Up Front

Bullish on God

Put the headline together with the subhead, and you have nothing less than the holy grail of modern conservatism. "In Europe, God Is (Not) Dead," proclaimed a headline on the front page of a soft-news Saturday edition of The Wall Street Journal. Beneath it, the subhead added a crucial new component: "Christian groups are growing, faith is more public. Is supply-side economics the explanation?"

And there it was: the long-sought-after unified field theory of conservative thought. Jesus Christ and Arthur Laffer, together at last. True faith and Keynesianism, forever rent asunder. The article itself went on to document the rise of small, feisty start-up churches in secular Sweden -- in particular, one named Passion whose founder extolled its rockin' services by calling Jesus the "king of the party." As with supply-side economics generally, though, the numbers don't quite justify the story (just 31,000 of the 9 million Swedes belong to evangelical churches -- one-third of 1 percent) or make the case that the supply of new churches generates new churchgoers. (After all, if the proliferation of sects guaranteed a proliferation of sectarians, the 20th century would have been overrun by Trotskyists.)

Of course, in the new and improved Journal, the subhead would likely have ended, "Is supply-side economics the explanation? Watch Fox News and decide." The true church of cross-promotion hath arrived.

Access über alles

A good lawyer, the saying goes, can argue both sides of a case, and for pillars of the legal establishment, the value of coming out on the winning side can eclipse such trifles as, say, their fundamental convictions. Bloomberg News reported this month that Kirkland and Ellis, the law firm Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr calls home, has given more money to Hillary Clinton than to all the Republican candidates combined. And Jones Day, the law firm that represents the Republican National Committee and a firm that traditionally favors conservative candidates, has given three-and-a-half times as much to the Democrats as to the Republicans.

How rude!

As a service to those of you who've not been following the furious back-and-forth among supporters of the minor Republican presidential candidates, we offer this update: the Rev. Tim Rude, an evangelical pastor and supporter of Gov. Mike Huckabee, attacked Sen. Sam Brownback for converting to Catholicism. In a letter that began by admitting that "nation-wide polls show Brownback at 1 percent and Huckabee at 3 percent amongst Republican candidates," Rev. Rude noted that "as a recovering Catholic myself, that is all I need to know about his discernment when compared to the Governor's." Rev. Rude later apologized and allowed that his statement "could be taken as anti-Catholic."

Whitewashing the electorate

Writing in the National Review Online recently, David Frum found some good news in a survey that showed young people favoring Democrats over Republicans by 19 points. It turns out that if you just ignore all the non-white people, Republicans are up by two points in the same age group! Immigrants, you see, "lack deep attachment to the American nation" and are "thus immune to the most potent of Republican appeals." According to Frum, Bush's greatest failing is allowing these America-hating liberal-lovers into the country and thereby dooming the GOP. No word on whether African Americans, who are much more likely than Latinos to vote Democratic, "lack deep attachment" to America, though it seems likely they are "immune to the most potent of Republican appeals" demonstrated in Frum's column -- barely concealed racism.

O'Hanlon v. O'Hanlon

Democratic Iraq war proponents Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon caused quite a stir with a late July New York Times op-ed claiming that the surge was showing signs of success and that Iraq was, as the title of the op-ed put it, "A War We Might Just Win." A week before the op-ed was published, O'Hanlon's own Iraq Index project at Brookings had reported that "violence nationwide has failed to improve measurably over the past two-plus months." And just one day after the Times op-ed came out, O'Hanlon testified before the House Armed Services Committee and gave a significantly more pessimistic assessment, saying that while "trendlines are improving on the military, tactical level" he was "dubious" of the surge strategy overall. Elaborating one day later in an interview with the Times, O'Hanlon conceded that, "If the political stalemate goes on, even if the military progress continued, I don't see how I could write another op-ed saying the same thing." So why'd he write this one?

Parody by T. A. Frank "I am deeply concerned with suggestions that my testimony was misleading, and am determined to address any such impression." -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Aug. 1, 2007

Aug. 15, 2007
Dear Senator Leahy,

I am saddened beyond measure that you found my testimony regarding some recent "damage" to your automobile to be misleading, and am determined to clear up any such impression. Let me first of all clarify that when you asked whether or not I had any role in what happened to your car, my statement on the subject referred to the parts of the car commonly considered to be inherent to the term "car" and not to the parts that are commonly referred to as "accessories," since the latter are frequently optional and interchangeable. Examples of accessories include bumper stickers, trailer hitches, luggage racks, receivers for satellite radio, and ornamental hubcaps, all of which you correctly noted had been somewhat brusquely detached. Also, tires, while they aren't really "optional," are, in my understanding, "interchangeable," as demonstrated by the fact that you elected to change all four of yours, subsequent to your discovery of the holes. For this reason, I see no reason to retract my former testimony that I had no involvement in what happened to your "car," as such.

Secondly, to revisit a point that you seem to emphasize, I reiterate that legal experts in our department have concluded that a brake cable cannot technically be classified as an "inherent car part." I re¬gret the emotions you say you felt upon discovering the severance of this important bond between pedal and wheel, and am relieved that no harm came to you in the collision. Again, I stand by my testimony that I do not recall authorizing any of the alterations made to your car's accessories. The surveillance videotape you subsequently produced showing me performing this supplementary work does not change my position, since a) I proceeded without my own authorization and b) Such authorization was unnecessary since the law refers only to an "automobile" and not to such "accessories" as brake cables.

Please understand that I remain bound not to reveal classified information and therefore cannot discuss in this public letter every instance of what you have called an "unexplained streak of life-threatening assaults." If you have further questions, I could arrange to provide you with addition¬al answers in an appropriate setting (a tall cornfield, for instance, or a patch of woodlands on Staten Island) where no one could overhear sensitive information.

Alberto Gonzales

The Question: Whom would you like to see impeached?

"Jay Bybee, who concealed his role in approving the torture memos at his Senate confirmation hearing as a federal judge."
-- Bruce Ackerman, author, Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism

"Chief Justice Roberts, for misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee about his respect for precedents."
-- Tom Schaller, author, Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South

"I don't think anyone should now be impeached! Impeachment is a last resort, we should use the ordinary political remedies, not the heavy artillery."
-- Cass Sunstein, author, The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution

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