The Long Race

     In keeping with modern journalistic tradition, the 
media gave much heavier coverage to the recent antiwar 
rally here than to the annual March for Life. Guess which 
one featured more celebrities. Jane Fonda was back for 
the first time in ages, that is, for the first time since 
the Vietnam War. Dear old Jane, pushing 70 -- didn't she 
win an Academy Award once? Now she only reminds us how 
old we're getting. The things we used to be passionate 

     The absence of the military draft no doubt accounts 
for the relative smallness of today's antiwar movement, 
even though today's antiwar sentiment seems more 
widespread and mainstream than the last time, when it was 
much more leftist in tone. With Communism in eclipse, 
even conservatives are aboard now.

     But the Republicans don't know what to do, except to 
"stay the course" without actually using the phrase; 
maybe they could try to pacify Baghdad with enterprise 
zones. Every day the mayhem gets worse. The place may be 
in ruins, economically and otherwise, but the Iraqis can 
still afford such luxury items as explosives. Iran is 
said to be "meddling in Iraq." The United States can 
invade Panama because it's "in our backyard," or Iraq 
because it threatens "our vital interests," but Iran must 
ignore its next-door neighbor or it's a "rogue nation."

     It's all complicated by the never-ending 
presidential campaign, with Hillary Clinton still trying 
to position herself prudently. If she is elected, will 
the Marine Band be playing "Hail to the Squaw"?

     Meanwhile, John Edwards, denouncing the Iraq War at 
home, has gone to Israel to suggest nuking Iran. Of all 
the many candidates in the race, Edwards is undoubtedly 
the most slippery and least trustworthy, though his 
character has escaped the scrutiny it deserves. So help 
me, I'd rather see Hillary in the White House. (It wasn't 
easy to type those words. But I mean them.)

     The endless campaign was very briefly interrupted by 
Joe Biden's latest campaign, which did end -- the same 
day he announced it. He got off on the wrong foot, which 
he put in its usual place: his mouth.

     Trying to be nice, he remarked that Barack Obama was 
not only black, but also "articulate" and "clean." This 
brought angry responses, so Biden had to swallow what 
little dignity he still has and do another grovel. His 
presidential prospects appear dim. I thought it was a 
little unfair: Obama is much more well-spoken than, say, 
Jesse Jackson, and by "clean" I think Biden was referring 
not to personal hygiene, but to the fact that Obama 
doesn't keep money in his freezer. Regardless, Biden 
won't be having his finger on the nuclear trigger now. 
Our loss.

     Rudy Giuliani, officially a candidate at last, now 
seems to be the Republican front-runner, passing John 
McCain in the latest polls, and, seeing the hawkish 
McCain slipping, he's trying to say as little as possible 
about the war. Winning the GOP nomination is going to 
take some fancy footwork as well as a lot of money. 
Giuliani's appeal eludes me; he's a hawkish liberal, or 
maybe an ambiguous neocon, whom I expect to be eliminated 
when Republicans start asking themselves why they should 
vote for a crass New Yorker who is both pro-war and 

     Giuliani and McCain both rode the 9/11 panic for a 
while, but the threat of terrorism already seems nearly 
as passe as the threat of Communism that shaped American 
politics for a full generation. George W. Bush has 
drained it of its political potency, leaving all the 
candidates somewhat off balance; what seemed winning 
positions only two years ago are liabilities now. The day 
of the hawk is over. Obama has supplanted Osama on the 
covers of magazines.

     Only two years ago Fred Barnes of THE WEEKLY 
STANDARD could visit Iraq and call the American invasion 
"the greatest act of benevolence one nation has ever done 
for another." How times have changed. Fred, one of Bush's 
most enthusiastic encomiasts, has had to change his tune. 
He also credited Bush with "redefining" American 
conservatism -- for the better. How would you like that 
crow, Fred -- fried or roasted?

     Does it really matter who the president is anymore? 
The office and the entire executive branch are so 
overblown that it may only matter for the worse. After 
Bush, we should be especially wary of messianic leaders, 
including "big government conservatives."

     Contrary to everything we hear, a weak president, 
opposed by Congress, unable to "get things done," may be 
the best we can hope for. Let's pray that the next one 
will know how to use the veto. And will have occasion to 
use it often.

Thanks, Coach

     My hero this week -- and I think I speak for many -- 
is Tony Dungy, coach of the Super Bowl champion 
Indianapolis Colts. For weeks the media had been hyping 
the "historic" fact that both coaches in the game (the 
other being Dungy's old friend Lovie Smith, coach of the 
Chicago Bears) were black.

     Personally, I found this trivial. Does it matter 
that both quarterbacks were white? I'd be more impressed 
if both coaches in the Stanley Cup finals were black, but 
I don't expect to see that soon.

     After his victory, Dungy commented that that was 
nice, all right, but what mattered more was that both 
coaches were Christians. This may not be what the media 
call a historic first, but it showed that Dungy had a 
proper sense of proportion.

     A generation ago, when Don Shula coached the great 
Miami Dolphins to a perfect season, culminating in a 
triumph in the Super Bowl, I read a long profile of him, 
of which only one detail stuck in my memory: Shula was a 
daily communicant.

     When I met him at a big Catholic banquet in New York 
many years later, I told the audience how that had 
impressed me at a time when I'd drifted away from the 
Church, and I turned to him and said, "Thanks, coach."

     Football is a brutal sport, but sometimes the Lord 
works through the NFL.

The Wrong Stuff

     Now that the lid has been ripped off the sordid 
reality of the space program, maybe we can stop blaming 
President Bush for everything that goes wrong.

     This was a weird country long before he took charge.

                 +          +          +                  

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