Politics & Policy

Running Without Shame, &C.

A colleague was saying the other day, “What should Republicans run on,” in ‘06? My answer (one of them): How about the Iraq War? Americans can be proud of what we’re doing in Iraq: both for ourselves and for others. The United States is bolstering its own security and performing a great service to Iraqis (and, by extension, to the Middle East at large).

The Iraq War is nothing to be ashamed of. The media, the Democratic party, and a strand of the Right have instructed the country that we ought to be ashamed.

In my view, Republicans–Bush-supporting Republicans–should tell the country something different. They should say, “We are doing a great and necessary thing,” going on to explain why. If the Democrats want to oppose that–let them. And let the electoral chips fall where they may.

America is a country that will stand up for itself, and it is a supremely idealistic country, a beacon to mankind. Self-styled “realists” have tried to make Americans ashamed of this. I’m afraid that, to a considerable extent, they have succeeded.

Push back against them, hard. Fight like hell against them.

America rescued Afghans from a beastly regime: the Taliban. America rescued Iraqis from another beastly regime: Saddam Hussein’s. And now that monster faces a democratic tribunal. America is currently staving off terrorists and beheaders in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We are giving people–including ourselves–a chance: a chance for a better world.

Do not succumb to the shame-mongers! Do not internalize their unjust criticisms! Fight against them, hard, hard.

The “critics” constantly have us on the defensive. How about putting them on the defensive?

After all our bloody, grueling work of the last several years, there’s no need to leave the field to the beheaders.

Is America proud of what it did in South Vietnam–to South Vietnam–in April 1975? The U.S. Congress forsook that government, after a twelve-year effort (costing more than 50,000 American lives). President Ford pleaded with Congress not to do it; Congress didn’t listen.

Boat people, reeducation camps, on and on and on.

I will say once more, while in rhetorical mode: Fight hard!

‐When Iraq’s former prime minister, Allawi, said that his country was in civil war, everyone ate this up. All of the media applauded him, quoted him, throwing him in the administration’s face. It seemed not to matter that other prominent Iraqis–equally concerned, equally patriotic–disagreed with Allawi. The former PM had said “civil war,” and a great many people rejoiced (to put it bluntly).

So I was particularly pleased when President Bush, at his recent press conference, said what needed to be said: “There are other voices coming out of Iraq, by the way, other than Mr. Allawi–who I know, by the way. Like. A good fellow.”

Perfectly handled. Allawi may be right about what Iraq is experiencing (and, civil war or not, it is ghastly). But he is not the final word, much as people might like him to be.

‐You may have seen that the New Mexico Democratic party–officially–is calling for Bush’s impeachment. Here’s some of the AP report:

Party chairman John Wertheim said Tuesday that delegates to Saturday’s state party convention supported a call for the president’s impeachment largely because of “perceived abuses of power and corruption in the Bush administration.” [Do you not love that “perceived”? This is a call for impeachment?]

He listed as examples of abuses of power, warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens, the misstatement of facts preceding the invasion of Iraq, and the scandal surrounding the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former top aide in connection with the leak of the identity of a covert CIA operative.

It seems to me that Democrats don’t pay a high enough price for their kookery–and that’s because Republicans don’t make them. (The media won’t do it for them, obviously.) This is not Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan babbling. These are official Democratic groups and individuals. (Howard Dean, the chairman of the party, is indistinguishable from the most freewheeling MoveOn-ist.)

Republicans are supposed to be casting around for campaign issues. Okay–the New Mexico Democrats brought up wiretapping. Let’s talk about that–and let’s see who has the sounder approach in counterterror: Bush or the New Mexico Democratic party.

Etc. The GOP need not be in constant cringe.

‐While I’m on a Bush-defending tear, let me say a quick word about spending. Now, as a conservative, I’m not crazy about federal spending. And this administration has been profligate. But as a child of the Reagan ’80s–irrevocably–I care most about tax rates and growth. And the 43rd president cares about tax rates and growth, too.

He also cares about Social Security. For a half a century, conservatives were griping about Social Security, begging for it to be reformed. No politician would touch it–this was “the third rail of American politics.” And, in 2000, this Texas governor comes along and grabs it. He campaigns on Social Security reform in 2000. In 2004, he campaigns on it again. And then he goes all around the country, at a million dippy little stops, pushing for it–practically alone, it seemed to me.

Did he have ample conservative support on that initiative? Indeed, ample conservative gratitude? Do we realize how rare this was–a standard-bearer, a president, crusading for Social Security reform?

Conservatives, I believe, sort of yawned over this. And Republican politicians, of course, wet their pants. Now everyone scoffs, saying, “Well, Bush didn’t succeed.”

No, he didn’t succeed–but not for lack of trying. The country, unfortunately, is not ready for Social Security reform, and neither is the Republican party. But Bush was right–is right–and we conservatives should remember this even as we cry against spending.

The liberalization of Social Security would be infinitely more consequential than this annual budget or that.

‐Readers have written me to say, “What will you do, if the Afghans execute this Christian? Drop your support of that country?” It would be tempting.

‐Speaking of persecution: Cuban democrats recently marked the third anniversary of Castro’s brutal 2003 crackdown, which imprisoned 75 oppositionists. Sixty remain in prison. For a story on the matter, please go here.

‐Friend of mine sent me the below item. I’m afraid conservative satire, today, is impossible. Indeed, conservative comment is almost impossible!

ST. PAUL, Minn.–The Easter Bunny has been sent packing at St. Paul City Hall.

A toy rabbit, pastel-colored eggs, and a sign with the words “Happy Easter” were removed from the lobby of the City Council offices, because of concerns they might offend non-Christians.

A council secretary had put up the decorations. They were not bought with city money.

St. Paul’s human-rights director, Tyrone Terrill, asked that the decorations be removed, saying they could be offensive to non-Christians.

But City Council member Dave Thune says removing the decorations went too far, and he wonders why they can’t celebrate spring with “bunnies and fake grass.”

Just one comment: human-rights director? This is what Tyrone Terrill is, the human-rights director? Odd–I thought I wrote about human rights when I wrote about the torture of innocents in dungeons and so on. Little did I know that the real human-rights action is . . . in City Hall, where a secretary displays pastel-colored eggs.

I’m sorry, friends–I’m as patriotic as the day is long, but this is a screwy country.

‐Speaking of screwy countries: I read the other day that “Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke”–that’s a rocker, I believe–”turned down the chance to discuss climate change with Tony Blair because the British prime minister has ‘no environmental credentials.’”

And not long before that I’d read that Jessica Simpson–or someone–had refused to meet with President Bush, because of some dispute or other.

I have never been one to get all huffy about the rise of celebrity culture. I enjoy reading People magazine as much as the next guy, while waiting in line at the supermarket.

But, my goodness . . .

‐Let’s have a little music criticism, from the New York Sun. For a review of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Metropolitan Opera, please go here. For a review of the pianist Richard Goode, in concert with others, please go here. For a review of the mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and the bass-baritone John Relyea, in joint recital, and a review of the bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, singing Schubert’s Schöne Müllerin, please go here. And for a review of the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, in recital, please go here.


‐Seeing Fidelio the other night reminded me of something a reader sent in, back in April 2003. This was shortly after the Allied invasion of Iraq. I wrote an item about the reader’s note on 4/23/03. Let me share it, if I may:

. . . I am just back from the Easter Festival at Salzburg, which I covered for The New Criterion (account to appear in the June issue). (Bear with me–this has to do with Iraq.) The opera that concluded the festival was Beethoven’s Fidelio.

A few days before leaving for Salzburg, I received a letter from a reader who had been following the news out of Iraq. It seems that Allied forces discovered an underground prison. The poor devils in there hadn’t seen the light in years. As they stumbled out in their rags–shielding their eyes–their families gathered around them, to greet and embrace them.

My correspondent, of course, thought of Fidelio, whose own prisoners emerge into the light. “O welche Lust!” he quoted. “O welche Lust! In freier Luft den Atem leicht zu heben!” Yes, what joy–what joy it is to breathe free air. Anywhere, and always.

And, later, Don Fernando sings that he has “uncovered the night of crime, which black and heavy encompassed all. No longer kneel down like slaves! Tyranny, be gone! A brother seeks his brothers, and gladly helps, if he can.”

Look, I’m all for Realpolitik (speaking of German). No fuzzy-headed, willy-nilly liberator, I. But: A brother should seek his brothers, and gladly help, if he can.

O welche Lust!

‐I find it hard to follow that, but let me end with this: I’d like to remind you about our do in Houston. We’ll be there on Wednesday, April 5. Who we? NR and NRO luminaries (plus me). Details can be found here. If you could come, that would really be swell–and you’d be supporting a cause that has done a fair amount of good, since 1955.


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