Articles and Posts by Tom Piatak:
More on Roberts(0)
I hate to disagree with Rick Oliver, but I think he is too optimistic about John Roberts. What Roberts’ decision today tells us is that he is unlikely to ever cast a decisive vote against the consensus of the Washington elite. This means that the Roberts court will never overturn Roe v. Wade, because such a decision would create even more controversy than overturning Obamacare would have. And it also means that Roberts is unlikely to resist the strong political pressure that exists in elite circles to create a constitutional right to gay marriage.
Quick Thoughts on the Supreme Court(0)
Putting together the Court’s two most notable recent decisions, the Arizona immigration decision and the Obamacare decision, leads to this unsettling conclusion: there is virtually nothing the states can do on their own, and there is virtually nothing the federal government cannot do. If that is what the Founders intended, I’m a unicorn.
We also now have further confirmation of another unsettling pattern: Republican presidents will offset the nomination of any reliable conservative to the Supreme Court with someone who is not a reliable conservative. Thus we had Reagan appoint Antonin Scalia, but also Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy. (In fairness to Reagan, I should note that the initial appointment for Kennedy’s seat was Robert Bork, whose rejection by the Senate was one of the most consequential acts undertaken by the Senate in my lifetime). Bush Senior appointed Clarence Thomas, but also David S0uter. And Bush Junior appointed Samuel Alito, but also John Roberts. And it should be noted that if Bush Junior had gotten his way, his record would be even worse, since his first choice for Alito’s seat was Harriet Miers. By contrast, no Democratic president has appointed someone who was not a reliable liberal to the Supreme Court since John F. Kennedy nominated Byron White.
Globalism Is Not A Conservative Value(0)
Barack Obama’s recent concern over sending American jobs overseas is as phony as his broken promise, made during the Ohio Democratic primary in 2008, to renegotiate NAFTA, but there is little doubt that his attack on Mitt Romney’s record of outsourcing American jobs during Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital is politically potent. The elites who favor free trade and globalism told us not to worry about the disappearance of manufacturing jobs because they would be replaced by more desirable high tech jobs, but the reality is that both manufacturing jobs and jobs in technical fields have been sent overseas in enormous numbers and that America now creates very few jobs in any sector of the economy subject to foreign competition.
If Romney wishes to overcome this attack, he will not follow the example of Kevin Williamson of National Review, who was indignant at the suggestion that American jobs should remain in America. Any such concerns, Williamson wrote, reflect “xenophobia,” “backward, ignorant chauvinism,” and the presumably racist views of “economically illiterate yokels” who worry about “Poor desperate Third World brown types” taking American jobs. By contrast, enlightened people like Williamson realize that corporations that send jobs overseas are actually engaging in “collective, coordinated global cooperation to solve the world’s most pressing problems.”
National Review talks a lot about patriotism, but it seems to think that patriotism primarily involves cheerleading for foreign wars. In fact, patriotism is a proper concern in the economic arena, and the men who built this country recognized that. The second bill signed by George Washington was a tariff, one of whose stated objectives was “the encouragement and protection of manufactures.” George Washington was interested in promoting the American economy, not the global economy, and his economic patriotism guided America until the 20th century. The challenge to economic patriotism came from the left, not the right, and the first modern president to favor the globalism espoused by Williamson was the disastrous Woodrow Wilson. But even Wilson never showed the contempt for Americans concerned about losing jobs to foreign countries that supposed conservatives like Kevin Williamson do today.
A Quiet Man(0)
I recently had the chance to visit the village of Annascaul on the stunningly beautiful Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. The attraction in Annascaul was the South Pole Inn, opened by Annascaul native Tom Crean after his retirement from the Royal Navy. Crean was, by all accounts, a modest man reluctant to draw attention to himself, but he was one of the heroes of the golden age of Antarctic exploration. Crean was a member of two of Robert Scott’s Antarctic expeditions, and on Scott’s final expedition he saved the life of one of his comrades by volunteering to walk 35 miles across the Ross Ice Shelf to get help.
I first became aware of Crean because of his involvement in Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914, which failed in its goal of traversing Antarctica but which justly became famous as one of the most amazing survival stories in history. (The best account of that expedition remains, in my view, Alfred Lansing’s 1958 classic, Endurance). Crean played an important role in helping Shackleton rescue all of his men after the expedition’s ship was trapped and crushed in the pack ice. Shackleton chose Crean to be on the of the five men to accompany him on the 800 mile journey in a small boat through some of the roughest seas on the planet from Elephant Island to South Georgia, and Crean was one of the three men to cross the South Georgia Alps without a map or proper mountaineering gear to get help at the whaling station on the other side of South Georgia.
Tom Crean was tough, brave, and self-reliant, but also kindly, cheerful, and loyal. He was a fitting representative of an age that vauled duty over pleasure, discipline over self-indulgence, and achievement over celebrity. Today’s values are far different, which helps explain why we no longer have many men like Tom Crean.
Mitt Romney Promises to Expand Immigration(0)
President Obama’s announcement of a de facto amnesty for illegal immigrants by administrative fiat offered a chance for Mitt Romney to appeal to the majority of Americans who consistently tell pollsters that they want to see immigration reduced. Instead, Romney told a gathering of Hispanic politicians that he will increase immigration, by raising the caps for temporary work visas, by allowing green card holders to bring in family members, by increasing the number of H1B visas, and by granting permanent residency status to all foreign students who graduate from American colleges with degrees in science, math, or engineering.
The last thing America needs at a time of high unemployment and even higher underemployment is more immigration. Indeed, Romney’s plan is a plan to displace Americans from technical jobs, since the the effect of the H1B program has been to depress wages and the same program has often been used to replace qualified Americans with cheaper foreigners. There are some good parts of Romney’s program, such as mandating that employers use the E-Verify system, which will effectively weed out the job applications of those ineligble to work in the United States. Still, the unfortunate reality is that, once again, neither major party is offering anything to the millions of Americans who recognize that mass immigration is radically transforming America for no good reason and who want mass immigration curtailed for that very reason.
Insulting Poland, Cont.(0)
It turns out that Barack Obama had managed to insult Poland before he ever talked about a “Polish death camp.” The Polish Government had asked that Lech Walesa be allowed to receive the posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom being bestowed on Jan Karski. The Obama White House said no, claiming that Walesa was “too political.” Most likely, the thin-skinned Obama didn’t want to deal with Walesa, who had criticized him in the past.
The refusal of one of the least deserving recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize to meet with one of the most deserving recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize ranks with Gerald Ford’s refusal to meet with the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. What Walesa accomplished is so amazing that few of us who were watching ever thought something like it could happen: an unemployed electrician climbed over the fence into Gdansk’s Lenin Shipyards and helped organize a strike that caused Poland’s Communist regime to capitulate and recognize the Solidarity trade union. It was one of the most electrifying news stories of my lifetime. As it turns out, the rise of Solidarity was one of the pivotal events in bringing about the end of Communist rule in Eastern Europe within the decade and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later. Walesa’s political career since then has seen many disappointments, but even if the Constitution is amended to allow Obama to serve as many terms as FDR did, it is unlikely that he will ever accomplish anything to equal what Walesa did.
Barack Obama, Culture Warrior(0)
One of the sillier stories told to garner support for Barack Obama in 2008 was that he would help bring Americans together by peacefully ending the culture war, a culture war most Americans found tiresome. There was never any reason to believe that Obama would unite Americans, since Obama has always been far to the left on social and cultural issues, going so far as to oppose legislation in Illinois that would have required doctors to provide medical care to infants born after a failed abortion. There was also reason to wonder how tiresome ordinary Americans actually found the culture war, though the exasperation of leftist elites was perfectly understandable, since the culture war arose because millions of Americans would not go along with the left’s attempt to refashion America in its image.
By now, of course, it is clear that the only way Obama intends to end the culture war is by helping to win it for the left. This was brought home by a recent article by John Heilemann in New York about Obama’s reelection strategy. The intent is to portray Mitt Romney as the embodiment of the evil America that used to exist before the cultural revolutions of the 1960s. Heilemann writes that Obama’s campaign will emphasize abortion, immigration, and gay marriage, and Heilemann quotes an anonymous campaign aide as saying, “He’s the fifties, he is retro, he is backward, and we are forward—that’s the basic construct. If you’re a woman, you’re Hispanic, you’re young, or you’ve gotten left out, you look at Romney and say, ‘This f—g guy is gonna take us back to the way it always was, and guess what? I’ve never been part of that.’ ” So much for “hope,” but Obama seems deadly serious about change.
American presidents seem to have a habit of insulting Poland. Gerald Ford probably lost the 1976 election when he maintained in a presidential debate that Poland was not dominated by the Soviets and never would be under a Ford Administration. (The Poles, who were in fact dominated by the Soviets, weren’t able to register a protest). Then Ford’s hapless successor, Jimmy Carter, told the Poles, through a bad translator, that he “carnally desired” them. And last night, as Tom Fleming notes in his post on the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Barack Obama made reference to “Polish death camps” during World War II. Since Poland is no longer dominated by the Soviet Union, the Polish government was actually in a position to protest, and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Obama should apologize for comments that showed “ignorance” and “bad intentions.”
Tusk’s point, of course, was that the death camps that operated on the territory of Poland during World War II were not “Polish.” They were conceived by and run by the Nazis who, together with the Soviets, had conspired to wipe Poland off the face of the map. During World War II, Poland was brutalized by both the Nazis and the Soviets, and some six million Polish citizens, roughly evenly divided between Jews and Catholics, perished.
It is likely that Obama was simply unaware of Polish sensibilities on this point. In a sense, it’s hard to blame him. After all, in most portrayals of the Holocaust in film and fiction, Poles are shown as being, at best, crude and vicious. Think of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which depicts Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as pigs. There is little recognition of the scale of Polish suffering during World War II, and much criticism of the Poles for not doing more to help Jews.
In University of Chicago historian Peter Novick’s magisterial The Holocaust in American Life, Novick relates the story of one of his students who came to his office to protest that he was letting the Poles off too easy in his discussion of the Holocaust. This student told Novick that others felt as she did, but they were afraid of joining her protest. Novick’s reply was appropriately withering. In occupied Poland, Novick told her, if you were caught helping Jews, the Nazis would kill you, kill your family, and burn down your house. Just what did the students who were so critical of the Poles for not doing more to help the Jews think Novick was going to do to them? Perhaps Obama should have audited one of Novick’s courses when he was hanging around Hyde Park.
For Greater Glory(4)
The story of the Mexican Left’s murderous persecution of the Church is not well known, even though it inspired one of the great novels of the 20th century, The Power and the Glory. The story of the Cristero uprising intended to end that persecution is even less well known. But that uprising has now inspired a fine movie, For Greater Glory, which opens on June 1 and which I was fortunate enough to see tonight. The Cristero war was marked by tragedy and by brutality on both sides, but it is also saw brave defiance of tyranny, deep devotion to God, and heroism, and For Greater Glory tells that story well. It is a well made film with very fine acting, and far superior to Hollywood’s now standard fare of movies inspired by comic books, board games, defunct television shows, and other such wellsprings of profundity. Go and see it if you have the chance.
UPDATE: Chris Check is quite knowledgeable about the Cristeros and he has written an excellent overview of their struggle. Chris’ article may be found here.
Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame(7)
Just three days after Georgetown University had Kathleen Sebelius on campus to address an awards ceremony during commencement week, another prominent Catholic university found a better way of dealing with Sebelius: the University of Notre Dame filed suit against Sebelius in federal court, asking the court to enjoin and then vacate the Obama Administration’s mandate requiring employers, including Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities, to provide insurance for contraceptives, including contraceptives that act as abortifacients. In the complaint, Notre Dame included one count alleging a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, four counts alleging violations of the First Amendment’s religion clauses, one count alleging a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, and three counts alleging violations of the Adminstrative Procedure Act. 42 other Catholic institutions filed similar lawsuits across the country. (Georgetown was not one of them).
The Notre Dame lawsuit will likely draw more attention than the other lawsuits, because in 2009 Notre Dame honored President Obama by inviting him to be its commencement speaker and awarding him an honorary degree, despite Obama’s long and vocal support for abortion. In his speech, Obama promised to look for common ground with those who disagreed with him over abortion. Three years later, Notre Dame’s lawsuit is proof of how valuable Obama’s commitment to seeking common ground turned out to be. Now all that remains is for Notre Dame to rescind the honorary degree Obama should never have been given, preferably in a major ceremony at halftime during the home football game on the Saturday closest to the election.
UPDATE: Since writing this, I’ve read two pieces on the issue I’d like to recommend, one by Scott Richert on the substantive issue and one by Ross Douthat on the politics. Scott’s piece may be found here and Douthat’s piece may be found here.