Ev'ry Rose Has Its Thorn Do I have to put a damper on everyone's V-Day revelry? Yes, I do — health trumps a few things. Like floral beauty — next time you get the urge to send the honey a dozen roses, think of the ailing farm workers who risk their well-being to grow them and consider sending, say, lilies instead.
Well, now — that strikes me as rich. I may not have spent time doing the research to prove the charge wrong, but Michael Kinsley has, and he tells us a fascinating statistic: that while former President Clinton nominated 11 Hispanics to federal appeals court seats [three of whom Republicans blocked], President Bush has so far managed to nominate just one. Period. Even though he's had more than two years to try.
But enough about that. What makes me feel truly confused is watching the GOP bewail the Democrats refusal to vote on Estrada when they don't know his views. I happen to think a judge should come to the bench with a healthy dose of scholarship — I opposed the nomination of Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit because of his penchant for bashfulness about publishing his opinions. He served as a federal district judge for ten years, yet published fewer than a hundred of his 1,100 opinions — hardly much of a paper trail for someone aspiring to the second-highest tier of the nation's judiciary.
With Estrada, though, the information lockdown is even worse — since he's never served in robes, senators who want to know his views have no opinions to go on. Democrats have asked for a glimpse of memoranda written during his tenure as an attorney the Justice Department instead — but White House lawyers have swatted repeated requests down as smacking of "a double standard . . . that is highly unfair and inappropriate."
Oh, okay — so we're supposed to put him on the bench knowing nothing about what he thinks. That sounds exactly how Republicans behaved when they sent Clinton's nominees to the D.C. Circuit sailing through the Judiciary Committee with a flourish.
Speaking of double standards, though, waving Estrada through without so much a cursory gaze through his writings — then waving off qualms about the rush as bigotry against Hispanics — hardly seems like the mark of confidence in the man's scholarship, does it? If his ideas can stand up on their own, why play the race card? Does brown skin give him a pass on proving his worth to serve?
Hardly what you might find in The Book of Virtues, eh? Sure enough, though, someone stepped up to defend the councilman, calling the post a "hit piece" and saying that when the councilman quit caucusing with Democrats, he may have dropped other bad habits as well.
Leaving his aside his likening of liberal thought to a hit from a crack pipe, those comments had me shaking my head in wonderment about what he'd said. In a couple of sentences, the fellow managed to dismiss out of hand the kind of faults that no white Democrat could possibly get away with. [Exhibit A: Bill Clinton. I rest my case.]
The same holds true for Estrada — with a play of the race card, Republicans hope to help a judicial conservative who just happens to be Hispanic get away scot free with the sort of scanty paper trail no Democratic nominee could get through the Senate with. Holding everyone to high standards seems more like the moral high ground than this "strict scrutiny for thee, but not for me" approach — but then, I'm not the one practicing the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Trumped-Up Crises 'R Us Donald Rumsfeld blew his stack today when three NATO member nations — Belgium, France, and Germany — scotched alliance efforts to formally plan for the defense of Turkey in case of a war with Iraq. President Bush weighed in as well: the move, he said, "would affect the alliance in a negative way."
Oh? I see that Turkey invoked its Article 4 rights to an alliance consultation in response to the tiff — and it has every right to do that. But what's this business about planning a defense of Turkey now, if Iraq retaliates against an invasion? The North Atlantic Treaty is a mutual defense agreement, premised on the notion that the allies would aid one other in the exercise of their rights to self defense. To quote Article 5:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Now forgive me for stating a simple truth — but if a country goes hosting an adventure into a neighbor's territory and the neighbor lobs a shell or two in its defense, the North Atlantic Treaty imposes no obligations on anyone. Nothing about the treaty compels the allies to respond to an attacked nation's armed defense. If Iraq lashes out at Turkey for letting armies invade from its territory, the NATO allies have every right to stay on the sidelines.
Should we even want the treaty read as an all-purpose shield for NATO members' foreign misadventures? Suppose Anthony Eden had invoked Article 5 if the Egyptians had given the British army trouble during the Suez invasion in 1956. Would the Dutch have had to take the next boat through the Straits of Gibraltar to ride to the empire's defense? Would the Americans? Even the thought seems preposterous — and that should tell you something.
I hardly expect the White House to let that inconvenience it, since it puts a kink in efforts to make a show of having alliance support. But really, except when he needs them for window dressing, Bush rarely shows much use for allies — so he shouldn't be surprised when they don't show much use for him.
Bittersweet Me My folks had a big gathering at their house tonight; my cousin Chris brought his wife and two kids over, along with his mother in law, and his parents had driven in for the occasion from Mississippi. My brother and I showed up to round out the bunch. We fried up a huge batch of fish, and served it with cole slaw and baked beans, plus the usual white bread to help us sop up the whole mess.
My uncle roundly trounced me in about four rounds of dominoes, so I retreated from his corner before long to take on one of my cousin's daughters at a game of checkers. I gave her a couple of my kings — I am, after all, a charitable man — but the match still ended fast. [Hey — who said there was anything wrong with hating to lose?]
Chris ships out for Kuwait this week, and boy, does he seem unhappy. His was the loudest amen in the circle tonight when my father prayed for no war — which he's been doing for weeks — and when I sat him down to ask how he's feeling, he told me he was trying to relax and keep his mind off it all. What with the gravity of the moment, I couldn't help cracking a joke; I told him that I had a friend named Jack — Jack Daniels — who could possibly help him out.
Hell, I could use a conversation with Jack. I count myself as a believer in the American experiment, but when I look at families at church sinking under debt because a daugher ill with multiple sclerosis lost her job and health insurance, or look at friends with bachelor's degrees scrapping to get work at Starbucks, and then contemplate a president who seems to think the nation's most pressing problem is the crisis of wealthy dilletantes struggling with high tax rates, part of me — just a small part — wants to reach for the suds and say 'f--- it.' I've never felt as deeply repelled by our national leadership as I feel now — and on that sentiment, I'm hardly alone.
Nevertheless, Chris has his marching orders, and no amount of invective on my part can change them. For a night, at least — among the fried fish, the checkers, the jokes with my cousin, and the little cousin punching me on the knee — it felt good not to try.