Fred Thompson Rocks NH?

Fred Thompson got a decidedly cool reception in New Hampshire this weekend.

The former Tennessee senator with the baritone drawl showed up Thursday in New Hampshire, the site of the first primary voting, and gave a speech that lasted only nine minutes, skipping over hot-button issues such as Iraq and immigration to invoke platitudes about freedom and strength.

He left more than a few Republicans disappointed. more

The conservative blogosphere is still enraptured with Thompson, but I continue to think it is mainly due to disappointment with the other candidates. Practically anyone would be preferable to Giuliani or McCain, and Thompson may well prove to be the best we can hope for. So far, however, I see nothing to indicate he is the second coming of Ronald Reagan, to whom he is so frequently compared.

There is now at least one Anti-Fred blog, and my guess is that once he starts having to take actual positions on actual issues, rather than mouthing patriotic platitudes, his support will drop precipitously. My big question is his stance on abortion. There is a lot of ambiguity in his record and a few things that are downright disturbing.

Army Morale Dropping Fast

Friday's Wall Street Journal reported on the furious debates underway within the U.S. Army about Iraq. Click here (subscription may be required, sorry).

Last December, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling attended a Purple Heart ceremony for soldiers injured in Iraq. As he watched the wounded troops collect their medals, the 41-year-old officer reflected on his two combat tours in Iraq.

He was frustrated at how slowly the Army had adjusted to the demands of guerrilla war, and ashamed he hadn't done more to push for change. By the end of the ceremony, he says, he could barely look the wounded troops in the eyes. Col. Yingling just had been chosen to lead a 540-soldier battalion. "I can't command like this," he recalls thinking.

He poured his thoughts into a blistering critique of the Army brass, "A Failure in Generalship," published last month in Armed Forces Journal, a nongovernment publication. "America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand," his piece argued. (Read the article.)

I hope LTC Yingling is already eligible for retirement, because his military career is about to screech to a halt. It's too bad, because we need more leaders like him.

In his controversial essay, Col. Yingling pinned much of the Army's failings in Iraq on generals who he says didn't prepare for guerrilla fights in the decade prior to the war, and then didn't adjust as quickly as front-line troops. Young officers had to adapt to survive, he wrote. The generals, products of a system that encouraged conformity and discouraged risk takers, were often a step behind the enemy, he said. "It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations will emerge as an innovator," he wrote. The solution, he said, is to change the way the Army selects and promotes generals, taking into account reviews by subordinates.

Unfortunately, the generals do not appear inclined to listen to this message:

At Fort Hood, Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, the top general at the sprawling base, summoned all of the captains to hear his response to Col. Yingling's critique. About 200 officers in their mid- to late-20s, most of them Iraq veterans, filled the pews and lined the walls of the base chapel. "I believe in our generals. They are dedicated, selfless servants," Gen. Hammond recalls saying. The 51-year-old officer told the young captains that Col. Yingling wasn't competent to judge generals because he had never been one. "He has never worn the shoes of a general," Gen. Hammond recalls saying.

The captains' reactions highlighted the growing gap between some junior officers and the generals. "If we are not qualified to judge, who is?" says one Iraq veteran who was at the meeting. Another officer in attendance says that he and his colleagues didn't want to hear a defense of the Army's senior officers. "We want someone at higher levels to take accountability for what went wrong in Iraq," he says.

The WSJ also mentions a report about the growing difficulty the Army is having retaining junior officers. If you can get past the acronyms, it is a devastating critique. The problem is that captains are, after repeated deployments and little time with their families, leaving the service at an alarming rate. The army's only solution is to offer them $20,000 bonuses to stay, which is actually far less than many enlisted soldiers get.

Meanwhile I read here that morale in Iraq is of concern to General David Petraeus, especially when rumors spread that combat tours would be extended beyond the current 15 months. If morale is so bad that the CG has to personally intervene to stop rumors, it must be far worse than we think.

The blame for all this goes straight up to the White House. Bush stuck with Rumsfeld way too long. Despite the fact we have not one, but two ground wars in progress along with all the other normal contingencies, Rummy dug in his heels against any and all attempts to expand the Army and Marines. Gates is now leading an effort to do so but it will take years to train new troops. Meanwhile, as shown above, we are having a hard time holding on to current forces, and the generals can think of nothing more than to shove more money at the problem.

Slowly but surely, the Iraq fiasco is destroying the finest military force on the planet. And for what? No one is quite sure. Our president can't seem to articulate the reasons anyone should sacrifice anything. I go back to the days after 9/11 when he could have mobilized the country to a real war footing. Instead, he told us all to go about our business. If FDR had taken that approach in December 1941, we'd all be speaking Japanese and German now.

At this point I'm not sure there is a good way out. All the options are bad. Now would be an excellent time for some real leadershipin Washington. Sadly, I don't think we're going to get it.

Giuliani Meltdown

Rudy's having a rough go of it the last week or two.

Among Giuliani's woes:

_Giuliani's South Carolina chairman, state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, was indicted on federal cocaine charges last week and stepped down from Giuliani's campaign. Ravenel's 80-year-old father, Arthur, remains regional chairman for the southeastern part of the state.

_Giuliani drew criticism last week for failing to attend official meetings of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that unanimously called for gradual troop reductions in Iraq. Giuliani said he quit the panel after two months because it didn't seem that he could keep it focused on "a bipartisan, nonpolitical resolution." However, Newsday reported that instead of attending two meetings, Giuliani was at paid speaking engagements.

_New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was elected in 2001 with Giuliani's support, last week switched from Republican to unaffiliated, clearing the way for a possible independent presidential bid.

_Victims' advocates called on Giuliani to fire Monsignor Alan Placa, a Catholic priest suspended from the church over abuse allegations, from Giuliani's security consulting firm. A Giuliani spokeswoman said last week that the company has no plans to fire Placa, a childhood friend of Giuliani's.

_Former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Todd Whitman said New York City, under then-mayor Giuliani, was repeatedly told that Sept. 11 emergency workers on the debris pile should wear respirators to protect their lungs. Whitman testified Monday on Capitol Hill. Giuliani's campaign responded that all ground zero workers were repeatedly told to wear respirators.

The Village Voice also has a very interesting article about Rudy's Catholic faith, or lack thereof. Despite all this, I wouldn't count him out of the race yet. Bill Clinton had far worse thrown at him in 1992 and we still had to live with him for the next eight years. A lot can change between now and the primaries.

Amnesty Bill Fails

The Kennedy-McCain immigration bill was shot down in flames today and is probably dead until after the 2008 elections. I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. On June 9th I said this:

Meanwhile President Bush seems once again unable to know when to give up. He's still pushing Senators to change their minds and is planning a rare personal visit to Capitol Hill next week to twist some arms. I predict Bush will accomplishment nothing except to make himself look even more irrelevant than he already does. Even if he succeeds in getting this bill through the Senate, the chance of it getting through the House is close to zero.

On May 23rd I said this:
My guess is that the new immigration bill has little chance of passing in anything like its current form. This is such a polarizing issue I'm not sure any kind of agreement will ever be possible. It is kind of like Social Security in that regard: we all know the problem is only getting worse, but nobody is willing to make the sacrifices a solution would require. In both cases, there isn't likely to be a happy ending to the story.

While the bill died a well-deserved death, the longer-term political impact may not be so pleasant. As long as the issue is on the table, candidates will be forced to talk about it and the GOP will remain split down the middle. This was, I suspect, the real motivation for Bush and other Republican supporters. They just wanted to pass something, anything, so they could say they have "done something" about the immigration crisis.

This is standard politics: kick the can down the road and let somebody else deal with it. Such decisions are the reason we have these problems in the first place. We don't have leaders who truly want to do what is right. We have politicians who want to get re-elected. They do whatever they think will best support that goal. It's the way politics works in a democracy.

Banned in Texas

I had a new experience today. After I posted a rather mild criticism of something Texas Fred said on his blog, he responded by calling me an ugly name and suggesting I direct my comments elsewhere. I tried to respond again and he has apparently banned me from leaving any more comments. I've never been banned before.

This is particularly odd because I agree with Fred on many issues and have quoted him several times. He's left comments here that were friendly enough. He is a self-described "conservative redneck" and tends toward colorful language on his blog. I also part company with him on some issues, and that's what happened today.

The subject of Fred's post was the ongoing mess in Iraq. I agree it is a mess and we need a different strategy. The problem I had was with this statement:

... this is not just a battle, it IS a war, and soon it will be a World War, and we will either defeat and erase Islam from the face of this earth or they will defeat and eradicate all Christians and Jews…

I might have taken this as exaggeration but he repeated the thought in a comment:

And I am quite serious in that statement too!

There are two problems with this. The first is ethical: war is hell and sometimes non-combatants will get in the line of fire and be killed. That is regrettable but accepted by civilized nations as long as we make reasonable efforts to avoid it. What isn't acceptable are attempts to wipe out entire populations without regard to their individual status. Suggestions that we "erase Islam from the face of this earth" are borderline genocide.

The other problem is more practical. Realistically speaking, it is simply not possible to kill every last Muslim. That's the point I raised on Fred's blog. Here is my comment:

Leaving aside the ethical considerations of such a genocide, is this really a workable plan? Even if we nuked all the major cities in Islamic countries, there would be many millions left. Exactly how are we supposed to get the rest of them? We can’t even find Osama to kill him, and that’s just one guy.

Call me a wussie if you like. I’m just being practical about it.

I was hoping to engage Fred and his readers in a conversation about ways we could accomplish the goal more effectively. Instead, he came back with this:

Tell me all that bull s*** when the sons a bitches are killing us, and you’re not a wussie, but it rhymes with wussie…

Why don’t you find you an nice, less than real American Conservative Redneck blog to comment at?? Do us ALL a favor…

Incidentally, Fred didn't use the s*** substitute, he spelled out the words. I pondered this for awhile then left the comment below. I've tried posting it twice and it won't stay online for more than a minute. I presume this means Fred has applied blocking software that deletes comments from me. For the record, here is what I said that Fred does not want you to see:

Fred, what did I say that is B.S. ? You offered an idea to resolve the Islam problem. I pointed out a possible flaw in your plan. I didn't advocate surrender. I didn't deny that we have a problem. I didn't call you any names. Yet rather than answer the questions I raised and maybe tell me why I'm wrong, you simply call me something that rhymes with wussie and tell me to get lost.

On my blog, I like it when people leave comments disagreeing with me. I engage with them and usually learn something from the exchange. Yes, I have core beliefs that aren’t going to change, but I don’t feel threatened if someone challenges me on them. In your case, I happen to agree with you on a lot of things. All I did was raise a tactical question about how to best achieve the goal, which we both share, of how to save the West from the Jihadists. So I really don’t understand why you responded with such anger.

I note you reserve the right to ban anyone who posts “libber BS.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but from your last comment it sounds like I am getting close to the line. It’s your blog and you can run it however you like, but I’m very surprised if you want to put me in that category. I’m a conservative, Christian, veteran, Texan, law-abiding, loyal American. I’m with you most of the time, especially about Bush, Iraq, and immigration. I really don’t think I said anything offensive.

If your position is that the only people who can leave comments are those who don’t question anything you say, then I guess I should leave. Even allies sometimes have to disagree. Even so, you will remain welcome to comment on my blog anytime you like. Cheers and thanks for the ride.

What makes this even stranger is that just a few days ago Fred took great offense when the moderator on another blog warned him about foul language. Most of his readers agreed the other blog could set its own standards but did not think the particular word was out of line. Fred still could not stand the thought that someone dared to question him.

I'm very open about comments on my blog. I don't get all that many of them but if someone wants to disagree, or post anonymously, I allow it. The only comments I've ever deleted were commercial spam that had nothing to do with the subject of the post.

Fred is certainly entitled to run his blog however he wants. If he doesn't want to read my comments, then it's his loss, not mine. Fred can comment here anytime and I'll discuss any issues that are on his mind.

UPDATE 6/27/07: Fred responded in the comments of this post. Click here to see what he says. Others have chimed in as well.

Today Fred also deleted Driving Out The Snakes from the Naked Bloggers blogroll which he oversees. A word of advice to those listed on his various blogrolls: don't say anything Fred doesn't like or he'll probably delete your blog as well. I had no idea he would be so vindictive.

Everyone please pray for Fred. He's saying things that make no sense, and all I can guess is that he is a deeply troubled person.

The Disappearing Veterans

Veterans accounted for 11 percent of the voting age population in 2000, according to the U.S. Census, down from 21 percent in 1970. By 2030, that figure will shrink to 6 percent, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Service in the military provides perspective on war, perspective on sacrifice," said University of Denver political -science professor Tom Knecht. "To the extent that we're losing that, that might be kind of a problem." more

The professor is right. The story linked above is mainly concerned with the lack of military experience among the current group of presidential candidates. However it was the 11% figure that grabbed my attention. Is it critical that our presidents be veterans? It helps, but isn't absolutely necessary. Nor does it guarantee someone will be a great leader. Jimmy Carter was an Annapolis graduate and veteran, after all.

(Incidentally, while you all know I am no fan of George W. Bush, the argument that he dodged the draft in the Air National Guard is a little unfair. Flying fighter jets is not a safe thing to do, even if no one shooting at you. He was probably in more danger in that cockpit on training flights than a lot of people who went to Vietnam to work inside heavily fortified bases.)

Anyway, the point to be made is that everyone who wears the uniform, in whatever capacity, has faced the fact that they might have to kill or be killed for reasons that are not their own choice. This inspires an awareness of the need to use military force only when absolutely necessary. Since the president is the one who makes that decision, it helps for him to have this personal experience. It wouldn't hurt if Congress did, too.

In Robert Heinlein's classic novel Starship Troopers (the original book, not the execrable movie version), the futuristic society consists of "citizens" who can vote and hold office, and everyone else. How do you get to be a citizen? Simple: serve in the military. It's totally voluntary. There is no draft, and in fact if you apply the military must accept you and find something useful for you to do. Finish your term honorably, and you are discharged and become a citizen.

There is a classroom scene in the book where they discuss the rationale behind this system. It boils down to this: citizenship goes to those who have demonstrated, by their actions, that they are willing to place the common good above their own freedom and safety.

Even in Heinlein's imaginary universe, few were willing to make this kind of sacrifice. It was much easier to accept a "free ride" from those who did serve. Those who served were generally OK with this arrangement, because that's the kind of people they were.

How about our own time? It's not terribly different. Among the key parts of society - say, the educated white males who dominate most businesses and professions - the proportion of veterans is well below 10%. Everyone else assuages their guilt by saying they "care for the troops," but when it comes to actually getting in the line of fire themselves, or letting their own children do so, few heed the call. It's easier to let the other guy do it.

Am I calling for a draft? No. I would be against it, in fact. My point is that the people who run our society are getting a free ride. What we have in America is the opposite of Heinlein's vision: veterans serve honorably and, if they survive, are then outnumbered and largely ignored by the rest of the voters.

Some people will bristle at the term "mercenaries" but it is at least partially accurate in describing what we have built. We hire soldiers, pay them well, and promise them all kinds of benefits. Then we use them - to death, sometimes - to further our national objectives. I don't think it is too much to ask that those who define these objectives have an appreciation for the costs of their decisions. Most do not. Nonetheless, the soldiers will drive on, because that's what soldiers do.

Fred Thompson Unplugged III

Part I
Part II

Fred Thompson has an interesting personal life. In 1959 at the age of 17, he married Sarah Elizabeth Lindsey. It appears she was already bearing his child, since son Tony was born seven months later according to this chronology. Anyway, he did the honorable thing by marrying the girl. They both worked while Fred went through college and law school and had two more children.

Fred's marriage to Sarah ended in a divorce in 1985. This was, perhaps not coincidentally, right about the time his acting career was beginning to take off. There followed a 17-year period of unmarried life during which Thompson is alleged by some to have taken full advantage of the "favors" that are often available to celebrities and politicians.

In 2002, Fred married his current wife, Jeri Kehn and has two young children with her. Jeri was born in 1967, making her 27 years younger than her husband. As this picture reveals, she is a very attractive woman. Some have called her a "trophy wife" and wondered how voters will react to having her as first lady. That may be unfair, but at the very least it gives Democrats an opening to attack Thompson as a hypocrite on family values. If he is the nominee, you will hear a lot about his personal life.

Former wife Sarah, along with several former girlfriends, have reportedly agreed to campaign for Fred if he is nominated, which will be rather strange. Apparently they remain on good terms, though if he has any chance of becoming president it's not surprising that old friends would want to keep in his good graces.

The requisite family photo ops will be odd as well, since it will be far from clear to the casual observer how to tell the difference between Thompson's young wife and his children - two of whom are actually older than their stepmother. Given the weird family structures of modern Americans, however, it may actually get Fred some sympathy. We've all been touched by divorce, remarriage, and the awkwardness that sometimes goes with it.

Some will say all this is none of our business. Like it or not, nothing is off limits in modern politics. These things are all going to be talked about. Skeletons, if there are any, will be brought out of the closet. Voters will decide in the end what matters.

News reports are now suggesting Fred could announce his candidacy sometime this week. Once he does, the honeymoon he has enjoyed so far will end quickly. He'll have to start answering questions, taking positions, and proving himself. We'll learn a lot more about him soon.

Victorian Sensuality

When you think about the Victorian Era, "sensuality" is probably the last thing that comes to mind. The period is more commonly thought of as a time of repressed sexuality, strict morals and general social stuffiness.

Stephanie at La Vie Catholique reviews a new book called Simple Social Graces that suggests the stereotype we have of Victorian society isn't quite right:

Much of this book clarifies some myths that we have about the Victorians that arose largely because of disdain for them, and out of attempts to promote modern ideas about sexuality and more. The author, Linda S. Lichter, explains well how the Victorians were not prudes who all thought sex was dirty and at best a duty, in fact they had such a high regard for it that they kept it where it should be - between husband and wife.

I often wondered, as I studied Victorian literature, just how we got the concept that these people were stiff, cold, unfeeling prudes, because the literature I read swelled with beautiful descriptions of transcendental love, and of deep, yet controlled, passion. The "subtle sensuality" is more romantic than any smut widely seen on TV soap operas today. And isn't it the Victorian elaborate cards and meaningful flowers we think of when Valentine's Day comes around? They were certainly not lacking in love just because they thought it proper to control lust.

Read the rest.

Cheney Exempt From "Rule of Law"

In the American system the Vice President also serves as President of the Senate.  No one else gets to be simultaneously part of both the Executive branch and the Legislative branch.


It appears that the current holder of this office has found a way to use this unique status to his advantage.  Faced with demands from Congress for various kinds of records, Mr. Cheney asserted “Executive Privilege.”  Now, with an agency of the Executive branch seeking to examine the VP’s practices regarding classified material, Cheney claims he is exempt as part of the Legislative branch.


So which is he: Executive or Legislative?  No one knows because no other Vice President has found it necessary to make such absurd arguments in order to hide everything he does.  More on the story here.



Wisdom of the Saints XVII

Grant me the treasure of sublime poverty: permit the distinctive sign of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of your name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging.

St. Francis of Assisi

Pampering the Pooches

Carter, in a royal blue rugby shirt and tie, was ready for his first birthday party. A 6-foot poster bearing his likeness marked the gathering spot at Allyne Park in San Francisco, where 60 of his closest friends dipped their toes in an inflatable pool and noshed on beach-themed cupcakes designed by a food stylist.

Yes, it was a bit over the top for a Yorkshire terrier, but his parents were so proud.

Nobody beats San Francisco when it comes to doting on dogs. It's a city with luxury dog hotels, rooftop dog cocktail parties, a pet cemetery and City Hall plans to turn dog droppings into alternative energy. And the urban legend is actually true: Dogs outnumber children in the City by the Bay. MORE

It is not especially surprising that San Francisco contains more dogs than children. Many inhabitants of that city have through a variety of methods prevented normal human reproduction from taking place. Yet apparently the parental instinct is not so easily suppressed and emerges in canine form.

I have nothing against dogs, though I personally find cats more interesting. In my household we have three of each species. Yet the kind of doting described in the article disturbs me. Read on:

Capitalizing on the dog worship is Ritu Raj, who just opened one of his posh pet resorts, Wag Hotel, in San Francisco. Vacationing owners can leave their beloved dogs and cats in suites with faux leather beds, flat-screen TVs and Webcams, knowing their animals will get daily play dates, organic meals and, for an extra fee, swim time in the pool, pedicures and blueberry facials.

I wonder if the folks who spend this kind of money on their animals realize that there are humans right in their own city who don't have any bed, much less a faux leather one. Saint Francis himself was an animal lover, but somehow I think he would be mightily displeased to see pets so pampered while people are so neglected in the city that bears his name.

Related article: Rise of the DINKs

Hat tip: Mark Shea

Fred Thompson Unplugged II

See Fred Thompson Unplugged for the beginning of this story.

So what about the issues? Is Fred Thompson really as conservative as we are told? Failing that, is he at least better than any of the other candidates?

First, it needs to be remembered that in 2000 most people, including me, thought George W. Bush was at least mildly conservative. We were wrong. I, for one, am determined not to be fooled again. For this reason I am not inclined to give anyone benefit of the doubt this time around. Rudy Giuliani has already taken himself off the list for a variety of reasons.

As regular readers know, my top two issues are Life and War. So we'll start with these then move on to some other subjects.

Abortion: Thompson says he wants the Roe vs. Wade decision reversed and abortion regulation returned to the states. He likes Supreme Court justices such as Scalia, Thomas and Alito, and would appoint others who are like them. As Senator he voted a consistent pro-life position, including in favor of the partial birth abortion ban.

This is, I think, the minimum we should demand from a presidential candidate. But I'd also like to go beyond the bare essentials. I want a president who respects life enough to oppose abortion morally as well as legally. Here Thompson's record is a little murkier:

• On a 1996 Christian Coalition survey, he checked "opposed" to an amendment to the U.S. Constitution "protecting the sanctity of human life."

• He included a handwritten clarification: "I do not believe abortion should be criminalized. This battle will be won in the hearts and souls of the American people."

• In 1996, asked by the Memphis group FLARE (Family, Life, America, Responsible Education Under God Inc.) if human life begins at conception, Thompson circled "N/A." Source

From this it appears that Thompson is anti-Roe but not personally pro-life. As recently as 1996, he wasn't willing to say that life begins at conception. Maybe he's changed is mind since then but I haven't heard about it if so.

Furthermore, the combination of his statements about reversing Roe and that abortion should not be criminalized is troubling. If Fred Thompson were a governor or state legislator, he would apparently want abortion to be legal in his state. He hasn't said this explicitly, as far as I know, but it is the only conclusion I can draw from his record.

My impression is that Thompson is more interested in preserving state's rights than in preventing abortion. This was, of course, the same argument made by 19th-century politicians who wanted to preserve slavery in the South. Fortunately for black Americans, Abraham Lincoln felt otherwise.

Thompson's zeal for Federalism also seems selective. He didn't make any great efforts to, say, eliminate federal highway funds for Tennessee. In the Senate he happily voted for all kinds of intrusions by Washington into matters that properly belong to the states. He seems to bring out the federalist argument when he needs political cover for being on both sides of an issue.

Given all this, Thompson is not exactly what I would call "pro-life." He is certainly preferable to Giuliani in this department, but that's not saying much.

Iraq War and Foreign Policy: Thompson generally supports President Bush on Iraq and terrorist-related issues. In 2003 he was strongly in favor of pre-emptive war against Iraq, and he has not backed down from that position. He now seems eager to move on to Iran.

Just this week Thompson gave a speech in London that nicely outlined his foreign policy beliefs. Daniel Larison has a masterful deconstruction of the remarks so I will not go into detail. Suffice to say that if you like the global situation Bush has got us into, you can count on Fred Thompson to deliver more of the same.

Campaign Finance reform: Thompson supported the 2002 McCain-Feingold legislation that did practically nothing to reduce the role of money in political campaigns. It did, however, make it more difficult for citizens to promote their political views publicly and is regarded by some as a major infringement on first Amendment rights. McCain-Feingold's main accomplishment was to give billionaires like George Soros unprecedented political influence through "527" groups.

Clinton Impeachment: At President Clinton's impeachment trial before the Senate in 1998, Thompson voted to acquit on the perjury charge. He issued a long statement explaining his reasons, which I find unpersuasive. Here is a good summary. Basically, Thompson agreed Clinton lied to the grand jury but did not think it was grounds to remove him from office.

Thompson seems to have a soft spot for perjurers, since he's been lending his name to fund-raising efforts for the Scooter Libby defense. The best I can make of it is that Fred Thompson thinks it is fine for government officials to lie under oath, at least sometimes. It is unclear on what basis he decides which lies can be excused and which should not.

In any case, Thompson's vote in the Clinton impeachment resulted in a 50-50 tie on the perjury charge. Clinton was in no danger of being removed from office, which takes 67 votes. But the even split prevented even the partial victory of a majority finding that the president had committed perjury.

Other issues: There is a lot more I could say but I think you get the idea. The closer you look, the less Fred Thompson resembles the "next Ronald Reagan" image he wants us to accept. I'm listing a few links below with more background.

In the next installment of Fred Thompson Unplugged, we will look at his interesting personal life. Click here.

Fred Thompson On The Issues
Thompson's 1994 Issue Positions
The Thompson Factor
Wikipedia Entry: Fred Thompson

Giuliani's Friends

It just keeps on getting better for Rudy Giuliani. Mayor Tough-On-Crime's campaign chairman in South Carolina, Thomas Ravenel, was indicted yesterday on cocaine distribution charges. Of course the Giuliani campaign denies all knowledge of Mr. Ravenel's illegal activities.

Now ask yourself this: if another candidate, say Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney, had a state chairman charged with drug felonies, would the Giuliani campaign just let it slide? I think not.

Margie Burns makes an interesting point:

But then, a mayor who could use Bernard Kerik as driver, bodyguard and general factotum ostensibly without noticing any of the apparent problems in that area could hardly be counted on to check into the backgrounds or alleged recreational substance abuse of his more remote political allies.

Right. But it's OK. You know we can count on Rudy to protect us from the terrorists.

Rudy's First Priority

Another thing to consider for those who think Rudy Giuliani is just the ticket to keep you "safe" from the terrorist menace:

WASHINGTON - Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why - the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months. MORE

Okay, let's get this straight. Rudy's selling point is that he knows more about protecting America from terrorism than anyone else. He wants to be president so he can do this more effectively.

Given the chance to provide the nation the benefit of his uniquely valuable knowledge, however, Rudy thought it more important that he jet around the country delivering speeches at $100,000+ per day. That is certainly his right, but it also tells us something about his priorities.

The other members of the Iraq Study Group were not exactly sitting around bored, looking for something to do. All were busy in their own lives and careers, but they somehow managed to attend the meetings. Rudy did not. We are left with two possibilities.

1. Rudy knew that he really had nothing to contribute to the Iraq Study Group because he has no experience in foreign policy, intelligence or military affairs. He therefore opted out of the meetings, and is lying when he says his experience qualifies him to be president; or

2. Rudy really is what he claims to be, but will share his expertise with the nation only if we make him president first, or at least pay him $100,000 for each hour of his time. He also demands other benefits.

Neither possibility suggests that this is the person who should be living in the White House. For me, there are plenty of other reasons not to support Giuliani. Plenty of people seem to like him despite his other weaknesses simply because they think he is tough on terrorism. It sounds like this is correct, as long as it doesn't cut into his income.

Sex and Responsibility at Duke

Michael Nifong, the prosecutor who used allegations of rape against three Duke University lacrosse players to promote his own political career is getting disbarred. He will likely face other civil and possibly criminal charges. I have zero patience for those who, entrusted with the powers of the state, use it against innocent people and for their own selfish reasons. So Nifong is getting exactly what he deserves.

Having said that, I'm a little stunned that the lacrosse players are now being portrayed as innocent all-American boys. Yes, they were innocent of the particular crimes with which they were charged in this case. But unless you think wild parties with underage drinking, strippers, racial epithets, and sex with strangers are just good clean fun, these guys are not blameless.

We are losing sight of the fact that our decisions have consequences. Live a life of debauchery and sooner or later it will catch up to you. Yes, maybe you will have a lot of fun first. But when we make such decisions, we shouldn't be surprised when bad things happen to us.

Suppose, for example, that I decide to drive my car recklessly through the streets because I think it will be fun. My decision has several possible consequences.

  • Maybe I will get to my destination safely after enjoying a few thrills, or
  • Maybe I will encounter a police officer who takes a dim view of my recklessness, or
  • Maybe I have an accident, damage my car, and injure myself or others.
If my reckless driving puts me in the hospital, whose fault is it? My own. I placed myself in a situation where bad things were likely to happen. There was no need to drive recklessly; I could have got where I needed to go without taking undue risks. I really have no one to blame but myself.

So it is with the Duke lacrosse team. Their lives seem to be, according to this story, one big nonstop party. It isn't surprising that eventually the odds caught up with some of them. If it hadn't been false rape accusations, something else bad was bound to happen.

The stripper lied. Nifong used her lies for his own ends. Both of them bear responsibility for their own actions. The fact remains, however, that the lacrosse players' own decisions made them vulnerable to what happened. If you don't go to parties with strippers, it is very unlikely that one will falsely accuse you of raping her.

I'm glad justice finally prevailed for these players, but they're not blameless, and they're certainly not heroic. They are actually a symptom of the cultural depravity that now prevails on our elite campuses. The lionization of these lacrosse players is a sign that we still have our heads in the sand about it.

Libby Goes To Jail

On Thursday the judge in Scooter Libby's perjury trial ruled he must go to prison immediately, rather than remain free pending appeals. Some conservatives are furious; the judge (who is a Bush appointee, incidentally) even said he has received threatening letters.

This leaves me puzzled. Back in 1998, conservatives and Republicans couldn't stop talking about what a terrible crime perjury is and how we must preserve the "rule of law." Whatever you think about Bush, Cheney, Iraq, etc., it is factually quite clear that Libby knowingly and intentionally lied to federal agents who were investigating the Valerie Plame leak. That's called perjury. It is a crime. Those who commit it should be punished. What is so hard to understand?

Once again, hypocrisy rules. Many of the same people who wanted Clinton impeached for perjury want Scooter Libby to get a pass. It's not going to happen, and the president does not seem inclined to issue a pardon. I wish the family could be spared this pain and humiliation, but justice must be served.

Fred Thompson Unplugged

The conservative mania for Fred Thompson to enter the GOP presidential race is reaching a fever pitch. Given the dismal set of choices we have so far, it's not particularly surprising that people want a better alternative. Thompson seems ready to oblige and is in fact doing a masterful job building support as a non-candidate.

On the other hand, at this point I think people have pinned so many hopes and dreams on Thompson that there will inevitably be a lot of disappointment when he actually enters the race. When we see him standing on a debate stage with all the other guys, he may no longer be the Great Hope that people imagine him to be.

I haven't ruled out supporting Thompson, but before I get on the bandwagon I need to get a grip on some things about him. I made a big mistake in my evaluation of the current president and I don't intend to be fooled again. So forgive me if it sounds like I'm being hard on the guy. Just remember: the Democrats and the media will throw every bit of dirt they can find at Thompson. I think you would rather hear it now, from me, than be surprised later on.

First, let's talk about Fred's experience. What exactly is it in his background that qualifies him to be president? Well, he's been the CIA Director, a general, an admiral, an FBI Agent, White House Chief of Staff, and of course a District Attorney for many years. Of course he was just acting in these roles, but at least he learned how to look the part.

As for actual experience, Fred spent eight years as a United States Senator from Tennessee. He was elected in 1994 to fill the remaining two years of Al Gore's term after Gore became Vice President. Then he was re-elected to a full six-year term in 1996. In 2002 he chose not to run for re-election and returned to his acting career.

Prior to his acting and senatorial careers, Thompson spent most of his time in Washington D.C. as an attorney and lobbyist. Among other groups, he represented the savings & loan industry on Capitol Hill in the 1980s, and was instrumental in passing legislation which later led to the collapse of the S&Ls and an enormous taxpayer bailout. Does that mean the S&L fiasco was his fault? No, not necessarily. But he'll have to explain how he was involved, and my guess is the making of that sausage wasn't very pretty.

Back to qualifications: does eight years in the Senate qualify one to be president? That is the extent of Thompson's government service, other than time as a congressional staffer. He's often compared to Reagan as an actor turned politician, but Reagan was also Governor of California before he ran for president.

If Fred Thompson is the GOP nominee, it will be hard to argue that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or John Edwards are "inexperienced." Of course they won't be able to say it about Thompson, either. Al Gore, if he gets in the race, would present greater problems for Thompson on this point.

There is something to be said for having an "outsider" as president - but Thompson is anything but a Washington outsider. He's lived and worked there for most of his adult life. Meanwhile Bush, who really is an outsider, hasn't worked out so well.

There is a good reason that most presidents have been either vice presidents, governors or generals. The experience of leading a large organization and making executive decisions requires a whole different temperament than that of a legislator. There are exceptions, of course, but longtime Senators and Representatives rarely get elected, and those who do are usually not very successful as president.

Presidents make life or death decisions that affect millions of people. I think it is fair to ask that they have some background in high-level leadership. If elected, Thompson will be one of the least "experienced" presidents we've ever had. Maybe he has other qualities that will help him overcome this, but it's a big hurdle.

In a forthcoming post we will discuss Fred Thompson on the issues, and then take a look at his personal life. Click here for Part II.

"I'd Close It"

Colin Powell appeared on Meet The Press last Sunday. Here are his comments about the Guantanamo Bay prison.

MR. RUSSERT: Guantanamo, the torture. When John McCain was seeking ways to deal with the issue of torture, you wrote him a letter and you said this: “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.”


MR. RUSSERT: What do you mean?

GEN. POWELL: They are. Guantanamo has become a major, major problem for America’s perception as it’s seen, the way the world perceives America. And if it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I’d close it. And I would not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system.

The concern was, “Well, then they’ll have access to lawyers, then they’ll have access to writs of habeas corpus.” So what? Let them. Isn’t that what our system’s all about? And, by the way, America, unfortunately, has two million people in jail all of whom had lawyers and access to writs of habeas corpus. And so we can handle bad people in our system. And so I would get rid of Guantanamo and I’d get rid of the military commission system and use established procedures in federal law or in the manual for courts-martial. I would do that because I think it’s a more equitable way to do it and it’s more understandable in constitutional terms.

I would always—I would also do it because every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so, essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission. We don’t need it, and it’s causing us far damage than any good we get for it. But, remember what I started in this discussion saying, “Don’t let any of them go.” Put them into a different system, a system that is experienced, that knows how to handle people like this.

Full Transcript

UPDATE: The editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal used their Fox News program this weekend to disagree with General/Secretary Powell on his comments above. Their main arguments seem to be:

1) the prisoners in Guantanamo are really, really bad people, and
2) Phooey on whatever other nations think about us.

Here is a transcript. Scroll down past the John Yoo interview.

Take A Deep Breath

In the last few days Texas Fred has launched a graphical and rhetorical jihad against President Bush. It was precipitated by Bush's claim to personal ownership of the U.S. government along with his obstinate efforts to impose open borders on the country whether the legal residents want such a thing or not.

As far as I know, Fred has never been a big fan of Bush. So he doesn't mind saying things like this. Here's a sample of the fun.

And oh yeah, that oath you took, the one where you swore to defend this nation from ALL enemies, both foreign and domestic, you need to re-think that part of the equation too Mr. Bush, because AT THIS TIME, you Mr. Bush, and your cohorts in the Senate and Congress, the ones that support you in your effort to make the United States a northern province of Mexico, are as big a threat to the security of this nation as is ANY terrorist…

You Mr. Bush, are a TRAITOR to this nation and to the LEGAL citizens OF this nation and YOU are a disgrace to the office of President of the United States…

This quote is even better.
This man has lost his mind, his grip on reality and every time he opens his mouth he further endangers this nation in ways we have not yet begun to see…

John McCain is also in Fred's crosshair (idiot, traitor, liberal, etc).

I would probably have used somewhat less incendiary language, but Fred has his own style that I can't imitate. I'm in general agreement with the sentiments. As a political matter Fred is exactly right: this immigration bill means amnesty and open borders.

Bush, McCain and their henchpersons are apparently OK with amnesty and open borders, and they thought they could push the bill through before the rest of us noticed. What does this tell us? Two things. First, they are really evil. Second, they think the rest of us are really stupid.

Hopefully the Senate will soon kill this ill-considered legislation once and for all. Meanwhile I am worried about Texas Fred. I think his head may spin right off before Bush leaves office. We all need to help him relax. Any ideas? I'm not sure flowers would do the job. Maybe a Bush dartboard? A McCain punching bag? A really long book to read? Trip to France? Please do whatever you can.

Immigration Bill On Life Support

Lost amid the Paris Hilton news this weekend is the apparent failure in the Senate of the new immigration bill. I expected as much but I thought it would take longer. The bill was doomed from the start, in my opinion. In crafting a "comprehensive" solution, the authors put in something for everyone to like. This means there was also something for everyone not to like.

If our political heroes actually want to get something done - which is doubtful - the better idea would be to take an incremental approach. Find a few minor points everyone can agree on and pass them into law. Do what you can instead of insisting on this all-or-nothing deal.

Meanwhile President Bush seems once again unable to know when to give up. He's still pushing Senators to change their minds and is planning a rare personal visit to Capitol Hill next week to twist some arms. I predict Bush will accomplishment nothing except to make himself look even more irrelevant than he already does. Even if he succeeds in getting this bill through the Senate, the chance of it getting through the House is close to zero.

Blogger Problem

For unknown reasons, did not add Friday's Driving Out The Snakes post to the RSS feed. That means it did not reach Feedburner, which means a lot of you didn't get to see this story about embryonic stem cell research. You can follow the link to read it on my blog home page.

Is anyone else out there having this problem? I sent a message to support but haven't received an answer yet.

Touch Her Dress And Be Healed!

If there was any doubt whether Nancy Pelosi has ambitions beyond being Speaker of the House, this ought to answer it:

“Science is a gift of God to all of us and science has taken us to a place that is biblical in its power to cure.”

Science is, of course, a wonderful thing and has greatly improved all our lives. But "biblical in its power to cure" sounds a wee bit more optimistic than mere humans ought to be. A good Catholic (hah!) like Ms. Pelosi should know this.

The subject Ms. Pelosi is discussing in the quote above is a new attempt by Congress to authorize federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. President Bush vetoed the last such bill and has said he will nix this one as well.

The controversy over ESCR involves a great deal of false information. The most common misunderstanding is that Bush has "banned" ESCR. He has not. Such research is perfectly legal in the United States. The argument is about whether the federal government should pay for it or not. No one is stopping scientists from carrying out ESCR if they can find other sources of funding.

Now stop and think for a minute. We are told that ESCR is the key to curing many painful and debilitating diseases. "The lame will be able to stand and walk" is one common claim. OK. Suppose this is true. Do you think people would be willing to pay for such a cure? Maybe pay a lot? Of course they would.

That being the case, if the cure really is just around the corner, why waste all this time and effort trying to get federal funding? Form your company, get backing from venture capitalists, and get to work. You are sitting on a gold mine.

This is, in fact, how most of our modern medical breakthroughs have been made. Private enterprise is a lot more efficient than government-funded research at actually getting things done. Investors zero in on the projects with the best chance of success, and if they are correct they get handsomely rewarded.

This is not happening with ESCR. Instead, people sit around moaning and groaning about how Bush is letting his religious beliefs stand in the way of scientific progress.

The fact is that scientists know that producing actual medical breakthroughs with ESCR is a very long shot. Big-money investors know it, too, so they aren't willing to gamble on ESCR. They will, however, be glad to let the taxpayers pick up the bill for research that may, once in a blue moon, actually turn out something useful. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies will then use this "free" information to pad their own profit margins.

Meanwhile, research using adult stem cells, umbilical cord cells, and other sources that do not involve the destruction of young humans, and that has already produced actual cures and saved real people, proceeds along slowly but surely, out of the limelight. This is where the real promise can be found, but we don't hear so much about it.

I am against ESCR because it involves the destruction of a human life. Yes, it's a very young human life, but we were all there once. ESCR is really nothing more than a form of cannibalism, wherein we consume the young of our species in order to save ourselves. (Here is a good overview of the ethical issues surrounding ESCR.)

However, even if you disagree with the ethical argument against ESCR, there remains the economic question. Where we should direct our limited resources? Do we really want to trust politicians to decide which medical projects are funded? Keep in mind these are the same people who run the Post Office so efficiently and the IRS so compassionately. Need I say more?

ESCR is, for lack of a better term, a fraud. It is a blatant attempt by wealthy investors to have taxpayers subsidize research they will, maybe, if it ever works, use to make themselves even wealthier. This alone is reason enough to oppose it. The fact that young humans must die in the process is another reason.

Unfortunately, the truth about ESCR is obscured behind so much smoke that most people don't understand what they are really supporting. Pelosi will get her way, eventually. Will cures follow? Probably not. What will follow is more death and destruction. We never seem to learn.

He Cannot Tell A Lie

WASHINGTON, DC—Breaking a 211-year media silence, retired Army Gen. George Washington appeared on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday to speak out against many aspects of the way the Iraq war has been waged.

Washington, whose appearance marked the first time the military leader and statesman had spoken publicly since his 1796 farewell address in Philadelphia, is the latest in a string of retired generals stepping forward to criticize the Iraq war.

"This entire military venture has been foolhardy and of ill design," said Washington, dressed in his customary breeches and frilly cravat. "The manifold mistakes committed by this president in Iraq carry grave consequences, and he who holds the position of commander in chief has the responsibility to right those wrongs." Click to continue

Driving Out The Cats

Don't ask me how it's done, but this is really funny. Click on each cat to read his favorite story.

The Giuliani Christians

Lightning struck the Republican debate in New Hampshire last night, literally, and it had the pleasant effect of silencing Rudy Giuliani's microphone just as he was trying to explain his position on abortion. Clearly God has a sense of humor. Video

Regulars readers will know that the idea of Giuliani becoming president is anathema to me. Moreover, I'm mystified how otherwise conservative, pro-life, pro-family Christians can support him. Via Carl Olson, I found this enlightening article on the subject.

A number of Giuliani’s fans in the Fourth Estate, such as Cal Thomas, Richard Brookhiser, and the editorial writers for the neoconservative New York Post, have revealed some of the reasons for the Religious Right’s attachment. Religious Protestants have come to view the issues that Giuliani has emphasized, “national security” and “fighting terror,” as more crucial than those family issues they stressed in the past. Thomas, who is himself a professing Christian but with a neoconservative, Zionist twist, stated the opinion on March 13 that such prioritizing indicates a definite “maturing” among his coreligionists. This seems to be the general view of the establishment conservative press in the U.S., which remains agog over Giuliani’s candidacy and his stand on terrorism.

The problem is that nothing in Giuliani’s past, except for rhetorical posturing, would suggest that he is especially equipped to deal with international terrorists. Although violent crime in New York City declined under his administration, the same general trend could be observed in other American cities, and that trend might be related to demographic factors and to the building and use of prisons as much as to Giuliani’s vaunted toughness. And there is not necessarily a connection between getting criminals and derelicts off the streets in the Big Apple and apprehending international terrorists. The two would seem to involve different skills...

Since the younger generation of neoconservatives tends to be either on the Left on social issues or totally indifferent to them, and, like Giuliani, makes no secret of welcoming illegal immigrants into the country, Giuliani’s domestic stands pose no problem for them. The Religious Right is going with the conservative media flow by rallying around Giuliani, playing its long-established role as supplier of Republican foot soldiers and movement-conservative groupies.

But it must be stressed that the issue that has come to trump all other evangelical concerns is fighting the war on terror. Cal Thomas has extolled his fellow evangelicals to recognize the big picture: “Character is seen as less important than who can face the multiple challenges facing the nation”—specifically, the struggle against international terror. From the evangelical perspective, this confrontation with terror is so intertwined with other issues that it serves as a kind of shorthand. Israel, Zionism, and the glorification of American democracy as a world model are all at least implicit in the evangelical conception of the struggle against terror—one that Giuliani is imagined to be able to lead better than any other presidential contender.

I am deeply afraid that the Christians who think Rudy will keep them "safe" will turn out to be sheep led to slaughter. I recommend these people read Psalm 146:3. "Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation." As citizens in a democracy we are obliged vote for whoever we think is best qualified. Yet we must not fool ourselves into thinking that any earthly leader will be our savior.

Let's be blunt: why exactly does our nation deserve to be kept safe? Check out the Abortometer on my sidebar. Currently, almost 5.5 million babies have been killed in the United States since the beginning of the Iraq war. These are real deaths. They aren't hypothetical casualties of a war that may or may not reach our shores again.

If God wants to let Islamic terrorists to blow up a few American cities (which I think is entirely possible), neither Rudy Giuliani nor anyone else will be able to stop it. Conversely, if God chooses to spare us from destruction He can easily use whoever we put in the White House to do it.
This being the case, our goal as Christians should be to demonstrate that we as a nation have repented and should be delivered from the fate we really deserve. Is electing as our leader someone who is, like Rudy, morally confused about abortion, homosexual behavior, marital fidelity, torture, crime, and war, likely to convince the Lord to look with favor upon us? I think not.

What the Giuliani Christians are really saying is they put a bigger value on their own hides than they do the lives of millions of innocents. They are making the same mistake that the children of Israel made several times in the Old Testament. Every time, God found ways to get their attention.

He will do so again. Count on it.

Red Carpet For Terrorists

In the recent case of the man with drug-resistant tuberculosis, most of the news coverage revolved around his extreme narcissism. There is certainly plenty to say on the subject. Yes, both local and federal officials failed to react quickly enough, but in time they let him know he was a threat to other people and needed to be isolated. He still chose to get on an airplane and expose not only hundreds of strangers but his own wife to his potentially fatal condition. "Selfish" is definitely an appropriate description for his behavior. There is another angle to this story, though, and it has to do with border security.

Having flown back from Europe to Montreal rather than straight to the U.S., reportedly because he knew he was on the no-fly list, this gentleman entered the U.S. via rental car at Champlain, New York. By this point the wheels of government had turned enough to flag his passport in the immigration computers.

The screen the agent looked at, when this person attempted to enter the U.S. from Canada, said he had a contagious disease and should be detained and isolated. So what happened? Thinking to himself the man did not look sick, the agent welcomed the TB carrier home and wished him a nice day.

Keep in mind, this person was not trying to hide his identity. He wasn't sneaking across the border in darkness. The staff at the border checkpoint, whose job is to keep dangerous people out of the United States, knew exactly who he was and how they were supposed to react if he appeared. They just didn't do it.

If this is indicative of the motivation and training of the people who guard our borders, it doesn't really matter how much money we spend on fences or how many background checks we run on immigrants. We might as well roll out a red carpet for terrorists - especially terrorists who are carrying deadly viruses.

The U.S. managed to fight and win World War II in less than four years. It's been almost six years since 9/11 made clear that there are people who want to kill mass numbers of Americans. Why are our borders still not secured? If our government can't even stop a lawyer with TB when they know he is coming, it is only a matter of time before terrorists enter the country with a far more deadly disease.

Oh, I remember now. We're fighting them in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here. The Bush Administration is working hard to keep out foreigners who might threaten places like, say, Fort Dix or JFK Airport. Got it. I feel safer already.

UPDATE: Congress mad too.

Random Border Thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about the whole immigration quandary. I think I've come to the conclusion that, for me at least, it's almost completely about national security. If we have no practical control over who crosses our borders - and we even admit as much - then the United States is not a functioning nation.

I don't particularly mind if people from other countries come here to work. If I lived in a Central American slum and watched my family suffer day and night, I would go wherever I could to make enough money to better provide for them. I can't blame anyone for doing whatever they can to build a better life.

The problem is that some percentage of those who enter the U.S. illegally are not coming to seek honest work. Maybe they are criminals. Maybe they are lazy and think they can live better on welfare here than they can by working for pennies an hour at home. Maybe they are terrorists who want to hurt Americans. We need to stop such people from entering our country, while at the same time welcoming those who truly want to be contributing members of our society.

Some argue that immigrants take jobs away from law-abiding Americans. Maybe in a few specific occupations that is true, but in the aggregate our economy is now operating at nearly full employment. Businesses need labor of all kinds. The wages they offer are the magnet that attracts people to cross the border. Are immigrants willing to work for less than Americans? Maybe. What counts is they are willing to work. There's nothing wrong with an employer hiring the least-expensive workers he can find, as long as they aren't be exploited or enslaved.

This brings up the next point. The illegal immigrant population has certain benefits for Americans. Their presence allows us, for example, to have inexpensive lawn care, construction, restaurant service, nanny service, and a variety of other things. We all like having these things. If by some miracle we were able to expel all the illegals, what would happen to our economy? To the extent we need the services they provide, we would all suddenly have to pay a lot more and we would have to reduce our spending elsewhere. The result would be recession.

Suppose, by another miracle, we are able to not only expel all the illegals but also secure the southern border so that no more are able to cross. What would happen on the other side? The U.S. acts as a kind of relief valve for the dysfunctional Mexican economy. The money illegals send back to their families would be sorely missed. There would soon be serious social unrest in Mexico, and violence would probably follow. Having such a burning cauldron right next door would be problematic for the U.S., to say the least.

So what we need is a filter: a wall with doors in it, doors that are closely guarded and through which are allowed only the people we determine are non-threatening. What about those who are already here illegally? They need to go through the same process. Give them a reasonable time to register, check them out thoroughly, and let them stay. After a deadline, anyone who fails to register should go to prison. Call the "amnesty" if you want, but I don't see any practical way around it.

Incidentally, the concern many on the right have about "law-breaking" immigrants would be a lot more convincing if they would stop making excuses for the Bush Administration's own railroading of the Constitution and defiance of laws it doesn't like. A lot of these people are all for enforcing the law on people they don't like, while exempting themselves and their friends.

Now some of you will say that immigrants consume an extraordinary amount of tax money for various government services. This may well be true. Is it relevant? The fact is most of these "services" should not exist in the first place, for anybody - American or otherwise. Get rid of them, use the money on border security and we can kill two birds with one stone.

Another argument is cultural: immigrants don't assimilate and become real Americans. For some this is probably true, but I'm not sure the current wave of Mexicans we are seeing is all that different from past mass migrations of people from other cultures to the U.S. Once in the melting pot they eventually lose their prior identity and become Americans. The problem is that it takes 2-3 generations for this process to work. Children of immigrants want to speak English and become part of the larger culture. This process would be helped along if we would eliminate bilingual education from our public schools, but that's another subject.

So my problem with the current immigration proposal boils down to this: it's not serious. The laughable background checks that would be done before granting Z visas would do nothing to stop undesirables from being here, and may even attract more. I don't trust the Bush Administration to really do anything about border security. I'd like to be proven wrong. If they will actually build the fences and hire the Border Patrol agents that Congress has already authorized, it would be a good start. I'm not holding my breath. If, as the president says, the U.S faces threats to its very existence, there is no excuse for leaving the border virtually open.

Awake After 19 Years

A man in Poland is awake after 19 years in a coma.

Railway worker Jan Grzebski, 65, fell into a coma after he was hit by a train in 1988.

"Now I see people on the streets with mobile phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin," he told Polish television.

He credits his survival to his wife, Gertruda, who cared for him.

Doctors gave him only two or three years to live after the accident.

Mr. Grzebski's wife, Gertruda, cared for him all those years, moving him every hour to prevent bed sores. That's devotion. She obviously took her "til death do us part" vow seriously.

Contrast Mrs. Grzebski with Michael Schiavo, who also had an unconscious spouse with (allegedly) no hope of recovery. Within three years he was trying to withhold treatment for a potentially fatal urinary tract infection; clearly he did not wish to be troubled by caring for Terri. Eventually he succeeded in starving her to death. Nonetheless, her fight goes on.

Life can be just as mysterious as death. Why do some people go into these comatose or vegetative states, only to wake up years later, while others linger a painfully long time and then die naturally? We do not know.

Maybe we cannot know, because He who gives life for reasons of his own also
takes life for reasons of His own. We aren't capable of understanding it, any more than a mouse can understand trigonometry. It is beyond our comprehension. What we do know is that we are expected to preserve life as much as we can, within our limited abilities. Mrs. Grzebski did so, and now she has her reward.

UPDATE: Here is a more detailed story from AP via AOL.

UPDATE 2: I see here that now there are conflicting stories about whether Mr. Grzebski was actually in a coma for 19 years or not. That is what BBC and AP say, and I can't find any record they have issued corrections. On the other hand, The Guardian apparently says he was injured and in a coma for only four years and has since been conscious. I don't know who is right, but to be fair I'm giving you the other version of the story.

Victory or Death - Lots of It

This story raises an interesting point. If you are against the Iraq war, and especially if you are a member of Congress, what can you do about it? Republicans from the president on down insist they aren't "questioning the patriotism" of war opponents, and they claim to recognize that Congress has at least some role in the decisions. Follow the arguments through, however, and it's clear there is not as much flexibility as they claim.

Last month, for example, the president vetoed a war-funding bill because it contained benchmarks that could have begun the process of withdrawal from Iraq. He later signed another version without the timetables. The White House position seems to be that, having authorized military force, Congress is now obligated to provide unlimited funding for an unlimited length of time until the president concludes that the war is over.

Strategically, of course, it is not a good idea to announce your intention to withdraw from combat on some particular date in the future. On the other hand, sometimes retreat is the best strategy. On such occasions it has to be executed somehow. In the current situation, I'm sure the generals can figure out a way to make it happen with at least as much order and security as are involved in not retreating.

Republican critics taunt the Democrats for being unwilling to use their "power of the purse" to end the war. Does anyone really believe that if the Democrats actually tried to cut off the war funding, the Republicans would just throw up their hands and say "Fair enough, you can do that?" Nonsense.

Consider the last time something similar happened. In the 1980s Reagan wanted to support insurgents in Nicaragua. Congress would not appropriate funds for this purpose. What happened? They found money elsewhere - by selling weapons to Iran and then directing the profits to the Nicaraguan Contras. The resulting "Iran-Contra" scandal made Oliver North famous. Conservative pundits back then were uniformly in favor of this end-run around Congress. Want to bet they won't try it again?

So here is the bottom line of current White House/GOP logic:

  • First, the president can invade other countries whenever he wishes. Hopefully Congress will agree, but the president doesn't need their permission.
  • Second, Congress is obliged to provide funding for any and all war purposes the president defines. This obligation is unlimited and permanent. If they refuse, they are unpatriotic and don't care about the troops.
  • Third, any war we begin must be prosecuted to the bitter end. Nothing less than complete victory is acceptable. This is true even if the majority of the American people want the war to end. We will spend as much money and lose as many lives as it takes to win.
Is this really the kind of power we want presidents to have? Keep in mind that you are giving it not only to Bush but to all future presidents. Hillary Clinton, for example, will get the same privileges if she moves back into the White House. Ditto Barack Obama, John Edwards, and anyone else you are to have nightmares about.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that "victory" is sometimes impossible to achieve. Such is the case in Iraq right now, in my opinion. The U.S. simply does not have the forces necessary to secure a lasting peace in that country. Bush has deluded himself into thinking that we are winning no matter what happens. He's reportedly said he is arranging affairs so his successor will have no choice but to continue the war and achieve "our country's destiny."

At some point, even the most hawkish Republicans will have had enough. We are going to withdraw from Iraq; the only question is when. We can keep on losing young soldiers and Marines by the dozens - or we can make the best of a bad situation and end it now.

A Movement Torn Apart

Peggy Noonan, now a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, was a top speech writer for Ronald Reagan. For the past few years she's been in a kind of slow burn over the way Bush has squandered opportunities and betrayed conservative principles. She has, I think, been trying to nudge him back, gently and eloquently.

With today's column Ms. Noonan appears to have gone over the edge. Her last straw is the attack campaign the administration has unleashed on conservative who oppose the latest immigration reform plan.

For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.

But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."

The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism." MORE

I distinctly remember Ms. Noonan's column reacting to the utopian rhetoric of Bush's second inaugural address in 2005. Read it now and you'll detect the seeds of her current disappointment. At the time I thought she was being too hard on him. Now I see what she meant. Bush has almost single-handedly destroyed the conservative movement that took decades to build.

Peggy Noonan is so respected and so widely read that I have to think her column is sending shock waves through the GOP establishment. It won't matter, of course. As she says, the White House no longer cares what anyone thinks. Bush is playing to the history books now.

If nothing else, Ms. Noonan gave bloggers a lot of material today. As of this evening Newsgator detects 61 links to her column. A quick perusal found one story defending Bush but most are in total agreement with Ms. Noonan. Check out the reaction from Stephen Bainbridge, Rod Dreher, Daniel Larison, Mark Shea, and even Texas Fred.