The Republican Alternatives

Bachmann: Why can’t somebody as ignorant as me make a good President? Think about it.

Perry: I’ve always liked tearing the wings off flies, and setting fire to cats. I’m exactly what America needs right now.

Romney: I only used to be somebody. Now I’m just like you, so it’s okay to go ahead and vote for me. Honest.

Paul: I don’t like black people, or women, or abstractions. I also don’t like war.

I could go on and on, but why bother? Fox News will take care of it.

Mortem Confundit Magus*

Businessmen say going forward instead of in the future. Our Secretary of State says that Muammar al-Qaddafi must acknowledge what the International Community requires of him. A respected liberal economist, defending the necessity of nuclear power plants, remarks that it’s unlikely that the Chernobyl accident produced more than 50,000 excess deaths world-wide. He seems to take it for granted that this simple statistic will rekindle our faith in Atoms for Peace.

Why does no one in public life sound like this any more?

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

The wizard can bare his breast to the assassin’s dagger without blinking, and the Son of God can carry his own cross with confidence to Calvary because their mortal forms are mere teaching points. Abraham Lincoln understood this in a way that our present leaders do not. Secure in the vast powers at their disposal, they seem to have forgotten that they’re nevertheless as mortal as the rest of us, and that, in the end, their powers are only on loan to them. We can’t afford such a luxurious forgetfulness; we have to deal with the consequences of their actions every day. It wouldn’t hurt, I think, to remind them of that fact from time to time.

*The wizard confounds death — from the 1981 fantasy film, Dragonslayer — a wonderful bit of whimsy, part Sorcerer’s Apprentice, part Arthurian legend. This line is spoken by no less grand a thespian than Sir Ralph Richardson himself, in the role of an old wizard with a flair for Shakespearean declamation even in Latin.

Saved from the American Conflagration

To be placed in a shrine impervious to Russell Pearce and his bilious followers….

The Declaration of Independence

Except for the abused people referred to as …inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages…, and the people transported here against their will from their homes in Africa, and kept in cruel and abject bondage for generations, a promising beginning.

The Constitution of the United States

An intelligent and remarkably valiant attempt to mix oil and water, which managed to endure for 220 years, more or less. In its later amendments, particularly the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th and 24th, some evidence that the promise of the founders might one day be fulfilled.

Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address

The clearest warning we ever got.

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Expiation.

Emma Lazarus’ The Colossus

The promise renewed.

ACORN and the Roman Church: A Sermon on Hypocrisy

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the 42nd anniversary of his assassination

This is a tough subject for an Easter morning, even if you aren’t religious. It isn’t that people haven’t done a lot of thinking about our unfortunate double standards, they have. It’s just that — to me at least — almost all of it seems incomplete. I suppose I ought to read more post-modernists, since they seem to be the current experts in the morphology of meanings unmoored from their original foundations.

My difficulty with post-modernism up to now has been its confidence, bordering on arrogance, that it’s found a sure way through the veil. (It doesn’t help, either, that some of the conclusions of individual pomos seem to me to be true but irrelevant — and that’s putting it as kindly as I can.) In any event, when I look at two parallel stories like the sad vilification and destruction of ACORN, and the Church’s even sadder defense of priestly pedophilia, where the noun in each case is portrayed as being so much more important than the verb, I find myself scratching my head. Why isn’t it obvious to many more people that there’s a double standard lurking in the difference between the conclusions drawn about ACORN, and those about the Roman Church hierarchy?

The simplest answer, I suppose, is that a cultural institution often defines its own limits, and its own distinctiveness, by what it chooses to lie about. Unless the concept of a single God is defended, if necessary at the point of a sword, the Church is just one more merchant of abstractions. If His rules aren’t held to be inviolable, no matter how often they’re violated, the Church is just another costume drama. Likewise, if a society doesn’t defend its own cultural institutions, no matter how iffy their original provenance, it ceases to be what it is. (The Church, The South, The Senate.) People are well aware of this, which is why attacks even on corrupt institutions make them extremely nervous, and rightly so. Why should they be expected to welcome the threat of chaos into their beliefs, let alone into their lives?

If there was anything unique about the United States early on, it was the promise that here our government wouldn’t invest in propping up institutions simply because its people were familiar with them, but would instead invest in the stewardship of change, would do its best to create and defend a space in which institutions which developed nasty habits — such as using our children as unpaid prostitutes — could be done away with more or less quietly and replaced with something more suitable.

Needless to say, that project never came to complete fruition, and probably never could have, given human nature, but we did have a pretty good run at it. Even today, many of our simplest souls still consider themselves the masters of their own destiny to an extent which would be inconceivable anywhere else in the world.

ACORN got the axe because it was new, and because it exposed the founding lie of a more established institution — our government. And what lie was that? I hear someone asking. The one about democracy, the one about the truths we hold to be self-evident. That lie. The Church didn’t get the axe because anyone who actually had an axe had been welcomed into the fold long ago.

I suspect that this time, if we’re patient and humble, we may finally get to see the Holy Contradictions implode. The Church has been around a long time, longer than any of us, which may make it as hard as ever for anyone to declaw its predators, but that unhappy fact shouldn’t stop us from trying. Whether the Church has finally worn out its welcome or not, there’s no reason for any of us outside its doors to be polite. On the contrary.

I’d put it this way. If Jesus died for our sins, so did Martin Luther King. On this Easter Sunday, I think that a reverence for the truth should compel us to admit that of the two institutions in question, ACORN in recent days has done a far better job of honoring their sacrifice than the Roman Church has done.

(An earlier, and somewhat more typo-ridden version of this post was first published as a comment on this OpenLeft Diary by Paul Rosenberg.)

I Didn’t Vote for Binyamin Netanyahu

We — and the world — now have Israel’s answer to President Obama’s June 4th address in Cairo. Yesterday, November 3rd, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the non-binding resolution shown below. The vote was 344 Aye, 36 Nay, 22 Present, and 30 Not Voting. (For those who would like to see it, the complete roll call is here.)

111TH CONGRESS

1ST SESSION H. RES. 867

Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ in multilateral fora.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

OCTOBER 23, 2009

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN (for herself, Mr. BERMAN, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, and Mr. ACKERMAN) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

RESOLUTION

Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ in multilateral fora.

Whereas, on January 12, 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution A/HRC/S–9/L.1, which authorized a ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ regarding Israel’s conduct of Operation Cast Lead against violent militants in the Gaza Strip between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009;

2

Whereas the resolution pre-judged the outcome of its investigation, by one-sidedly mandating the ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ to ‘‘investigate all violations of international human rights law and International Humanitarian Law by . . . Israel, against the Palestinian people . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression’’;

Whereas the mandate of the ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ makes no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacks, which numbered in the thousands and spanned a period of eight years, by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel, that necessitated Israel’s defensive measures;

Whereas the ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ included a member who, before joining the mission, had already declared Israel guilty of committing atrocities in Operation Cast Lead by signing a public letter on January 11, 2009, published in the Sunday Times, that called Israel’s actions ‘‘war crimes’’;

Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate gave serious concern to many United Nations Human Rights Council Member States which refused to support it, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;

Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate troubled many distinguished individuals who refused invitations to head the mission;

Whereas Justice Richard Goldstone, who chaired the ‘‘United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’,

3

told the then-President of the UNHRC, Nigerian Ambassador Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, that he intended to broaden the mandate of the Mission to include ‘‘all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after’’, a phrase that, according to Justice Goldstone, was intended to allow him to investigate Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians;

Whereas Ambassador Uhomoibhi issued a statement on April 3, 2009, that endorsed part of Justice Goldstone’s proposed broadened mandate but deleted the phrase ‘‘before, during, and after’’, and added inflammatory anti-Israeli language;

Whereas a so-called broadened mandate was never officially endorsed by a plenary meeting of the UNHRC, neither in the form proposed by Justice Goldstone nor in the form proposed by Ambassador Uhomoibhi;

Whereas, on September 15, 2009, the ‘‘United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ released its report; Whereas the report repeatedly made sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations that the Israeli military had deliberately attacked civilians during Operation Cast Lead;

Whereas the authors of the report admit that ‘‘we did not deal with the issues . . . regarding the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas and secondguessing decisions made by soldiers and their commanding officers ‘in the fog of war.’ ’’;

4

Whereas in the October 16th edition of the Jewish Daily Forward, Richard Goldstone, the head of the ‘‘United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’, is quoted as saying, with respect to the mission’s evidence collection methods, ‘‘If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.’’;

Whereas the report, in effect, denied the State of Israel the right to self-defense, and never noted the fact that Israel had the right to defend its citizens from the repeated violent attacks committed against civilian targets in southern Israel by Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations operating from Gaza;

Whereas the report largely ignored the culpability of the Government of Iran and the Government of Syria, both of whom sponsor Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations;

Whereas the report usually considered public statements made by Israeli officials not to be credible, while frequently giving uncritical credence to statements taken from what it called the ‘‘Gaza authorities’’, i.e. the Gaza leadership of Hamas;

Whereas, notwithstanding a great body of evidence that Hamas and other violent Islamist groups committed war crimes by using civilians and civilian institutions, such as mosques, schools, and hospitals, as shields, the report repeatedly downplayed or cast doubt upon that claim;

Whereas in one notable instance, the report stated that it did not consider the admission of a Hamas official that Hamas often ‘‘created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the mujahideen, against [the Israeli military]’’ specifically to ‘‘constitute evidence that Hamas

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forced Palestinian civilians to shield military objectives against attack.’’;

Whereas Hamas was able to significantly shape the findings of the investigation mission’s report by selecting and prescreening some of the witnesses and intimidating others, as the report acknowledges when it notes that ‘‘those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups . . . from a fear of reprisals’’;

Whereas even though Israel is a vibrant democracy with a vigorous and free press, the report of the ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ erroneously asserts that ‘‘actions of the Israeli government . . . have contributed significantly to a political climate in which dissent with the government and its actions . . . is not tolerated’’;

Whereas the report recommended that the United Nations Human Rights Council endorse its recommendations, implement them, review their implementation, and refer the report to the United Nations Security Council, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations General Assembly for further action;

Whereas the report recommended that the United Nations Security Council—

(1) require the Government of Israel to launch further investigations of its conduct during Operation Cast Lead and report back to the Security Council within six months;

(2) simultaneously appoint an ‘‘independent committee of experts’’ to monitor and report on any domestic legal or other proceedings undertaken by the Government of Israel within that six-month period; and

6

(3) refer the case to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court after that six-month period;

Whereas the report recommended that the United Nations General Assembly consider further action on the report and establish an escrow fund, to be funded entirely by the State of Israel, to ‘‘pay adequate compensation to Palestinians who have suffered loss and damage’’ during Operation Cast Lead;

Whereas the report ignored the issue of compensation to Israelis who have been killed or wounded, or suffered other loss and damage, as a result of years of past and continuing rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in southern Israel;

Whereas the report recommended ‘‘that States Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 start criminal investigations [of Operation Cast Lead] in national courts, using universal jurisdiction’’ and that ‘‘following investigation, alleged perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted’’;

Whereas the concept of ‘‘universal jurisdiction’’ has frequently been used in attempts to detain, charge, and prosecute Israeli and United States officials and former officials in connection with unfounded allegations of war crimes and has often unfairly impeded the travel of those individuals;

Whereas the State of Israel, like many other free democracies, has an independent judicial system with a robust investigatory capacity and has already launched numerous investigations, many of which remain ongoing, of Operation Cast Lead and individual incidents therein;

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Whereas Libya and others have indicated that they intend to further pursue consideration of the report and implementation of its recommendations by the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and other multilateral fora;

Whereas the President instructed the United States Mission to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva to vote against resolution A–HRC–S–12–1, which endorsed the report and condemned Israel, at the special session of the Human Rights Council held on October 15–16, 2009;

Whereas, on September 30, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the mandate for the report as ‘‘onesided’’;

Whereas, on September 17, 2009, Ambassador Susan Rice, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, expressed the United States’ ‘‘very serious concern with the mandate’’ and noted that the United States views the mandate ‘‘as unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable’’;

Whereas the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ reflects the longstanding, historic bias at the United Nations against the democratic, Jewish State of Israel;

Whereas the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ is being exploited by Israel’s enemies to excuse the actions of violent militant groups and their state sponsors, and to justify isolation of and punitive measures against the democratic, Jewish State of Israel;

8

Whereas, on October 16, 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 25–6 (with 11 states abstaining and 5 not voting) to adopt resolution A–HRC–S–12–1, which endorsed the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ and condemned Israel, without mentioning Hamas, other such violent militant groups, or their state sponsors; and

Whereas efforts to delegitimize the democratic State of Israel and deny it the right to defend its citizens and its existence can be used to delegitimize other democracies and deny them the same right: Now, therefore, be it

1 Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

2 (1) considers the ‘‘Report of the United Nations

3 Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ to be

4 irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consid

5 eration or legitimacy;

6 (2) supports the Administration’s efforts to

7 combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, its

8 characterization of the ‘‘Report of the United Na

9 tions Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ as

10 ‘‘unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable’’,

11 and its opposition to the resolution on the report;

12 (3) calls on the President and the Secretary of

13 State to continue to strongly and unequivocally op

14 pose any endorsement of the ‘‘Report of the United

15 Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’

16 in multilateral fora, including through leading oppo

17 sition to any United Nations General Assembly reso-

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1 lution and through vetoing, if necessary, any United

2 Nations Security Council resolution that endorses

3 the contents of this report, seeks to act upon the

4 recommendations contained in this report, or calls

5 on any other international body to take further ac

6 tion regarding this report;

7 (4) calls on the President and the Secretary of

8 State to strongly and unequivocally oppose any fur

9 ther consideration of the ‘‘Report of the United Na

10 tions Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’

11 and any other measures stemming from this report

12 in multilateral fora; and

13 (5) reaffirms its support for the democratic,

14 Jewish State of Israel, for Israel’s security and right

15 to self-defense, and, specifically, for Israel’s right to

16 defend its citizens from violent militant groups and

17 their state sponsors.

I have two questions for President Obama: Now that Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Government of Israel have responded to your speechmaking, what will you do? What can you do?

Rush Limbaugh Eaten by Feral Children

If a just and merciful God actually ruled our modest corner of the universe, this might well be the last headline in the last newspaper before the world’s presses are shut down forever. The justice of it is obvious. Having devoted the last twenty years of his pitiful life to a self-indulgent campaign against the very foundations of human civilization, it’s only fitting that His Obesity should be compelled to prove the last full measure of his devotion to the cause. The mercy, of course, comes at the end, in the blessed silence which descends on us as his bones are being picked clean, and we’re at long last left alone in the ruins to ponder our own collusion in his ascendancy.

Whatever you may hear about our essential Godlessness, never doubt for a moment that we secular humanists have our own vision of End Times. It may not be as emotionally satisfying as the one being marketed by our fundamentalist Christian brethren, but unlike them, we have actual evidence to offer for ours: here, here, and here.

So, while Rush blames the decline and fall of the American empire on negroes and homosexuals, on feminazis and San Franciso liberals and socialists, and anoints himself with Wal*Mart oil in anticipation of being crowned our first Social Darwinist emperor, I like to imagine him subbing for Montgomery Clift in the climactic scene of Suddenly Last Summer. (Tennessee Williams may have been abhorrent to Real Americans, but he more or less wrote the book on many of our latter-day hypocrisies.)

I plead guilty to a lack of charity toward Mr. Limbaugh, but if we really are destined to face the Four Horsemen in the not-too-distant future, it would be a lot easier for me to greet them with bread and salt if I knew that he’d already gone to his reward. Mea Culpa.

Misanthropology

How does a snarling misanthrope like Dick Cheney or William Bennett manage to convince himself and others that he’s a man of virtue? It’s easier to understand with Cheney than it is with Bennett. After all, this was a man with genuine power over others. He could have had you drowned 83 times a month, or had death rained on you from the skies with nothing more than a word or two in the right ear. It’s one of the sadder truths of the human condition that power, which by definition can avoid any effective scrutiny of its own motives, has often been able to masquerade successfully as virtue. Cheney, in short, has had a lot of help.

Bennett is a different kettle of fish altogether. His persuasiveness seems to be rooted not so much in power as in an uncanny, and possibly unique ability to enlist gravitas into the service of hypocrisy. I’ve heard critics attribute this to the fact that his intellectual training began in a Jesuit high school, but I doubt that where he went to high school has that much to do with who he is at 65. Jesuits may have a certain reputation for confusing sophistry and pedagogy, but I can’t honestly see why Gonzaga should have to accept the blame every time one of its graduates falls victim to the sin of pride. Bennett, in my opinion, is nothing if not sui generis. The sublime contempt for human weakness which grants him license to indulge his own appetites at the same time he decries them so eloquently in others is almost certainly the expression of a natural talent, no matter what other influences have nurtured it along the way.

Be all of that as it may, if Cheney’s claim to virtue lies in power, and Bennett’s in eloquence, why have I lumped them together here? My answer is that doing so isn’t as arbitrary as it may seem. It’s not so much that they share an ideology, or an uneasy relationship with much of the rest of the human race. It’s that in America, the traditional homeland of irreverence, somehow they’ve both managed to make successful public careers out of imitating the Voice of God.

Here, for example, is Cheney, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on May 21st:

In top secret meetings about enhanced interrogations, I made my own beliefs clear. I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program. The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do. The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work and proud of the results, because they prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people.

If you didn’t know any better, would you ever have guessed that he was talking about Torquemada’s water board, or having people beaten to death, or suffocating them by hanging them upside down by the ankles, or hanging them right side up by the wrists until their feet swelled to three times their normal size? No? Well, you weren’t meant to.

To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every word out of Cheney’s mouth here is a lie, including and and the. To start with, it’s clear from recently released documents that enhanced interrogation is, by definitions in use for at least three hundred years in every major language, torture plain and simple — no ifs, ands or buts.

Ordering someone to be tortured or carrying out that order is illegal under American law, and has been for decades. It’s been moral anathema for a lot longer than that. Thus Cheney simply calls it something else. He performs the same feat of linguistic legerdemain with the phrase hardened terrorist. As we now know, his minions tortured everyone who fell into their grasp, male, female, old, young, even children…. One is tempted to observe that it isn’t patriotism, but euphemism which is the last refuge of scoundrels.

Except, of course, that when euphemism won’t do the trick, an outright lie is pressed into service. Cheney says of these enhanced interrogation methods that: they were legal, (clearly they were not) essential, (not according to FBI interrogators, retired CIA operatives, armed forces generals, and others with experience in human intelligence operations) justified, (only in the eyes of the torturers themselves) successful, (no credible evidence of such success has ever been publicly presented) and the right thing to do. (Who says so, apart from Cheney himself?)

A man who speaks, as Cheney does here, in calm, reasoned tones, grammatically correct and rhetorically rounded, in defense of deeds which are fundamentally indefensible, is a man unused to being contradicted. Fortunately for America, citizen Cheney may now have to accustom himself to being contradicted far more frequently than Vice-President Cheney ever was.

In William Bennett’s case, it isn’t so much that he defends the indefensible, it’s that he decides what to defend — and what to decry — according to a moral compass which is far less impartial, not to mention eternal, than the claims he makes for it. Here he is, writing in The Death of Outrage, published in 1998:

In the end this book rests on the venerable idea that moral good and moral harm are very real 
things, and moral good or moral harm can come to a society by what it esteems and by what it 
disdains. Many people have been persuaded to take a benign view of the Clinton presidency on the basis of arguments that have attained an almost talismanic stature but that in my judgment are deeply wrong and deeply pernicious. We need to say no to those arguments as loudly as we can — and yes to the American ideals they endanger.

This passage, in case its pieties obscure its meaning, is Bennett’s venerable idea of something which is a deeply pernicious threat to American ideals, namely President Clinton’s blowjob, and his subsequent lies about it.

By contrast, here is what Bennett said in an interview with Anderson Cooper on April 24th about President Obama’s release of the infamous torture memos from the Bush Administration’s Office of Legal Council, and the possibility that the President might allow Attorney General Holder to proceed with investigations of alleged misconduct by government officials:

Well, I think so, but let put me down a marker here. I think Barack Obama’s going to regret that he did this.

He’s going to regret that he changed his mind, too, because it looks less, frankly, right now like the rule of law, or a — you know, saluting the rule of law, and more like bloodlust. The president said let bygones be bygones, we’re moving forward, let’s put this behind us, and then flipped.

And it looks, from all evidence, that he was pressured into this for political reasons.

Now, can there still be an inquiry that’s not politically based? Yes. But just bear this in mind. When you build the gallows, be sure you know who it is you plan to hang, because, when all of this comes out, some of the people who are, you know, yelling the loudest for Dick Cheney’s head or for these lawyers’ heads — and this is not going to happen — may find themselves in trouble as well.

So a society’s moral destiny is decided by what it esteems and what it disdains — is that the lesson we should take away from the wisdom of William Bennett here? God forbid that his own moral destiny should be determined by the same standard of judgment. I’m not a Roman Catholic, but I know of no moral universe, Judeo-Christian or otherwise, which finds adulterous sex, and blushing lies about it, more of a threat to the community of the virtuous than torture, and the refusal not only to prosecute those responsible for it, but even to discuss what it is that they’ve done in our name. Ah, but Mr. Bennett, author of The Book of Virtues, thinks otherwise. We must move forward, let bygones be bygones — if we don’t, we’ll have allowed bloodlust to take the place of the rule of law.

What utter nonsense. To call a piece of sophistry like this disingenuous is to be kinder to Bennett than his own implacable God will be when the day comes, if it comes, that he’s called to eternal judgment. In the meantime, if I go looking for a Book of Virtues to read to my own grandchildren, it won’t be William Bennett’s.

A Handbasket of One’s Own

These days almost everyone has an attitude. Very nearly as many have opinions. What isn’t as much in evidence is the rational instrumentation which might, if encouraged, turn all this noise into music.

The id is praised for its power, but also because it can be successfully deployed with so little training. That, at any rate, is what we’re told by all the fresh faces who’ve set up shop in the ruins of the Enlightenment without even the slightest inkling of the catastrophe which befell all rational enterprise in the last twilit days of the Nineteenth Century, and has harried us ever since.

We’re all perfectly aware by now that the Philosopher King has feet of clay. What we still don’t seem to realize, even after all the trauma of the last century, is that the Warlord, despite his sex appeal, is worse.

This being a free country and all, everyone has his own individual handbasket to ride in. That’s fine with me, but if we don’t figure out how we got where we are, and act accordingly, we’ll all continue on our way to Hell nevertheless. Metaphorically speaking, of course.