The Long View 2004-09-10: Fraud, Prudence, & Treason

Lt. George W. Bush, Texas Air National Guard

Lt. George W. Bush, Texas Air National Guard

Oh for the controversies of only thirteen years ago. W received political favoritism in his National Guard service? I'll take that over the present.

John made a prediction here that became a counterfactual: if Roe v. Wade had been overturned in W's second term, the parties would have exploded and reassembled into new coalitions because the culture war would have been over. We now see the obverse of that; the Left won the Culture War, all the way up to euthanasia in at least some states, and now the coalitions of the last forty years are breaking up and reassembling. To what end, we do not yet know.

Fraud, Prudence, & Treason

Does the rapid implosion of CBS's story about President Bush's National Guard Service count as yet another victory for the blogosphere? Maybe, but not in the sense of calling attention to a story that the major media would otherwise have ignored. The allegations that the documents in question might have been forged would have received some attention from competing networks in any event. On the other hand, even The New York Times gave the critiques relatively fair coverage this morning. More interesting was the fact the paper's treatment of the original report, which purported to prove that Bush received political favoritism in connection with his admission to and exit from the Guard, was conspicuous by its understatement: mention on the first page yesterday, but below the fold and on the lower left. Perhaps the editors believed the paper had been burned too often to invest much of its dwindling credibility in these reports.

The real argument against the initial reports is that it is hard to believe any commanding officer would put such things on paper. That's just a presumption, though. It could be overcome by the discovery of an actual document. None of the critiques I have seen of the documents conclusively disprove their authenticity. They do, however, turn the burden of proof back on the documents' proponents. As a matter of psychology if not logic, that burden now includes the documents' initial implausibility.

The wonderful thing about this turn of events for the White House is that the official campaign is spared the indignity of debating the matter at all. That is the work of the blogosphere. The blogosphere makes the documents useless as the basis of a whispering campaign. The Administration's luck goes beyond that: the fact that George Bush obviously received political preference getting into the Guard is now almost undiscussable.

PS: The subject was not worth discussing in the first place, if you ask me. However, if people must discuss it, they should make a distinction between Bush's admission to the National Guard and his discharge. Both the Guard and the active-service military were downsizing when Bush completed his service. I know that, in those days, the military was willing enough to just dispense with ROTC obligations; they did not need the manpower, and could not afford to pay for it. Quite likely the service of many guardsmen just petered out in the way that Bush's apparently did.

* * *

One notes that abortion proponents are making preparations for the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the next four years. Consider this report from LifeNews:

Sponsored by a Planned Parenthood abortion business in San Jose, California, local pro-abortion leaders have put together a task force to monitor the situation and figure out how to respond...Linda Williams, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Mar Monte, has been meeting with a dozen pro-abortion colleagues. Williams says her task force found that abortion would remain legal in only nine states, including California, if Roe v. Wade fell.

But LifeNews assures us:

While most states banned abortion prior to Roe, many repealed their anti-abortion laws after the Supreme Court's 1973 decision. In about ten others, state Supreme Courts have interpreted privacy provisions in state constitutions to guarantee a sweeping right to abortion.

Would that pro-lifers would make comparable preparations. Let me repeat: in order to defang the argument that repeal would cause national chaos, Congress needs to put a law of repose in place before Roe comes before the Supreme Court again. The law should redefine the matter in terms of medical ethics. The law should specify a few, narrow situations in which abortions will be tolerated, and then require that the licenses of doctors who go beyond these limits will be lifted until they undergo a medical ethics course. That's all that the law can be asked to do, and it's the sort of solution the American people want.

The significance of repeal will extend far beyond the abortion issue. Roe is the centerpiece decision in the line of personal-autonomy cases that underlie the arguments for rights to suicide, sodomy, polygamy, gay marriage, commercial sale of transplant-organs, prostitution, recreational drug use, and other enormities yet unhatched. If Roe goes, that whole line of development simply ends.

Almost as interesting is what repeal would (I'll say "will") do to the political system. The Republican Party remains politically competitive because it has monopolized the defensive side of the culture war. If you don't want to read in the paper some Tuesday morning that the Supreme Court has discovered a right to euthanasia, then you pretty much have to vote Republican. The funding and the key pressure groups that hold the Democratic Party together, on the other hand, ensure that party remains the party of aggression. The cultural left engages in politics with the conscious aim of pushing the right of personal autonomy beyond the limits of human nature. When Roe goes, its organizing power will go with it, and the parties will explode like splitting atoms.

The fragments will be free, for the first time in over thirty years, to seek new combinations. Evangelicals could discover they have more in common with organized labor than either has with the National Organization of Women. Finance capitalists in the Northeast could renew old acquaintance with the extraction entrepreneurs of the Southwest. The recombinations are beyond prediction. Still, almost any outcome would be an improvement on the preceding generation of sullen blockage.

* * *

In its continuing drive to become the Fortean Times of the Catholic press, The New Oxford Review's September issue contains a disturbing critique of George Weigel's column of March 20 in Catholic San Francisco. The New Oxford Review[NOR] began, as is increasingly its wont, by picking a gratuitous fight:

"'The two great questions before the Republic [Weigel wrote] are, what is freedom...and how shall we defend it'..According to Weigel [said NOR], freedom is not 'a means to satisfy personal ''needs''; rather it is the freedom to do 'the right thing for the right reasons in the right way, as a matter of habit, which is another name for 'virtue'.'"

The link between virtue and habit is, of course, a commonplace of Catholic moral theory. For reasons clearest to NOR's editors, however, NOR chose to read the quotation in this way:

...The problem with Weigel's case is that freedom is not another name for virtue."

After several paragraphs of meaningless invective, however, we find out why the journal launched this latest piece of unpleasantness:

"In 'America, the Beautiful,' there are noble lines saying 'Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.' Unfortunately, those lines are now obsolete. Now America confirms her soul in debauchery..then Weigel asks, how shall we defend freedom? He says that because of 9/11, freedom is under attack. He wants 'war' against the radical muslims. Now, it just so happens that the radical Muslims do not permit abortion or homosexuality. If we bring freedom to the Muslim world, which is what Weigel wants, we will bring with it the freedom to abort, to practice homosexuality, to view pornography...If Weigel really wants virtue, he ought to lighten up on the Muslims. Osama didn't attack the World Trade center just for the fun of it. He did it because of America's financial and military support of Israel..."

As an aside, we may note that everyone who has studied the matter knows that al-Qaeda is much more interested in the control of Saudi Arabia than of Palestine, but let that pass. A more important point is that, whatever radical Muslims think about abortion and homosexuality (and one should not be too sure about the latter), one of the things we know they discountenance in the areas they control is Christianity. This is new, by the way. Islam has a tradition of tolerating Christianity and Judaism in subservient positions. In contrast, in recent years the Arab population of the United States has rapidly expanded precisely because the Arab Christians of the Middle East have had to flee the region.

NOR, and some other religious publications with a pacifist background, seem to entertain just two possibilities when they talk about international affairs. The first is that the United States is God's empire on Earth, with a soteriological role in world history. That idea has few takers. Having rejected their strawman, NOR then proceeds to the alternative that all nations are equally under judgment in this age, and Christians should not identify with their policies.

In reality, there is a middle position. The great issues of history cannot command our ultimate loyalty, but they do present us with situations where we must choose, and give some less than perfect cause our ordinate allegiance. The defense of the West against the Death Cult rightfully requires that allegiance today; to refuse it would be the deepest treason possible in our lifetimes.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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