Bigot-Baiting Bombs

     Samuel Alito survived his confirmation hearings with 
a poised performance that was assisted, in the end, by 
Democrat excesses. Led by the ineffable Ted Kennedy, the 
Dems tried to tar Alito as a bigot for having belonged to 
the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a conservative group 
whose office my son used to work in, opposed to 
coeducation and affirmative action -- positions which are 
now apparently thought-crimes.

     At one point Alito's wife broke down in tears and 
had to leave the hearing room. What actually provoked 
this was not Kennedy's aggressive insinuations, but 
Republican Lindsay Graham's quietly indignant rebuke to 
them; she had braced herself for the smears, but she was 
unprepared for an outburst of decency in that setting, 
and her pent-up emotions got the best of her. Suddenly 
the Democrats looked small, cheap, and mean. The Party of 
Compassion was up to its old tricks, and they had 

     As Kennedy railed against the "reprehensible" 
Princeton group, it came to light that he himself had for 
half a century been a member of Harvard's all-male (and 
therefore reprehensible) Owl Club. Oops! This is the 
progressive champion who charged that Alito's affiliation 
"calls into question his appreciation for the need for 
full equality."

     Bob Bork must have been roaring with laughter as 
Kennedy, through a spokeswoman, announced that he was 
resigning as an Owl.

     What a hoot! Kennedy, who became famous as the kid 
brother of a dynamic young president, has become a 
tiresome, bloated old man, the Jabba the Hut of liberal 
hypocrisy. Nothing seems to penetrate his arrogant 
self-assurance; he evidently doesn't realize that he has 
become a symbol of moral decadence, pompously droning on 
behalf of the hollow values of an era that is past.

     As the Last Kennedy, he occupies a position of 
quasi-royalty in his party, and the Democrats have nobody 
big enough to tell him it's time to retire and stop 
embarrassing them. Since he is most unlikely to grasp 
this through introspection and self-examination, they are 
stuck with him until nature pulls the plug.

     Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton made a similar blunder in 
a black church while observing Martin Luther King's 
birthday, when she charged that the Republican-dominated 
House of Representatives is run "like a plantation." 
Again, the old trick of insinuating bigotry ("and you 
know what I mean") no longer worked as of yore; the chief 
public reaction was revulsion.

     She also hurt her presidential ambitions with her 
stridency, which undercut her recent attempts to sound 
moderate; her screeching voice is not an asset. I never 
cease marveling that so many American women spend 
billions on their looks, hair, and wardrobes, but never 
give a thought to how their raucous voices offend the 
ear. A melodious voice can be more charming than dazzling 
beauty, and it doesn't cost a dime; but this secret seems 
to be known to few women outside the South, and Hillary 
failed to pick it up in Arkansas.

     All of which goes to illustrate that the Democrats 
don't know how to capitalize on their opponents' 
weaknesses. As the Republicans lose popularity, the 
Democrats go around, as somebody has nicely put it, 
whipping up apathy.

     They have absolutely nothing fresh to say; they 
merely play on ancient resentments, on prejudices as 
stale as those they impute to others. When they don't 
know what else to do, they accuse the Republicans of 

The Impeachment Remedy

     A Zogby poll finds that 52% of the public thinks 
President Bush should be impeached if he authorized 
illegal wiretaps of Americans. I can't argue with them; 
but I think Americans would actually demand impeachment 
far more often if they understood their Constitution.

     In THE FEDERALIST, Alexander Hamilton explains that 
impeachment is a way of removing a president without the 
violence incident to the deposing of a British monarch -- 
a point underlined shortly after he wrote when the French 
beheaded their king and queen. A king was an almost 
sacred figure, above the people, whereas a president 
would be a mere temporary officer selected by the people 
themselves. Removing him would be more like dismissing an 
errant servant than a regicide, rebellion, or revolution.

     So a presidential impeachment is not, as commonly 
said, a "constitutional crisis." On the contrary, it's 
the constitutional remedy for the abuse of power. And it 
shouldn't be reserved for crises; it should haunt every 
president in the same way that the chance of getting 
fired should haunt a bank teller who is tempted to 
embezzle funds.

     It happens far too seldom. Since at least the days 
of Lincoln, American presidents have been allowed to 
usurp power with impunity. So have judges and 
legislators. We have neglected an essential tool of 

Lincoln and the Press

     Speaking of Lincoln, a stunning new book recounts 
his war against freedom of the press -- in the North. 
LINCOLN'S WRATH (Sourcebooks), by Jeffrey Manber and 
Neil Dahlstrom, deals with the most neglected aspect of 
the Civil War, the battle for public opinion and 
Lincoln's largely hidden, but very active, role in it.

     The modern media were still in their infancy, with 
such new inventions as photography and the telegraph 
transforming the traditional newspaper. New York City 
alone had 174 newspapers (only a few of which were 
dailies). Nearly all of them were partisan; the idea of 
"objective" and unbiased reporting was practically 
unknown. With so much competition, their survival often 
depended on political and government patronage, as well 
as access to the mails.

     "In this country," Lincoln observed, "public 
sentiment is everything." For him that meant that it had 
to be controlled, by any means necessary.

     Lincoln and the Republicans looked on the Democratic 
press as little better than treasonous. And in their 
minds, any reservation about the war -- even the mere 
suggestion that the "rebels" might have a point -- was 
treason. Lincoln set out to crush the opposition press, 
not only using arbitrary arrests and dubious legal powers 
given him by the Republican Congress, but tacitly 
encouraging mobs to invade newspaper offices, smash 
printing presses, and visit violence on publishers.

     He never expressed regret for these outrages and 
never prosecuted them.  (At the same time, he extended 
secret favors to "loyal" newspapers.)

     Lincoln's many speeches extolling freedom, in 
striking contrast to Jefferson's, never mention freedom 
of speech or an independent press. Strange and even 
paradoxical as it may sound to those beguiled by the 
"Honest Abe" myth, freedom survived in spite of Lincoln, 
not because of him.

                 +          +          +                  

     SOBRAN'S looks at Lincoln as courtroom lawyer, young 
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                                        --- Joseph Sobran


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