A Letter from Tehran

     Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has addressed 
an 18-page letter to President Bush, invoking Christ and 
the prophets of the Old Testament in an appeal for peace, 
combined with sharp criticism of U.S. foreign policy and 
liberal democracy. The American press gave it scant 
coverage, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the 
mushroom cloud lady, dismissed it brusquely for offering 
no concrete proposals of the kind the Bush administration 

     But Ahmadinejad's message was obviously aimed at a 
wider audience -- the whole world, really, and especially 
young Muslims. He will be seen as the leader who wants to 
avoid war, while the Bush team will appear as the 
aggressors who rejected his olive branch out of hand. And 
he will be seen as the one appealing to the Christian 
principles of peace and justice that Bush should be 
guided by, thereby putting Americans in the role of 
"Crusaders," infamous in the Islamic world.

     With his talk of "Islamofascism," Bush may think 
he's fighting World War II all over again, but Islam has 
a longer memory and still sees itself as resisting the 
assaults of the Middle Ages. Osama bin Laden never fails 
to identify America and its Western allies, including the 
state of Israel, as "Crusaders and Jews," terms with 
galvanizing power in the Mideast. And Bush seldom fails 
to validate his words in the eyes of his audience.

     Ahmadinejad, ridiculed as a "flake" and damned as a 
"lunatic" in the neoconservative press, actually appears 
pretty shrewd. Whether Bush hailed or rebuffed this 
appeal, it was bound to make it more awkward for him to 
widen his war to Iran. It also upsets Bush's dramaturgy, 
making it harder for him to cast Ahmadinejad as the 
latest New Hitler bent on world conquest.

     As noted here last week, even some supporters of 
Israel are having qualms about a U.S. attack on Iran. Now 
the usually rabid Alan Dershowitz, writing in the London 
SPECTATOR, has warned against it. The Iraq war is not an 
encouraging precedent. One such "cakewalk" is enough.

The Big Idea

     With Bush's approval ratings barely gurgling above 
30%, Republicans are starting to panic over this year's 
elections. In recent days, E.J. Dionne Jr. and Harold 
Meyerson of THE WASHINGTON POST, both liberals, have 
already commenced licking their chops at the prospect of 
big Democratic gains in Congress in November.

     Dionne points to "the failure of conservative 
policies and the declining appeal of conservative 
rhetoric." This, I'm afraid, is a half-truth, but a 
deadly one. Bush has adopted almost nothing that can be 
called a conservative policy. The awful truth is that he 
has given us the biggest government in American history, 
while using -- and debasing -- that conservative 

     In this, alas, he has been abetted by conservatives 
who should have known better. The result is that 
conservatism has been politically discredited. Voters 
aren't going to split hairs over distinctions between 
"conservatism" and "neoconservatism."

     Meyerson likewise decries (gleefully) the 
Republicans' "bankruptcy of ideas." They have run out of 
exploitable issues, he says, citing the war, a stagnant 
economy, immigration, taxes, energy, and so on. By 
contrast, he cites a series of wonky proposals he thinks 
will carry the Democrats to victory at the polling booth, 
such as repealing part of the Medicare drug plan that ... 

     In truth, the Republicans do have an idea. 
Unfortunately, it's basically the same idea the Democrats 
always have: more government. The dreary tyranny of 
piecemeal socialism in which there is no such thing as 
enough. Neither party has any sense of the normal, of a 
point at which government has done all it can for 

     If such a point exists, surely we passed it long 
ago. Long, long ago. Today the very idea of limited 
government is passe. The state now performs an enormous 
miscellany of functions, and is always looking eagerly 
for yet more things to do.

     Hardly anyone in politics now dares to suggest that 
there can be too much government, and that "reform" 
should mean repealing superfluous laws and programs and 
cutting it down to its essential functions. And perish 
the thought that the federal government should be reduced 
to its constitutional dimensions!

     Liberalism lacks even the concept of an optimum 
amount of government, beyond which it must not go; and 
this is where conservatism used to come in, insisting 
that enough was enough. The very idea of "enough" was 
alien to liberals, who ascribed it to a lack of 
compassion and/or imagination.

     Nowadays that idea is barely kept alive by a few 
libertarians and, I'm afraid, even fewer conservatives. 
The legacy of the Bush Republicans may be to have finally 
finished it off in American politics.

The Celebrity Glut

     First I noticed the news that Jessica was finally 
pregnant. Then, only weeks later, she and Nick had split 
up! Now I see that Nick is still carrying a torch for 
Jessica, and the big question is whether she's going to 
return his ring.

     Who are these people, anyway? Don't ask me! Everyone 
but me seems to be on a first-name basis with them, and I 
hesitate to ask their surnames. I know of them only from 
seeing the tabloids and magazines every week at Giant or 

     I do know that Tom and Katie are Tom Cruise and 
Katie Holmes, who have just had a baby and may even get 
married, but please don't press me for more information. 
(I forget whom Tom used to be married to. Somebody 
famous, I think. Was it Nicole? Not O.J.'s Nicole, 
another one.)

     Such is the celebrity culture I dwell on the dim 
fringes of. Nobody can quite escape it. Feeding public 
curiosity about the fleetingly famous is an enormously 
lucrative business, with television now supplementing the 
cheap press in its coverage.

     Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is 
vanity. I go back to the days of Liz and Dick, Jackie and 
Ari, and an older generation of celebs, back before half 
of them were named Britney. I see that that generation is 
all but gone, with a recent article reporting that Liz is 
soon to succumb to heart trouble. After eight husbands! 
Seven, actually; she married Dick twice.

     Why, I can remember when she and he were so 
scandalous -- this was around 1962 -- that L'OSSERVATORE 
ROMANO felt it necessary to denounce their behavior. 
Today's stars are so abandoned that nobody bothers 
complaining about their conduct. Has it come to this?

     I feel old.

                 +          +          +                  

     If you have not yet seen SOBRAN'S, my monthly 
newsletter, 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,

     Already a subscriber? Consider a gift subscription 
for a priest, friend, or relative.
                                        --- Joseph Sobran


Read this column on-line at 

This column copyright (c) 2006 by THE WANDERER, the
National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867, Reprinted with permission.

This column may not be published in print or Internet 
publications without express permission of THE WANDERER. 
You may forward it to interested individuals if you use 
this entire page, including the following disclaimer:

"THE WANDERER is available by subscription. Write for information.
Subscription price: $50 per year; $30 for six months.
Checks can be sent to The WANDERER, 201 Ohio Street, 
Dept. JS, St. Paul, MN 55107.

"SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's syndicated columns are 
available by e-mail subscription. For details and 
samples, see, write, or call 800-513-5053."

This page copyright (c) 2006 by THE VERE COMPANY.