- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 25, 2005

Lack of seriousness

In politics, 2005 was “a large fall from seriousness,” Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger writes.

“Episodes in the Year of Unseriousness abound: The bipartisan highway bill with its Bridge to Nowhere; the Abramoff lobbying sleaze; a truly feckless year-long media hunt to identify who ‘outed’ Valerie Plame, a story with virtually no resonance beyond the Beltway and whose special prosecutor charged no violation of the supposed underlying crime; and now pretend outrage from the likes of Senators [Harry] Reid and Arlen Specter over the ‘exposure’ of the Bush surveillance program, which much of official Washington knew about and which turns out not to have violated anything.

“The patronizing derision around Capitol Hill of the effort to build a democratic order in Iraq is especially ironic. Some proportion of Iraq’s Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish leadership spent the past year, such as during their November reconciliation conference in Cairo, in painstaking conversations to reach the accommodations that allowed the extraordinary parliamentary election on Dec. 15. Here, members of Congress read illustrated front-page accounts of bomb stories and call for ‘withdrawal.’ They know more about the ‘politics’ of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi than about any of Iraq’s organized national parties,” Mr. Henninger said.

“I suspect there have been more serious, good-faith conversations toward a common national purpose among Iraq’s leading political figures this past year than have occurred on any subject in Washington.”

A first step

“There are two ways to look at the Deficit Reduction Act,” which will reduce the federal deficit by nearly $40 billion in the next five years, Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“One, $40 billion is undeniably a great deal of money, and the vote would thus seem to indicate a victory for the taxpayer. That’s certainly why I supported it,” Mr. Kyl said.

“But at the same time, compared to the size of the federal budget deficit — to say nothing of the budget itself — it hardly heralds a widespread rediscovery of fiscal discipline and restraint. In fact, it’s not even a budget cut. The savings amount to a reduction in the rate of growth of entitlement spending by about one-half of 1 percent.

“And even this effort to modestly slow the rate of government expansion succeeded by the only slimmest of margins, on a vote of 51-50. (Vice President Cheney had to break the tie in his constitutional role as president of the Senate.) All 45 Senate Democrats voted against it.

“To the many critics who will say that this is hardly a sufficient spending cut when the federal government is dealing with, for example, the cost of Hurricane Katrina, I can only say, you’re absolutely right. But as is evidenced by the 51-50 vote, and facing the opposition of literally every single Democratic member of the Senate, you can see the options were limited.

“The bill demonstrates that Senate Democrats’ claims to support deficit reduction are rather hollow, and makes it hard to take seriously their criticism of deficit spending under President Bush. To put it simply, if you can’t find 0.5 percent of waste to trim, you’re obviously not looking very hard.”

Romney remembers

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is widely expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, remembers what happened to his father, the governor of Michigan, when he ran for president in 1968.

George W. Romney was the early favorite to win the Republican nomination, but his campaign crashed when, after a trip to Vietnam, he said American officials had “brainwashed” him.

The younger Mr. Romney, in an interview with the Boston Globe’s Frank Phillips, blamed his father’s ill fortune on an aggressive “gotcha” journalism that continues to this day.

“I am probably more sensitive than most over the ability of something that can be taken out of context or turned into a ‘gotcha,’” Mr. Romney said. “That is part of public life today. There is a constant effort on the part of those writing stories to get you in a ‘gotcha.’”

Top 10 list

The conservative Young America’s Foundation (YAF) says parents worried that their children in college may come home “saying Che Guevara was a human rights icon” and that America’s Founding Fathers “were nothing more than racist white slave owners” should consider some institutions without a leftist slant.

Just as YAF recently identified 12 U.S. colleges and universities with courses the group selected as being the “most bizarre and troubling instances of leftist activism,” the organization has also released a list of the nation’s “10 Best Conservative Schools.”

The 10 listed — many of which have a religious thrust and three of which are located in Virginia — are: (1) Hillsdale College in Michigan; (2) Grove City College in Pennsylvania; (3) Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio; (4) Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion; (5) Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif.; (6) College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.; (7) Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.; (8) Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va.; (9) Christendom College of Front Royal, Va.; and (10) Harding University in Searcy, Ark.

“To be selected, a college must proclaim through its mission and programs an active dedication to maintaining and strengthening the conservative values of its students,” YAF said.

The organization, which bought Ronald Reagan’s ranch in California, tapped another higher education institution in Virginia — Regent University in Virginia Beach — for honorable mention.

Gay tolerance

Pro-homosexual activists in Massachusetts have published the names and addresses of people who signed a petition to put same-sex “marriage” before the state’s voters in a referendum.

Domenico Bettinelli, the editor of Catholic World Report magazine, cried “foul” at his popular Web site, www.bettnet.com. He said the Know Thy Neighbor site (knowthyneighbor.org) was “set up by gay activists to intimidate people” in perhaps the nation’s most-liberal state.

He noted a commenter at another Boston blog who showed “the ‘tolerance,’ which the proponents of so-called gay rights claim to exhibit.”

“I checked the database to find my close-minded mother the only person in my entire neighborhood to sign her name. I’m ashamed and have a strong urge to go beat the ‘catholic’ out of her,” the commenter had said.

Still, Mr. Bettinelli said, there was an upside.

“The activists are crying poor mouth and asking for donations because so many people are hitting the site. Probably from all the people looking to see their names listed. Can you imagine if all 120,000 people on the petition hit their web site? Can you imagine how expensive that bandwidth bill would be? I can’t imagine they would mind if every single reader of this blog hit their web site, searching page after page for friends, neighbors, familiar names, celebrities, and who knows how many others.”

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

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