Friday, November 07, 2003


Call Hannity, Medved, Hewitt, Prager, O'Reilly, Limbaugh (at rehab), Horowitz, Sullivan, Liddy, North, Savage, and all the other right-wingers. Take a look at the new nickels that are scheduled for introduction next year. In early 2004 the reverse will celebrate the Louisiana Purchase; later that year a different reverse will celebrate the Lewis and Clark expedition. Here's the side for the Louisiana Purchase:
What's the problem?

The pipe. It looks like something Tommy Chong got thrown in the slammer for. What kind of message is this sending our children?

ADDENDUM: We initially thought that one of the hands depicted was French, but it turns out that the one on the left symbolizes the American government and the one on the right symbolizes the Native American chieftains.


Reagan boosting:

In an essay (somewhere on the web, but we can't find it at the moment See UPDATE below), it was pointed out that the move to bolster Reagan's standing in the public eye was a reaction to a ranking of presidents that took place in the mid 1990's. Reagan was ranked (low) average, and apparently this got Grover Norquist excited and subsequently he began his crusade to venerate Reagan, which included naming roads, airports, and other sites after the former president.

So, what about that survey? It was conducted in 1996, authored by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and published late in that year in the New York Times Magazine. In the September 29, 1997 edition of the Weekly Standard (by James Piereson of the John M. Olin Foundation), that survey was discussed and compared with another survey conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). The ISI is described by the Standard as "an educational organization that promotes traditional approaches to the liberal arts and American history and government." We've looked at the members of the ISI panel that ranked presidents and it tilts right. Some of the members came from: the Hoover Institution; National Review; Claremont Institute; and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

In any event, we dug up our old copy of the Weekly Standard (we no longer subscribe, by the way), found the story and the survey results. Here they are:
Rank Schlesinger Survey Intercollegiate Studies Institute Survey
Great Washington, Lincoln, F.D.Roosevelt Washington, Lincoln
Near Great Jefferson, Jackson, Polk, T.Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman Jefferson, Jackson, Reagan, T.Roosevelt, F.D.Roosevelt, Eisenhower
High Average Monroe, Cleveland, McKinley, Eisenhower, Kennedy, L.B.Johnson, J.Adams J.Adams, J.Q.Adams, Cleveland, McKinley, Taft, Coolidge, Truman, Polk, Monroe
Low Average Madison, J.Q.Adams, Van Buren, Hayes, Arthur, B.Harrison, Taft, Ford, Carter, Reagan, BushSr., Clinton Madison, Van Buren, Ford, B.Harrison, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, BushSr.
Below Average Tyler, Taylor*, Fillmore, Coolidge Tyler, Fillmore, Wilson, Kennedy, Nixon, Hoover
Failure Pierce, Buchanan, A.Johnson, Grant, Harding, Hoover, Nixon Buchanan, Grant, Harding, L.B.Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Pierce, A.Johnson
  * as reported in the Weekly Standard, but in the body of the story Taylor (and Henry Harrison) is listed as being excluded from both surveys. We suspect the name should be Garfield (which is not listed in this column). Raised more than one rank indicated by blue
Lowered more than one rank indicated by red (note: Wilson and L.B.Johnson lowered 3 ranks in ISI survey)
UPDATE: The backstory on the Reagan legacy movement, including the response to the Schlesinger survey, was reported by digby here. That post contains excerpts from a Mother Jones article on the Reagan Legacy Project. (But you only have to read digby - who is one of our favorite webloggers.)

BIG UPDATE: A reader (Matthew) asked if we could post the original Weekly Standard article to see what standards were used to rank the presidents. Alas, it's not online (as far as we can tell) and it's too long to type in. Also, the article hardly discussed criteria. But we can present a paragraph-by-paragraph summary below:
  • Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s ranking is something his father started 50 years ago.
  • For Schlesinger's poll, a jury of 32 (nearly all) liberal historians were used.
  • No surprise that the study fell along predictable ideological lines (e.g. FDR "great")
  • "Rather than a reliable ranking of presidents, the study was in fact just one more elaboration of the central assumptions of modern liberalism - namely that progress can only be achieved through an interventionist federal government that sponsors programs to redistribute income and promote equality."
  • Now a new study has appeared that offers a different perspective. Done by the ISI. (Names are mentioned, but no criteria.)
  • As in Schlesinger study, panelists ranked "great" to "failure".
  • Comparing the two polls finds areas of agreement. Washington & Lincoln were "great".
  • "The consensus extends from the founding of the Republic down to the First World War."
  • But it breaks down starting with Wilson. "The debate over the modern presidents mirrors the national argument over the role of the federal government in our society ..."
  • This explains some of the differences. ISI demotes FDR from "great" to "near great", Wilson & Truman down one notch, Kennedy down two notches, LBJ down to "failure".
  • "... despite their reservations about FDR the ISI panelists acknowledge his lasting influence and historical importance."
  • In 28 years from '33 to '61, FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower served at least two terms, led the nation through the depression, WW2, and the early Cold War, and continue to be admired by historians.
  • Discusses the terms of post '61 presidents (assassinated, driven from office, defeated for reelection).
  • "In the judgment of the ISI historians, Ronald Reagan was the only genuinely successful president in this entire period." Recreated his party and reinvigorated the office.
  • "What of Clinton?" He has discussed his own place in history.
  • "While Clinton could take some comfort from Schesinger's speculation, which mirrored his own self-assessment, the ISI panel came to a different conclusion. Twenty panelists rated Clinton "below average" and 10 judged him a "failure". The panel's pessimism about the Clinton presidency derives from the avalanche of scandals that has buried his presidency, any one of which might eventually discredit him, as well as his failure so far to take the difficult steps required to keep our old-age entitlement programs solvent."
    [Emphasis added. Also, if the vote was 20 "below average" and 10 "failure", how come Clinton is rated a "failure"?]
  • "But Clinton can claim some accomplishments." A generally prosperous economy.
  • Clinton is essentially a status-quo president.
  • "Clinton's main task have had less to do with the presidency than with saving his party and its favored programs from destruction at the hands of the Republicans." "If Clinton gets through his term without any debacles, he will in all likelihood be viewed by future historians as an "average" president.


    Wednesday, November 05, 2003

    Alabama BS:

    The president gave a speech in Alabama a couple of days ago. Here is the key excerpt:
    A free and peaceful Iraq will make it more likely that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow up without the horrors of September the 11th.
    Sure sounds like Bush (re)connecting Saddam to 9/11, but even if that inference is subject to debate, the following is not:
    If Iraq wasn't invaded, we probably would experience a massive terrorist attack supported by Saddam.
    Does anybody believe that?


    Where's the party?

    Last week (Mon, Oct 27) the Washington Post had a tough editorial, Play Doctor -- and Judge, that was very critical of the recent legislation from Congress on late term (aka "partial birth") abortion, and critical of the intervention by Florida's legislature and governor in the Schiavo case. We present it below, and highlight every instance in the editorial where they identify the players as Republican:
    THE SENATE LAST WEEK approved a prohibition on the procedure known to its opponents as partial-birth abortion, sending the measure to President Bush for his signature. That same day, the Florida legislature authorized the president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, to order a feeding tube reinserted for Terri Schiavo, who has been in a vegetative state for 13 years. The measures are linked not only by the fact that each touches on the deeply felt religious, moral and political issues that arise at the beginning and the end of life. Perhaps precisely because the issues involved are so emotional, both laws exemplify legislators' overstepping their bounds, betraying a fundamental lack of respect for the proper role of doctors and courts.

    "The legislation we just passed will save lives," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said after the vote on partial-birth abortion. This is untrue, and if Mr. Frist, a surgeon, doesn't know better, he should. The measure prohibits one form of abortion, performed in the late second trimester or third trimester of pregnancy; it is gruesome, as indeed are all abortions this late in pregnancy. But most states already bar abortions after the point of viability, unless the procedure is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother, and Congress could have done likewise. Instead, outlawing this form of abortion will only lead physicians, in the relatively few cases in which this procedure is preferred, to perform abortions by other methods that could endanger the woman's future child-bearing ability.

    What is most alarming about the legislation, however, is Congress's eagerness to play doctor. When the Supreme Court narrowly stuck down a similar Nebraska law three years ago, one of the major problems it cited was that the law made no exception for maternal health, as is constitutionally required. Congress sidestepped this impediment by declaring that the procedure "is never medically indicated to preserve the health of the mother." Yet the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the method may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman, adding, "The intervention of legislative bodies into medical decision making is inappropriate, ill advised, and dangerous.'' We agree. The matter is now headed back to the courts, which we trust will not tolerate the dodge of overcoming constitutional requirements by legislative decree.

    The heart-breaking case of Terry Schiavo in Florida presents even an even starker case of lawmakers usurping the medical and judicial function. Ms. Schiavo, now 39, has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since suffering heart failure in 1990; as a Florida appeals court described it, she "will always remain in an unconscious, reflexive state, totally dependent upon others to feed her and care for her most private needs." Her husband, Michael Schiavo, argues that his wife would not have wanted to continue this way; her parents disagree. While there's no definitive proof, the Florida courts have consistently found clear and convincing evidence she would have wanted the feeding tube withdrawn. This was no casual conclusion but a searching, at times agonized, inquiry by the courts up and down the Florida legal system.

    But as the five-year legal battle was about to come to a conclusion with the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube and her impending death, the Florida legislature intervened. It passed a extraordinary and temporary law designed to apply only in Ms. Schiavo's circumstances, and the governor quickly used his new authority to order her feeding tube reinserted. Mr. Schiavo plans to challenge the law in court. Such end-of-life decisions are wrenching, especially so when, as in Ms. Schiavo's case, the family is so bitterly split and there is no medical directive from the person involved. But we have a system in which such disputes are heard in and decided by courts, not legislatures. Unless, it seems, the legislators disagree.
    As you can see, they didn't use the word "Republican" anywhere, only identifying Frist as R - Tenn.   The Post failed to note that the impetus for both actions came from Republicans.


    Moscow chit-chat:


    Tuesday, November 04, 2003

    Food for thought:

    Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo directed our attention to a speech by Zbigniew Brzezinski at the New American Strategies for Security and Peace conference. It's pretty good. We were struck by the following observations by Z-big: (emphasis added)
    Since the tragedy of 9-11 which understandably shook and outraged everyone in this country, we have increasingly embraced at the highest official level what I think fairly can be called a paranoiac view of the world. . Summarized in a phrase repeatedly used at the highest level, "he who is not with us is against us."

    This phrase in a way is part of what might be considered to be the central defining focus that our policy-makers embrace in determining the American position in the world and is summed up by the words "war on terrorism." War on terrorism defines the central preoccupation of the United States in the world today, and it does reflect in my view a rather narrow and extremist vision of foreign policy of the world's first superpower ...

    ... that skewed view of the world is intensified by a fear that periodically verges on panic that is in itself blind. By this I mean the absence of a clearly, sharply defined perception of what is transpiring abroad regarding particularly such critically important security issues as the existence or the spread or the availability or the readiness in alien hands of weapons of mass destruction.

    I think that calls for serious debate in America about the role of America in the world, and I do not believe that that serious debate is satisfied simply by a very abstract, vague and quasi-theological definition of the war on terrorism as the central preoccupation of the United States in today's world. That definition of the challenge in my view simply narrows down and over-simplifies a complex and varied set of challenges that needs to be addressed on a broad front.

    It deals with abstractions. It theologizes the challenge. It doesn't point directly at the problem. It talks about a broad phenomenon, terrorism, as the enemy overlooking the fact that terrorism is a technique for killing people. That doesn't tell us who the enemy is. It's as if we said that World War II was not against the Nazis but against blitzkrieg. We need to ask who is the enemy, and the enemies are terrorists.

    But not in an abstract, theologically-defined fashion, people, to quote again our highest spokesmen, "people who hate things, whereas we love things" - literally. Not to mention the fact that of course terrorists hate freedom. I think they do hate. But believe me, I don't think they sit there abstractly hating freedom.
    He doesn't come out and say it, but we see traces of the following notion which we have held for some time:
    The terrorist threat isn't, and never was, as great as everyone has been led to believe.


    Monday, November 03, 2003

    For Atrios:

    (Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for keeping us abreast of these events.)


    Sunday, November 02, 2003