Politics & Policy

Window on the Week – 5/19/06

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.

#ad##-# Psst. Here’s the news. Karl Rove has been indicted. It happened last Friday at his lawyer’s office in Washington. Patrick Fitzgerald was there, and so was Rove. They tried to make a deal, but in the end Fitz handed Rove the indictment and gave him 24 hours to get his affairs in order. It’s a huge story. Huge. But the right-wing MSM–you know, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the networks–are so in the tank for Bush that they’re covering it up. The only guy with the guts to report it is Jason Leopold at that website, truthout.org. But as soon as he did, the wing nuts–hacks like Byron York at National Review Online–started attacking him, saying Rove’s people are denying everything. Get this–they say Rove and Fitz weren’t even at that office at all on Friday. It never happened. Well, don’t believe it. Jason is a first-rate journalist–don’t buy all that stuff about his being fired for untrue stories or any of it. He’s got the sources–just ask Joe Wilson and Larry Johnson. Jason is right. You’ll see. Really.

#-# Shortly after midnight on Thursday, House Republicans passed a $2.8 trillion budget that does little to rein in spending and even less to reform entitlements. “This is a status quo budget and the status quo continues to disappoint,” says Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation. Discretionary spending (which does not include costs associated with the Iraq war) will rise by 3.5 percent. It also appears that some defense programs aren’t fully funded, so that these, too, may be boosted as part of an “emergency” appropriations process. If only every emergency were so predictable. A more serious budget would have tried to control the spiraling costs of Medicare and Medicaid. That’s what an excellent proposal by the Republican Study Committee, a group of House conservatives, would have done. But it attracted only 94 votes, meaning that the limited-government caucus doesn’t even enjoy a majority within the GOP.

#-# The Senate continues to fiddle with the Hagel-Martinez amnesty bill in an effort to make it less odious to supporters of serious immigration enforcement. But one vote in particular has exposed the real priorities of the bipartisan pro-amnesty majority. On Tuesday, 55 senators (including 18 Republicans) voted against an amendment by Senator Isakson of Georgia to delay the start of any legalization program until the border-security measures in the bill “have been fully completed and are fully operational.” This explicit rejection of Enforcement First removes all doubt: The bill is nothing but a rerun of the 1986 immigration fiasco, which featured amnesty for nearly 3 million illegals in exchange for the hollow promise of future enforcement. The other adjustments the Senate made to the bill don’t change this–not the 370 miles of additional fencing, not the ban on felons’ getting amnesty, not even the scaling back of the guest-worker plan so that “only” 60-some million people would move here over the next two decades instead of the 103 million originally estimated by the Heritage Foundation. Without a requirement that the borders be secured before proceeding with amnesty, there is no justification for supporting this legislation.

#-# Liberals are touting a study by, of all people, William Niskanen of the Cato Institute. Niskanen is trying to test the theory, held by many conservatives, that tax cuts “starve the beast”–in other words, that they lead to spending cuts. He looked at spending and taxes as a percentage of the economy over the last 25 years. He finds that years in which taxes were low also tended to be years in which spending was high, and vice versa. This is an interesting finding, but it is hardly the slam-dunk case against conservatives that liberals are claiming it is. While Niskanen has accounted for the effects of the business cycle, he has not taken account of the possibility that tax cuts cause spending cuts after a few years. It may be, for example, that Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts helped doom Bill Clinton’s push for socialized medicine. And even if it were the case that tax cuts do not, by themselves, make it easier to cut spending, that would hardly negate the economic case for cutting taxes that punish saving, investment, and work. It would only prove that there is no easy way to get a welfare state to reduce spending. And that is something that unhappy experience should already have taught us.

#-# What is it about the price of oil that drives otherwise sensible pundits batty? Fareed Zakaria, for example, notes in Newsweek that U.S. gas consumption has doubled over the last three decades, while it has stayed flat in Japan and Europe. But we have also had more economic growth than Japan and Europe, some of it fueled by that increased gas consumption. Our population is also more dispersed than theirs. But what’s really odd about Zakaria’s column, which is typical of a lot of writing on energy in this regard, is that there is no relation between the alleged problem and the proposed solutions. We are supposed to be upset about high gas prices. And the solution to this problem is–to increase prices ourselves, by raising gas taxes. Zakaria also urges us to raise fuel-economy standards and thus to get rid of gas-guzzling SUVs. And why should we make it illegal for people to buy the vehicles they want? To protect those same people from paying large gas bills. The very gas bills that might move them to buy smaller cars. Buying a car presents many trade-offs. An American outside Manhattan might very well want a car that easily fits his children and their child-safety seats. But that car might leave him vulnerable to higher gas prices. He ought be able to make the decision, rather than have it made for him by the government–or by pundits who are driving in circles.

#-# Sen. John McCain gave the commencement address at Liberty University, founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. It was a grave and sober speech, calling for national unity even in division. “Let us remember, we are not enemies. We are compatriots defending ourselves from a real enemy.” He offered thereby a truce with Falwell, whom, during the 2000 Republican primaries, he had called an “agent of intolerance.” McCain’s Liberty speech may mark the moment when the press ends its love affair with him (touching Falwell is truly touching pitch, as they see it), and when social conservatives end their long animosity. Losing the press will hurt, though he needs social-conservative support to win the nomination. McCain’s fundamental point transcends tactical politics, though: We have a real enemy, who hates us far more than we could hate one another.

#-# The Defense Department released new video showing American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The story about why the video was aired is a non-story. The official cause was a Freedom of Information Act request by a public-interest organization. The proximate cause appears to have been the completion of the Moussaoui trial. It is commonplace for the government not to release investigative information and evidence until it is presented publicly at trial, and the footage in question had been shown to the jury in the recent death-penalty proceeding. The real story is what the footage depicted, and what the media have been so reluctant to show us: a barbaric attack by a ruthless enemy we must continue to confront. We must never forget.

#-# If there is a Hell, Muammar Qaddafi made a reservation there long ago. If his decades of iron-fisted rule and his imprisoning of political opponents didn’t do it, then his sponsorship of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 surely did. It’s understandable, then, that some are upset about the U.S.’s restoration of diplomatic ties with Libya. But the thaw in relations doesn’t reflect approval of those acts. It is, rather, a response to Qaddafi’s decision to dismantle his nuclear-weapons program, which he feared would provoke American attack in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s downfall. Bush’s foreign policy has rightly been designed to prove that that there are penalties for seeking weapons of mass destruction and benefits for renouncing them. Normalizing ties with Libya is a necessary part of that strategy.

#-# Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalian-born member of the Dutch parliament who has risked life and limb by criticizing Muslim brutality, may be ejected from Holland. As she has said–many times over the years–she fudged her refugee application, when she was escaping an arranged marriage. The current furor erupted when she made this point again in a television documentary; the Dutch Right has staked out a strong law-and-order position on immigration, and feels it has little choice but to investigate. Hirsi Ali has been integral in bringing the Muslim problem to public attention, and she has never flinched, even when she has had to be sequestered for her own safety and endure 24-hour security details. Rumor has it that she has accepted a post at the American Enterprise Institute in the United States. That would be wonderful for AEI–not so good for Holland, and all of Europe.

#-# University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who became a national figure when he likened 9/11 victims to Nazis, has been slapped with a damning 125-page investigative report, conducted by the university, that delves into his academic past. One of the five investigators recommended that Churchill be fired, while the four others called for a lengthy suspension. Churchill has alleged that the investigation is essentially a cover for administrators to sack him for his controversial (but constitutionally protected) proclamations about American foreign policy. The report, however, does not focus on Churchill’s public statements. It documents his record of plagiarism, fabrication, and other forms of academic dishonesty, which are sufficient reason for any respectable university to bar him from teaching.

#-# Bill Cosby may not call himself a conservative, but he often sounds like one. He understands that the principles of personal responsibility and self-reliance are in desperately short supply in many urban communities, and he’s spent much of the last two years railing against what another famous American has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Cosby’s message has irritated certain members of the grievance industry, such as Michael Eric Dyson, a University of Pennsylvania professor who is the author of a book called Is Bill Cosby Right? For Dyson, the answer is an unequivocal no. He believes that a racist America bears primary responsibility for the problems of crime, dropouts, and illegitimacy. Cosby isn’t buying any of it. “Mr. Dyson is not a truthful man,” he said on May 16 in Washington, D.C. Mr. Cosby is a truthful man, as well as a courageous one.

#-# Only two people have ever been named honorary citizens of Paris. One was Pablo Picasso; do you know the other? Why, who other than that towering figure of our time, that standard-bearer of truth and justice in a corrupt age, that glorious symbol of resistance to the cruel tyranny of AmeriKKKa, that author, poet, and media star Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mr. Abu-Jamal, you may recall, was sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner five times (the first time in the back) in front of four eyewitnesses. If you don’t think that is major-league heroism, you must not be a member of the international Left. The honorary citizenship came in 2003. Now the City of Light has celebrated our hero yet again. In an April 29 ceremony (which can be watched here), a street in the Paris suburb of St. Denis, leading off Human Rights Square and just a stone’s throw from Nelson Mandela stadium, has been named Rue Mumia Abu-Jamal. The great man himself, ever gracious, favored the assembled worshippers with a recorded speech. In the light of recent events in Paris, you might think Parisians would shy at heaping honors on a cop-killer; but as a Frenchman once said: Les imbéciles ont toujours été exploités.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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