Dog Days

     August is here for sure, with temperatures over 100 in 
our nation's capital leaving us limp and stupid, asking 
ourselves whether Al Gore is right about global warming 
after all. Haunting question! Gore has long advocated 
"reinventing government," which seems to mean making it 
far bigger and more intrusive than ever in order to save 
the planet from the human race, the internal combustion 
engine, and every remaining trace of unregulated liberty.

     I'm too weak and exhausted to argue. He's worn me 
down. The combination of this weather and his dogged 
propaganda has taken all the fight out of me. Why does it 
only seem to invigorate him and other prophets of doom?

     The latest war in the Mideast has taken all the fun 
out of a summer that wasn't too much fun to begin with. 
Condoleezza Rice has made a short and pointless trip to 
the region, hoping to stop the violence but not the 
Israeli attacks on Lebanon. Just what did she and her 
boss have in mind?

     Congress joined the administration in blessing the 
Israeli action and sending a new shipment of the latest 
American weapons to help the cause. The rest of the 
world, already anti-American and anti-Israel, withheld 
its applause at U.S. peacekeeping efforts after an 
Israeli strike killed dozens of Lebanese, mostly 
children. Yet nothing seemed to deter Hezbollah from 
continuing its own assaults, and it has been holding its 
own against the mighty Israeli army while winning more 
support from even Christian Lebanese. All sides are 
ignoring the Pope's pleas for peace.

     Meanwhile, Democrats in this country are preparing 
to recapture Congress this fall. Curiously, the first 
political casualty may well be a Democrat, Connecticut's 
Joe Lieberman, who has enraged the party's rank-and-file 
voters by supporting the Iraq war, which even Republicans 
have lost their stomach for.

     If he loses to his anti-war opponent, Ned Lamont, in 
the imminent primary, he promises to run as an 
independent, but the war will have become a "wedge issue" 
dividing the parties and, given President Bush's 
unpopularity, which extends to the rest of the GOP, 
probably signaling a congressional realignment in 

     The Republicans are having their own problems with 
their base. Pollsters keep finding that the Republicans' 
morale is as low as the Democrats' is high. Voters of 
both parties are angry at their leaders, but especially 
at Bush, which means that turnout will be crucial in 
November, with Democrats much more likely to bother 
voting. Republican strategists and tacticians have their 
work cut out for them.

     Karl Rove's plan to win by accusing Democrats of 
wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq no longer looks like the 
way to rouse voters. On the contrary, the whole country 
is sick of the war and worried about the spread of the 
terrorism it was supposed to vanquish. The Republicans 
are paying for their embrace of neoconservatism and their 
abandonment of the older conservatism of Ronald Reagan 
and Barry Goldwater.

     After six years of Bush, the federal government is 
bigger than ever. And more futile.

After Fidel

     In nearly half a century, during which he has 
outlasted nine American presidents and the Soviet Union, 
Fidel Castro seems to have found the elusive secret of 
stable government: murderous tyranny. It also helps if 
your country is an island, from which escape is difficult 
and which foreign influence can hardly penetrate.

     Miami's Cuban exiles exulted in the news that ill 
health has forced the old dictator, going on 80, to 
surrender power to his kid brother Raul, 75, at least for 
the time being. Is the end finally near?

     Unfortunately, Raul is no sweeter than Fidel. He's a 
ruthless Communist who earned his status not by mere 
kinship but through desert, "by merit raised to that bad 
eminence." He supervised the bloody executions in the 
early days of the Revolution, and time hasn't mellowed 

     If Fidel dies, he will leave a worthy successor, 
ready to do whatever it takes to preserve Communism.

     Yet Fidel's death, whenever it comes, is bound to 
bring some pressure for change. He is the great symbol 
and embodiment of a nationalistic brand of Communism, a 
corrupt, moribund, and evil system. How long can it 
survive without him? American sanctions have probably had 
the reverse of their intended effect, feeding the 
anti-Americanism that Communism thrives on, even as 
anti-American feeling has become global and horror of 
Communism has faded.

     The Castro brothers also have a generous new ally in 
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who subsidizes them with oil 

     ABC NEWS reports an odd twist in the story: Many 
aging Cuban exiles are already having second thoughts 
about going home. Even if the hated regime perishes, it 
seems, they could lose the Medicare payments they enjoy 
in this country! Cuban Communism may be bad, but American 
socialism, it seems, is indispensable.

Foxman's Revenge

     How could Mel Gibson have made Abe Foxman any 
happier? After being accused of anti-Semitism by Foxman 
(and countless others) for filming the Gospel account of 
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, Gibson got himself arrested 
for drunk driving (at twice the speed limit) and treated 
the polite cop (Jewish, as it happens) to an obscene rant 
about how "the [expletive deleted] Jews" are "responsible 
for all the wars in the world," et cetera.

     After sobering up, Gibson was contrite about his 
"despicable" outburst, but by then Foxman (and countless 
others) had already weighed in with entirely predictable 
claims that the incident merely proved -- in vino 
veritas, you know -- that Gibson was the bigot they'd 
always said he was. His attempts at reconciliation were 
flatly rejected.

     Under the circumstances, his mortified admirers 
could hardly deny the charge. It was incredible; by which 
I mean, alas, all too credible. You could hardly blame 
his worst enemies for making the most of their 

     I could think of neither an excuse nor an 
explanation, but a wise priest of my acquaintance, 
speaking with some personal knowledge and insight, 
suggests that Gibson is in a very fragile spiritual 
condition and needs our prayers. His behavior is so 
self-destructive that we may suspect that he has been 
singled out for special diabolical attention. After all, 
he has produced the only explicitly anti-diabolical film 
in recent memory.

                 +          +          +                  

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