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February 2003 Archives

February 2, 2003

A case for long trips

Necessary background: I'm staying here in Calcutta in a second floor apartment. There is a balcony that looks out onto the street. The balcony has a interlocking series of bars to keep criminals away. The daily newspaper gets delivered to this balcony.

At first I was amazed. How does the paperboy get the paper to the second floor balcony (the answer I was told: "he throws it." Well, duh.) Next question, how does the paperboy get the paper through the bars... I mean, there isn't much room (the anwer I was told: "he's really good.").

So, I was thinking, the Pirates should come to India and sign this guy. The Pirates can't hit the cut-off man, can barely field the ball *and* throw it to first base, and this guy can chuck a newspaper from the ground, to a second floor balcony, through a series of bars? And do it time after time after time? Wow.

But, then, this morning, during my fourth week here in Calcutta, I was awake at 6:30 a.m... when the paperboy arrived... and witnessed how he did it. His first throw hit the bars and clunked back down to the street. The second throw hit the bars. The third and fourth, too. His fifth finally made it threw and I had my newspaper.

I've changed my tune. If he takes five attempts at every building he goes to, it must take him hours to deliver the papers.

February 3, 2003

Back to blogging staples

I didn't blog all weekend because -- well, sometimes I don't blog for several days anyway -- I was more interested in watching the news than in talking about it. I had no particularly profound observations about the latest tragedy the country has suffered, and I didn't think it appropriate to spend my time discussing Iraq and mocking the French.

But I saved up this French bashing piece, because, hey, why not?

The streets of Abidjan apparently spoke for him today. Leaders of the Young Patriots, an umbrella group that organized the rally, wore T-shirts emblazoned with an X over the word Marcoussis. They reserved their wrath for France, this country's former colonial ruler, which brokered the peace talks. They accuse the French of forcing their president's hand. They have appealed to the United States to intervene on their behalf. American government officials have expressed support of the fragile peace deal.

Still, the affection for Americans and anger toward the French was on full display today. Demonstrators waved American flags. One held up a photograph of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. "We Trust in USA," read one placard. Another: "Bush please help Ivory Coast against French terrorism." R. Kelly and Aaliyah songs blasted improbably from the stage speakers.

Anyone who could speak a few words of English did, whether broken or polished. "Do you want me to speak French?" the firebrand leader of the Young Patriots, Charles Ble Goude, shouted from the stage. The crowd hollered its disapproval.

"Are you ready for English?" he shouted again. The crowd hollered heartily.

"I want the United States to come and help my country, which is being destroyed by the right wing of the French government," Mr. Goude, 30, said in an interview later in the afternoon.

"Ivoirians love America because America governs peace of the world," said Zadi Any Roland, 49, a rally participant.

It's not French obstructionism that's so annoying. It's France's air of moral superiority, as if they've ever done anything useful in the world. If they'd just say, "We don't think it's likely than an attack on Iraq will work out well," or even more straightforwardly, "Look, we don't think an attack on Iraq is in our interests," we could deal with them. But they act as if they're more sophisticated than the United States, as if they're the only ones who truly understand how the world works, and we should take directions from them. That's why it's so amusing to see what happens when they apply their deeper understanding of the world. Schadenfreude may not be mature, but it's fun.

Calling their bluff

I'm probably not the first person to note this, but there's a great editorial in The New Republic this week shredding the arguments of anti-war types.

So we now have reached the conditions under which, according to the standards once urged by most liberals, the United States must disarm Iraq by force. Yet the moderate, respectable opponents of the war--those who claimed they would favor military action if other steps failed--remain, for the most part, unmoved. Their predominant view now is that the only thing preventing a bloodless disarmament of Iraq is Bush's precipitous rush to war. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle summed up this sentiment when he asked this week, "How are our efforts to deal with this threat helped by short-circuiting an inspections process we demanded in the first place?"--as if the inspections were being stymied by Bush rather than by Saddam. It is now clear that Bush's critics didn't mean what they said all along: The mask of nuanced criticism has been pulled off the moderate antiwar position, exposing it for the abject pacifism it truly is.

The editorials of The New York Times are a good showcase of the intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics. The Times is worth dwelling on not only because of its great influence but also because its opposition to war is carefully calibrated, closely matching the views of mainstream Democrats rather than those of angry street demonstrators. In fact, as the Iraq debate raged last fall, the paper's editorials professed to share the same goals as the administration. Last September the Times declared, "What really counts in this conflict ... is the destruction of Iraq's unconventional weapons and the dismantling of its program to develop nuclear arms." The Times stressed that Iraqis must cooperate actively, not merely fail to put up resistance, in order to avoid war. Iraq "must provide a full and accurate list of its unconventional weapons programs," the Times insisted on November 9. The following month it added that, to succeed, the inspectors "will need cooperation from knowledgeable Iraqis." Indeed, in its November editorial the Times explicitly sanctioned a unilateral war if Iraq failed to actively disarm: "If Baghdad violates any of these provisions [emphasis added], Washington should insist that the Security Council enforce its decision. Only if the council fails to approve the serious consequences it now invokes--generally understood to be military measures--should Washington consider acting alone."

The time to "judge Baghdad's overall cooperation and decide whether Iraq can be disarmed by peaceful means alone," the Times noted in late December, would be when Blix offered his report to the Security Council after the first 60 days of inspections. Now that moment has arrived-- and with it undeniable proof that Baghdad has not offered the active cooperation deemed essential by the Times. You might think, then, that the paper would cite its previous criteria and endorse war. Not at all. Instead, the Times has already raised the bar. An editorial published the day after Blix's report pleaded that "the inspectors should be granted additional time" so they can "produce evidence that would mobilize an international consensus for additional steps." This echoed the logic of the previous Sunday's editorial, which declared, "There are some threats and some causes that require fighting even if America has to fight alone, but this isn't one of them." Disarmament, which the paper previously called "the unwavering goal" and "the lodestar of American and United Nations policy," has been reduced to a mere preference to be undertaken only if or when international opinion embraces it.

There's much more. Go read it.

The strange thing, from my perspective, is how poor the arguments against war are. It seems clear to me that an attack on Saddam Hussein is justified and in the best interests of the country. Many disagree, and yet they are unable to make any arguments that are the least bit convincing; most aren't even logical. What does that mean? Am I missing something, or are these people simply being dishonest, raising phony objections because their real anti-Bush and anti-military arguments won't sell?

February 4, 2003

In case you were wondering...

Kalpana (as in Kalpana Chawla) means imagination.

Same old, same old

The U.N. weapons inspectors found another empty chemical warhead while searching Iraq today.

The chemical warhead found at the al-Taji ammunition depot, north of Baghdad, apparently was the 17th turned up since Jan. 16, when inspectors found 12 of the 122mm rocket warheads at a storage area south of the capital in their search for banned arms.

The Iraqis said those empty munitions were overlooked leftovers from the 1980s. Three days later, they said their own search uncovered four more, at al-Taji. It wasn't immediately clear whether the single one found Tuesday, which a U.N. statement said was tagged and secured, was connected with those four.

Prediction: those opposed to war will argue both that (a) this proves that inspectors can find what we need them to find, and (b) this proves nothing, because it's just an empty warhead, and besides, we had already found several of these, so it's old news. It's not a smoking gun.

Prediction #2: After the U.S. overthrows Saddam Hussein, we will locate many weapons of mass destruction. Troops may find some, and Iraqi scientists will come forward to reveal many more caches. Those opposed to war will find some excuse why these stockpiles aren't smoking guns either.

(Corollary to prediction #2: If some of those weapons are used against the U.S. or U.S. troops while we are overthrowing Saddam Hussein, then those opposed to war will argue that these smoking guns are really the fault of the U.S. and would never have been used if the U.S. had just left poor Saddam alone.)

He Killed Me (It Felt Like a Bullet)

Refering to the wonderful and remarkable 1963 Crystals' hit song "And Then He Kissed Me," Mickey Kaus suggests that "should legendary rock producer Phil Spector or anyone associated with him ever be suspected of involvement in a homicide" the accompanying newspaper headline should be "Then He Killed Me."

A headline with much more wit and one that would be much more appropriate to Spector and to his current situation would be a play on his 1961/1962 Crystals' anthem to misogyny "He Hit Me [But It Felt Like A Kiss]."

February 5, 2003

Looking into my crystal ball

So Colin Powell is going to speak about Iraq today, to try to convince the world that Saddam Hussein is dangerous and needs to be removed. Predicted responses from the anti-war crowd, in no particular order:

  1. There's no smoking gun here.
  2. Let the inspections work!
  3. No blood for oil!
  4. So what? We should focus on the war on Islamic terror, not the war on Islamic dictators who support terror.
  5. Nous nous rendons en Irak!
  6. That doesn't prove anything. "Quick, hide the nuclear weapons! The inspectors are coming!" could mean just about anything.
  7. He's not really a threat anyway.
  8. Won't somebody please think of the children? War never solves anything.
  9. Hey, look, out of these 7,000 polls done in the last half year, here's one from months ago that said that Americans don't want to act unilaterally. See? Bush hasn't made his case. We can't go to war unless 110% of the population approves.
  10. If you can gather all this evidence, then Iraq doesn't pose a threat.
  11. It's all about Bush avenging his father, so the evidence doesn't count.
  12. I found a CIA employee -- okay, a janitor, but still -- who questions the Bush administration's interpretation of this evidence. So it doesn't prove anything.
  13. Okay, so what if he has weapons of mass destruction. So does , so isn't it hypocritical of us to demand that he give them up? And besides, the U.S. once used nuclear weapons. And besides, we knew he was using chemical weapons before, so we can't do anything about it now.
  14. But, wait, Jimmy Carter has a plan that will solve everything!
  15. The evidence is fabricated.
  16. But what about North Korea?
  17. Bush is stupid.

Unlikely response:

Gosh, you were right and we were wrong. We didn't really have the facts and didn't know what we were talking about. Sorry for doubting you. Obviously, you were right all along, and we should have listened. Invading Iraq is an important step in the war on terror. Chanting slogans isn't really an adequate substitute for learning how international affairs work. We'll never question your superior wisdom again.

February 10, 2003

Deja vu

I happened to be reading this excellent Atlantic Monthly piece by Samantha Power on the Rwandan genocide which was published a couple of years ago. It's a horrible story, hard to even read, and it raises questions for which the answers are extremely difficult. Well, that's not quite right. The answers are very easy; they're just very discomforting. The questions about when and where the United States should intervene around the world, about how and when the United Nations should take action.

But the part that struck me was this analysis of the dynamics of diplomacy:

Second, before and during the massacres U.S. diplomacy revealed its natural bias toward states and toward negotiations. Because most official contact occurs between representatives of states, U.S. officials were predisposed to trust the assurances of Rwandan officials, several of whom were plotting genocide behind the scenes. Those in the U.S. government who knew Rwanda best viewed the escalating violence with a diplomatic prejudice that left them both institutionally oriented toward the Rwandan government and reluctant to do anything to disrupt the peace process. An examination of the cable traffic from the U.S. embassy in Kigali to Washington between the signing of the Arusha agreement and the downing of the presidential plane reveals that setbacks were perceived as "dangers to the peace process" more than as "dangers to Rwandans." American criticisms were deliberately and steadfastly leveled at "both sides," though Hutu government and militia forces were usually responsible.

The U.S. ambassador in Kigali, David Rawson, proved especially vulnerable to such bias. Rawson had grown up in Burundi, where his father, an American missionary, had set up a Quaker hospital. He entered the foreign service in 1971. When, in 1993, at age fifty-two, he was given the embassy in Rwanda, his first, he could not have been more intimate with the region, the culture, or the peril. He spoke the local language—almost unprecedented for an ambassador in Central Africa. But Rawson found it difficult to imagine the Rwandans who surrounded the President as conspirators in genocide. He issued pro forma demarches over Habyarimana's obstruction of power-sharing, but the cable traffic shows that he accepted the President's assurances that he was doing all he could. The U.S. investment in the peace process gave rise to a wishful tendency to see peace "around the corner." Rawson remembers, "We were naive policy optimists, I suppose. The fact that negotiations can't work is almost not one of the options open to people who care about peace. We were looking for the hopeful signs, not the dark signs. In fact, we were looking away from the dark signs ... One of the things I learned and should have already known is that once you launch a process, it takes on its own momentum. I had said, 'Let's try this, and then if it doesn't work, we can back away.' But bureaucracies don't allow that. Once the Washington side buys into a process, it gets pursued, almost blindly." Even after the Hutu government began exterminating Tutsi, U.S. diplomats focused most of their efforts on "re-establishing a cease-fire" and "getting Arusha back on track."

Sound familiar? Substitute the words "Oslo" or "inspections" in there, and she could be discussing Israel or Iraq. It's the diplomatic process, not the actual people, that become the focus of everyone's efforts. The overriding principle -- no, the only one -- is to avoid war. Or, rather, and more cynically, to avoid a formal state of war. (It doesn't matter whether there's fighting going on, whether people are being killed. All that matters is whether people admit there's a war, because that would be a failure on the part of the diplomats.)

In Israel, nobody cares whether Palestinians get a state, whether terrorism stops, whether Israeli "settlements" actually disappear; nobody cares whether the "peace process" is leading to peace at all. All that they care about is whether they can claim that there is a "peace process." (I've ranted against the use of the term "peace process" many times; there's no such thing. Peace is a state, not a process. If we're in the middle of a "peace process," then we're at war.) In Iraq, the primary purpose of the inspections isn't to find anything; it's to keep inspections going. To the extent we're being generous to the anti-war crowd and the French and Germans, this explains their position on military action. The reason they're proposing a solution that doesn't solve the problem -- inspections -- is because they're not trying to solve the problem; they're trying to preserve the process.

And generally, there's nothing wrong with that. Given that we have neither the resources nor the will to fight everywhere at once, we have to do everything we can to avoid war. But you have to be willing to admit when your efforts have failed. And then, you need to make a decision: to admit that you have nothing constructive to offer, or to be willing to use force. The problem with the French approach is that they won't do either. They pretend they still have a chance to succeed, thereby obstructing those who have moved past that delusion. And that just isn't acceptable.

February 14, 2003

Dalip Singh Saund

The Kolkata Libertarian blog, Suman Palit writes about how Bobby Jindal has just resigned from the Bush administration to, it seems, run for the governorship of Lousiania. Jindal is of Indian origin, and Palit writes that Jindal's prospect of becoming governor is "example of how far this country has come since [he's] been here," which seems to have been ten years ago. Reading Palit's piece, it seems that now, Americans of Indian origin have a chance in the United States political scene.

I would like to alert Palit and his readers to Dalip Singh Saund. Saund, born and raised in India, was elected to the United States House of Representatives not this year or even ten years ago but 46 years ago.

February 17, 2003

Another perspective

With all the rallying and marching this weekend by people claiming to be worried about the Iraqi people, it's useful to hear what they think, without the benefit of Iraqi "minders" supervising them. The New York Times talked to Iraqi refugees in Amman, Jordan. No, these people aren't fans of the United States -- but they're bigger opponents of Saddam Hussein:

The men refused to accept that their image of the United States might be distorted by the rigidly controlled Iraqi news media, which offer as unreal a picture of America as they do of Iraq. But when it was suggested that they could hardly wish to be liberated by a country they distrusted so much — that they might prefer President Bush to extend the United Nations weapons inspections and stand down the armada he has massed on Iraq's frontiers — they erupted in dismay.

"No, no, no!" one man said excitedly, and he seemed to speak for all. Iraqis, they said, wanted their freedom, and wanted it now. The message for Mr. Bush, they said, was that he should press ahead with war, but on conditions that spared ordinary Iraqis.

Well, I think that has been the plan.

And apparently, it isn't just Iraqi refugees -- people with a special incentive to hate Saddam Hussein -- who feel this way:

On its face, the hostility promises only deeper trouble ahead for the United States. But there is another possibility, one that Arab leaders who are cooperating with the Americans are relying on as Mr. Bush's moment of decision draws closer. These nations include Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which allow American military bases, as well as Jordan, where American troops would man Patriot missiles against missiles Iraq might fire at Israel and mount pilot rescue missions into Iraq.

The leaders of these nations, all monarchies, know that if an American war bogged down, with heavy casualties on both sides, their own legitimacy, never strong, would be challenged by their own people in ways they might not survive. For these rulers, it is crucial that any conflict be short and inflict minimal casualties on Iraq's civilians.

At least one of the rulers, discussing American war plans with his advisers, has concluded that Mr. Hussein's regime is apt to collapse quickly as non-elite army units surrender or change sides.

But it is not the rapidity of an American victory alone that sustains the hopes of these Arab rulers. The pro-American Arab leaders are confident of something that invites mockery among the Europeans and Americans who oppose any war: that American troops would arrive in Iraq's major cities as liberators.

When Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the American commander in the Middle East, visited one Arab palace in recent weeks, Western diplomats reported, the Arab ruler quieted his restive courtiers by predicting that American forces would be met in Baghdad by Iraqis lining the street in celebration.

That will be a sight to see. No, not cheering liberated Iraqis; that's just icing on the cake. The sight will be the faces of the anti-American protesters who pretended they spoke for Iraqis when they chanted juvenile anti-war slogans and compared Bush to Hitler.

Of course, even if Iraqis are happy about being liberated, that doesn't mean that what we do afterwards will be easy; the Times also indicates that these refugees will want the US to leave as quickly as possible -- something which probably won't happen. And there's still the problem of reintegrating the currently-autonomous Kurds into Iraqi society. But if we can get past one supposedly-insurmountable challenge, why not another?

February 21, 2003

If this be treason... it's pretty ridiculous

Some people have suggested that Americans who go to Iraq to serve as so-called human shields should be considered traitors to the United States. But, really, shouldn't mental retardation be a defense to the charge of treason? Because if you listen to what these people say, they're really far too stupid to be prosecuted.

"They have shown us a number of sites and one of them was this power station," said Godfrey Meynell, a 68-year-old antiwar activist from Britain. "I have been pushing for this site because it seems to me that if the electricity is cut, then water treatment suffers, hospitals suffer. Of course America appears to have become so immoral now that there are few chances of it making it the slightest bit of difference."
Yep. You offer to stand right in the middle of a target, to protect a ruthless tyrant. He tells you to go ahead. And yet we're the immoral one?
Others have become aware of the sinister side of what some say they naïvely interpreted as a kind of extraordinary war protest. "I think the Iraqi government is potentially putting us in a dangerous position," said a young Australian who said he had decided to leave.
Yeah, dude. Blame it on the Iraqi government. Certainly I'm no fan of Saddam Hussein, but somehow I think he escapes responsibility for your personal challenge to the theory of evolution.
One American peace advocate recalled a typical march where the Westerners were chanting antiwar slogans and were suddenly joined by dozens of Iraqis hoisting pictures of Mr. Hussein. "It changed the spirit of the march," said a recent college graduate who is one of the volunteers. "That wasn't what we expected."
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Except, of course, if you live in Spain at the time of the Inquisition. He didn't expect that, in Iraq, there might be government-orchestrated marches in favor of Saddam Hussein? Was he also surprised at all that water in the ocean? No wonder these people believe that "It's all about oil" is such a compelling chant. They suddenly realize that there's oil in Iraq, and think that it's a brilliant insight that nobody ever thought of, except them. It's almost unfair to Bush how dumb his opponents are. Doesn't he deserve a real opposition?

February 24, 2003

A must read

Christopher Hitchens in the new issue of the Atlantic.

Another must read

From yesterday's Washington Post... about arranged marriages among ABCDs (American Born Confused Desis).

It's really well done. I have three minor problems with it, though:

1. The author didn't call me. (Sure, I'd have called Karen Leonard, too... her book Making Ethnic Choices is just top-notch. For what it's worth, Johanna Lessinger's From Ganges to the Hudson didn't leave me wowed. I don't know Maitrayee Bhattacharyya's work; it sounds facinating. The Philadelphia Inquirer knows to call when investigating Indian American youth culture. ;) )

2. In discussing why divorce rates are so much lower in Indians/Indian-Americans compared to those of non-Indian-Americans, the author resorts to the usual (and unsatisfying) explaination: "Divorce reflects poorly on an Indian family, and some proportion of arranged marriages endure not because they are successful or rewarding, but because leaving them would bring such shame." It would have been profitiable, I think, to take a look at the economic basis of these marriages... or, in other words, in situations where the wife earns much less than her husband, where is she supposed to go if she leaves? Especially, if she does leave, she's expected to take the children with her? A lot of unhappy marriages stay together not just because there would be shame if there were a divorce but because the woman has no other viable option.

3. There is an implied assumption throughout the article that non-immigrant American parents do not actively set their children up nor do take an active role in who their children date. And, we all know that's not true. (I mean, cripes, lots of high school kids -- both boys and girls -- can identify with aspects of Romeo and Juliet when they read it in 9th grade. Everybody's parents care about their children's prospective marriage partner's parents. It's not just Indians.)

February 25, 2003

Really makes you think

Reading Andrew Sullivan really makes you think. Think about how he doesn't know what's going on. From his latest post:

The second U.N. resolution is irrelevant to whether a war actually takes place.... If the resolution is defeated, but war ensues, Bush will take a small hit at home, a huge hit abroad (still, how much worse could it get?) - but, precisely because of these things, an even bigger domestic gain if the war is successful.

It could get a lot worse. Two things that must be remembered: (1) people abroad love the United States. Whether we're talking about Mexico, the Netherlands, or Russia. It's almost universal. Not governments and not the extremists, of course, but the regular people of the world. They love that the United States rebuilt the world after 1945. They love the moon landings. They love the energy, drive, and courage of Americans. They love the democracy and rule of law over here. (2) people abroad don't like President Bush. They didn't like him before 9/11 when he was taking this country out of its treaty obligations and they don't like his Iraqi policy now (and they don't see much of difference between the two -- nixing treaty obligations and not getting Security Council approval).

Sullivan is talking about point #2... how much worse could that get? I agree, not much worse.

If America invades Iraq and then occupies it with an American or an American-British army of occupation, we're endanger of losing #1. That would be terrible and quite worse. For no other reason, this is why there should be a multinational occupying force.

Bush will be seen as someone who did all he could to win over the U.N., but in the end, did what he believed was right. He will emerge principled and triumphant.

Is Sullivan serious about this? Bush will be seen as someone who did what was politically expedient and triumphant.

Ditto Blair, especially if a liberated Iraq reveals untold horrors, human rights abuses and French arms contracts.

Gee wiz... I hate to sound like those people who marched the other weekend, but can't we find out about these "untold horrors" and "human rights abuses" *before* we go to war?


Slate's feature "In Other Magazines" (IOM) noted the other day: "Time and CNN, however, kindly polled the populace: 54 percent of Americans are pro, 38 percent are against. Also, the poll notes, younger demographics are more pro-war than their elders, but the piece never explores why 63 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds support military action, while only 40 percent of those over 65 agree."

I'd refer IOM to the 80+ year old woman who I sat next to on the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia train on Sunday -- a woman who had stayed 2 years in Germany with her Army husband and five children in 1957 and 1958 as part of the United States army of occupation -- who held great misgivings about the upcoming war. Or, if IOM wishes to surf the web to another magazine, to 82 year old Roger Angell's piece in the latest New Yorker.

Note to Karl Rove: Old people vote. Very important demographic in Florida, as well.

February 27, 2003

Sad day

I, literally, grew up in Mr. Roger's neighborhood. He lived a few blocks down the street from my parents' house. He shopped at the neighborhood grocery store that I worked at during high school (before I worked there, he filmed a segment for his show at the store); I occassionally assisted him in his shopping. It wasn't until I went to college and my friends there had also knew of him that I learned that Mr. Roger's Neighborhood wasn't a local Pittsburgh show but was seen nationally. And, of course, like everybody else, when I was young, I watched his show.
Mr. Rogers was once asked what the secret of his show's success was. He replied that he never lost faith with the children. He was a great man and his lessons remain with us.

February 28, 2003

Nit picking

I realize it's nit-picking to point this out, but if my job consisted of only having to write a few columns a week, I'd double check what I wrote.

In his most recent syndicated column, George Will writes:

"Senate Democrats cite [Miguel] Estrada's lack of judicial experience. But 15 of the 18 nominations to the D.C. court since President Carter lacked such experience, as did 26 Clinton circuit judge nominees who were confirmed. And 43 of the 108 Supreme Court justices (most recently Byron White, Thurgood Marshall and Lewis Powell), including eight of the 18 chief justices (most recently Earl Warren) had no prior judicial experience."

I wonder why Will included Thurgood Marshall in this list? After all, from 1961 to 1965, Marshall sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Did he just guess about Marshall's experience? Or assume? It makes one wonder about Will's other figures -- the 15 out of 18 and the 43 out of 108.

In the same article -- the gist of the article, in fact -- Will writes "The president, preoccupied with regime change elsewhere, will occupy a substantially diminished presidency unless he defeats the current attempt to alter the constitutional regime here. If at least 41 Senate Democrats succeed in blocking a vote on the confirmation of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Constitution effectively will be amended. If Senate rules, exploited by an anticonstitutional minority, are allowed to trump the Constitution's text and two centuries of practice, the Senate's power to consent to judicial nominations will have become a Senate right to require a 60-vote supermajority for confirmations. By thus nullifying the president's power to shape the judiciary, the Democratic Party will wield a presidential power without having won a presidential election."

What Will means (and, if he wanted to be honest, what he should have written) is that filibusters are bad only when Democrats do it. When Republicans do it, filibusters are, for Will, good. For in his August 15, 1994 syndicated column (I'm quoting from page B5 of the Times-Picayune; it isn't on the web but it's in your local library):

"The idea that filibusters have become a serious problem is preposterous. Can anyone name anything of significance that an American majority has desired, strongly and protractedly, but has not received because of a filibuster? Who believes that insufficient activity is a defect of modern government?"

About February 2003

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in February 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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