Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Tears Of Christ

Since I can't figure out how to include a credit line, I'll say here that I took the the photo under the flag of my blog (as we used to call the top of a newspaper's front page) in Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. The centerpiece of the Interfaith AIDS Chapel is a 600-pound triptych by the late Keith Haring showing the tears of the crucified Christ falling on the Bethlehem baby.

In Search Of The Urban Outfitter Republican

Trying to direct the GOP uptown, Michael Barone comes uncomfortably close to suggesting that Gov. Palin is a trailer-park Republican:

The debate among Republicans is whether to go after downscale or upscale voters. Those who argue for going downscale usually have a 2012 candidate in mind: Sarah Palin. She has an undoubted appeal to such voters and revved up part of the Republican base -- cultural conservatives, and rural and small-town voters -- throughout the campaign. Despite the scorn the media heaped on her, she has excellent political instincts and seems capable of developing the knowledge base that would make her a credible presidential candidate in the future.

But my examination of the exit poll results and county-by-county election returns has led me to conclude tentatively that going upscale is the right move. As David Frum has pointed out, we're going to have more well-educated and millennial-generation voters in the future and fewer less-educated and Baby Boomers (among whom McCain ran even).

Obama Needs Washington AND Nixon

Conrad Black argues that good intentions alone won't be enough to deal with regimes in North Korea and Iran:
Barack Obama, who quotes Washington and Lincoln with the insight of an historian and not just a leader who has good researchers, could profitably borrow a few pages from Richard Nixon’s playbook. The Father of the Nation and the Saviour of the Union, for all their travails and distinction, never had to deal with such unfeasible characters as Ahmedinejad and Kim Jong-Il.

If They'd Only Just Do What I Say

In May 2008 over at The New Nixon, I wrote:

[N]ewspapers have to buy about a million Kindles and give them away in promotions focused on college-age and young adult readers who, in their finite wisdom, have decided they know better than newspaper editors what kinds and categories of news they should view each day. The Times should give away (or sell for a song) 100,000 Kindles with trial subscriptions preloaded.

Yesterday, the "Silicon Alley Insider" wrote:

Not that it's anything we think the New York Times Company should do, but we thought it was worth pointing out that it costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead.

Doth The Grey Bell Finally Toll For Dean?

A few scholars and writers -- James Hougan, Len Colodny, Joan Hoff, Jonathan Aitken, and James Rosen -- have challenged the conventional wisdom about Watergate, especially the role of White House counsel John Dean. Some even assert Dean covered up the Watergate break-in to obscure his own crimes, not President Nixon's.

Among Dean's friends and boosters is scholar Stanley Kutler, whose 1997 book Abuse of Power contains transcripts which he seemed to edit to make it appear that Mr. Nixon had known in advance about the September 1971 break-in by the White House Plumbers at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. When I challenged Kutler an "American Spectator" article, he corrected the most egregiously misleading passage in the paperback edition.

Elsewhere on the tapes, the President is heard telling aides that someone should "buck up" GOP senator Howard Baker. In Abuse of Power, Kutler used a different consonant at the beginning of the word "buck." In my "Spectator" article, I wrote that anyone who'd spent much time with RN knew his preoccupation with making sure discouraged allies and aides were bucked up. In this case, Kutler didn't take my advice, and so the unspoken expletive remains, along with the spoken ones, in Abuse of Power. The Ellsberg break-in reference, though, was far more important, and Kutler deserves credit for having changed it.

His wasn't the only counterfeit smoking gun. In his 2008 book Nixonland, Rick Perlstein misconstrued a secondary source to make it appear as though the President had approved the Ellsberg break-in. It's a vital nuance, because if the President had known of illegal activity by the Plumbers, his Watergate-related statements and actions in June 1972 appear in a darker light. Although we pointed out Perlstein's error at The New Nixon in July 2008, he never addressed it, though he replied to many of our other posts about his book. To be fair, I don't know if he has dealt with it in the paperback edition, as Kutler did.

Kutler's Watergate scholarship and his personal friendship with Dean are receiving new and surprising attention today in the New York Times, which describes an article about Kutler's work that scholar Peter Klingman has submitted to the prestigious "American Historical Review":
[L[ongtime critics of his transcripts say Mr. Kutler deliberately edited the tapes in ways that painted a more benign portrait of a central figure in the drama, the conspirator-turned-star-witness, John W. Dean III, the White House counsel who told Nixon that Watergate had become a “cancer” on his presidency.
Oddly, we don't know whether Klingman's article will even be published. Nor is it immediately clear how the controversy ended up in the paper. In my experience, Times articles and even editorials about Nixonian archival questions have something of the immaculate conception about them. One day, they're just there. Why is the poor man's peer review being performed in public?

Such mysteries abound when it comes to the accusations that periodically swirl around John Dean. His role as the repentant, whistle-blowing hero seems to be so important to the prevailing Watergate narrative that alternative theories not only aren't investigated, they're essentially aborted. The most recent example is the odd decision by the Times itself not to review James Rosen's full-scale, carefully researched biography of former attorney general John Mitchell, The Strong Man, which raises many questions about Dean as well as the opportunistic actions of Watergate prosecutors.

The paper's decision on the Rosen book makes its coverage of Klingman's journal article especially intriguing. Perhaps someone hoped a well-timed Times article would be a Saturday afternoon massacre deterring the "American Historical Review" from saying yes. That possibility seems unlikely in view of this comment in the article by the respected former supervisory archivist in charge of the Nixon tapes, Fred Graboske:

“In the history profession, you never change the original evidence; Dr. Kutler has changed the original evidence,” said Mr. Graboske, who learned of the disparities six months ago.

“I spent 12 years listening to the tapes,” he said, contending that no one could mistake the evening and morning recordings as being part of the same conversation. “I don’t know why he did it, but what he did was deliberate.”

He added: “I did work with Stanley. I’m sorry that it has come to this.”

Abandonment Be Not Proud

A few years ago Kathy and her family got a kitten from a friend and named it Monty. Monty had a screw loose and would come at you from across the room like the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The little tiger soon ended up at the Orange County animal shelter. In those days, a cat got ten days, then curtains.

Although Kathy and her family and friends celebrated their just liberation from Monty's dagger claws, I couldn't stop thinking about him. A week into his incarceration, I sneaked down to the shelter. I prayed I wouldn't find him, because I almost certainly would've taken him back. Instead, since he was cute enough on cursory inspection, I hoped that he'd attached himself to the tender underbelly of some innocent family.

He wasn't there, but someone else was. When a Christian friend tells me that she can't imagine a personified Satan, I remember sensing the presence among all those spurned animals of a distinct creature. In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens presents Ignorance and Want as a little boy and girl. As I blinked through tears into cage after cage, I felt the presence of Abandonment.

I'm not an animal lover. A pet would be too inconvenient. I do advise those who say they're considering going to a pet store that there are tens of thousands of pleading faces at their local shelter that can be had for a license fee and the cost of vaccinations. The economy is making the excess-animal problem even worse. Today the Orange County Register reported that our local shelter took in nearly 31,500 dogs and cats last year, a 13% increase from the year before, and had to put nearly half of of them to death. Killings are up nearly a third over last year.

We should of course mourn these tiny tragedies. Even more, we should mourn whatever selfish or careless human choices contribute to them. Are living creatures really becoming more expendable in bad times? Such a trend wouldn't bode well for vulnerable humans, either. Instead, as we are tested, may Abandonment be not proud.

Act Stupidly, And Serve In The Cabinet

Former Senator Tom Daschle, paid $2 million to help a fat cat, also got free use of a car and driver worth $128,000 over three years but didn't tell the IRS until President Obama tapped him as secretary of health and human services. He also failed to declare $83,000 in consulting income and claimed too many charitable gifts. On TV last week, Watergate reporter Bob Woodward intimated that there was another tax scandal coming for Obama. Presumably this is it. Why didn't Woodward just report it instead of teasing viewers? In any event, referring to the first one, the New York Times reports this morning:
It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Daschle’s tax problems would derail his nomination. The confirmation of Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was held up only briefly after the disclosure that he had failed to pay more than $34,000 in taxes owed to the federal government.
Friends in the administration say Daschle made "a stupid mistake" but shouldn't be penalized, since he told the Senate about it himself -- the old "turn yourself in, son, it'll go easier on you" rule. At least, that's what they always say. However the word has gotten out, tax scandals are generally expected to be devastating for Republicans, not to mention for those such as you and me who are not needed in the Cabinet.

Tax scandals have inconvenienced Democrats as well, though in other ways. When an accountant stupidly backdated the deed of President Nixon's tax-deductible gift of his pre-Presidential papers, it ended up wasting a lot of the House Judiciary Committee's valuable time during the 1974 impeachment hearings. It was after the tax story broke that President Nixon, deeply wounded by the charge of personal financial impropriety, made the famous declaration of his innocence to a group of editors in Orlando, Florida in November 1973.

But in these anxious times, we don't want hardworking politicians to have to say, "I am not a crook." We want them to be able to say, "I am in the Cabinet." My New Nixon colleague Frank Gannon sees it strictly in terms of the old partisan double standard and Democrats' knack for raising taxes without, as in these notable cases, paying them. Hasn't he heard that we've evolved beyond that kind of divisive rhetoric? We're in a era of new thinking and ideas.

As a matter of fact, the Times is definitely onto something by suggesting the "Cabinet penalty box" approach. Geithner's stupid mistake cost us $34,000, so his nomination was held up "only briefly." What was it, a week? For riding around in a free car for three years stupidly failing to realize it was taxable income, Daschle boosted the deficit at almost four times' Geithner's rate, so he should sit out for at least a month. With the deficit already running over a trillion a year, it might be the best thing that could happen for health care policy. By the same token, since Obama appears to be flirting with protectionism, he may decide to delay choosing a trade representative for another two or three months, so he should find someone for that job who's stupidly cheated us out of half a million or so.

A Debate Redolent Of 1981

Interesting if Reagan-era-esque exchange at "Sojourners." First, progressive evangelical Jim Wallis, who's in Davos:

We have trusted in “the invisible hand” to make everything turn out all right, believing that it wasn’t necessary for us to bring virtue to bear on our decisions. But things haven’t turned out all right and the invisible hand has let go of some things, such as “the common good.” The common good hasn’t been very common in our economic decision-making for some time now. And things have spun out of control. Gandhi’s seven deadly social sins seem an accurate diagnosis for some of the causes of this crisis: “politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.”

If we learn nothing from this crisis, all the pain and suffering it is causing will be in vain. But we can learn new habits of the heart, perhaps that suffering can even turn out to be redemptive. If we can regain a moral compass and find new metrics by which to evaluate our success, this crisis could become our opportunity to change.

And in response, "Lord_Voldemort":
That's just a wee bit of an oversimplification. Actually, we've trusted in a mixed economy of private business overseen by an often burdensome regulatory state, backed by a substantial welfare state. That's especially true in Europe, which hasn't escaped any of the difficulties of this recession, and largely true in the US, although the welfare state aspect is much less substantial here.

I think Jim's reference to Gandhi's "Seven Deadly Social Sins" was quite apt, but I think a strong case can be made that much of what has gone wrong is more a failure of the regulatory and welfare state than of markets. For years governments have been inclined to see the goods that private enterprises actually provide, however imperfectly, as secondary to their value as a source of tax revenue or as tools that they can redirect toward their favored ends. In the process, they have created many of the things that Gandhi rightfully scorns: wealth (redistributed) without work, education (in public schools) without character. Not to mention politics without principle. (See: HR 1, the "Stimulus Bill" Heh heh.)

A free-market advocate will not go for very long without acknowledging that markets are to some extent a deal with the devil; much of what we propose to do is harness self-interest. But the same self interest is present in all persons, in the market or in government. Advocates of activist government seldom acknowledge that self-interest affects government as well. If we have romanticized anything in this age, it is the state. And now, I suspect, we are paying for that mistake.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Back In The Day, Not So Great, Either

Echoing Charles Krauthammer, the "National Interest" says the former president of the Harvard Law Review didn't get the recent history of U.S.-Islamic relations right when drafting his inaugural address:

Krauthammer argues that Obama’s history is just wrong. “Thirty years ago,” [he] writes...“saw the greatest U.S.-Muslim rupture in our 233-year history: Iran’s radical Islamic revolution, the seizure of the U.S. embassy, the 114 months of America held hostage.” This crisis came on the heels of an Arab oil embargo that caused our economy to tank. Oh, and before that, our ambassador to the Sudan was kidnapped and murdered by Arab terrorists. So Obama’s “halcyon days of U.S.-Islamic relations” from two to three decades ago were anything but. Oops.

Not Good News

The LA Times is folding its California section and laying off 70 more reporters and editors.

"Crazies" On The Left Still Await Benedict

Michael Sean Winters:
Pope Benedict's decision to try to bring the [anti-Vatican II] Lefebvrists back into the fold was entirely his own. The pope believes he has a special responsibility to promote unity among Catholics—including those who have fallen away from the church...Rev. Roy Bourgeois, of the Maryknoll order, has been threatened with excommunication because he participated in a ceremony at which women were ordained to the priesthood. Indeed, the similarities between Bourgeois' case and that of the Lefebvrists are uncanny: Both set themselves up in judgment over the magisterial authority of the pope and council; both are implicated in illicit and invalid ordination ceremonies....If Benedict wants to make some room for the crazies on the right, I just hope he will give similar latitude to those on the left.

Perfect Songs: "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" (1993)

Mary Chapin Carpenter and one heck of a lineup of backing singers

Democrats Are "Using The Crisis"

In the wake of the party-line House vote on the stimulus bill, Peggy Noonan is sounding less squishy about Barack Obana:
[T]he stimulus bill was about...not knowing what time it is, not knowing the old pork-barrel, group-greasing ways are over, done, embarrassing. When you create a bill like that, it doesn't mean you're a pro, it doesn't mean you're a tough, no-nonsense pol. It means you're a slob.

That's how the Democratic establishment in the House looks, not like people who are responding to a crisis, or even like people who are ignoring a crisis, but people who are using a crisis. Our hopeful, compelling new president shouldn't have gone with this bill. He made news this week by going to the House to meet with Republicans. He could have made history by listening to them.

Kids Today

What they get up to at college: My daughter Lindsay performs the Prasarita Padottanasna.

It's Rented, But Still.

What a treat to find a transcript of my MC remarks at the Nixon Center's Jan. 12 dinner in Washington in honor of Mike Mullen, chairman of of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After spending 20 minutes getting the assembled elites to take their seats (I do believe this task is the main reason my brilliant but introverted Russian brother Dimitri Simes invites me each year), I find I said this:

We are living in a time of change and tumult. In not too many days, we will celebrate a peaceful change. For many, although not all, a welcome change, but all Americans celebrate a peaceful change. And we've had a whole election year in which change has been the mantra.

But there is another word that begins with "c," and that is continuity. Consistency. We honor today someone who was commissioned in the United States Navy forty years ago last year, in the tumultuous year of 1968, when he graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and received his first commission.

In case you're counting, that means he has already served eight presidents of the United States, eight Commanders-in-Chief, beginning with Lyndon Johnson, and he has experienced the disappointment and, according to many, the tragedy of America's failure in Vietnam, which many say was as much a political failure as any other kind. He has experienced the clarity of the West's victory in the Cold War, and now he is a vital part of the malleable and front-changing war on terrorism.

And throughout that entire era, which encompasses so many different aspects of our lives as Americans, so many different kinds of conflict, he has provided expertise and sanity and consistency and brilliance in his work and service to, soon, nine Commanders-in-Chief and to all of us.

And if you guessed the main reason for this post is to display the photo, you're right. Someone said every man looks great in a tux, and I need all the help I can get.

Get Her A Future

Friends think I'm naive (or just plain wrong) for believing that Israelis and Palestinians can share the Holy Land in peace -- in other words, that the two-state solution, now fully embraced by Barack Obama and his envoy, Sen. Mitchell, just like Bush and Rice before them, will work. Pro-Palestinian friends are afraid that Israel will never give up its settlements and that the security wall is being used to make a West Bank Palestine untenable. Orthodox Jewish friends equate the Palestinians with the Amalekites in the Hebrew Testament, who harassed Abraham and his people and were defeated, along with the Midianites, by Gideon. Bible-believing Christians often can't help thinking that God gave the land to the Jews. Secular supporters of Israel argue that the Palestinians can't be trusted, in part because Arab leaders throughout the region have conspired to keep them in refugee camps for two generations rather than assimilating them into Jordan, for instance, thus creating an uncontainable reservoir of hatred.

For all these reasons, Presidents usually avoid expending political capital in the region, or they wait, as President Clinton and Bush 43 did, until the end of their terms. Obama acted in the first hours of his Presidency. For such noble and perhaps politically self-sacrificial recklessness alone, he deserves our thanks.

Accepting his designation as special envoy, Mitchell, who helped Clinton untie the Irish knot, said that the problem is caused by human beings, and human beings are capable of solving it. About that, he is right. Israelis are people, and they must trust and share. Hamas are people, and they must accept that Israel will survive and thrive forever. Fatah are people, and they must earn the trust of Palestinians everywhere, and learn to govern a country and grow an economy after a generation of fighting and killing. Americans are people, and they'll punish Obama if he fails.

Like Mitchell, I'm hopeful, if only theologically. Someday, it must end, for the sake of the little girl pictured above and millions like her. I met her on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the summer of 2007, sponsored by my Episcopal seminary in Claremont. Having walked three miles through a desert wadi to Jericho, we were staggering toward the bottles of water on our bus. Children were asking for money, and I gave some to this little girl, smiled, and kept going. Then I felt a tug on my sleeve. I turned and saw her pointing at my camera. Godspeed, Sen. Mitchell. Get Israel security and peace, and get her a future.

How To Perform Economic Stimulus At Home

While the White House in Washington was finished in 1800, the Anaheim White House is a mere 100 years old -- although in southern California, that's un casa blanca mucha vieja. The stately old residence has been a restaurant for years. Bruno Serato bought it in 1987. His award-winning menu is a tasty melange of European cuisines with a stress on northern Italy. It's a wonderful date and anniversary choice, with a courtly, knowledgeable staff. Bruno and his team also cater many events in the Nixon Library's White House East Room.

Soon after Tim Naftali was named the first federal director of the Nixon Library, Kathy and I hired the White House to prepare a dinner in his honor for some church friends (including the other Bruno, J. Jon, the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles), at our home in Yorba Linda. Bruno Serato's internationally noted executive catering chef, Maurice Brazier, and Madame Brazier arrived two hours before dinner, perhaps thinking just for a moment that they had located servants' quarters behind a larger estate where the meal would actually be prepared and served. Chef Maurice and his colleagues did a masterful job maneuvering around one another in Kathy's lovely if normal suburban kitchen.

The Anaheim White House was in the news this week, and it wasn't a restaurant review. Did the Nixon connection finally doom our friend Bruno to controversy? Not quite. Wrong party. The shrimp hit the pan only after he announced to 20,000 on his customer e-list that he'd unveiled a Barack Obama Room (above). The President's hardly Bruno's first modern Democrat, since he has long had Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Carter rooms. But for some, Obama was beyond the kale. As the Orange County Register reported yesterday:

"I am not an Obama supporter," read one angry e-mail. "I could never be, and as much as having an African-American in the White House could be a good thing, having one with Marxist ideals is certainly not a good thing! I will not be patronizing your restaurant, much less the 'Obama Room.'"
Bruno (who won't disclose his own 2008 vote) wisely alerted the media to the controversy, resulting in a richly-deserved boost in a down economy for fine dining. Bravo, Bruno, for your bipartisan marketing flare!

I served up a political puree of my own recently that probably got one star at best in some circles. On Jan. 9 at the Nixon Library and again yesterday at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, courtesy of St. John's friends Bob and Ann Mosier, I gave a talk in which I said that President Obama had strong Nixonian tendencies (Bruno's Richard Nixon room is at right). First, both Presidents have displayed a gnawing hunger for reconciliation, which 37 practiced on the international stage (in a way that would've greatly pleased his Quaker mother, Hannah) and which Obama, as he works through his complex familial and ethnic heritage, aims for politically and domestically. Second, I surmised that since Obama, like Nixon, believes that history is on the side of the principles he loves, both will be remembered for being satisfied by incremental, pragmatic change most of the time. But third, just as Nixon achieved exponential change by engineering his opening to China, Obama has already staked out the Israel-Palestinian issue as his bid for foreign policy greatness, even though most other Middle East-embroiled Presidents have tasted ashes -- with the exception of Jimmy Carter at Camp David, which must have been as rich as Maurice's Bearnaise sauce.

A Greener, Redder Stimulus

David Frum:

Instead of fighting Dems on the dollar amount of spending, knowing that we would lose that fight in any event, we could have stood with Obama and called for large high-tech infrastructure projects that would employ large numbers of minorities in construction and white collar suburbanites in development. These projects (high speed rail corridors as an example) would also capture the imagination of the green close-in suburbs that are turning viciously against the GOP and have the strategic benefit of jamming up the young Dem members (Webb/Warner/Hagan/McCaskill) who depended on these voters for their victories.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan

Three Strikes And We're Broke

David Brooks says the President and Congress have ignored all three cardinal principles of Obama's chief economic advisor, Larry Summers, who said any stimulus package should be timely, targetted, and temporary:
But they’ve created a sprawling, undisciplined smorgasbord, which has spun off a series of unintended consequences. First, by trying to do everything all it once, the bill does nothing well. The money spent on long-term domestic programs means there may not be enough to jolt the economy now (about $290 billion in spending is pushed off into 2011 and later). The money spent on stimulus, meanwhile, means there’s not enough to truly reform domestic programs like health technology, schools and infrastructure. The measure mostly pumps more money into old arrangements.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stimulus To Bigger Government

Ronald Brownstein:
To call the economic legislation now moving through Congress a stimulus bill obscures its full implications. The measure represents the most ambitious effort in decades to swell public spending on domestic priorities such as education, infrastructure, and scientific research that many Democrats consider the foundation stones of sustained prosperity.

That's Some Car

Joan Collins, reporting a little too breathlessly on the Inauguration:
[Obama] arrived in a specially made Cadillac, constructed to withstand a nuclear attack...

Squeamish Mrs. Beamish

Hat tip to the Rev. Ed Sniecienski

Alien Secrets Buried Here

Richard Blandford:
The late comedian and UFO obsessive Jackie Gleason apparently claimed that Richard Nixon once showed him the corpses of aliens found in a crashed UFO and were stored at a Florida air base. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, is known to have an interest in UFOs (a book on the Roswell crash was noted as being in his office in the Starr Report), but claimed that no one in the US military had told him anything.
I wouldn't dare ridicule the Great One for believing in little green men, since my wife, Kathy, does at well. When she was President Nixon's chief of staff in the early 1990s, she worked up her courage one more morning and asked the 37th President of the United States if he had ever been shown any secret UFO evidence. He said no, cleared his throat, and changed the subject, which was typically thoughtful of him.

Although RN was preternaturally down to earth, UFO lore continues to dog him. Google "Nixon, UFOs, Hungary," and you'll get the idea. Evidently Hungarian is a language from another planet. Theorists also believe that the Nixon Library operated as a private institution for its first 17 years to make it easier for us to hide the secret UFO evidence.

That's why, when we opened a new space exhibit many years ago, we called it "Area 37."

The Crossed Signals Of Gold

While I can't begin to have an intelligent debate about monetary policy, I also can't quite figure out this comment in the Wall Street Journal by Judy Shelton:
When President Richard Nixon closed the gold window, it marked the end of a golden age of robust trade and unprecedented global economic growth.
So speaking of robust trade and global growth, what was all that going on in the 1990s?

Nixon In China

Props for Nixon White House photographer Byron Schumaker here, from a writer and photog in the UK.

Annie Get Your Gun

Hold onto your hats, Yorba Linda -- Ann Coulter's coming on Feb. 5 to address a sold-out crowd at the Nixon Library. A preview:

When [New York] Gov. David Paterson ended the Kennedy soap opera by appointing Democratic congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, her Democratic colleague, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, blanketed the airwaves, threatening to challenge Gillibrand in the next election because of her NRA-approved stand on guns.

McCarthy explained, "My voice is for the victims."

The only reason McCarthy was elected to Congress in the first place is that her husband and son were shot by a crazed gunman on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993. Colin Ferguson's shooting spree wasn't stopped sooner because none of the passengers had guns. As has been demonstrated beyond dispute at this point, armed citizens save lives.

In a comprehensive study of all public multiple shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that the only public policy that reduced both the incidence and casualties of such shootings were concealed-carry laws. Not only are there 60 percent fewer gun massacres after states adopt concealed-carry laws, but the death and injury rate of such rampages are reduced by 80 percent.

Rep. McCarthy claims to "speak for the victims" by promoting policies that will probably create a lot more victims.

Steve Who?

Showing the way to save journalism with the Kindle (e-book sales are already skyrocketing) and posting a 9% increase in net profits in the fourth quarter of 2008, Amazon under founder Jeff Bezos is the new Apple.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Show Me One In A Yeats Poem, And We'll Talk

One expert's idea of the 100 most beautiful words in English. Potamophilous? Blandiloquent? I eschew most of them.

Commissioner Of Hardball

I wrote this today to a friend in the newspaper business:
I think publishers should form a national consortium to rethink completely the financial model for print journalism, based, of course, on helping news consumers finally understand that quality content costs money. The newspaper business also needs better lobbyists. Publishers should get tax benefits and a range of other goodies from all levels of government.

That being said, baseball teams often don't make money, and newspapers shouldn't have to, either. It should be an honor to operate one in the public interest. Isn't a well-informed public at least as vital as a sports-entertained one?

Media Should Be Abolished From Reporting

From the "New Republic," A glimpse of the high-quality information Americans will receive from the Hackosphere when newspapers die:
Earlier this month, Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher--last seen serving as the third wheel on John McCain and Sarah Palin's increasingly disastrous blind date--traded in his toilet jack for a handheld microphone and traveled to the Middle East to become a foreign correspondent covering the Israel-Hamas war for the conservative website Pajamas Media. Alas, he wasn't terribly impressed with his new colleagues. "I think media should be abolished from, you know, reporting," Wurzelbacher said in the Israeli city of Sderot, where he was, from all appearances, reporting. "You know, war is hell. And if you're gonna sit there and say, 'Well, look at this atrocity,' well you don't know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it."

Howard: Nixon "A True Visionary"

Hugh Hewitt finds "Frost/Nixon" director Ron Howard in an especially friendly mood:
Well, you know, [I learned] little things, like I didn’t know that he loved music, and that he’d really trained as a musician as a kid. And I knew a bit about his history. Going through the Nixon Library was exciting and enlightening, and I realized on a lot of levels how socially progressive he was, and what a true visionary he was.

Welcome To The Middle, Mr. President

Republicans to the right of him, Planned Parenthood to the left:
The president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards, just sent an “urgent” email to supporters decrying Obama’s decision to jettison a family planning provision from the nearly $900 billion economic stimulus package to be voted on in the House Wednesday.

I Got This Going For Me

New York Times:
[Researchers in Europe] found that the subjects who had reported drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to have developed dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less. People who drank more than five cups a day also were at reduced risk of dementia, the researchers said, but there were not enough people in this group to draw statistically significant conclusions.
Next time, sign me up for that third group.

The Church vs. Jews And Women

Pope Benedict XVI's reinstatement of British bishop Richard Williamson has understandably drawn attention to the bishop's lunatic views about the Holocaust, in which he says only a few hundreds thousand Jews died, and the Sept. 11 attacks, which he says were orchestrated by the U.S. government. But Williamson's malignant view of history is only part of the story.

The pope lifted the excommunication of Williamson and three other bishops who are members of the Saint Pius X Society, whose priests conduct masses that look like this:

A Roman Catholic Mass was held Sunday in Midtown Manhattan that seemed to be from another time. The women covered their heads with delicate lace veils and the priest said the Mass in Latin with his back to the congregation.

Their missals, or booklets, were dated 1962, the year that the Second Vatican Council began ushering modernization and openness into the Catholic Church, changes that the worshipers at Sunday’s Mass reject.
Benedict yesterday affirmed his aversion to anti-Semitism. But as the National Catholic Reporter's John L. Allen suggests, suspicion of Jews and the liturgical traditionalism practiced by the four bishops are linked:
The historical association between some strains of traditionalist Catholicism and anti-Semitism run deep, intertwined with royalist reaction to the French Revolution in the 18th century and, later, the Boulanger and Dreyfus Affairs in France (1886-1889 and 1894-1899). In populist European conservatism, the defense of Christian tradition has often been linked to a suspicion of “contamination” — originally by Jews, and more recently, by Europe’s rising Muslim presence.

Observers of the traditionalist landscape caution people not to paint with too broad a brush, as if every Catholic attracted to the older Latin Mass or to traditional views on doctrinal matters is somehow tainted by anti-Semitism. Similarly, experts also warn that critics of Catholic traditionalism can sometimes be quick to label as “anti-Semitic” attitudes that may be controversial theologically or politically, but that don’t in themselves reflect real prejudice.
And yet what about the words in the mass itself, as preferred by Bishop Williamson? As the Anti-Defamation League wrote in 2007:
A papal order allowing the use of the 16th Century Tridentine Mass (Latin Mass) includes the prayer used in the Good Friday liturgy from the 1962 Missal, "For the conversion of the Jews. Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness."
In response, as the London Times wrote in February 2008:
The Pope has rewritten the Good Friday prayer for the "conversion" of the Jewish people in the old Latin rite in an attempt to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism.

But the new version of the prayer still contains a plea for the "salvation" of Israel and asks God to "enlighten" the hearts of Jewish people so that they acknowledge Jesus Christ as saviour.
That's why it's hard to accept, as one cardinal said, that "removing the excommunication against the British bishop and the bishop's comments were two completely separate issues." As Episcopalians and Anglicans realize just as well as Roman Catholics, liturgy is supposed to be alive in God's love, the spirit, and Christ. Given the inspiration that many denominations took from the Vatican II liturgical reforms that the Saint Pius X Society finds so abominable, the pope's slow but determined progress in the wrong direction is dispiriting -- as are the images of women with their heads covered in church. Quaintly, benignly traditional? Not by my lights. Why aren't men's heads covered? It's more evidence that Christ's church is still mired in misogyny.

Watch someone say that conservative Catholic women choose freely to cover their heads. That's what the second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia sometimes say, too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama To Heed Nixon's Advice To Reagan?

The legendary Lou Cannon:
[E]conomic recovery became the exclusive early Reagan agenda. The president was further encouraged by a detailed private memo from Richard Nixon, then too much of a pariah to appear in public with Republican office holders. Reagan valued the former president’s experience, particularly on foreign policy, but the memo instead urged him to focus on economic policy for at least the first six months. “Unless you are able to shape up our home base it will be almost impossible to conduct an effective foreign policy,” Nixon wrote. Reagan was so impressed that he quoted the opening portion of Nixon’s memo to a friend and added: “If we get the economy in shape, we’re going to be able to a lot of things. If we don’t, we’re not going to be able to do anything.”

Recovery Coming In 2019?

From Rep. John Campbell (R-Newport Beach), who sends out a must-read e-newsletter, a tidbit from President Obama's meetings today with congressional Republicans:
The President believes that the “lost decade” of Japan is a more relevant comparison to the current economic situation than the great depression. He believes that the Japanese government did not act decisively enough to end their crisis.

The Words, The Sacraments, And The Company

As word comes of novelist John Updike's death at 76 from lung cancer, St. Batholomew's Episcopal Church in Manhattan remembers him discussing the comforts of church during a 2004 talk:

“When I haven’t been to church in a couple of Sundays I begin to hunger for it and need to be there,” he said, standing at a podium in front of the altar, against a backdrop of Byzantine-style mosaics and dressed in a gray suit befitting one of America’s elder statesmen of letters. “It’s not just the words, the sacraments. It’s the company of other people, who show up and pledge themselves to an invisible entity.”

I believe his last novel was Terrorist, a riveting story about a Jersey-grown jihadist who blinks, thinks, and doesn't kill. Hope indeed!

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Another Historic First

Dave Karger at

With Frank Langella's nod for Frost/Nixon, Richard Nixon is the first president more than one man has been Oscar-nominated for playing. (Anthony Hopkins scored a nod for Nixon in 1996.)

Warning: A Blog About Monetary Policy

Richard Nixon was politically crucified on the cross of the gold standard, argue Stephen Moore and John Tamny in the "American Spectator":
With the real economy weakening due to rising inflation, Nixon’s approval ratings tanked, which allowed the relatively minor scandal of Watergate to force his resignation. Some years after he left office, Nixon told a group of friends and advisors that the policy decision he regretted most was taking America off the gold standard, and that had he not done that, he could have withstood the Watergate scandal.

If The President Does It, That Mean's It's Legal

Mark Hosenball in "Newsweek":
In a closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, White House counsel Gregory Craig was asked whether the president was required by law to follow executive orders. According to people familiar with his remarks, who asked for anonymity when discussing a private meeting, Craig answered that the administration did not believe he was. The implication: in a national-security crisis, Obama could deviate from his own rules. A White House official said that Craig's remarks were being "mischaracterized."

Some Capitol Hill sources and intel officials said Craig's private remarks constituted a big loophole in new guidelines, one that would allow Obama to behave much like President Bush. "I don't think there's a really big change, sub rosa," said one veteran undercover spy. Intel sources cautioned that Craig's declaration does not mean Obama plans to issue secret orders that would contradict his public anti-torture stance. (During his confirmation hearing, Dennis Blair, Obama's new intel czar, said emphatically that there would be no torture "on my watch.") What it probably means in practice, the spy said, is that Obama could, in a dire emergency, issue a secret presidential "finding" instructing the CIA or another agency to overstep boundaries of public policy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reshaping Liberalism Without Bill Kristol

From neoconservative William Kristol's last column in the New York Times:
Can Obama reshape liberalism to be, as it was under F.D.R., a fighting faith, apologetically patriotic and strong in the defense of liberty? That would be a service to our country.
The Washington Post says Kristol was hired for a year and has left the Times at the end of the year by mutual agreement. The Times does disclose this:
"It seems to me there were a lot of Times readers who felt the Times shouldn't hire someone who supported the Iraq war," said [editorial page editor Fred] Hiatt, adding that he wants "a diverse range of opinions" on his page.
At least for a while.

We Are Stardust, We Are Boring

The New York Times unveils a new column dedicated to baby boomers, and Michelle Cottle unloads:

[W]ith every self-pitying, self-justifying line of the column, [Michael] Winerip serves only to confirm all those whiny, entitled, narcissistic stereotypes he seeks to dispel.

I realize how hard it must be for boomers to confront the reality that they no longer occupy the demographic sweet spot that makes advertisers and TV execs hang on their every word--or to accept the fact that all the Botox, Viagra, and Rogaine in the planet will not halt their steady march into the category of "senior." But do they really need their own weekly column in the paper of record detailing how very, very difficult and disappointing it is to no longer be the center of the universe? Can't they just vent their frustrations on individual Facebook pages like all the hip kids do?

"Being A President Is An Impossible Job"

As he has before, Ron Howard (shown on the set of "Frost/Nixon"), the ultimate boomer director, suggests he had a silent majoritarian perspective on the 37th President while he was in office. Stuart Jeffries interviews him at the Guardian as the film opens in England:
So, back then, did he despise Nixon? Is that also what tempted him to make the film? "Not before Watergate. In fact, he had done me a favour. I didn't particularly want to go to Vietnam and so, belatedly, he had at least done the thing he said he was going to do - which was get us out of Vietnam and undo the draft. I appreciated him for that." So it was thanks to Nixon that Howard never saw real combat. "I remember watching the interviews. Being a president is an impossible job - it's naive to think someone can do the job and not bend the law here and there."

It Ain't Over Till the Choir Sings "Amen"

Legal Newsline:
The parish of St. James Episcopal (sic) Church in Newport Beach, Calif., filed a petition on Friday with the high court asking for a rehearing of its Jan. 5 decision that blocked the church from keeping its physical location since breaking with the denomination.

The Chief And The Old Man

The National Portrait Gallery has a new exhibition on VPs, including a painting of Eisenhower and an oddly leonine Nixon. As we often end up saying in these situations, couldn't curators find a better Nixon anywhere in storage? Here's the text from the gallery's blog:

Rising political stars of both parties sought the office, and in 1952 an ambitious young California senator, Richard Nixon, became Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president. Some presidential scholars point to Nixon as the first of the modern powerful and influential vice presidents. Although Nixon was not in the president’s inner circle, Eisenhower still delegated important tasks to him and kept him in the loop about national security issues.
I had a fascinating conversation the other day with Jeffrey A. Frank, a former Washington Post editor who is getting started on a book about the Nixon-Eisenhower relationship and was visiting the Nixon Library to survey the available documents. He'll discern truth from the record, I'm sure. My layman's feeling is that the President and and his VP experienced a generational gap and also that the architect of D-Day was a little sore when RN outflanked him brilliantly by going over his head to the American people with the Checkers speech and staying on the ticket in 1952 as a result.

When it came time to run again in 1956, Eisenhower let his VP hang fire more than Presidents usually do, making the off-key suggestion that RN would have a better shot in 1960 from a post such as Secretary of Defense. When the election actually came around, he wanted to campaign aggressively for Mr. Nixon against John F. Kennedy, but RN, worried about the chief's health, discouraged him from doing so. By the late 1960s their relationship had deepened further. Eisenhower was overjoyed when his protegee was elected in 1968.

iKindle 'iComing

As iTunes moves away from its proprietary format for music, the folks at Amazon decide that if you want to buy an e-book from them, you'd better get a Kindle. It would be helpful, therefore, if they weren't out of stock. "Publishers Weekly": has notified its publisher and author clients that it plans to cease offering e-books in the Microsoft Reader and Adobe e-book formats. In the future, the online retailer says it plans to offer only e-books in the Kindle format (for wireless download to its Kindle reading device) and the Mobipocket format, both of which are owned by Amazon. The online retailer’s note asks publishers and authors to make sure that Amazon has written permission to offer their books for sale in the Mobipocket format.

Let Them Eat Cheetos

PETA has launched a campaign aimed at getting children to stop eating fish. But as the "Economist" notes:
The big problem with this story and all this direct marketing is that the scientific evidence that eating fish is vital to children’s health and intelligence could not be clearer. And this finding takes into account the detrimental effects of mercury, which are far outweighed by the benefits accrued by the benefits of eating fish.

Nixon/Vietnam, Bush/Iraq, Obama/Afghanistan?

A site called, while still displaying an "impeach Bush and Cheney" feature, already sounds as though it could be persuaded under certain circumstances to update the names. Writes David Lindorff:
Based upon the ludicrous premise that Afghanistan is the biggest military threat facing the US today, our new president, Barack Obama,is preparing to send another 30,000 US troops to that country,effectively doubling the number of American soldiers already there.Inevitably, this will mean more killing and more anger towards Americaamong the local population.

Al Qaeda members, meanwhile, have largely moved away from the battle to Pakistan, a much larger nation to the east of Afghanistan, whichraises the question: What the hell are we trying to do in Afghanistan?

Let’s get it straight. No Afghan has ever, to my knowledge, harmed the United States. I’m not sure most Afghanis, if they could scrape together the money to go to the US, would even know where this country is. (Okay, most Americans probably couldn’t tell you where Afghanistan is, either, but at least we have libraries, and computers, which the geographically challenged can turn to in order to locate the place.That’s not true for the people of Afghanistan, who have neither.)

For eight years, America has been attacking and destroying a country that is about as dangerous a threat to America as is Mali, or Haiti, or the Comoros Islands. If Obama follows through and doubles the number of troops fighting over there, it will just make this whole policy twice as stupid.
The Afghanistan commitment must be watched carefully. The U.S. military is right to say that more resources are needed to accomplish the mission it has been given by civilian commanders. The question then becomes what Obama's mission will be. Is he acting on his campaign rhetoric, when he accused Sen. McCain of being unwilling to follow Osama bin Laden to his cave? Does he want to keep a hawkish anchor to rightward to cover his big-government moves at home? Is he listening too much to the military's demands for more resources and thus risking letting the tactics drive the strategy?

Lindorff obviously minimizes the remaining dangers to U.S. security interests lurking in those forbidding mountains. Wherever a potent al-Qaeda and its enablers are, there must we be (though the danger of destablizing Pakistan also looms, yet another "another Vietnam" for Obama). But for the sake of the tens of thousands of young Americans preparing to redeploy as well as Afghanistan's people, this is a time for an inexperienced leader to remember how the same dangerous land broke the mighty British and Soviets.

Generally We Don't Pat People's Hair

"The View" continues its unique contributions to our political discourse:

[Joy] Behar said she's heard [Gov.] Blagojevich does a mean Richard Nixon imitation, but Blagojevich didn't take her up on her offer to say Nixon's famous "I am not a crook" line.

Behar later patted Blagojevich's hair.

The Seeds Of Regret

Jonathan Aitken is a former member of the British Parliament and author of Nixon: A Life (sadly and I hope temporarily out of print, though you can grab a copy here). A frequent visitor to San Clemente after President Nixon's resignation, including during his honeymoon with his first wife, he had a fascinating insider's account of the Nixon-Frost interviews in Saturday's London Daily Mail.

Aitken begins with a glimpse of the honeymoon visit:

[A]n awkwardly but determinedly romantic Richard Nixon presented us with a formal corsage of flowers, made delicate inquiries on how we were sleeping, and took immense pains in putting on a festive dinner party which he called 'La Casa Pacifica's welcome to the honeymooners from three happily married couples'. They turned out to be ex-President Nixon and his wife; David and Julie Eisenhower (President Ike's grandson and Nixon's daughter); and Congressman and Mrs Jimmy Roosevelt (FDR's son and daughter-in-law).

Having recently interviewing RN's then-chief of staff (played in "Frost/Nixon" by Kevin Bacon), Aitken describes what really happened after the former President successfully filibustered David Frost in their first videotaped exchanges:
As Colonel Jack Brennan tells it: 'Frost sent his aide, John Birt [later boss of the BBC], to see me. He said: "This has been terrible. We need more time."

'My immediate reaction was "Tough. We've kept our side of the deal: the taping is over."

'But later I talked it over with my staff. We all agreed that Nixon should voluntarily go further and express some regret.

'So I went to see the boss and I said to him: "Listen, if this ends the way it has, the world is going to say, there goes the same old Nixon."'

At first, Nixon was curtly dismissive of this criticism. But Brennan and his team persisted. Their argument was that some expression of regret for Watergate needed to be put on record....

'From that moment onwards,' recalled Brennan, 'I knew that Nixon was spending all his time preparing himself for how to say something that would not be a confession or an expression of guilt, yet would say sorry for what had happened.' Throughout his life, Richard Nixon had difficulty giving apologies. This one was the hardest of all.

We're All Nixonians Now

Bruce Bartlett is a former Reagan administration official who wrote in 2002 that President Nixon had "betrayed" conservative principles by acquiescing in big-government policies. Bartlett now argues that all conservatives will have to live with big government and higher taxes. He wants them to focus on promoting economic growth and keeping tax increases as moderate as possible:

I think conservatives would better spend their diminished political capital figuring out how to finance the welfare state at the least cost to the economy and individual liberty, rather than fighting a losing battle to slash popular spending programs. But this will require them to accept the necessity of higher revenues.

It is simply unrealistic to think that tax cuts will continue to be a viable political strategy when the budget deficit exceeds $1 trillion, as it will this year. Nor is it realistic to think that taxes can be kept at 19 percent of GDP when spending is projected to grow by about 50 percent of GDP over the next generation, according to both the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office. And that’s without any new spending programs being enacted.


I had an enjoyable exchange of e-mails with Mr. Bartlett in response to this post. I don't have his permission to reproduce his messages, so I won't. But in his first one, he said he wouldn't be surprised if I accused him of flip-flopping when it came to the need to hew to conservative principles no matter what. My reply:
I wouldn't say a flip-flop at all. Just an irony. You make clear that we are in unanticipated times and that conservatives need a new script to match. It does seem that for nearly a century they have been fighting the same improvisational and ultimately losing rear guard action against the growth of government. Depression, World War II, Cold War, war on poverty, civil rights, Vietnam, 1980s recession, Social Security crisis, war on terrorism, war on global meltdown -- in response to every crisis, government has grown. I believe it was you who demonstrated somewhere that by the end of his term Ronald Reagan himself had earned the title of biggest tax increaser ever.

I hear you saying that there's a point at which the market will cease having an incentive to recover and grow. Perhaps one sign would be the feds telling Detroit what kinds of cars to build in the teeth of a recession. (Oops! Already happened.)

As for President Nixon, whatever his pragmatic disposition, I don't think conservative critics have appreciated how hard it was to stay in Vietnam (which he'd determined was a vital national interest) with a Democrat-dominated Congress. He couldn't have been more conservative if he'd wanted to (which the tapes and memos show he did, at least sometimes). In California even the governor was tacking to the center. It took the 1980s for Reagan to be Reagan. In the early 1970s, I'll bet he would've been Nixon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Barney's Rubble

Rep. Barney Frank had pork in TARP:
Frank admits he included language in the TARP legislation specifically designed to bail out [Boston's] OneUnited. He also acknowledges contacting officials at the Treasury Department about the bank’s bailout application.
Hat tip to Instapundit

Perfect Songs: "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" (1971)

Bob Dylan. Joe Ely and Pat Donahue performed the song this week on "A Prairie Home Companion."

Credit Junkies

Choosing the top 25 scapegoats for the economic meltdown, The Guardian identifies the usual suspects (minus, oddly, Henry Cisneros) but adds that it has seen the ultimate enemy, and it is we:
There's no escaping the fact: politicians might have teed up the financial system and failed to police it properly and Wall Street's greedy bankers might have got carried away with the riches they could generate, but if millions of Americans had just realised they were borrowing more than they could repay then we would not be in this mess. The British public got just as carried away. We are the credit junkies of Europe and many of our problems could easily have been avoided if we had been more sensible and just said no.

Quagmire Brewing?

Helene Cooper:
[E]ven as Mr. Obama’s military planners prepare for the first wave of the new Afghanistan “surge,” there is growing debate, including among those who agree with the plan to send more troops, about whether — or how — the troops can accomplish their mission, and just what the mission is.

Afghanistan has, after all, stymied would-be conquerors since Alexander the Great. It’s always the same story; the invaders — British, Soviets — control the cities, but not the countryside. And eventually, the invaders don’t even control the cities, and are sent packing.

Think Iraq was hard? Afghanistan, former Secretary of State Colin Powell argues, will be “much, much harder.”

Clarence Thomas Looks Grumpy

The Gigapan composite photo of the inauguration. Impossibly cool.

Sing "Halleluja." Use Words If Necessary.

Hat tip to Kris Elftmann

"Two Planes, Two Worlds"

This post by Andrew Sullivan is beautiful:

It's funny but even during the mayhem of Inauguration week, the image of that A320 being landed safely on the Hudson kept coming back to me. And when I read that its remains had ended up floating not far from Ground Zero, I couldn't help but marvel at the historical and civilizational symmetry of it all.

Over seven years ago, a group of religious extremists seized control of an aircraft in that same airspace, men who had very little flying experience and a philosophy of maximizing the deaths of innocent civilians on the ground. They did all they could to murder as many as they could in order to secure the maximum reward for themselves in heaven and in worldly renown.

Seven years later, two pilots who have since remained remarkably distant from media attention, were in a similar cockpit in the same crowded area and their over-riding concern was to prevent any civilian casualties at all. That's why they even avoided small airports which might have led to a crash into inhabited neighborhoods. With enormous expertise, gained by rigorous training in a civilized society, they managed to land safely on the river and save everyone both on board and on the ground.

It seems to me that dignity and training and expertise and humaneness are the values of our society at its best. All of them are self-evidently superior to the values of vainglory, amateurism, impulsiveness and cruelty that bedevil our enemies. If these are the grounds on which we fight this war - and they are ours to choose - then we will win. And we will deserve to.