Politics & Policy

Window on the Week — 7/14/06

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 House passed a bill preventing federal courts from ruling on the constitutionality of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Liberals were outraged. Quoth minority leader Nancy Pelosi: “[Supporters of the bill] are making an all-out assault on the Constitution of the United States, which, thank God, will fail.” Thank whom?

#-# President Bush deserves great credit for vetoing the bill to put taxpayer funds behind research that kills human embryos. The political risks he took in doing it have been exaggerated — the public isn’t clamoring for this funding — but other presidents, even other Republicans, would have succumbed to the pressure. He stood for an important principle. Let’s hope that, having unleashed his first veto, he develops a taste for it. 

#-# From almost the moment of the September 11 attacks, America’s public discourse has suffered from the craven reluctance of politicians and commentators to utter the name of our true enemy in the War on Terror: militant Islam. But Sen. Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican, struck a welcome note of clarity in a speech yesterday at the National Press Club. We are unquestionably in a war, he said, and this war has a very identifiable enemy — jihadists from organizations like al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah who are enabled foremost by the Islamist regime in Tehran. These enemies make no bones about being at war with us, and without regime change in Iran, Santorum warned, our security will remain imperiled and our policy of democratic reform will prove to have been stillborn. Santorum, who faces a tough reelection battle this fall, has demonstrated yet again why his voice and vote are so desperately needed in Washington.

#-# Five straight times, President Bush refused invitations to speak to the NAACP at its annual convention, and two years ago he said his relationship with the group was “basically nonexistent.” That wasn’t quite true: For a while, it was actively hostile. During the 2000 presidential campaign, the group ran anti-Bush ads featuring Renee Mullins, the daughter of a black man who was murdered by three whites in a notorious Texas truck-dragging incident. Although two of the culprits were sentenced to death and the third to life in prison, this wasn’t enough for Mullins: “When Gov. George W. Bush refused to support hate-crime legislation [in Texas], it was like my father was killed all over again.” NAACP chairman Julian Bond has likened Republicans to the Taliban, and in 2004 he described those to whom the GOP appeals: “the dark underside of American culture . . . the minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality.” Bond has also insinuated that, if Bush did not address the NAACP, this would signal his indifference to black Americans. Yesterday, Bush reversed course and spoke to the group. It was a lamentable capitulation: He would have been better off continuing to signal that the NAACP’s race-bating shouldn’t speak for black America.

#-# A federal judge has struck down a Maryland state law that would have required Wal-Mart to spend at least eight percent of its in-state payroll on health care, or else pay the difference in taxes. The court ruling held that this law would have imposed an undue harm on the store. Critics of Wal-Mart are furious, having long contended that the retail giant unjustly rakes in profits while paying “poverty wages” to its downtrodden employees. But these critics suffer from a poverty of thought. No one is forced to work at Wal-Mart: Employees agree to do so because they judge their wages to be worth the effort. They are free to abandon their “abusive” employer at any time. This is how the free market works, when unimpeded by clumsy legislators trying to bully private companies into acting like welfare agencies.

#-# The U.N. passed a resolution banning member states from selling components of missiles and nuclear weapons to North Korea. This was better than not responding at all to Kim Jong Il’s July 4 missile tests. But not much better. Russia and China successfully blocked any threat of economic sanctions or other punitive measures against Pyongyang. In this, they were supported by South Korea, which plays the role of U.S. ally on Mondays, Wednesdays, and alternate Fridays. The U.S. should wage a campaign of public diplomacy against their appeasement, and act in concert with its allies — especially Japan — to ratchet up pressure on Kim’s state: by seizing its overseas financial assets, by ending its already limited trade with Tokyo, and by tightening enforcement of the Proliferation Security Initiative to block its arms sales to fellow rogue regimes.

#-# Just before the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin put on a particularly wooden face to announce the death of Shamil Basayev. The news was a nice and well-timed present for him. Basayev was an ugly customer, the field commander who kept the rebellion going in Chechnya for ten years and more. He admitted guilt for murderous attacks on a hospital and a Moscow theater, as well as the school in Beslan, where 331 people, most of them children, were killed. Basayev was blown to bits when a truck carrying dynamite exploded in the convoy he was accompanying. Chechens say this was a spontaneous accident; Russian Security Services claim it as a brilliant special operation, and they have gone in for high-profile killings in the past. “This is just retaliation against the bandits,” said Putin. True, quite true. He wanted worse for Basayev. “For him, this is too little — to be just destroyed,” he told a broadcaster. But then, as though oblivious to his extended record, he recommended that the Israelis show restraint in Lebanon — he who has helped flatten the attractive Caucasus town of Grozny, where 65,000 people are thought to have died, and 200,000 to have fled. Israelis are well used to double standards.

#-# India took a wrong turn in its reaction to the Bombay terrorist bombings when it joined the small but growing list of countries that practice Internet censorship. According to a BBC report, the Indian government ordered the country’s Internet-service providers to block access to 17 websites. Federal authorities have justified the ban by citing a 2003 law that grants the government power to ban websites for the vague purpose of preserving the “sovereignty or integrity of India.” But it appears that the only thing in common among the banned sites is that each — and particularly the U.S.-based, highly trafficked Jawa Report — is highly critical of radical Islam. The proprietors of these sites have a theory: The Indian government is banning anti-jihadist content for fear of provoking more violence from India’s Muslim population. But in addition to having no place in a free society, such a concession would be just what Muslim extremists want, and would only reward their violence. Indian blogger Nilanjana S. Roy put it best, writing in the Business Standard: “Countries that practice Internet censorship include [North] Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma and Iran — not a club any government would be proud to belong to.”

#-# Much of the media just doesn’t want to talk about the trial of oil-for-food scoundrel Tongsun Park. Last week, when Park was convicted of crimes he committed as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein, the New York Times and the Washington Post merely ran wire copy, and the Los Angeles Times didn’t run anything at all. According to the conventional wisdom, all three were embarrassed after being so thoroughly scooped on every aspect of the story by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Sun, and especially Claudia Rosett, who covered the trial on her blog here at NRO. This conventional wisdom is probably incomplete. The oil-for-food scandal exposed weakness and corruption at the U.N., which is one of the mainstream media’s favorite institutions. What’s more, it revealed that trying to contain Iraq’s Baathist regime through U.N. sanctions had failed. We’re lucky to have reporters like Rosett telling hard truths that many would rather not hear.

#-#  Warren Bell, frequent contributor to NRO and, by his own estimate, “thoroughly conservative,” has been nominated to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Public broadcasters are alarmed. Bell, said NPR spokesman Andi Sporkin, brings “no discernible relevant achievement” to the job. Come again? Bell is executive producer of ABC’s According to Jim, with a 17-year track record of writing and producing behind that (Life’s Work, Ellen, Coach). This may be the perfect résumé: experience in telecommunication, yet with a pair of fresh eyes. The CPB board has had members from all walks of life, and many opinions, including committed conservatives. (NR senior editor Richard Brookhiser was a CPB board member in the 1980s.) Public broadcasters are making a shabby first impression.

#-# How hard-boiled was Mickey Spillane? Try eating concrete for breakfast. I, the Jury, title of his first Mike Hammer book, said it all: Who needs a gutless jury? Spillane filled his books with Communist villains — as if there’s any other kind of Communist. One hundred and thirty million readers agreed. Maybe people aren’t so stupid. Dead at 88. R.I.P.

Read the Editors also on the war in the Mideast here.

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