February 25, 2002
DOWN ON THE FARM: Embarrassed by reports of wealthy individuals collecting millions in crop subsidies from the government, some farm-state senators are trying to limit payments to $275,000 per farmer per year. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley--who, along with North Dakota's Byron Dorgan, is sponsoring the cap--has argued that "[c]apping farm payments will restore integrity to farm programs." Actually, no: The entire idea of the government singling out people in a certain line of work for preferential treatment violates any notion of market logic or even common sense.
With ten congressional committees holding hearings on Enron, it's almost impossible for any one member of Congress to distinguish himself on the issue. But that hasn't stopped Senator Jon Corzine from trying. These days the freshman New Jersey Democrat sounds more like Ralph Nader than the former investment-banking pooh-bah he is.
Because the Bush administration is fighting Al Qaeda and threatening Iraq simultaneously, it's easy to lump both together: Indeed, George W. Bush's State of the Union address managed to confuse on just that point. But the Iraq problem exists independent of September 11: It is that Saddam Hussein is acquiring atomic, chemical, and biological weapons. Baghdad has now had several years, without inspection or bombardment--but with hard cash from the relaxation of the U.N. oil embargo--in which to manufacture the means of mass murder.
The Bush foreign policy team is not, as its members delight in pointing out, the Clinton foreign policy team. Which is why it is so odd that they have been repeating one of the Clinton era's favorite mantras. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Colin Powell angrily demanded that Iraq readmit the U.N. weapons inspectors it expelled in 1998.
What is going on at Guantanamo Bay? While the Bush administration has made a few missteps in its war on terrorism, its decision to send some captured Taliban and Al Qaeda members to the U.S. naval base in Cuba--and its refusal to grant them prisoner-of-war (POW) status--has become a public relations fiasco. "The U.S. is placing these people in legal limbo," complains Amnesty International. "They deny they are prisoners of war, while at the same time failing to provide them with the most basic protections of any person deprived of their liberty." Even the British are upset.
February 24, 2002
UNITED FRONT TO THE EDITORS: In his January 28 article, "After the Fall" THE NEW REPUBLIC'S Lawrence F. Kaplan impugns virtually every Washington official save the president for not agreeing that we must quickly remove Saddam Hussein. Leave aside the obvious point that most Americans agree we must not get distracted from the unfinished business of bringing to justice Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and destroying Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But Kaplan also elects to ignore the unmistakable fact that there already exists broad and deep consensus that Saddam must go.
The bearded Hezbollah man, arms folded and half-smiling, stood alone at the border fence on his daily vigil, just across from the Israeli army outpost called Tziporen. Beside him was a large metal sign imprinted with photographs of dead Israeli and South Lebanese Army soldiers--including a severed head--and the taunt in Hebrew, "Sharon, don't forget your soldiers are still in Lebanon," a reference to three Israeli soldiers kidnapped in the fall of 2000, whom the army believes didn't survive. I moved toward the fence to get a closer view but was stopped by an Israeli officer.
Bone to Pick
George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy were aboard Air Force One last month, flying back to Washington from Boston--where they had just celebrated the signing of Bush's education bill--when the president gave the Massachusetts senator a dog bone. It wasn't just any canine biscuit. On it the president had scrawled a message to Kennedy's black Portuguese water dog, the senatorial pooch who was a constant presence during the yearlong education-bill negotiations: "To Splash, Great job on education.
Representative Sam Graves surely considers himself important to the Bush administration. A Republican freshman from the Kansas City, Missouri, area, Graves has been a good conservative soldier during his first year in the House. And, given that he was elected with just 51 percent of the vote and is considered highly vulnerable this fall, the White House should want to help him. So Graves was presumably nonplussed when the administration singled out one of his few legislative accomplishments for ridicule earlier this month.
America's success has long depended on the success of immigrant families. Just this month the Census Bureau reported that one in five Americans were either born in a foreign country or have a parent who was. And some of these immigrant families are soaring as never before: Urban school honor rolls swell with immigrant children; immigrant adults wield unprecedented power in universities, government, and business; immigrants own 40 percent of technology companies in Silicon Valley. That's the bright side of the story.