Friday, February 24, 2012

St. Santorum For President

Andrew Sullivan has an epiphany: The Republican Party should take its most logical and natural candidate, Rick Santorum, to its bosom and suffer and perhaps learn from the likely electoral consequences.

This goes against Sullivan's view that parties should always nominate their most responsible candidates, since we live in an unpredictable world where either could be elected despite what the polls say in February or October. A Santorum loss in November might lead to a GOP reformation. His winning would risk a reckless war with Iran that could kill a quarter-million people.

But back to Sullivan's epiphany:
[F]or the past decade, the Republican elites and base have... insisted on a politics that is mediated by theology.

They are the ones who have insisted that religious argument has an integral role in public discourse; that there is a "war on Christmas" and now all religion; they are the ones who have campaigned against gay marriage as un-Biblical or in violation of a "natural law" barely updated from the 13th century; they are the ones raging against a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine because God bequeathed it all to the Jewish people; they are those who directed the federal government to involve itself in an end-of-life decision already resolved by state law; they are those who have made criminalization of abortion a litmus test for Republican candidates for a generation, and who want to give women an invasive ultrasound before allowing them to exercise what has now been a constitutional right for decades.

And when an intelligent, sincere candidate emerges who has actually walked the walk on these issues, and refused to back down on them, and overcomes a massive financial and organizational disadvantage to become the national leader in the polls, he's suddenly far too extreme.

Is Santorum unelectable in a general election? Yep. The current polling says Rick loses to Obama by 6.3 percent. But Mitt loses to him by 5.1 percent. How big an argument do you want over 1.2 percent?

I despise what the GOP has become. But it is what it is. And Santorum is its logical leader. Let this party stand up and be counted.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Clash Of Civilizations? What Civilization?

What is this, the Middle Ages? Evidently:

Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who in 2010 was found guilty of apostasy and sentenced to death for refusing to recant Christianity, may have received a final execution order, according to the American Center for Law and Justice and Fox News.

Neither Human Rights Watch nor Amnesty International could verify the information for The Huffington Post, but the White House on Thursday afternoon issued a statement condemning the reports and calling on Iran to release Pastor Nadarkhani.

If Iran Wants A Bomb, It Will Get One

The Economist opposes an Israeli attack on Iran because it is apt to fail and provoke counterattacks as well as renewed zealotry among its leaders and people. And yet:

That does not mean the world should just let Iran get the bomb. The government will soon be starved of revenues, because of an oil embargo. Sanctions are biting, the financial system is increasingly isolated and the currency has plunged in value. Proponents of an attack argue that military humiliation would finish the regime off. But it is as likely to rally Iranians around their leaders. Meanwhile, political change is sweeping across the Middle East. The regime in Tehran is divided and it has lost the faith of its people. Eventually, popular resistance will spring up as it did in 2009. A new regime brought about by the Iranians themselves is more likely to renounce the bomb than one that has just witnessed an American assault.

Is there a danger that Iran will get a nuclear weapon before that happens? Yes, but bombing might only increase the risk. Can you stop Iran from getting a bomb if it is determined to have one? Not indefinitely, and bombing it might make it all the more desperate. Short of occupation, the world cannot eliminate Iran’s capacity to gain the bomb. It can only change its will to possess one. Just now that is more likely to come about through sanctions and diplomacy than war.

U.S. And China, After The Bear Is Gone

The whole "firebomb Brookings" thing notwithstanding, Jeffrey A. Bader at the Brookings Institution gives Richard Nixon his due for the opening to China and ponders the future of the relationship:
The biggest challenge, as Nixon understood before his death in 1994, was whether the United States and China could sustain the relationship that he helped launch in the absence of a common enemy, the Soviet Union. Nixon believed we could, and should. He was right. But leaders on both sides will need to identify and work together on common interests, internationally and bilaterally, more effectively than they have since 1990 if we are not to be overwhelmed by the security dilemma, economic clash, and ideology. This may not sound like a task as heroic as Nixon’s trip to China, which spawned an opera, but it may be as important to the prospects of continued peace for the next forty years as Nixon’s visit.

Hoover Reconsidered And Redressed

On Feb. 14's "Fresh Air," Terry Gross interviewed Tim Weiner, author of the newly published Enemies: A History of the FBI. Weiner's extensive research and measured analysis make it impossible to dismiss J. Edgar Hoover, despite his bigotry and systematic abuses of power, as the monstrous cartoon figure to which we're becoming increasingly accustomed. Weiner describes him instead as the quintessential Cold War national security zealot. Some excerpts from the fascinating conversation (all quotations are Weiner's words):
The roots of the national security state:

Hoover had a terrible premonition after World War II, that the United States was going to be attacked, that New York or Washington was going to be attacked by suicidal, kamikaze airplanes, by dirty bombs of cobalt-60 or another radioactive material. And he never lost this fear. It stayed with him for 25 years, 'til his death. It was a premonition, if you will, of the 9/11 attacks. He never forgot Pearl Harbor....Hoover is the inventor of the modern American national security state. Every fingerprint file, every DNA record, every iris recorded through biometrics, every government dossier on every citizen and every alien in this country owes its life to him. And we live in his shadow, though he's been gone for 40 years....

Hoover did not want any limits on him. He wanted no charter. He wanted no rules imposed by outsiders. He wanted the FBI to, as the secretary of state had said under Roosevelt, investigate the so-and-so's. And he believed that the Soviet Union was trying to steal America's atomic secrets, to burrow into the State Department, the Pentagon, the FBI and the White House, and he was right.

The source of Hoover's suspicions about Martin Luther King:

Hoover saw the civil rights movement from the 1950s onward and the anti-war movement from the '60s onward, as presenting the greatest threats to the stability of the American government since the Civil War. These people were enemies of the state, and in particular, Martin Luther King was an enemy of the state. And Hoover aimed to watch over them. And if they twitched in the wrong direction, the hammer would come down.... The fact -- and it is a fact, although it's an uncomfortable fact -- that Martin Luther King's most prominent white adviser, ghostwriter of books, writer of speeches, legal counselor, confidante, was a man named Stanley Levison, who had been, at least up until the time he joined ranks with Martin Luther King in 1957, a secret member of the communist underground in the United States.

Hoover and homosexuality:

[Hoover] conflated -- and he was not alone -- communism with homosexuality. Both communists and homosexuals had secret, coded language that they spoke to each other in. They had clandestine lives. They met in clandestine places. They had secrets. And in, you know, certain cases, such as the British spy ring that penetrated the Pentagon and the CIA in the '40s and early '50s, they were both communists and homosexuals. Hoover didn't see a dime's worth of difference there. They were one and the same. This was hammered into him when the FBI dealt with one of the most famous informants in the history of American government, Whittaker Chambers (right), who helped bring down secret Soviet espionage rings in this country. He was a well-known writer at Time magazine - writer and editor. Chambers was a secret homosexual and a secret communist. Hoover saw a nexus there, and he never let that thought go....

Now, of course, the $64,000 question was: Did Hoover do this because he was a repressed homosexual closet case, and he was using his rage to destroy homosexuals?...This is a myth. It's been around since 1937, since Hoover went after homosexuals and government. It was - gasoline was poured on the embers of this by Bill Donovan, Hoover's mortal enemy in government. It's been around forever. Now, what do we know that this? Hoover never married. He never had an adult relationship with a woman, other than his mother, whom he lived with until he was 43, the day she died. Hoover was also inseparable from his number two man at the FBI, Clyde Tolson. Now, the evidence -- if you can call it that -- that Hoover was a secret homosexual rests almost entirely with an account by a British journalist who's only witness is a convicted perjurer. The evidence on the other side is strong. Hoover never loved anyone, except his dogs. He was married to the FBI. And the idea that he was a secret homosexual who, you know, wore tutus for fun is a myth. Unfortunately, that's the only thing anybody seems to know about him today....

If you look at the man and you listen to people who knew him and worked with him, it's almost inconceivable for this man to have had a secret life. His entire life was devoted to the uncovering and collection of secrets on other people, including their sex lives. Could he have carried off a double life like that? When you read his work, when you listen to his tapes, when you investigate the great investigator, there's no there there.

Hoover and the roots of Watergate:

The Pentagon Papers, as your listeners of a certain age will remember, was the secret history of the Vietnam War that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned in the Johnson years. It ran to 17 volumes, and it essentially said that, you know, we kept pushing on into the big muddy, even though we weren't going to win the war. It was a political war, not a military battle. These papers walk out of the Pentagon, out of probably the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. Nixon knows within days that it's a former Pentagon officer named Daniel Ellsberg who's done it, and by God, he wants Ellsberg destroyed and tried, and he wants the evidence. You know, he wants to break into the Brookings Institution, firebomb it, send a fake, you know, fire team in there and blow the safe, as he said.

Hoover doesn't want to do this for a lot of reasons, one of which they're going to get caught. Second is that Ellsberg's father-in-law is a friend of his who gives a lot of toys to the FBI,... Louis Marx. And Hoover won't do it. Nixon goes ballistic, and that's when the Plumbers are created to do the work that J. Edgar Hoover wouldn't do.

And two generations after Hoover's death, George W. Bush with "chalk on his spikes":

There is an incredibly dramatic moment in 2004 where the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller...confronts the president of the United States in the Oval Office over the White House's secret eavesdropping program that has transgressed its boundaries and overstepped the law and the Constitution. Through its data mining tactics, through its eavesdropping technologies, they've gone beyond what even the secret court that oversees eavesdropping will authorize....And Mueller tells the president, in the Oval Office, face to face, with a handwritten letter of resignation in his breast pocket that either the program is curtailed and brought within the law or he, the head of the FBI, will resign, as will the entire command structure of the Justice Department, from the attorney general down.

And President Bush says, according to his memoirs: What are you talking about? What program? What problems? What legal issues? And Mueller looks at him with a very steely gaze and says: I think you know what we're talking about, Mr. President. And at that point, it's a crime to lie to the FBI. It's punishable by five years in prison. And that's where we were.

[T]he president had chalks on his spikes at that moment. He was at the line, and about to cross it. And he says, Bush says in his memoir: Visions of the Saturday night massacre during Watergate dance in his head when, you know, two attorneys general and the command structure of the FBI resigned rather than cover up for the president. Mueller wins. Bush eventually backs down, and that is a triumph of the rule of law.

St. Santorum Finds A Mainstream Champion

The Economist takes an objective view of Rick Santorum, describing him as the kind of Roman Catholic with working class, Midwestern appeal whom Pat Buchanan used to pine for when writing memos in the Nixon White House about how to build a new Republican majority:

This column has argued before that when the media look only at Mr Santorum’s thoughts on family morality they end up with a caricature. He is in fact a more rounded candidate, with some impressive skills. These include not only the perseverance that kept him tramping through the slough of despond when others might have given up, but also a nimble and well-stocked mind, an approachable manner on the stump and—the big prize that eludes Mr Romney—a palpable sincerity. In Michigan and Ohio, he may also prove that he has another advantage over Mr Romney: an appeal to blue-collar workers that is hard for a member of the 1% to match. Mr Santorum takes care to give the coalmining travails of his immigrant grandfather a big place in his narrative.

An' A One, An' A Two, An' A One

Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouthi, surveying the new tactic of nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation of the West Bank, says time is running out on the two-state solution:
[C]ontinuing Israeli settlement activity could soon lead us to the point of no return. Indeed, if we do not soon achieve a genuinely independent Palestinian state, we will be forced to press instead for a single democratic state with equal rights and responsibilities for both Palestinians and Israelis.
He also writes, "Our movement is not intended to delegitimize Israel, as the Israeli government claims." That depends on what the meaning of delegitimize is. Polls show that many Palestinians see the two-state solution merely as an intermediate step toward "a single democratic state" with an Arab majority, which would not only delegitimize the Jewish state but eliminate it. If Palestinians' true objective is a single state now or later, it's not hard to understand Israel's intransigence, since most Israelis desire the maintenance of a Jewish Israel.

If Palestinian elites want to demonstrate their commitment to two states coexisting indefinitely, they should stop waiting for Israel to stop building settlements, which isn't likely, for the U.S. to make it stop, which is even less likely, or for the alternative outcome of a single state, which is a fantasy. Instead, they should conditionally accept Israel's best current territorial offer.

Mounting Crisis

My post on Sunday's Jerusalem riot may have left the impression that a Muslim cleric had manufactured the idea that Jews were planning to occupy Muslim site on the Temple Mount. This detailed Richard Silverstein post shows otherwise, though the movement is so far confined to the far right of Israeli politics and religious life (no Rick Santorum jokes, please) :

It appears that a growing band of Israeli messianic settlers have banded together to orchestrate a crisis on the Temple Mount. Their ultimate goal seems to be taking Jewish control over the sacred ground, including two of the holiest sites in Islam, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Think?

Washington Post headline: "Study raises concerns about marijuana, teen drivers."

Only If They Use Coke And Aspirin

They Focus-Grouped That. Looks Too Weird.

Roman Catholic Andrew Sullivan on the Ash Wednesday GOP debate:
Neither of the Catholics has ash on their forehead.
Remind me to tell you about the time I imposed ashes on Sean Hannity.

Tongue Tied Tucker

Yesterday Tucker Carlson said Iran was evil "and deserves to be annihilated." You and I don't take overpaid TV blowhards too seriously (one hopes), but there's considerable fear that Iran might do so. Whether taking the threat of an Israeli or U.S. attack seriously would lead to war or the negotiating table remains an open question. It occurs to me that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, without having set out to do so, have fallen into a good cop, bad cop dynamic that is making the threat of an Israeli attack seem more imminent than it perhaps is -- which, again, may help draw Teheran into a meaningful conversation about how to avoid war, which would be by not developing a nuclear weapon. George W. Bush pulled off something similar with Libya.

In any event, Carlson apologized for being "tongue tied" and then enunciated a position that makes sense:
I'm actually on the opposite side on the Iran question from many people I otherwise agree with. I think attacking could be a disaster for the U.S. and am worried that Obama will do it, for fear of seeming weak before an election. Of course the Iranian government is awful and deserves to be crushed. But I'm not persuaded we or Israel could do it in a way that doesn't cause even greater problems. That's the main lesson of Iraq it seems to me.

Let The Bare Places Flourish

Verlyn Klinkenborg on Lent -- advice a desert father (and mother) would love:
[W]hat if this were really a season for renunciation, even for non-believers? In the ancestral stories of nearly every culture, wisdom comes from the bare places, from deserts and dry mountains. The season of Lent itself is based on a “wilderness” — the one in which Jesus fasted for 40 days after his baptism.

It’s common to read this story and others like it as though the wilderness were little more than a blank backdrop. I read it a different way. Wisdom comes from the bare places because they force humility upon us. In these Lenten places, where life thrives on almost nothing, we can see clearly how large a shadow modern life and consumption cast upon the earth. In secular terms, Lent seems the opposite of Christmas — “What are you giving up?” versus “What are you getting?” Perhaps it might be a season in which to learn the value of abstention and to consider how to let the bare places flourish, or even simply to exist.
Hat tip to Cindy Drennan

Jesus, I Adore You, Lay My Life Before You

Elements of the St. John's Middle School choir, rehearsing for this morning's Ash Wednesday service

Ten Reasons All Together

Responding to my Nixon brother Hugh Hewitt, Conor Friedersdorf (who's a conservative) gives seven good reasons why right-wing talk show hosts shouldn't moderate GOP debates. Addressing the issue when Hugh raised it November 2010, I could only think of three. Here's one:
[I]f they're smart, candidates look for opportunities to hone their skills in tough forums. Who cares who's asking the questions? If you're going to win and be able to govern, you learn to answer the ones you wanted instead of the ones you got. Once you have power, you don't get to decide who's allowed to cause you problems.

Ash Wednesday Sky

6:17 a.m., route 241

Testify, St. Santorum

They're singin' the devil's music in the White House!

The Martyrdom Of St. Santorum

Ross Douthat weighs Rick Santorum's pros and cons as GOP nominee and concludes:

In the (still-unlikely) event that Santorum captured the nomination, then, his campaign would probably be to social conservatism what Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign was to small-government conservatism: A losing effort that would inspire countless observers to declare the loser’s worldview discredited, rejected, finished.

In the longer run, a Santorum candidacy might suggest a path that a more electable pro-life populist could follow, much as Reagan ultimately followed Goldwater.

But in the short run, it would almost certainly be a debacle – a sweeping defeat for the candidate himself, and a sweeping setback for the causes that he champions.

Remember That We Are Stardust

This image of Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov, both Expedition 30 flight engineers, was taken during a Feb. 16 spacewalk at the International Space Station. During the six-hour, 15-minute spacewalk, Kononenko and Shkaplerov moved the Strela-1 crane from the Pirs Docking Compartment in preparation for replacing it in 2012 with a new laboratory and docking module. The duo used another boom, the Strela-2, to move the hand-operated crane to the Poisk module for future assembly and maintenance work. Both telescoping booms extend like fishing rods and are used to move massive components outside the station. On the exterior of the Poisk Mini-Research Module 2, they also installed the Vinoslivost Materials Sample Experiment, which will investigate the influence of space on the mechanical properties of the materials. The spacewalkers also collected a test sample from underneath the insulation on the Zvezda Service Module to search for any signs of living organisms. Both spacewalkers wore Russian Orlan spacesuits bearing blue stripes and equipped with NASA helmet cameras. (Photo and caption from NASA)

Remember That We Are Dust

For behold, you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly. Psalm 51:7

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Rock 'n Roll Man," Elizabeth Cook

He doesn't get what the hell the Grateful Dead is about; he likes to talk about Elvis, but only in the Sun years. Hat tip to No Depression.

Nixon's Fall As An Unintended Consequence

Jack Shafer on Max Holland's Leak, to be published March 6:

Holland makes the persuasive case that [Washington Post source Mark] Felt, who died in 2008, used the classic techniques of counterintelligence he learned as an FBI agent to destabilize his main bureaucratic opponent inside the FBI (Acting Director L. Patrick Gray) with his leaks to Woodward (and other journalists). The goal of his leaks was to nudge President Richard Nixon in the direction of appointing him FBI director instead of Gray.

Leak overturns once and for all the romantic, popular interpretation of the Watergate saga of one inside source risking it all to save democracy. “Nixon’s downfall was an entirely unanticipated result of Felt’s true and only aim,” Holland writes. Although Holland never disparages the enterprise of Woodward and Bernstein, acknowledging the impact their reports had on Judge John J. Sirica and the senators who formed an investigative committee, neither does he bow to them. “Contrary to the widely held perception that the Washington Post ‘uncovered’ Watergate, the newspaper essentially tracked the progress of the FBI’s investigation, with a time delay ranging from weeks to days, and published elements of the prosecutors’ case well in advance of the trial.”

Standing Pat

Andrew Sullivan stuck to his guns after readers excoriated him for criticizing MSNBC's firing of Pat Buchanan. Late on Tuesday, a reader sent him a vignette about Buchanan from Nixon-McGovern days and concluded:

What is it we need more of in our discourse? More intellectual backbone? Less sanctimony? Where the hell should I start? I’m not sure, but silencing Buchanan isn’t a step in the right direction.

Holy Smoke

Nancy Constable and Cheryl Dunn of the St. John's Altar Guild are burning up last year's Palm Sunday palm crosses and fronds for tomorrow's Ash Wednesday ashes. Don't worry: Cheryl's an attorney, and Nancy's son-in-law is a firefighter.

What's The Beef, Bolton?

The New York Times reports that the prospective GOP nominees -- except Ron Paul, who does a reliable impersonation of a sane person on this issue -- discern that they can derive a political benefit from criticizing the Obama administration for cautioning Israel against an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities:
Republicans hope that attacks on [Obama's] support of Israel could both appeal to Jewish voters — a small but important constituency, especially in some swing states, like Florida — and to other voters who are committed to protecting Israel.
Yes, you read that correctly. All Republicans save one are reported to be advocating a reckless policy to get votes. They will no doubt say that this is the liberal media talking, that the idea of advocating war to impress Jewish voters never crossed their minds. Whatever their motivation, the cravenness of Obama's partisan critics was on display last night when Fox News' Greta Van Susteren interviewed former UN ambassador John Bolton. She asked what he'd do if he were president. He replied that he'd let Israel attack Iran. Van Susteren said that experts believe that Iran's capability probably can't be so easily reduced. Bolton quickly agreed, saying that the mission would be at the outer reaches of Israel's capability, which is why Israel would be better off with the U.S. playing a tactical role -- which he most certainly didn't endorse.

In other words, an Israeli attack would be difficult and might well fail -- which will be one of Obama's key taking points when he meets Benyamin Netanyahu in early March. So Mr. Ambassador, please say again: What's your beef with Obama?

Also The Right To Ice Cream

My wife, Kathy, and I were talking and wondering yesterday about how atheists grieve. We'd just seen "The Descendants," which, while a beautiful movie, was relentless about avoiding any reference to spirituality. It's hard to believe that none of Matt King's (George Clooney) 50 friends and relatives would've said, "God bless you" or "we're praying for you" in connection with his stricken wife. When he and and his daughters poured Elizabeth's ashes overboard, he said, "I guess that's it." That's a scary thought, and the one that prompted our conversation.

The characters weren't so much explicit atheists as Stepford secularists to whom the concept of God had never occurred or been mentioned. At the end of the movie they're huddled on a sofa under a blanket, self-medicating with ice cream and a documentary. I'd like to send them the post I just read about Rebecca Hensler, whose infant son died in 2009, and her dedication to helping her fellow nonbelievers get through tragedy. Her Facebook page, according to Huffington Post, is called "Grief Beyond Belief":

A 43-year-old school counselor, Hensler tries to post something every day -- a link, a picture, a question, a thought. Recent topics include a discussion of travel as a balm for pain, a look at how agnostics grieve, and a link to a "Bill of Rights for the Grieving." Right No. 7: "You have the right not to be grateful, reasonable, inspired or inspiring."

The Missing Man In Beijing

Chas W. Freeman, a U.S. diplomat who served as Richard Nixon's interpreter when he arrived in Beijing 40 years ago today, had a confession to make during an anniversary panel discussion last week at the former Nixon Center in Washington:
When I tried to sleep on Air Force One on the way to Beijing, I was jolted awake by a nightmare. I dreamed that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek would be standing there with his old political sparring partner and secret pen pal, Zhou Enlai. In my dream, Chiang stepped forward to greet his former friend and political backer, Richard Nixon with a loudly sarcastic “long time, no see!” As we pulled up to the shabby old structure that was then the only terminal at Beijing’s airport, I peered anxiously out the window. Others were elated to see Premier Zhou emerge to greet us. I was merely relieved that he was there pretty much by himself.

Top: Nixon meeting Zhou Enlai in Beijing, Feb. 21, 1972. Bottom: Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek with communist leader Mao Zedong during their World War II alliance

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tweet Emotion

Thanks to sister blogger Maarja Krusten at NixoNARA for tweeting about my post on the handover of the Nixon library, which was picked up by Kate Theimer's Archivists-On-Twitter Daily.

Right Guy, Wrong Choir

W. James Antle, an editor at the American Spectator, takes a measured view of Nixon hand Pat Buchanan's firing by MSNBC:

The casus belli of Buchanan's ouster was his most recent book, Suicide of a Superpower. It contains ideas, MSNBC president Phil Griffin told reporters, unfit for "national dialogue, much less on MSNBC."

Remaining on the network is Al Sharpton, whose denunciations of "white interlopers" and "diamond merchants" helped provoke violence against Freddy's Fashion Mart and the Jewish communities of Crown Heights. You will search Buchanan's oeuvre in vain for anything approaching Sharpton at his most hateful.

Many of the demographic claims made in Buchanan's book aren't particularly controversial. He borrowed the chapter titles about the end of Christian America and white America from cover stories in Newsweek and the Atlantic, respectively. His tone is generally wistful, not angry. His thesis is less that diversity is inherently undesirable than that it is difficult to manage without other bonds, values, or experiences that bring countrymen together.

Buchanan hasn't always succeeded in bringing his countrymen together either, often using words that wound people of colors and creeds who don't feel welcome in his vision of America. Despite that real shortcoming, he is a patriot who has consistently believed that his views are open to debate. Do his critics?

Not in the jungle of contemporary cable news, which has evolved from CNN's bold experiment in 24-hour TV journalism into a throwback to 19th century partisan broadsheets. To my knowledge, since Alan Colmes bailed a few years ago, Fox News hasn't had a liberal or progressive of Buchanan's stature appearing regularly. It may well be that MSNBC decided it shouldn't keep wearing Pat as a fair-and-balanced fig leaf if the other side didn't present compensatory foliage -- and that's what Fox and MSNBC are all about, Republicans vs. Democrats, tit for tat, in both cases ideology vs. substance. You don't even need to watch, because you usually know what they're going to say already. They're both streaming to the choir.

In short, Fox News' viewers don't want to watch a liberal, and MSNBC's don't want to listen to a conservative -- and even when it comes to TV news, as in any other market, what the customer wants, the customer gets.

Dudes Look At A Lady

The legacy of Pat Nixon according to a quartet of male factotums. Mary Brennan, call your agent.
As of March 13, when I rechecked, a female factotum has been added to the program.

Sharia And Atheism's Useful Idiots

Is the use of Sharia law in U.S. neighborhoods and communities a harbinger of Islamic despotism? A provocative article in the conservative religious journal founded by Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, raises a different specter: Laws aimed at banning Sharia could weaken First Amendment protections enjoyed by all faiths. The author of the article is law professor Robert K. Vischer:
Before Christian and Jewish believers support such measures, they should consider the way these laws not only misunderstand the faith of their Muslim fellow citizens but threaten their own religious liberty. Muslim Americans who seek to use Sharia are not asking the American legal system to adopt Islamic rules of conduct, penal or otherwise. Muslims have introduced Sharia in court not in an attempt to establish a freestanding source of law binding on litigants but rather in recognition of the norms to which the litigants have already agreed to be bound.

American courts do this every day—it’s called contract law. Even the literature being pumped out by anti-Sharia organizations shows that their target is not the threat posed by the imposition of Sharia on American society but rather the threat posed by the introduction of Sharia according to the same criteria of admissibility applied by courts to other religious codes.

In particular, the disputes implicating Sharia tend to crop up over the terms of the contract that constitutes the litigants’ marriage. (In Islam, the contract does not precede a marriage; the contract is the marriage.) The disputed terms often pertain to the distribution of property upon marriage and in the event of divorce or the husband’s death. Courts do not rubber-stamp all marital contracts, of course. But whether or not a contract formed in accordance with Sharia is enforceable should turn on whether it goes beyond the contractual conditions that would be tolerable in any other marital contract, not on the fact that it emerged from a particular religious system.

More broadly, the religious terms of an agreement do not preclude its enforcement by courts. If the rules of a Baptist church provide that a pastor can be removed only by a vote of the entire membership, a court will uphold a pastor’s challenge if the elders dismissed him without the required vote. That the church’s rule expresses the Baptist commitment to the priesthood of all believers does not preclude a court from enforcing it.

To ban Sharia or any other form of religious law puts religious citizens at a tremendous disadvantage. The rules of secular groups like the PTA, ACLU, and Humane Society all have real authority because the legal system stands behind them when disputes arise. In the same way, American law rightly stands behind the rules adopted by religious bodies unless those rules conflict with important public policies.

Courts are not going to enforce a Mayan rule about child sacrifice, but in the vast majority of cases, courts enforce religious rules. When bankruptcy courts apply canon law in determining property rights for a diocese or when courts enforce arbitration agreements based on biblical principles pursuant to widely invoked rules of “Christian conciliation,” the rule of law is not jeopardized. Anti-Sharia legislation proposes an unconstitutional double standard. Canon law and biblical principles are not dirty words in the American court system, and Sharia should not be either.
Vischer is no raging liberal. He calls states' requirements that pro-life pharmacists dispense the the morning-after pill and religious organizations provide contraceptives to employees "violations of religious freedom." He doesn't address the partisan political dimension of the issue, but it's clear enough between the lines of his analysis. So-called friends of the First Amendment such as Newt Gingrich who compare Muslims to Nazis, try to create mosque-free zones, and denounce Sharia will make it easier for secularists to encroach on religious exclusions across the board. That makes Gingrich the atheists' useful idiot.

An Historian Errs On The Nixon Library

Former Nixon archivist Maarja Krusten raises questions about historian Benjamin Hufbauer's review in a scholarly journal of the Nixon library's Watergate exhibit, particularly the transfer of the private library to the National Archives. We first tried to get the library into NARA in 1995-6, not 2005, as Hufbauer writes. This passage in his review is especially egregious:
[M]embers of the foundation thought they could still have a shrine to Nixon but have the government pay for it. They were wrong. In 2006 when NARA took over, the newly installed Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein, personally recruited Timothy Naftali to be the first director of the Nixon Library under federal management. Naftali and Weinstein agreed that the primary goal for the museum would be a detailed and historically accurate account of the Watergate events.
It is Hufbauer who is wrong. As library director and Richard Nixon's co-executor, I conducted the negotiations with NARA along with Kathy O'Connor, Nixon's last chief of staff. Before the handover, we agreed that the Watergate exhibit would be replaced. For the first federal director, I recommended one name to deputy archivist Sharon Fawcett: Tim Naftali, Cold War historian and presidential tapes expert. Within days, she'd placed a call inviting him to be considered. Archivist Allen Weinstein told me later that my idea had been brilliant and that the same notion "had occurred to me."

After Naftali was named, I suggested to Fawcett and Weinstein, and they agreed, that Naftali should redo the Watergate exhibit rather than our trying to design one that would be acceptable to the government. Before NARA had even taken possession of the museum, Natftali asked my permission to tear out the old exhibit, which I granted.

Hufbauer's account was apparently informed solely by the Bob Haldeman revanchists who took over Nixon's foundation in the fall of 2009 after Naftali invited John Dean to give a speech (see here, here, and here), who battled him relentlessly over the Watergate exhibit, but who had no involvement in the handover negotiations with NARA.

Thanks to my sister blogger Maarja for sending me the article.

Photos: Nixon library handover ceremony, 2007: (f) Foundation chairman Don Bendetti and Archivist of the U.S. Weinstein; (b) Fawcett, Taylor, Naftali, and O'Connor. Right: Naftali and O'Connor

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Welcome To 1890

One reason the general election campaign (no matter who the GOP nominee is) will probably be more interesting as well as a substantial relief, according to Timothy Egan:
There is no other way to put this without resorting to demographic bluntness: the small fraction of Americans who are trying to pick the Republican nominee are old, white, uniformly Christian and unrepresentative of the nation at large.

None of that is a surprise. But when you look at the numbers, it’s stunning how little this Republican primary electorate resembles the rest of the United States. They are much closer to the population of 1890 than of 2012.

Yale Locks

Yale law school students Bill and Hillary in New Haven, 1972. Hat tip to BuzzFeed.

Casting Stones

Announcing that he's leaving the Republican Party to register as a Libertarian, veteran operative Roger Stone surveys the GOP field:
That the Republican Party can only produce Mitt Romney who was an independent during the Reagan-Bush years (and only converted to conservatism after serving one term as governor never intending to run for re-election while always planning to run for president), Newt Gingrich, a thrice married ego-maniac with delusions of grandeur and Rick Santorum, a religious fanatic, who would tell other people how to live, as presidential candidates proves the GOP may be going the way as the Whigs.

St. John's Sky

Innocent Bystanders For Christ

Responding to false reports emanating from a man of God that Jews were planning to desecrate Muslim holy sites, 50 Muslims stoned Christians tourists who were visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on the LORD's day. Covering the incident, Israel Today magazine reports:

Because of the constant threat of Muslim violence, and despite the fact that the Temple Mount is the most holy place on earth to Jews and many Christians, the Israeli police comply with Muslim demands for harsh restrictions on non-Muslim visitors to the site. For instance, Jews and Christians are forbidden to carry Bibles atop the Temple Mount or to utter even silent prayers within its walls. Jews and Christians are regularly detained for violating these conditions.

Competing holiness claims about the Temple Mount create an unholy mess, including during arguments over where a new nation of Palestine's capital should be. It's the holiest place for observant Jews because of the First and Second temples, though some Palestinians argue, against all evidence, that they never existed. It's usually described as the third holiest place for Muslims because Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven from the foundation stone, though some insist that Muhammad never ascended to heaven. As for Christians, Israel Today has overreached a bit. We do consider the Temple Mount a vital part of our narrative. Jesus was presented at the temple as an infant, studied there as a boy, preached there during his public ministry, predicted its destruction, and performed some housecleaning that helped get him killed.

If there's one site in Jerusalem that Christians agree is the holiest, though, it's the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, whose original structure was built in the fourth century over the place Jesus was and is thought to have been crucified, buried, and resurrected, perhaps in a quarry located outside the walls that Herod the Great built when he expanded the Second Temple in the first century before Christ. Christians have battled one another over that church, and still do, but they wouldn't go to war over the Temple Mount -- making their getting stoned for Jesus this morning weirdly ironic.