- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

No movie critic

President Bush, who this paper noted last week has suddenly become Oprah-in-Chief, spent nearly an hour yesterday fielding questions from an unscreened audience of almost 10,000 at Kansas State University.

Most of the queries were mundane — What about the Sudan? Will I have Social Security? How do you lead? — but the Most Powerful Man in the World got one question on which he definitely had no talking points.

“I was just wanting to get your opinion on ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ if you’ve seen it yet,” said one young male student, referring to the Hollywood film about two homosexual cowboys.

The crowd laughed — a bit nervously, it seemed — before the student said loudly: “You would love it. You should check it out,”

Mr. Bush got his bearings quickly: “I haven’t seen it,” he said.

“I’d be glad to talk about ranching, but I haven’t seen the movie,” he said to laughter. “I’ve heard about it.”

The president, looking a bit uncomfortable in the following silence, waited a second or two, then said, according to the White House transcript: “I hope you go — you know — (laughter) — I hope you go back to the ranch and the farm, is what I’m about to say. I haven’t seen it. (Laughter and applause.)”

Liberal nightmare

“A great achievement of modern liberalism — and a primary reason for its surviving decades past the credibility of its ideas — is that it captured black resentment as an exclusive source of power. It even gave this resentment a Democratic Party affiliation. (Anti-war sentiment is the other great source of liberal power, but it is not the steady provider that black and minority resentment has been),” Shelby Steele writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“Republicans have often envied this power, but have never competed well for it because it can be accessed only by pandering to the socialistic longings of minority leaders — vast government spending, social programs, higher taxes and so on. Republicans and conservatives have simply never had an easy or glib mechanism for addressing profound social grievances,” said Mr. Steele, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of “White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.”

“But this Republican ‘weakness’ has now begun to emerge as a great — if still largely potential — Republican advantage. Precisely because Republicans cannot easily pander to black grievance, they have no need to value blacks only for their sense of grievance. Unlike Democrats, they can celebrate what is positive and constructive in minority life without losing power.

“The dilemma for Democrats, liberals and the civil rights establishment is that they become redundant and lose power the instant blacks move beyond grievance and begin to succeed by dint of their own hard work. So they persecute such blacks, attack their credibility as blacks, just as they pander to blacks who define their political relationship to America through grievance.”

Alito poll

Public support for confirming Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court grew to 54 percent, according to a poll released yesterday.

Support grew five percentage points during the course of the confirmation hearings, according to the CNN/USA Today survey. Those opposed to Judge Alito’s confirmation remained unchanged at 30 percent.

The poll was conducted over a three-day period beginning Friday. Canvassers reached 1,006 adults by telephone.

The survey also found that only about a quarter of Americans believe Judge Alito would reverse the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion a constitutionally guaranteed right.

Oh, Canada

Left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore bemoaned what was expected to be a right turn by northern neighbor Canada in yesterday’s general election.

“Oh, Canada — you’re not really going to elect a Conservative majority on Monday, are you? That’s a joke, right? I know you have a great sense of humor … but this is no longer funny,” Mr. Moore complained in a commentary on his Web site.

“First, you have the courage to stand against the war in Iraq — and then you elect a prime minister who’s for it. You declare gay people have equal rights — and then you elect a man who says they don’t,” moaned Mr. Moore, whose films and TV segments frequently construct Canada as a foil to a bad America.

Conservatives led by Stephen Harper were ahead of Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberals by a comfortable 10 to 12 points, polls showed Saturday.

Romney’s probe

Saying “errors in judgment were made,”Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday announced an independent probe of the state’s treatment of a brain-damaged 11-year-old girl at the center of a euthanasia battle, the Associated Press reports.

Haleigh Poutre was reportedly beaten into a coma last year by her adoptive mother and stepfather. Her stepfather then fought the state’s efforts to disconnect the girl’s life support. The state’s highest court granted the state permission last week to disconnect the ventilator and feeding tube.

But the next day, the Department of Social Services revealed her condition had improved, and she was breathing on her own after being slowly weaned off the ventilator.

Mr. Romney, a Republican who is considering a run for president in 2008, said he will establish a panel to review the girl’s 10-year, 45-page case log. The commission will look into whether case workers missed signs of physical abuse leading up to the September beating that put Haleigh in the hospital, and the agency’s handling of her care afterward.

“One cannot look at the life of Haleigh Poutre without being overwhelmed with sadness,” Mr. Romney said at a Statehouse press conference. “She was not someone who fell through the cracks — doctors and social workers were watching, but errors in judgment were made.”

Fish story

The Senate Commerce Committee bowed to pressure from New England lawmakers last month when it approved a version of a bill governing ocean fisheries that would allow relaxed enforcement of annual catch limits.

But Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and the committee’s chairman, intends to fight for restoration of firm catch limits and penalties for fisheries that exceed them, a committee aide says.

Meanwhile, marine conservationists say they are nervous about what Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican and chairman of the House Resources Committee, will do with the bill when it goes to the House.

Mr. Pombo is not seen as a fan of the National Environmental Protection Act, and there are predictions he will want to weaken the influence of NEPA in the governance of fisheries.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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