my first president
i was born at the tail end of the ford administration, but my first meaningful memory of a president is that of ronald reagan. in particular, i remember the day he was shot. i remember watching the chaotic images of the 1981 assassination attempt on the evening news, and sensing more than understanding that something was very wrong. i was five years old then, and my mother explained that someone had shot the president. i had a hard time believing that he wasn't dead. it seemed to me that "getting shot" and "dead" were completely synonymous, so i'd have to say that i was impressed by ronald reagan from the very beginning.
the eighties weren't easy for my family. i remember asking my mother once if we were "middle class," and i remember her saying "yes," and i remember that even then i thought she was deluding herself. i'm thinking back to a time when i was six and my sister was five. my younger brother was on the way. my dad had just lost his job at the mill. i don't know how he got us through that, but he did. i remember him arguing with my uncle, his brother in law, who was also laid off. my uncle blamed everything on that union-busting republican asshole (i didn't understand two of the three terms) and i can remember my father asking in his quiet way why the union was paying people twenty dollars and hour to take three hour lunch breaks. my uncle was, and is, a force of nature and one of a handful of men most responsible for who i am today, but i remember thinking even at the time that my dad made more sense. how could people get paid not to work? how could any business last like that--whoever the president was? i guess i was a conservative from the very beginning, too.
i remember being bored by state of the union addresses (i still am, although i do watch them) but i also remember that i liked to see the president on the news. i'm not sure why. i was too young to understand his policies, but i really liked him just the same. i liked the elderly in general, and that probably had a lot to do with it. i didn't pay much attention to the news, but i would usually watch the president--watch, more than listen--whenever he came on.
i knew that my parents supported him, although i wasn't sure why. i grew up in a blue collar town where you became a catholic democrat before you were born. reagan was considered the anti-Christ by most of my neighbors, and if in the course of a kickball game reagan's name was brought up by one of my peers, it was usually accompanied by a string of invectives parroted from angry parents. when i learned that my own parents were both registered democrats, and came to understand in a rudimentary way the distinction between the parties, the support made considerably less sense. i asked my father about it once and he told me in so many words that president reagan was a Christian man who always had the good of the country at heart. i'm a bit of a cynic by nature, but i believed him. president reagan was so happy all the time. always smiling and telling jokes. those parts i understood. i didn't understand the parts where he was serious so much, but his look and tone reminded me more than a little of that adopted by my father if he had something important to tell me.
by the time i got to junior high, i was a confirmed conservative. in an art class, i took a picture of president reagan and affixed it to a wallet sized piece of stiff paper, which i then laminated. on it i had written:
conservative club card
my friends thought i was crazy. i still carry it in my wallet.
everything i know about reagan the man i learned when i was a small child. everything i know about reagan the president, i learned well after his presidency had ended. but to this day i can't hear the word "presidential" without thinking of ronald reagan. i picture him defying the soviets or putting an equally hostile crowd of reporters in stitches in spite of themselves. when i think of what it means to be a president, to be a strong leader, i think of ronald reagan, and i think i always will.
locdog will miss president reagan
perhaps george w. bush's greatest asset is that, by political standards at least, he's considered honest. most americans--even many democrats--believe that bush means what he says, and however much they may disagree with those sayings, they can at least respect him for following through. many of my liberal friends, for instance, have had to shake their heads and admit that though they think the war in iraq an unmitigated disaster, bush has surprised them with his willingness to see it to its conclusion in spite of its chaotic middle act.
but don't start patting yourselves on the back too hard, my fellow republicans, for this week has brought us not one but two exhibits constituting irrefutable proof that george w. bush can lie and lie well. first: "I've never been angry at the French. France has been a longtime ally." and now this:
And so, sir, we're honored to be here. Perhaps the best way I can express my country's gratitude to you, and our respect to you, is to present to you the Medal of Freedom from America.
the "I've never been mad at France" comment came in the context of a pledge of true and undying love to best buddy jacques chirac and far exceeds my meager abilities as commentator. the second remark, on the other hand...
the "sir" spoken of is, of course, pope john paul the second, upon whom bush bestowed our nation's highest civilian honor ostensibly in recognition of his various humanitarian efforts. and let me say up front that it is not my purpose here to question john paul's worthiness, of which i have no doubts. as to whether or not that worthiness played any role in the decision to give the pope this medal, well, there i'm a bit more skeptical.
george w. bush is in a heated battle with a challenger who is, oh by the way, a catholic. not a very good catholic, but a catholic nonetheless. the defining issue of this battle, and perhaps bush's presidency, will be the war in iraq. and one of the most vocal critics of the war has been pope john paul II. the domestic political calculus is ironic, but unmistakable.
ironic because if the pope and the president had maintained a good relationship rather than one characterized by a near-continuous one-way stream of condemnation, the pope would have probably gotten little more than a warm handshake and a friendly smile for the cameras. unmistakable because if bush doesn't do something to suck up to catholic voters, he'll lose them even bigger than he did last time.
the republican party has been making in-roads with catholic voters of late, presumably due to republican synchronicity with roman catholic moral conservatism, but to do so they had to pave over vatican recalcitrance. and although bush is more in tune with catholic moral teaching than any president since reagan, the pope's occasional words of approval have been drowned out by a torrent of naive give-peace-a-chance appeals peppered with sly smackdowns of the would-be crusader to the raucous applause of european and american catholics alike. consider that we heard barely a whisper out of the vatican when clinton jumped the u.n. and went to war in kosovo--and this war coming from a man who cheerfully transgressed every moral tenet the catholic faith had ever thought of, and probably a few they hadn't. if bush has gone crawling back to rome like a whipped hound returning to the hand of an abusive master, the pope has had to endure no less at the hands of democrats.
but endure it he shall, and that of his own free will. rome's refusal to condemn the apostate john kerry, one of the few senators to actually vote against the partial birth abortion ban, makes that clear enough. one wonders then what good bush's overture of friendship to the pope will do. probably about as much as his overture to the french.
locdog likes bush the bridge-burner a whole lot better
a historic charade
scandal, death, destruction--and, oh by the way--iraq has a new government. that's how the CBS evening news acquainted americans with the stunning revelation that the people of iraq now have a provisional government comprised of iraqis, a historic turn of events that was bumped off the lead-off spot by CBS in favor of "exclusive" enron tapes.
when dan rather finally got around to telling the american people the good news, the story was prefaced by bomb attacks, rubble, and mayhem--as though that was all that really mattered. and, to most of dan's loyal viewers, i'm sure it was. but my hunch is that historians looking back on this event five hundred years from now will be less interested in improvised explosive devices and more interested in what may well prove to be the spark that ignites a democratic revolution in the islamic world.
what real significance, if any, does the new provisional government have? militarily, it's pretty clear that america will be pulling the strings. bush has promised deference to the iraqi government in cases where they feel their military is up to the task, but reserves the right of american troops to defend themselves with clearance from no one save their american commanding officers. self-defense, as the preemptive war in iraq itself has shown, can be interpreted as broadly as one likes.
perhaps the situation was best summarized by one not-entirely-pleased u.n. bureaucrat, who said
It's a charade. The problem is that you need a charade to get to the reality of an elected government next January. There's no other way to do this.
ain't that a hoot? the u.n. thinks we're the necessary evil.
the important thing, though, is that our reluctant advocate has it exactly right. the image that came to mind on reading that quote was of a little boy pushing a toy lawn mower that blows bubbles behind his father's noisier, gas-powered version. in nearly every human endeavor, we imitate what we hope to become until we become what we imitate.
the NYT story i linked above, along with the somewhat fringier CBS version, will set the tone for national coverage of this event. the emphasis will be on "puppet government," and "significant disagreements," and "security challenges," and "continued hostilities," and "internal strife," and so forth. the nay-sayers have their reasons, but with a little perspective, the absurdity of their carping is clear. going from saddam to the roots of a true arab democracy in about a year is nothing short of miraculous, particularly when one considers that, compared to previous wars and revolutions, the american sacrifice in iraq has been small.
for much less satisfying (and possibly less beneficial) conclusions in korea and vietnam, we lost 150,000 and 60,000 lives respectively. to bring freedom to europe and the pacific in the second world war, we paid 300,000 lives, with more than double that amount in woundings. and as world war II, korea, and vietnam halted communism and obliterated fascism, a stable arab-world democracy will one day be recognized as the deathblow in the war on terror.
locdog wonders why there's so little interest in history in the making
federal judge strikes down partial birth abortion ban act
during the debate over the PBA ban act, one of the standard liberal responses was that the PBA ban wouldn't save the life of a single baby. this, they said, was due to the fact that the bill only proscribed a specific late-term procedure, as opposed to a blanket moratorium on late-term abortions in general. "[pro-lifers] are raising a stink," one liberal told me "because you think it's a useful stink to raise."
would the federal courts agreed:
A federal judge Tuesday declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional, saying the measure infringes on a woman's right to choose.
i'm a little fuzzy on this whole "undue burden" thing. how does "the PBA ban won't save a single baby" translate to "undue burden on a woman's right to choose?"
now obviously i can't hold this judge responsible for the opinions of every liberal crank i've debated on the matter of the PBA ban, but the particular crank i quoted above was correct to the extent that the ban only ruled out one late-term abortion procedure. why then the "undue burden?"
i wonder if the fact that this judge is a female san francisco clinton appointee has anything to do with it...
locdog has heard of stranger things