THE ‘LYING’ ARGUMENT WEAKENS

Earlier today, I linked to British stories that report how a parliamentary committee looks set to exonerate Blair from interpolating a piece of evidence into the intellgience reports about Saddam’s WMD capacity. Slate’s Fred Kaplan also argues that the discrepancy between what we believed Saddam possessed and what we have so far found is best explained by the usual vagaries of intelligence assessments, not unlike the “missile gap” of 1960. And Gene Volokh also does some homework on the now famous Cheney quote of Saddam having reconstituted “nuclear weapons.” Volokh convincingly (to me) shows how at worst this was a function of Cheney’s mis-speaking, not lying:

Rumsfeld’s and Cheney’s critics … are literally correct when they quote Cheney as saying Saddam had nuclear weapons, [but] they don’t even hint to their readers that instead of “recklessly exaggerat[ing],” Cheney quite likely simply misspoke x97 and that rather than trying to mislead people into thinking that Saddam had nuclear weapons, Cheney repeatedly suggested the contrary several times in the very interview that they’re quoting. One source that I’ve seen x97 a Dana Milbank Washington Post piece x97 at least acknowledged this possibility, by saying that “aides later said Cheney was referring to Saddam Hussein’s nuclear programs, not weapons.” Even there, it would have been helpful to readers if the writer had also indicated that the full transcript supports the aides’ claims. But the other sources that I mentioned above (the Kristof New York Times article, the Slate “Whopper” piece, and the Conason Salon piece) don’t even do as much as the Post did.

The American public have gotten this one right again. And the far Left, still desperate to undermine this administration and retroactively discredit the war of Iraqi liberation, is merely digging a bigger and bigger hole for itself.

JUDICIAL TEMPERAMENT

It’s odd, isn’t it, that in Supreme Court debates, we always hear an enormous amount about various judges’ “philosophy,” their paper-trail, their alleged politics, and so on. Much of this is helpful enough and sometimes relevant. But surely something else matters as well, and that is the correct temperament to be a judge. It should match the temperament of an umpire – not a pitcher or catcher or any other role. What troubles me about Antonin Scalia is not so much the substance of his views (although I share very few of them) but the angry, sarcastic, bitter tone of his judgments. David Broder had a similar take last week. Part of what it takes to be a judge, in my mind, is a certain indifference to passionate advocacy, a sense of moderation, and prudence. If someone cares as passionately as Scalia does about the moral issues in what he has called the “culture war,” and if he isn’t even interested in moderating these passions in his judicial rulings, then it strikes me that he is not acting as a justice should act: with dignity, care, distance, and respect for alternative arguments. It’s the tone that’s off. It can be amusing, bracing, shocking, interesting; but it certainly isn’t a judicial tone. Ditto the arguments about the far right nominee, Bill Pryor, a man whose political language about abortion is so inflamed he has had to say to the Senate that he will simply lay it all aside if he is called to rule on the matter. No one can believe in this kind of psychological compartmentalization; and no one should trust anyone who promises it. The truth is: anyone whose views are that inflamed shouldn’t be anywhere near a federal bench. A talk-show host or blogger, maybe. A politician surely. But not a judge.

BLAIR VERSUS THE BBC: The BBC is now in a full scale war with the British government. The Beeb, having launched a Rainesian campaign to prevent Saddam’s demise, has subsequently been engaged in a furious attack on the post-war management of Iraq and the alleged WMD “lies” the Blair government told to make the case for war in the first place. Finally, the Blair government is fighting back – and the charges against it are turning out to be as flimsy as those now being made against the Bush administration. A parliamentary investigation looks set to clear the Blair government of deliberately “sexing up” its dossier about Saddam’s WMD capability, leaving the left-leaning Beeb seriously isolated. The Guardian has more dope. But it’s somewhat remarkable to see the BBC this embattled and this politicized – with its executives in a public pissing match with the pols who appoint them. In a similar vein, Israel’s government has now cut off all links with the BBC and will not cooperate with its journalism, as a protest against what Israel has justly called “demonization.” In the last couple of years, the BBC has essentially thrown away the reservoir of trust it once enjoyed with the British public in order to become a left-liberal – and insistently anti-Israel – advocacy group. A Raines-like epiphany may be ahead.

FRIST AND SECULARISM

Of course it was dismaying to hear Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist casually declare he favors writing permanent discrimination against gays and lesbians into the U.S. Constitution. Tampering with the Constitution as a way to prevent states deciding, as they always have, what constitutes a legal marriage would be an assault on federalism, an assault on gay citizens, and the equation of the meaning of the United States with active discrimination against minorities. But what was remarkable was Frist’s reasoning:

I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament, and that sacrament should extend and can extend to that legal entity of a union between – what is traditionally in our Western values has been defined – as between a man and a woman. So I would support the amendment.

That, of course, is a non-sequitur. You could believe all those things and still think that individual states should decide for themselves on legal civil marriage and that this issue should be dealt with slowly and with democratic deliberation, rather than in one single, polarizing campaign for an amendment. But leave that aside for a moment. I think Frist is also implying that only churches grant true marriage and that the state subsequently merely ratifies or acknowledges that sacred institution. Huh? Cannot atheists have civil marriage and view it as a simple human contract and a mark of citizenship – with no religious connotations whatsoever? Does Frist even acknowledge the full civic rights of non-believers at all, I wonder? The fact that the good doctor cannot apparently see a deep distinction between a religious marriage and a civil one shows, I guess, how close to theocracy today’s Republicans have become.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: “[Bush’s] fiscal record is appalling x97 spending is out of control. The fiscal record of the Bush administration makes Clinton look downright responsible.” – Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute, in today’s New York Times. If I were Howard Dean, I would combine my populist rhetoric with a laser-beam message about Bush’s fiscal recklessness: a left-right two-fer. Fiscal conservatives like me are going to be looking in 2004 for someone – anyone – who can control government spending. We know Bush is hopeless and cares not a whit about this country’s future fiscal health. What we need to know is that some Democrat won’t be so bad.

UNCOMMONLY SILLY

A few emailers have lamented that Clarence Thomas used the somewhat condescending term “uncommonly silly” to refer to a law that invaded privacy and ruined people’s lives. Perhaps there’s another explanation. The phrase “uncommonly silly” was used by Justices Stewart and Black in their dissent to the Griswold decision on contraception (paragraph 105):

Since 1879 Connecticut has had on its books a law which forbids the use of contraceptives by anyone. I think this is an uncommonly silly law. As a practical matter, the law is obviously unenforceable, except in the oblique context of the present case. As a philosophical matter, I believe the use of contraceptives in the relationship of marriage should be left to personal and private choice, based upon each individual’s moral, ethical, and religious beliefs. As a matter of social policy, I think professional counsel about methods of birth control should be available to all, so that each individual’s choice can be meaningfully made. But we are not asked in this case to say whether we think this law is unwise, or even asinine. We are asked to hold that it violates the United States Constitution. And that I cannot do.

So that reference appeared to fly well over the heads of most of the media, me included.

ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Here’s an email sent by a British pathologist, turning down an Israeli PhD student for a place at Oxford University:

“Thank you for contacting me, but I don’t think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they [the Palestinians] wish to live in their own country. I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware, I am not the only UK scientist with these views but I’m sure you will find another lab if you look around.”

Charming, huh?

SUPPORTING IRAN: Pejman links to a moving open letter from one Iranian exile to the democrats at home.

VOLOKH ON DOWD

It’s a killer ap.

BLAIR ON THE LEFT: Tina Brown reports on what really went on in the British government as war approached. Blair put his finger on the disingenuousness of some anti-war critics: “‘What amazes me is how happy people are for Saddam to stay,’ he ruminates to his team. ‘They ask why we don’t get rid of Mugabe, why not the Burmese lot. Yes, let’s get rid of them all. I don’t because I can’t, but when you can, you should.'” Don’t call their bluff, Tony. It will only get them madder.

DEAN AS GOLDWATER

“As a proud member of the VRWC, my only initial interest in Governor Dean was his strong political resemblance to George McGovern, who lost 49 states to the “evil” Richard Nixon in 1972. After seeing several interviews with the man, however, I am convinced that he is less like McGovern and more like Barry Goldwater. Dean’s positions on the issues are not entirely taken from the Old Left playbook. He believes that gun laws should be left to the states to decide, he recognizes the need for dramatic health reform that doesn’t involve transitioning to some Euro-style socialist state, and he is ahead of the game on recognizing civil unions, something that is inevitable in the long run despite the resistance of the paleocons.

The thing that dooms Dean’s political future, though, is the way he so carefully cancels out all of his interesting ideas with old, tired, worn-out leftist nonsense. His promise to raise taxes alone will destroy his candidacy in the general election. Combine that with his refusal to prosecute the war on terror and the Republicans may end up with the first 50 state victory ever.”- more feedback on the Letters Page.

THE UNIFIED THURMOND STORY: From the Onion.

SODOMY LEGAL IN SOUTH CAROLINA

Strom Thurmond dead. On the same day. It’s a funny old world, isn’t it?