Sunday, October 9, 2005

Sunday Reading

  • David Brooks thinks the only way to go forward is to go back.

    I believe in the lost tradition of American politics, the tradition of Hamilton, Lincoln and the Bull Moose. In other words, I believe that social mobility is the core of the American experience. I believe that society should be structured so that as many boys and girls as possible can work, and rise the way young Hamilton and Lincoln did.


    Like Alexander Hamilton, I love the dynamism of capitalism. And like Alexander Hamilton, that doesn’t mean I hate government. I love government when it lifts people up to compete. I hate government only when it stifles competition and coddles. I hated the old welfare system, which pushed its victims away from work. I love welfare reform, which encourages work. I hate government that directs ever more money to the affluent elderly, but I would love a government that gave poor children savings accounts at birth, which would encourage them to think about the future and understand that their destiny is in their own hands.


    I know, having learned it from Lincoln and Roosevelt, that individual initiative should always be tied to national union. I know we need a national service program to bind our segmented youth through citizenship. I know we need to protect the natural heritage that defines us. I know America has to persevere in its exceptional mission to promote freedom, and the effort to promote democracy in the Arab world is one of the most difficult and noble endeavors any great power has undertaken.

    Noble thoughts indeed, Mr. Brooks, but in case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t 1912 and there have been some dynamic thinkers and leaders since the sinking of the Titanic.

  • Meanwhile, the Christianists are getting restless.

    When Gov. George W. Bush of Texas hit the presidential campaign trail, he seldom brought up his view of abortion. But with conservative Christian crowds, he never missed an opportunity to praise “pregnancy crisis centers.” Abortion opponents, knowing such centers steered women away from the procedures, cheered and took heart.

    It was the beginning of a delicate balancing act that, until President Bush picked Harriet E. Miers for the Supreme Court last week, had enabled him to forge an unprecedented bond with social conservatives without unnerving more moderate voters.


    But the backlash from religious conservatives over Ms. Miers has deeper roots and threatens to become an even more serious rupture for Mr. Bush and his party. “The president has walked a fine line wanting to keep us inside the family,” said the Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder of the evangelical conservative Ameri-can Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss. “But at the same time – I might as well say it – being embarrassed to be seen in public with us, and that is what we are seeing here.” He added, “Republicans have a serious problem on their hands right now.”


    Perhaps anticipating concerns over Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, the president’s top political adviser, called several of the most prominent conservative Christians – including James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family and Mr. Land of the Southern Baptist Convention – before her selection was announced to enlist their support. Dr. Dobson has subsequently raised eyebrows by saying repeatedly that he is supporting her in part because he has received certain confidential information that he cannot divulge. They and other allies like Charles Colson have come out in her defense.

    But in Web sites and talk radio shows, the grass-roots conservative backlash continued to flare. “It is a pretty good fissure,” said David Barton of WallBuilders. “It has resulted in shouting matches between friends who have been part of the same movement for 20 years.”

    In its efforts to quell the revolt from its base, the administration has come increasingly close to characterizing Ms. Miers’s views. This carries its own political risks as well, including energizing liberal opponents.

  • Want to get away from it all? Life in the Florida Keys sounds pretty good, even though reality has a nasty way of intruding.

    A tanker truck shooting flames skyward on the Seven Mile Bridge cut the Lower Keys off from the rest of Florida for more than 15 hours last week. Days earlier, the latest in a string of would-be monster storms sent automobiles packed with tourists and locals scrambling more than 124 miles toward the mainland.

    The incidents underscored the Keys’ vulnerability, reminding residents along rocks splayed quite literally into the sea that despite modern conveniences, they inhabit a necklace of islands.

    “We are probably as off the grid as you can be, while still connected,” said Ty Symroski, Key West planner and co-coordinator of the city’s Emergency Operations Center. “The good news is you live on an island. The bad news is you live on an island.”

    From law enforcement to the labor pool, from the water supply to tourists, Monroe County’s identity pivots on its island allure, but its isolation has a flip side.

    “It’s the Florida Keys,” said Irene Toner, director of emergency management for Monroe. “For the people that make up the Keys, their whole attitude is really upbeat. Then something like the Seven Mile Bridge accident happens and reality sets in.”


    Still, the Keys’ isolation cuts both ways.

    “It’s good for us,” said Jim Brooks, spokesman for Naval Air Station Key West, from where each year scores of U.S. Navy pilots gleefully traverse the sound barrier over an open ocean ideal for training. “From an operational standpoint, it’s an excellent location.”

    And for those who prefer their pace unhurried and their four-minute commutes by rusty, two-wheel “Conch Cruiser,” the inconveniences barely warrant a peep.

    “I love it because it’s so hard for everyone else to get down here,” said Tonna Denny, a bartender at Harpoon Harry’s in Key West. “Everybody looks out for everybody. I know everybody. And if I can’t do it, somebody will do it for me.”

  • The Dolphins play in Buffalo. My World Series pick is the Cardinals for purely sentimental reasons; my mom’s family is from St. Louis, we lived there for a while, and the first professional baseball game I went to see was the Cardinals.