Devil in the Details

At Least He's Loyal

Joe Lieberman may not have the voting record of a Republican, but he's often irked liberals with his unfortunate habit of playing one on TV. His reputation for disloyalty is unlikely to be undone by his decision to attend an October 8 party celebrating the 50th anniversary of the conservative magazine National Review and honoring its founder, William F. Buckley Jr. Lieberman, according to Rush Limbaugh, was seated at the table of honor with Buckley and Limbaugh himself.

In reality, it would have been churlish of Lieberman not to attend: After all, he practically owes Buckley his Senate seat. Running in 1988 against moderate incumbent Republican Lowell Weicker, Lieberman did not hesitate to launch attacks from the right. “You're closer to Fidel Castro than to Ronald Reagan,” Lieberman charged during one televised debate, citing Weicker's support for normalizing trade relations with Cuba. Buckley formed a PAC (“Buckleys for Lieberman”) that ran anti-Weicker ads, instituted a weekly “Weicker Watch” column in National Review, and branded the incumbent “the No. 1 horse's ass in the Senate.” When Weicker asked Lieberman how he felt about becoming the beneficiary of Buckley's backing, Lieberman replied, “Buckley and tens of thousands of others can't stand you for your political grandstanding.”

In his initial commentary on the race, Buckley agreed that his goal was primarily the retirement of Weicker rather than the election of Lieberman. But by the time of his October 14, 1988, column, “The Challenger's Plight,” Buckley was praising Lieberman's record on defense and fiscal policy as good in themselves, and noted that Lieberman's abortion-rights position was at least to the right of Weicker's. Lieberman's “reputation for being an eat-'em-alive liberal,” he wrote, was undeserved.

By 2000, naturally enough, National Review had changed its tune on Lieberman. The senator's erstwhile conservatism, wrote Jay Nordlinger in “The Fall of Joe Lieberman,” was a fraud. Since then, however, the hatchet seems to have been buried, perhaps over the senator's apologetics for the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, and all. One way or another, Limbaugh, at least, reports that he and Lieberman had “a nice conversation” -- a revelation unlikely to put liberal doubts about Holy Joe to rest.

-- Matthew Yglesias

Ground-Zero Redux

In a welcome sign of post-hurricane recovery, a pod of dolphins has been spotted frolicking in Lake Pontchartrain. For the terrestrial residents of the New Orleans area, however, coming home after Hurricane Katrina may be a considerably more dangerous business.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests of water and soil samples from the flooded areas have found elevated levels of benzene, arsenic, and fecal bacteria left behind by the mix of oil, human waste, and industrial pollutants that washed over the city and surrounding parishes. But as with the evacuation of New Orleans, residents are now being tasked with cleaning up the mess very much on their own, with testing from the EPA that's far from comprehensive and with no public provisions for distributing boots, masks, or other protective gear. It all reminds some Washington veterans a little too much of how the last major national crisis was handled.

Just a week after the September 11 attacks, then–EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman urged New York City residents back to work in the affected areas, saying, “I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breathe.” Two years later, an EPA inspector general's report revealed that White House pressure had been behind such statements, and that the agency had actually lacked adequate data to provide that assurance. A dozen Manhattan residents are now suing the EPA, alleging that the environmental protectors had, in fact, endangered the health of thousands of New Yorkers.

Four years later, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, concerned by the slow pace at which Big Easy residents were returning, urged them to “come on home” in mid-October, despite a similar lack of adequate data on the safety of all those homes (many of which also have been overrun by mold) and some worrisome test results in flooded areas. That's prompted Congressman Jerrold Nadler (who represents Lower Manhattan) to write President Bush expressing worries about the “eerily reminiscent” message. “I am deeply concerned that many of the same mistakes made by the EPA in response to 9-11 are being repeated on the Gulf Coast,” he wrote.

At least some mammals are doing all right.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta

The Woes of White Folk

African Americans have the NAACP. Latinos have La Raza. But who speaks up for our poor, beleaguered white guys?

William H. Regnery II, that's who. Regnery, a patriarch of the storied conservative publishing family, has founded a new think tank called the National Policy Institute (NPI) to address the fear that “the white race may go from master of the universe to an anthropological curiosity,” as he told an audience in Chicago this summer. The NPI promises to analyze how “government policies and cultural trends adversely affect the very safety, economic standards, and traditional values of America's historic majority.”

While it's not clear what would distinguish the resulting proposals from those of your run-of-the-mill right-wing think tank, it's refreshing to see such an open commitment to what's fair for the fair-skinned. The problems besetting Caucasian Americans, after all, are not the fault of what Regnery calls the “anti-white -- Anti-American -- campaign of an intellectual elite” (although that's no small target in the NPI's sights) as much as they are the product of the white volk's own tragic flaw: They're too darned nice! Their “proclivities for social parity and gender equality and group altruism,” while noble, risk bringing them the “suicide of the West,” Regnery warns. Somebody must keep the white folks' better angels from getting the best of them.

For Regnery, the new think tank is only the latest in a lengthening chain of services for Alabaster Americans. Last year Newsweek reported that he was setting up a whites-only dating service, “since the survival of our race depends upon our people marrying, reproducing, and parenting.” In 2001, Regnery founded The Occidental Quarterly, the leading journal of white separatism. In its debut issue, he reluctantly called for the dissolution of the United States into states “indivisible by reason of race, religion, or mutual interests.”

But until that fateful split, Regnery will content himself with the NPI's forthcoming analyses. Among them are a yearly State of White America report and “a major work on race relations” due out in January called Race and the American Prospect.

Hey, keep us out of it, huh?

-- Harold Meyerson

Beat the Devil

We've been made aware that there are cronies all over the Food and Drug Administration, that a crony may land on the Supreme Court, and that a horse-training crony ran the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But by gum, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has evidently been spared a similar fate.

We know this because in mid-October, the courageous board voted -- unanimously! -- not to change the name of Mount Diablo, the muscular, 3,849-foot mountain several miles inland from Berkeley, California. The board had been petitioned by Art Mijares, a local man who explained to the Contra Costa Times that “words have power, and when you start mentioning words that come from the dark side, evil thrives.”

Alas, Mijares was defeated by the godless local reality-based community, which agreed that a name change would be confusing. But all is not lost, Art: Maybe any White House officials who have to leave Washington in Plame-case indictments can stack the board.

-- Michael Tomasky

Transcript

An exchange between Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association and host of American Family Radio's Today's Issues, and his guest, the Reverend Lou Sheldon:

Wildmon: And let me just say one other thing, and we'll go on to our next caller. And I'm not a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or a social scientist, or anything like that. But I have heard from people who know and understand these things that two of the most difficult sins or bondage to break out of are alcoholism and homosexuality.

Sheldon: Oh, definitely, because the groove is built, and I've talked to many psychotherapists who are Christian, and they say once you enter into that lifestyle -- now, you may have gender identity conflict (that's the medical-scientific name for homosexuality) -- where you're attracted to the same-sex person, but once you enter into the culture, into the music, into the gay bars, into the gay literature, into the gay theater, and all of that kind of -- and gay travel -- once you immerse yourself into that, you have really put yourself into a groove that only a sort of an exorcism can release you from.

Wildmon: Wow.

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