- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

AN OLD MOVIE

“In a key scene in Frank Capra’s 1939 film ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ appointed senator (and unwitting pawn in a corruption scheme) Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart, suggests to a colleague that perhaps it would be a good idea to read bills before voting on them,” John Fund writes at OpinionJournal.com.

” ‘The bills?’ responds an incredulous Sen. Paine, played by Claude Rains. ‘These bills are put together by legal minds after long study. I can’t understand half of them myself, and I used to be a lawyer.’

“Forget it, he tells Smith. ‘When the time comes, I’ll advise you how to vote.’

“Never has art so closely mirrored life as with the mammoth 2,100-page health care bill passed by the Senate. ‘The result makes no sense whatsoever - not to conservatives, not to liberals, not to anyone,’ accurately concludes the Weekly Standard. ‘Rather than reform a system that everyone agrees is a failure, it will subsidize that system and compel participation in it.’

“Many who have long touted health care reform are turning up their noses at the final product,” Mr. Fund said. “Michael Bloomberg, New York’s independent mayor, told ‘Meet the Press’ over the weekend: ‘I have asked congressperson after congressperson. Not one can explain to me what’s in the bill, even in the House version. Certainly not in the other version. And so for them to vote on a bill that they don’t understand whatsoever, really, you’ve got to question how - what kind of government we have.’

“Mr. Bloomberg added that his own reading of the Senate bill led him to conclude that it would blow a hole in the New York State budget and force closure of perhaps 100 health clinics.

“It’s no wonder Congress and the White House are so determined to hide their handiwork from the public while the House and Senate versions are ‘reconciled.’ ”

BRAVE NEW LAW

“It’s getting to the point where the twin news stories more or less write themselves,” Christopher Hitchens writes at Slate.com.

“No sooner is the fanatical and homicidal Muslim arrested than it turns out that he (it won’t be long until it is also she) has been known to the authorities for a long time. …

“So that’s now more or less the routine for the guilty. (I am not making any presumption of innocence concerning Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.) But flick your eye across the page, or down it, and you will instantly see a different imperative for the innocent. ‘New Restrictions Quickly Added for Travelers,’ reads the inevitable headline just below the report on the notoriety of Abdulmutallab, whose own father had been sufficiently alarmed to report his son to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, some time ago. (By the way, I make a safe prediction: Nobody in that embassy or anywhere else in our national security system will lose his or her job as a consequence of this most recent disgrace.) …

“In my boyhood, there were signs on English buses that declared, in bold letters, ‘No Spitting.’ At a tender age, I was able to work out that most people don’t need to be told this, while those who do feel a desire to expectorate on public transport will require more discouragement than a mere sign.

“But I’d be wasting my time pointing this out to our majestic and sleepless protectors, who now boldly propose to prevent airline passengers from getting out of their seats for the last hour of any flight. Abdulmutallab made his bid in the last hour of his flight, after all.

“Yes, that ought to do it. It’s also incredibly, nay, almost diabolically clever of our guardians to let it be known what the precise time limit will be. Oh, and by the way, any passenger courageous or resourceful enough to stand up and fight back will also have broken the brave new law.”

PAYING THE PRICE

“Many Americans - conservatives, liberals and centrists - are dismayed by Barack Obama’s first year,” Clive Crook writes in the Financial Times.

“Republicans call Mr. Obama a tax-and-spend liberal. Progressives say he surrendered to corporate interests, and his foreign policy is a continuation of George W. Bush by other means. Independents feel let down because Mr Obama said he would bridge the partisan divide and unite the country. Except for uniting left and right in disappointment, he failed,” Mr. Crook said.

“Partly, Mr Obama is paying the price of his fabulous campaign. Coming from nowhere, he overthrew his party’s plans (Hillary Clinton), enthused the Democratic base and amazed the country. In temperament - cool, intellectual, self-assured - he was exactly what voters wanted after Mr. Bush. Ideologically, he presented himself as all things to all men. Hopes for his presidency reached impossible heights. Disenchantment was inevitable and disenchantment is what the polls now show.

“Measured against what different groups of voters thought he had promised - everything they desired - the administration’s performance looks poor. Measured against what voters were entitled to expect, it looks much better.”

FIRING OFFENSE

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s latest interview on NBC’s “Today” show “again reveals a total obtuseness,” Andrew Sullivan writes in a blog at TheAtlantic.com.

“Yes, as was obvious from the original clip, it was clear she was referring to what happened after the incident occurred and the system does seem to have worked from then on. But before that? This was a massive failure by DHS, and you will notice she takes not a smidgen of personal responsibility for it,” Mr. Sullivan said.

“Does she not realize how sick we are of government officials responding to obvious mistakes, errors and failures by bragging about what they did get right?

“She is responsible for homeland security and scores of human beings nearly died because of her failure and survived solely because of luck and courage and the incompetence of the religious extremist.

“This attitude was what enraged people about the Bush administration. If Obama wants to show he is not like that, he needs to fire Napolitano now, and explain why there are no excuses in his administration for failing to perform a core government function like ensuring that airline security is as fool-proof as possible. The rest of us have had to go through hell for years in airports only to see this happen.

“If she won’t resign, fire her.”

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

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