Reality bites …

Fred Thompson voices why he disagrees with social conservatives on the Terry Schiavo case …

“Obviously, I knew about the Schiavo case,” he said. “I had to face a situation like that in my own personal life with my own daughter.”

Mr. Thompson was visibly flustered by the question.

“I am a little bit uncomfortable about that because it is an intensely personal thing with me,” he said. “These things need to be decided by the family. And I was at that bedside. And I had to make those decisions with the rest of my family.”

Reading the full article, I find myself really empathizing with Thompson.  Not because I’ve also had to make a ‘pull the plug’ decision, thankfully I haven’t. And not even on the Schiavo issue so much; when it happened I supported the Republicans.  But rather, when a political issue showed up on his doorstep in the form of an intensely personal tragedy, he found the social conservative’s position over-bearing, unwelcome, and just a plain bad idea.

About two years ago, I considered myself a hard right wing conservative.  (In truth I never was, I’ve been a libertarian conservative since about 5th grade, but that’s what everyone told me I was, so I believed it) I realized that ALL of my major conflicts with conservative ideas, whether the issue was drugs, immigration,  consumer protections, or civil liberties, stemmed from either my own personal experiences, or the experiences of close friends.  That in itself was extremely enlightening, and made me realize that I’d have to take another look at all my views, including those with which I did not have the same personal experience.  If the right was wrong on every issue I had personal experience with, were they just as wrong on the ones I didn’t?

Eventually, I’ve come to believe that part of the problem is that many of these issues are treated as ‘theoreticals’ by politically minded people on both sides.  The problem, of course, is that life isn’t theoretical, and the effects of these policies are not theoretical either.  Every one of these policies affects a number of people, sometimes intensely so.

If there’s one thing I learned from this revelation, it was that policy-making can not, and should not, be ever separated from human compassion and emotion.   Because, in reality, every situation, Terri Schiavo being a perfect example, is intensely personal to at least a few people.  This argument alone is the single greatest refutation to ‘mandatory minimums’, another conservative idea that in reality is plainly horrible.  A ‘logic-only’ policy, whether it’s disguised as ‘common sense’ or ‘sticking to principles’ by the gasbags on tv, precludes any appeal to human emotion or weakness.  This in itself is illogical, as our policies are targeted to only one kind of creature, the human creature, who is inevitably bound by human emotions and frailties.  The left gave this idea a terrible name in the 80’s, as they basically used appeals to emotion as an excuse to ignore the Constitution.  Now, ironically, remembering these appeals could help the right REMEMBER that the Constitution still exists.   Perhaps we could start moving away from such idiotic and anti-American ideas as extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping, the unitary executive, and mass deportations.

Nonetheless, the government has no way to act using compassion and emotion.  Even the courts, the one area of government where judges DO typically consider each personal situation in handing down punishments, have been crippled in how they can consider the human condition by the aforementioned mandatory minimums.  The government is bound by law to treat all equally and without bias.  But life demands bias.  No two situations are ever the same. Ever.  And that, perhaps, is as clear a calling there is for the case of limited government.  In other words,  as Thompson realized with Terri Schiavo, there are plenty of times when the government just needs to butt out.

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The Armenian genocide

News today that Turkey is recalling it’s ambassador to the United States over a resolution in Congress labeling the killing of at LEAST 300,000 Armenians a “genocide”.

Turkey is one of our closest allies in the Middle East, and apparently their airspace has been a crucial component for us in the war on Iraq. Should we really threaten that relationship over something that happened 90 years ago!?

My leaning is yes, if it’s the right thing to do, if it’s truly a genocide, we should call it such and deal with the consequences. The problem, of course, is that I personally will bear little of the consequences of this action. In fact, the ones affected most are likely to be our troops that are already in harm’s way in Iraq. And while that is as good a reason there is to give us pause, I still feel we have to do the right thing. The words of Adolf Hitler, of all people, are quite enlightening on just why I feel that way…

Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space [Lebensraum] which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?

Ron Paul raises 5 million in 3rd Quarter!

Two million more than the preliminary numbers his campaign released earlier this week.  His supporters have gone from spamming internet votes to spamming his campaign coffers, obviously.  🙂 And doing it while the top GOPer’s are all declining. Before you know it, they’ll be spamming the ballot box!

Howard Dean was able to translate internet excitement to a lead in the polls in 2004, and to be honest, I see no reason to think Paul can’t do the same thing.  There are no ‘anointed ones’ on the GOP side this year, and every top candidate has major question marks.  Plus, Paul has a unique message that breeds loyal followers and perhaps the most enthusiastic base of support of any candidate, except maybe Barack Obama (who himself DOES have to deal with an ‘anointed one’).  At the very least, Paul has forced the rest of the GOP field to acknowledge that there are a whole lot of people out there who might be willing to vote for them if they’d start doing more than paying lip service to ideals of freedom and small government.

It’s hard to dislike Paul and his message, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s a sound message, a freedom based message, and a very Reaganesque one as well.

The gotcha era

There is plenty of blame to go around, but for my money, the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were a seminal moment in our current political environment.  With his book coming out, and him giving his first interviews in years in support of it,  we’re hearing from both him and his accuser, who could not let talk of this go by without crawling out into the sun herself.   Thomas describes Hill as a mediocre employee who did not take slights well and only complained about not being promoted.  Hill described a man who made an offhand remark about pubic hair 10 years earlier, well before Thomas was even nominated.

Hill may or may not have told the truth, but it sure appeared she wasn’t.   Thomas described the accusations as a ‘high-tech lynching’, and, it had all the earmarks of being just that.  Even if she was telling the truth, which 15 years later I just can’t believe in the slightest, the real truth was that these hearings were clearly about abortion primarily and race secondarily.   He was replacing Thurgood Marshall and liberals were aghast that Thomas was both black and ‘conservative’, legally speaking.  They were even more upset that he was pro-life, and possibly a swing vote on issues of abortion.  The left was apoplectic that a black man could rise to the United States Supreme Court holding views of which these liberals did not approve.  My god, if he became a justice, who knows how many other African-Americans might start considering non-liberal points of view?  Not to mention there was a Republican president nominating an African-American, which made it harder for the left to paint all conservatives with the ‘racist’ label.  The sense of panic from the left during the summer of 1991 was palpable.   But they couldn’t attack him on these merits, so they drummed up ridiculous-sounding charges of sexual harassment in order to try and derail the nomination.   An activist for the National Organization for Women encapsulated this mania quite nicely, saying “We’re going to bork him. We’re going to kill him politically. . . . This little creep, where did he come from?”.   Liberals were clearly quite angry that a member of a minority group dared to oppose them, and much of their tone throughout the hearings were tinged with barely disguised racism.

Her own quote conjures memories of a successful liberal attack, this one four years earlier on Robert Bork.  But I believe the Thomas nomination  was a more important moment.  Despite it’s failure, it seemed to encourage politicians of both stripes about the effectiveness of personal attacks, even ones as full of crap as the one launched against Thomas.    Since then,we’ve seen conservatives turn the tables, going after Bill Clinton with just as much fury, and liberals later doing the same against George W. Bush.

Thomas has become a fairly stalwart conservative justice, with occasional libertarian leanings, as in Raich v. Gonzales, for instance.   His confirmation hearing may well have had a larger effect on the modern political era.  The left, with reprehensible behavior and the most tenous of allegations, nearly succeeded in preventing Thomas’ rise to the court.