Posted on April 22, 2005


Cranial Tumbleweeds

The Duelfer Report, bow ties, filibusters, etc.


Daniel Clark



* Jennifer Lopez has sought out Jane Fonda to advise her about politics. Lesson One: Never admit you're wrong until it's lucrative.

* While the "anti-war" Left has been routed in Iraq, it has undoubtedly won the public relations battle over Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Even many conservative commentators on TV and radio have by now agreed to say that there were no WMD in Iraq, despite clear evidence of their existence. The Duelfer Report, which is reputed to have proven that there were no WMD, actually acknowledges multiple chemical and biological weapon finds. Upon issuing the report, Charles Duelfer explained that the amounts of these weapons were not "militarily significant," but then, our chief concern was not their use against our soldiers on the battlefield; it was the possibility that Saddam would arm terrorists with them, in order to murder civilians. Even if we were only talking about a single discovery of a dozen sarin gas bombs, their strategic detonation in densely populated areas would be more than "significant."

* The Duelfer Report's conclusion that the Iraqis had unilaterally destroyed most of their weapons shortly after the Gulf War is based, incredibly, on the word of Saddam and his scientists. This despite that same report's acknowledgments of their repeated false declarations in the period between wars. It does concede, however, the "unresolved disarmament issue" of 550 mustard-filled ammunition shells, but only because the Iraqi scientists gave conflicting accounts of what happened to them. As long as a small number of Saddam's scientists can keep their story straight, they are given the benefit of the doubt. It helps that their main story flatters the inspectors who compiled the report. Supposedly, the chemical and biological weapons were all destroyed in a panic back in 1991, after those intrepid inspectors got too close for comfort. Talk about guile.

* Aside from the "old, abandoned chemical munitions" the report acknowledges, and the probably existent 550 mustard rounds, it says that the Iraqis admitted to having produced 3.9 tons of VX by 1995. Clinton-administration Defense Secretary William Cohen once described the lethal effect of VX by explaining, "one drop on your finger will produce death in a matter of just a few moments." These 3.9 tons that were declared were surely then destroyed, but the point is that they existed, four years after all but a few trivial leftovers were said to have been done away with.

* The report says the Iraqis gave up on their VX program because they'd failed at "large scale production" of the agent. If 3.9 tons does not qualify as "large scale production," that ought to give us a hint about how many weapons are needed to become "militarily significant."

* When the weapons inspectors really did get to close, in 1998, Saddam's response was to get rid of the inspectors, not the weapons. It was UNSCOM's discovery of VX residue on warhead fragments that prompted Saddam Hussein to throw the inspectors out. President Clinton responded by ordering the three-day bombing raid known as "Operation Desert Fox." Media references to that campaign during the War on Terror have been scarce, despite its obvious relevance -- or rather, because of it. Clearly, reminding Americans of Iraq's recent, secret possession of deadly nerve agents would have made it harder to push the "Bush lied about WMD" storyline.

* When asked, Duelfer said he could not rule out the possibility that Saddam dismantled and moved some WMD facilities during the invasion. The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee reported to the Security Council months earlier that this is just what happened, and even the New York Times has recently reported it. Will liberals now charge that Bush let Saddam sneak nonexistent weapons out of the country under his nose? And how many noodle-necked conservatives will readily concede that point?

* Keep in mind that the "Desert Fox" was Gen. Erwin Rommel. Only during the Clinton administration could we have had a military operation named after one of our enemies. If Clinton had still been president during the War on Terror, we'd probably by now have conducted Operation Kaiser, Operation Mao, and Operation Pineappleface.

* The U.S. Mint must be producing new designs for coins and dollar bills in order to justify keeping so many people on the federal payroll. What else could possibly be the impetus for redesigning the nickel? The new, close-up portrait of Jefferson looks as if it was captured with the zoom lens from the opening credits of Hawaii Five-O. Instead of "In God We Trust," one expects the coin to read, "Kam Fong as Thomas Jefferson."

* Of all the excuses that were given for killing Terri Schiavo, perhaps the worst was the excuse that she "will never recover." Suffering an injury from which one will never recover is not the same as being terminal. It can accurately be said of anybody with a permanent disability that he "will never recover." Old age inflicts all sorts of maladies from which people "will never recover." If that becomes an acceptable justification for killing people, then it can't be long before Logan's Run becomes a reality.

* Another especially bad excuse was that Michael Schiavo, being Terri's legal guardian, had the right to make the life or death decision. The word "guard" is not in "guardian" by coincidence. If someone is placed in your custody, you have a duty to protect that person, not to deliberately inflict harm. Parents who neglect to feed their children can lose custody, and even go to prison, for the very reason that they were failing to fulfill their role as guardians. In the Schiavo case, the courts allowed Michael to act not as Terri's guardian, but as her owner.

* If feminists really celebrated "strong women," they would gladly accept one of President Bush's female judicial nominees in exchange for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who reinforces negative stereotypes of women by being the most indecisive member of the Supreme Court. By actually seeming to delight in being the flighty, unpredictable swing vote, she has made herself into the Gracie Allen of the federal judiciary. Judges Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown have taken criticism for being strident in their rhetoric and judicial philosophies, but you have to be able to make up your mind in order to be strident.

* One of the rules of being a feminist is that you must forego every opportunity to have a legitimate point about anything. First, the major feminist organizations circled the wagons to protect Bill Clinton from responsibility for his serial sexual abuse of his female subordinates. Then, they reacted with indifference to the liberation of the women of Afghanistan. Now, they've looked on in silence as a man claimed a legal right to kill the wife he no longer wanted. Mind you, they've got far more important things to concern themselves with. For instance, somewhere in the world, there are probably some men enjoying a nice round of golf.

* The worst idea of the year might be changing the SAT to include essay questions. Once a test includes a section that is scored subjectively, it is no longer standardized. Moreover, it provides an obvious opportunity for liberal meddling. Not only will the scorers' prejudices become an issue, but students are bound to be stuck answering questions based on left-wing presumptions. It's only a matter of time before we start seeing questions like this: "Do you think it's a good idea to have a huge tax giveaway for the super-rich, who already have more than their fair share, while working families are forced to choose between food and medicine? Why or why not?" Another avenue of chicanery could be to ask questions that would prompt students to reveal personal information about themselves, so that the scorers could artificially pad some essays' scores in order to counteract perceived "cultural biases" in the math and vocabulary sections.

* It makes no sense for President Bush to criticize the people involved in the Minuteman Project as "vigilantes," when he has otherwise encouraged citizens to be vigilant against suspicious activities. If entering the country illegally is not suspicious, then what is? The Minutemen are not meting out justice on their own. They are simply watching, and reporting transgressors to the government. That's exactly what Bush said he wanted people to do, when he unveiled his ill-fated TIPS program.

* Nobody pronounces the "o" in "opossum," yet people persist in spelling it that way, despite the fact that the shortened spelling, "possum," is also accepted. It looks incorrect to write, "a opossum," but it can't be right to use the article "an" either, because then people will pronounce it, "an possum." Whoever first took it upon himself to name the poor critter must have been smoking a opium.

* The first few installments of The History Channel's Presidents are generally well done, but the series predictably turns into liberal revisionist blather once it gets around to the modern-era Presidents.

Kennedy, the narrator tells us, won the people's trust by taking responsibility for the Bay of Pigs. (His popularizing the phrase "plausible deniability" goes conveniently unmentioned.) Lyndon Johnson -- perhaps the most ambitious and devious man to hold the office in the last half-century -- is depicted as being selflessly and single-mindedly driven to help the poor and downtrodden. Admittedly, it's hard to argue that The History Channel is unfair to Nixon, who truly was as paranoid and duplicitous as he's portrayed, and then the program actually praises Gerald Ford, mostly for not being Nixon. But the Carter administration is when the spin machine really starts to overheat.

The Camp David Accords, being undoubtedly the highlight of Carter's presidency, dominate the segment. No mention at all is made, on the other hand, of his failed Cold War policies. In fact, there's no hint that the Soviet Union even existed at the time. The narrator helpfully explains that the economic downturn of the Carter years had really originated under Nixon. (Okay, so it was a little unfair to the Trixter.)

The segment on Ronald Reagan is only in its introduction by the time a reference is made to Nancy's astrologer. The piece blames high deficits on Reagan's tax cuts, without bothering to explain how that could be true when tax revenues were skyrocketing. SDI is derided as a childlike fantasy, which the Soviets comically believed, thus saving the free world by dumb luck. Finally, it turns out that Reagan had no more to do with winning the Cold War than his predecessors did, at least according to the only three people whose opinions are given on camera.

George H.W. Bush is praised for breaking his "read my lips" pledge, and agreeing to large tax increases, which we're assured were made necessary by Reagan's tax cuts. Bush's decision to end the Gulf War rather than press on to Baghdad is presented as the correct one -- which it arguably was -- but the explanation given is that he'd averted the quagmire his son has now gotten us into.

The show's presentation of the Clinton administration is that it went swimmingly until his impeachment, which we are assured was entirely without merit. Not only that, but it distracted the country, at a time when Clinton would otherwise have presumably been protecting us from terrorism. So you see, the impeachment was really responsible for the 9-11 attacks.

Strangely, The History Channel found time in its brief segment on George W. Bush to mention that he'd been a cheerleader in high school. While that's embarrassingly true, and it's fair game for ridicule in the proper context, there really isn't any place for it in a ten-minute documentary. Furthermore, it's doubtful that Dubya ever actually shook a pair of pom-poms, like the ones that appear on screen during the narration. It's fair to say that any pretense of objectivity had been abandoned by that point.

Surprisingly, George Soros' name appears nowhere in the credits.

* Never trust a man who voluntarily wears a bow tie. When you see somebody wearing one, there are only two possible reasons: because someone is making him, or because he's trying to be what he's not.

* Tucker Carlson made solid conservative arguments when he used to write for the Weekly Standard, and most likely was not wearing a bow tie while sitting at his computer. But the more he puts on the bow tie to go on TV, the more he "grows" toward the center.

* Other suspicious bow tie wearers include Louis Farrakhan, the late Illinois senator Paul Simon, and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Come to think of it, Goober was probably right to blackball that shifty Howard Sprague character, too.

* Reading one of Justice Stevens' opinions is like listening to a Procol Harum album. It's sleep inducing, the words don't mean anything, and you know most college professors think it's wonderful.

* Not only are the sports media at least as liberal as the rest of the news media, but they're also at least as irresponsible. Neither the National Hockey League nor the NHL Players' Association had announced that the season would be "uncanceled," yet both ESPN and The Sporting News reported that it was a done deal. After all, anonymous sources don't lie. When the story proved not to be true, the same reporters who'd gotten it wrong in the first place erroneously blamed the league and the union for falsely getting fans' hopes up.

* When the NHL returns, it will have instituted new rules intended to make the game more exciting. The recent dearth in scoring should have already prompted the elimination of the defensive zone handpass, but I haven't seen any indication that it's even under consideration. However, the league is thinking about improving the game by awarding penalty shots when no penalties have been called, making it illegal for a goalie to play the puck behind his own net, and painting the blue lines orange. Somehow, that doesn't inspire confidence that next season will get off the ground on time.

* Every year, the NHL announces that it will clamp down on obstruction penalties that prevent scoring opportunities, and every year it works -- for about three weeks. By the playoff stretch, you can always count on the refs pocketing their whistles midway through the third period. The NCAA, on the other hand, took the problem seriously this year. As a result, the penalties were called consistently throughout the college hockey season. A penalty was a penalty, regardless of how many had already been called in the game, whether the offending team was already shorthanded, or how much time was left on the clock. It doesn't seem to have been a difficult thing to do, but the pros have been failing at it for decades now.

* Since there's nothing in the law that gives a legislative minority a right to filibuster, the Democrats are arguing instead that the filibuster is a "tradition" that must be preserved. This from the party of "evolving standards?" As far as they're concerned, tradition went out with the Second Amendment and heterosexual monogamy.

* A filibuster is a manipulation of procedural rules designed to provide for an open debate. It was not deliberately created for the purpose of stalling legislation. Once the senators in the minority have ceased debating an issue, there's not a justification in the world for their being allowed to prevent a vote.

* The Republicans are observing a Senate tradition of their own, which is that they traditionally turn into spaghetti-spined milksops as soon as they're criticized in the papers.

* Guessing who the presidential nominees will be three and a half years from the next election is completely pointless. Remember how many pundits were saying that Gray Davis would win the 2004 Democrat nomination, and that he'd probably win in November? I didn't hear anyone respond, "No, he won't. In fact, he's going to be recalled as governor, and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger." If Bill Schneider made predictions like that, people might start watching CNN again.



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