Politics & Policy

A Constitutional Question, &C.

Iraq’s president Jalal Talabani, on the country’s new constitution: “There is no excuse for Arab Sunnis to boycott the vote now that we have responded to all their demands and suggestions.”

Um, I think the world will find an excuse–don’t you? The BBC probably has 40 in its pocket even now.

‐In the category of What Journalism Has Become–please check out this lead, from the AP:

“The national Republican Party chairman on Tuesday defended the GOP’s outreach to black voters, days after his Democratic counterpart questioned how he could make such an appeal in view of the Bush administration’s tepid response to Hurricane Katrina.”

Um, couldn’t you have written–if you were this wire-service reporter–”in view of the Bush administration’s allegedly tepid response,” or “in view of what critics called the Bush administration’s . . .”? I mean, is that so terribly hard?

I very much appreciated something Jeff Greenfield–the CNN analyst–said at one of our (NR’s) 50th-anniversary events last week: Sure, most reporters are liberal–but it doesn’t really matter. Forgetting the second part of that statement, one can welcome the first. Greenfield went on to say (I paraphrase), “And it’s not as hard to keep your biases out of your reporting as a lot of people think.”

Amen. It’s really not very hard at all. It’s just that people choose not to try.

‐More from that wire-service report. Howard Dean said, “I’m shocked that he”–Republican chairman Ken Mehlman–”would have the nerve to show his face in front of any African-American organization after the way they treated those people in New Orleans.”

We see again that Howard Dean is more demagogue than democrat, and more Democrat than democrat.

Mehlman answered pretty well (when speaking before an NAACP chapter): “Chairman Dean said it took nerve for me to join you today. The only person with nerve is Howard Dean, who continues to take the African-American vote for granted, who believes he can dictate who you should and should not meet with.”

Nuts to “whom”–Mehlman still spoke well.

And he later had a very nice line about the GOP and black Americans: “If you give us a chance, we’ll give you a choice.”

And make that “a choice, not an echo”! (Remember that one?)

‐I give you something else, from the AP: “The Bush administration said Tuesday it would boost the number of contracts given to small and minority-owned businesses for Hurricane Katrina cleanup work, calling the amount now awarded too low.”

Not the move of a colorblind administration, it seems to me. And not the move of an administration that the NAACP ought to hate.

This is apart from the justice or injustice of preferential contracts. (Regular readers know well what I think of race preferences, of almost all sorts.) (I think basically the same thing Martin Luther King did.)

‐You may have seen, on Tuesday, my riff about “most qualified”–as in, “Mr. President, did you nominate the most qualified person for the job?” I think almost as little of that question as I do of race preferences.

Anyway, Senator Specter–not our favorite public servant, as you know–struck a blow for reason. “Asked if Bush had chosen the best candidate”–I’m quoting another wire-service report–”Specter said, ‘He has picked a candidate, and our job is to determine not whether she’s the best qualified, but whether she’s qualified.’”

Nice going, Arlen–even if you’re sitting in Pat Toomey’s seat.

‐Tom Sowell had an appropriately tough column on Harriet Miers, but it ends with a tinge of hope:

“The bottom line with any Supreme Court justice is how they vote on the issues before the High Court. It would be nice to have someone with ringing rhetoric and dazzling intellectual firepower. But the bottom line is how they vote. If the President is right about Harriet Miers, she may be the best choice he could make under the circumstances.”

‐And do you want a letter about Miers, out of the great many addressed to me?

Dear Jay,

As a leg man, I find it disturbing that no one has remarked that the lady has a mighty nice set of pins. I know, irrelevant, overruled.

Well, if this is truly an unserious nomination, might as well entertain an unserious letter or two.

‐So, the Syrian interior minister has committed suicide. As the AP put it,

Syria’s interior minister, one of several top officials caught up in the U.N. investigation into the slaying of Lebanon’s former prime minister, died Wednesday. The country’s official news agency said he committed suicide in his office.

The death–just days before the final U.N. investigation report is due–was a new and startling sign of turmoil in Syria, whose authoritarian regime is girding for the chance that the U.N. report might implicate high-ranking officials in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. He was killed by a bomb in February as his convoy drove through Beirut.

Um, I don’t know about you, but when Syria’s official news agency reports that the interior minister committed suicide, I don’t automatically believe that the interior minister committed suicide.

Maybe he did.

‐Gotta beauty for you: Abimael Guzmán, the Shining Path leader in Peru, has denied that he is a terrorist. (Guzmán is standing trial in Lima.) According to the AP, “Guzmán, a 70-year-old former philosophy professor, said he was a leader of the Communist Party, not a terrorist.”

A reading of history will suggest that there is no great difference.

‐I noticed something startling in Washington the other day. Was in a hotel room, where there was a standard guidebook to the city. Presidents were pictured on the cover: Geo. Washington–check. Lincoln–check. FDR–check. JFK–check. And Reagan.

Reagan! My, he’s come a long way. Not many years ago, he was way too partisan and controversial a figure to put in that company. Adding him would have been like adding GWB now! But with the passage of just a little time . . . Interesting.

‐Another D.C. note, while I’m at it: There is just about no national property more important than the Lincoln Memorial, our country’s shrine. So why should the Park Service allow part of the words above the man to be faded? (The speeches to the sides look okay.)

We’re always arguing about what is a federal responsibility, and what is not. Conservatives are sometimes accused–ridiculously–of not wanting the federal government to do anything.

Well, here’s something I hope we can all agree on: The feds should keep the Lincoln Memorial perfect. I mean Japanese, white-glove perfect. And if they can’t, let’s privatize the mother.

‐A quick memory about the Lincoln Memorial: It’s easy for an American to become jaded, or unappreciative–it may take a foreigner to jolt us back. Years ago, an Indian-born friend of mine visited the memorial. I was waiting in the car, with some others. When he got back, his face was beaming, and he said, grandly, in his accent, “Lincoln is just sitting there as though daring anyone even to utter the word ‘discrimination’!”

I was so moved. I am again.

‐While I’m at it . . . I’ve popped in on the Jefferson Memorial all my life, and have never seen it without scaffolding or other signs of construction (or repair). Never–year after year, decade after decade. Apparently, the thing keeps moulderin’ away. If it were ever without its scaffolding, platforms, and such, I wouldn’t recognize it.

‐Did you hear Walter Cronkite, at the University of Southern California? He said, “I’m afraid that we are not a very intelligent population. We are not educated nearly well enough.”

Obviously, you could make strong cases for those assertions–but what I think Uncle Walter meant was, “We elect Republicans–and tolerate Fox News.”

‐Speaking of The Most Trusted Man in America (how’s your gag reflex working?): He makes an appearance in Joshua Muravchik’s new book, The Future of the United Nations. It’s a splendid and useful book, and I have reviewed it in the current NR. I hope you’ll check it out (the book and the mag).

Anyway, Muravchik is talking about the Left’s fondness for the U.N. as a proto-, or partial, world government:

For many of those who value the organization most highly, its performance is not the issue. Rather, as they see it, the UN stands, whatever its failings, as the first hopeful step on the vital journey to true world community. . . . [A]s the television sage Walter Cronkite put it, “If we are to avoid catastrophe, a system of world order–preferably a system of world government–is mandatory. The proud nations someday will . . . yield up their precious sovereignty.”

And that’s the way it is, with Walter Cronkite.

‐Speaking of the U.N.: The Nobel committee, as you know, gave its peace prize to the IAEA, and ElBaradei. This is sort of a cruel joke. And it follows Carter, Kofi Annan, that woman in Africa who plants trees and thinks the West manufactured AIDS to kill black people . . .

A friend of mine e-mailed, “The hits just keep on coming, don’t they?”

I thought that was perfectly expressed.

And, listen: If you want to learn something about the inefficacy and folly of the IAEA, read Muravchik’s book. Or merely reflect on North Korea and Iran.

‐I just loved this, from 60 Minutes, on Ahmad Chalabi: “Fueled by his personal animosity toward Saddam Hussein and his Baath party, Chalabi got himself named chairman of the de-Baathification commission . . .”

His personal animosity toward Saddam Hussein and his Baath party: You don’t say!

Insert your German/Russian/Cambodian analogies [HERE].

‐Simon Heffer, of The Spectator, is a Brit who favors cricket over soccer. Listen to him, for a second:

“[Soccer] is not, in my view, a sport: it is somewhere between a business racket and a mental illness. I associate it with all the worst aspects of our society–violence, drunkenness, drugs, racism, exploitation, greed and stupidity; and that’s just for starters.”

Ay, ay, ay!

‐I received a press release not long ago, and somehow found it moving. I’ll quote a bit of it, without commenting. (Incidentally, Pressler is a founding–and continuing–member of the Beaux Arts Trio.)

“Eighty-one-year-old pianist Menahem Pressler, who in 1938 fled the Nazis from his hometown of Magdeburg, Germany, has been awarded the German President’s Deutsche Bundesverdienstkreuz First Class, the highest award Germany has to offer.”

‐Speaking of music: For a review of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under James Levine, at Carnegie Hall, please go here. And for a review of the 100th-birthday concert of the Juilliard School–also held at Carnegie Hall–please go here.

‐Oh, have to tell you something interesting. Remember how I talked about Naomi Campbell the other day, and said that I’d found her actually unphotogenic? In other words, she’s so much more beautiful than in her pictures, it’s not even funny? She ought to sue the photographers?

Next door to me, there was a red-carpet premiere of some movie. I was walking by. This new movie has Kirsten Dunst in it. And, you know what? Unphotogenic (and whatever the film–the moving-picture–equivalent is). So much better-looking in person, it’s practically criminal.

I was going to unload some more items, but why not end there?

See you.

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