U.S. Soldiers Ask Rumsfeld If They Could Get a Surprise Visit From Loved Ones Instead

Once again, the Onion gets at truths the non-satirical press can’t.

BAGHDAD—Although U.S. troops in Iraq said they appreciated President Bush’s recent surprise visit, thousands of them have petitioned the White House to arrange surprise visits from relatives and spouses as well. … An estimated two-thirds of American military personnel in Iraq have signed the petition, with the other third saying that Iraq is still far too dangerous a place for anyone’s loved ones to spend any time.


Who’s Right? What’s Left? Does it Matter?

The summer issue of The American Conservative went to press yesterday, and it’s a doozy. To give readers maximum value over our break (it’ll be four weeks before the next issue rather than the usual two), we’ve made this one a special symposium issue asking contributors from across the political spectrum to tell us what they think “conservatism” and “liberalism” mean today and whether the Left / Right spectrum is still a useful construct.

Thirty contributors in all, with pieces ranging from 450 to 1100 words. Who’s in it? Andrew Bacevich, Jeremy Beer, Austin Bramwell, Patrick Buchanan, John Derbyshire, Ross Douthat, Rod Dreher, Mary Eberstadt, Nick Gillespie, Paul Gottfried, Jeffrey Hart, Nick von Hoffman, Michael Lind, John Lukacs, Scott McConnell, Heather Mac Donald, Kevin Phillips, James Pinkerton, Justin Raimondo, Lew Rockwell, Claes Ryn, Kirkpatrick Sale, Phyllis Schlafly, Fred Siegel, Taki Theodoracopulos, Philip Weiss, Chilton Williamson, Clyde Wilson, and John Zmirak. (Plus one more I’m having difficulty remembering off the top of my head.)

Postscript: James Kurth was the one I was forgetting.

Riding Rough Over the Constitution

The new — August 2006 — issue of Chronicles includes my review of two recent books about Theodore Roosevelt, James R. Holden’s Theodore Roosevelt and World Order and Patricia O’Toole’s When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House. But don’t buy the mag just for that: the same issue also has John Lukacs’s “Thoughts on Socialism,” Donald Livingston’s critique of the centralized “night-watchman state,” and Clark Stooksbury’s review of Lynn Vincent’s and Robert Stacy McCain’s Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party, as well as a great deal more.

Neocons: Bush Isn’t Belligerent Enough

When I saw the Washington Post headline “Conservative Anger Grows Over Bush’s Foreign Policy,” I foolishly assumed that the article might have to something to do with the chorus of realists and antiwar conservatives who have long been critical of the president. No, no — the conservatives that the Washington Post cares about are the ones who don’t think Bush is aggressive enough in trying to democratize the world. This is what Paul Gottfried means when he says that for all the hostility the mainstream media shower upon neoconservatives, they still prefer to make them the spokespersons for conservatism rather than anyone of an older strain. (The article does, fleetingly, mention William F. Buckley’s and George Will’s reservations about the administration’s bellicose utopianism.)

Taft Club: The Government We Deserve?

This month’s Robert Taft Club meeitng, for those of you in the DC area (or who might like to drive up from nearby) will be this Thursday, 7 – 9 pm, at 1101 North Highland Street, Arlington, VA (i.e., the Leadership Institute building). Topic: Do the American people deserve the government they get? Panelists will be James Bovard, author of Attention Deficit Democracy; Reason magazine’s Jesse Walker; and Paul Gottfried, professor of the humanities at Elizabethtown College. RSVP to Marcus Epstein.

Textbook Plagiarism

A student who plagiarizes (even in high school, presumably) faces serious disciplinary action. But a textbook that plagiarizes? No one in the $4 billion U.S. textbook industries much minds that. See the New York Times story. There’s some comment on the pitfalls of ghostwriting, too:

William Cronon, a historian at the University of Wisconsin who wrote the American Historical Association’s statement on ethics, said textbooks were usually corporate-driven collaborative efforts, in which the publisher had extensive rights to hire additional writers, researchers and editors and to make major revisions without the authors’ final approval. The books typically synthesize hundreds of works without using footnotes to credit sources.

“This is really about an awkward and embarrassing situation these authors have been put in because they’ve got involved in textbook publishing,” Professor Cronon said.

Midnight Soccer

A decade ago, conservatives rightly ridiculed inner-city “midnight basketball” programs meant to reduce crime. Well, times change. Now a patriotic blogger is suggesting that the best thing we could possibly do for Iraq is: subsidize the national soccer team to the tune of, say, “a hundred million dollars.” Sound like a joke? Check out David Beito’s entry about it on HNN.

Hat tip to JC.

Postscript: plus ca change…the Wikipedia entry linked above reveals that “midnight basketball” was one of George H.W. Bush’s “points of light.” That’s very ironic, since “midnight basketball,” as trivial as it is, was one of the signature initiatives that right-wing talk-radio hosts in the early ’90s singled out to illustrate Clinton’s liberalism. Now we know who comes up with these “liberal” ideas.

How Dare Anyone Criticize Lieberman?

Steve Sailer takes note of the punditocracy’s shock that Joe Lieberman should be in such a hard-fought primary race:

…to pundits like Jonah [Goldberg], the idea that somebody important could lose his job for making the wrong decision about a little trifle like war or peace is, or at least ought to be, unthinkable.

If supporting an unconstitutional, unprovoked, and disastrous war isn’t grounds for tossing out a pol, what is? Why, toasting an ex-segregationist on his 100th birthday, of course. That’s what really matters. Per Goldberg, circa 2002:

I think he’s got to go. First, if he leaves we’ll be spared the whole Lott of Lott-puns — senator in a Lott of trouble, GOP casts its Lott, etc. It does make you wonder how hilarious this whole thing would be if former congressman Dick Swett had somehow gotten into similar trouble.

Sure, Lott’s resignation as Majority Leader might seem or actually be unfair — but that’s how politics works.

There’s a useful illustration of Beltway mentality and its essentially conformist nature here. Controversies from 40 years ago — settled ones, in other words — may be used to castigate anyone who steps out of line. (Goldberg triangulates: he says he doesn’t agree with the brouhaha over Lott, but Lott still must go. Notice, though, that the Lott blow-up was entirely a pundit-generated event. No one in Mississippi or anywhere else cared. By contrast, the war kills few neocon journalists or politicians’ sons; its costs are paid by ordinary people known to Goldberg only by their caricatures on The Simpsons.) Current disputes, however, can’t be given that kind of importance, no matter how many Americans or Iraqis they kill, simply because that would require acknowledging the incompetence of the reigning political class — Republicans, Democrats, and lickspittle op-ed columnists alike. If both parties support a policy, it must be respectable, even if things don’t turn out as well as forecast. Right?