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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

You Say You Want a Revolution?

(Reprinted from the issue of July 6, 2006)

Capitol Bldg, Washington Watch logo for You Say You Want a Revolution?Back in December, The New York Times disclosed the Bush administration’s domestic eavesdropping program, and now it has raised official hackles again by reporting on another secret program to monitor the financial transactions of alleged terror suspects. Several other major papers reported the story too, but President Bush singled out the Times for rebuke, calling its revelation “disgraceful.” Leaking the program, he said, “does great harm to the United States of America.” Well, at least it caused great embarrassment to the White House.

Other Republicans, including Vice President Dick Cheney (who also used the word “disgrace”), joined the attack. Several congressmen said the paper had compromised national security and even called for its prosecution. Pro-war talk radio rang with charges of “treason.” This was no time for understatement.

Clearly this administration takes a broad view of its own wartime powers, and thanks to the press we have some idea of how very broad that view is. This is one area where alleged conservatives favor limitless aggrandizement of government — secretly, if possible — and only liberals are putting up resistance to it. Bush and his crew demand of the public an implicit trust they have done nothing to deserve.

Not since Franklin Roosevelt has an administration been so contemptuous of legal and constitutional restraints. Not since Lincoln, perhaps, has a president been so openly hostile to the free press. War, secrecy, and deceit are natural partners.

Not that this financial surveillance was likely to yield important information about terrorists. It sounds like one more desperate bureaucratic fishing expedition, collecting mountains of superfluous information without disrupting enemy operations. Bush appeared annoyed that he can’t even keep such doings out of the papers.

Meanwhile, Congress has overwhelmingly rejected a resolution calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Many Democrats joined the Republican majority, fearing the taunt that they want to “cut and run.” Well, cutting your losses is sometimes the wise course; it’s what Ronald Reagan did in Lebanon in 1983, thereby averting an interminable and probably unwinnable struggle.

Reagan knew better than to bet his presidency on a war with suicide-bombing fanatics in the Middle East. But that is exactly the wild gamble Bush has taken, and he can’t afford to admit the defeat that is now all too clear. Lashing out at his critics, as if they were causing that defeat, is about the only option left to him. His support may be dwindling, but blaming the media is still a surefire way of rallying the diehards, who believe that America is invincible and can be robbed of victory only by betrayal on the home front.

American hubris shows up in various ways. Reagan preferred to stress America’s exemplary power, the “shining city on a hill,” a model for imitation. The elder George Bush proclaimed a “new world order,” implying American dominance; imagine Belgium or Canada making such an announcement!

But the younger Bush went much further, decreeing a “global democratic revolution” that would transform the entire planet. Even he now seems to realize that this is an overweening ambition, and he no longer repeats it. He has enough difficulty sustaining optimism about democracy in Iraq, a much more modest (but still elusive) goal. He can’t conceal his frustration anymore.

Oil Glut?

My heart leaped up recently when 60 Minutes reported on the discovery of huge oil reserves in Northern Canada — greater than those of Saudi Arabia! It’s estimated that these could meet America’s energy needs for the next century.

Could it be? An end to our dependence on Middle Eastern oil? Could this make it easier for the United States to avoid war in the region at last? I’d love to think so.

Then a darker thought struck me. One deterrent to war on Iran has been the fear of what it might do to world oil prices. Read Joe Sobran's columns the day he writes them!An attack might have severe economic consequences for this country.

But if we can get enough oil from Canada, that deterrent will be removed. So the Canadian bonanza could give our hawks a free hand to make trouble — excuse me, to spread the blessings of liberty — abroad.

The Middle Way

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, acknowledges that the worldwide Anglican communion may be headed for schism. The dividing issue, of course, is homosexuality, favored, in clear defiance of Scripture, tradition, and comity, by the church’s radical wing, especially in this country, where one open sodomite, having left his family, has been elevated to a bishopric.

Meanwhile, an American she-bishop, newly elected to a national leadership post, refers to Jesus as “our mother.” A transsexual Savior? With the Episcopalians, it’s sometimes hard to tell a doctrine from a punch line.

One can only pity those Anglicans (and Episcopalians) who remain serious about Christianity. They are being crowded out of their church by fanatics. That church once prided itself on being the via media between Catholicism and Protestantism, C.S. Lewis’s “mere Christianity.” Today it has become a hotbed of freakish extremes as repugnant to most Protestants as to Catholics.

A Century of Funny Money

According to one biography, Babe Ruth, arriving at superstardom, settled a contract dispute for $27,000. Here’s the kicker: that lofty sum was spread over three years! Today the batboy makes more than that, and shortstops are millionaires.

What it means is not that today’s players are overpaid; it means that today’s dollar is worth roughly a 1913 nickel, that being the year when the Federal Reserve System was established for the purpose of stabilizing the currency. Instead, it has acted as a virtual counterfeiting ring.

Am I the only one who takes this personally? Considering all the things Americans get indignant about — the flag-burning epidemic, Britney Spears’s parenting — you’d think they’d be riled about the constant debasement of their money.

But no, this is one more case of a crime that is overlooked because it’s government-authorized. How many evils the modern state inures us to! I often think its most deplorable achievement is the destruction of the moral sense.

A Plea

Good friends, please pray for me. I’ve just learned that my eyesight is in danger.

”Nothing is so unpredictable as the past.” — SOBRANS. 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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