One minute to respond

Fraysters take to the podia.

Los Lobos: Exactly how bloody was Howard Dean when he emerged from the debate Thursday night in Albuquerque? The_Bell doesn’t know whom to believe:

This morning on NPR, the report was that the other candidates “seemed reluctant” to criticize Dean and largely left him alone. Then I read the articles by Mr. Suellentrop and Mr. Saletan. Both saw a number of attacks on Dean but while Suellentrop saw Dean as failing to respond adequately and thereby raising serious doubts about his reputation as a straight shooter, Saletan saw him as simply laughing off these attacks and the attackers made to look fools by their use of hyperbole.
In the same spirit, Zathras suggests that since Slate’s pair of pundits “appear to have watched two completely different debates it might have made sense to get them together in a Breakfast Table.”Why does The_Bell deem a clueless cameraman the most astute pundit on the trail? Click here to find out.   Extensive debate analysis is available in the Fray: From The_Slasher, who finds Dean more saccharine than sensible, here:
I’m more invested in getting rid of the preppy twit than I am in “feeling good.” And THAT, it seems to me, is the limit of what Dean is useful for. I am gratified to hear the truth spoken forcefully and plainly, but I am not going to choose the next President. People who are confused about the issues, and who voted for Bush in 2000 because they distrusted Gore, will.
From locdog, glowering from the other side of the bluff, here (with a prologue on redistricting in Texas, among other sundries):
the democrats have begun their attack on bush-iraq with safe-seated spear-chuckers like tom daschle busting the sod. they’d better hope that one of their candidates finds a way to make some hay because the economy is turning around, and that right quick. what will edwards say when people start going back to work? what kerry say when the market continues its climb? what will gephardt say when anything good happens?
And from Publius, who found Lieberman’s uncharacteristic pugnacity the most notable sideshow of the parade, here:
The rest of these guys seem to be so taken aback by Dean’s surge, held back by their innate caution, frightened of what they take to be the stranglehold on many early state primaries held by atypical, left-leaning voters, and worried about being accused of generating intra-party strife that they are laying down before the Dean challenge. This is no way to win an election. Dean has to be taken down a peg or two, and inevitably he will be. Joe sees this as his opportunity to break through by playing this role.
To Will Saletan’s question “why does the former governor of Vermont speak better Spanish than the former governor of Texas?” Paul Breslin responds,
For the same reason, I should think, that he speaks better English.
By and large, the Fray has been in a protracted slumber on the Democratic field since the initial Dean surge. On The Trail Fray offers Fray delegates a convention hall — think Atlantic City in 1964. Fray Editor will be Fannie Lou Hamer … KA4:40 p.m.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Fray Course Catalog, Fall Semester 2003 History 101: Appropriation of Wartime History, 1945-present
Instructor: Condoleezza Rice Section 1, TA: wewhite

Of all the differences between the occupations of Iraq and Germany, I’ve heard no one mention one of the biggest. Before VE day, the allies had already destroyed Germany with a thoroughness never equalled. The morally troubling question, that no one wants to deal with, is: was our success in Germany despite this terror,or because of it? Machiavelli had some worthwhile things to say on this subject.
Section 2, TA: Robes
Condi Rice is a very bright woman. Also Rumsfeld. Why would they resort to lies to forward their purpose of drawing parallels between post-war Germany and post-war Iraq? … Mostly, I believe, it is because they both now have contempt for the American public they believe they can still keep lying and get away with it. On the “Threat Matrix” they have proved themselves their own worst enemies. These folks don’t need al Qaeda terrorists, they cruise along believing what they say will be taken as rote by the “true believers” …
Section 3, TA: Zathras
… the statements by Rumsfeld and Rice left me scratching my head. Not only were they wrong, but they were the kind of thing that could easily be proven wrong, and within a couple of days. A reasonably clever person who wanted to make a deceptive argument should be able to do a better job than that … [Rice’s] main function in the Bush administration seems to be to provide quick briefings and emotional support to a President seriously out of his depth on foreign affairs. How well she has done at that only the President can judge, but at the other things past National Security Advisers have done – planning strategy, making sure all points of view get heard, being an honest broker between the Departments of State and Defense, explaining administration policy to the public – are things Condi Rice either does not do at all or does not do particularly well. You wouldn’t have guessed that from all her academic credentials, but maybe those don’t mean as much as they used to.
Musicology 1965: Kim Il Song, Strangelovian Protest Hymns
Instructor: Tom Lehrer TA: raprap
… France got the bomb, but don’t you grieve,
’Cause they’re on our side (I believe).
China got the bomb, but have no fears;
They can’t wipe us out for at least five years!
Who’s next?…
Agriculture & Mining 301: Chicken & Eggs in the Political Hatchery
Instructor: William Saletan TARufRuf
…the primary obstacle with politics is not the limited comprehension of the electorate. Rather it is the absolute lack of interest on most of the public’s part to actively investigate and analyze the fundamental issues that will affect their daily lives. It is certainly proper to condemn those who willfully deceive the public with their political commercials. (Vote Bush because McCain is bad for the environment!) I’m more outraged though at the overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens who are the recipients of the gift to choose their leaders, a gift the Founding Fathers fought and died to bestow upon them, and who then exercise that choice on the basis of a 30-second attack ad.

Paid commercials are a very limited medium with which to convey comprehensive information on a given topic. It is excellent though to transmit slogans, propaganda, and emotions. Drink Pepsi and you’ll be young. Vote Bush and fight against Big Government. Every medium has its strengths and weaknesses, and brings out the worst in various manners, including this one … Aside from a few screamers, most people come [to the Fray] for the right reasons. With TV though, I’m not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg. Is it that people are drawn to TV solely for its entertainment value, and they are then reachable through the medium of commercials with all its corrupting consequences? Or do people only want to form their political views from TV commercials, Leno, and SNL, and don’t read the papers since it doesn’t touch them the way they want? They don’t want to take the time to read and digest a variety of opinions. They simply want an easy to digest image with a side order of sound-bite. We’ve moved beyond fast-food to fast-thought.          
Professor Saletan responds here with today’s assignment:
I had a philosophy professor in college who often complained about the mentality of “the bottom line.” Nobody cares how you think through an issue. They just want to hear your bottom line. When I go on TV to talk about anything, it’s the same. The host only wants to hear the bottom line. I could be a total idiot or a liar. They don’t care. They just want the bottom line, and an equally unexplained bottom line on the other side. Thanks, and cut to commercial.Question 1: How widespread is this mentality? Where do you see it in politics or elsewhere in your life?

Question 2: Do you think it’s a big problem or not?

Question 3: Who’s to blame? The manipulators or (as RufRuf suggests) the lazy manipulated?

FrEd has uncovered blue books by TheQuietMan here, biteoftheweek here, and PresterJohn here. Fray faculty members are encouraged to submit their syllabi to Fraywatch Fray for the upcoming semester. Past grade inflation will be punctured like a carnival balloon. … KA 11:25 a.m.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Blind Lady of Alabama: Our weekly feature—in which FrEd highlights a single post—takes us to Fighting Words Fray, where locdog answers Christopher Hitchens’s judgment against not only Judge Roy Moore, but the juridical efficacy of the Ten Commandments (see “ Moore’s Law: The immorality of the Ten Commandments“). “One Christian’s response to Hitchens,” locdog:

i like hitch. i really do. i think that he’s pretty much the perfect slate writer: witty, iconoclastic, contrarian but not reactionary, charming … he’s everywhere slate wants to be. and he’s an excellent writer to boot. his columns positively crackle.

but he’s got that western atheist’s disease. you know the one i mean. the one where they suddenly lose all control of their bladders whenever the Bible is mentioned. it’s not enough, you see, to voice one’s objection to the decalogue in the courts, no, we’ve got to turn the book of exodus into our own private portajohn.

and miss some very obvious things in the process.

i can understand why, i suppose. i don’t go searching the bottom of my toilet for wisdom. that said, i have the wisdom to know what is and is not a toilet.

for instance, it may be that the first four commandments serve no place in our culture, but do they really seem so out of place in the context of a theocracy? granted hitchens doesn’t believe in God, but he’s playing the reductio ad absurdum game so all i need to do is demonstrate coherency within the Biblical system.

there’s a reason, after all, those first four commandments are the first four commandments. the ones that come after are predicated entirely on the authority of God Himself. why not steal? why not kill (it’s “murder,” and that’s perfectly clear in context)? why not covet? because God says so. if you don’t respect God, why would you respect God’s law? i’m not saying atheists can’t be moral, what i’m saying is, if i’m laying down the law on the basis of God’s authority alone, then that authority must be absolute, unquestioned, and treated with the utmost respect.

sensing this, hitchens supposes no real God would be so insecure. any of you ever been in the military? back in basic training, were you allowed to mouth off to your drill instructor? what would have happened to you if you did? one more question: would you describe your DI as an insecure man? i didn’t think so.

ultimately, what the DI is telling you will save your life. he knows more than you do, is acting in your best interests better than you yourself could, and deserves your respect whether you think he does or not. if he doesn’t get it, in the long run, it’s younot him—who’s going to suffer. roughly speaking, that’s how God’s law works as well.

hitch has some other, rather generic objections but i think they’re beside the point. i’ll go over them in brief but you can skip this next paragraph if you’re getting bored.

rape, he says, was left out. well no, it wasn’t. rape is a form of theft, after all. it’s taking someone else’s body without their consent. oh, it’s dealt with specifically later on in the mosaic law but one needn’t be a torah scholar to see that it’s against the rules. and genocide. genocide is what happens when one group of human beings, on their own authority, exterminate another. when God exterminates a group of human beings, it’s called judgment. in the OT, God Himself commanded the conquest of canaan and the extermination of the wicked tribes that lived there. maybe that doesn’t sound very Godlike to you or hitch, but sometimes things that would be wrong for us are perfectly just for God. God, if He exists, is the author of life, and as such, He has the right to end it as He sees fit. if He wishes to use one nation to judge another, that is also His right. and there wouldn’t have been any doubt about whether or not it was really God or merely some lunatic cult leader giving the orders, either. the Bible describes a pillar of clouds by day, a pillar of fire by night, an audible voice from heaven that rumbled like thunder, a plainly visible presence in the tabernacle, manna from heaven, hail mingled with fire, parting seas, three days of darkness, etc, etc. now maybe you don’t believe in any of this hocus pocus, but we’re only checking for internal consistency here: if there is a God, He has the right to judge humanity whenever and however He sees fit, and could certainly make His wishes known beyond any shadow of a doubt. finally, if we’re made in God’s image, why are we so bad? again, the Bible passes the consistency test: we weren’t made bad, we became that way after rebelling against God. at that point, our perfect nature was corrupted and we became slaves to sin. the mosaic law exists not because we are expected to follow it (there would be no sacrificial system—or Christ—were that the case) but to demonstrate to us our imperfect nature, the mercy of God, and the need for a savior.

anyway, that’s all beside the point. hitch’s real problem is that he, as an atheist, obeys what he thinks of as the really important commandments while flouting the first four. so why bother with the tired old symbol at all? it’s very simple, really: hitch lives a moral life (he doesn’t—if he were being completely forthcoming, he’d admit that he, like the rest of us, frequently falls short of his own standards, and that’s to say nothing of God’s) because it seems good to him to do so. if it didn’t, he wouldn’t bother—or he would but only because he was a coward and didn’t want to go to prison. if in the final analysis laws are merely a contrivance of man then we have no real reason to obey them. if someday the clear majority of the human race decides that stealing and killing are ok, then that’s it. there is no higher court of appeal.

“ah,” says hitch “but we are smarter than that.”

are we? atheists love to bash the Biblical accounts of genocide, but the major accounts of genocide in the last century were authored by the godless, or rather, by those who stood in the place of God themselves. stalin killed twenty million, hitler killed six million jews alone, pol pot killed two or three million of his own people, hussein killed around one million. there was no one, they thought, to tell them otherwise.

and hitchens can’t condemn them.

oh, he can say that their conduct was offensive and outrageous and that he found it personally distasteful and that’s all fine, but he could never say that it was wrong because wrong, to him, never means anything more than “inconvenient.” he could use the word “wrong,” trying to get the emotional impact of a violation of an absolute moral imperative, but that’s empty sophistry: no such thing exists to him. and yet we know that there are absolute moral imperatives. i know that it’s wrong to torture children for fun. everyone does. it’s not wrong because it’s counterproductive to the human race (which is as far as an atheist’s morality can carry him) but because some immutable law is being transgressed, some universal imperative is being disregarded. on some level, everyone knows that to be true.

locdog thinks atheists do too.

For locdog’s constitutional perspective on Moore’s court, click here. K.A. 10:15 a.m.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Montreal-Washington:Schadenfreude alludes to the fact that Montreal has traditionally supported its Expos and will do so again, provided that Major League Baseball finds “an owner who is willing to invest a little money in a couple of key players.” FrEd notes that throughout the 1980s, Montreal’s gate routinely eclipsed those at Shea Stadium in New York, Atlanta, and baseball’s fair-haired child, St. Louis—even during the Cardinals’ world championship season in 1982. Until the 1994 strike, Montreal’s attendance figures mirrored most franchises—solid when the team performed, sluggish when the Expos stunk up the O.  AdamMorgan comes up and in at Charles P. Pierce (“No New Senators: Don’t Let Washington, D.C., muck up another baseball team“):

You haven’t presented an argument. There are many arguments against baseball in DC. Your witless drivel, that you don’t like DC and there are other worthy candidates, doesn’t count as one.
The rest of the juicy post, including some quality D.C. deprecation (replete with Mamie Eisenhower fashion cues) and a parting shot at Pierce’s Boston, can be found here. Zathras comes in to close, bringing a 98-mph fastball to rebut Pierce’s piece.Montreal-Portland:Robes makes the case for the National League doing a Lewis-and-Clark down the Columbia River to Portland here. Eno-Timberlake: You’re a producer … produce. Or don’t. Sasha Frere-Jones (“When Critics Meet Pop: Why are some writers so afraid of Justin Timberlake?“) takes on Alex Ross, possibly Wilco and Thom Yorke, and the notion that musical performers who leave production to the professionals—and happen to appeal to teenage girls—don’t warrant serious critical consideration. TheNewSnobbery offers this:
[I]s it really that surprising that there’s snobbery towards musicians who have made their livings off of teenaged girls? Just because there’s occasionally a Madonna or a Justin or a Michael doesn’t mean that teenaged girls don’t, as a group, have really terrible taste 99% of the time. This fact is self-evident. We’ve suffered through 7 years now of Spice Girls, Britney and countless Disney channel derivatives. By the 1,000,000 monkeys typing logic, we were due for a Justin Timberlake eventually.
OhioBoy and JDW1 aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid. JDW1 answers Frere-Jones’ implicit question:
When I learned William Orbit produced Madonna’s Ray of Light, it settled in my own mind this fascinating debate. … Now, Orbit is an artist whose work I admire. Should this matter? You bet it does. I admire the creator more than performer. Madonna is a great performer; I would much rather pay $60 to see her than I would Orbit, or even Eno or Moby for that matter (I can’t even imagine what an Eno performance would be like). No one remembers the great Shakespearean actors once they are dead, nor do they remember the great Wagnerian Opera singers; even though those performers may have enjoyed greater fame during their lives than the creators whose work they were performing. But Wagner and Shakespeare will live on for centuries or longer, while their performers fame is ephemeral. It matters much more to me (and, I suspect, artists) who creates than who performs. This does not detract one bit from the performer. It is just not fair to put them on a par with the creator.
Frere-Jones has a host of respondents to the following, “Quick—think of a single solo disc by a famous producer … that’s any good. We’ll wait.” Ed_From_Texas delivers the Music Box Fray’s most lyrical, if cryptic, post here (and comes up with Eno, as do many others). 2GunSid here and BeeFox here toss a few other notables into the mix. Ballot Box Fray-Frame Game Fray: Will Saletan invites Fraysters looking to escape the Ballot Box Fray to a compelling discussion over in the  Frame Game Fray. The topic: the first chapter of Saletan’s Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War (available here in PDF format). The conversation is underway, with Thrasymachus rolling up his sleeves  here (in BOTF, actually), and rob_said_that and Geoff initiating a thread on argument vs. manipulation here. KA11:10 a.m.Saturday, August 23, 2003

Thou Shall Take Lots of Cream With Your Coffee (DrPedantic, A Word From the Religious Left“):  

As both an Evangelical Christian and a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I have to commend Ms. Lithwick by hitting on a point I raise all the time. Watering down God and religion so that they become nothing more than “symbols” is nothing less than blasphemy.
When Posting, Thou Shall Cite Frankish Law Whenever Possible (Thrasymachus, “Moore’s a Disgrace to the Bar“):
U.S. law has many foundations, and … “Judeo-Christian law” isn’t one of them, because it doesn’t exist. American law, as Moore should have learned when he was in law school, has several major sources. A few of the leading ones are:

1) Babylonian Law
2) Hebraic (note: that’s not “Judeo-Christian”) Law
3) Greek philosophy
4) Roman Law
5) Frankish Law; and most importantly of all-
6) English Common Law.

If judge Moore really wanted to showcase the foundations of American law, where’s his statue of Zeus?
Thou Shall Smite Slate Correspondents for Their Ahistorical Renderings (1-2-Oscar, “Dhalia Lithwick doesn’t know her history“):
First, we should note that the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law….” The first ten amendments to the Constitution, our Bill of Rights, were intended to limit the power of the federal government, and did not limit the powers of the several states in any way…Second, Ms. Lithwick is apparently not aware that every one of the original thirteen states had an “official” church at the time that the Constitution and its first ten amendments were written and ratified.
Thou Shall Be Squirrely and Think Outside the Bible Box (Appleblade, “Roy Moore’s Argument“):
In rushing to condemn Roy Moore’s annoying position the media, reporters and analysts alike, have failed to notice the cleverness of his argument. While I don’t think he’s right to keep the Ten Commandments lodged in the floor of the courthouse, I do think he’s on solid ground with his defense of one claim and his defiance of the order from the other chief justices.

First, his one claim that’s adequately defended is that the constitution prohibits the establishment of religion, but not the acknowledgement of God. His evidence? God is acknowledged in all sorts of government traditions and documents.
Thou Shalt Not Overlook the Temerity of Elected Officers of the Court (celticdog, “Y’all Are Funny …“:
Roy Moore is achieving exactly what he wants, he’s getting publicity. He obviously aspires to some higher political office, such as governor or senator. Judges? Political? How can that be? Well in Alabama the Supreme Court Justices are elected. And what about those Federal Judges? Why they’re political apponitments. Not appointed based upon their legal acumen, but upon their political connections.

As for Moore, he is appealing to Christian conservatives with his righteous stand. Oh, and making his name a household word for the next election. See, you can use religion to achieve many goals……..such as running a political campaign for free.
Thou Shalt Not Romanticize nor Idealize the Intentions of the Founding Fathers (Zathras, “God and the Founders“):
Well, we live in a different country now than our forefathers did. We aim to be open and welcoming to all beliefs, or unbeliefs, hostile toward none, which is what the Founders intended. Isn’t it?

Actually, they probably never imagined it. There is not the slightest historical evidence that the Founders ever assumed that the United States would at some point not be a predominantly Christian – indeed, predominantly Protestant Christian – country. The prohibition against establishing a church (which Connecticut and Massachusetts ignored well into the 1800s) or legislating upon the exercise of religion was intended to keep Congress from giving an advantage to any of the Protestant denominations (or, in Maryland only, the Catholic Church) over any of the others. If there had been any appreciable number of Muslims or Hindus in late 18th Century America they would most likely have been directed to leave by the governments of that time – and in fact, the “free exercise” of Native American religions was recognized in precisely that way.
Thou Shall Be Pithy, Even When Discussing Metaphyiscal Issues (chloeqpc, “Lithwick column“):
The thing that makes these questions of religion so difficult to navigate is the fact that religious belief is for the most part absolute, intolerant, and non-negotiable. For a Christian, the question of Christ’s divinity is not up for debate. Similar issues can be found in other major religions.

How then can a system that values - even requires - tolerance and diversity accommodate behaviors which are the direct opposite? The answer is that it can’t.
Thou Shall Invoke One’s Faith to Revive Dead Horses with Fresh Insight (SensibleChristian, “a question of purpose“):
If one believes in the 10 Commandments, as I do, he/she probably has them memorized (as I do). Why must they be posted in government venues, unless the majority is trying to intimidate non-believers into thinking that particular belief system, and none other, is “approved” by the United States court system. I wear a crucifix around my neck and pray wherever the heck I please. If anyone tried to stop either _private_ practice, I’d be up in arms over my Constitutional rights. But public displays are not religion, they are politics. And they are intimidating, bullying tactics that should not be catered to by our laws. Period. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “your rights end where my nose begins.” Someone a lot more important said, “Be not like the hypocrites who pray on street corners, but retire to your chamber .. . ” Look it up. It’s in the Bible. The speaker was Jesus Christ.
Thou Shall One-up Thrasymachus with a Reference to Simon de Montfort (Mike_Murray, “Absence is in no sense neutral“):
Would anyone object to a statue of Simon de Montfort, Hamurabi, Marcus Aurelius, or Justice (blindfolded with scales) in a courthouse? The answer is undoubtedly no. In particular you do see Classical statues to Justice etc in courthouses. So a non religious object with reference to justice or the rule of law is fine. Does the Ten Commandments have a reference to justice or the rule of law? I think only the most fanatic would argue that Judaic law did not have an effect on the history of law and certainly the Ten Commandments are the most recognizable representation of that history. So, any item which has a religious connotation of any sort must because of that connotation be banished from public display regardless of how much otherwise it might be appropriate to the circumstance …In terms of freedom of religion this seems to me not only inconsistent but antithetical. But does this mean religious display of any sort is appropriate? … The Ten Commandments undoubtedly is representative of more than just Judaism or Christianity or Islam. It is representative of early attempts at codifying law and establishing the rule of law.
Thou Shall Pick Apart the Opponent’s Argument, Hanging Relevant Links like They’re Christmas Lights (Joe_JP, “Roy Moore, Defender of the Faith and 10A“):
[Moore] is seen as a hero of states rights. Another current hero (and past supporter of Moore) is Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, controversial nominee to the federal court bench. What does he think about the federal order to remove the statute and the fine to the state if it is not removed? Well, he surely opposes the decision, but not the power to inflict it. He said as much in a recent letter to the minority in the state legislature that discusses the case.

First off, “The State of Alabama is not a party to either of the cases against Chief Justice Moore and has neither waived its immunity nor consented to suit.” At any rate, per a 1908 USSC decision, a state official can be ordered by the federal courts to act, though the state itself can not. Finally:

“The power of the States under the Tenth and Eleventh Amendments to the United States Constitution does not include the power of state officials to violate other provisions of the United States Constitution and federal law. Compliance by state officials with a valid federal court order would involve no abdication of any power whatsoever.”

Who determines if it is “valid?” Each individual state judge? Not in the eyes of CJ Moore’s colleagues, who per Alabama law has the power to overrule him on such matters. They are “bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it.” What is the alternative? Each state judge can decide on their own what the federal law means?
À la Mel Brooks, FrEd dropped the other five in the Los Feliz Costco parking lot yesterday and couldn’t find a decent stonemason to save his life. Additional Fray commandments can be submitted to Fraywatch Fray for consideration … KA9:20 a.m.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Battle Harrumph of the Republic: A recommendation from the gallery came across Fray Edtior’s desk to toy with a new Fraywatch format, “to feature one post at a time (with addenda depending on the circumstances). Think of it as a game of king of the hill, the top post gets top billing until something better comes along and knocks them off.” Very well.  TheQuietMan express incredulity here that a measured and studied Frayster such as Geoff could “hate” George W. Bush and characterize the president as “evil.”  In response, Geoff authors this treatise, “Why I Hate George W. Bush“:

Alright, you asked for it. I’ll try to keep my wits about me, though the emotional base upon which this argument is built is quite tumultuous.

Why would I say that I “hate” George W. Bush? Isn’t that a little strong? Isn’t he just your average politician? Isn’t this just some natural extension of your overall left-leaning political views?

No, not really.

Before I get to George W. Bush, I need to explain what I think about politicians in general. For the moment, let us stipulate that politicians come in three general flavors:The first category of politicians I believe to be genuinely honest and noble men committed to the ideal of public service. These are politicians who genuinely care, and strive to improve the Republic they cherish and the lives of its citizens. I believe these politicians to have principles, but I think they also understand reality rather well. They will master the art of compromise in the interests of accomplishment, and they may very well change their minds and their positions as they age or new events and concerns arise. But in the end, they keep one eye on what they sincerely believe to be RIGHT and another eye out for the pitfalls and road signs along the way…The next category is where I place the demagogic ideologues. These are individuals who seem to enter politics through the motivation of zealotry rather than for personal gain. They’re motives are similar to those of the noble politicians, but they’re inability to adapt or to bend within the political process makes them dangerous to our Republic. For them, politics is about specific ends, and the means will always be adapted as needed to attain them….Then, bottom on the totem pole of politicians, I would lump the remainder… the unscrupulous cynics who gravitate to the profession for the love of power. Often, we learn the truth about these politicians in their trials, as with Senator Toricelli or with Richard M. Nixon. Dan Rostenkowski or Gray Davis. And one, one of these scumbags prances before the public eye, nakedly self-aggrandizing… contemptuous of America, contemptuous of Americans, contemptuous of his detractors, contemptuous of his supporters… and nobody seems to notice. And that one, I call him George W. Bush.I can find very little in the life of George W. Bush to admire or to respect. I can’t fault him for having the fortune to be born into a family of wealth, power and privilege. However, all the evidence shows that he never felt any special responsibility came attached to the gifts he received from birth. And I’m not even talking about the responsibility to be some kind of philanthropist or minister to the poor. I’m talking about the responsibility to demonstrate that he was entitled to all that he had by effort as well as by blood. With a special dispensation he was allowed into a top East Coast prep school where he slacked off and took the special efforts exerted on his behalf for granted. Given an unearned shot at an institution allegedly based on merit, he squandered and disdained the opportunity. Then, with mediocre grades he went to Yale on the strength of connections alone, maintaining a C average, far below the standard those who have attained such an opportunity through effort hold themselves to. Somehow, he still managed to fail his way upward into the Harvard MBA program, where again, there is no evidence that he applied himself with any particular diligence. Again and again, through Bush’s life, he was handed opportunity that people strive ceaselessly for. Without any effort, he received chances that people work themselves to the bone to never get a shot at. And at each stage, he wasted it, unmindful and seemingly uncaring of the extraordinary exceptions that had been made on his behalf.

Between his stint at Yale and the one at Harvard, Bush “served” in the military. I don’t see any particular disgrace in dodging the draft. Many have done it, and many who haven’t would have. My own father joined the Marine Corps when his student deferment expired on the sensible theory that it was the branch least likely to send him abroad. Bill Clinton joined the Rhodes Scholar program. Dan Quayle joined the Indiana National Guard. But my father SERVED his term as a Marine. Bill Clinton WENT to Oxford. Dan Quayle PUT IN HIS TIME in the Indiana National Guard. Does it bother me that George W. Bush disappeared from active duty in the Texas Air National Guard? Ceased taking the physical after the institution of a drug-testing policy in 1972? Yes. It really does bother me. And it should bother you too. Because once again, it points straight to the issue of contempt. Contempt for America, for the obligations of citizenship. Our system is set up to grant allowances. But if an allowance is made for you, you should at least feel obligated to HONOR THE TERMS of your dispensation. And George W. Bush demonstrated no such sense of duty. No such sense of honor…I find nothing especially worthy of censure in his business career. It does little to enhance my opinion of him, as it demonstrates mostly a capacity to continue reaping, as an adult, the benefits of his more noble father’s efforts … At the age of 40, we are led to believe that he found some new inner-strength. It’s hard not to look at contempt with a man who can honestly profess that he did not reach adulthood until his 40’s. But in such matters, late is always better than never…

Being a shallow and opportunistic politician isn’t an inherently damnable offense, though I would certainly argue he is one. Our country would have been better off had a more noble character been poised to reap the rewards of the Supreme Court’s unfortunate choice in 2000, but I cannot fault him too much for his failures of leadership in that moment. His embrace of steel tariffs and agricultural policy more reactionary than those supported by Dick Gephardt doesn’t automatically disqualify him from the ranks of men entitled to some mercy.

In the end, it comes down to the simple issue of character.

People love to fulminate about character. My standards are not those of everyone. I don’t really hold any feelings against those prone to sins of the appetite, as Bill Clinton was. I have trouble holding poor judgment against those who demonstrate it. All I ask is some evidence of a fundamental respect for the dignity of people. And I don’t think George W. Bush has that respect…There are those who believe that all politicians lie, and that Bush’s are nothing exceptional. I don’t know how to rebut such a charge, other than to state firmly and forcefully that I disagree. Watching Bush tell the nation with a straight face that they will receive an “average” tax cut of $1000 when he knows what the average person will actually receive is one of those little acts of disrespect. Sneeringly dismissing the protests of hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions worldwide at his instigation of a war abroad as mere “focus groups” is a telling indicator of the disrespect which created the frustration that propelled them to the streets in the first place (may I remind you, that neither his father nor his immediate predecessor faced anything on a comparable scale). Putting out word that he believed Air Force One to be the target of a terrorist attack to account for his shameful disappearance on September 11th of 2001… that’s a kind of falsehood which makes my stomach start to churn in disgust. Untruths and misrepresentations abound in this President’s public discourse, when he even bothers to show himself in public. More than usual, even for a politician. And, frankly, more than should be acceptable in the America I thought I knew…There aren’t words to describe the horror I feel when I see Bush look into the nation’s television cameras with that sadistic little smirk and tell us euphemistically, as if half-choking on a stifled snort that our enemies… “let’s put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.” The barely-suppressed, no not really suppressed at all, look of GLEE at the thought of the death America has inflicted upon its enemies. I recognize that it is necessary to kill human beings. I recognize that our security demands it. That every president must hold the lives and deaths of strangers in his hands. But the fact that we MUST kill NEVER excuses taking delight THAT we kill. You probably don’t believe me. I don’t know if you believe Tucker Carlson when he describes Bush’s mockery of Karla Faye Tucker: “Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.” Maybe some of you don’t believe it. Worse, maybe some of you feel the same way, and consider Bush’s response… virtuous? I don’t know. I look at Bush, taunting the camera, daring America’s enemies to “bring it on” and I see a sick and disgusting man – the worst face of America sneering in the spotlight. A man who doesn’t bother to care about the enormity of his job, the enormity of its consequences, and the enormity of this glorious Republic we’ve brought forth.

When I look at George W. Bush, I don’t see a patriot. I see a lying, psychopathic narcissist. And it pains me, it grieves me, it WOUNDS me to realize that this puts me not only in the minority… but in the “whacko fringe.” …
Editor’s Note: FrEd, in an effort to alliterate yesterday’s Fraywatch TOC headline, mistakenly referred to the purveyors of Heineken beer as “Flemish.” Well, the good people of Flanders and those who love them have set me straight. Heineken is an exclusively Dutch operation and, accordingly, FrEd’s headline should’ve read “Double Dutch Bust.” … KA5:40 p.m.