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The President's initiative in the Middle East was never a sure thing. But I have argued, and still believe, that it was a calculated risk worth taking and continues to be a calculated risk worth supporting.

But, at this critical stage of the long campaign, when a critical mass of Americans are increasingly disheartened and Congress is perilously close to pulling the plug, one must ask this question: what if we fail?

What then, if we succeed in losing this war?

Background: How did we get here? Why the project for "renewal in Iraq" and beyond? After 9/11, it was apparent to any observer that the status quo in the Middle East was no longer tenable for the United States. Our Cold-War era, "pragmatic" policy of accommodating and facilitating tyrannical regimes, for reasons of vital national interest, wrought a generation of jihadists intent on Islamic revolution. The Islamists hated their own exploitative and corrupt governments, they hated Israel, and they hated us for enabling the two primary objects of their enmity. 9/11 illustrated in the most horrific manner that our great island fortress could be penetrated by these jihadists, and likely would be again. America was under attack.

The project to remake the Middle East into a more just and safer place for its own people, and more friendly in general to the United States and the rest of Western civilization, was an attempt to "drain the swamp." A freer, more democratic Middle East, so the theory went, would take responsibility for itself and be consumed with self-improvement, looking inward instead of outward, which would drastically reduce the threat of terrorism. We would become brothers, bonded by our mutual love for self-determination, amelioration and peace.

Frankly, the Bush administration vastly underestimated how hard this would be. While some academics tossed around timetables of four, five, six years and beyond, Washington never took the "pessimists" seriously. The administration believed, with a little luck, this thing might go fairly quickly and easily, and then we could move on to the next outlaw. To the surprise of many, we encountered a great battle in Iraq. Notwithstanding, victory remains possible. Iraq is still the key. If we can stabilize Iraq (and I firmly believe that all is not lost), our aspiration for a safer Middle East remains viable.

But what happens if Iraq never gets better, and circumstances (or a Democratic controlled United States Congress) force the US to abandon the project to reform the Middle East? Are we back to square one? No. If we leave Iraq in defeat and disarray, we are actually much worse off than we were the day after 9/11. The world will no longer be a safe place for Americans to travel or do business. What will that mean? It will inaugurate a radical transformation of American life. Returning to the pre-9/11 realities is not an option.

The complicated terror network organized to humble the United States exists to break the American hegemony on their side of the world so that the jihadists can foment a revolution over there unhindered. In that way too, 9/11 is similar to Pearl Harbor. Japan attempted to obliterate the US naval presence in the Pacific not to conquer the United States, but to give Japan free reign to conquer the Pacific. Like our presence in the Pacific during the 1930s and 40s, we have myriad self-interested reasons to be in the Middle East, but we also play a stabilizing role in the region.

Can we do something that will make the Islamists leave us alone? Yes. We can pack up and go home. But not merely in Iraq. To appease the terrorists and extremists, we must fold our tent and leave the Middle East to the Arabs entirely. In the early moments of the national crisis following 9/11, I believed that the safest course would be complete retreat, a return to isolationism. President Bush offered a different course, which was bold and risky, but, if successful, it will preserve our way of life. I credit him for his vision and courage in the face of a horrible moment in which no good choices existed.

If not Bushism, what? The remaining option is qualified Buchanism: neo-isolationism. We must leave our friends in the Middle East to fend for themselves, and pull-up stakes as the key player in, and international protector of, the global economy. Failure in Iraq will force us, eventually, into a much wider involuntary retreat. The America-policed international order will collapse (probably sooner than later), and the world will likely devolve into a much more violent and less stable place.

Therefore, if we fail in Iraq, our withdrawal begins the inevitable process of leaving American business interests in the Middle East and around the world unprotected and irresistible targets for Islamist revolutionaries and other malefactors. If our ability to protect our interests abroad collapses, then our economic empire necessarily disintegrates as well. Our current world order evaporates and another takes its place.

What then?

No one knows. Only time will tell. My guess is that objective observers will find the next world order strikingly less benevolent than the American Century, but, from our perspective, we can rest assured that American interests will suffer in myriad ways.

Again, we can not predict the future. Perhaps the clock would turn back one hundred years. Perhaps it will mean a simpler spiritually richer life for many Americans. Of course, if that happens, more of us would probably need to work for a living, making things and growing things. It could mean that our culture would need fewer academics, poets, entertainers and service providers.

What we know for certain? Our lives would change dramatically.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This statement from the WH speaks for itself (slightly abridged) :

"On March 8th, we said that the President would veto any bill that tied a timetable or restrictions to the supplemental. So the Democrats have known for 20 days, nearly three weeks, that their current bill would never become law. Yet they continued down their current path.

"A week ago, they heard from the Secretary of Defense that if the emergency funding isn't provided by April 15th, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions, and so will their families. Yet they continued down their current path, and they cobbled together votes by adding extraneous spending and domestic spending for such things as the spinach, peanut, and shrimp lobbies."

"[T]he National Intelligence Estimate, released on February 2nd, predicted that withdrawing coalition forces from Iraq within the next 12 to 18 months would not solve Iraq's problems, but would, in fact, lead to catastrophe.

"Democrats in Congress must take responsibility for their votes and their statements, and stop trying to have it both ways. It is completely disingenuous to stand up and highlight the intelligence community's judgment about conditions on the ground in Iraq one month, as Senator Reid did, but then vote for the precise action that the same experts say would make the situation catastrophic the next. It is also disingenuous to praise the Iraq Study Group's report in December, but now support an artificial timetable for withdrawal.

"Secretary Baker, himself, says General Petraeus and our new strategy "ought to be given a chance." And the Iraq Study Group said of withdrawal, "the point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose."

"Have Democrats decided to reject the judgment of our intelligence community, the Baker-Hamilton report, and our military experts? If not, then they need to stop undermining the early progress we are seeing in Iraq, so that they can sound tough without having to take responsibility for their actions."

Today's (3-28) Full White House Press Briefing by Dana Perino here.

28/03: What Mandate?

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The tag from an NPR story from yesterday:

"Still, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid insisted Democrats are simply carrying out a mandate they got at the polls from a war-weary nation. Democrats seem confident that in this fight, public opinion's on their side" (link here).

Some caveats: I am not sure if "mandate" was solely NPR correspondent David Welna's interpretation; there is no direct quote concerning a "mandate" in the story, and Reid has avoided "mandate" talk before. However, "mandate" is the buzz word of this particular debate.

Is there a public mandate to withdraw US troops from Iraq?

Public polling is mixed, although there are a number of polls that indicate Americans are increasingly exasperated with our progress in Iraq. As well they should be. But I am skeptical that the understandable grumbling and frustration in the heartland is actually hard support for "redeployment" (as John Murtha likes to call it).

Also: there is a lag time to public polling. The polls will be behind any change in public sentiment resulting from any successes that might occur as a result of the Petraeus-coordinated influx.

But by the same token, admittedly, this is a fluid situation. Bad news or a lack of progress increases the momentum of discontent. The vote yesterday in the Senate may indicate that Gordon Smith, Chuck Hegel and Ben Nelson read the aforementioned current polls as significant.

However, in terms of an electoral mandate from the November election, I suspect the Democrats are overplaying their hand.

Some things to remember:

1. While no one can doubt that the war played a role in Democratic gains, arguably, the Republicans lost only one Senate seat directly as a result of Iraq: Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania.

a. George Allen in Virginia shot himself in the foot--and then succumbed to a ferocious media campaign against him, in which the Washington Post trumpeted charges of racial violence against him, which as of today still remain uncorroborated. Even so, Allen lost by a whisker.

b. Jim Talent lost Missouri, always a close state, on a myriad of issues, including Michael J. Fox and stem cell politics.

c. The GOP lost Ohio and Montana as a result of scandals unconnected to Iraq.

d. The GOP held Arizona and Tennessee against serious antiwar opposition and ran very close in Democratic strongholds, NJ and Maryland.

2. The GOP lost the House as much as a result of pent-up conservative nausea as antiwar outrage. Mark Foley was the straw that broke the camel's back.

3. In fact, if there was a bell weather race in terms of the war, I would argue that it was Connecticut, where Joe Lieberman rebounded from a devastating attack on his war position to win the general election with enormous bipartisan support in a very Blue state.

4. One more thing, read this post from a few days ago concerning Texas 17 Representative Chet Edwards and the way he characterized his vote to set a timetable for withdrawal--and then tell me if Congressman Edwards thinks he was fulfilling a mandate from his voters.

Mandate? If given the choice, Americans prefer winning this war to losing it.
Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
You may remember a couple of posts concerning an insightful discussion of the coming 2008 presidential race offered by Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Patterson spoke at a meeting in Austin in February, which I attended. You may read the most recent of those posts here.

An Update:

Professor Patterson reminds us:

"One of the points in your posting--the money trail--will be revealed in a few days when the candidates file their fundraising reports. Journalists are eagerly awaiting the results, which will affect their reporting, which in turn will affect the candidates' fundraising capacity in the next quarter. It's a self-sustaining circle with considerable consequences for the nominating races."

I agree wholeheartedly. The coming release will certainly mark an entirely new phase of the journey. It seems altogether likely that this information will give new life to a candidate (or maybe two) and probably make life much harder for a few more.

Also, Patterson generously notes:

"The parallels between the pamphleteers of early America and the bloggers of today are striking."

We appreciate the encouragement.
Category: Texas 17
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Texas 17 Representative Chet Edwards is a resilient Democrat in an increasingly overwhelmingly Republican district. The district, which includes the President's ranch in Crawford, went for Bush in 2004 with 69 percent of the vote. Edwards has stayed on top of the tiger with hard work and conservative votes.

To repeat what I said last Friday, Edwards is a center-right Democrat I admire, and one for whom I have consistently voted. Disappointingly, he voted for the House timetable last week. The next congressional election in Central Texas should be interesting.

Painfully aware of how precarious his position in Texas 17 with votes such as these, here is how he explained his actions in a recent press release. By the way, much of the release made it into the Waco Tribune (here), not merely as quotes, but also as content. It helps to have a friendly local paper.

The Title of the Press Release:

Edwards: Iraq Bill Supports U.S. Combat Troops & Veterans, and Tells Iraqi Politicians to Take More Responsibility for Nation’s Future

How his office characterized his vote:

"U.S. Representative Chet Edwards today supported House passage of the $124 billion emergency war funding bill that gives the president and military commanders the flexibility and funds they need to carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."


"This bill fully funds our U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan..."

Correct, but...

"...and sends a message to Iraqi political leaders that it is time for them to take responsibility for their own nation’s future."

Is that the message?

"This bill does not authorize an immediate withdrawal."

Thank God for small favors.

"I voted against immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and led the effort to give the Commander-in-Chief critical flexibility in managing troop rotations. I believe this is a reasonable, balanced approach that improves the chances for victory in Iraq.”

So, the President must be for this then, right?

"As recommended by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by former President Bush’s Secretary of State Jim Baker, Edwards supported provisions in the bill to refocus the U.S. military mission in Iraq and Afghanistan to prioritize fighting terrorism and the training of Iraqi security forces, and redeploy U.S. combat forces in Iraq by August 2008 to accomplish this goal."

So, again, the Bushes must be all for this then, right?

"In February, Edwards spoke out publicly and led the opposition to proposals put forward by Congressman John Murtha and Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would have limited the president’s constitutional role as Commander-in-Chief."

Wow, Murtha and Pelosi must be really mad at him right now. But why all the high-fives?

Analysis: As I say, I like Chet Edwards. But this vote (and his vote for the non-binding resolution "disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq") comes as a shock to me.

Back during the last campaign, Congressman Edwards wouldn't even admit that he was going to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. He gave no indication that he would break with his history of voting in support of the President on the war. These two votes, notwithstanding his lame attempt to cast them as something they are not, are not at all in keeping with how I understood his position last November.

I am anxious to see how this plays out during the next election cycle.
Peggy Noonan's March 23 column takes TIME Magazine to task for its already infamous recent cover, which depicted a digitally altered Ronald Reagan crying over the current state of the Republican Party: "Could I be correct that they only front-page weeping Republicans, and only laud conservatives when they're dead?" (read the whole Noonan column here).

She is right, of course. The cover struck me as thoughtlessly indelicate, at best, if not cruelly disrespectful. Notwithstanding, I agree with Noonan that Karen Tumulty's article is actually a "good piece" in that it poses a relevant question: What has happened to the party of Ronald Reagan? The query legitimately arises from the current Republican confusion.

In a nutshell: What now?

Authenticity, integrity and a healthy respect for the traditions that always right our collective course in tumultuous times.

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Charles Krauthammer today (via RCP):

Alberto Gonzales has to go. I say this with no pleasure -- he's a decent and honorable man -- and without the slightest expectation that his departure will blunt the Democratic assault on the Bush administration over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. In fact, it will probably inflame their bloodlust, which is why the president might want to hang on to Gonzales at least through this crisis. That might be tactically wise. But in time, and the sooner the better, Gonzales must resign.

It's not a question of probity, but of competence. Gonzales has allowed a scandal to be created where there was none. That is quite an achievement. He had a two-foot putt and he muffed it.

Read entire piece here.

Not so fast.

I try not to disagree with Charles Krauthammer--but this strikes me as a bit harsh. If Gonzales is a "decent and honorable" man and this is not an issue of integrity, then this embarrassing misstep will seem less devastating over time. I like that the President is standing behind Gonzales. Let him ride it out. Let the administration stand up to Congress. Let the President and his men make their case before the nation. I don't see any long term advantage to cashiering Gonzales at this moment.

On the other hand, as many have noted, Gonzales is the latest ex-next Supreme Court Justice. In actuality, Gonzales fell from the list of viable candidates months ago. However, this imbroglio has probably ensured that the first Latino governor of Texas will not be Alberto Gonzales.

For more coverage on the would-be scandal:

Here for a summary of the facts.

Here for more on the separation of powers aspect within the context of the Constitution and a recipe for a political comeback on the part of the administration.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Washington Post :

"The House of Representatives today passed a $124 billion emergency spending bill that sets binding benchmarks for progress in Iraq, establishes tough readiness standards for deploying U.S. troops abroad and requires the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq by the end of August 2008" (read the entire article here).

The President promises to veto (condensed):

"The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I requested was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq.

"As I have made clear for weeks, I will veto it if it comes to my desk. And because the vote in the House was so close, it is clear that my veto would be sustained. Today's action in the House does only one thing: it delays the delivering of vital resources for our troops.

"Democrats want to make clear that they oppose the war in Iraq. They have made their point. For some, that is not enough. These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and their pet spending projects. This is not going to happen.

"The Democrats have sent their message, now it's time to send their money. This is an important moment -- a decision for the new leaders in Congress. I expect Congress to do its duty and to fund our troops, and so do the American people -- and so do the good men and women [in uniform] standing with me here today."

The President's full statement here.

What does it mean? Speaker Nancy Pelosi won this vote with absolutely no room to spare.

Of course, my guess is that she had a few votes up here sleeve. Surely, they would not have taken the vote to the floor with such a razor-thin margin.

Analysis from Paul Kane of the Washinton Post here on who voted for what and why.

My analysis in brief: The Speaker won the vote--but she is still losing the war to lose the war. She and John Murtha ought not to laugh too loudly, my guess is that the laughing is not done.

Some brief notes: My favorite Democrat, Gene Taylor, voted against the timetable. A Democrat I admire, and one for whom I have consistently voted, Texas 17 Representative, Chet Edwards, disappointingly, voted for the timetable. The next congressional election in Central Texas should be interesting.
Over Spring Break, I accompanied my family on a journey to attend a wedding in Searcy, Arkansas. Along the way, we visited the monument in Little Rock built to celebrate the life and contributions of an American president; from there, we spent two days and nights atop a mountain overlooking the Arkansas River Valley. And, finally, we traveled along the highways and back roads of the "Natural State" to witness and affirm the union of two young people dear to our hearts.

The Nuptials:

It was a classically simple but elegant church wedding in the heartland. The bride wore white, the men wore black tuxedos, and the bridesmaids wore tasteful strapless red dresses. The groom had known the minister for all of his remembered-life. The ceremony was personal and intimate--and traditional. The preacher, to no one's surprise, emphasized Paul's timeless expository essay on love written for the Church at Corinth nearly two millennia ago. They exchanged vows, lit a unity candle, and two became one.

None of this was new to me. I had seen and heard all of it many times before--but for some reason, this particular union of souls struck at my emotions in an extraordinary way.

Almost from the outset, and to my complete surprise, I felt my throat constrict and my eyes fill with tears. Struck by the gravity of the ceremony, I suddenly understood why so many religious traditions identify this ritual as a sacrament; it finally occurred to me why men and women go to the trouble and expense of standing up before God and man to make this commitment in such a purposefully public way.

My moment of clarity commenced as I watched my young cousin take a poignant moment to say goodbye to his mother, step back, and stand upright at the end of a church aisle waiting for his new life to begin. For the remainder of the ceremony, I was never able to fully regain my placidity.

Why do we cry at weddings?

Perhaps it is a combination of loss, anxiety, joy, and a momentary realization of how fragile we are.

Loss: A boy is gone. A man with new priorities takes his place. For the parents of that boy, they enter an entirely new stage of life. They cease to be primary caretakers. They are no longer the most important person in the life of the person who is most important to them. This must be a bone-shattering blow.

Marriage for the participants exists as a moment of surrender. Two become one, which must necessarily mean that individuality is submerged into union, just as full independence is forever sacrificed for the good of the new amalgamation.

Anxiety: Marriage is a leap of faith. One person places his life in the hands of another person about whom he knows very little. This is the most important decision in life, and, at the climactic moment of no-return, there is absolutely no way to know with certainty the wisdom of the choice.

The preacher spoke of love as a decision--not a feeling. The question is not whether they love one another, he said. Of course, they do. The question is whether they will love each other.

Love is a euphoric excitation--but it must also be a long term act of will.

Joy: Love between a man and a woman truly is God's greatest gift. Marriage also signals the beginning of the process of parenthood, which is another of God's most sublime dispensations. Parents sincerely desire this kind of love for their children whom they love. Young people instinctively anticipate this blessing with great delight. Jubilation.

Sobering Realization: How fragile we are individually. We are so desperately in need of one another. We need community. We need caring neighbors, a family of faith, and blood kin. Without the love of God, family, and community, we are hopelessly lost.

The marriage ceremony brings together those diverse feelings of love, joy, fear, and gratitude. Life is a precious gift. Love is an intoxicant and a safety net and a miracle cure. Family is a shelter against the cruelties of life. Matrimony is the renewal of the incredibly powerful and necessary bulwark of family, while at the same time marriage is held together by the ever increasingly fragile threads of love, commitment, and fealty to tradition.

Why was this ceremony so powerful for me? Perhaps it was the fatigue of the journey. Perhaps it was the youth, promise, and earnestness of the couple. Perhaps it was the love of family so thick in the sanctuary. Perhaps it was maturity, having lived long enough and been married long enough to understand the miraculous transforming power of the institution. Or perhaps it was the full realization that I had stumbled on to the good, the true, and the beautiful in a church in Searcy, Arkansas. You can imagine my surprise at finding it there.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Please consider this excellent Andrew McCarthy follow-up piece from NRO, which, once again, comes highly recommended by Tocqueville. By the way, it is easy to see why Tocqueville is such an admirer of McCarthy.

Excerpts (mostly in McCarthy's own words) :

"From the very start, the Bush administration’s self-induced debacle over fired United States attorneys has blurred law and politics. Now, the blur has officially grown into the fog of inter-branch war.

"The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have threatened to subpoena two of President Bush’s top aides, senior adviser Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers."

What does all this mean?

McCarthy's main points in summary:

1. Such threats from Congress are politically tactical but legally dubious. They flout our bedrock separation-of-powers doctrine....

2. The President...offered a compromise. Members of the President’s executive staff would be made available for private interviews.... [Under this proposal] Congress would not be permitted to place the President’s advisers under oath and there would be no stenographic transcript. This offer is in keeping with recent precedent (e.g., 9/11 Commission hearings).

[Congress] would, of course, [maintain the power] to compel sworn testimony and other information from top executive officials at the Justice Department, over which Congress has funding and oversight authority. The administration, however, would not surrender internal communications between members of the President’s own staff.

3. From a legal and policy perspective, the White House position is unassailable. [Constitutionally] Congress is entitled to nothing from the President’s staff.

4. This is common sense. Our political branches, [unlike a citizen testifying under oath in a court of law], are equals. The issuance of a subpoena and/or placing someone under oath connotes subservience, rendering the President subservient to Congress.

5. Similarly, transcript among equals is not a quest for the truth. It’s a set-up. If equals truly want a mutual understanding, they can get that by talking informally.

6. But, alas, none of that matters. As sound as the president’s legal position is, the politics strongly favor congressional Democrats.

7. Dissembling is how the administration bungled into its current straits. Now, its political opponents argue, it wants to compound that by insulating top advisers from sworn testimony and an accurate record of what they say.

8. [As a result of the administration's own self-inflicted wounds], this rhetoric is bound to resonate with the public, [which will naturally] wonder whether the administration has something to hide.

What to do?

1. [The President should] come clean about the politics...and the law will make more sense.

2. [The] investigation is about politics, not legal impropriety. It is about exploiting to the maximum degree the administration’s [political] missteps. Congress is within its rights to do that, but the president could undercut its force by (a) acknowledging that his administration was engaged in an inherently political exercise; (b) either putting out chapter-and-verse to justify the claim that some of those dismissed were subpar performers or, in the alternative, apologizing to those who were maligned and firing anyone who knowingly maligned them; and (c) committing that he has no strategy to use his interim-appointment authority to circumvent the Senate’s constitutional prerogative to confirm executive branch officers.

In truth, this process is intensely political. Congress is egregiously hypocritical in this pursuit of political advantage.

[However] This controversy won’t go away until the administration concedes that politics is political. Until then, the legal underbrush will obscure the political hypocrisy, and the administration will dig itself ever deeper.

Read the entire article here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Washington Times notes today that the six bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House during the celebrated "first 100 hours" of the 110th Congress are still awaiting Senate action or reconciliation and are not close to coming before the President:

"Democrats 0 for 6 in Congress; agenda sidetracked by Iraq war."

Christina Bellantoni's article is something of a taunt. The paper quotes House Minority Leader John A. Boehner: "How many bills have they sent to the president? None? Somewhere around there."

Bellatoni highlights the friction between the House and the Senate, quoting Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada (responding to reports of frustration from Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader): "Steny is my friend, and he hasn't spent much time in the Senate. They have expedited procedures on everything."

Bellatoni also notes that the internal struggle over an Iraq policy has slowed down the process: "Senators spent weeks negotiating resolutions on Mr. Bush's troop surge to Iraq, and House actions slowed to a crawl as Democrats offer smaller bills while huddling to come up with an Iraq plan."

Analysis: Every cloud has a silver lining. We should resist the temptation to assail the Democrats loudly and publicly for running a "do-nothing" Congress. In truth, an inactive Congress is a good thing. We would be better off to stay mum and count our blessings.

For true conservatives, Congressional gridlock is the last saving grace of modern government. Thomas Jefferson probably did not say this--but we often attribute it to him: "Government governs best that governs least." Let's keep our fingers crossed that these guys stay focused on grandstanding and investigating. When they are not legislating, the Republic is a safer place.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Please consider this excellent Andrew McCarthy analysis piece from NRO, which comes highly recommended by Tocqueville.

Excerpts (mostly in McCarthy's own words) :

"Of all the Bush-administration controversies, the tempest over the termination of eight United States attorneys, the top federal prosecutors in their jurisdictions, may ultimately rank as the most damaging. And not because it was the most serious, but because it was the most revealing: about the administration’s ineptitude and Washington’s hypocrisy."

McCarthy's main points in summary:

1. [This] system is political. It is intended to be. Establishing [prosecutorial priorities] is a quintessentially political determination.

2. These are political judgments. They reflect what an administration thinks is important and will resonate with the voters who put it in power.

3. They are precisely the type of judgments for which an administration ought to be accountable.

4. Having said that, the President is at the top of this command pyramid. The Justice Department, including the attorney general and all 93 U.S. attorneys, are high-ranking officers in one of our two political branches. The head of that branch, the executive branch, is the president. Under our Constitution, he is vested with all of the executive power, including the police power. That power is not divided among several players; it is singularly reposed in him. The president chooses all the U.S. attorneys, and, after Senate confirmation, they, like all executive-branch officers, serve at his pleasure. He doesn’t need a reason to fire any of them....

5. Often, the administration’s judgments are bad.

6. There are countless points of tension in the dynamic between the president and the U.S. attorneys he chooses.

7. Being an act of political discretion, the removal of eight U.S. attorneys can and should be critiqued as wise or unwise; [notwithstanding], to be legitimate..., the removal requires no explanation.

8. [T]he Gonzales Justice Department has committed Washington’s worst sin: It has acted like its reasons were noble when in fact they were political, it has misled Congress about that fact, and, when called on it, it has caved … as if the act itself — rather than the dissembling about the act — was illegitimate.

9. The administration's pretense that this political act was, in fact, high-minded or a performance-based decision created this media firestorm.

10. So we have classic Washington farce. The politicians on Capitol Hill theatrically castigate the politicians in the administration for making political decisions about political appointees based on political considerations. The politicians in the administration reply, “That would never happen,” before conceding that it precisely happened … without their knowledge, of course. And the political press is aghast."

Read the entire article here.
Category: Bush Hagiography
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In one of the opening scenes of the Martin Scorcese movie, Good Fellas, a young Henry Hill must suffer the violent wrath of his father. As his hulking parent stands over him "pounding away," the action freezes, and we hear Henry's voice over the still frame:

My father was always pissed off...and, every once in a while, I had to take a beating. But by then, I didn't care. No matter how many beatings I took, I wouldn't listen to what he said. I don't think I even heard him. The way I saw it, everybody has to take a beating some time.

Perhaps better than any of his forty-one predecessors, George Bush understood the vagaries of the Oval Office. Reportedly, the stress of the task drove Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover to wander the hallways of the White House talking to portraits of dead presidents. Lyndon Johnson and Abraham Lincoln were famous insomniacs. All presidents seem to age at an alarming rate.

George Bush gets up every day and does his job. It is open season on the president all the time. Some moments are worse than others. This is one of those times in which very little seems to be going right. This analysis piece from Gloria Borger represents the tenor of the media coverage of the Bush administration.

Borger correctly observes: "The problem for this White House now is that Iraq is the overlay for everything."

She is also right to assert that most of the myriad problems for the Bush administration are problems of their own making. Of course, this applies a general truism of life specifically to this presidency, which creates a somewhat distorted impression through the omission of historical context and an acknowledgment of basic human nature.

Having said all that, the key for the President has always been victory in Iraq. Perceived failure in Iraq hamstrings the President in everything he does. As I have written before, the President must know that the clock is running out and it is now or never. He must make progress now. With the public breathing down his neck and Congress looking for every opportunity to embarrass and seek political advantage, the President must operate in the mistake-free zone.

Sometimes people react to stress in positive ways. Sometimes they crater. This President is someone with a track record of responding to adversity with internal toughness. Let's hope he has enough left to push back. Like Henry Hill, I am convinced that the President no longer feels the slings and arrows of outrageous opposition intent on hammering him at every turn.

The way he sees it, every President has to take a beating sometime.

One potentially positive note: there is a lag time in Washington. The President is currently dealing with the consequences of previous poor decisions. It is possible, and one can hope, that even now he is making moves that will pay off and relieve the pressure in the days to come.
Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Remember my Mantra: Nobody Knows Anything (a review here).

Having said that, once again, here goes nothing:

If the proverb is right, and nature really does abhor a vacuum, we can look forward to a procession of boomlets for conservative candidates between now and January.

Enter Fred Thompson: You may sign on to his campaign here. You cannot deny the buzz he has created during the last week. Even on a mountain in Arkansas, I met people who were talking about him.

For the sake of full disclosure, I too am a long-time admirer of the former Senator from Tennessee. He is a formidable presence on the American political/cultural scene. But before we stampede over to the Fred Thompson camp, how much do we really know about him?

He looks and sounds presidential. He looks and sounds conservative.

Maybe he is our guy? Who knows? Time will tell.

Does it matter that we actually know very little about him? Or are we determined to elect someone with whom we are unacquainted. Are we so contemptuous of the candidates with whom we are familiar that we are bent on finding a mysterious stranger?

In other words, is this the year of the dark horse?

The first dark horse candidate for president was another Tennessean, James K. Polk. Although he was a former governor, former speaker of the House of Representatives and a protégé of Andrew Jackson, Polk was not well known nationally and not a candidate for president when he arrived at the Democratic nominating convention in 1844 (although he was hoping for consideration as the vice-presidential nominee). However, once the frontrunner stumbled, and the other three leading contenders failed to rally broad support, the convention turned to Polk, discovering him on the seventh ballot and nominating him on the ninth. Polk went on to win the national election that fall against a much more celebrated opponent, Henry Clay.

There have been other successful dark horse candidates since Polk (Franklin Pierce, 1852, Rutherford Hayes, 1876, James Garfield, 1880, and Warren Harding, 1920, come to mind). But is has been a while. Why? Today nominating conventions do not pick nominees. Party bosses no longer turn to lesser-knowns during the wee hours of the morning in some smoke-filled room. Long before the next convention, partisan voters in state primaries will elect the party nominees for 2008.

We are twenty months from the general election. Is it possible to remain mysterious and "available" for that long? The Democratic Party put forward James K. Polk in May of 1844 to run for president in an election five months later. They were able to introduce and sell him to the electorate as a hard working realist, who would judiciously oversee the expansion of a growing nation. Although the age of the telegraph and rotary press was upon them, there were no cable news networks and twenty-four hour news cycles to combat.

Can a dark horse succeed in the current digital age? Dexterously catching an anti-establishment popular wave in the wake of Watergate, Jimmy Carter successfully ran a more modern variety of the dark horse campaign in 1975 and 1976. But much has changed in the last three decades. The Carter candidacy probably has more in common with his nineteenth-century predecessors than the contemporary contestants.

In 2004, the primary voters unraveled the mystery of Howard Dean at the most inauspicious of times, transforming Dean's December 2003 sense of inevitability into humiliation and bitter derision for the insurgent candidate in January and February of 2004.

What awaits these candidates whom we partially know? Only time will tell. One thing is certain. We will know much, much more about all of these aspirants by January 2008.

My prediction: Fred Thompson won't be the last vessel of great expectations for Republicans in 2008. But, in the end, the race will most likely go to one of the candidates that perseveres over the long haul.
Bill Clinton, Mt. Nebo and the sacrament of marriage.

Dateline: Texarkana, Texas.

Dear Friends,

I am back in the Lone Star state (albeit by only a few yards).

For the last few days I have accompanied my family on a journey to attend the wedding of a cousin in Searcy, Arkansas. Along the way, we visited the great monument in Little Rock built to celebrate the life and contributions of Bill Clinton; from there, we spent two days and nights atop a mountain overlooking the Arkansas River valley. And, finally, we traveled along the highways and backroads of the "Natural State" to witness and affirm the union of two young people.

I intend to report on all these events separately--although I am surprised to find that all three experiences are connected in a perverse but profound way.

Stay tuned.
Category: Campaign 2008.1
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few weeks ago, I attended a discussion of the coming 2008 presidential race offered by Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

As I said then,
I like Patterson. I heard him speak a few years ago at another convention. He is thoughtful and fair-minded. He has a great line: "the forecasting models indicate (insert prediction here) but I wouldn't bet my house on it." It is an important caveat. He sees this as a Democratic Party year, and I agree with him, but there is a reason we show up for the game even when the odds are prohibitive. On any given Sunday....

With a recent spate of polls and news analysis pieces reinforcing his points, I thought it would be appropriate to re-emphasize the wisdom of Professor Patterson:

Why are the Democrats ahead? Patterson noted that 1952 and 1968 were historical parallels. Stuck in unpopular wars, the parties of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson suffered the consequences of presidential unpopularity. Looking at the job approval ratings of the President, the party of Bush groans with dread. The Democrats are currently running an 18-point lead in the generic canvass. There are potential pitfalls for the Dems (looking "anti-American" for one), but right now they have the better hand to play.

Even as there are many strongly persuasive indicators on general elections, the dynamics of the primaries make predictions on party nominations uncertain. Having said that, the nominations are now decided during the "invisible primary." That is, in the era of front-loading, the campaign prior to the first caucus and first primary generally determines the nominee. In a nutshell, this time next year, in all likelihood, we will know our two major party nominees.

Some things to watch for between now and the primaries:

1. Follow the Money. A winning candidate will need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to win the nomination. George Bush busted the ancien regime, opting out of the matching funds system in 2000. Flush with cash, Bush rebounded after a loss in New Hampshire by swamping the poorly funded opposition on Super Tuesday. Then John Kerry in 2004 reaffirmed that no candidate could afford to stay within the federally funded order. Unable to gain traction, Kerry used his own money to fund his comeback. Limited funds deny candidate flexibility. The more money a candidate possesses, the less lethal any one mistake or setback will be.

2. Follow the Media and the Media Paradox. Media coverage drives popularity. The Media only cover viable candidates. Candidates cannot gain popularity without media coverage. In an era of limited media resources, only candidates with momentum and popular appeal will draw coverage.

The conclusion: It is very difficult for second tier candidates to break into the front-runners. Having said that, it happens: Howard Dean in 2004 for example.

Who will break through this time? Maybe no one in the party of Jackson. Patterson sees the Democratic race fairly fixed. There are three major candidates: a charismatic fresh face with a classically liberal outlook, an experienced DLC centrist triangulator and a populist white guy outlier (Obama, Hillary and Edwards).

The one wild card? Al Gore. He keeps saying he won't run--but Patterson wondered if an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize might create enough momentum to change the course of the primary battle. Sunday night [2-25-07] reinforces Gore's improbable dream. However, based on personal acquaintance with some Gore insiders, and the physical appearance of the former VP, Patterson guesses that Gore stays out.

For the GOP. There are three prominent Republican candidates: Romney, McCain and Giuliani. But they don't strike Patterson as very GOP-like. There may be an opening because the Republicans really need another choice.

UPDATE: Fred Thompson mania may be just the beginning....
Category: Campaign 2008.1
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
My Mantra: Nobody Knows Anything (a review here).

Having said that, again, here goes nothing:

1. Barack Obama and Hillary continue to hammer at one another. Smart people continue to say watch for Edwards. NPR did a friendly piece on Edwards this afternoon (NPR feature here). The gist of the story was that Edwards is doing better in Iowa than his two larger-than-life opponents. Is that true today? Probably. Will it continue? Maybe. Will Iowa determine the eventual nominee this time around? Not so certain. The race among the states to front-load primaries may make Iowa much less significant than in times past.

I don't like Edwards (some previous unfavorable thoughts on him here). He strikes me as a trimmer. On the other hand, as I say, smart people continue to point to Edwards. I agree that he is brilliantly stroking the base. Moreover, I see clearly the possibility of Hillary and Obama dealing one another mortal blows, and a winner emerging from the pack. Notwithstanding, I have a hard time seeing Edwards in that role.

2. I like Barack Obama. A few weeks ago, I came across a cartoon depicting an Easter-Island-like sculpture in the likeness of Obama with the caption: "I don't know what it is, but I am strangely attracted."

3. The best thing that could happen for the Obama campaign is a tiff with Al Sharpton. Is this it? Obama is a viable candidate because white America likes him and trusts him. They don't feel the same way about Reverend Al or Jesse Jackson. Even more than Bill Clinton did in 1992, Barack Obama will, at some point, need and greatly benefit from a "Sister Souljah" moment of his own.
Category: Race in America
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
As a happy consequence of the Okie Gardener's recent post, Obama's Church, I entered into a productive dialogue with a reader/commenter.

Here is a portion of the reader's comment on the post (see the full comment here from "JC") :

"A candidate's church shouldn't be an issue unless it is something truly weird or cultish... something that would indicate that the candidate is not of sound mind or character."

After which, in an offline exchange with JC, I recommended the Gardener's latest post on Rudy's Church (which I feel clarifies what we were aiming for). I also expressed my belief that a candidate's church and his/her relationship with his/her church is a meaningful consideration among many when choosing a president.

JC responded:

Thanks for the note. Actually, I read the post on Rudy's Church, and it didn't address my concerns. It is disturbing to me, that Rudy's estrangement from his church would not be an issue while Obama's Church would become an issue. The Catholic Church has had some huge problems, which I would not consider a problem for Rudy, any more than I would make Obama's black church an issue for him. The only question I might ask, is whether white families would be turned away if they chose to attend.

I in no way meant to suggest that it is inappropriate to consider the church of a presidential candidate, only that we shouldn't hold Obama accountable for the mission statement of his church... especially when, in reality, black Americans face challenges that whites do not. It really bothered me that this reality was ignored (particularly in the comment by Joab), and I actually find it admirable that the church states clearly its "commitment to God", that the church is "unapologetically Christian", and that the church wants to specifically address issues of the black family.

Obama has been impressive in that he does not ask blacks to focus on ways they may have been oppressed in the past... but what they can do now to solve problems in the black community. I don't know enough about him yet... to know for sure whether I think he'd make a good president. I already know that I don't want to vote for Rudy or Hillary, regardless of religious issues, based on what I know of their character traits at this point.

Just to mention something we agree on... I share your admiration for Brian Lamb!

~~Thanks again,

Waco Farmer again: Anybody who admires Brian Lamb is always welcome to this conversation.

Note: As this post concerns race as much as politics, I am classifying it under "Race in America."
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Was the conviction of I. Lewis Libby on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice grounded in strong evidence and what appeared to be careful deliberation by a jury ?

Or, was the fall of a skilled and long-respected public servant...propelled not by actual wrongdoing but by inflated and frequently false claims, and by the aggressive and occasionally reckless response of senior Bush administration officials -- culminating in Mr. Libby's perjury ?

Last Wednesday, the Washington Post answered that "either/or" question with a resounding "YES."

Portions of the Post editorial were everywhere on the conservative blogosphere this week (read the full opinion here).

Perhaps the most quoted line: [The Libby tragedy] is particularly sobering because it arose from a Washington scandal remarkable for its lack of substance.

The least quoted portion:

The former chief of staff...told the FBI and a grand jury that he had not leaked the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame to journalists but rather had learned it from them. But abundant testimony at his trial showed that he had found out about Ms. Plame from official sources and was dedicated to discrediting her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Particularly for a senior government official, lying under oath is a serious offense.

An assertion I made three weeks ago: I have no sympathy for public officials who lie to grand juries. If Libby lied, regardless of the rationales or extenuating circumstances, justice will be served with his conviction for that offense (read my entire post here).

I stand by my statement. Moreover, from everything I can discern, Libby was brilliant and tough-minded. I am forty-two years old, and I have an appreciation for the limits of memory that increases every day. Notwithstanding, to accept the Libby memory defense, one must imagine the vice president's office as a madcap 1950s sitcom: "Don't Leave it to Scooter."

On the other hand, does Mr. Libby deserve to rot in jail for his crimes against the state?

Robert Novak, not an impartial observer but whose proximity to this scandal makes him a columnist of interest, reinforced an emerging consensus that the tragedy of this conviction is that it arises from a misguided prosecution (read entire column here).

What Now? The President has three choices:

1. Abide by the eventual verdict of the American justice system.

2. Pardon Libby at the least vulnerable political moment.

3. Pardon Libby now.

Today, Bill Kristol argues forcefully for an immediate pardon (here), which is not a huge surprise as he is extremely personally connected to Libby and the Cheney gang. In addition, he argued for a presidential pardon before the court proceeding began.

Not withstanding, Kristol is on the right track. Here's why:

The President must weigh the possibility of vindication for Libby and the White House through appeal. However, even victory on appeal has its downside. As Kristol argues, the process will keep the story on the front page of the American political consciousness for months to come. And, without a shadow of a doubt, a reversal will not attract the wall-to-wall media coverage that this conviction garnered.

I recommend a Presidential Pardon plus.

The plus? The plus is a full-court media press. For months, the White House has been mute, refusing to comment publicly on an ongoing legal proceeding.

A pardon would end that self-imposed silence. The President should come clean with everything he knows. Now is the time for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If the White House has a story to tell, let them tell it. If this is a travesty, then let the President and his administration make that case. Let the facts be submitted to a candid world.

Conceivably, the President would lay out the real story of what happened. He would admit wrong doing in the White House on some levels, but he would expose the malfeasance of the prosecution, partisan opposition, unfriendly media and other persecutors. A Presidential Pardon in that vein would be honest and straightforward. And it just might work. The American people are often shocked into sympathy by that brand of openness.

09/03: Must See TV

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I will be away from the blog for most of the day, but I am currently watching C-SPAN's Washington Journal (3-9-07). The Pam Hess segment is the most remarkable piece of reportage and analysis I have seen in years. The archive will be up later today. Watch this segment, if at all possible.
Category: Campaign 2008.1
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Nobody knows anything.

Why? We have never done anything like this before.

For all the historians who point out historic parallels to this presidential election (Michael Kazin here), I say: rubbish!

Yes. Andrew Jackson started positioning himself for the 1828 race as soon as the dust cleared following the Corrupt Bargain election of 1824. Yes. William Jennings Bryan started campaigning for 1900 only weeks after he lost in 1896. Notwithstanding, those examples are of a completely different character.

This campaign is unlike anything we have ever seen. Even more modern comparisons are meaningless. Yes. Jimmy Carter began his 1976 campaign for the presidency in 1974. But Jimmy Carter toiled in obscurity for a full year. Howard Dean: similar story arc.

Never in the history of the American presidency have we had this kind of campaign, with so many candidates, with so much money and media attention on this kind of scale at this point in the cycle. Never. Therefore, there are no historical parallels. There are no good models. Nobody knows anything.

This week's rush to anoint Rudy is premature. We are just getting started. Rudy may win; he may prove a wonderful, resilient and tireless campaigner--but right now he is a two-week wonder. He is a novice at this level of competition. He has not even weathered his first media crisis. He is a great prospect, but only in the same way a triple-A phenom is a great prospect in spring training for a major league club. This is going to be a long season. Sometimes rookies win twenty games. More often they don't. Sometimes they don't even make it out of camp.

This week's storyline is the demise of John McCain. It may prove true. On the other hand, McCain survived eight years in the Hanoi Hilton, and seven years in the on-deck circle waiting for his final at-bat. I would not underestimate his patience or discipline. He strikes me as unlikely to get depressed and go home in the face of this most recent adversity. But we'll see.

Nobody knows anything, and I count myself in that category--but my sense is that Mitt Romney does not have IT. I wouldn't count Newt out--but he is still a long shot. He has a lot to overcome. We'll see.

Nobody knows anything, but George Will is awfully damned smart. Read his latest column here. He makes a lot of sense.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
We tend to look up to the wrong people. Those you would do well to emulate may live next door. Larry Elder writes today's must read essay. From Jewish World Review.
Back in June, during the last kerfuffle, I offered this brief assessment of Ann Coulter:

Quoting myself quoting myself:

Back on March 2 (on the ancien regime blog--and before the current kerfuffle), I offered this brief assessment of Ann Coulter:

Quoting Myself: "I think she is often uproariously funny and sometimes very insightful, but I also think she can be crude and mean-spirited. Although I give her credit for outwitting Katie Couric (in all seriousness, that was a bravura performance), I think Coulter is something akin to our Maureen Dowd (funny, attractive, possessing a rapier wit but lacking compassion and judgment). Ann Coulter, for me, will forever be the woman who judged John Roberts unfit for the Supreme Court and attempted to reinvent Joe McCarthy as a great American hero."

You get the point: we have been here before.

Ann Coulter is serially inappropriate and often completely erroneous. Last summer, detractors presented evidence against her charging plagiarism.

Having said that, I will refrain from the feeding frenzy fueled by conservative self-righteous indignation.


1. Our vigilance in pursuit of this hysterical exercise proves correct her assertion that we are all becoming zealots in persecuting semantic transgressions. Joe Biden? George Allen? We are a community of glass-house residents; we ought to discourage stone-chunking mobs.

2. There are plenty of reasons to disown Ann Coulter. I did it long ago. But this posse, formed as a result of a singularly offensive remark, is disproportionate and cowardly. Evaluate Ann Coulter on her body of work. Dissociate yourself from her brand of politics and provocation. Bravo. But let us renounce this increasingly prevalent practice of purging veteran public figures from the body politic because of a momentary albeit egregious lapse in public etiquette.

This Open Letter to CPAC Sponsors and Organizers Regarding Ann Coulter doesn't pass the "ick" test for me. Gentleman, you will have to ride without me on this necktie party.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
As the 2008 presidential campaign is now underway, we begin a series on the religion of the candidates.

Some clarifications: (1) we do not rank or recommend candidates based on religious membership; (2) we are not presuming to label candidates saved or unsaved; (3) the full task of relating a politician's religious beliefs and his/her political positions and actions is the work of biographers a generation hence. These things said, we offer some provisional thoughts on each candidate.

In a previous post I briefly raised the question whether Obama's church membership would be an issue. In summary: he belongs to a very Afro-centric congregation belonging to the liberal United Church of Christ denomination. I concluded that it would not be an issue in seeking the nomination, but probably would be in the general election.

Today, Rudy. Official biographical sketch here. TIME magazine profile.

Rudy is Roman Catholic, and earlier in his life considered the priesthood. His public comments refer to a belief in God. His private and public life, however, have estranged him from his church--he is on his third marriage; his public support of abortion rights and gay rights also stands at odds with church teaching and has led to controversy. Perhaps Giuliani is best described as a nominal Catholic.

Will this matter in the nomination process, or in a general election? Probably not. Rudy is like a lot of American Catholics, shaped by their church in significant ways, but picking and choosing which parts to abide by in private and public life.

American conservatives already can see his Law-and-Order record as mayor of New York City, his strong support of the war against militant Islam, and his transformation of the welfare culture of NYC. If conservatives believe that he will nominate and fight for the kind of judges they want, the fact that he is a nominal Catholic will not bother them. They overlooked Reagan's divorce and spotty church attendance.
With the attempt to challenge the Bush Administration's Faith-Based Initiaitive before the Supreme Court, I continue some background on the relation of government to religion in the U.S. This topic often is referred to as Church and State.

In part 1, I briefly surveyed the situation from the founding of the United States into the 20th century. Summary: by the 1830s we had a de facto Protestant establishment that was supported by the courts. Things changed in the 20th century. In part 2 I highlighted the cultural shifts that form the background for these changes. Summary: religious diversification of the population, secularization of the elites, and the expansion of the role and power of the federal government, vis-a-vis state and local governments, gradually removed court support from the de facto Protestant Establishment. In part 3 I wish to summarize specific cases that brought us to the present situation. Part 3 will take multiple posts. (There are many helpful books on these things. For specific cases I recommend a good handbook such as The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States.) (cont. below)

» Read More

Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Powerline has this post today linking to Gabriel Shoenfeld's review of Henry Kissinger's third-volume of memoirs. Important reading for many reasons.

This portion of the review is worth pondering:

In the beginning, middle, and end of this episode, Kissinger shows to telling effect, the barbaric nature of the Communist Khmer Rouge was painted over in soothing tones by much of the American press. The New York Times was the most flagrant offender. In one dispatch, its correspondent Sydney Schanberg described a ranking Khmer Rouge leader as a "French-educated intellectual" who wanted nothing more than "to fight aginst feudal privileges and social inequities." A bloodbath was unlikely, Schanberg reported: "since all are Cambodians, an accomodation will be found." As the last Americans were withdrawn, another upbeat article by Schanberg appeared under the headline, "Indochina Without Americans: For Most, a Better Life." In short order, the Khmer Rouge proceeded to march nearly two million of their fellow Cambodians to their deaths in the killing fields. Also, in short order, Schanberg went on to greater glory and a Pulitzer prize.*

*Although tucking them away in a footnote, Kissinger also provides the later and second thoughts of the journalist William Shawcross, whose highly influential book,
Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia, had placed the blame for the Cambodian tragedy squarely on the United States. Wrote a repentant Shawcross in 1994: "[T]hose of us who opposed the American war in Indochina should be extremely humble in the face of the appalling aftermath: a form of genocide in Cambodia and horrific tyranny in both Vietnam and Laos. Looking back on my own coverage for the [London] Sunday Times of the South Vietnamese war effort of 1970-75, I think I concentrated too easily on the corruption and incompetence of the South Vietnamese and their American allies, was too ignorant of the inhuman Hanoi regime, and far too willing to believe that a victory by the Communists would provide a better future."

Media writers are not necessarily smarter or more informed than their readers. In their comments and in their slanting of the news, media writers can be horribly mistaken, with tragic results. Keep that in mind when reading the New York Times on Iraq.
Category: Campaign 2008.1
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Much has been said about Barack Obama's clumsy chronology in crediting the 1965 "March to Freedom" in Selma with producing the interracial courtship of his parents that preceded his birth in 1961. The Obama campaign explained later that the candidate was speaking metaphorically and broadly.

However, I have not heard anyone question Hillary's description of the events of Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965:

Now, my friends, we must never forget the blows they took. Let's never forget the dogs and the horses and the hoses that were turned on them, driving them back, treating them not as human beings (full text here).

The intro to the Newshour on PBS report tonight even went so far as to show archival footage of police dogs attacking protesters and teenagers in the park dodging high-pressure hoses.

Indeed, Bull Connor was the master of the German Shepherd attack dogs, cattle prods and fire hoses. There is only one problem. Bull Connor was the villain of Birmingham. The news footage was of Birmingham--not Selma.

Hillary and the Newshour conflated Bloody Sunday with the images from Birmingham during the spring of 1963. In March of 1965, Sheriff Jim Clark and other local and state law enforcement confronted civil rights protesters on the Edmund Pettis Bridge with tear gas and mounted police. The images of Bloody Sunday are equally gruesome and the stories are just as harrowing--but they are two distinct events.

Perhaps I am being too fastidious? Perhaps Mrs. Clinton, like Senator Obama, was speaking in larger terms, compressing events into one dramatic narrative. But, after she exerted such effort to insert herself into the Selma commemoration, one could hope that the Senator from New York could have at least made a similar effort to get her facts straight.
Actually, in totalitarian nations the two groups overlap with independent journalists often becoming political prisoners.

In today's NR Jay Nordlinger gives extensive coverage to independent journalists in Cuba here.

I have always been dismayed by the infatuation many on the left have for Castro and communist Cuba. Castro is an unprincipled lover of his own power who had done hellish things to keep himself on top. I can think of only two explanations for those who applaud him.

1) The Jane Fonda Fallacy: my country is bad, therefore the enemy of my country is good. In international politics the example of the war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia should dispel that muddled thinking. In real life the choice is not between pure and spotless nations and wicked and evil nations. All nations are impure, have spots, and to some degree are evil. But, not all nations are equally bad: some are far, far worse than others. See Augustine of Hippo for a Christian understanding of nations and their relationships.

2) The need to believe the millenium will come. All of us live by hope. For most of humanity hope is personal and limited: we hope to have a better job, or more money, or a nicer house in the future. Those who take a broader view of life also must have hope to live by: someday we will beat our swords into plowshares and the lion will lie down with the lamb. If you have given up on religious hope, how do you keep your secular version of hope alive? By believing that there are signs of the millenium you can point to in the here and now, as many on the left have done with the Soviets, and with Castro's Cuba. The need to believe clouds vision.

Castro and his regime are evil and the Cuban dissidents see this fact clearly.
Newsmax has this article on the career and death of former Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton.

Nationally, Eagleton probably is best known as George McGovern's first vice-president candidate, dropped after Eagleton's struggles with depression were revealed.

I am a Missouri boy, born and raised. For years Eagleton was one of my U.S. senators. While I often disagreed with his politics--he was a liberal Democrat--I could respect him as a man. I think he believed what he said and acted from the principles he believed in.

A portion from the Newsmax article:

Eagleton was considered liberal, but he criticized busing to achieve school desegregation and, as a practicing Roman Catholic, strongly opposed abortion.

I am not sure there would be a place for him in today's Democrat Party.

Rest in peace Tom.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Many thanks to good friend of the Bosque Boys, Tocqueville, who, in response to my request, offers this incisive primer on the standards of proof and some analysis in re the Scooter Libby trial and the ongoing deliberations.

Guest Blog: Tocqueville

There are generally three standards of proof in Anglo-American jurisprudence. The first, and perhaps easiest to satisfy, is proof by a "preponderance of the evidence." This simply means that something is more likely true than not. In layman's terms, this is sometimes described as 51% certainty. This is the standard of proof required for most civil trials (it is, for example, the proof required in a typical personal injury/negligence trial).

The next standard of proof is more difficult to satisfy. It is called proof by "clear and convincing evidence." In order to prove something by "clear and convincing evidence" the party with the burden of proof must convince the jury that it is substantially more likely than not that the thing is in fact true. In layman's terms, this might be described as 75% certainty. Clear and convincing is rarely used, but it does occasionally crop up in certain affirmative defenses (such as an insanity defense). It is a stricter requirement than proof by a "preponderance of the evidence," but not as rigorous as proof "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is required for a criminal trial.

Shortly before breaking for the weekend, the jury in the Scooter Libby trial asked U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton to clarify the legal definition for "reasonable doubt." When the jurors return to their deliberations on Monday, I expect that Judge Walton will most likely instruct them along the following lines:

"A reasonable doubt is a real doubt, based upon reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence, or lack of evidence, in a case. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, is proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs. However, proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond any possible doubt or proof to an absolute certainty."

Now think about that for a moment. Proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs. What are the most important of your affairs? Examples that come to mind include which school to attend, which person to marry, which job to accept, which house to purchase, which doctor to trust, which church to attend, who to leave your children with, and so on.

Now consider some of the statements the jury has heard in this trial. Byron York has done a fantastic job of laying out the case HERE. And now think about the legal standard for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Is this jury really prepared to convict this man on these witnesses' rapidly-fading memories and conflicting recollections in a politically-charged climate? I hope not.

Monday will mark the jury's ninth day of deliberation--a remarkably long period of time for a case such as this. And every day that the jury stays out deliberating, reasonable doubt has further opportunity to circulate around the jury room, to nest deeply in someone's conscience, and to find a permanent home there. If only one juror clings to that doubt, the judge must declare a mistrial. And a mistrial in this case will be as good as an acquittal for Libby. Fitzgerald lacks both the political capital and the energy to put the country through the expense of another prolonged trial.

One thing is for sure. We will find out this week the fate of Scooter Libby.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Two questions concerning public relations 101 come to my mind right now:

1. Why do organizations concerned with promoting global warming awareness (and alarm) keep scheduling their conferences in places like Upstate New York and Minneapolis in the dead of winter?

2. Why do presumably intelligent Democratic Party leaders keep sending John Murtha out on Sunday talk shows to argue their point?

From Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe it [our mission in Iraq] is totally hopeless?

REP. MURTHA: Tim, I, I believe that we can’t win this militarily. I believe it has to be done diplomatically. That’s why I think redeployment is the first move...So it’s a matter of, you can’t win it militarily. It has to be done internationally; it has to be diplomatically.

MR. RUSSERT: But to the point, why not take the chance, the glimmer of hope? Or do you just think it’s totally hopeless?

REP. MURTHA: I, I don’t see any chance of us winning this militarily. I think they’re going about it the wrong way. They’re finally starting to change. They’re talking to Iran. That’s what’s going to—going to prevail there. That’s where you’re going to have stability. You’re going to have international communication....

And on it went (full Meet the Press transcript here).

If the Democrats really have overplayed their hand and lost their momentum, Murtha is a big part of that development. Although she is a deft leader in so many ways, Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave the President and his stalwarts a rich and unexpected political gift with her decision to feature Representative Murtha as the unofficial Secretary of State for the House.

In contrast, Lindsey Graham came on air afterwards and gave his customary flawless performance as a pragmatic voice of reason. Never a sure thing when it comes to support for the President, Graham expertly leverages his reputation as a McCain-like maverick to give credibility to supporting the mission.

SEN. GRAHAM: The truth is that Jack Murtha’s a wonderful fellow. [But] He is using the readiness issue to stop the surge. And I want to work with Jack on readiness, but this is not about the readiness issue. He said publicly this is about stopping something he’s against. The Democrat Party is the dog that caught the car. What do you do now? The left is saying get out yesterday. The reason we don’t have a vote on cut off funding is because the American public understand that’s [ir]responsible.

So all of these efforts to micromanage the war—I’ve been a military lawyer for 20-something years. Some of these resolutions are just nightmares for a commander. You can fight al-Qaeda, but you can’t fight people involved in sectarian violence. You can go here, and you can’t go there. The Congress cannot—there’s a reason there’s only one commander in chief.

So, if you’re not willing to cut off funding, which is the Congress’ responsibility, then everything else really hampers General Petraeus. It’s really a signal to him that, “We have no faith in you.” Either stop him from going or give him the resources to do their job. Everything is else is just political theater. That’s dangerous.
Previously, we have enjoyed enthusiastic debates in re the Civil War and its causes (here and here, for example). I have also promised to facilitate an extended "honest conversation on race." As I am rising to that conversation, I am mindful that our peculiar national history must form the foundation for discussion.

That is, Eric Foner has asserted that whites in America are unified by a common history of fighting to maintain freedom (the American Revolution, of course, is not a war to attain self rule--but a war to maintain the tradition of English liberty). On the other hand, Foner reminds us that the black experience in America is truly a fight to overcome slavery and segregation.

With that in mind, as a starting point, please consider this perceptive description of the antebellum business culture of slavery in America by Bosque Boys reader and contributor, Donald Neal McKay:

Guest Blog: Donald Neal McKay

Re: Slavery - What many who think they know the warp and woof of the ethos of slavery, really don't. For people today to get a true grasp on slavery as it became known over the past 6,000 years, I recommend a reading of Marx' Capital. Volume One should suffice for this purpose. Money paid for a labor commodity converts the laborer into something called property. Seeing men were running the show, the labor commodity (black slave, or a woman or a child) was relegated to the niche called property.

When slavery ignited in the South--post 1793--for most plantation owners, slaves were relegated to the level of property; necessary commodity. Slaves were not human beings. Slaves were three-fifths anthropoids. A slave in good health would average $800 to $1200 when purchased at Charleston. A slave who could shoe a horse and blacksmith as a trade was worth $1800, or higher. We're talking money here.

Some perspective: The Wade Hampton Family - I, II, II, IV - amassed from 3000 - 5000 slaves between the South Carolina and Mississippi plantations.

Plantation owners making an investment in human labor power. If a plantation master needed three more field hands, and happened to have on hand two blacksmiths, then one blacksmith was traded for the three field hands. Or, sold outright. This is business, and business suffers little in the way of human entanglements and emotions. Many of my students cannot get this idea through their natural desire to see a human being... a person... dressed in the ratty clothes of slavery.

Unlike the Wade Hamptons (who actually did treat their slaves as human beings and, when a task was performed ahead of schedule - actually paid them!) who became the wealthiest plantation owners in the United States, and later the Confederacy, most plantation owners had to borrow money to make the initial purchase of their slave power.

Moreover, as the records show, most plantation owners were not good businessmen and fell into the pit of debt. Even the Davis' (Joseph and Jefferson) plantations at Briarwood and Hurricane made money only when the slave family (Ben Montgomery, and sons) ran the place. Joseph Davis, at least, grasped the meaningful idea of rotating his crops. Cotton literally sucks the life from the soil.

Northern investors picked up the tab and lent and invested money into most of the Southern plantations, in some states up to 80-90% were underwritten with massive loans. That is why the 17 January 1861, New York Times front page article I previously cited [which spoke to the intention of South Carolina to default on loans and debts due Northern financiers and stock investors] is so very, very, important to the ignition of the War Between the States. To Northern investors, it sure looked like the Southern plantation owner-debtors were going to default on their debts. Straight forward and simple. Northern businessmen and investors experienced panic in their wallets. And Southern plantation owners did not want to be told by Northerners what to do with their property, even if they really didn't own it totally. After all, I suppose in the case of slaves, possession is nine-tenths of the law.
~~Donald Neal McKay

McKay writes and teaches about the "War Between the States," Reconstruction, the Founding Fathers, Federalists and Whigs, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution and the CSA Constitution.
Once again, Gateway Pundit is on top of the news out of Iran where violence against the government continues.

The fragility of the current regime can be seen in these figures taken from the CIA Factbook;

Unemployment rate: 11.2%
Population below the poverty line: 40%
Inflation rate: 15.8%
Public debt: 25.3% of GDP
Ethnic groups: Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%
Languages: Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%
Median age: total: 24.8 years; male: 24.6 years; female: 25 years

Are we behind the current uptick in violence against the regime? I hope so. The Islamic Republic has been at war with us since 1979.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Good, clear thinking on stem cell research from the Orthodox Bishops.

Here is a portion:

From the perspective of Orthodox Christianity, human life begins at conception (meaning fertilization with creation of the single-cell zygote). This conviction is grounded in the Biblical witness (e.g., Ps 139:13-16; Isaiah 49:1ff; Luke 1:41,44), as well as in the scientifically established fact that from conception there exists genetic uniqueness and cellular differentiation that, if the conceptus is allowed to develop normally, will produce a live human being. ( 1 ) Human life is sacred from its very beginning, since from conception it is ensouled existence. As such, it is "personal" existence, created in the image of God and endowed with a sanctity that destines it for eternal life.
. . .
In the first place, debate on this issue has too often overlooked the fact that among the most vocal proponents of embryo research are pro-abortion activists, supported by much of the media. If the government refuses to fund such research, it would thereby tacitly acknowledge that human life begins at conception. This flies in the face of abortion legislation such as Roe v. Wade and would inevitably undermine the view that an embryo is merely a clump of tissue and can therefore be aborted on demand with no moral consequences. The real issue underlying the debate, then, is less the development of potential therapies than the preservation of so-called "abortion rights." ( 3 )

Second, enormous pressures to legalize and federally fund embryonic stem cell research is coming from the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, because of the promise of nearly limitless profits. The "new medicine" based on stem cell therapies is largely driven by the marketplace. As with AIDS medications and other recently developed therapies, market forces will determine who has access to them, and at what cost.

Read the entire letter (it's not too long).

02/03: What If ?

From the Washington Post:

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey resigned today amid a burgeoning scandal over the treatment of wounded outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and President Bush ordered a "comprehensive review" of care for the nation's war wounded, as the administration sought to deal with growing anger in Congress and among the public over the issue.

A visibly angry Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced the resignation in a brief statement this afternoon, saying he was "disappointed" by the Army's response to disclosures of inadequate outpatient care at Walter Reed and bureaucratic inertia in dealing with wounded soldiers
(full story here).

Wow! I had forgotten what a swift and decisive response looked like. Well done, Secretary Gates.

Historians and Presidents cannot afford the indulgence of the counter-factual questions of life; the what-ifs. Having said that, it all makes one wonder what things would be like today, if Gates had been running the war since Day One.

I like and admire George Bush. Perhaps because I am more flawed than most, I have a large degree of patience for the President's shortcomings. I cannot help but see him as a nice guy with a good heart and the best of intentions. One of his most endearing faults may be his obstinate loyalty to team.

There are those who tell the story of the young George Bush, at the helm of one of his doomed energy ventures, holed up in his office making calls to ensure that every one of his employees found a safe landing place as the company disintegrated, even down to the janitor. I don't know if that story is true, but it is in keeping with what people who know George Bush the best say about him when there are no cameras running.

However, that brand of admirable stubbornness is not always indicative of the traits needed to run a large corporation or the United States of America. Sometimes you need to be a cold-hearted SOB. Sometimes you need to discipline or discharge loyal subordinates in order to protect the larger interest of the enterprise and the long-term security of those involved.

In that way, Robert Gates is a breath of fresh air.
The Presbyterian Church PCUSA continues its decline as shown by a new round of budget cuts and staff reductions. The Berkley Blog covers and interprets here. Link from The Layman.

Another evangelical church leaves the PCUSA for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). Covenant Presbyterian in Omaha, Nebraska. Article from The Layman here. Covenant Presbyterian's website here.

To paraphrase Ron White, its not that the mainline denominations are losing, its what the mainline denominations are losing. Dynamic congregations that bring energy and growth into a movement.
In addition to the Okie Gardener's excellent coverage and background in re the Supreme Court and the President's Faith-based Initiatives, please consider this instructive review of Philip Hamburger's 2002 offering, Separation of Church and State, from the Intercollegiate Review (Volume 39, Number 1-2; Fall 2003/Spring 2004), written by friend of the Bosque Boys, Cory Andrews.

Read the review, "The Metaphor as Wrecking Ball," in PDF here.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Texas declared its independence from Mexico on this date in 1836. Read the Texas Declaration of Independence here.

Nowhere But Texas:

Texas state motto: "Friendship"

The pledge of allegiance to the Texas state flag:

"Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible."

Some background on the flag and the pledge via the Handbook of Texas Online here.

The Texas State song, Texas, Our Texas:

Texas, Our Texas! all hail the mighty State!
Texas, Our Texas! so wonderful so great!
Boldest and grandest, withstanding ev'ry test
O Empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest.

Texas, O Texas! your freeborn single star,
Sends out its radiance to nations near and far,
Emblem of Freedom! it set our hearts aglow,
With thoughts of San Jacinto and glorious Alamo.

Texas, dear Texas! from tyrant grip now free,
Shines forth in splendor, your star of destiny!
Mother of heroes, we come your children true,
Proclaiming our allegiance, our faith, our love for you.


God bless you Texas! And keep you brave and strong,
That you may grow in power and worth, throughout the ages long.
God bless you Texas! And keep you brave and strong,
That you may grow in power and worth, throughout the ages long.

One last symbolic anecdote: As the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness reached its fever pitch, Robert E. Lee watched the Texas Brigade sweep forward to fill a potentially lethal hole in the line. As they moved out, Lee reportedly stood in his stirrups and yelled, "Texans always move them!" And they did.

May wild Bluebonnets bloom in the Lone Star State for as long as the rivers flow.
In part 1, I briefly surveyed the situation from the founding of the United States into the 20th century. Summary: by the 1830s we had a de facto Protestant establishment that was supported by the courts. Things changed in the 20th century. In this post, I wish to highlight the cultural and legal factors that led to the change, then in part 3 cover the change with reference to specific cases.

First, even as the de facto Protestant Establishment was strengthening, population demographics were changing in ways that would ultimately help undermine this hegemony. Large numbers of Irish and German immigrants radically increased Roman Catholic numbers in the U.S. so that even prior to the Civil War Roman Catholicism was the largest single religious group, though still smaller than the aggregate of Protestants. After the Civil War immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe augmented Roman Catholicism, brought large numbers of Eastern Orthodox Christians to this country, and significantly increased the Jewish population. Some changes were homegrown; new religious movements such as Christian Science, Transendentalism, and Mormonism would challenge Protestantism's grip on American culture and politics. Favoritism toward generic Protestantism seemed to discriminate against these other groups. (more below)

» Read More

Perhaps the best "one-stop-shopping" for information on the current court challenge is LawMemo here.

Other sources are found in my earlier post.

At this juncture, the court case will decide whether taxpayers have the standing in court to sue the executive branch over a First-Amendment issue such as the Faith-Based Initiative. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, then I assume the foundation will then take the Bush Administration to court over the constitutionality of the Faith-Based Initiative plan.

For historical background on church and state in the U.S., see the category Religion and Public Policy on the right of this blog.