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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

Hope at Last

(Reprinted from the issue of March 9, 2006)

Capitol Bldg, Washington Watch logo 
for Hope at LastBefore addressing the weighty question of whether the widowed Anna Nicole Smith is entitled to her late husband’s huge estate, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously, liberals and all, that the use of federal anti-racketeering laws against pro-life demonstrators violates the Constitution.

By invoking those laws, the National Organization for Women tried, for two decades, to shut up — and ruin — the great Joe Scheidler, maybe America’s most tireless and inventive defender of the innocent, to say nothing of his courage. When I think of the Church Militant, Joe comes to mind first. And for all that, he has a wonderful sense of fun. It doesn’t seem the least bit paradoxical when you know him. I think the saints must laugh holy laughter.

Meanwhile, South Dakota, without waiting for judicial permission, has gone ahead and passed a law against abortion, virtually daring the baby-killers to take the issue to court. Some who oppose abortion think the time is not yet ripe, with a pro-abortion majority on the Supreme Court, and they make a strong case; yet I wonder if even the liberals want to defend the miserable logic of Roe v. Wade, which even Justice Ginsburg has, to her credit, criticized.

At any rate, you have to wonder how long the gradualist strategy is going to take. After a third of a century and tens of millions of dead children, I’m inclined to say it has had its chance. The forces of evil disdained the gradualist approach in 1973.

If the Court reaffirms that monstrosity, we still have the remedy nobody thought to use in 1973: impeachment of the justices. If the gross usurpation of power doesn’t fall under the heading of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” then, pray tell, what does? Are the Republicans too busy killing Arabs to protect American children?

Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper’s, makes a powerful case in this month’s issue for impeaching President Bush. The point is not to impeach just presidents, especially those you are angry at, but to hold all public officials to their constitutional limits, regardless of partisan passions. Impeachment is essential to any sort of truly constitutional law, and it shouldn’t be reserved for special occasions; in fact, it is used far too seldom, especially against the wayward judiciary.

Why should judges feel that their jobs are absolutely safe, no matter what they do? Isn’t that a great part of what’s wrong with our government today?

Buckley Bails Out

My old boss, Bill Buckley, has just said it is time for the United States to acknowledge “defeat” in the Iraq war. This admission may seem long overdue, given so many papal statements over the last few years; but better late than never.

It may also come as a shock to those who have come to think that there is some connection between conservatism and war, the most destructive and least conservative of all human activities, one of whose chief side effects is to destroy limits on government. Read Joe Sobran's columns the day he writes them!I myself took many years to grasp this simple fact, so I’m in no position to disdain those half my age who are still learning. (Why on earth did I assume that when our Lord recommended “peace,” it didn’t apply to the U.S. government?)

Buckley’s magazine, National Review, is now in the hands of younger men; under their management, it has eagerly supported this war, so the founding father’s defection must come as a severe shock to them. They are victims of the notion that “peace” is somehow a left-wing cause, suitable for Democrats but not Republicans.

I hope they will begin to rethink this now. It can be painful, and embarrassing, to let go of a position you have passionately espoused for your whole adult life; but sometimes it’s a duty.

More and more conservatives are now realizing that Bush is no conservative in most respects, so the time has come not only for political realignment, but also for personal introspection. “What would Jesus do?” is always a good practical question, even for politicians and pundits.

Bugs Invade Canada!

It was a routine news story, but it got me thinking about what we mean by “liberal media bias,” an imprecise term that irritates journalists who think they are just delivering facts without prejudice or “hidden agendas.”

On the front page of The Washington Post, Doug Struck reported that a voracious beetle is devouring the forests of British Columbia. The bug is reproducing rapidly, Struck said, because its numbers are no longer controlled by cold weather. “Climate change” is here, and the beetle may soon cross the Rocky Mountains and do immeasurable damage.

Another boring “global warming” story? Maybe. That was my own first reaction. Whether it was true or not, I instantly felt my “bias” alarm go off. I sensed that lurking within this seemingly straightforward report was the usual Post moral: “The government must do something, pronto!” The same implicit moral has governed all the recent coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Yet the vast majority of reporters don’t think they are promoting any specific policy or political philosophy; their stories, just by being so conventional, solicit “liberal” reactions without meaning to. This is true whether they are informing us about hunger, “discrimination,” secondhand smoke, or any other source of discontent. It doesn’t matter how accurate their reportage is. The moral is always that we need more government, not less. No problem (or “crisis”) ever points up the urgent need for a reduction of government.

Here is the impasse. What some people think of as pure “news” strikes other people as selective and tendentious; in a word, “biased.” So the two sides keep talking past each other, each failing to comprehend what the other means, each using terms that only baffle and irritate the other.

Though I am trying to understand the problem, I can’t be neutral about it. I think the conservative side is usually and essentially right. But I want to understand just why accusing journalists of “liberal bias” fails to persuade people who are conscientiously trying to do their job. We have to find new and better ways to say it.

“The Constitution isn’t supposed to authorize gun control. It’s supposed to guarantee government control” —Sobran’s. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.

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Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission

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