Politics & Policy

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today we introduce 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.

#-#House Republicans elected Rep. John Boehner of Ohio their new majority leader. He was the beneficiary of desire within the conference for a break with the DeLay leadership team, with which acting majority leader Roy Blunt of Missouri was identified. Blunt now continues as majority whip, the third most senior spot in leadership. The candidate NR endorsed, John Shadegg of Arizona, finished third on the first ballot, and most of his supporters then swung behind Boehner on the second ballot, securing his surprise victory. Boehner and Blunt must now put their sometimes-contentious race behind them and resolve to work together for the benefit of their colleagues. It would also behoove Boehner to give Shadegg an informal seat at the leadership table; the Arizonian is a strong conservative voice on policy and has credibility with his fellow conservatives in the conference, who are likely to stay restive until the end of the year. Boehner campaigned as a conservative reformer. A standard for judging whether he lives up to that self-billing will be whether he can pass reforms of the budget process–including of earmarks–proposed by young turks Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling. Republicans face tough going ahead, including what is likely to be an assault by the press on Boehner’s K Street ties. Meaningful reforms, and a recommitment to conservative principle, will be the surest evidence that K Street donors and their allies don’t have undue influence on Capitol Hill.

#-#Why, you might ask, did Sen. John Kerry call for a filibuster of the Samuel Alito nomination only after it became clear that the filibuster would fail? Why did Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton do the same thing? And why did every Senate Democrat who is considering a run for president vote in favor of a filibuster? You can answer with two very webby words: MoveOn.org and DailyKos.com. Those left-wing groups–which can raise a lot of money for candidates–were pushing hard for a filibuster, and now Kerry can say to them, “I did everything I could to stop Sam Alito.” Jumping in after the game was over was a cheap way to win their approval–and, perhaps, their money–without having to face the consequences of blowing up the Senate. And that, in the end, was what the failed filibuster was all about.

#-#Two federal courts of appeal ruled against the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The courts have constituted themselves as an “ad hoc nullification machine” when it comes to abortion regulations, as Justice O’Connor observed many years ago, before joining that machine herself. To anyone who has followed its workings, the arguments in these cases will be familiar. The law is supposedly vague, leaving doctors in the dark about which procedures are permissible and which impermissible. Never mind that abortionists in states that briefly enforced bans seemed perfectly able to abide by the law. And the ban is supposedly unconstitutional on the grounds that it might stop some abortionist, somewhere, from using the method of abortion he deemed safest to the woman in some hypothetical case. Of course, it takes years of indoctrination in theory to believe that the Constitution protects partial-birth abortion. The courts’ “constitutional law” has rarely been more absurd, or grisly. This issue will next go before a new and, we trust, improved Supreme Court.

#-#When representatives of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council called on Tuesday for Iran to be referred to that body, the mullahs put on quite a charm offensive. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator threatened that Tehran would respond to referral by resuming large-scale uranium enrichment and blocking inspections of its nuclear sites, and the Iranian defense minister warned that “any attack against Iran’s peaceful nuclear facilities will meet a swift and crushing response.” Bluster as they may, Iran’s rulers cannot escape the fact that they’ve gotten themselves into a very bad way. There is an international consensus that their intentions are not peaceful, that further negotiations would be fruitless, and that they must be confronted over their nuclear ambitions. We’ll see whether the Security Council lives up to its name and musters the fortitude to impose sanctions. If not, there are other options available to secure ourselves against the possibility of a nuclear terrorist state.

#-#When the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) isn’t decrying the Patriot Act or boycotting Burger King, it’s busy dreaming up new roles for itself. Its latest aspiration is to become the national language police: In a letter to President Bush shortly before the State of the Union, CAIR noted that “our nation’s representatives” have used “loaded and imprecise terminology” when discussing Islam. The president should therefore avoid “hot-button terms” in his speech, such as “Islamo-fascism,” “militant jihadism,” and “Islamic radicalism.” Their use is “counterproductive and complicates our legitimate foreign policy initiatives.” In the event, Bush was not cowed: “Radical Islam,” he said, is “an ideology of terror and death,” and if we bow to it “the violent [will] inherit the earth.” Rather than repeat the platitudes of multiculturalism and appeasement, Bush used the language of leaders: He spoke with conviction and truth.

#-#Cindy Sheehan’s 15 minutes of fame should have been over long since, but the Homerically tagged “antiwar mom” is displaying a genius for self-publicity that rivals Madonna’s. At the recent World Social Forum lefty-fest in Venezuela, she got a hug from U.S.A.-hater Hugo Chávez and publicly ruminated a run against Sen. Dianne Feinstein in this year’s Democratic primary. Then off to Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union, from which she was ejected by Capitol police for wearing a protest T-shirt (“2,242 DEAD. HOW MANY MORE?”). It’s dismaying to reflect on how many publicity venues Sheehan has not yet explored. There is, for instance, reality TV, following the example of Britain’s George Galloway. This is one public nuisance we shall, alas, be putting up with for some time to come.

#-#Scientists at Northwestern University have good news for some 1.5 million Americans (mostly women) who suffer from Lupus, a debilitating disease that attacks the immune system. Although in recent years Lupus treatments have made the disease manageable, the Northeastern work marks the first experimental shot at a cure; according to results published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, of 50 patients who received the new treatment, 50 percent were disease-free after five years. And they found this godsend in stem cells–adult stem cells, that is. In the study, stem cells from the patients’ bone marrow were used to reboot their immune systems. It’s a piece of encouraging news for scientists working on similar treatments for other immune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. And it’s yet another opportunity for American politics to move beyond the enormous ethical difficulties involved in embryonic-stem-cell research–which has yet to yield a single treatment–and instead invest in nondestructive adult-stem-cell research that is already alleviating suffering and improving lives.

#-#Coretta Scott King was the Martha Washington of the civil-rights movement, famous mainly for the accomplishments of her husband but also admired in her own right. In stark contrast to the charlatans who sought to succeed Martin Luther King Jr. as spokesman for black America–namely Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton–she carried herself with quiet dignity even as she pursued a conventionally liberal political agenda. In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, when false charges of voter suppression and racism were in the air, a lesser figure might have boycotted the inauguration of President Bush. Instead, she personally congratulated him after he took the oath of office. Conservatives and liberals alike could agree with Bush when he described her in his State of the Union address as “beloved, graceful, courageous.” R.I.P.

#-#Art imitates life. Life: A majority of Americans say they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton for president. She’s failing to connect with audiences, as her dialogue clanks to the floor (see her recent “plantation” gaffe). “Art”: Geena Davis, who plays a Hillaryesque president in the ABC series Commander-in-Chief, is having the same problem. Hailed as a heroine for “kick-patriarchy’s-ass fantasists” by Naomi Wolf, Davis nevertheless finds herself in the doldrums. The relentlessly hyped conceit of a woman in the West Wing attracted high early ratings, but ultimately the only people who could sustain their enthusiasm were those, like Wolf, more interested in the idea than in the entertainment. ABC recently announced that it was taking Commander-in-Chief back into the shop for an overhaul. The network says that when the show returns it will be more popular than ever. Hmm. Well, they could always replace Geena Davis with Paris Hilton.

#-#Before you get hot and bothered about how political the Oscar nominations are, consider this: There are few better ways of derailing somebody’s career than handing him a statuette. In 2003, Halle Berry won a Best Actress Oscar–and then made a superhero movie called Catwoman that squandered all the credibility she had garnered from her Academy Award. Adrien Brody followed up his win for the The Pianist by playing a guy tormented by a time-traveling sport coat in The Jacket (no, we’re not kidding). The director James Cameron won for Titanic and then vanished. So if you want George Clooney to pay for the self-congratulatory political tripe he’s been peddling–as an actor in Syriana and as the director/producer/co-writer of Good Night, and Good Luck–maybe you should pray he wins something. Then he might go away. Or star in the big-screen version of that great D.C. comic character, Matter-Eater Lad.


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