OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – October 5, 2007


Best of the Web Today – October 5, 2007


    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: James Freeman interviews FDIC chairman Sheila Bair.

    Random Bits From the News
    “Nearly one out of every five Democrats thinks the world will be better off if America loses the war in Iraq,” according to a new Fox News poll:

    The percentage of Democrats (19 percent) who believe that is nearly four times the number of Republicans (5 percent) who gave the same answer. Seven percent of independents said the world would be better off if the U.S. lost the war.

    Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports from Waterloo, Iowa, that “Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he doesn’t wear the American flag lapel pin because it has become a substitute for ‘true patriotism’ since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks”:

    “The truth is that right after 9-11 I had a pin,” Obama said. “Shortly after 9-11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.

    “I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he said in the interview. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism.”

    And up in Oregon, the Sandy Post reports that Julie Slavik wanted to protect her son from exposure to the National Guard, which conducts team-building exercises with freshmen at Sandy High School:

    “I started calling some parents and asked them if they knew anything about it,” said Slavick. “I talked to 12 people and nobody knew what was going on. Some of them had been out of class for two days, others for four days. Every parent I spoke with thought it was a little strange.”

    Slavick took her complaint to school administrators and they excused her son, Victor, from participating in the exercises. . . .

    Julie Slavick, for one, appreciates the effort that these organizations put into helping the students, but remains skeptical about what a group like the National Guard brings to the classroom.

    “I think it’s great an outside body would want to do something like that, but it seems a little subversive to have military bonding with kids” she said.

    What do these stories have in common? Certainly nothing that we can think of. (Whatever you do, don’t estionquay their atriotismpay.)

    Bush vs. Bush?
    “Former President Clinton has said his wife wants him to lead efforts to rebuild the United States’ tarnished reputation abroad–if she is elected to the White House next year,” the Associated Press reports from London:

    “What Hillary has said is that if she were elected she would ask me, and others–including former Republican presidents–to go out and immediately try to restore America’s standing, go out and tell people America was open for business and cooperation again,” he was quoted as telling the newspaper.

    He said for the first time in his political experience, “ordinary Americans in the heartlands” were concerned about how the world sees the U.S. after years of unilateralism of President Bush’s administration on issues such as Iraq, climate change, and nuclear nonproliferation.

    We’d like to see the list of the former Republican presidents Mrs. Clinton intends to enlist in her campaign to undo the damage of the Bush years.

    Conscience of a Former Enron Adviser
    Remember Paul Krugman? Once a promising young economist, he ran into hard times in the 1990s, when he served as an adviser to Enron, an ill-fated energy company. Subsequently he was reduced to writing angry op-eds for the New York Times. In 2003 he published a memoir, and two years later he mysteriously disappeared from public view. But last month he resurfaced, still writing his Times column.

    Today’s column is a classic–a jeremiad against laughter and joy. Rather than argue with conservatives on policy grounds, he denounces them for having a sense of humor. His closing line:

    So once again, if you’re poor or you’re sick or you don’t have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.

    Apparently there are a lot of New York Times readers who go to bed hungry each night. Well, that’s probably true. They’re all on a diet.

    Krugman also has a new book out called “The Conscience of a Liberal.” There was something vaguely familiar about this title, so we punched it into Amazon.com, and sure enough, it turns out Krugman has “borrowed” his title from a man who is no longer around to defend his intellectual property, Sen. Paul Wellstone. Wellstone published a book also called “The Conscience of a Liberal” in 2001, the year before he died in a plane crash.

    But the idea was not original even to Wellstone. Chester Bowles, who had served as governor of Connecticut for a couple of years at midcentury, published “The Conscience of a Liberal” in 1962. The 1975 reprint is available from Amazon.com for just $92.95.

    And Bowles would appear to have gotten the idea from Barry Goldwater, who published “The Conscience of a Conservative” in 1960. The Publishers Weekly review of Krugman’s version of “TCOAL” does pay homage to Goldwater, though not Wellstone or Bowles:

    Krugman’s stimulating manifesto aims to galvanize today’s progressives the way Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative did right-wingers in 1964.

    Nineteen sixty-four, of course, was the year Goldwater ran for president. He racked up nearly 38.5% of the electoral vote and carried six states, five of them for the wrong reason.

    It’s probably overly optimistic to think a “progressive” will do as well anytime soon.

    ‘Macho Pen’
    Democrats won control of Congress last year in large part because Republicans, supposedly the party of fiscal responsibility, spent like crazy during the dozen years they were in control. Democrats, naturally, decided to spend like crazy while posing as the party of fiscal responsibility–and why not? After all, it worked so well for the Republicans.

    One good thing about divided government is that the president doesn’t have a partisan interest in promoting the congressional majority’s overspending. So George W. Bush has actually begun wielding his veto pen. Earlier this week the president vetoed a massive health-care entitlement for the poor (“poor” in this case being defined to include the poor, the middle class, the upper middle class, and some of those who, for purposes of tax policy, the Democrats consider rich).

    But then things took a bizarre turn. Harry Pelosi and Nancy Reid, the Democratic congressional leaders, got angry at President Bush’s pen. Seriously! Here’s a quote from the Pelosi statement:

    “Today the President had an opportunity to sign a bipartisan bill that will bring health care to 10 million children in families struggling to make ends meet. Instead, President Bush used his cruel veto pen to say ‘I forbid 10 million children from getting the health benefits they deserve.’ . . .”

    Reid’s comment, quoted by the Associated Press, is even weirder:

    “You cannot wring another ounce of compromise out of this,” Reid said. “The president, what he has done with his macho pen, is really hurt children. He thinks he can waltz in here with his secretary of Health and Human Services, and sweet talk us–he can’t. This is a man who is out of touch with reality.”

    “Macho pen”? Is there perhaps a psychiatrist among our readers who can explain what that’s all about?

    The Truth About Race and Justice Thomas
    We’ve been writing a lot about Justice Clarence Thomas this week, and we thought it would be a good idea to revisit an item last week, because it turns out Thomas’s new memoir casts light on it. In that item, we noted that the New York Times’s Bob Herbert had, surprisingly, expressed his opposition to “affirmative action” quotas. As Herbert wrote:

    In 1991, the first President Bush poked a finger in the eye of black America by selecting the egregious Clarence Thomas for the seat on the Supreme Court that had been held by the revered Thurgood Marshall. The fact that there is a rigid quota on the court, permitting one black and one black only to serve at a time, is itself racist.

    As it turns out, Thomas’s book refutes the idea of “a rigid quota on the court.” Thomas himself wondered if he’d been chosen because of his race, and on page 216 he describes what he found out:

    After I had been on the Court for about five years, I raised the topic of my nomination with Boyden Gray [who had served as White House counsel] over lunch. He had always been candid with me, so I asked him a straight question, knowing that he would give me a straight answer: was I picked because I was black? Boyden replied that in fact my race had actually worked against me. The initial plan, he said, had been to have me replace Justice Brennan in order to avoid appointing me to what was widely perceived as the court’s “black” seat, thus making the confirmation even more contentious. But Justice Brennan retired earlier than expected, and everyone in the White House agreed that I needed more time on the D.C. Circuit in order to pass muster as a Supreme Court nominee. . . .

    While I was at it, I asked Boyden why President Bush had described me as “the best qualified [nominee] at this time.” Even I had had my doubts about so extravagant a claim. “No one ever bothered to ask what our criteria were,” Boyden said. He explained that the president had been looking for someone who was not only competent at doing the job but who had also been tested in political battle and thus could be counted on not to cave in under the pressure of a confirmation battle, or to change his views after being appointed to the Court. I definitely qualified on that score.

    One of Thomas’s key qualifications, then, was that he had the tenacity to make it through a vicious confirmation process. Inasmuch as Democrats, by making the process so vicious (cf Robert Bork), were responsible for making this quality necessary, they have themselves to thank for Justice Thomas’s lifetime appointment to the court.

    Meanwhile, on the question of Anita Hill and the District of Columbia Bar Exam, which she is very proud to have passed, reader Bruce Stewart offers a qualified defense of Hill:

    I have never met Hill, but I graduated from Yale Law School in 1981, a year after she did. I then went to work at Wald, Harkrader & Ross, the same D.C. firm Hill went to after her graduation. If we overlapped at all, I don’t recall it.

    WH&R required that its new lawyers take and pass the D.C. Bar Exam within some prescribed period of time. This was common among D.C.-based firms. (Federal government attorneys needed only to be a member of any state’s bar, regardless of where their office was located.)

    The D.C exam at that time was considered one of the more difficult exams, closer in difficulty to the New York exam than to the Pennsylvania or Virginia exam. It consisted of the multistate section and the “D.C. law” section, which were administered, respectively, as multiple-choice and essay exams. The latter required a great deal of study for people like Hill and me (and the vast majority of new lawyers in large, private firms) because, not having gone to a D.C. law school, our exposure to D.C law before the bar review courses was precisely zero.

    The only way to gain admittance to the D.C. Bar at that time without taking the D.C. exam was to “waive in” through membership in another state’s bar. But this option was not available until some prescribed period of time (I believe it was three years; it might have been five) had elapsed as a member in good standing of the other bar, and so was not an option for Hill (or me, or any other new attorney at WH&R).

    In the years since the early 1980s, the D.C. Bar has relaxed its admission requirements. I don’t know the details, but I do know that taking other states’ exams and waiving in is more common now. In any event, these changes are irrelevant to the circumstances that Hill faced in the early 1980s.

    So perhaps Hill was right in her New York Times op-ed to characterize the D.C. Bar Exam of the early 1980s as “one of the toughest in the nation.” Even so, there is something pitiful about her taking to the pages of a once-great newspaper to boast of this quarter-century-old credential. What has she accomplished since, other than allowing herself to be used as an instrument in a racist smear campaign?

    What a Bunch of Heels
    Yesterday’s follow-up on Linda Quiquivix, the University of North Carolina student charged with assault on a police officer among other things, cited a letter to the editor of the UNC student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, complaining of the Heel’s lack of coverage of the “Megan Williams case in West Virginia.” What was that? we wondered.

    An article in the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal explains the sad and horrifying story. Megan Williams is a 20-year-old woman who was allegedly kidnapped, raped and tortured by six career criminals:

    Logan County Sheriff’s investigators have now revised their original theory that Ms. Williams was held captive for a week.

    In court testimony Tuesday, authorities said they’ve determined that Williams had been kidnapped and held against her will at the Big Creek mobile home residence since August 2–well over a month. . . .

    The criminal complaint filed in the case alleges that during her captivity, Williams was beaten and raped repeatedly. She was stabbed several times with a knife in her left leg, and choked with a cable chord around her neck.

    Williams, who has been confirmed to be mentally challenged, was also allegedly forced to eat rat and dog feces, in addition to drinking water from a toilet, and licking blood from the floor.

    Because Williams is black, the defendants are white, and one of them allegedly used a racial slur, this has been described as a “hate crime.” Which leads us to wonder: What would it be called given the same fact pattern but absent any racial element?

    Al Gore: That’s Nothing, I Invented the Damn Thing
    “Kim Jong Il: I’m an Internet Expert”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 5

    His McCain Jokes Aren’t Funny at All
    “Dead or Alive, Greenspan Should Fix Tax Code, McCain Jokes”–headline, New York Sun, Oct. 5

    Meet at Her Campaign Headquarters Oct. 26–and Mum’s the Word!
    “Obama Hopes to Surprise Clinton in Iowa”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 5

    A Rake’s Progress
    “Senators Complete Sweep of Maple Leafs [sic]”–headline, CBC.ca, Oct. 4

    Independent Lice Looking for a Different Approach
    “Large-Scale Head Lice Finding Kits Ineffective”–headline, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. press release, Oct. 5

    Tomorrow, They’ll Be a Little Older Still
    “Old Elk Antlers Much Older Now”–headline, Flint (Mich.) Journal, Oct. 3

    What Do You Have to Do to Get Fired From That Job?
    “Fired ‘Butt-Print Art’ Teacher Sues School”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 4

    For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
    “Department: Fine Contractor Building Plant at Hanford”–headline, Oregonian, Oct. 4

    Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That!
    “Confused Moose Thinks He’s a Cow”–headline, Associated Press, Oct. 4

    Breaking News From 1953
    “North and South Korea Pledge End to War”–headline, Financial Times, Oct. 4

    News You Can Use

    Bottom Stories of the Day

    • “Idaho Woman Forced to Remove Bra Before Entering Courthouse”–headline, FoxNews.com, Oct. 5
    • “Area Band Set to Release New CD, Recorded in Five Days”–headline, Advocate (Stamford, Conn.), Oct. 4
    • “Michigan Cop Takes Aim to Save Skunk With Head Stuck in Salad-Dressing Jar”–FoxNews.com, Oct. 5

    ‘Wide Stance’ in Stall
    Men’s room misdemeanant Larry Craig said he would retire Sept. 30 as Idaho’s senior U.S. senator. Then he said he’d wait until a judge considered his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct. Yesterday, as the Associated Press reports, a judge told him to go fly a kite, but he announced that he plans to linger in the Senate anyhow.

    We have just six words to say to Sen. Craig. Five of them are “or get off the pot.”

    (Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Ed Lasky, Stuart Creque, Donald Walker, Honza Prchal, Mark Williams, Edward Schulze, Michael Hopkovitz, Duncan Witte, Chris Green, Lars Larson, William Katz, Jerry Rhoden, Paul Wood, Harding Rome, Steve Karass, Christopher Minakowski, John Williamson, Arnold Schulberg, Rick Harris, Coe Juracek, John Neal, Dan O’Shea, Kevin Bloom, Steve Bunten, Matt Verner, Jeff Dobbs, Daniel Foty, Gary Cruse, Tim Willis, Paul Goodrich, Zabelle Huss, Paul Giansante, Brian McDonald, Ed Jordan, Paul Wicht, Blaise Rhodes and Lewis Sckolnick. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

    URL for this article: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010698

    Today on OpinionJournal:

    • Review & Outlook: Blackwater’s backlash: Their legal status needs clarity, but Bush hasn’t Rambo-ized Iraq.
    • Peggy Noonan: Bush . . . Clinton . . . Bush . . . Clinton . . . Getting very sleepy . . .
    • Steve Moore: er years of waste in Congress, voters aren’t buying the Republicans’ fiscal message.
    • The Journal Editorial Report: Tune in this weekend for an interview with Jan Crawford Greenburg and discussions on Rush Limbaugh and Blackwater.

    And on the Taste page:


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