The culture war has gone global. And the divisions are not only between, but within nations.
"Suddenly, homosexuality is against the law," wailed Jay Leno. "I mean, this seems like Germany. Let's round up the Jews. Let's round up the gays. ... I mean, it starts like that."
Leno was speaking of Vladimir Putin's Russia. Obama eagerly agreed: "I have no patience for countries that treat gays or lesbians ... in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them. ... Nobody is more offended than me by some of the antigay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing in Russia."
Leno and Obama were referring to a new Russian law prohibiting "homosexual propaganda." Moscow is also warning foreigners, including visitors to the winter Olympics in Sochi, that propagandizing for gay rights can get them two weeks in detention. No kiss-ins allowed.
"Medieval," howled The Washington Post. "Mr. Putin's war" on gays and lesbians is "part and parcel of his lapse into xenophobia, religious chauvinism and general intolerance."
Monday's New York Times has a front-page story — "Gays in Russia Find No Haven, Despite Support From the West" — featuring photos of roughed-up protesters.
Our moral and cultural elites have put Putin on notice: Get in step with us on homosexual rights — or we may just boycott your Sochi games. What this reveals is the distance America has traveled, morally and culturally, in a few short years, and our amnesia about who we Americans once were, and what it is we once believed.
Only yesterday, homosexual sodomy, which Thomas Jefferson said should be treated like rape, was outlawed in many states and same-sex marriage was regarded as an absurdity. Was that America we grew up in really like Nazi Germany?
In the Catholic schools this writer attended, pornography — let alone homosexual propaganda — would get one expelled. Was this really just like Kristallnacht?
As Father Regis Scanlon writes in Crisis Magazine, in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated Catholic doctrine that homosexuality is a "strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil," an "objective disorder." That homosexual acts are unnatural and immoral remains Catholic teaching. Thus, if we seek to build a Good Society by traditional Catholic and Christian standards, why should not homosexual propaganda be treated the same as racist or anti-Semitic propaganda?
We can no longer even agree on what is good and evil.
When Pope Francis said, "Who am I to judge?" he was saying that a sexual orientation is something over which an individual may have no control, dating to birth or infancy. Hence homosexuals ought not to be condemned, but welcomed into the community. As for homosexual propaganda and acts, that is another matter.
What, one wonders, is the view of those Evangelical Christians who sustain the Republican Party on homosexual propaganda in the public square? Do they agree with the Post? Or do they agree with Putin?
When the Socialist regime of Francois Hollande enacted a law endorsing same-sex marriage, a million Frenchmen marched in protest in Paris. Is America on Hollande's side, or the side of the protesters?
When the ultra-Orthodox haredim of Jerusalem denounce the annual gay pride parade in the Holy City, whose side is America on?
The Post weeps for the "young women of the persecuted rock band Pussy Riot," who engaged in half-naked obscene acts on the high altar of Moscow's most sacred cathedral. Had these women crayoned swastikas on the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., would the Post have been so sympathetic?
Putin suggested the ladies try the same stunt in Mecca.
In our late Mideast wars, America has fought for secularist democracy. Yet Christians have suffered horribly, with the murder of priests, the burning of churches, terrorism and wholesale flight.
According to LifeSiteNews, Putin, meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders, urged the world to come together to stop these violent persecutions. "Especially in the Middle East and North Africa ... the rights of religious minorities are infringed, especially Christians and Orthodox Christians. ... This pressing problem should be a subject of close attention for the entire international community."
Urging America and the West to join with Russia in saving Syria's Christians, Orthodox Patriarch Kirill said their expulsion from Syria would be a "catastrophe" for civilization.
Has Obama ever spoken out so forcefully for international action to save Christians? Has The New York Times ever exhibited a fraction of the concern for persecuted Christians it daily exhibits for harassed homosexuals?
What did the Post mean by "religious chauvinism"?
Putin is trying to re-establish the Orthodox Church as the moral compass of the nation it had been for 1,000 years before Russia fell captive to the atheistic and pagan ideology of Marxism. "The adoption of Christianity," declared Putin, "became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization and helped turn it into one of the largest world powers."
Anyone ever heard anything like that from the Post, the Times or Barack Hussein Obama?
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 August 2013 07:59
These days, almost every political conversation ends up with a little Hillary at the end.
Catnip. The gift we give ourselves.
It would make absolutely no sense for Hillary Clinton to decide today whether she will or will not run for president. So the only sensible stance to take is that it's not impossible or, if you prefer, it certainly is possible, which is to say they flirt and we fan it.
Even out of office, Hillary Clinton obviously has the power to bring attention to issues, propose solutions, define problems, shape the debate. And if there's a chance she might be in office again, she has more power still. You are never more popular, certainly with the press, than the day before you announce. Until the day she says for sure she isn't running, she'll be treated as if she is.
That's the easy part. The press bores easily. But us? What I find striking is just how many of us, less than a year into our president's second term, are getting stars in our eyes thinking about Hillary 2016.
Have we so quickly lost interest in 2013 — or in the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?
The president is on vacation. I don't begrudge him that. But there is something about the image of carefree days on the beach that seems so old and completely out of touch with where the country is.
Things did not turn out exactly the way we boomers expected, which is certainly a big piece of the "there's still Hillary" coda. I know all of these amazingly qualified people who are ready for the next act, who still, God willing, have decades of work and life and expenses ahead, just not in the job or place they've been in the past.
Does the president get it? One of the things that was so striking about the president's comments on the George Zimmerman verdict was how clear it was that he understood the ordeal of Trayvon Martin's family and those who support them.
And maybe a little of the backlash (which was unwarranted on any rational grounds) owed to the folks who are wondering whether he'll ever understand their lives.
But there's more to it. Barack Obama — he of the gifted voice, the soaring spirit, the 21st-century politician — sounds more and more like everybody else in Washington. You can half-close your eyes, and it's all a bunch of word soup: "the American people" yada, yada, "but our opponents" yada yada, we're on the side of "the American people," and "they're blocking progress... " If you throw in "Benghazi" and "tax breaks for the rich," you can pretty much turn the page.
Now, I'm not saying that Hillary Clinton wouldn't sound just like Obama if she were sitting where he is (I'm long past re-fighting 2008). But he's where he is — and she's more than three years from that seat — and he'll spend the rest of his life looking back at these months, particularly this critical period before the midterm elections, and wondering what more he could have done.
Obamacare is about to take center stage. Sometimes, listening to the president's attackers and defenders, I think Kool-Aid must be all that's being served in D.C. Hello! Isn't the challenge right now to make the system work as well as it can for as many people as it can? Isn't that what we should talk about: How do we do it, fix it, work it? Not whether the president was right or wrong.
The point of sending representatives to Washington is to see what they can agree on, not what they can disagree on. You can disagree on cable news. If the president can't make Washington work before the midterms, will it really be easier afterward?
A little Hillary is nice, but Obama is the president. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
(Susan Estrich is a law professor at the University of Southern California. Long active in Democratic Party politics, she managed the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis in 1988.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 11:56
What is the most intellectually dishonest profession around? My nomination: the admissions officers at highly selective colleges and universities.
Evidence in support of this comes from, of all places, a recent article in The New York Times. The writer is Ruth Starkman, and the subject is her experience as a reader of applications to the highly selective University of California, Berkeley.
"Admissions officers were careful not to mention gender, ethnicity and race during our training sessions," she notes. But when she asked one privately, "What are we doing about race?" she was told it was illegal to consider it, but that they were looking at "the 'bigger picture' of the applicant's life."
Racial discrimination in state universities was made illegal in 1996 when California voters by a 55 percent margin passed UC Regent Ward Connerly's Proposition 209. At first UC admissions officers enforced the law, as Richard Sander (a UCLA law professor) and Stuart Taylor report in their book, "Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It."
The result was that fewer blacks and Hispanics were admitted to the most selective UC schools, Berkeley and UCLA, but more were admitted to and graduated from less selective UC campuses.
But then admissions officers started to cheat. They declared that they were using "holistic" criteria, trying to gauge from students' applications the "bigger picture" of their life. In practice, this meant racial discrimination in favor of blacks and Hispanics, and against Asians and whites
Starkman's job was to read applications and rate them on a numeric scale, with 1s being the most desirable. She "was told I needed more 1s and referrals. A referral is a flag that a student's grades and scores do not make the cut but the application merits a special read because of "stressors" — socioeconomic disadvantages that admissions offices can use to increase diversity."
It's not hard to imagine what "stressors" might include. A Spanish surname. A home address or high school in a heavily black neighborhood. An essay recounting "the hardships that prevented the student from achieving better grades, test scores and honors."
So the admissions officers were tipping the scale heavily in favor of certain students — and heavily against others.
"When I asked about an Asian student who I thought was a 2 but had received only a 3, the officer noted, 'Oh, you'll get a lot of them,'" Starkman writes. "She said the same when I asked why a low-income student with top grades and scores, and who had served in the Israeli Army, was a 3."
What's extraordinary about this is that you have an organization every member of which is well aware of its main purpose — illegal racial discrimination — but in which no one will say so out loud. A willingness to lie and break the law are job requirements.
Now I am aware that there are arguments against a college just admitting the students with the highest test scores. It does probably serve some educational purpose to bring together people with different interests and different strengths.
Preferences to offspring of alumni and talented athletes may be warranted for schools that need private contributions to thrive.
But racial discrimination is unlawful and has been rightly repudiated by the American people. The corrupt silence concerning such discrimination in college and university admissions suggests that at some level these people know they are doing something for which they should be ashamed.
Unfortunately they are doing their intended beneficiaries no favors. That's proved beyond demur by Sander and Taylor's "Mismatch." Black and Hispanic students tend to drop out of schools when they find themselves less well prepared than their schoolmates. Those intending to major in science and engineering tend to back out of those fields. Many do not graduate yet are stuck with mounds of student loan debt.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a ceiling on the number of Asians in selective private schools, similar to the ceiling imposed on Jews there from the 1920s to the 1960s. Just 19 percent of students at Stanford and 16 percent in the Ivy League are Asian — numbers that have remained static for two decades despite increasing numbers of Asian applicants.
This is, in my American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray's phrase, "discrimination against hardworking, high-achieving young people because of the color of their skin." His word for it: "despicable."
(Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 07:38
On immigration, the Republican Party is trapped in two trains of thought, each speeding along the wrong track. At the tea party end, there's absolute resistance to normalizing the status of illegal immigrants. On the cheap-labor side, there's this big push to admit as many unskilled immigrants as possible.
The first view, that putting millions of illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship rewards lawbreakers, is unhelpful. It is true that they broke the law by taking jobs in the United States. It is also true that their employers broke the law in hiring them. An honest gathering of all the lawbreakers would make for an interesting roundup.
The building of this 11-million-strong population of undocumented workers had another player — the federal government. Until Barack Obama assumed office, no president took enforcing the ban on hiring illegal workers very seriously. Also making the job difficult is the loophole letting employers accept any reasonably good-looking Social Security card as proof of right to work here. Social Security cards are often stolen, and plausible ones are easy to counterfeit.
The proposed reforms would end all that. Companies would have to send the information to a central database confirming a prospective hire's right to work here. Tougher sanctions, meanwhile, would motivate employers to follow the law.
Without passage of the immigration reforms, none of this will occur. The Swiss cheese system by which undocumented workers and their employers slip through the law will remain. If you really want to end illegal immigration, the reforms offer the only reliable route. And politically they won't happen if there's no path to citizenship.
This is pretty obvious, but in many cases, animus toward Latinos trumps even self-interest. Iowa Rep. Steve King has built quite a repertory of ethnic insults, most recently referring to border crossers' calves as "the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana."
The other Republican track wants lots and lots of legal, low-skilled workers to ensure that restaurants, hotels and other service businesses need never raise their wages.
Though the hourly pay of cooks and hotel maids is actually falling, there can never be "low-enough" for the cheap-labor rump of the Republican Party.
The bill that passed the Senate provides for a new class of visas for up to 200,000 low-skilled workers. That number was reached through a delicate compromise with labor, which understandably doesn't like the idea.
But Republican Reps. Ted Poe of Texas and Raul Labrador of Idaho want more, many more, low-skilled workers. They're proposing about 400,000 visas a year. This pleases the American Hotel and Lodging Association — to an extent.
"Ideally, there should be no cap," association official Shawn McBurney told The Wall Street Journal. "It should be driven by the market."
By market, McBurney presumably means not the United States labor market, but the Western Hemispheric labor market. Hey, throw in the other hemisphere, too.
Labrador plays an interesting double game — on one hand breathing fire against the path to citizenship; on the other, opening a wide highway for imported cheap labor. Perhaps there's some consistency here: Expanding the low-skilled visa program and keeping illegal immigrants vulnerable both depress wages.
Sympathy goes to that minority of Republicans who understand what it takes to get immigration reform passed and the stakes in not succeeding. They include Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Under assault by their party's radical wings, these lawmakers deserve an extra star for bravery.
Of course, demonizing Latinos while ignoring the economic interests of all blue-collar workers is also not great politics. A Republican Party unable to change these directions is chugging into oblivion.
(Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop writes from her base at the Providence Journal.)
Last Updated on Monday, 12 August 2013 07:42
"There have been times when they slip back into Cold War thinking," said President Obama in his tutorial with Jay Leno.
And to show the Russians that such Cold War thinking is antiquated, Obama canceled his September summit with Vladimir Putin. The reason: Putin's grant of asylum to Edward Snowden, who showed up at the Moscow airport, his computers full of secrets that our National Security Agency has been thieving from every country on earth, including Russia.
Yet there are many KGB defectors in the United States, and Russia has never used this as an excuse to cancel a summit.
The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal are delighted, hopeful that cancellation presages a more confrontational policy toward Putin. But is a second Cold War really a good idea? And if it is coming, who is more responsible for it?
From 1989 to 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to let Eastern Europe go free and withdraw his troops and tank armies back to the Urals. The Soviet Union was allowed to dissolve into 15 nations. In three years, the USSR gave up an empire, a third of its territory, and half its people.
And it extended to us a hand of friendship.
How did we respond? We pushed NATO right up to Russia's borders, bringing in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, even former Soviet republics Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
European objections alone prevented us from handing out NATO war guarantees to Ukraine and Georgia. Was this a friendly act? Would we have regarded post-Cold War Russian alliances with Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Mexico as friendly acts?
To cut Moscow out of the Caspian Sea oil, we helped build a pipeline through two former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and, thence, under the Black Sea to our NATO ally Turkey.
In the Boris Yeltsin decade, the 1990s, U.S. hustlers colluded with local oligarchs in looting Russia of her natural resources.
In the past decade, the National Endowment for Democracy and its Republican and Democratic subsidiaries helped dump over governments in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia, and replace them with regimes friendlier to us and more distant from Moscow.
George W. Bush sought to put an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Neither country had requested it. We said it was aimed at Iran.
When my late friend, columnist Tony Blankley, visited Russia in the Bush II era, he was astounded at the hostility he encountered from Russians who felt we had responded to their offer of friendship at the end of the Cold War by taking advantage of them.
Putin is a former intelligence officer, a patriot, a nationalist.
How did we think he would react to U.S. encirclement of his country by NATO and U.S. meddling in his internal affairs?
How did American patriots in the Truman-McCarthy era react to the discovery that Hollywood, the U.S. government and our atom bomb project were riddled with communists loyal to Josef Stalin?
Why cannot we Americans see ourselves as others see us?
Why is Russia still supporting the brutal regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, the Post and Journal demand to know. Well, Russia has a long relationship with the Assad family, selling it arms and maintaining a naval base on Syria's coast. Did we expect Russia to behave as we did when our autocratic ally of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was challenged by crowds in Tahrir Square?
We ditched Mubarak and washed our hands of him in weeks. Russia stood by its man. And does not Putin have a point when he asks why we are backing Syrian rebels among whom are elements of that same al-Qaida that killed thousands of us in the twin towers? Is the Syrian war so clear-cut a case of good and evil that the Russians should dump their friends and support ours?
If the Assad family is irredeemably wicked, why did George H.W. Bush enlist Hafez Assad in his war to liberate Kuwait in 1991, a war to which Damascus contributed 4,000 troops?
There is another reason Russia is recoiling from America. With the death of its Marxist-Leninist ideology, Russia is moving back toward its religious and Orthodox roots. Secretly baptized at birth by his mother, Putin has embraced this.
Increasingly, religious Russians look on America, with our Hollywood values and celebrations of homosexuality, as a sick society, a focus of cultural and moral evil in the world. Much of the Islamic world that once admired America has reached the same conclusion. Yet the Post is demanding that our government stand with "the persecuted rock band" of young women who desecrated with obscene acts the high altar of Moscow's most sacred cathedral.
Upon what ground do we Americans, 53 million abortions behind us since Roe v. Wade, stand to lecture other nations on morality?
Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, trade, arms reduction — we have fish to fry with Putin. As for our lectures on democracy and morality, how 'bout we put a sock in it?
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2013 08:57