American politics just keeps getting stranger and stranger. President Obama made a Red Wedding joke at the White House Correspondents Dinner. One might hope he thinks of himself as Tywin Lannister rather than Walder Frey,
Tomorrow we have both the president's State of the Union Address and the results of the Iowa caucuses, both of them key factors in a presidential election that already seems to have gone on longer than the Palestinian peace process. (I see that Iraqi Shiites are demonstrating against picking the new government by caucus; they're on to something.) Readers will have gathered that I am not altogether happy with any of the candidates, including the incumbent, though I intend to support President Bush in any case. It is too much for an individual voter to ask that any candidate be precisely to his mind, but there is no reason I cannot speculate about the perfect platform. Here is how I conceptualize What Needs to Be Done:
War & Peace
THE TERROR WAR should be prosecuted in a way that builds on the example of the Iraq campaign, which is that a lack of transparency in the matters of WMD and the hosting of terrorist groups could be lethal. This means that international institutions, such as the UN, should be asked to help only in the role of utilities. However, though the international system is decadent in many ways, this is chiefly a matter of the culture of the transnational class. The institutions themselves, in most cases, should be preserved. NATO in particular is part of the constitution of the West, and should not be allowed to fall apart.
THE CONTROL AND REDUCTION OF IMMIGRATION is the key to the terrorist threat within the United States. Also, if the border with Mexico is not brought under control, the US faces serious irredentist movements in the Southwest. That is more important than any economic consideration. The president's recent proposal to re-instate a guest-worker program is an invitation to catastrophe.
Law & Order
PUBLIC HEALTH, like the police function, is a feature of public order. The US is going to have a universal health care system eventually; businesses as well as individuals have begun to demand it. The question is whether we are going to have a manageable one. A single-payer system would collapse of its own weight, but a voucher system that allowed private insurers to compete would probably cost less than the current system.
CLASS ACTION LITIGATION directed at deep-pocket entities should be recognized as criminal extortion. This includes a large fraction of environmental litigation, the slavery reparations movement, and some of the activities of the Holocaust bar. The statutes governing the jurisdiction of the federal courts should be amended to make clear that US courts do not have universal jurisdiction in human rights cases. Additionally, genuine public representation should be required on the boards of the major not-for-profit foundations.
God & Mammon
THE CULTURE WARS should be deconstitutionalized. As a matter of public policy, the political branches of government should declare that the line of privacy-and-liberty cases, beginning with Griswald v. Connecticut and extending through Lawrence v. Texas, are not just wrongly decided, but incompatible with constitutional government. This will entail reprimanding the courts through the enactment of unusually specific constitutional amendments, notably an amendment that will state the institution of marriage in constitutional terms.
THE FEDERAL BUDGET DEFICIT does matter. It matters a lot.
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On a less cosmic note, I must mention an example of the kind of journalism that gives American conservatism a bad name. I have subscribed to the Weekly Standard from the beginning. I recognize that little magazines sometimes print things for reasons that have little to do with disinterested analysis. Nonetheless, it is still jolting to see the sort of blatant industry-handouts that The Weekly Standard occasionally publishes.
A prime exhibit is "The Real Car of the Year," which appears in the January 19 issue. Written by Henry Payne, whose cartoons appear in the Detroit News, it complains that American-made zero-emission gasoline vehicles got less press at the recent North American International Auto Show than Toyota's gas-electric hybrid. Toyota's car, the Prius, gets 51 mpg, whereas Ford's zero-emission Focus gets 36; the prices are $20,500 versus $13,455 respectively. Noting that the two cars are solutions to different problems, the article goes on to explain why the problems for which the Prius was designed don't matter:
"But global warming is not an issue in the United States, where the Senate voted down the Kyoto Treaty 97-0. Nor is fuel economy an issue in a country where gasoline is well below $2 a gallon...Even the perennial political argument that higher fuel mileage would make the United States less energy dependent on the Middle East is a red herring. Europe, which taxes its gasoline to $4 a gallon, is still over 50 percent dependent on the vast -- and cheap -- oil resources of the Middle East."
It's embarrassing to have to answer points like these. Yes, it's a fine thing that the Kyoto Treaty was rejected; the Kyoto Treaty was a scam. Global warming, however, is not a scam. One can be cautious about the science but still recognize that the subject is as much an "issue" in the US as it is anywhere. As for the argument that fuel efficiency counts for nothing, all I can say is that it is unique in my experience. Europe imports half its oil from the Middle East because it does not have much of its own and the Middle East is where the oil is. Then there is the suggestion that there is nothing problematical about the role of the Middle East as the chief energy supplier to the developed world.
Let me put it this way: if a magazine publishes enough "arguments" like these, eventually no one will take it seriously about any subject in the world.
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On a more cosmic note, readers who saw my review of Simon Conway Morris's Life's Solution might want to take a look at my appreciation of John Paul II's Fides et Ratio. It all hangs together, you know.
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly