Politics & Policy

Window on the Week – 8/25/06

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.

#-# When Bill Clinton was president, his instinct for the unseemly made daily news. Now that he is an elder statesman, it thrusts itself before the public less frequently. His complaint over turning 60 was the latest instance. Tempus fugit is an ancient theme of poets; all men feel it, young and old. But does lamenting time’s passage become a man in Mr. Clinton’s position? He has undoubted political skills, and some real accomplishments, even from our point of view. He has been the most powerful man in the world, with control over the football. Now is the time for reflection, for counsel, for judgment. Why bewail 60? Because it will be harder to play the saxophone badly in public? To fish in the intern catch-and-release pool? We would say, “Grow up” — except that this would be harder for him than seeing 59 again.

#-# Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts and a GOP presidential hopeful, has a history of polygamy in his family, the Salt Lake Tribune reported this week. Romney’s great-grandfather had five wives, and two great-great-grandfathers had ten each. But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which Romney belongs, has not practiced polygamy since 1890. And as the Tribute article acknowledges, the governor “is a confirmed monogamist of nearly four decades.” Our Kate O’Beirne translates: “Should Mitt Romney join a 2008 race that included John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and George Allen, the only guy in the GOP field with just one wife would be the Mormon.”

#-# For a long time now, the open secret about the CIA leak case has been that Richard Armitage — the former top aide to Colin Powell at the State Department — is the man who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to Robert Novak, setting off one of the world’s greatest wild goose chases. But the Plameologists of the blogosphere aren’t convinced. Even prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s decision not to indict Rove — and his failure, so far, to indict anyone for the alleged crime of revealing Plame’s identity — has not disabused the hard Left of its near-religious belief that the leak was a Cheney plot. Well, now the Left is facing more bad news. You may remember that the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward was also told about Plame’s employment by the CIA. The Associated Press, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Armitage’s old schedules, has found that Armitage had a one-hour private appointment with Woodward on June 13, 2003 — which lines up perfectly with the Armitage-as-leaker scenario. It should be stressed that, if Armitage is indeed the leaker, he has done nothing wrong. But confirmation of his role would destroy once and for all the lefty-blogger conspiracy theory: It’s hard to imagine anyone in the Bush administration farther from the Cheney-Rove-Libby “cabal” than Richard Armitage.

#-# Republicans on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee have made the baffling decision to cut funding for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center in half. This will result in savings of $7 million — a piddling sum by government standards. Yet there is a very real need to provide soldiers with treatment for brain injuries: According to the USA Today report that broke the news, “10% of all troops in Iraq, and up to 20% of front line infantry troops, suffer concussions during combat tours.” When asked to justify the cut, a committee staffer told the paper, “Honestly, [the senators] would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities.” How the committee could fail to find a different $7 million to cut from a $468 billion appropriations bill is beyond us.

#-# Chalk it up to the power of publicity. Two recent papers published in top scientific journals suggested that there might well be ethical ways to produce stem cells that would be a genetic match for patients. A third paper, about a different method of producing stem cells, leaves important ethical concerns unmet and would not result in stem cells genetically matched to anyone. Yet the first two papers have received little attention, and the third has been all over the news. The difference? The third paper was the product of Advanced Cell Technology, a commercial firm with a publicity apparatus. We are great fans of private-sector initiative, but ACT’s goal appears to be devising a flimsy excuse to get around restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research. Its method involves removing a cell from early-stage embryos at fertility clinics. The detached cell would be used to produce stem cells, while the embryo from which it was removed would be implanted in a woman’s womb. The possible breakthrough here is that the embryo would not die in the process of getting the stem cells. But we do not know whether this would be safe for the child down the road, and the genetic-match problem would substantially reduce the medical usefulness of this type of research. For both ethical and practical reasons, then, other methods of producing stem cells without killing human embryos seem more promising — and more deserving of federal funds.

#-# The Council on American Islamic Relations has held a press conference to denounce supposed racial profiling of “people of Middle Eastern and South Asian heritage” at New York’s JFK Airport. We have our doubts as to whether allegations are true, but we certainly hope they are. There is admittedly a limit to how much safety racial profiling can provide us in the War on Terror: The pool of willing suicide bombers includes converts and, in the case of the London terror plot, a Muslim mom. But the inadequacy of relying on profiling alone does not excuse willful blindness to statistics. It is reasonable to harbor more suspicions about Muslim men of a certain age than about members of other groups, yet religion and ethnicity are not, according to current policy, taken into account as risk factors at airport screening. Civil-liberties pieties shouldn’t prevent the development of a smarter, safer system that focuses resources on the greatest risks — and consults all relevant factors in determining who those risks are.

#-# Failed “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who was recruited to the jihad in a juvenile prison while serving time for street muggings, recently explained to the Daily Mail that it was American foreign policy that made him turn to terrorism. No word yet on whose foreign policy made him a mugger.

#-# Iran has responded to the package of incentives that the United States, Europe, Russia, and China offered it in exchange for suspending uranium enrichment. The answer, unsurprisingly, was no. The Iranian regime isn’t honest enough to come right out and say no; its officials are speaking of “serious negotiations” and “a final agreement.” But the response made no reference to uranium enrichment, and it is clear that Iran intends to defy a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring it to suspend enrichment by August 31. The U.N. must now decide whether its word is to mean anything. And the U.S. must decide what it will do if, as is highly probable, Russia and China balk at imposing sanctions on Iran; or if, as is also highly probable, sanctions prove ineffective. A member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts thundered recently that the United States and Israel “should fear the day that our missiles, with a range of 2,000 kilometers, land in the heart of Tel Aviv.” The United States must do whatever is required to ensure that the mullahs cannot put nuclear warheads atop those missiles.

#-# Over the past few years, Tom Cruise has provided us with much harmless entertainment — and that is not even to speak of his movies. He has at various times done trampoline exercises on Oprah Winfrey’s couch; shut down an episode of South Park because it satirized the Church of Scientology; and railed against psychiatry, which he calls “a Nazi science.” Tom’s latest squeeze, one Katie Holmes, recently gave birth to their child. Tom promptly announced to the world that Ms. Holmes would henceforth answer to the name of “Kate,” as this sounded more mature and better became a mother. If maturity is to be our yardstick, we should refer to the 44-year-old Mr. Cruise as “Tommy.” Well, we now hear that Tommy (technically, his production company) has been fired by Paramount Pictures, a subsidiary of media mega-corporation Viacom. Said Viacom’s boss: “His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.” Hard to say which is the bigger surprise here: that movie studios still have the power to fire a super-celebrity like Cruise, or that his antics are sufficiently egregious, by celebrity standards, for them to want to do so.

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