either this is a pun or a typo or you are totally illiterate.

Obviously, it is an unintentional pun.

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Sam Brownback Votes to Confirm Sebelius

The Senate just confirmed Kathleen Sebelius as Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services. Eight Republicans, plus Specter, joined the Democrats. Notably, in addition to the usual suspects (Collins, Snowe), anti-abortion Sen. Sam Brownback voted to confirm his fellow (but abortion-supporting) Kansan. He wants her job as governor of the Sunflower State, but with votes like this, his socially conservative base may start to have second thoughts. On the other hand, the socially liberal Republicans who helped elect Sebelius in the first place might warm up to him. Pat Roberts, the other Republican senator from Kansas, also voted to confirm.

See Michael Brendan Dougherty’s recent article for why Sebelius is worse than your standard pro-abortion pol.

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Uncle Sam Mines Your PC

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, who writes in the May Atlantic about government mining of Internet searches, would make a good Stasi agent, if only there were still an East Germany. He writes:

In fact, some searches could be viewed as a form of dialogue between citizens and their government. Why shouldn’t what constituents are exploring online be the government’s business in a healthy democracy? A spike in searches on ‘student loans’ in New Orleans, for example, could help education officials decide whether to expand local college-aid programs.

Yes, Uncle Sam is just a benevolent vacuum cleaner, sucking up bits of your personal data and aggregating them in order to offer you better bribes services. What Bhattacharjee is describing, translated from the Web to the real world, is the equivalent of police standing around in public places recording and compiling the conversations of every passer-by. And guess what happens if a patriotic snoop happens to overhear a lot of “hate speech” or seditious talk about “liberty”?

Perhaps the Atlantic ought to run this piece as a follow-up.

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Immigrants and foreign policy

Here’s a piece I wrote for World Affairs on immigration and foreign policy. It’s the kind of thing that should prompt disagreements among TAC readers, since it argues that sensible immigration and foreign policies don’t necessarily follow one from the other.  A jokey alternative title might be “How I learned to stop worrying and love muliticulturalism.”

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Oink-Oink, Achoo!

We all remember the dark, deadly days of 2003, wearing our breathing masks, struggling for air, dragging the bodies of our loved ones to the incinerators amid the terrible bird flu pandemic. Oh, you don’t remember that? Well, how about Jerry Ford’s Swing Flu Epidemic, which killed a million Americans in ’76?

There is evidence there will be a major flu epidemic this coming fall. The indication is that we will see a return of the 1918 flu virus that is the most virulent form of the flu. In 1918 a half million Americans died. The projections are that this virus will kill one million Americans in 1976.

– F. David Matthews, secretary of health, education, and welfare (Feb., 1976)

Read on for Patrick di Justo’s account of the nation’s last epidemic of swine-flu hysteria.

Update — here’s the Doctor’s diagnosis:

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Specter Switches

The Fix is reporting that Arlen Specter will switch parties today. Dramatic, but it makes sense: not only is he more philosophically in tune with the liberal party, but as he notes in his statement, some 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans have recently switched registration to the Democratic Party. Those were “Specter Republicans,” presumably, who turned coat, and without them Specter would have practically no chance of beating Pat Toomey in the GOP primary.

This means 60 Senate seats for the Democrats — nominally a filibuster-proof supermajority, but not really, since filibusters tend not to be along strict party lines. This sorry episode shows what a mess the GOP has become: the GOP is now too ideological to keep the likes of Specter in the party, but not ideological enough to dump them when the moment is ripe (as it was in 2004, when Toomey would have had a shot at winning a general election if the party had jettisoned Specter). The GOP winds up being the party that alienates liberal Republicans and independents, even as it continually sells out conservatives. The result: a rump minority of 40 in the Senate. It’s a perfect recipe for failure, both in strict electoral terms and all the more so in the substantial policy terms that conservatives should care about.

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The Buckley Way of Death

Christopher Buckley’s memoir of his parents’ last days, Losing Mum and Pup, is already causing indigestion in some circles. The NY Times ran a (very good) distillation this past weekend. Or if you just want the scandalous bits, see Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post. Certain pundits, such as David Klinghoffer in a particularly nasty post, think that CB’s portrait of his folks is downright disrespectful, particularly for revealing that WFB was taking a lot of drugs — Stilnox and Ritalin — and contemplated suicides in the months leading up to his death (of natural causes, I hasten to add). Rod Dreher is a little more sympathetic to CB, but thinks he characterizes his mother as ” a mean, lying bitch” — which is not at all how the book read to me. Patricia Taylor Buckley, whom I never met, was renowned as a strong-willed and sometimes mischievous woman, not to mention a defiant Pat Buchanan supporter. Her son couldn’t reasonably paint her as a shrinking violet.

The book, which I picked up last weekend, is as breezy a read as CB’s novels, something that’s a little disconcerting given the subject matter. It’s not a work of deep philosophical reflection — or even casual reflection — on grief, death, or father-son relationships. (The book opens with Pat’s death; the rest recounts WFB’s final months.) The book was written more for Christopher Buckley’s benefit than the reader’s. Fair enough: CB is forthright about that. His reader gets a book that’s enjoyable in its own right and gives a sense of WFB and Pat Buckley as human beings rather than right-wing statuary. I can’t see cause for complain in that. Christopher is clearly devoted to both of his parents, who just as clearly were sometimes difficult to get along with. I expect, if anything, CB has erred on the side of filial piety. If Losing Mum and Pup is controversial, I can only imagine Sam Tanenhaus’s forthcoming WFB biography will cause apoplexy. What the movement types demand is unvarnished hagiography. Good for Christopher Buckley that he refused to give it to ‘em.

(P.S.: For an antidote to Klinghoffer, see John Coyne’s appreciative Washington Times review.)

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