Friday, April 29, 2005

A Party <i>In Extremis</i>

Democrats are devaluing one of the more effective epithets in their considerable arsenal of political slurs by extravagant over-use of the word. Their fondness for it has resulted in the fact that few people listen to them any more when they use it. The word is "extreme" and its variations.

President Bush's judicial nominations are "extremist". The Republican move to end the use of the filibuster to block those nominees is "extreme". Anyone who holds conservative religious views is an "extremist". Anyone who opposes gay marriage is an "extremist". The attempt to reform social security and to institute personal savings accounts is "extreme". Those who yearn for a return to traditional values of truth, commitment, loyalty, and hard work are on the "extreme" right.

After a while it starts to sink in that in the Democrats' lexicon anyone is an "extremist" who disagrees with them. The Democrats want to undo centuries of settled policy on marriage, sex, and family life, but it is those who see value in the traditional ways of looking at these things who are "extreme".

When everyone is an extremist the word ceases to move the listener. It loses its punch, and the Democrats just sound silly every time the try to tarnish another political opponent with it. Bereft of ideas, with no plan for the country to offer the American people, they are reduced to labeling as extremists a significant percentage, perhaps a majority, of the American people.

It's no wonder that they have themselves become a party in extremis.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker

This may be of little interest to anyone else, but I thought it was wonderful news when I heard that biologists have discovered that a bird long thought to be extinct still survives in the swamps along the Mississippi river in Arkansas. The bird is a magnificent nineteen inch long black and white woodpecker called the Ivory-billed, and had last been seen in 1944. It has a three foot wingspan, and its large size made it especially vulnerable to the loss of habitat it suffered due to logging in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

There was hope that some of the birds had survived in Louisiana, but no one was able to confirm their existence. A team of ornithologists searching the Big Woods region of Arkansas, however, discovered the woodpecker there about a year ago but kept their find secret so as not to incite an influx of birders into the region. They finally submitted the results of their study of the Ivory-billed to Science which is going to publish their report in a future issue.

The Departments of Interior and Agriculture have already promised millions of dollars toward protecting and hopefully increasing the numbers of this beautiful creature. Like the recovery efforts which are restoring the populations of the California condor and the Whooping crane, it may be that similar efforts will make the Ivory-billed woodpecker another conservation success story.

Borking Bolton

Victor David Hanson places the arrow directly in the little black circle in this piece on the John Bolton nomination in the Jewish World Review. The resistance to Bolton has nothing to do with his credentials or abilities. It has everything to do with denying George Bush a successful nomination and protecting the U.N. from anyone who would hold its feet to the fire. Hanson writes:

The marathon confirmation hearings of John Bolton to be the American ambassador to the United Nations have become pathetic. Bolton is supposedly discourteous to subordinates. He was a hands-on-his-hips boss! Heaven forbid, he sometimes bellowed.

The "disclosure" of these supposedly hurtful flare-ups has little to do with Bolton's fitness to navigate in the United Nations, whose General Assembly includes miscreants from Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Zimbabwe. Otherwise, Bolton's occasional gruffness would be seen as a real asset in an international jungle where a murderous Syria sat on the Commission on Human Rights while member states perennially castigated democratic Israel as racist.

So the Bush administration wants to unleash a barking watchdog to patrol the United Nations, reeling from its multi-billion-dollar oil-for-food scandal, sexual misconduct among its operatives in Africa, and inaction as thousands perished in the Congo and Darfur. It tires of subsidizing an unaccountable organization that institutionalizes graft, excuses criminality and ignores genocide - but somehow regularly blames its chief democratic patron, the United States.

Bolton's critics apparently feel that such global organizations, for all their faults, nevertheless provide a useful brake on George Bush's exuberance abroad. And now they appear confident that their own barroom tactics will eventually wear down the patrician complacency of Bolton's strangely nonchalant supporters.

Those who roast Bolton prefer an ambassador who would not rock the boat of multilateralism, or, better yet, lack the zeal and skills even to try - and certainly would not employ Bolton's characterization of Kim Jong Il as a "tyrannical dictator." The last time we heard such provocative talk Ronald Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" under the curious assumption that it was both evil and an empire.

The rest of the essay is even better. Hanson reminds us of the minimalist ethical standards of three of Bolton's foremost senatorial critics, Senators Boxer, Dodd, and Biden, and highlights the hypocrisy of such people as these preventing the confirmation of a man to an ambassadorship because his subordinates sometimes found him demanding.