Heat index

If global warming is your issue, you'll want to check out this candidate scorecard from the League of Conservation Voters.

A toast to independence

Originally published in the July 4, 2005, Concord Monitor:

There are few formal occasions at the Great White House in the Sky, but American holidays remain treasured, especially the Fourth of July. Each year the members of the Dead Presidents Club assemble in Room 1776 to hear John Adams recite the Declaration of Independence. First, though, he tweaks his greatest friend and rival.

"Mr. Jefferson," Adams says, "we would be honored to have you read to us this year. After all, they are (ahem) mostly your words."

Jefferson reddens and begins to stand but, as always, declines. History has rewarded him with the credit for the Declaration, but time has done nothing to deepen his squeaky voice. And so Adams, the man who prevailed upon Jefferson to draft the Declaration and the only other president to have signed it, begins: "When in the course of human events . . ."

Adams pours his all into the speech, evoking the serious mood of the Continental Congress. He's also fighting off the urge to smile at his annual moment of glory. With Adams perched upon a stepstool and all the other presidents sitting down, not even George Washington can overshadow him.

Adams reaches the last line, and the others join in: "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

With that, it's time for a toast -- although there has never been agreement on what to say. "To liberty!" is heard in some corners, "Equality!" in others.

"To independence!" Washington adds, drawing all eyes to him as he stands. He thanks Adams for his performance, lamenting the lack of technology to share it with living Americans. "There are many," Washington says, "whom it would behoove to hear your passion. When you who signed the Declaration pledged your lives on paper, you embraced a risk as real as that faced daily by our army."

"Hear, hear," says Benjamin Harrison, whose namesake and great-grandfather was one of the Declaration's signers. "And several more cheers for the British generals who, as our current president might say, 'misoverestimated' our might. Had they but pressed the issue, the future of America could have been contained to the space of a few dozen nooses."

"And not just the British army was against us." It's James Madison speaking now. "What road map were we reading? Whose lead could we follow? To what example could we point and say, 'This is how you forge a new nation'?"

There was no such example, Ronald Reagan says, "but you knew what you wanted and you knew who the enemy was, and that gave you a chance."

"Yes, a chance," Jefferson says, "but nothing more. Because no sooner had we agreed on our purpose than we started to disagree on what to do about it."

"We're still disagreeing about that," says JFK.

"Which is fine," Madison says, "as long as we continue to agree in principle. At one point we did not, and only Mr. Lincoln's wisdom and Mr. Grant's force managed to make us whole again."

"So can it endure?" Adams asks.

"It can," says Washington, "but there will always have to be people who make it happen. The second greatest mistake Americans keep making is thinking that some group of 'Fathers' told off the king and that from there, history was on our side."

"And the first?"

"The first is assuming it will continue to be."

Stealing his own headlines

With John Roberts and Samuel Alito forming new Supreme Court majorities in so many of the final decisions of the term, this could have been the week when President Bush basked in the glow of his most significant (and, with the party base, most popular) political accomplishment. Instead, he's begging for immigration votes.

UPDATE: With the bill defeated, Ramesh Ponnuru concludes: "President Bush's humane and generous instincts combined with his moralistic and arrogant ones to produce a political fiasco that could have been a policy fiasco as well."

UPDATE II: The Senate roll call: only 46 votes (including Judd Gregg, Chuck Hagel, John McCain, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama) to keep the bill alive; 53 against (including John Sununu, Sam Brownback and Jim Webb).

A dare worth taking

Last night on Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity offered Hillary Clinton the chance to co-host his radio show for an entire week: 15 hours of equal time. Not only is that a better idea than reviving the "fairness" doctrine, but Clinton should take the dare. That would be radio worth listening to.

Fred Heads

Apply directly to the White House... here.

Immigration politics

The Wall Street Journal calls out Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney for denouncing amnesty here. Meanwhile, Judd Gregg gets called out for not rejecting amnesty here.

Capital Beat extra: Ron Paul on the Browns

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has compared Plainfield tax fugitives Ed and Elaine Brown to Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

In an interview with Lee Rogers, who runs the website roguegovernment.com, Paul expressed sympathy for the couple, who have been holed up in their hilltop home for several months, threatening violence if marshals come to arrest them. The Browns have each been sentenced to 63 months in prison for crimes related to their refusal to pay federal income taxes for nearly 10 years. The Browns contend that there is no law compelling ordinary Americans to pay income taxes.

Paul, a Texas Congressman who has campaigned on promises to lower taxes and rein in the Federal Reserve, said the Browns' civil disobedience should be commended.

"People who point this out and fight the tax code and fight the monetary code are heroic," he said in a video that's been linked to on several pro-Brown websites. "I compare them to people like Gandhi, who's willing to speak out and try to bring about change in a peaceful manner; Martin Luther King fought laws that were unfair and unjust, and he suffered, too."

- Margot Sanger-Katz

UPDATE: In a Fox News interview, introduced by the question "Why is a presidential candidate comparing (Ed Brown) to some of the biggest heroes in the world?" Paul said Tuesday his statement was meant to applaud those who oppose tax laws peacefully, willingly accepting the consequences. He does not advocate violent resistance against those laws, he said.

"I think if you don't like the tax law, you should change it. That's why I ran for Congress," he said. "That's why I'm running for president."

The cost of being pro-choice?

"This issue has been very, very good to the Republican Party — and there is plenty more where that came from." -- Author Melinda Henneberger, in The New York Times, discussing abortion.

She writes: "Over 18 months, I traveled to 20 states listening to women of all ages, races, tax brackets and points of view speak at length on the issues they care about heading into ’08. They convinced me that the conventional wisdom was wrong about the last presidential contest, that Democrats did not lose support among women because 'security moms' saw President Bush as the better protector against terrorism. What first-time defectors mentioned most often was abortion."

Re: Watch the spoof

Peggy Noonan loved the Clinton-Soprano spoof (bonus points for Bill Clinton's acting ability!) but speculates broodingly about the meaning of HillaryIs44. (Get it? W is 43.)

The '07 caucuses?

David Yepsen: "The foes of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina want nothing more than to get these early states fighting among themselves. For [Iowa] state and county party officials, the best deterrent is to reserve sites on a variety of dates. Caucus sites should be reserved for Jan. 14, Jan. 7, Jan. 2 and Dec. 17."

Forget the song, watch the spoof

Hillary Clinton has chosen her campaign song, but much better is the Sopranos spoof that leads into it. See here or here.

Watergate 35 years later

"The president of the United States was a criminal. That's a big story." -- Author Alicia Shepard in a Washington Post chat going on right now. Timed with the release of her book Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate, the Post has put online this archive of its Watergate coverage. (Warning: You could easily lose a few hours here.)

Why we have states

Lamar Alexander's presidential campaign is most remembered for his flannel shirt. Charlie Arlinghaus remembers something much more substantive: "He urged his party to let each state find its own solution. He cautioned them against the abuse of power in 'simply substituting Republican orders from Washington for Democratic orders.' Ten years later, Alexander's ideas seem not just sensible but prophetic. 'Whether it's altering the behavior of a welfare mother or a third grader, reinventing America in Washington, D.C., is a pipe dream. The bureaucracy is too strong. The interest groups are too nosy. There is too much difference between the way Washington works and the way people live.' "

Charlie concludes: "There is a great temptation for a president and any national politician to try to solve all the problems of the country. They are afraid some state might do something stupid. But that's why we have states. Washington doesn't and can't know everything that's right for everyone. Sometimes they need to mind their own business. My candidate for president will agree with Lamar Alexander when he said, 'Washington spends too much, meddles too much and spends too much time telling us we are too stupid to make decisions for ourselves.' "

Biden on nuclear deterrence

In today's Wall Street Journal (no free link) Joe Biden argues "the U.S. should take the lead in creating an international nuclear forensics library."

The op-ed piece, headlined "CSI: Nukes," is a pitch for bringing nuclear deterrence into the 21st century. Biden writes:

"The library could house actual samples of nuclear material contributed by participating countries, validated data about their material, or binding agreements to provide predetermined data in the immediate aftermath of an attack or smuggling incident. A library cannot guarantee that in the wake of an attack the world could assign blame to a country, but it could be a critical tool in narrowing an investigation and debunking wild rumors or allegations. Countries might hesitate to share their nuclear material, but the library could safeguard samples and identify their origin only if they matched smuggled material or nuclear debris. Any country that refused to contribute to a nuclear forensics library would risk condemnation or suspicion in the event of a terrorist nuclear attack."

Acknowledging the problem of deterring the individual terrorist, Biden says the key is to deter the states that would sell them nuclear material or know-how:

"The U.S. has long deterred a nuclear attack by states, by clearly and credibly threatening devastating retaliation. Now is the time for a new type of deterrence: We must make clear in advance that we will hold accountable any country that contributes to a terrorist nuclear attack, whether by directly aiding would-be nuclear terrorists or willfully neglecting its responsibility to secure the nuclear weapons or weapons-usable nuclear material within its borders."

Obama and Romney: two visions of foreign policy

Foreign Affairs has given space to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. From the summaries:

Obama -- "After Iraq, we may be tempted to turn inward. That would be a mistake. The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew. We must bring the war to a responsible end and then renew our leadership -- military, diplomatic, moral -- to confront new threats and capitalize on new opportunities. America cannot meet this century's challenges alone; the world cannot meet them without America."

Romney -- "Washington is as divided on foreign policy as it has been at any point in the last 50 years. As the "greatest generation" did before us, we must move beyond political camps to unite around bold actions in order to build a strong America and a safer world. We must strengthen our military and economy, achieve energy independence, reenergize civilian and interagency capabilities, and revitalize our alliances."

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