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Saturday, November 29, 2003

O.B.N.



Here, President Bush gets the enormous respect that is his due from two separate blogs for not being the sort of segregationist Southern politician who opposed "miscegenation". Also, Sullivan, through one of his email "correspondents" manages to insinuate that President Clinton was such a politician, while Chafetz merely implies that Bush's supposedly breathtaking racial egalitarianism is a novelty in US politics. Well done! Another blow against the irrational Left.

Of course at least one of said bloggers thinks that Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga, is worth quoting at lenght in his recent criticisms of Democrats, while the other draws attention to Miller's utterances without commenting.

So I begin to think that perhaps what is important in this event for these bloggers is not that it underpinned racial egalitarianism but that it was an opportunity to make sweet love to the President's public image and/or take a dig at Clinton. Because, you see, Miller is not a man whose racial past can be taken lightly. He ran for Congress in 1964 against the Civil Rights Act; but then a number of politicians then against the Civil Rights Act were later to take on a substantially more liberal hue. What is, I think, more troubling in Miller's history is his time as Chief of Staff to Georgia Governor Lester Maddox (1967-71, if I remember rightly). Miller has never disowned that administration; when Maddox died recently, Miller said

The Maddox Administration was a good one, marked with historic and progressive achievements. Under his watch, Georgia instituted a more humane prison system, and integrated the Georgia State Patrol, and county welfare and draft boards throughout the state. History will judge his administration well.

I find this troubling, because the Maddox Administration of which Miller was a key part was an ultimate dead-ender, to coin a phrase, standing for radical opposition to desegregation at a time when even Deep South states had had to start desegregating their school systems, at a time indeed when many former segregationist politicians were starting to change their spots - when Strom Thurmond, for example, was hiring his first African-American staff members.

I want to drop in some choice words and phrases from a letter Lester Maddox, the man for whom Zell Miller worked and whom he apparently continues to respect, wrote as Governor of Georgia to the Supreme Court in 1970. The letter referred to an imminent busing case; while I suppose from some points of view one might be pro-desegregation but anti-busing, although the bits I want to quote are about desegregation more generally. Maddox disagreed with the Court's direction in the desegregation cases; specifically he called them "illegal", "unconstitutional", "tyrannical", "a police state", "blantantly (sic) communistic", "un-American", "guilty, guilty as sin"; he blamed them for the "spilling of much blood", "deaths, robberies, extortions, beatings, stabbings and shooting". Ironically, of course, any African American in Georgia before desegregation who had the temerity to express any political views whatsoever would be at risk of experiencing much in that latter list (there are some horrifying stories from Georgia, to put in context Richard Russell's political heritage, in Robert Caro's LBJ biographies).

Lester Maddox is dead; but the man who tended Maddox's career so he could write that disgusting, false, nauseating letter to try to force the Supreme Court into preserving segregation is something of a hero to Bush supporters in the blogosphere. So hurrah for Bush that he thinks Condie is an actual person, but in the scheme of things it doesn't seem like that big a deal.

UPDATE: a copy of the Maddox letter is preserved in the William J. Brennan Papers in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington DC; box 241 if memory serves.

UPDATE II: oh the power of those Crooked Timber dudes. They've swamped the traffic from even the hungriest of searchers for traditional Malay recipes.

UPDATE III: ooh ooh ooh. Even more interesting: A critique, albeit by someone who has read the words "Bush... segregationist... Miller" and gotten all excited. Just to be clear: I am not accusing anyone of being a racist except maybe Lester Maddox - and certainly not Bush. I am pointing out that Miller has at best a deeply ambivalent record on race, and was an enabler of a dead-ender segregationist who stood out even in the American South of the late 1960s. And that if you're going to get all misty-eyed about Bush not being an actual segregationist, it seems a bit ... odd not to pay attention to the segregationist past of others. Unless, y'know, it's all about saying how marvellous Bush is rather than actually talking about race.

Antidotes to triumphalism



The worst that Maj. Michael Hilliard, 33, an emergency physician, saw back home in San Antonio were car crash and gunshot victims. Here, he estimates that he has treated the broken bodies of more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers.

"The injuries are horrific," he said. "They are beyond anything that you see in a textbook, and they are the worst that I have ever seen."





Journalism



One of the oddest facts about reporting of those depressing Northern Irish election results is that almost all the pieces submit to a single what-I-think-I-will-have-to-call "meme". That is, "extremists on both sides have improved their position" and threaten the peace process, referring to the DUP (on the unionist side, presumably, although I have long held the belief that they are a subversive organisation secretly aimed at ensuring widespread support for a united Ireland), and Sinn Fein on the nationalist/Republican side. See, for example, lots of BBC News 24 commentary that doesn't seem to have gone up on the web, or

Guardian
WaPo

But this is an entirely misleading analysis. It is true that both the DUP and Sinn Fein represent extremism but it is of two very different sorts, and only one of them represents a substantive threat to political progress as such.

The DUP is a party without overt formal links to political violence, and its published position is usually that political violence is abhorrent (although perhaps only to be expected if the Protestant people of Ulster are pushed by forces beyond their control, etc etc). Its extremism is a more-or-less total rejection of the grounds of any possible peace agreement. If the UUP had done better at picking up seats than the DUP, there would probably have been no real crisis, since Unionist participation in government with Sinn Fein would have been a real possibility.

Sinn Fein is a party thoroughly signed up to the current "Good Friday" peace agreement. Its extremism is that it is the political wing of an organisation which spent many years killing anyone it could lay its hands on. If the SDLP had not lost so many seats to Sinn Fein, there would still have been a political crisis, because Sinn Fein would still have to be involved in governance against the wishes of the DUP.

Neither of these things is very savoury, it has to be said, but voters for only one of these parties were voting for a halt to the process, and it wasn't those voting for Sinn Fein. It does seem that the DUP's position is an odd one (since it is precisely the peace process to which they are opposed which has made them so electorally strong, and if it were to be abandoned they would in all probability do rather worse), but it is clearly one for which one might vote if the Agreement were thought to be unconscionable. And in that sense only one extreme has to win for the process to be in trouble.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Conclusive proof of the existence of a powerful and beneficient God



According to CNN:
Participant at KKK initiation wounded after shots fired into sky

In other news, I have three weeks of university admissions hell and will be posting sparsely if at all in that period. I hope to be back to normal by about December 14th.

Burger



Matthew Yglesias misinterprets LBJ, perceiving that he was a great progressive President on domestic policy but arguing

The only trouble with this theory is that Lyndon Johnson was also a terrible president who basically wrecked the country's foreign policy. The Vietnam War has its defenders, but nobody thinks prosecuting it in the Johnson mold was a good idea.

Well, maybe, but it's not that plausible. Of course nobody now thinks pursuing the war in Vietnam in that manner was a good idea, but at the time that Johnson made the major decisions he did so squarely in line with the elite consensus view. There is something of an argument over how much Johnson's Vietnam policy was simply Kennedy's, but this argument leads one astray; Kennedy's, as well as Johnson's, policies were both rooted in the same elite foreign policy community, which was cross-party and cross-ideology. And it is, I think, really that culture's failings which are responsible for Vietnam (and for nearly incinerating us all over Cuba). Kennedy, to some extent, and Johnson, to a slightly greater extent, just did what they were told was necessary by experts.

Anyway, the impetus to this post is that there is a brief discussion in Yglesias' comments thread of Warren Earl Burger, Chief Justice 1969-86, and whether Burger was or was not a conservative. It is not quite clear to me whether Burger himself had much idea about his own ideology. What is clearly true is that Burger was one of the oddest characters to ascend to the first rank of political life. Most people have probably heard about his habit of answering the door in the mornings in a silk dressing-gown and carrying a revolver. But his court career is even odder; I do not think that his papers are yet public (I imagine he put a very long restriction on their being used), but what appears in the papers of the other Justices is always perplexing. Burger is very keen on what he takes to be the cutting aside or the brilliant footnoted insight, and said insights are usually a little disturbing.

A little example: in deciding Dothard v. Rawlinson (1977), a case involving Alabama's rule against the employment of women prison guards, Burger wrote a long memorandum to Justice Stewart, who was trying to produce the opinion in the case. Burger starts off talking about the actual case. But then, the thought of a lone guard trying to control hundreds of inmates without a weapon gets to him, and he wobbles into irrelevant thoughts that engage his attention deeply:

In `Liberal' Sweden and Denmark ...`correctional attendants' are generally six feet plus, karate trained, and
psychologically screened


and goes on in like manner. This little footnote does demonstrate that Burger was a conservative. Anyone who puts `Liberal' before the name of a country is, by definition, a conservative, of the disgusted-of-Tunbridge-Wells sort (I'm not sure the d-o-T-W type is common in the US, but Burger was an enthusiastic Anglophile so the term does fit). It's hard to say, from the memorandum, whether Chief Justice Burger's preferred solution to the Alabama prison problem would have been the mass importation of psychologically-screened, blond, karate-trained, Aryan, social-democratic, baby-oiled Gods, but it was clearly weighing on his mind.


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