Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Mark Steyn has written, by far, the funniest review yet of Clinton's magnum opus.

According to Steyn, the main problem with the Clinton memoir is that he neither gives any substantial detail about his extramarital excursions (which is the only reason anyone is reading the book in the first place) nor makes a substantial case for his place among the great presidents. He didn't need to do both, but his publisher probably expected him to do one or the other. Says Steyn:
"During the government shutdown in late 1995," he writes, "I'd had an inappropriate encounter with Monica Lewinsky and would do so again on other occasions."

Truly, that is one of the saddest sentences ever written. If I were the big spenders at Knopf, I'd have said: "Look, we understand that a politician with legal difficulties has to say things like 'inappropriate encounter.' And, if you want to write a memoir in dead pol-speak, that's OK, we'll pay you 20,000 bucks. But for 10 mil do us a favor and lay off the 'I had an inappropriate encounter' stuff. Shoot for more of 'The shaft of light from the dying sun through the Oval Office window caught the swell of her bosom as she slid the extra-large pepperoni across the desk. I knew it was wrong. I'd penciled in that evening for bringing peace to Northern Ireland, but what the hell, the two sides of that troubled island's sectarian conflict were separated by as deep a divide as the plunging cleavage now beckoning from her low-cut angora sweater. Ulster could wait.' "
Instead, Clinton continues to lie about his conduct while also focusing totally on minutia. Steyn sums up the book's failure better than anyone:
If you can't write an honest autobiography, stick to the big issues.
Instead, Mr. Clinton's book is a double flop: Either stake your claim to join the guys on Mount Rushmore or embrace your destiny as a guy who rushes to mount more. The president does neither and winds up with a book that reads like the world's biggest Rolodex punctuated by self-doubt.
I hope there are lots more bad books this year just so that Steyn can review them.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Please, Lord, Let This Be On Tape

It's rare but wonderful when they bluntly state their philosophy.

At a fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer in San Francisco, Sen. Hillary Clinton told the presumably well-to-do attendees, "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Oh, how I'd love to see that bite run over and over again before November.

Ms. Rodham told them, "Many of you are well enough off that ...the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

She's actually promising tax increases, something that worked so well for Walter Mondale a few years back. I don't know about you, but I got tax relief under the current administration, and I'm hardly "well-off." But I have no doubt that Hillary and her party again intend to take away what little was returned to me.

Monday, June 28, 2004

The media is whipped into a frenzy.

"'Fahrenheit 9/11' Breaks Records!" shouts CNN.

"'Fahrenheit' sets single day sales record in NY!" blares MSNBC.

USA Today hyperventilates "'Fahrenheit 9/11' torches records at box office!"

Wow! Move over, Mel Gibson! Look out, "Titanic!"

Well, not exactly.

As it turns out, Michael Moore's film has set the box office record for documentaries, which is kind of like winning the midget high jump contest. To put things in perspective, the film earned about $22 million bucks on its opening weekend, which is certainly respectable, but only $2 million ahead of something called "White Chicks," (featuring Shawn and Marlon Wayans in drag) and $3.5 million ahead of the second weekend of the sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," starring Ben Stiller.

As for the breathless headlines, a little dilligence in reading the actual articles pays big, mirthful dividends. At CNN ("'Fahrenheit 9/11' Breaks Records!"), we find these hilariously qualified paragraphs:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" took in a whopping $21.8 million in its first three days, becoming the first documentary ever to debut as Hollywood's top weekend film.

If Sunday's estimates hold when final numbers are released Monday, "Fahrenheit 9/11" would set a record in a single weekend as the top-grossing documentary ever outside of concert films and movies made for huge-screen IMAX theaters.
That's pretty impressive, "whopping" stuff.

In the MSNBC article ("'Fahrenheit' sets single day sales record in NY!"), we find that the accomplishment might not be quite as herculean as the headline indicates:
LOS ANGELES - Director Michael Moore’s controversial documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” turned on the box office heat in its first day in theaters breaking single-day records at the two New York City theaters where it played.
That's right, kids. It broke the single-day sales records in exactly two Manhattan theaters.

As for it's "whopping" opening weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, the $22 million take for "Fahrenheit 9/11" gives it the 222nd biggest weekend opening of all time, just two spots behind 1999's "Inspector Gadget." That also places it only a few thousand dollars ahead of the opening of "Garfield" a few weeks ago. And appropriately enough, it finishes a full 21 spots behind the opening weekend of 2002's "Jackass, The Movie"--which is as much a "documentary" as "Fahrenheit" is.

Record-breaking indeed.

Friday, June 25, 2004

And now for something completely different. A belated NBA observation.

The three key cogs of the Los Angeles Lakers organization (since they begun winning championships again) have been coach Phil Jackson, center Shaquille O'Neal, and accused rapist Kobe Bryant.

For reasons too serpentine to dig into, a situation developed in which Lakers owner Jerry Buss was forced last week to choose between Bryant on the one hand, or O'Neal and Jackson on the other.

Inexplicably, Buss went with Bryant, leaving Jackson out of a job and O'Neal demanding a trade. I can't even begin to describe enormity of that mistake. Sports history will eventually file it in the "What were they thinking?" file next to the Cubs trading Lou Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio and the Trail Blazers drafting Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan.
Alright, I'm going to say it, even though you're not really supposed to.

I'm getting a little bit sick of Lance Armstrong.
I know we're all getting tired of this, but I can't seem to stop myself just yet. Hopefully by Monday it will be out of my system.

I watched Clinton on Larry King last night, which went just as one would expect. Among the tough questions Larry asked him (I kid you not) was, "How old are you now?"

In the interviews I've seen, Clinton has shown a distinct pattern of appearing to take perfunctory responsibility for the Lewinsky affair, while really blaming his own behavior on Ken Starr and the Republicans, as if Starr got a court order forcing Clinton to take down his pants for an intern.

Said Clinton last night, about the onset of the Lewinsky liason (and his widely reported "I did it because I could" statement):
We're in the middle of the first government shutdown ever or right at the beginning of the second one. And I don't know who is going to win. We're in this titanic struggle for the future of the country.

And meanwhile, I got this guy Starr who is trying to put me and Hillary in jail and all these guys in Congress now in the majority holding hearings acting like it's serious and tormenting people who work for me, people who have been friends of mine. It was like crazy half the time. I thought man, I'm lost in the funhouse.

And people who live parallel lives, as I describe that, grow up in alcoholic homes, for example, very often when they're angry, exhausted or under great stress or vulnerable, to go down the wrong track of their parallel lives. And that's what I meant by that. I knew better than to do it. I didn't really want to do it at some level, but I could do it. It was there. And I did it.
You see, Clinton committed adultery with an intern as a misguided act of patriotism in defense of the Constitution and his persecuted wife and friends. Of course, this is about as close as Clinton will ever get to taking responsibility for diddling someone only a couple of years older than his daughter.

The interesting question it raises in my mind is: What about Gennifer Flowers, then? Clinton had never heard of Ken Starr, there was no "prosecution" then, there was no government shutdown (or even a presidency, for that matter). What about Paula Jones, whom he once claimed he never met, but whom he later paid an $850,000 settlement? She was before he was ever elected to the presidency. What about Kathleen Willey? What about Dolly Kyle Browning, who says Clinton had an affair with her from the 70's up until his run for the presidency? What about former Miss America Elizabeth Ward Gracen, who says she and Clinton had a one-night stand in 1983? What about the dozens of other Arkansas women who claimed affairs with Clinton? What about the three or four other women Lewinsky told Linda Tripp (on the Tripp tapes) that she believed Clinton was involved with at the same time as his involvement with her?

And if it's all just a political game, how come both George Bushes, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman and Michael Dukakis never had dozens of crackpots coming forward to claim affairs?

(UPDATE: The Washington Times has a piece on just this topic, including a much longer list of names than mine. Hat tip to La Shawn Barber, on whose blog I just saw it.)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Because of the goodwill of the last few weeks, combined with sensitivity about the death of a loved one, Ron Reagan Jr. has been given a mostly free ride for his insipid comments at his father's burial and in subsequent interviews.

Last night the former ballerina and dog show host was on Larry King Live, again selling his silliness. It's unfortunate that he trades on his father's name (which he has shamelessly ridden all his life) to get media appearances in which he shoots down the very things his father valued most.

Larry Elder has an excellent column today, finally debunking the main load of nonsense that Ron's been shoveling since the funeral: that Ronald Reagan believed his Christian faith was something to be kept behind closed doors and out of public debate and policy. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

One thing is clear: Jane Wyman is considered the "bad" wife for having left Ronald Reagan. Whatever the merits of that argument, the proof is in the pudding, and she sure did a heck of a better job raising children than Nancy ever did. Michael and Maureen Reagan are honorable people. Ron and Patty are twerps.
I watched my first Clinton book-tour interview on PBS's Charlie Rose last night, having already missed the Oprah and Rather fawn-fests. Of course, Rose did everything but climb over the desk and give Clinton a Monica, but it was still interesting viewing.

The one thing I had forgotten, which is easy to do when merely looking at the dry, written facts of history (as I have been doing recently, and which are not kind to Clinton), is just how good Clinton is on television. He's astoundingly good, which explains how he was able to get elected to two terms and ride relatively high popularity ratings despite the fact that polls clearly showed the American people didn't trust him or believe him.

Of course, being good on television is not the same as being truthful, and truthfulness is still in short supply with Bubba. While ostensibly taking responsibility for the Monica situation (though still denying that there was any legitimacy to the Whitewater investigation, despite the oodles of felony convictions and jail sentences that came out of it), he mainly offers up a perfunctory mea culpa while actually blaming the whole thing on independent counsel Ken Starr.

Pointing out the lies in Bill Clinton's statements is almost beside the point; lying is what he does, and everybody on both sides pretty much stipulates that much. But one issue he keeps harping on is still sticking in my craw.

Clinton still runs around claiming that Ken Starr "threw Susan McDougal in jail" because she refused to lie about him. Of course, Starr did no such thing. McDougal (who was eventually convicted of four felonies and then pardoned by Clinton on the last day of his presidency) was jailed by federal judge Susan Webber Wright--a former law student of Clinton's--for contempt of court for refusing to answer any questions before a grand jury.

Among the scurrilous questions posed to McDougal that she courageously refused to answer were "Ma'am, where were you born?," "Where do you reside today?," and "To your knowledge, did William Jefferson Clinton testify truthfully during the course of your trial?"

What is this, the Inquisition? How dare they!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Oh My Goodness

According to the Washington Post, this is the opening sentence of Bill Clinton's new memoir: "Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana."

Waiter! Check, please!
In this week's TIME cover story, Bill Clinton says:
I was involved in two great struggles at the same time: a great public struggle over the future of America with the Republican Congress and a private struggle with my old demons. I won the public one and lost the private one.
Really? We all know you lost the private one (and Monica has the dress to prove it).

But which "public struggle over the future of America" did you win with the Republican Congress? The one where they mercifully euthanized your wife's socialistic health care bill? The one where they finally crammed welfare reform down your throat resulting in millions of people finally achieving independence from the federal government? The one where the House of Representatives impeached you? The passage of NAFTA, a fundamentally conservative, free-market initiative? The middle-class tax cuts they forced you to make? The balanced budget they forced you to accept that you now take credit for?

What exactly are these struggles you won against Republican obstruction from which our nation is still reaping the benefits, Mr. President?
The Hitchens piece is also a reminder of why I regularly read Slate, whereast I find most other liberal publications tedious and predictable.

Slate is consistently liberal, and I disagree with its viewpoint far more often than I agree with it. But it's not blindly ideological and is never predictable (as opposed to, say, the risibly self-important Salon, where one can, sight-unseen, divine its editorial viewpoint on any given story one hundred times out of a hundred).

Slate, while often misguided, remains in some way tethered to reality, a feat not accomplished by Salon, Air America, or The Nation, or most other "progressive" outlets.

I read it to find out what intelligent things the opposition has to say.
Christopher Hitchens, no conservative by any stretch of the imagination (referring to Ronald Reagan as "a cruel and stupid lizard" and "dumb as a stump" in an obituary two weeks ago), unleashes a blistering critique of Michael Moore and his film "Fahrenheit 9/11" in the liberal Slate magazine today.

Hitchens absolutely levels one idiotic Moore claim after another, leaving the film in shambles for all but Moore's most slavish Hollywood supporters.

Amusingly, Moore ends his movie with a quote from George Orwell ("[p]erhaps vaguely aware that his movie so completely lacks gravitas..."). But as Hitchens points out, Orwell is the last person Moore wants to be quoting. For this is the same George Orwell who wrote in Notes on Nationalism:
The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States ...
You have to appreciate someone from the Left who is honest enough to expose the lies of one of the Left's beloved figures. As Hitchens sums it up, "Moore is having it three ways and asserting everything and nothing. Again—simply not serious."
It will be amusing (if a bit tiresome) to watch Bill Clinton whine his way across the country in the next few weeks with the release of his unwieldy new memoir My Life. It weighs in at nearly a thousand pages, which is not suprising for someone who once sparked wild cheering at his own party's convention when he announced that he was about to finish his behemoth keynote speech.

Clinton's M.O. all along has been to suck his thumb and blame everyone else for the personal indescretions that destroyed his presidency. The current book tour is no exception, of course.

In a testy interview with the BBC which airs tonight, Clinton blames the media (right-wing sypathizers that they are) for his downfall. According to the BBC's website:
Wagging his finger and getting visibly agitated, Mr. Clinton expressed anger at the media's behaviour.

He said: "Let me just say this. One of the reasons he [Kenneth Starr] got away with it is because people like you only ask me the questions.

"You gave him a complete free ride. Any abuse they wanted to do. They indicted all these little people from Arkansas, what did you care about them, they're not famous, who cares that their life was trampled. Who cares that their children are humiliated.

"Nobody in your line of work cared a rip about that at the time. Why, because he was helping their story.

"People like you always help the far-right, because you like to hurt people, and you like to talk about how bad people are and all their personal failings."
He then made a big poo-poo in his diaper.

While the former pillow-biter-in-chief continues to portray himself as a nearly-innocent victim in all this, it is worth remembering a couple of salient points about what Ken Starr "got away with":

  • Clinton's party invented the office of the Independent Counsel to ensure that no president could successfully quash the truth. They gleefully used it numerous times against Republican opponents without the least bit of hesitation, complaining neither about the time and money spent, nor about the peripheral figures who were drawn into the investigations (anyone remember Fawn Hall?).

  • Clinton's own attorney general, Janet Reno, appointed the Independent Counsel to investigate the Whitewater miasma, at the request of the administration.

  • Weeks before Kenneth Starr's appointment, the Clinton Administration had the opportunity to let the abysmal Independent Counsel statute expire. They were advised to do so by many people on both sides of the aisle. They instead re-authorized it.

  • Of the "little people" in Arkansas, at least 15 were convicted of felonies directly pertaining to the Whitewater matter, including Hillary's law partner Web Hubbell (two felony convictions), Clinton friends Jim and Susan McDougal (who were only convicted of 22 felonies between them), and Bill Clinton's former aide Stephen Smith. Another of the "little people" was the governor of the state of Arkansas, Jim Guy Tucker, who was convicted on three felony counts.

  • Among the "little people" in Arkansas who wound up peripherally in the investigation were Bill McCuen, Arkansas' former secretary of state (convicted of bribery and tax evasion, among other things), former state prosecuting attorney Dan Harmon (convicted on federal racketeering, extortion, and drug distribution charges), and Clinton's brother Roger, who as it turns out was a drug trafficker.

  • There is no dispute about the facts which led to Clinton's impeachment--that Clinton had "sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky," that he lied about it under oath, and that he asked her to lie about it under oath as well. Clinton admits he lied about it, even saying in a nationally televised speech, "I can only tell you I was motivated by many factors. First, by a desire to protect myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct. I was also very concerned about protecting my family."

    Of course, the Clintons have a vested interest in portraying the investigation as "obsessed with sex" and interference in a personal matter. But ask yourself one question: if someone comes to a prosecutor with indisputable proof of perjury on the part of the president of the United States, what is that prosecutor supposed to do? Pretend it never happened?

    Clinton will continue to place the blame everywhere except where it belongs. He'll probably continue to charm many into buying it. But as the light of history gets brighter and brighter, the excuses are coming to be seen for what they really are: the sad justifications of a perpetual adolescent.
  • Monday, June 21, 2004

    I had a chance to read a few books on vacation. I was feeling a bit political after a brief hiatus. Here are some notes on a few books that I read (or partially read).

  • The Real Jimmy Carter: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry, by Steven F. Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute.

  • As you may have gathered from a close and careful reading of the title, this book is not exactly a love-letter to our 39th president. Still, it's more carefully considered than its feverish, Coulter-esque title indicates.

    The conventional wisdom holds that Carter is the greatest former president in the history of America, a claim that's repeated ad nauseum in the media. Carter has an image as an evangelical Christian do-gooder who campaigns for human rights around the globe.

    While the post-presidency Carter has certainly done some admirable things (such as his work with Habitat for Humanity), Hayward shows that the real Jimmy Carter is a theologically liberal, mean-spirited, meddlesome, self-promoting leftist--who's borderline treasonous to boot (as when he engaged in a letter-writing campaign asking heads of state to break from the U.S.-led coalition in Gulf War I).

    Carter, both during his presidency and after, has seldom met a dictator he wouldn't coddle. Never more has this tendency been on display than when he negotiated a disasterous treaty with North Korea (without the approval of the Clinton Administration, which was too gutless to put the brakes on him) to freeze their nuclear weapons program in exchange for two nuclear reactors--a treaty with which the communist dictatorship of North Korea never complied for even a single moment. After brokering the "deal," Carter immediately went on CNN to broadcast before even informing the Clinton Administration of the terms of the settlement, thus essentially obligating the administration to accept it.

    Hayward (despite the somewhat misleading title of the book) focuses mostly on Carter's abysmal and manifest failures as president, and the book would have been improved by a similarly in-depth focus on incidents like the Korea fiasco and its current repurcussions. But he does a good job of poking through Carter's image (bolstered by relentless media coverage and a Nobel Peace prize for which he shamelessly campaigned, and which was given to him, by the admission of one Nobel committee member, as a direct political slap in the face to the current Bush administration) to show a man who has done untold harm to oppressed people around the world through his exaltation of leftist dictatorships and totalitarian governments.

  • Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years, by National Review editor Rich Lowry.

  • According to Lowry, Clinton is obsessed with his historical legacy. Ironically, though, he failed to actually leave one. While certainly not supportive of Clinton, Lowry is suprisingly fair in his account, using Clinton Administration or Democratic sources almost exclusively--in their own words--to make the most damaging points about Clinton. He's also willing to criticize his own side when appropriate, such as Newt Gingrich's tone-deaf mismanagement of the Republicans 1994 majority.

    When most people think of Clinton, they think of Monica. But even if his self-inflicted sex scandals were to magically disappear, we're still left with a paradox: Clinton was a very popular (more so than his critics like to admit), two-term president (who probably would have won a third term if it were constitutionally permissible), and yet he failed to leave behind any distinguishing policy initiative whatsoever. Clinton himself is left to trumpet his battle against impeachment attempt as his great legacy.

    Through his almost paralyzing personal indecisiveness, his governance-by-opinion-poll, and his inability to tolerate opposition, the president who was most concerned about his legacy ended up without one.

  • Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do About It, by Os Guinness.

  • Guinness, of the Trinity Forum, is a perceptive and prescient observer of evangelicalism and the culture at large. He examines the rampant anti-intellectualism that dominates the evangelical culture, diagnosing causes and suggesting solutions.

    Puritanism, the first major strain of Christianity in America, was rigorously intellectual and culturally potent. But because of the onset of pietism, pragmatism, a deep distrust of academic education and achievement, and a host of other internal influences, Christians detached from their Puritan roots. They began sitting around waiting for the "rapture" to occur and reduced interaction with culture to mere personal evangelism.

    Though these observations will not be new to those who are interested in such things, they were much-needed in 1994 when they were published, and evangelical culture is a long way from reversing the trend. It is significant that anti-intellectual American evangelicalism has failed to produce more than a few scholars or institutions of any real stature since Jonathan Edwards died nearly 250 years ago.

    The slide will continue until evangelicals begin to realize, as the great Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper did, that "there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry 'Mine!'"

    I also got a few pages into Peggy Noonan's When Character Was King, Russell Kirk's The American Cause, and Debating Calvinism by Dave Hunt and James White, but I haven't gotten far enough in any of them to say anything beyond that I'm enjoying all three of them so far.
    I see that Ken Griffey Jr. finally hit his 500th home run yesterday, after having been stuck on number 499 for over a week. Junior becomes only the 20th player in Major League history to reach that plateau.

    In days past, the 500 home run mark has conferred instant Hall of Fame status. Indeed, there is no eligible player with 500 or more dingers who's not in the Hall.

    One wonders, though, whether it will continue to be a Hall of Fame benchmark. Most people have tagged Griffey for the Hall for years, though his stock has slipped substantially in his past few injury-plagued seasons. But even granting for the sake of argument that Griffey is a Hall of Famer, the list is becoming more and more suspect in an era of smaller ballparks and weaker pitching.

    Not many noticed when Rafael Palmiero quietly snuck onto the 500 homer list last season. Indeed, he's currently 11th on the all time list (sitting on 538), ahead of Mickey Mantle. Now don't get me wrong. Palmiero is a fine ballplayer. But does anyone really think Rafael Palmiero is a Hall of Famer?

    Up until the 1990's, only 14 players had ever reached the 500 homer mark in Major League history. Since the 90's began, six players have already made the list, and Fred McGriff is due to make it in the next month or two (he currently has 493 homers). Juan Gonzalez, Jeff Bagwell, and Frank Thomas are all within striking distance. If Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer, then so are Joe Carter, Dwight Evans, and about a hundred other guys who aren't currently there.

    500 home runs is an impressive accomplishment, no doubt about it. But it is no longer the "magic number" for Hall of Fame entrance that 3000 hits or 300 wins is.

    Friday, June 18, 2004

    We've been in St. Louis this week for our annual pilgrimage back to the homeland, which is why I've been in such short supply this week.

    Had Ted Drewes Frozen Custard tonight, been eating more White Castles than one digestive tract should ever have to stand, and took in one of the best Cardinals games of my life this evening.

    The Redbirds came from behind to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth and beat the Oakland A's 5-4.

    On another note, I know the Reagan funeral is way, way over. It's old news. But I've been pondering one issue for a week and have no more of an answer now than I did last Friday night.

    I watched every moment of the final California service, switching over to C-Span after the network coverage ended to watch guests file past the casket on their way out. And I still must ask one question: Scott Baio?

    Friday, June 11, 2004

    People have been looking at me strangely the last few days.

    As you've seen, many of Ronald Reagan's greatest moments are being replayed all over the media. Whenever his moving speech to the nation in the wake of the Challenger disaster is replayed, I keep breaking out laughing.

    Sick, right? But there's a reason.

    Of course, the Challenger explosion was a horrific tragedy, and I was moved just like the rest of the nation when President Reagan gave that wonderful speech. The reason I have to stifle a laugh now is because of something Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote about in her wonderful memoir What I Saw at the Revolution.

    When a speech is written in the White House, it then goes through a "staffing" process where various functionaries from the National Security Council, the State Department, and other bureaucracies contribute their suggestions for changes, laboring under the mistaken notion that they can write.

    The most famous part of Reagan's brief Challenger speech, the end of it, quotes from the poem "High Flight" by John Magee. But one of the paper-pushers in the (hurried) staffing process had a better idea. As Noonan tells it (on page 257 of my copy of the book), picking up with the end of the speech:
    "We'll never forget them, nor the last time we saw them--this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved good-by, and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

    It went almost as written. The staffing process had no time to make it bad. The worst edit, which Ben [Elliott] fought off--in fact it was the worst edit I received in all my time in the White House--was from a pudgy young NSC mover who told me to change the quote at the end from "touch the face of God" to "reach out and touch someone--touch the face of God." He felt this was eloquent. He'd heard it in a commercial.
    I can't hear that speech now without hearing those words in my head and cracking up.

    Thursday, June 10, 2004

    As the United States Supreme Court increasingly looks to European law (rather than the Constitution) in making it's rulings, it's instructive to note what's actually going on in Europe in order to know what to expect here in the future.

    Actress Brigitte Bardot has been convicted in a French court for "inciting racial hatred." Her crime? According to the Reuters report at
    In [her] book [A Scream in the Silence], she laments the "Islamization of France" and the "underground and dangerous infiltration of Islam."

    "Mme. Bardot presents Muslims as barbaric and cruel invaders, responsible for terrorist acts and eager to dominate the French to the extent of wanting to exterminate them," the court said.

    France’s 5-million-member Muslim community is the largest in Europe.
    No, no, no! Of course Islam doesn't want to do any of those things. I mean, when's the last time Islam set out to dominate and exterminate a culture through barbaric invasion and terrorist acts? Aside from Afghanistan, Sudan, Indonesia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, and a dozen or two other places, I can't think of any.

    Shame on you, Brigitte Bardot.

    A note to you Americans: If you have something to say about Islam (or any other "protected class"), say it now, because European law is coming your way soon.
    I've found it amusing in recent days that the media (I assume in an attempt to add stature and reverence) have begun referring to Ronald Reagan (in stentorian tones) as "Ronald Wilson Reagan."

    I heard Reagan referred to that way maybe three times in my entire life before this week. Lyndon Baines Johnson was referred to with the "Baines" frequently while he was still alive. Same with Kennedy's "Fitzgerald," Eisenhower's "David," Roosevelt's "Delano," and even Nixon's "Milhous." All of these people were referred to by three names while still alive with at least some frequency.

    Only Reagan has suddenly had his middle name attached to him posthumously. Why? Just because a president dies doesn't mean we have to start using his middle name. Anyone know Woodrow Wilson's middle name? How about Teddy Roosevelt?

    Wednesday, June 09, 2004

    Dan Rather says there has been too much coverage of Ronald Reagan's death. According to the New York Post:
    "Even though everybody is respectful and wants to pay homage to the president, life does go on," Rather told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    "There is other news, like the reality of Iraq," said the "CBS Evening News" anchor. "It got very short shrift this weekend."
    What's ironic about this is that I saw Rather on one of CBS's prime-time Reagan programs begin to blubber (again) the other night as he let fly with some sentimental tripe about "whenever the wind blows from the East, we'll know that it's our fallen knight...blah....blah...blah."

    (As a parenthetical note, does it ever seem to you that Dan Rather's entire journalistic career can be summed up as one desperate, thin, tone-deaf attempt to approximate Walter Cronkite's "President John Fitzgerald Kennedy....died today at...." announcement?)

    When one veers between moods like this in real life, we call that person "unstable."

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    You have to think that Ronald Reagan would love the idea of the federal government shutting down for his funeral. Can't you just hear him?

    "Why, if I'd have known they'd go and shut the whole federal government down, I'd have died a long time ago."

    It could hardly be a more fitting (if unintentional) tribute.
    I've added a new blog to the roll. Kevin McCullough is an award-winning radio talk-show host at WMCA 570/970DJ in New York City, and also writes a syndicated weekly column that's carried at WorldNetDaily and Free Republic, among others.

    Drop by and pay him a visit. As a Christian, a conservative, and a radio guy, he's a man after my own heart.

    Monday, June 07, 2004

    In late 2002, I interviewed Oliver North about (among other things) Ronald Reagan, in anticipation of the former president's imminent death.

    North passionately related what I think was a very telling anecdote:
    The night, that April 15th, when we attacked Moammar Khadafi’s terrorism training camps, I had written, along with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the remarks that the president was gonna use. And just as the setup is happening in the Oval Office and the president is going through the remarks, I had to come running in and say one of the lines that we’d put in the remarks were wrong. All of the planes had not returned safely. In fact, we’d lost an F-111 with two U.S. Air Force officers aboard. We didn’t know whether they were alive and well at that moment.

    And I came over to the desk and the speech writers and Larry Speakes and all..a lot of turmoil going on. I said, "Mr. President, these words have got to come out." And he looked up and he said, "They... they didn’t come back?" I said, "No sir, we’re missing one airplane." And you could see the tears. And... this is not done for television cameras -- I mean, we know of presidents who do it for the television cameras. This was...the TV cameras weren’t on. This was a genuine action of a commander-in-chief who had sent men into harm’s way and who then knew at that moment, just before he went on national television, that not all of ’em had returned safely as the words were in the text that I had written.

    By the time he went on the camera, he had controlled himself to the point where even though I knew, and everybody in that room knew, I mean, it was... it was a very emotional moment for everybody there to see his reaction to striking those words out of the text. And yet he had the discipline internally to be able to control it when he looked into the camera to talk to the American people. He was able to discipline himself enough so he did not appear weak.

    To me, those are the marks of a great leader.
    A once-in-a-generation leader, at that.
    There are a number of worthy blog rememberances of Ronald Reagan I've been coming across. Among them are Swamphopper's eulogy at The Rough Woodsman (which includes a touching anecdote from Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan), Discoshaman's reflections on the passing of his young son's namesake, and Right Wing News' full-page cornucopia of Reagan memories.

    I notice that some on the radical left are feeling their oats today, and have decided to take the opportunity of Reagan's death to launch vile attacks against his memory. I say good. The tone-deaf left will do conservatism its biggest favor yet by stomping on the rememberance of Reagan.

    They've never understood that his popularity transcended politics, and they radically underestimate the love that mainstream Americans of all political stripes have for the Gipper. Because of their basic hatred for America, the far left never came to grips with Reagan's deep appeal to all those who basically love America. Wiping their noses with Reagan's legacy will merely earn them the vehement hatred among Americans they so richly deserve.
    There's not much left to say about Ronald Reagan that hasn't already been said this weekend. But that's never stopped me before.

    I was 11 years old when he was elected, and I realize in retrospect that it was he, more than any single person, who formed my idea of what America is, and what it means to be an American.

    In the second half of the 20th century, very few men took the stage who could be called "great." Ronald Reagan was a great man.

    Last night, A&E ran a program on the Reagan legacy that was produced two or three years ago. In it, they interviewed a guy identified as Reagan's pastor. He said that not long after the Hinkley shooting in 1981, he asked Reagan if he was ready to meet God. Reagan said "Oh, no, I have many more things I want to do for the American people."

    "That's not what I mean, Mr. President," said the pastor. "I mean, if that bullet had taken your life, would you have been ready to meet God?"

    Reagan became contemplative and quitely said "Yes."

    "How can you be sure?" the pastor asked.

    "Because I have a Savior," Reagan responded.

    Friday, June 04, 2004

    You won't find this news in John Kerry's next stump speech:
    NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Job growth is the hottest it's been in four years, a government report showed Friday, as the nation's employers added nearly a million jobs over the last three months.
    Whether you support Bush, Kerry, or someone else, this is just a simple statement of fact: if this trend continues until the election and Kerry doesn't have the economy to harp on, Bush will roll to reelection.

    The only issue Kerry will have left is the Iraq war, and even the anti-war movement is heaving its last breaths. How do we know that? Because Al Gore has jumped on board in a big and ridiculous way. It's the absolute kiss of death. He has the perfect reverse-Midas touch. As Ann Coulter points out in her most recent column:
    Gore always comes out swinging just as an issue is about to go south. He's the stereotypical white guy always clapping on the wrong beat. Gore switched from being a pro-defense Democrat to a lefty peacenik – just before the 9-11 attack. He grew a beard – just in time for an attack on the nation by fundamentalist Muslims. He endorsed Howard Dean – just as the orange-capped Deaniacs were punching themselves out. Gore even went out and got really fat – just before America officially gave up carbs. This guy is always leaping into the mosh pit at the precise moment the crowd parts. Mark my words: Now that good old Al has come lunging in, the anti-war movement is dead.
    I'm not an ardent supporter of President Bush, but while the polls don't show it right now, he could be looking at a landslide in November if present trends continue.

    Thursday, June 03, 2004

    In case you couldn't tell, I've been a bit weary lately of the daily back and forth political battle. It's not that it's not important. I just haven't had the energy for it lately.

    But every now and again, something is so egregious, so idiotic, so baldly asinine that it wakes me from my slumber. Such is the case today with left-wing, billionaire fruitcake George Soros.

    From a piece in today's NRO:
    "The picture of torture in Saddam's prison was a moment of truth for us," Soros said Thursday morning in Washington at a meeting of the liberal activist group Campaign for America's Future.

    "I think that those pictures hit us the same way as the terrorist attack itself," Soros continued, "not quite with the same force, because in the terrorist attack, we were the victims. In the pictures, we were the perpetrators and others were the victims."

    "But there is, I'm afraid, a direct connection between those two events, because the way President Bush conducted the war on terror converted us from victims into perpetrators."

    The audience, made up of left-wing activists from around the country, broke into enthusiastic applause.
    Those pictures probably did hit George Soros the same way as the September 11 attacks. Which is powerful evidence that he needs to be immediately medicated.

    Of course, on the one side are 3000 dead civilians, some of whom had been on airplanes on their way to work, or sitting in their office cubicles, or waiting tables in a restaurant when violent death came upon them by the hands of Muslim terrorists. On the other side are a few suspected terrorists who were forced to make a naked pyramid while a female soldier laughed and pointed at their pee pees.

    I see what Soros means.

    The inability to accurately judge moral evil is what makes liberals liberal. It's their defining characteristic. Eating a steak is "just as bad" as the Holocaust. McCarthyism is "just as bad" as the gulag. And the premeditated murder of 3000 civilian non-combatants is "just as bad" as a few rogues soldiers making a half-dozen terrorists wear hoods and fondle each other.

    Fortunately, most Americans--Republican, Democrat, and other--see this silliness for what it is. They reject instinctively any such contortionistic attempts at moral equivocation. One can only hope that comments like Soros's (and the audience reaction it produced) will be spread far and wide.

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    The other night, my family ordered a large pizza from Papa John's for supper. However, we were rather disappointed to find that the thing really just wasn't big enough to feed the four of us. Usually a large pizza takes care of the job, but this one was rather small.

    And then we found out the problem. Though we thought we had ordered a large pizza, we really hadn't. You see, at Papa John's, if you really want a large pizza, you have to order an extra large. The "large" pizza isn't actually a large--it's a medium.

    If this only happened at Papa John's, I could live with it. But this sizing disease has struck most food outlets. There is no longer the simple and efficient small, medium, and large. I imagine some marketing genius must have decided that the word "small" was too negative, and food joints now avoid it like the plague, engaging in all manner of designatory gymnastics in the process.

    At Starbuck's, things are so out of hand that they've actually found three different words for "large" to name their coffee sizes. I kid you not; the sizes are "tall" (which is actually small), "grande" (which is actually medium, though it is the Italian word for "large"), and "venti," (which is actually a large, though it literally and inexplicably means "twenty").

    For the sake of clarity and sanity, I'm calling for a nationwide recalibration of food sizes. From henceforth and forthwith, I demand that the smallest size of whatever food product is offered to be called "small." No longer will a small coffee be allowed to be called "medium," "tall," "gigante," "enormous," or "prodigious." It will be called a "small." Concomitantly, the medium-sized product shall be called "medium," and the large shall be called "large."

    As a correlative to this shift, no food chain will be allowed to begin it's food sizes with "medium." By definition, "medium" means "something in the middle" or "between two things." The first size cannot be "medium"--you cannot start there by definiton, nor, if I have my way, by law. If you're going to offer a "medium," you will have to have at least one size on either side of it.

    The time-honored, time-tested small/medium/large system served our nation well for generations. I plead with the food service providers of America to return us to the roots that made our nation great.