Politics & Policy

EDITOR’S NOTE: This marks our second installment of a new National Review Online feature, “Window on The Week.” It will act as our weekly quick-and-punchy “between-the-issues” survey of the hot topics of the day. “Window on The Week” will not in any way replace “The Week,” which appears fortnightly in all its glory in National Review.

#-#Ambiguous headline of the week: Bush urges end to cartoon violence. Bugs Bunny and Road Runner take note?

#-#Police in Iran and Syria are famously lax about security. You know how it goes–they’d love to maintain order, but it’s so tough with all those civil-liberties softies running the show. There was just nothing they could do to stop angry mobs from torching the Danish embassies in Tehran and Damascus . . . Oh, wait. Our mistake. Iran and Syria are police states where protesters usually can’t raise a sign, let alone throw a Molotov cocktail, without attracting the tender affections of goons with guns. That’s why Condoleezza Rice was right on track when she said, “I have no doubt that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and have used this [i.e., anger over the Danish cartoons] for their own purposes.” Chapter one of Dictatorship for Dummies: Distracting the People You Oppress by Giving Them Foreign Enemies.

#-# “We can’t lock members up in a cubbyhole here in Washington and never let them see what’s going on around the country and around the world,” says new House majority leader John Boehner, attempting to justify lobbyist-paid trips for congressmen. These trips are apparently important enough that they have to be taken, but not so valuable that taxpayers will be willing to foot the bill. The truth is that congressmen are rarely as insulated from reality as when they take lobbyist-paid junkets. Boehner does not believe that lobbyists should be able to take congressmen out to expensive dinners, but is willing to countenance their taking them on vacations–doubtless because Republican congressmen are more wedded to their trips than to their meals. The fact that they want to keep this perk so badly suggests that it is, indeed, corrupting.

#-#Sen. John McCain sent a scathing letter (cc’ed to every media outlet in town) to his Democratic colleague Barack Obama, accusing him of bad faith for abandoning their joint efforts on lobbying reform. McCain’s preening tone–”I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform were sincere”–raised some eyebrows. But the real story–and what caused the rift in the first place–was that Obama had learned the limits his party sets on moderation and bipartisanship. Obama distinguished himself early on with an appealingly individual voice, but he now belongs to a caucus that enforces a strict orthodoxy. And now he has to vote. Not being permitted to give a bipartisan gloss to McCain’s reform efforts is a precursor of things to come. In the Senate, he’ll inevitably build a record that will damage his national aspirations.

#-#When President Bush nominated John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, a large block of senators fell into hysteria. Partisan Democrats, joined by a few wayward Republicans, denounced Bush’s choice as irresponsible and undiplomatic. Republican George Voinovich almost came to tears blubbering out a plea for his colleagues to sandbag the nomination–which a minority of them managed to do, by threatening a filibuster. Luckily, Bush sent Bolton to Turtle Bay on a recess appointment, and he has been serving adroitly ever since. Voinovich now says he is “pleased” with Bolton and thinks the ambassador is “working very constructively to move forward.” Would it be childish of us to tell Voinovich “We told you so”?

#-#What is it about liberals that makes them turn funerals into political rallies? In the fall of 2002, they mourned the late Democratic senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota by booing Republicans and calling for the defeat of GOP candidate Norm Coleman (who went on to beat last-minute recruit Walter Mondale). It wasn’t quite that bad at the funeral of Coretta Scott King, but there were several moments of real crudeness. Standing only a few feet in front of President Bush, who offered a graceful tribute, Rev. Joseph Lowery sank to political sloganeering: “For war billions more, but no more for the poor!” Jimmy Carter was more subtle but equally shameless in his attempt to connect the current controversy over wiretapping with the civil-rights movement, as if listening in on al Qaeda terrorists and listening in on Martin Luther King Jr. were the same thing. “It was difficult for them then personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretaps,” he said. All of this elicited hoots of approval from the crowd. It is perhaps worth noting that Bill Clinton, who also spoke, made no attempt to play for the peanut gallery. He apparently understands that there are times and places for all things, and that funerals are not political conventions.

#-#When blogger Paul Mirengoff started asking tough questions at a press conference outside the Senate Judiciary Committee’s NSA hearings, Dick Durbin tried to weasel out of them by demanding to know whom Miregoff worked for. Mirengoff replied with two names from the blogosphere–Powerline and Pajamas Media. (Powerline was one of several blogs that helped expose CBS News when, just before the 2004 election, 60 Minutes II used fake National Guard documents to allege that President Bush had not completed his military service.) Durbin dismissed Mirengoff by saying, “I’ll check out Pajamaline, but I’m not familiar with your publication.” “Yeah,” Mirengoff shot back, “Dan Rather knows something about it.” In one sentence, he punctured the arrogance of both Dick Durbin and the mainstream media. Nicely done.

#-#When 86 evangelical leaders issued a call for action on climate change this week, they pointed to the consequences that global warming would have for the world’s poor. Their proposed solution, however, is to cut off fossil-fuel-based energy use, which has been the engine of growth for the past century. In other words, they propose to help the poor by shutting the main doorway out of poverty. As former missionary and climate scientist John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville has said, “Access to inexpensive, efficient energy would enhance the lives of the Africans while at the same time enhancing the environment.” Increasing global prosperity will do more to raise environmental standards than keeping the poor trapped in their poverty.

#-#Ayatollah Sistani has called the publication of the cartoons a “horrific action,” not surprisingly. But he also has condemned the “misguided and oppressive” Muslims who “have exploited this . . . to spread poison and revive old hatreds with new methods.” They, he continued, project “a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love, and brotherhood.” In a better world, Sistani would have a Nobel Peace Prize. This is hereby a call for someone out there who is eligible to make a nomination–a category including congressmen and professors–to make the nomination.

#-#While commentators in the West are kicking around the issue of press freedom, over in China the enemies of press freedom are kicking around actual people. Back in October, the newspaper in Taizhou, a town in eastern China, published a piece criticizing the local traffic police for charging high fees to the users of electric bicycles. (Never seen an electric bicycle? Neither have we. They’re very popular in Taizhou, apparently.) Well, the day after the article appeared, a platoon of traffic police stormed the offices of the newspaper, found the editor–one Wu Xianghu–and beat him senseless. Last week, Mr. Wu finally died from his injuries. One cop–this being China, it was probably the one with no relatives sufficiently well connected to get him off the hook–was fired for the incident. The rest of them are still out there on patrol. So if you’re visiting Taizhou and feel like taking a turn around the town square on an electric bike, pay the fee. Very politely. And let us remember the name of a man who died for freedom of the press: Mr. Wu Xianghu of Taizhou, China.

#-#Betty Friedan’s 1963 hit The Feminine Mystique was part an expression of a Smith girl’s ambition, yearning for the life her education had accustomed her to expect. Another part was leftie rabble-rousing; Friedan had attended the Progressive party convention in 1948. The most potent part was that free-floating Sixties dread of inauthenticity, as suburbanites channeled beats and bohos. Friedan co-founded NOW in 1966, her book sold more than 3 million copies, millions of women went to work, millions of fetuses were killed, old jokes were driven underground, older pronouns were threatened, one woman ran for vice president while two others became secretary of state. In 1981 Friedan published The Second Stage, urging feminists not to become a lesbian lobbying group, but by then the horse had long left the barn: The feminist hard core were cranky queers who had lost control of the forces they had unleashed. In her later years Friedan accused her former husband of beating her, charges he strenuously denied. She died on her 85th birthday. R.I.P.


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