State of the Union

Help TAC Grow

The American Conservative needs your help. In September, we’d like to distribute the magazine to attendees at the Campaign for Liberty’s Valley Forge conference. This will get the magazine into the hands of several hundred people highly sympathetic to the magazine’s positions on peace, sound money, civil liberties, and constitutional conservatism. It’ll cost us $200 to get copies to the event and distribute them; a tiny sum, but something we haven’t budgeted for. So we’d like to ask you to donate — obviously, just 10 donors for $20 apiece gets the job done, or four $50 donors. Include “Valley Forge” in the comment box, and any additional money raised will also go toward distribution at this or future events.

I think there’s an excellent chance that recipients of the magazine will become subscribers, so this is a great way to help the The American Conservative grow. (Naturally, another helpful way to expand TAC‘s reach is by giving gift subscriptions.)

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“Friendly Persuasion”

Pat Boone has some thoughts about waterboarding—other than to admit that being locked in a room and forced to listen to his greatest hits would drive even the most hardened terrorist to volunteer for it. So what’s a played-out crooner to do but post his pensées on World Net Daily?

His logic goes something like this. We’re at the mercy of “an enemy with absolutely no moral compunction and with a demonic bloodlust to destroy us, our homes and families and way or life.” (Should there be any confusion, that would be 19 hijackers nearly eight years ago, not the massive military footprint that’s killed thousands of Iraqi civilians and driven millions from their homes.) Because of the “extreme urgency and unimaginable danger”—someone’s been watching too much “24”—Boone has no problem with treating terror suspects to an “extremely uncomfortable experience.”

There’s no chance that waterboarding is torture, he claims, because Khalid Sheikh Mohammed endured 130 rounds “with no lasting damage at all” before he “divulged information that thwarted the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge and saved an estimated 10,000 lives. (Small wrinkle: Iyman Faris, who was convicted in the bridge plot, abandoned his scheme before Mohammed was even in custody.)

Then comes that twist you never saw coming, proof of Boone’s literary genius. It’s not just for evil jihadists anymore. “America is being waterboarded!” by the Obama administration–which suddenly makes waterboarding a really bad thing. “The nation—its economy and political body—has been strapped down, blindfolded and hosed,” says the kid in the white buck shoes. Worse, we’re “drenched and near drowned and gasping for breath”—still with no lasting damage? Apparently tortured metaphors also have a breaking point.

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Telling Israel No

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who is wired into the cabinet of “Bibi” Netanyahu, warns that if Iran’s nuclear program is not aborted by December, Israel will strike to obliterate it.

Defense Secretary Gates’ mission to Israel this week, says Bolton, to relay Obama’s red light, was listened to attentively, but will not be decisive.

Israel will decide.

One trusts Gates got into the face of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. For an Israeli strike on Iran, which Joe Biden foolishly said was Israel’s call, would drag this country into a third war in the Middle East and destroy a policy that is visibly succeeding.

The Iranian regime is still reeling from the June 12 election, widely perceived in Iran and worldwide as stolen, and its tumultuous aftermath. Hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to protest the election, and then attack the legitimacy itself of the Islamic regime.

The government is gripped by its worst crisis since the revolution of 1979. Members of Iran’s establishment with unimpeachable revolutionary credentials have declared the election a fraud.

Ahmadinejad’s selection as first vice president of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, whose son is married to his daughter, and who has said some kind words about Israel, outraged conservatives. Read More…

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From Sea to Shining Sea …

This clever Financial Times graphic provides a clear and helpful breakdown of state budget gaps throughout America. Be warned: it does not look good, unless you happen to be one of these anarchist collapsitarians.

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Conservative Democracy

What does it mean to be a conservative Democratic, or a moderate or a “Blue Dog” Democrat in this day and age of politics, especially given all the attention they have been receiving lately in the press during negotiations over the health care legislation? Now that they’ve got their “deal” with the House Democratic leadership, it’s interesting to wonder if all the action when it comes to politics and governance from a right point of view will be within the Democratic Party. And that’s not just due to the fact Republican are smaller in number. Very few in Congress have any proposals concerning health care worth discussion or debate and they seem quite proud of their neanderthalism.

But what is the conservatism of the “Blue Dogs”? Is it being tighwad with the public’s money? A few are like that to their credit like North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad for example and Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind fought the good fight against the agriculture subsidy system in the last Farm Bill. But a good many aren’t. Rep. Colin Peterson of Minnesota has never met a farm subsidy he didn’t like and there are others like him looking out for agribusiness interests. Many have voted time and again for the war and any other products of the military-industrial complex build within their districts. Oh, and they’ll make darn sure the pork flows back to their districts. They may not be for a public option for national health care but they sure don’t mind public’s money flowing back to their districts.

Once upon a time one could call a right-wing Democrat like George Wallace populistic but that’s really not true now looking at who funds the campaigns of the current crop whether its Big Ag or Big Pharma or the M-I-C.  It may just be all about social concerns like support for the 2nd Amendment (which keeps gun control safely locked away) or opposition to abortion.

Or could place explain what they’re all about? I don’t think you’ll find too many “Blue Dogs” representing districts in New York City or Los Angeles. These are right wingers whose views are shaped by the fact they represent districts and states in Midwest, the South and the Mountain West. As all politicians do, they wish to get re-elected or get elected to bigger and better offices (literally and figuratively). Thus they try to represent what is bequeathed to them. They will defend the government that works for their districts (like the TVA for example, or the local military base) and be skeptical of everyone elses’ government (You know, what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable). They try to stay within the cultural norms of their districts and states. It strikes one as a politics of defense than anything else, trying to prove you’re not a “national” Democrat. It reminds one of what the Minnesota state Republicans used to call themselves after Watergate “Independent Republicans”, you know, not like the bad “National Republicans”.

It wasn’t easy being a Democrat of any kind in such places from the decade of 1995-2005. Indeed in many parts of rural America party organization had pretty much collapsed. Republican incompetence no doubt revived the party’s fortunes along with better organization thanks to Howard Dean’s 50-State Strategy. One can at least say Blue Dogs are rightists that take a hostile or view government with contempt compared to Republicans, suggesting their allegiance to their Tory roots. But it also could be said that Republicans, especially those that represented rural districts or one’s dominated by the M-I-C, could not manage the contradiction of supposedly being the party against “big government” and yet continually leaving bigger government behind every time their time in power comes to an end. Polls have shown a constituency out there for “big-government conservatives” and one can find many of them in the places Blue Dogs represent. The problem is, the GOP could never figure out how to square their supposed principles with the reality of what they represented and what they needed to do to win elections.

The end result of course is Democratic dominance in Washington. However you’ll find little cheering on the left (read the Washington Monthly on a daily basis and you’ll know why.) Like a Twilight Zone episode, the past three years anticipating this moment when building these new majorities could be used to install a national health care system probably feels pretty empty when its an obscure House member from Arkansas and not Ted Kennedy shaping the health care proposals.

Alas, they should be so lucky.  According to the Gallup poll, leftists only make-up 38 percent of the party’s voters. While they may dominate the rank of the party, they certainly don’t control the file and so long as this is the situation, the Blue Dogs will be in the driver’s seat as far as legislation goes. While this prevents the Obama Administration from turning into Thermidor, this is again, more Tory rightism than “movement” rightism. One will not find a lot of Freedom Movement or Tea Party persons within the Democratic Party, Bob Conley notwithstanding. A more authentic conservatism (the Jefferson-Jackson-Cleveland style) probably won’t gain more than a niche hold within the party (at least some representation would be nice). Other political vehicles will have to be used to represent more traditional conservatism but first the keys have to be removed from the current drivers.

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Obama, Medicare, and Socialized Medicine

At his AARP event yesterday, President Obama derided those who in the 1960s called Medicare “socialized medicine.” Yet later in the event he conceded the point. See for yourself:

I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, I don’t want government-run health care, I don’t want socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare.  And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that’s what Medicare is, is it’s a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with.

As he read this, he and the audience laughed condescendingly as if to say, “What a dolt. She hates socialized medicine but she loves medicare.  Doesn’t she realize they are the same thing?”

As for people being happy with Medicare, Obama might have pointed out that retirees receive far more in medical benefits than they ever paid into the system. At the moment they can basically have all they want for free or for low cost. Now they even have drug coverage. But that will change if Obama gets his way, because he’s decided “we” spend too much on m medical care and he is determined to do something about that. Part of that “something” will be to scale back Medicare, which Obama himself says is, along with Medicaid, the biggest source of the budget deficit. Anyone who thinks that “reform” won’t start denying options to retirees is dreaming. It’s already happening. Wait until the government inserts itself in to end-of-life decisions. I guess the earlier critics of Medicare weren’t wrong, they just had their timetable off.

If government were really interested in seeing a rational medical system, it would stop forcing the taxpayers to pick up the tab for other people’s medical care. How could that do anything but send costs through the roof and then “justify” government control?

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Small But Telling

What do you know: Commentary summer intern, Adam Hirst, opens his Yale course catalogue, finds Mearsheimer & Walt’s “The Israel Lobby” (London Review of Books version) in a course syllabus and decides to blog about it – unfavorably, of course. The Israel Lobby does not belong in PoliSci 169, “Classics of International Relations,” Hirst contends, or in the course unit “Contemporary Realism.” First, The Israel Lobby isn’t a classic. Second, it isn’t realist. Third, there are more noteworthy realist texts that the professor should have chosen. Commentary readers will doubtless infer from Hirst’s post that left-wing Yale academics are busy glorifying the hated Walt & Mearsheimer duo.

Of course, neither Hirst nor anyone else has any clue why the professor, Bruce Russett, included The Israel Lobby in the syllabus. As it turns out, however, there is no reason to believe that the he thinks of “The Israel Lobby” as a classic or even as realist. A leading exponent of “democratic peace theory,” Russett is in fact one of Mearsheimer’s fiercest critics. (See their exchange here.) Rather than celebrate Mearsheimer, Russett may be including The Israel Lobby as an excuse launch into a withering critique of Mearsheimer’s work.

The actual syllabus for “Classics of International Relations,” which Hirst, with whom I have shared a cocktail or two at alumni functions, kindly sent me, supports this interpretation. Russett writes of one of his own books, published in 2001, that it “is too soon [to consider it] to be a classic.” (A reasonable judgment.) The essay version of “The Israel Lobby” was published just three years ago. Evidently, Russett is implying that it is not a classic either.

As for whether it is a contribution to “realism,” Mearsheimer and Walt have expressly acknowledged that The Israel Lobby is inconsistent with realism. Realism, they observe (for example here), doesn’t explain everything; in particular, it does not predict what particular follies an overwhelmingly powerful state such as the United States will choose to indulge in. A major IR theorist himself, Russett is surely aware that The Israel Lobby is not an example of realism. Likewise, Russett is surely aware that works by Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan – not to mention Mearsheimer’s own Tragedy of Great Power Politics – are better candidates as “classics” of contemporary realism.

Why then did Russett include The Israel Lobby at all? Russett writes in the syllabus that “we will try to situate each writer and work in its [sic] own political and social context.” Who knows what that means. Possibly, Russett hopes that students will learn to expose the great IR theorists as mere products of their time, with particular biases, blindspots and partisan agenda. If so – and there’s no way of knowing — perhaps he intends an uncharitable deconstruction of Walt & Mearsheimer. The reason, in other words, that his syllabus suddenly abandons the likes of Hobbes and Clausewitz in favor of The Israel Lobby is that Russett is planning a gratuitous trashing of Walt & Mearsheimer.

That explanation, however, doesn’t fit Commentary‘s narrative that sinister Ivy League academics are preaching Israel-hatred. Finding items to reinforce that narrative, no matter how implausible, is what interning at Commentary is all about.

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Gates Is Lucky Cambridge Doesn’t Tase

Henry Louis Gates is lucky Cambridge Police don’t use tasers. Anywhere else, it might have been different. Seriously, a quick Google News search of the last month alone reveals a barrage of police tasing incidents across the country one more barbaric than the other: grandmas, grandpas, the mentally ill, teens and even children. Some of these taser victims died. One (ok, in Australia) burst into flames, another was left with burns in his anus, and yet another, a 14-year-old girl, got it in the head — running away after a dispute with her mother over a cell phone (caution, graphic).

All — in varying degrees — needed to be “subdued” by police, and were. It is, after all, a most effective tool in that regard, especially when dealing with  pregnant women, 16-year-olds with broken backs and 6-year-old boys. After reading news reports dating back to 2004 about the hyper-use of these 50,000-volt zap guns, it’s not difficult to imagine what might have happened if Gates were say, in Boise, and had hurled one more insult, used a few expletives, raised a hand or moved toward Officer James Crowley in a “threatening manner,” much like this guy, who was irate and scary, but nonetheless handcuffed and shackled, when he was Tasered in a Kentucky court on July 22.

When Reason wrote about Tasers in 2005, there were 6,000 law enforcement agencies employing Taser guns. The high-voltage weapons, according to the Amnesty International statistics in the report, “are used on unarmed suspects in 80 percent of the cases, for verbal non-compliance in 36 percent, and for cases involving ‘deadly assault’ only 3 percent of the time.” Today some 14,200 police departments use Tasers, along with countless school districts across the country. In Pennsylvania alone for example, Tasers were employed by police in 122 schools as of June.

So what does this mean? Read More…

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Bunning Is Out, Is Rand Paul In?

The Huffington Post anticipates Rand Paul will soon officially announce his bid for the Kentucky Senate seat currently held by retiring Republican Jim Bunning. The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza had pegged Bunning’s as the Senate seat second most likely to change parties in 2010, owing to the incumbent’s bizarre behavior. Even with Bunning gone, Cillizza lists Kentucky as one of the hottest races for the upcoming cycle, “Because Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) is entirely unproven on the big stage –not to mention the fact that he could have a primary challenge from, among others, Rand Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R).”

And the one Senate race Cillizza ranked ahead of Kentucky’s, before Bunning dropped out? It’s the one for Chris Dodd’s Connecticut seat, which another Ron Paul revolutionary, Peter Schiff, is sizing up. Today brought more bad news for Dodd, with the Associated Press reporting that Dodd had been warned his special arrangement with Countrywide Financial Corp. was a sweetheart deal. A very interesting race is shaping up in the Nutmeg State.

Addendum: Don’t miss Rand Paul’s recent article for TAC, “The Public Trough.”

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A Fair Cop

Sunday, professor Louis Henry Gates retreated from his threat to sue Sgt. James Crowley. Friday, President Obama retreated from his charge that the Cambridge cops “acted stupidly.”

As Crowley has not budged an inch — his arrest of Gates was correct, and there will be no apology — there is no doubt who won this face-off. Game, set, match, Crowley and the Cambridge cops.

It is, indeed, as Obama said Friday, a “teachable moment.”

And those most in need of teaching are the professor, the governor of Massachusetts and President Obama. By charging or suggesting Gates was a victim of racial profiling, all three were guilty of having reflexively reverted to racial stereotypes about white cops.

Here is the chronology.

Answering a 911 call about a break-in in progress, Crowley encountered the professor inside the house. According to Crowley’s report, his request for Gates’ I.D. was initially rebuffed, and he was accused of hassling Gates because he was black. The professor made a slurring reference to Crowley’s “mama.”

The professor then raised such a ruckus Crowley arrested and cuffed him. Read More…

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