Monthly Archives: December 2008

"Do You Read the New York Times?"

Douglas Mackinnon on Nixon: The Hollywood Version:

…Recently, here in Washington, [movie director Ron] Howard offered up a screening of [his] film [Frost/Nixon] at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society before a mostly left-leaning audience. Unfortunately for the filmmaker and those in attendance who really can’t stand Mr. Nixon or President George W. Bush, a fly in the ointment appeared in the guise of Chris Wallace from Fox News. Now, even though an independent study by Pew demonstrates that Fox News, by far, is the most balanced of the networks, all on the left loudly proclaim it to be nothing more than a tool of the Bush administration.

Understanding that hostile perception, Mr. Wallace as he himself has described in interviews could stand it no more and decided to challenge the liberal panel of Mr. Howard, screenwriter Peter Morgan, James Reston Jr., and “historian” Robert Dallek. During the question and answer session after the screening, what most set off Mr. Wallace was a pronouncement by Mr. Reston (the son of the New York Times columnist and openly Nixon hating former researcher for Frost) that the film was “a metaphor for George W. Bush.”

As he has stated, against the pleas of his wife to remain silent, Mr. Wallace asked for a microphone to refute what he believed to be a ridiculous and biased statement. “To compare George W. Bush to Richard Nixon is to trivialize Nixon’s crimes and is a disservice to Bush,” said Mr. Wallace. “Richard Nixon’s crimes were committed solely for his own political gain, whereas George W. Bush was trying to protect the American people.” Mr. Wallace then reminded the panel that Mr. Bush must have done something right after 9/11 as, over seven years later, “we are all sitting here tonight so comfortably.”

Therein lies a very important point. For much of the left, it’s imperative to their narrative that they never admit Mr. Bush has done anything right. While they have taken him to task time and again for “never admitting his mistakes,” the irony is lost on them that they can’t admit to his successes. Even those that protect them and their loved ones. As if to underline the loathing of Mr. Bush and the denial of any of his success, “Historian” Mr. Dallek predictably suggested to Mr. Wallace that while, thanks to the Watergate tapes, Mr. Nixon’s crimes were well documented, we would have to wait until such documentation on Mr. Bush emerged before his sins would become more apparent. Mr. Wallace again became frustrated that a “historian” would utter such an ignorant and biased statement and said, “You make suppositions on no facts whatsoever.” To which Mr. Dallek incredulously replied, “Do you read The New York Times?”

As one who spent three years working in a joint command in the Pentagon with a top secret clearance, and with the full knowledge that the American people — and that includes the powers that be in Hollywood — are not privy to the vast amount of information or intelligence used to protect them, I’d like to pose a very probable scenario to Messrs. Howard, Morgan, Reston, and Dallek: What if, based on up-to-the-minute intelligence contained in the President’s Daily Briefing (the PDB), President-elect Barack Obama is confronted with horrific information that the candidate Obama never saw, and decides purely in the national security interests of our nation to keep in place some of the policies of the hated Mr. Bush? What critical movie, biased historical supposition, or slanted screenplay will they offer up in criticism of Mr. Obama? For that matter, what critical movies of any presidents other than Messrs. Nixon and Bush, would the panel consider? Surely Mr. Dallek knows that unbiased history tells us that President Lyndon Johnson abused his office and power…

I would take issue with part of Wallace’s comment; I don’t buy the idea that Nixon was driven “solely for his own political gain.” While I do think that Nixon was temperamentally unsuited to hold high office, I think Nixon’s haters purposely ignore the historical context of the Watergate crimes.

Nixon’s goal when he came to office was to end the war in Vietnam without abandoning our allies and without encouraging our enemies. Many of his domestic anti-war opponents desired an American defeat in Vietnam and worked towards that end (See Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn). Nixon was right to believe that these people were a significant part of the pacifist, anti-American Democratic Party that emerged in 1968 and took control in 1972.

It turned out that Nixon was right. America’s loss in Vietnam encouraged the Soviets to invade Afghanistan, and even more importantly, convinced Islamists from bin Laden to Hezbollah to Moqtada Sadr that America would abandon its allies when the going got rough.

Nixon’s tactics may have been reprehensible, but so were those of his critics.

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The Most Pleasant Place To Live

Mark Steyn sees the future and doesn’t like it:

…One must discern from the, ah, unfortunate events of the other Tuesday night that a majority of people now prefer “the brilliant exhibitions of Europe” (“free” health care, federally funded day care, nanny-state security, big-government poseur environmentalism, deference to transnational elites) over “the amusements of this country” (self-reliance, civic virtue, individual liberty, small government of limited powers leased ever more sparingly from town to state to the federal capital). Even conservative popinjays affect “the polish of Europe”, while the last non-fop in the GOP, Sarah Palin, alas, does not. The right’s great thinkers, declared David Brooks in The New York Times, “tend to be intrigued” by David Cameron, the modish British Tory leader.

There may be a deal of ruin in a nation, but in the end ruin is the natural condition of the nation-state: Three of the five permanent members of the Security Council have endured revolutionary upheaval and/or constitutional collapse since their “permanency” was established by the UN in 1945. Four of the G7 major economic powers have constitutions dating back barely half a century. And, even if you escape (as most nations do not) coups, invasions, civil wars, occupations, there arrives the moment when ruin comes to close the deal. The “deal of ruin” – incremental decay – is seductive. In some ways, the most pleasant place to live is a state in gradual decline. You have the accumulated inheritance of a dynamic past to smooth the genteel downward slide. Much of Europe feels like that: You sit at a sidewalk café and watch the world go unhurriedly by. Life is good, work is undemanding, vacation’s coming up, war has been abolished. Somewhere beyond the horizon is a seething Muslim ghetto of 50% youth unemployment, whence the men swagger forth at sundown to torch the Renaults and Citroens of the infidels. But not in your arrondissement. And not even on the Friday afternoon drive to your country place. What’s to worry about?

“The contrast” today is not between America and Europe, but between the slightly-more-than-half of America at ease with the prospect of a Europeanized future and the considerably-less-than-half of America for whom our differences with Europe – the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, non-confiscatory taxation, a society that prizes individual opportunity over state protection – were a big part of the American success story.

If you’re a relaxed conservative, this is 1976. Let Obama & Co have their head and screw up, and we’ll be back in two or four years. But in two or four years there’ll be even more Acorn registrations, even more foreign campaign contributions, large numbers of amnestied illegals with de facto if not quite de jure voting rights, a new Unfairness Doctrine that consolidates Democrat dominance of the dinosaur media and banishes much of the rest. If the 2012 election is a rerun of, say, 2004 – an attempt to restore the big fat red-state “L” sweeping down the Rockies and east to the Atlantic that comes down to a few thousand votes in Ohio – Republicans will lose. If it’s a 50/50 nation, the Dems will have the edge when it comes to pushing up to 50.1 – as (at the time of writing) the Al Franken machine (of all unlikely phrases) is doing so cheerfully in Minnesota.

And beyond the operational upper hand is the psychological advantage: The push to socialized health care, the “spreading” of wealth that turns responsible citizens into grateful beneficiaries of government largesse, the remorseless propagandization of a school system all but entirely hostile to the heroic national narrative, a cumulative ratchet effect that “enervates both soul and body” and that the Republican leadership finds easier to accommodate than resist. Conservatives need a bigger picture than GOTV. This is not 1976, but 1932 – at minimum.

There is a deal of ruin in a nation, but even in America supplies are not limitless.

But hey, I hate to be the Gloomy Gus round here. The good news is that, once King Barack’s lowered the oceans, there may be one or two new atolls popping up with non-confiscatory tax rates, a minimal regulatory regime, and the spirit of liberty. For as long at it lasts.

Mumbai: A Preview of The Liberals' "War on Terror"

Arthur Herman on the illusions that ought to die as a result of Mumbai:

…Islamic terrorists don’t want justice or respect for their beliefs, or restoration of some imaginary homeland. They want violence and death. The duty of every government is to make sure that terrorists get them before they can deal them out. Pakistanis will never know peace, or peace with their neighbors in Afghanistan and India, until they finally and ruthlessly root out the terrorists in their midst.

The same goes for India. That was the second illusion that died in Mumbai: that democratic nations can somehow opt out of the war on terror. India has largely operated on that assumption since 2001, even though it is home to the second-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia, and wedged between two neighbors — Pakistan and Bangladesh — where Islamic terrorist groups operate in relative freedom.

The media here and in India seem to have forgotten that this was not the first round of mass death in Mumbai. Bombings rocked the city back in the summer of 2005, killing more than 200, followed by bloody attacks on Jaipur and India’s high-tech capital, Bangalore, earlier this year.

In spite of this, India’s record on counterterrorism is abysmal, almost deliberately so. The government in New Delhi steadfastly maintains a wall of separation between law-enforcement agencies like the one that used to separate the FBI and CIA before the Patriot Act, and keeps counterterrorist units underfunded and undermanned. It has repeatedly given way to the demands of Islamic radical groups and fundamentalist lobbyists in the name of “cultural sensitivity.” India was the first non-Islamic country to ban Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses back in 1988.

India has no preventive detention laws; no laws to protect the identity of anti-terrorist witnesses; and no laws to allow domestic wiretapping without court order. In 2004, the new Congress Party government revoked India’s version of the Patriot Act, even as the Indian media was loudly condemning the U.S. for “torture” at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.

In short, the Indian government has waged the war on terror in much the same way that liberals and many Democrats have been urging the U.S. to carry it out. The result is that more than 4,000 Indians have died in attacks since 2004 — more than any other nation in the war on terror besides Iraq. [emphasis added]

At the Sivaji rail platform on the November 28, eyewitnesses told the Belfast Telegraph that armed Indian police refused to shoot back when the terrorists opened fire. Even when the terrorists stopped to reload their guns, someone screamed at the police: “Shoot them, they’re sitting ducks!” But the police did nothing, only to be gunned down like everyone else.

Sitting ducks. One reason the Mumbai terrorists sought out Brits and Americans to kill is that they can’t get at them in their own countries. The latest report is that those “evil” U.S. intelligence agencies had actually intercepted threats about possible attacks on hotels in Mumbai, and passed them on to their Indian counterparts — who then failed to take action.

Britain and the United States have learned how to deal effectively with terrorism the hard way. Maybe this time Indians will, as well.

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The Root Causes of Deranged Fantasies

The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz takes on the “blame America crowd”:

…Nowhere in [the] citation of the root causes of Muslim terrorism was there any mention of Islamic fundamentalism — the religious fanaticism that has sent fevered mobs rioting, burning and killing over alleged slights to the Quran or the prophet. Not to mention the countless others enlisted to blow themselves and others up in the name of God.

… For advocates of the root-causes theory of crime, the central story is, ever, the sorrows and grievances of the perpetrators. For those prone to the belief that most eruptions of evil in the world can be traced to American influence and power there is only one subject of consequence.

Accustomed as we are by now to this view of the U.S., it’s impossible not to marvel at its varied guises — its capacity to emerge even in journalism ostensibly concerning the absurd beliefs about the 9/11 attacks held by so many Muslims. It’s conventional wisdom in the region — according to a New York Times dispatch from Cairo, Egypt, last fall by Michael Slackman — that the U.S. and Israel had to have been involved in the planning, if not the actual execution of the assaults. No news there. Neither was the information that there was virtually universal belief in the area that Jews, tipped off, didn’t go to work at the World Trade Center that day. Or that the U.S. had organized the plot in order to attack Arab Muslims and gain access to their oil.

The noteworthy point here was the writer’s conclusion that the U.S. itself was to blame for the power of these beliefs. “It is easy for Americans to dismiss such thinking as bizarre,” Mr. Slackman allowed. But that would miss the point that the persistence of these ideas represents the “first failure in the fight against terrorism.” A U.S. failure? Nowhere in the extended list of root causes here was there any mention of the fanaticism and sheer mindless gullibility that is the prerequisite for the holding of such beliefs.

Its very ordinariness speaks volumes about this report. A piece written with evident serenity, the perversity of its conclusions notwithstanding, it’s one emblem among many of the adversarial view of the nation that is today entrenched in the culture. So unworthy is the U.S. — an attitude solidly established in our media culture long before the war on terror — that only it can be held responsible for the deranged fantasies cherished in large quarters of the Arab world. So natural does it feel, now, to hold such views that their expression has become second nature…

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