Politics & Policy

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Window on The Week” acts as our weekly, quick-and-punchy, “between-the-issues” survey of the hot topics of the day. “Window on The Week” gives you a sense of what “The Week”–a popular feature that appears fortnightly in National Review–looks like.

#-# Political commentator/actress Sharon Stone: “I think Hillary Clinton is fantastic. But I think it is too soon for her to run. This may sound odd, but a woman should be past her sexuality when she runs. Hillary still has sexual power, and I don’t think people will accept that. It’s too threatening.” We’re encouraged to see they have their excuses prepared already.

#-# The 2004 presidential campaign brought to light one of John Kerry’s less attractive character traits: his habit of asking lesser mortals, “Do you know who I am?” There seems to be a lot of this in the party of the common man. Most recently, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, challenged by an officer of the U.S. Capitol police force after bypassing a metal detector, swatted the officer. In the ensuing fuss, it emerged that the officer had not recognized Representative McKinney, that she was not wearing the identifying lapel pin congressmen are supposed to wear, that she failed to stop after three requests, and that the officer then placed a restraining hand on her. Being female and black (the constable was white), Representative McKinney had two cards to play, and she proceeded to play them shamelessly. At a press conference, flanked by supporters, she declared: “This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman.” Her attorney, in a written statement, put the incident down to racial profiling: “Ms. McKinney is just a victim of being in Congress while black.” Pity the poor policeman, who was just trying to carry out his assigned duties while white.

#-# In a book scheduled for release later this month, Sen. Ted Kennedy lays out an entirely predictable liberal agenda: massive increases in federal spending, hiking the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour, higher taxes, and so on (according to a news account in the Boston Globe). These policies make so much economic sense, Kennedy says in America Back on Track, that they will “pay for themselves.” Okay, sure. The senator’s most provocative claim involves a comparison of the attack on Pearl Harbor to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq–both were “anathema to well-established international principles against aggression.” This is ridiculous, but not surprising. During the Cold War, Kennedy and many of his liberal allies were hobbled by the feeling that there was no moral difference between the Soviet Union and the democratic West. At least they are consistent in their foolishness.

#-# Government by extortion: That’s what Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu has resorted to. She threatens to block all of President Bush’s nominations for executive-branch positions–which, in coming weeks, will include the heads of the Office of Management and Budget and the Interior Department–unless the White House accedes to her demand for $6 billion in federal spending on levees and coastal restoration in her state. That would of course be on top of the tens of billions of dollars the White House has already proposed for Katrina relief. It’s impossible not to feel sympathy for Katrina’s victims–but it’s also becoming impossible not to conclude that Landrieu is exploiting them for political gain.

#-# The U.S. has announced that it won’t seek a seat on the new U.N. Human Rights Council. In the spirit of “He who lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas,” one might think this a good thing. After all, the whole point of reforming the old U.N. Human Rights Commission was to keep states like Libya, Cuba, and Sudan from gaining seats on it, but the new body is, if anything, more likely to be dominated by human-rights abusers. Yet the U.S. announcement hardly looked like a statement of principle. The administration also said that it might seek a seat next year and that, in the meantime, it would support the council diplomatically and financially. That gave those who like to bash Bush’s diplomacy an opening to charge that the U.S. isn’t running for a seat because it knows it can’t win one. Regardless of whether that’s true, the administraton would have been better off walking away decisively and completely–and founding a new body devoted to protecting human rights outside the U.N. structure–than taking this half step.

#-# Last fall French cities blazed with the light of burning cars. This spring they are snarled by demonstrations against the First Job Contract law, a baby step by the government in the direction of freeing up the labor market. The two episodes of unrest are related. What underlay the riots six months ago, besides Islamist bigotry, was the anomie of slum kids who have nothing to do (French unemployment stands at 9.6 percent, 22.2 percent for people under 25). The reason jobs are scarce is that they come so barnacled with benefits that employers will not hand them out to beginners. The proposed new law sought to encourage hiring by making firing easier during the first two years of work. But students, dreaming of lifetime berths, angrily denounced the measure, while labor unions piled on. L’état, c’est radicals defending the status quo.

#-# In January, Rhode Island became the eleventh state to legalize medical marijuana, and its first resident to apply for a drug permit was a 43-year-old lady suffering from multiple sclerosis. She expects her application to be granted, but legal hurdles remain. Lawmakers in Washington maintain their hard line in the war on drugs, refusing to give states discretion in the regulation of dope. Possession of marijuana is considered a federal crime, even when state governments have authorized it for medical use. So if a chronically sick woman uses a drug to ease her suffering without harming anyone else, federal law demands her incarceration. Such absurdity does violence not only to basic principles of federalism, but also to common sense.

#-# Scientists have been able to take cells from the testes of mice and transform them into “pluripotent” stem cells–the same kind of stem cells that can be derived from embryos. Their work suggests that it may be possible to obtain the benefits of embryonic-stem-cell research without killing human embryos. As usual, however, the topic remains mired in confusion. When the Washington Post wrote up the story, the headline read “Embryonic Stem Cell Success.” In truth, it is the opponents of embryonic-stem-cell research who are cheering these results most lustily.

#-# Mike Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, says that America needs illegal immigrants. He told a radio host: “You and I both play golf. Who takes care of the greens and the fairways in your golf course?” They don’t call them country-club Republicans for nothing.

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