Today’s post will be a two-parter—one on events of the week, one on the changing economics of
This week looms as a turning point in recent history, I think, because four Senators—John McCain, John Warner, Lindsay Graham, and Olympia Snow—defied the president in the Senate Armed Services committee and voted down his plan for military tribunals that could sentence suspected terrorists to death based on secret evidence or evidence obtained through torture, as well as slip the bounds of the Geneva convention. Discontent among Senate Republicans has bee a great deal higher during the last six years than many people know, and in the late summer of 2004 I heard some one in a position to know state that several of them were actively hoping that President Bush would lose. Preserving
Two of them, to begin with, are from the older generation. Not the “greatest generation” who actually fought the Second World War—the youngest of them is now 82, and they are almost gone from our public life—but the Silent generation that remembers V-J day from their childhood (McCain and Powell) or made it into the military in the very last stages of the war and usually missed combat (Warner, I believe). They remember the
It also seems significant that all of them except Snow have a military background. Graham was a military lawyer. Few professions have taken more public heat over the last 40 years than the military and the law, but they are, actually, among the most important in providing the glue that holds a society together. Graham, whom I quoted last week on the nature of the trials the Administration was contemplating, knows that both the nation and the world can only run on rules most people find impartial. And it is the military veterans among us, evidently, not the George W. Bushes and Dick Cheney’s, who understand that the United States will also have prisoners taken in battle—indeed, we may even lose a war once in a while—and we must worry about what is going to happen to them, too. The Boom generation developed its contempt for rules in the late 1960s and many of us have never lost it. The House of Representatives is considerably younger than the Senate, and its Republicans, as far as I can tell, have not produced a single dissenter against what the President is trying to do. (John Murtha, the leading Democratic dissenter, is also a veteran from the Silent generation.)
The Republican defection also has implications for the coming election. Democrats can now brand the Administration as extremist, pointing out that the President’s plan to throw out much of the US Constitution does not command the support of leading figures from his own party. Joe Lieberman’s vote on these proposals will also be of interest. I repeat, by the way, that I think the Democrats have a better chance of winning the Senate than the House. The excellent website electoral-vote.com, which was never far away from my screen during the fall of 2004, shows the Senate emerging as evenly divided based on the latest polls. It also lists key house races but I have not have the time to check, once again, to see how many of them seem genuinely competitive based upon their 2004 results.
Our crisis of civic virtue will not end on
That problem will be all the more difficult because of President Bush’s rhetorical commitment to the fantastic project of transforming the Muslim world. As he restates his position again and again, several aspects of it are becoming clear. To begin with, he insists that we judge the danger posed by Islamic extremists based, frankly, upon their dreams. Such logic would have required the western world to undertake a crusade against Bolshevism in 1920 or so—the Soviets, after all, wanted world revolution—but fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. To imply that Osama Bin Laden might actually create a caliphate and eventually re-occupy the
Please excuse me for the tease; my essay on changes in our economy since 1965 will have to wait. It involves the execution of a plan I have long thought about—finding out what has become cheaper and what has become more expensive, relatively, in the last 40 years, and trying to figure out what that means. I collected a good deal of data yesterday but I still need some more, and what is above is enough for today. Let me just preview with the statement that the results show a very mixed bag, and confirm the increasing bifurcation of