Politics & Policy

Window on the Week – 6/23/06

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Window on The Week” acts as our weekly, quick-and-punchy, “between-the-issues” survey of some 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.

#-#The open-borders crowd is giddy with the congressional primary win of Rep. Chris Cannon — a Utah Republican who has been a leading supporter of Bush’s guest-worker proposal — over his strict-enforcement challenger John Jacob. But congressmen flirting with amnesty shouldn’t let the race make them too optimistic about their own reelection odds. Despite his support for the president on immigration, Cannon cast himself as a pro-enforcement candidate during the campaign (even putting a banner that read “STOP Illegal Immigration!” on his website). He voted in December for the House’s enforcement-only legislation and has said he opposes the Senate’s amnesty bill. And he enjoyed benefits that not all of his House colleagues will have: His brother is the state party chairman, and the president and First Lady put their campaign muscle behind him. It didn’t hurt, either, that his challenger sometimes seemed a few fries short of a Happy Meal: He compared the hiring of illegals to slavery and suggested that Satan was working against his election. Representatives who fail to put enforcement first — and are less adept than Cannon at obscuring their records — may not fare as well when facing stronger challengers this November. Favoring border enforcement may not itself be enough to guarantee electoral victory, but it merits inclusion in a winning conservative position.

#-# Among the more striking aspects of debate over energy policy is that those who decry today’s high gas prices and America’s dependence on foreign oil are often the same people who oppose any attempt to increase domestic supply. Fortunately, the House took a clearer view Thursday when it voted to allow drilling in U.S. coastal waters. With a few exceptions (most notably the Gulf Coast), offshore drilling has been banned for 25 years, preventing domestic producers from tapping large oil and natural-gas reserves. The bill is opposed by a predictable coalition of liberals and greens (even though it might actually decrease the probability of oil spills by reducing the need for tanker shipments to the U.S.). But the Senate should resist their pressure and send the bill to the president’s desk.

#-# Democrats took their fight over Texas’s congressional redistricting all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to have the state’s entire electoral map thrown out because it has added GOP seats to the Texas delegation. They lost. Attorneys for the State of Texas successfully argued that the redistricting corrected a gerrymander drawn up by the Democrats when they controlled the state legislature. Under that old map, Democrats retained a majority of the state’s seats in Congress even though they got only 40 percent of the vote in congressional elections. The new map resulted in Republicans’ gaining five seats and a majority, accurately reflecting the choice of Texas voters. The Court did send the state legislature back to the drawing board over one district, which it said violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the Hispanic vote. Democrats tried to claim a small victory here, but they know that redrawing one district won’t make much difference. The Court did the right thing in giving a majority of Texas’s voters the right to elect a majority of its congressional delegation.

#-# A constitutional amendment to grant Congress the power to prohibit attacks on the flag needed 67 votes to pass the Senate and got 66. To our mind, the strongest argument against the amendment is that flag-burning is too aberrant to deserve constitutional notice; the strongest argument for it is that it would partly reclaim for legislatures a power the Supreme Court wrongly removed from them. Congress will surely have another opportunity to consider the amendment in a few years, but in the interim thoughtful conservatives should look at other ways to cut the federal courts down to constitutional size.

#-# Sderot is a small town a few short kilometers from the Gaza Strip. Ever since the Israelis evacuated their Gaza settlements, Palestinians have been firing their Qassam rockets at Sderot, as many as 30 in a week, and sometimes that many in one day. People have been wounded though not yet killed, but that is fortuitous, as one rocket hit a school at a moment when the children were in synagogue. No government could leave its citizens at the mercy of such attacks, and Israel has duly responded, killing a number of terrorists including the Hamas minister responsible for these operations. In one incident, a Palestinian family of five was killed while picnicking on the beach. Palestinians accuse Israel of murdering innocent people, but the Israeli deputy chief of staff denies culpability and suggests that a Palestinian landmine killed this unfortunate family. It is suspicious that the Palestinians have been tampering with evidence, for instance falsifying film taken that day. Armed Palestinians then emerged from a tunnel dug under the border to attack an Israeli military base not far from Sderot. After a firefight with casualties on both sides, the Palestinians escaped with a hostage, the 19-year-old Gilad Shalit. Israeli armored columns have since pushed into the Gaza Strip. Although we favored Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, right now the costs are more obvious than the benefits.

#-# Amnesty International has long remained neutral on abortion. But now it’s considering whether to take a position on the practice — in favor. Some national branches already have. If a majority of branches do the same, the decision could be made later this year, and, if not, the issue will be considered next year, at Amnesty’s international meeting. It is sad to watch an esteemed organization devolve into yet another appendage of contemporary liberalism.

#-# After coming under public scrutiny, the University of Nevada at Reno repealed a policy that had kept free expression quarantined to four small “public-forum areas.” The policy had explicitly declared the entire remainder of the campus a non-public forum, prohibiting even the most peaceful and orderly public demonstrations and assemblies on the vast majority of the school’s public property. The repeal of such an unreasonable restriction is happy news for Reno. But it’s also a sad reminder of the repressive policies that remain common at other schools across the country. Today’s colleges see little value in protecting, much less encouraging, free speech in an academic setting. Vituperative argument and heated debate, unimpeded by fear of public controversy, should be integral parts of any liberal education. But such vulgarities cause headaches for university administrators, who would rather pander to public-relations interests and conform to the prevailing dogmas of political correctness — even if that means telling students (especially boorish conservatives) to shut up. And to think there was a time when the leftists who now dominate academia argued that entire college campuses should be open to free expression.

#-# With this edition of “Window on the Week,” Ed Capano retires as our CEO, after more than 45 years with National Review. When he began here, Eisenhower was still president, Kennedy not having been sworn in yet. Ed is just about as integral to NR as the blue border on the print ‘zine. Today on NRO we send him off with tributes from family and friends — including our Rich Lowry, Kate O’Beirne, and America’s Wheeler Pat Sajak. Check the next issue of our mothership for more farewell fanfare.


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