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Russia, Impeachment, Gingrich

Sunday, August 1, 1999

Living with the Sick Bear

SIR,—Nicholas Eberstadt’s "Russia: Too Sick to Matter?" (June/July 1999) is an astute and provocative assessment of Russia’s future as a power. Eberstadt’s analysis suggests to me strategic implications for the United States and nations on Russia’s borders. Men for its armed forces will be fewer. Unless the social system underlying the forces is thoroughly reformed — ceasing the extreme brutality of recruitment — desertions and missing draft calls will increase, while strength and morale will fall. As a result the only reliable units may be the nuclear missile forces and nuclear-suitcase-bomb-carrying Spetsnaz special forces. This suggests missile defenses and increased counter-intelligence and anti-terrorist measures. So far we have barely begun building such defenses.

FRANKLIN BROOKE NIHART
McLean, Va.

 

Impeachment Radicalism

SIR,—Prof. John McGinnis’s talents have been profoundly misdirected ("Impeachable Defenses," June/July 1999). I agree with many of the comments he makes in passing, but I do not for a minute believe that there was any moral justification for the assault on the president. I voted for him twice, but with regret, as did many others. I view Whitewater and all that followed from that sordid triviality as the petty bitchiness of people who lost an election and would not accept the result.

I suppose the president lied, but about matters on which he should never, ever have been questioned. The Jones case was itself a scam funded by malicious persons for no purpose other than to put the president under oath to discuss matters personally embarrassing to him. The deposition had no bearing on the disposition of the case, and therefore there was no materiality to anything the president said. Lacking materiality, there could be no perjury. There being no possible perjury, the grand jury was a fraud. It should have indicted, if anyone, the independent counsel. Originalism in the form in which it is advocated by McGinnis is a snare and delusion, but moreover has nothing to do with the impeachment proceedings. If George Washington had concealed his relationship with a strumpet, no one would have thought that a ground for putting him under oath or removing him from office.

I do not favor the constitutional right to an abortion or other causes that McGinnis identifies with the opposition to impeachment. As a lawyer, I am a textualist. And I am appalled by the sexual antics of the president, and by other things that he has done and said. But he was elected by the people because he seemed the best choice offered to them. Those who would remove him from office on account of his private behavior or what he has had to say about that subject would attack the basic premise of democratic government, and for no reason better than that they find the present occupant of the office personally distasteful to themselves. That is as close to treason as Mr. Clinton is to perjury.

PAUL D. CARRINGTON
Duke University School of Law
Durham, N.C.

THE AUTHOR RESPONDS
Professor Carrington chooses to relitigate impeachment rather than respond to the reflections on the legal academy and political structure that were the subject of my article. But I should correct one error of fact. The District of Columbia Circuit on May 26, 1998 held that President Clinton’s false statements about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky were material to the Jones case. And I am surprised that a law professor would declare that independent counsel or indeed any citizen should be indicted without telling us the grounds on which such a charge should lie.

 

Race and Polemics

SIR,—Michael S. Greve, in his review of William Bowen and Derek Bok’s The Shape of the River (April/May 1999), writes, "They want permission to discriminate — and yet harangue everyone else for latent racism." This is a case of polemical excess, which often mars the debate on both sides. The authors of this book do not attack opponents of racial preference for "latent racism," and they "harangue" no one. This passage seriously misrepresents the tone and argument of the book. The authors fully respect the good faith of their opponents. I wish Michael S. Greve had done the same.

NATHAN GLAZER
Cambridge, Mass.

 

Behind the Gingrich Base

SIR,—I read with interest Tod Lindberg’s article on Newt Gingrich ("Gingrich Lost and Found," April/May 1999). Lindberg discussed Gingrich as a conservative ideologue, but Gingrich the representative politician has received insufficient attention. Gingrich represented the Sixth District of Georgia (the city of Marietta and Cobb County northwest of Atlanta). It is a suburban nouveau riche New South community dominated by a business-oriented conservatism that in many ways borders on libertarianism. Most people are familiar with the area’s claims to notoriety: the controversy regarding the "family values" resolution condemning the "homosexual lifestyle" and the resulting boycott of Cobb County during the 1996 Olympic games, and the Gingrich ethics scandal and his subsequent exoneration.

The region also has less publicized distinctions. Cobb County was home to Lester Maddox, segregationist governor of Georgia during the 1960s, who — according to legend — used to chase African-Americans out of his diner with a baseball bat before being elected governor of the state. J.B. Stoner, a white supremacist, who organized bombings of Alabama churches, was also a citizen of Marietta. Marietta, it might be noted, is one of the few Southern cities with both Union and Confederate Civil War cemeteries. Cobb County also borders Forsyth County, a center of Klan activity in the mid-1980s. The area today has undergone rapid commercial and residential development and is a thriving business community considerably riven by tensions between natives on the one hand and Northern and Midwestern transplants on the other. Cobb County has become more diverse in recent years, with more African-Americans and an influx of Latinos — though this seems to be primarily related to business factors.

The above is intended to convey the coexistence of vicious prejudice and suburban affluence as the context for the representative aspect of Gingrich’s politics. Gingrich’s "revolutionary" approach to ideological conservatism needs to be understood with strong reference to the nature of his actual constituency (Southern business conservatives strongly influenced by a nativist strain of libertarianism) and the virulent racism of its recent past.

I am not suggesting a moral equivalence between Gingrich on one hand and the Maddoxes and Stoners on the other, but those who wish their consciences to be clear should know what they might be embracing when they make Gingrich their hero. It is not for me to say to what extent Gingrich was influenced by the more repugnant aspects of his constituency. But informed and intelligent citizens should have an understanding of some of the forces that enabled Gingrich to attain the speakership and may again motivate him, no matter how heroic a figure he is, to many in the Republican Party.

GUY ARCHEA
Topeka, Kansas

THE AUTHOR RESPONDS
If Guy Archea is, as he says, "not suggesting a moral equivalence" between Newt Gingrich and Lester Maddox’s ilk, one wonders what his letter would say if he were. Disclaimers notwithstanding, his letter seems rather clearly an effort to link modern ideological Republicanism with white Southern racism. This is a depressingly familiar line of ad hominem attack on Republicans. To the extent it may be substantive, I would ask, in what sense is it reasonable to take the most extreme view held by anyone in any congressional district and impute it to the representative for that district? Politicians can only fairly be judged by the positions they take, not the positions of those who vote for them. If Guy Archea has anything to offer indicating that Gingrich has appealed to racist sentiment in Cobb County, he doesn’t produce it here.

 

The Military Essence of NATO

SIR,—Bruce Jackson is correct when he says it would be a mistake for the U.S. to disengage from the nato alliance ("The Conservative Case for nato," April/May 1999). Such a move would remove an anchor of stability from Europe, thus imperiling American interests there and beyond.

History proves the Atlantic Alliance’s success in meeting its original mission: containing Soviet expansion. In doing so, nato’s importance grew to outstrip its original narrow purpose. Today its objective is no less than to secure and expand upon the political and security gains made worldwide in the Cold War’s wake — surely something upon which both liberals and conservatives can agree.

Yet, success here is far from assured. In nato’s political victories, what is too often obscured is the military essence of the alliance. Here, at the alliance’s core, there are steep challenges.

Chief among them is the increasing chasm in the quality of military technology wielded by the U.S. and the rest of the 18 alliance partners. Already military operations undertaken by nato, such as in Kosovo, have revealed the need to create two tiers of military operations because of the vast U.S. lead in military technology.

At his farewell press conference May 4, the outgoing chairman of nato’s military committee, German Gen. Klaus Naumann, spoke to this point.

He said the U.S. and Europe should harmonize their collective research and development budgets. And Europe must invest in standoff weapons, strategic airlift and combat search and rescue forces, he added.

"These are all things which can be easily done," he said, "and for that you don’t need another voluminous conceptual paper [or] a European summit, you need something like the will to decide."

Whatever the achievements of nato as a political body, its ability to meet with continued success will rest on its credibility as a military alliance. And if its forces can’t talk, share data, and fight together as a unified instrument for collective defense, then the alliance’s political strength will wither.

Mr. Jackson rightly paraphrases Margaret Thatcher: "Now is not the time to go wobbly on nato." To ensure that doesn’t happen, now is the time to strengthen the military sinews, which provide the alliance with its means to continue achieving political successes.

ERNEST BLAZAR
Lexington Institute
Arlington, Va.

 

Incomplete Conservatism

SIR,—In your "Conservatism at Century’s End" (April/May 1999) you write, "modern ideological conservatism constitutes a completed body of thought."

I wonder. There seem to be unresolved issues still.

Take, for example, drugs. I support current policies on drugs in America (to keep them largely illegal). I think modern ideological conservatism comes out on this side, too. However, I can see how other conservatives may (and do) disagree. Some say liberty implies no drug laws. Others say the costs outweigh the benefits of the war on drugs.

So this policy constitutes a split-hair end of conservative thought. It comes out on both sides.

Also, conservatives are becoming more culturally conservative and with this comes a shift in priorities. It may mean conservatives back government involvement in societal crisis issues (on the side of conservatives). This will discomfit economic conservatives and libertarians who came to the movement because it scrupulously separated the government from the economy and society. This area seems to be incomplete.

STEVEN W. WARDELL
Cambridge, Mass.

 

Speaking Up at Boalt Hall

SIR,—Your intent in offering the three Boalt Hall essays ("Diversity on Trial," June/July 1999) is unclear. Surely, there is room for profound philosophical thought on our current distraction with "diversity." Yet budding young law students seem unattuned to such discourse, largely because their elders have let them down.

The foreclosure of free, intelligent expression at our universities is a disgrace. But equally disturbing is the apparent mindset of even these "conservative" students, as they focus on lofty banners like "diversity" instead of the old, proven standards of truth and excellence. As one writer (Joshua Rider) intimates, the mission of law school should be to teach the law, not to engage in race-and-sex posturing. That the latter is so dominant can be traced to the misfeasance of undergraduate schools and our post-1960s cancer of "social causes," a procrustean civil rights mentality smothering our historical constitutionalism.

Instead of concentrating on learning the law of ages, we now rear young people to be their own lawmakers, worrying about "resegregation," "historical inattention to the voices of women and minorities," or "color blindness," none of which 1990s code words lend to higher learning, nor to an understanding of our vast culture.

American culture rightly understood doesn’t "glorify the dissenting individual" unless in the crucible of life he is proven to be right. Glorifying Martin Luther King Jr. as a pillar of Prop. 209 helps no one when one realizes that he actually endorsed affirmative action, nor does it render him timeless. By the same token, Lincoln’s thought on "equality" has been distorted beyond truth. Far from serving as the seeds of sound learning, such inaccuracies only confuse the dialogue. Instead of looking to J.S. Mill, King, Thoreau, or Lincoln, we should look at least to James F. Stephen, Tocqueville, the Founders and beyond for a truer wisdom and vision of self-government. Instead of becoming bogged down in pointless, tiresome "diversity" talk, whether of "race" or sex," we should return to common sense, the common law, honesty, and our own Western heritage —- the endless conversation that would teach young students what is really important.

Professors Robert Weissberg and Paul Hollander have pointed out the academic hypocrisy of "tolerating the deviant while condemning Western Civilization." (Society, November/ December 1998; March/April 1999) Though discrimination is the hallmark of authentic tolerance, our infatuation with "equality" has obviously "abducted the concept of tolerance" to subvert the natural intelligence of young law students. As a result, we now wallow in confused, even fatuous talk of "non-discrimination," even as we face new challenges daily requiring the utmost in discrimination and wise judgment. Instead of being able to rely on a free, civilized people to manage their affairs, we resort to socialistic government. "Hate" crimes are merely Damoclean swords to be wielded by Clintonese functionaries on whomever they choose to condemn.

Our response to such nonsense should be, "Put a sock in it!" Repeal the "non-discrimination." Return to ancient folkways, brotherly love, the Ten Commandments, and Western Civilization. Of course, then professors would have to return to teaching them.

W. EDWARD CHYNOWETH
Sanger, Calif.

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