Archive for May, 2009

Democracy vs. judicial fiat?

May 28, 2009

As reluctant as I am to agree with a Wall Street Journal editorial about anything, they’re right about the California Supreme Court’s ruling on the gay marriage initiative. It’s been bizarre to hear liberals suggest that the judiciary has any right to reverse the democratically expressed will of the people. If the California court had overturned Prop 8, it would have made a mockery of the entire initiative system. If we’re going to have initiatives at all — and I’m strongly in favor of them, for all the awful propositions I’ve voted against — we’d better stick by their results until the next election, or start waiting for the state courts to jump on the results of every progressive decision from here on out.

The best way to legalize same-sex marriage is to allow the people to make up their own minds on a state-by-state basis. Imposing it on the entire nation by “judicial fiat,” as the WSJ puts it, would be as self-defeating as banning it by fiat. Unfortunately, this strategy means that same-sex marriage isn’t going to pass for some time in a lot of states. But it’s only a matter of time. Society is moving fairly rapidly in the direction of total acceptance of the notion of same-sex marriage — right-wing urgency on the issue doesn’t mean that liberals are on the verge of forcing gay marriage on an unwilling electorate, but that the electorate is on the verge of turning its back on a right-wing policy.

So much for that ‘filibuster-proof majority.’

May 20, 2009

Senate Democrats decisively derailed one of President Obama’s most popular initial moves — closing Guantanamo Bay — today:

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to cut from a war spending bill the $80 million requested by President Obama to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to bar the transfer of detainees to the United States and its territories.

The vote, which complicates Mr. Obama’s efforts to shutter the prison by his deadline of Jan. 22, 2010, was 90 to 6. Republicans voted unanimously in favor of cutting the money.

“The American people don’t want these men walking the streets of America’s neighborhoods,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota. “The American people don’t want these detainees held at a military base or federal prison in their back yard, either.”

Right — how could we ever hold an unspeakable terrorist on our soil? Like Tim McVeigh (imprisoned in Colorado until his execution), or John Walker Lindh (currently imprisoned in Indiana). (Of course, they were white. Not to sound like a leftist, but that’s really the deal-breaker here. McVeigh might have murdered 168 people, and Lindh might have deflected to the Taliban, but wouldn’t you still rather live next door to them than one of those dreadful Arabs?)

Though the article emphasizes Republican opposition to the bill, the NYT makes it clear that the blame should be placed squarely on the Democrats:

The move by Senate Democrats to bar, for now, any transfer of detainees to the United States, raised the possibility that Mr. Obama’s order to close the camp by Jan. 22, 2010, may have to be changed or delayed.

“Guantánamo makes us less safe,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said on Tuesday at a news conference where he laid out the party’s rationale for its decision. “However, this is neither the time nor the bill to deal with this. Democrats under no circumstances will move forward without a comprehensive, responsible plan from the president. We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.”

Remember when Senate Democrats saved Joe “Democrat Party” Lieberman’s skin because it was “what Barack wanted”? Now they’ve abandoned one of their popular president’s most popular proposals to date because it’s not “comprehensive” or responsible.” Funny, isn’t it, how partisanship only manifests itself when the party bosses find it useful.

Give the people what they want?

May 11, 2009

The “center-right” myth lives on, though the major players no longer bother reciting it, so threadbare and unpersuasive has it become. Now it’s left to the sub-pundits, the “strategists” and “advisers” who make their careers pretending that politics is no different, fundamentally, than pro hockey:

The second organization founded this past week chose the name Resurgent Republic, and has as its leaders two veteran Republican campaign strategists and advisers: Ed Gillespie, who most recently was a Bush White House counselor, and Whit Ayres, a pollster and strategist for an array of GOP candidates in recent years.

In its launch, the organization stressed its view that conservative positions were not as out of favor as Obama’s successes might make it appear. “America remains a center-right country,” Ayres argues. “They perceive Barack Obama as a liberal, and they perceive themselves as center-right. They voted for him not to support liberal policies but because he represented change.

What electorate is this, that believes in “center-right” values and deliberately votes for a candidate who opposes those values because they want “change” from what they actually want? No wonder Mencken called democracy “the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

If the president does it…

May 5, 2009

Condoleezza Rice explains the concept of monarchy to a fourth grader:

“Let me just say that President Bush was very clear that he wanted to do everything he could to protect the country. After September 11, we wanted to protect the country,” she said. “But he was also very clear that we would do nothing, nothing, that was against the law or against our obligations internationally. So the president was only willing to authorize policies that were legal in order to protect the country. …

Well, isn’t that a relief! Last week at Stanford, according to the article, Rice told students this: “And so, by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”

Gosh — where have we heard that one before?

Was the Civil War a just war?

May 2, 2009

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.” — Abraham Lincoln, 1848

“The process of disintegration in the old Union may be expected to go on with almost absolute certainty, if we pursue the right course. We are now the nucleus of a growing Power which, if we are true to ourselves, our destiny, and high mission, will become the controlling Power on this Continent.” — Alexander Stephens, March 21, 1861

War is a degrading and inhuman thing. Reading Homer’s exuberant descriptions of hand-to-hand combat today, we shudder at the bone-crunching details, the relish his killers take in killing. We cannot feel what his original listeners must have felt, that this was a glorious and manly and even fun pastime. The wretchedness of war is a relatively recent discovery, but once we discovered it we could not forget it. Any war, regardless of the righteousness of its actual aim, is conducted by the sickening and horrible spectacle of countless people giving their lives — or becoming killers — for reasons that invariably seem remote to their immediate condition. There is a basic injustice inherent to the concept of war that no result can entirely atone for. I can think of only a handful of wars in all of human history that seem justified by their goals, and only barely; the rest is a record of misery, cruelty and hellishness. This is an essential point to make before attempting to defend the righteousness of any war.

In my view, the United States has only fought one completely justified war of choice since its founding: the 1861-65 war against the leaders of the so-called “Confederate States of America.” (1) Although it’s since come to be called “the Civil War,” that name was rarely used during the actual war. (The term “War Between the States” does not seem to have been used at all.) It was most commonly referred to by the same name that the federal government itself still uses to refer to it in its official records: “The War of the Rebellion.” Those who fought against the United States referred to themselves as “rebels.” These terms have fallen into disuse, for reasons that will probably become obvious. (more…)