Politics & Policy

Window on The Week – 9/29/06

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.

#-# Admit it. You were glad to see him again — the wagging finger, the purpling face, the world-class excuse-making. For conservatives, Bill Clinton’s appearance on Fox News Sunday brought back memories of the slickness and solipsism that were our 42nd president. But it couldn’t really be enjoyed, because the subject was too serious for fun. When Chris Wallace asked the entirely sensible question “Why didn’t you do more, connect the dots, and put [al Qaeda] out of business?” the former president went into a rage, almost lunging at his interviewer. “At least I tried [to destroy al Qaeda],” Clinton said. “That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t. . . . I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy.” Virtually every word in that statement was either false or exaggerated, but otherwise it was just fine. Democrats were heartened to see their former leader standing up to what DNC chairman Howard Dean called the “right-wing propaganda machine.” Some even saw in Clinton’s bluster a model for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. To which we say: Give it a try. We’ll be watching.

#-# It had been a good three minutes since the last New York Times leak of classified information, so we were probably due for another. This time, it came in a story on the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). Anonymous government officials told the Times that, according to the NIE, “the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse.” Shortly thereafter, President Bush declassified other judgments from the NIE in order to put the Times report in context. Now we know, for example, that it also said, “Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.” The next day, the Times editorialized: “It’s hard to think of a president and an administration more devoted to secrecy than President Bush and his team. Except, that is, when it suits Mr. Bush politically to give the public a glimpse of the secrets.” Because, you know, the leakers and the Times didn’t have any political motives. (The NIE had been around since April — but April was inconveniently remote from the midterm elections.) We suspect what really bothers the editors of the Times is that the White House beat them at their own game.

#-# So Phil Angelides, the Democrat who wants to be governor of California, says he’d like to pull the state’s National Guard troops out of Iraq. Good luck with that, Phil. As Claremont McKenna professor John J. Pitney Jr. has argued on National Review Online, three obstacles stand in the way: “The first is Article II of the Constitution, which makes the president the commander in chief of ‘the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.’ The second is a federal law forbidding governors from withholding consent to National Guard activation ‘because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such active duty.’ The third is a Supreme Court decision upholding that law.” Then there’s a fourth obstacle: According to recent polls, Californians aren’t likely to make Angelides their governor.

#-# We had three new confirmations this week that the worldview of most journalists puts them just to the left of Tim Robbins. On the Hugh Hewitt radio show, former Washington Post reporter Tom Edsall ballparked the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in newsrooms as “15–25 to 1.” At a PBS panel discussion featuring several prominent journalists, Carl Bernstein asked everyone in the room who voted for Bush to raise his hand — and, lo, no one did. Finally, it was reported that Linda Greenhouse, who covers the Supreme Court for the New York Times, gave a speech at Harvard last summer in which she lamented the “sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism,” and told the audience that, while attending a Simon and Garfunkel concert, she wept over the death of 1960s radicalism. Cheer up, Linda. You and all your colleagues get to spout leftist blather from the most prestigious posts in American journalism. It’s the rest of us who should be crying.

#-# The Centers for Disease Control recommended in a September 22 report that all people aged 13–64 be routinely tested for HIV. The CDC is not recommending that tests be mandatory: Patients would be notified and have the option of refusing. Fears such as those aired by the ACLU — that the tests will, in practice, not be voluntary because written consent is not required — are pure paranoia. Previously, doctors had been advised to offer the test only to patients at high risk of being infected. The new recommendation suggests that these people tended not to take the test, and the statistics corroborate this implication: Forty percent of those diagnosed with HIV were tested because they were suffering from its symptoms, meaning they’d already had the virus, on average, for ten years. If more people at risk of getting AIDS were responsible enough to have themselves tested, these revised recommendations would not have been necessary.

#-# The Intercollegiate Studies Institute released a depressing report this week entitled “The Coming Crisis in Citizenship.” It contained the results of a civics survey conducted on our nation’s college campuses. Freshmen and seniors were asked a variety of basic questions about American history, government, economics, and international relations. Among seniors, the average score was a miserable 53.2 percent. This was only 1.5 percent higher than the average for freshmen. Fewer than half of seniors knew that the Declaration of Independence includes the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . “ So today’s students are entering college with staggering levels of civic illiteracy, and our universities are utterly failing to educate them. It may be wildly fanciful to expect contemporary academics to respect the heritage of Western civilization. But can we at least ask that they not ignore it?

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