I’m not a fan of down-home cliches in politics to start with, so the current Social Security war is driving me nuts. Cliche #1 on my hit list: “Come to the table.” This is a folksy-sounding concept that means nothing – is there going to be a Versailles-style summit on Social Security where a plan will be hammered out? I also think Bush might have overplayed his hand when he extended this and said “Woe be to the politician who doesn’t come to the table and try to come up with a solution.” This sounds like a guy who’s waiting for a PR campaign to turn polls around for him, not for people to smile and break bread.

It also reminds me of the “Cape Feare” episode of the Simpsons, and the legbreaker Homer hires to stop Sideshow Bob from coming after Bart.

Man: Now don’t you fret. When I’m through, he won’t set foot in this town again. I can be very, very> persuasive. [reloads his gun]
[Scene change to a bar]
Man: [whining] C’mon, leave town!
Bob: No.
Man: I’ll be your friend?
Bob: No.
Man: Aw, you’re mean!


Possibly trite thought
I don’t know much of anything about Terri Schiavo the person, and I’m not sure how much I trust any of the people battling over her. But given that Christian groups are mobilizing around her, I assume that before her accident she found Christ. And if that’s the case – why spend 10 seconds keeping her alive? How does it benefit anyone to keep her in a useless body when she could be welcomed into heaven?

A less trite thought: Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Terri Schiavo was the second coming, and by protesting the tube removal these wackos were delaying the Resurrection and the Rapture? I know something similar happened in Dogma, but life can imitate art!


Gunner Palace
I finally got around to seeing this warts-and-all documentary about soldiers in Iraq, and yes, it’s pretty fantastic. Director Mike Tucker inserts himself early on with some worrying “eloquent” narration, but his subjects are so fascinating that he can’t help but recede after the first 15 minutes or so.

You can read reviews of the film elsewhere, so let me use this opportunity to rant: Why do I have to go to the movies to see video of soldiers in Iraq? The TVs blaring over our desks in the office had been playing nothing but human interest stories all week – Terri Schiavo, Robert Blake, Scott Peterson, some missing girl in Florida (why is it ALWAYS Florida?) Stories of euthenasia and murder in small-town America and Hollywood. I could expect to hear about this stuff in times of peace. But we have 150,000 soldiers risking their lives for us 24/7 in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re shooting it out with snipers, busting down doors, arresting assassins, quelling riots, handing out candy to schoolkids, cuddling babies at orphanages, Hummering down to the Baghdad airport’s McDonalds to get a precious Big Mac. In what twisted universe is this not interesting? What the hell convinces TV producers that this stuff is less interesting than the latest frigging Amber alert for some frigging mullet kin in Bumbleshit, Broward County?

I mean, there’s one part in Gunner Palace where troops have raided the house of a man on the blacklist of former Ba’ath leaders. The man comes downstairs, brushes past the soldiers, and goes to a mirror and picks up a comb. He quickly combs his hair. Then he pivots and steps ahead to go into captivity with the soldiers.

That’s fascinating. Shame, shame on cable news for deeming it not worth covering.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! And thank you, Glenn, for pointing out a typo that I have now fixed.


Pot, kettle, black
Oh, for Pete’s sake.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has embarked on a nationwide tour to discuss Social Security reform.

Well, not really. You see, Senator Reid will not talk about reform, because he believes there is no need for reform. “There is no crisis,” he will tell you.

But Senator Reid is wrong. And instead of touring the country ridiculing his colleagues for trying to fix this important program, he should be in Washington helping to iron out a solution.

Do I have to go there? Do I? All right.

Man, this debate is getting ludicrous.


On the justice of roasting Hanson
I know everyone loves Victory Davis Hanson’s essays, but I think this week’s one is pretty sloppy and broad-brush.

Immediately after September 11, Ward Churchill compared the victims in the Twin Tower to “little Eichmanns.” Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.) more recently likened President George W. Bush’s political methodology to what transpired in Nazi Germany. Earlier during the run-up to the Iraqi war, German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin smeared Bush with a similar Hitlerian analogy.

Actually, Ward Churchill’s essay falls in a completely different category of nuttery. Yes, there are liberals who see actions of the Bush administration as echoes of Nazism. Churchill sees America as an echo of Nazism. In the essay, Churchill mentions George W. Bush once, in this graf.

The reason for this holocaust was/is rather simple, and stated quite straightforwardly by President George Bush, the 41st “freedom-loving” father of the freedom-lover currently filling the Oval Office, George the 43rd: “The world must learn that what we say, goes,” intoned George the Elder to the enthusiastic applause of freedom-loving Americans everywhere.

See that? Churchill is one of those lefties who thinks America, by history and by nature, is a fascist, imperialist state. The rest of Hanson’s examples of Hitlerisms are of liberals talking about specific actions of the Bush admin, usually related to media manipulation. So why tar all Bush opponents with a guy who thinks all corporate Americans are nazis? Hanson makes stuffy overtures at seeing a “trend” in this, but it just ain’t there. Certainly not any more than we should glean something from the right-wing nuts who call Bill Clinton’s wife “Hitlery.”

Oh, and somehow Hanson works Howard Dean into this: “if current Democratic-party chairman Howard Dean says publicly, ‘I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for’ — or, ‘This is a struggle of good and evil. And we’re the good’ … the bar of public dissent has so fallen that it is easy to descend a tad closer to the bottom to compare a horrific killer to an American president.” Which is just weak. Hating a political opponent is the same as comparing them to Hitler? How wimpy can you get?


Insert joke about “moral values” here
So, last August, David Brooks profiled a congressman named Mark Souder.

Souder was a member of the Apostolic Christian Church, a fundamentalist church with a strong pacifist tradition. One of Souder’s jobs as a boy was to cross out the word “devil’s” on the Devil’s Food Cakes, because his uncle said that nothing that good should have the word “devil” on its package. In accordance with his church’s teaching, Souder has never smoked or danced. But the church does allow beer drinking (they’re Germans), and he did own a 1966 Mustang as a young man.

Terrific! So, yesterday, we see this article.

The House voted Wednesday to ban the use of federal money to transfer terror suspects to countries that are believed to torture prisoners, a practice that has drawn fierce criticism of the Bush administration.

The largely symbolic amendment reaffirms a 1994 treaty barring torture of detainees in American custody, whether in the United States or in countries known for human rights violations. The measure was approved 420-2 as part of an $81.4 billion emergency spending package for combat and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Voting against the amendment were Republican Reps. Robin Hayes of North Carolina and Mark Souder of Indiana.

What an absolutely despicable vote. I guess Souder isn’t so much an Apostolic Christian as he is a Pope Urban II Christian.


More books

– “You Have The Power: How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America” by Howard Dean
I picked this one up for $5 on an afternoon with a few hours to kill, and lo and behold I killed it in a few hours. It’s a combination of “The Conscience of a Conservative”-style philosophizing with a part-bitchy and part-hilarious campaign memoir. It had to be hilarious, right? Scream aside, the Dean campaign was a gigantic rolling mess of gaffes and righteous indignation that works very well in print.

I actually finished the book before Dean became the DNC chairman. In retrospect, there’s only a little bit here that indicates what he would do for the party, and most of that is generic – cast aside centrism and proudly state that Democrats view government as the way to build a national community, whereas Republicans want to make it every man for himself. Appeals to the Poli Sci double major in me, certainly.

– “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” by Thomas Frank
Definitely one of the most important political books of the century thus far. You’ve probably heard the thesis a hundred times, but here it is again: Republicans have used social issues to convince poor Americans that the liberal elite are the source of their problems, and getting them to vote for a regressive, pro-business agenda. This seems to be the new gospel for Howard Dean’s Democrats, and it’s convincing in parts. I defer to Jesse Walker’s superb review.


Bias vs. bias
So I check Hugh Hewitt’s blog (I don’t know why, either), and I see this.

From the President’s press conference this morning:

Q Paul Wolfowitz, who was the — a chief architect of one of the most unpopular wars in our history —
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) That’s an interesting start. (Laughter.)
Q — is your choice to be the President of the World Bank. What kind of signal does that send to the rest of the world?

Recall that the investigation by the blogs of the left into Jeff Gannon/Guckart began after Gannon/Guckart asked a leading question at the president’s last press conference. The rationale was that a partisan with a press pass was a suspicious thing. I don’t know who “Elisabeth” is, but her framing of her question is as partisan and leading as any that could be asked of the president. So, will the mob that went after Gannon/Guckart now be sifting through Elisabeth’s past for intriguing clues on the source of her partisanship?

My goodness, is this ever dumb. Let’s admit that Bumiller’s phrasing of the question is hostile. Whatever. It’s a question at a press conference. But ok, it’s a little harsh.

What is wrong with the substance of the question? The president starting laughing at the phrase “one of the most unpopular wars in our history.” Which is … quantifiably true. There are polls for this sort of thing, which showed low support for the war initially that transformed into low esteem for the USA over time. And there are real-world measures of popularity, like the number of allies we’re able to bring with us and keep in the field. Since we became a superpower in 1898, you could say the Iraq war was one of three least popular wars in our history – less popular than the Afghan war, whatever Kosovo was, the first Gulf War, Korea, WWII, and WWI, but comparably popular to Vietnam and the Spanish-American War.

Why, you could even ask notorious anti-war leftist George W. Bush whether the war was popular.

I recognize I’ve made some decisions that have caused people to not understand the great values of our country.

I remember when Ronald Reagan was the president; he stood on principle. Somebody called that stubborn. He stood on principle standing up to the Soviet Union, and we won that conflict. Yet at the same time, he was very — we were very unpopular in Europe because of the decisions he made.

I recognize that taking Saddam Hussein out was unpopular.

When George Bush says something’s unpopular and a New York Times reporter says it’s unpopular, you know what? I bet it’s unpopular.

Now, let’s go back to what poor Jeff Gannon said before he was beaten up by the mean ol’ liberal media.

Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work — you’ve said you are going to reach out to these people — how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

Leaving aside the fact that Harry Reid has never talked about soup lines, the nugget of this question is that Democrats are “divorced from reality.” I’m not sure how you prove that, unless you can magic up Douglas Adams to write a book on it.

Man, why does anyone take Hugh Hewitt seriously? I’m sick to death of idiots like him browbeating journalists for doing our jobs.