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September 22, 2007
8:33pm EDT




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BY JAMES TARANTO
Wednesday, June 8, 2005 3:25 p.m. EDT

El Decano Blanco
The hits just keep on coming. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, unapologetic in the face of recent criticism that he has been too tough on his political opposition, said in San Francisco this week that Republicans are "a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party."

Yes, you heard that right. Howard Dean is accusing Republicans of being white. We most assuredly are not jiving you: Howard Dean--scion of Park Avenue, former governor of Vermont, a state that is 96.8% people of pallor--is faulting Republicans for being white, even though he himself is whiter than an albino polar bear with dandruff.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

You Heard It Here First
Were we right to think that the Republicans got the better of last month's deal on judicial filibusters? A Washington Post article suggests so:

Democrats generally cheered, and Republicans groused, when a bipartisan group of senators crafted a compromise on judicial nominations last month. But with the Senate now confirming several conservative nominees whom Democrats had blocked for years, some liberals are questioning the wisdom of the deal and fretting about what comes next.

"Our problem with the compromise is the price that was paid," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said yesterday. She and other Congressional Black Caucus members plan to march into the Senate today to protest the impending confirmation of Janice Rogers Brown.

Brown, as a black dissenter from liberal orthodoxy, is especially threatening to the CBC. More from the Post:

"It looks like in some ways [Majority Leader Bill] Frist is seizing the initiative," said Carl W. Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. Moreover, he said, liberals may be deluded in thinking the bipartisan deal will thwart another contentious nominee--Brett M. Kavanaugh, the White House staff secretary--who is not named in the two-page agreement. Two years ago, Bush nominated Kavanaugh, who helped independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr pursue the Monica S. Lewinsky case, to the D.C. Circuit appeals court.

"I think it's wishful thinking by the Democrats that he won't move forward," Tobias said. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said of Kavanaugh in an interview yesterday, "I intend to push him."

The first stage of the compromise--the end of the filibusters of Priscilla Owen, Brown and William Pryor--is a political disaster for the Democrats. Not only are the three judges they condemned as "extremist" almost certain to be confirmed (Owen already has been), but the smear campaigns against them are being exposed as ridiculous.

The Democrats claimed that these three judges were so "extreme" that they couldn't even be allowed a vote. Well, OK, the seven Democrats who were party to the compromise agreed to abjure the filibuster in these cases in order to save it for others. But if the Democrats really believed their rhetoric, why did three of them vote for cloture (i.e., to end the filibuster) on Brown's nomination even though they were not obliged to do so? And why did 19 noncompromising Democrats vote to end the Owen filibuster?

Harry Reid, the Democrats' titular leader, comes across looking especially silly. He voted to end the Owen filibuster but not the Brown one. Maybe he thinks Brown is extreme and Owen isn't, or maybe he's motivated by race (a plausible suspicion given his history of inflammatory remarks about black jurists). But in any case his previous claims that all the filibustered nominees were "extreme" plainly do not reflect his actual views.

The lineup of the vote on the Brown filibuster bodes ill for Democratic hopes to resurrect the filibuster for other nominees in this Congress. Of the five red-state Democrats who are up for re-election next year, four voted in favor of cloture (compromisers Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska and noncompromisers Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida; Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico voted "no"). So did freshman Tom Carper of Delaware, also up for re-election.

Five Democrats are sufficient to end a filibuster, and given that some 10 Democrats are subject to the dual antifilibuster incentives of the agreement and the 2006 elections, it seems unlikely that the Dems will be able to re-create the party unity around the filibuster that they maintained in 2003-04.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping
Our item yesterday on John Kerry*, his military records and his Yale transcript prompted this criticism from a reader:

Your failure to acknowledge that John Kerry's Navy records contained praise from (future) members of the Swift Boats outfit demonstrates your lack of integrity and your fundamental dishonesty. You are a shill. Congratulations.

"The Swift Boats outfit," of course, is the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and sure enough, yesterday's Boston Globe did say this:

The records, which the Navy Personnel Command provided to the Globe, are mostly a duplication of what Kerry released during his 2004 campaign for president, including numerous commendations from commanding officers who later criticized Kerry's Vietnam service. . . . An earlier release of the full record might have helped his campaign because it contains a number of reports lauding his service.

OK, so we goofed. We should have noted this yesterday. The reason we didn't is that we remembered reading in the paper that the Swift Boat guys were a bunch of liars, so we assumed their praise was not to be trusted.

Now that their credibility has been re-established, let's check in on what they're saying about the release of Kerry's records. Blogger Matt Margolis has the following comment (scroll down to "Update III") from Swift Boat honcho John O'Neill:

We called for Kerry to execute a form which would permit anyone to examine his full and unexpulgated [sic] military records at the Navy Department and the National Personnel Records Center. Instead he executed a form permitting his hometown paper to obtain the records currently at the Navy Department. The Navy Department previously indicated its records did not include various materials. This is hardly what we called for.

If he did execute a complete release of all records we could then answer questions such as (1) Did he ever receive orders to Cambodia or file any report of such a mission (whether at Christmas or otherwise); (2) What was his discharge status between 1970 and 1978 (when he received a discharge) and was it affected by his meetings in 1970 and 1971 with the North Vietnamese? (3) why did he receive much later citations for medals purportedly signed by Secretary Lehman who said he did not know of them; (4) Are there Hostile Fire and Personnel Injured by Hostile Fire Reports for Kerry's Dec. 1968 Purple Heart (when the officer in charge of the boat Admiral Schacte, the treating Surgeon Louis Letson, and Kerry's Division Commander deny there was hostile fire causing a scratch) awarded three months later under unknown circumstances.

Remember, O'Neill heads a group whose members praised Kerry, so he can hardly be dismissed as an anti-Kerry partisan.

* No, actually the asterisk isn't part of his name.

When It Raines, It Pours
The revelation of John Kerry's averageness prompted several readers to remind us of an article that appeared last Aug. 27 in both the Washington Post and London's Guardian. The author was Howell Raines, the former New York Times executive editor; the topic was John Kerry's superior intelligence, and we noted it at the time. The key passage:

Does anyone in America doubt that Kerry has a higher IQ than Bush? I'm sure the candidates' SATs and college transcripts would put Kerry far ahead.

Maybe Raines was being sarcastic ("Oh yeah, I'm sure!"), but we don't think so. Also, several readers took issue with our contention that Woodrow Wilson was the last egghead to win the White House. As Kevin Shapiro writes:

Arguably, the last egghead to win the White House was actually Bill Clinton, who's rumored to have taught law at the University of Arkansas between his failed congressional bid in 1974 and his election as Arkansas attorney general in 1976. At any rate, Clinton is by most accounts considered a very bright fellow--albeit one with numerous character flaws.

We didn't mean to disparage Clinton's intellect, which by all accounts is formidable. But we would not characterize him as an "egghead"--i.e., an intellectual or highbrow. Despite his brief stint as a professor, he has spent almost his entire career in politics, and there's no denying his regular-guy appeal.

A better candidate for the title of egghead president is Herbert Hoover, who before entering government worked as a mining engineer and who, according to the Hoover Presidential Library, "regarded himself as a scientifically trained professional":

Prior to his presidency and throughout his mining career, he wrote for numerous professional publications; by 1914, he had written more than 30 signed articles. His early interest was almost a "personal trademark: the subject of working costs and efficiency in mining." In 1909, Herbert Hoover published his Principles of Mining, which was based on lectures delivered earlier that year at Stanford University and the Columbia School of Mines. According to Dr. Nash, "Principles of Mining firmly solidified Hoover's reputation not just as a successful mining engineer, but as a scholar and professional as well. Recognized as a classic, it became a popular textbook for engineering students and did not go out of print until 1967."

So one way of looking at Kerry is that he aspired to be the next Herbert Hoover, but didn't quite make it. In today's Boston Globe, one pro-Kerry egghead, Robert Kuttner, offers a theory as to why: because he "came up just one state short in 2004, perhaps due to deliberately contrived long lines that held down Democratic turnout in Ohio."

This just goes to show that book learning doesn't necessarily prepare you to deal with the real world. Long lines mean high turnout. If Kerry lost a state with long lines, that would be because so many people in those lines voted against him.

Did Hillary Get Trapped?
Several readers wrote to dispute our statement yesterday that Hillary Clinton has "never fallen into the patriotism trap"--i.e., defensively denied being unpatriotic, as Democrats (cf Michael Dukakis, Max Cleland, John Kerry) are wont to do. They cite this quote, attributed to Mrs. Clinton:

"I'm sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and disagree with this administration, somehow you're not patriotic. We need to stand up and say we're Americans, and we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration."

We have our doubts as to whether this quote is genuine. It appears in various places on the Web, including pro-Hillary sites, but we haven't found a reference that includes the date or occasion on which she said it, nor did it turn up in a Factiva news database search; and many of the Web references seem to be cribbed from an old article on Wikipedia.org, the user-written encyclopedia, from which the quote has since been deleted. We'll let you know if we find out more.

Bill Clinton Followed His Example
"Archives Show JFK Sought Way Out of Vietnam"--headline, New York Times (Paris edition), June 7

The Impotence Tax
New Scientist magazine describes a legislative effort to give pharmaceutical companies incentives to develop anti-bioterrorism products. It seems like a worthy idea, but we wonder about one proposal:

Perhaps the most creative--and controversial--inducement for industry is the "wild card" patent plan. This would allow a firm that develops a drug under Bioshield to win a patent extension lasting up to two years for any of its other products. This could be worth millions if it were to be applied to blockbuster drugs like Viagra or Lipitor, the latter a drug used to lower cholesterol levels.

The wild card has generated a great deal of opposition, particularly from generic drug manufacturers who would stand to benefit when patents expire, and the proposal has already been modified in an attempt to pacify them.

It's hard to muster much sympathy for generic-drug makers, but what about the consumers of these drugs? Doesn't this proposal amount to a tax on people who suffer from impotence, high cholesterol and other medical conditions?

Zero-Tolerance Watch
"School District officials not only violated an 11-year-old girl's rights by suspending her for drawings she made outside of school, they knew they were wrong, a judge said yesterday," reports the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y. It happened at Twin Towers Middle School:

The girl was suspended in October 2003 after she drew pictures of tombstones with the names of two teachers at the school under the words "Rest in Peace." Below the teachers' names were obscenities.

The district viewed her drawings as threats toward staff members and charged the girl with "endangering the safety, morals, health or welfare of others."

But the drawings weren't made in school. They were made during a slumber party at the home of a classmate. The classmate's father found the drawings the next day and alerted police, who in turn alerted the school.

Judge Charles Brieant of the U.S. District Court "determined that the district officials violated the girl's rights to free speech as well as due process, and that 'the defendants knew clearly that their Code of Conduct did not apply to off-campus conduct that was not related to school functions.' "

This Just In
"Graduation speakers often allude to a figurative horizon of possibility during commencement ceremonies."--Stamford (Conn.) Advocate, June 8

That Isn't Very Nice
"Minn. Man Tends to Hurt Brother, Ill Mom"--headline, Associated Press, June 7

Santorum Warned Us It Would Come to This
"Dog Stabbed, Hanged Over Suspected Extramarital Affair"--headline, Arizona Republic, June 7

What Species Is the Head Coach?
"Pacers Hire Person as Assistant Coach"--headline, Associated Press, June 7

Whatever, Dude!
"Let us stop drinking from the enchanted waters of Lethe, which strike with amnesia those who want to quench their thirst, and let us dare to taste those 'fresh waters that run from the Lake of Memory'--as the words say on the golden bars of the disciples of Orpheus, that bard of metamorphosis and of ascending reincarnation."--Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in a recent essay, quoted in London's Daily Telegraph, June 5

Big Money
Reader Chris Link found himself flummoxed by reader John Steele Gordon's reference yesterday to Scrooge McDuck's "three-cubic-acre money bin":

An acre is a measure of area (i.e. two dimensions). If you have a "cubic acre," you would have a four-dimensional space--a three-dimensional space existing in a specific time frame. Hell, add another dimension and you get a late-'60s soul/R&B singing group.

We asked Gordon for an explanation, and here it is:

A cubic acre, of course, is Carl Barks's wonderfully meaningless measurement of Scrooge's infinite wealth. Lewis Carroll would have loved it.

But as a child (Scrooge was my favorite comic book character--no wonder I ended up an economic historian) I calculated that a cubic acre would have a side 208.7 feet long (square root of 43,560) and thus a volume of 9,090,972 cubic feet. So Scrooge's money bin would have been 27,272,916 cubic feet in size, an adequate piggy bank by any measure.

By our calculations, though, a cubic acre would actually be a six-dimensional space. An acre is 43,560 square feet, so three cubic acres would be 247,961,850,048,000 feet to the sixth power. That's inflation for you.

Meanwhile, the latest installment in the New York Times' "class matters" series, an article by Charles McGrath, bemoans recent trends in literature:

On television and in the movies now, and even in the pages of novels, people tend to dwell in a classless, homogenized American Never-Never Land. This place is an upgrade, but not a drastic one, from the old neighborhood where Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, and Donna Reed used to live; it's those yuppified city blocks where the friends on "Friends" and the "Seinfeld" gang had their apartments, or in the now more fashionable version, it's part of the same exurb as One Tree Hill and Wisteria Lane--those airbrushed suburbs where all the cool young people hang out and where the pecking order of sex and looks has replaced the old hierarchy of jobs and money.

This is progress of a sort, but it's also repression, since it means that pop culture has succeeded to a considerable extent in burying something that used to be right out in the open. In the old days, when we were more consumed by social class, we were also more honest about it.

We don't know what McGrath is complaining about. If you want to read contemporary fiction about class conflict in America, all you have to do is pick up the New York Times.

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Richard Brum, Ethel Fenig, Ed Lasky, Mark Schulze, Paul Dyck, Tom Elia, Charlie Gaylord, Edward Schulze, Dan O'Shea, Kathleen Myalls, Mark Van Der Molen, Monty Krieger, Douglas Noren, Brian O'Rourke, Allen O'Donnell, Thomas Castle, Cathy Fasano, Jeff Meling, James Chase, Dwight Watson, Mathew Noonan, Robert Miller, Paul James, Dave Vasquez, A. Gannaway, Garrett Pendergraft, Patrick Donovan, Robert Rounthwaite, Jerry Skurnik, Paul Wicht, Brian Azman, Janet Peritzman, Robert Weppler, Marc Young, Dave Richins, Bill Snead, Rosanne Klass, Gregory Baruch and Andrew Morton. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: The unfortunate implications of the medical marijuana ruling.
  • Debra Burlingame: Will the 9/11 "memorial" have more about Abu Ghraib than New York's heroic firemen?
  • David Asman: What I learned from my wife's month in the British medical system.

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