Politics & Policy

Window on the Week – 10/6/06

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.

#-# Mark Foley has checked himself into rehab for alcoholism. We hope the scotch was older than the boys.

#-# There is more than enough disgrace in the latest congressional scandal to spread around. Most of it goes to Foley, who repeatedly pro­positioned boys who had been congressional pages. (He resigned when it became public knowledge.) But some must also attach to his Republican colleagues, who did not show sufficient alarm at the early warning signs. When the family of a page requested that Foley end contact with him, House leadership aides told him to comply with the request. Presumably, they took the request seriously because Foley’s interest in young men was well known. But they did not take it so seriously as to launch a real investigation to make sure that other pages had not been endangered. Once the story broke, they spun every which way they could without ever taking responsibility for their mistakes. If Republicans lose their majority over this incident, it will be odd, but it will not be entirely unjust.

#-# Republicans in Washington may find themselves mired in a series of scandals, but in New Jersey these problems belong to the Democrats — and it may cost them the Senate seat of Robert Menendez, who was appointed to it earlier this year after Jon Corzine became governor. In September, federal prosecutors began investigating an arrangement whereby Menendez leased property for $300,000 to the North Hudson Community Action Corporation, a nonprofit group that has received millions of dollars in federal grants at least partly through the efforts of Menendez. In a possibly related controversy, Oscar Sandoval, a psychiatrist, released a tape in which Donald Scarinci, a close adviser to Menendez, appears to demand that Sandoval hire one of Menendez’s patrons or risk losing government contracts worth $1 million. The patron in question, Dr. Vicente Ruiz, once received a six-figure salary from the North Hudson Community Action Corporation. Menendez has denied any wrongdoing, but New Jersey voters are bound to be wary: In the last four years, they’ve seen a Democratic senator (Robert Torricelli) abandon his reelection campaign amid allegations of financial impropriety and a Democratic governor (James McGreevey) resign after gross corruption. Waiting in the wings is Republican nominee Tom Kean Jr., the son of a former governor, a state senator, and a moderate who is now running even with Menendez in the polls.

#-# Check out your yellow pages under “abortion services,” and you might well find an ad touting the fact that the clinic does not operate under a parental-consent requirement. Virginia, for example, has a parental-consent requirement that the District of Columbia lacks. So if you are a Virginia man who has impregnated your underage girlfriend, you will find an ad for a D.C. clinic with the words “No Parental Consent.” Problem solved. Clinics in New Jersey, without a requirement, run such ads in Pennsylvania, which has one. Clinics in Chicago advertise the same way in Indiana. And so on. These ads are designed to facilitate the evasion of state laws that the vast majority of people, and especially parents, support. A majority in Congress wants to tighten enforcement of parental-notification and parental-consent laws. They would make it illegal for an adult to take a minor across state lines to evade these laws. But a minority of Democrats have used every procedural trick in the book to block the legislation. Remember Hillary Clinton’s opposition to this bill the next time you hear about her supposed “moderation” on abortion.

#-# Robert Redeker, who teaches philosophy in a French high school, wrote an op-ed for the conservative newspaper Le Figaro about Islam. Why not? French philosophers have been writing about religion for a long time (Voltaire stuffed his Dictionnaire philosophique with articles on Abraham, Adam, atheism, etc., etc.). Redeker was not kind: He called Mu­hammad “a merciless warlord” and the Koran “a book of incredible violence.” The threats started pouring in by e-mail, one explicitly comparing him to Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker murdered for dissing Islamic culture. French officialdom has issued a mixture of bluster and bleats (“Everyone has the right to express his views freely,” said Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, “while respecting others, of course”). Redeker, in hiding, describes his situation exactly: “This affair is . . . an attack against national sovereignty. Foreign rules, decided by criminally minded fanatics, punish me for having exercised a constitutional right, and I am subjected, even in France, to great injury.”

#-# Fox broke the Revised Standard Version of network and cable news — things happen, we revise them, then that becomes the standard. All the distortion in earlier television news was in a liberal direction. Not that all liberals in the news business distorted: Many wanted, and want, good stories, period. But there was a terrible tropism toward finding them only in the range defined by the Brookings Institution at one end and the PLO at the other. Fox News was launched to cast a wider net. Of course that has reaped them accusations of bias, and of aspirations to Satanic, mind-controlling power. We call it the free press, free at last. Many happy returns.

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