Judging John Roberts | Help From Abroad | Public to Democrats: Speak Up! | Liberal Hawks

Double Whammy—“Wow. You got the double whammy,” President Bush once told a 9/11 widow who lost her firefighter husband on their eighth wedding anniversary. The same could be said of the events between August 29 and September 5, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist passed away.

The last time there were two pending Supreme Court nominees was in 1986, when Chief Justice Warren Burger resigned and President Reagan promoted then-Associate Justice Rehnquist, nominating Antonin Scalia as his replacement. The Democrats, then in control of the Senate, fought unsuccessfully to block Rehnquist but confirmed Scalia in just one day.

Democrats already view John Roberts’ confirmation, initially as Associate Justice and now as Chief Justice (the hearings began September 12), as virtually inevitable, and are instead urging Bush to nominate a “consensus candidate” to fill Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement vacancy. “How do you replace Justice O’Connor without starting World War III?” one conservative lawyer mused to the New York Times. Judging from the easy time Roberts has had, he should ask John Roberts.

A Friend in Need—In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, governments around the world were quick to pledge assistance. Washington initially rebuffed the offers but reversed course after the extent of the devastation became apparent. Some of the offers came from unlikely sources. Fidel Castro offered to send 26 tons of supplies and 1,586 doctors from Cuba. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose assassination evangelist Pat Robertson recently advocated, offered to ship fuel, humanitarian aid and relief workers to our shores. And war-torn Sri Lanka, ravaged by the tsunami, pledged $25,000 to the American Red Cross.

The Party of Yes?—Conventional wisdom holds that Democrats are obstructionist crybabies lacking in ideas; a party of “No.” But if anything, on the crucial questions of the day, Americans believe that the opposition party too easily accommodates the agenda of President Bush. “Do you think Democrats in Congress have gone too far, or not far enough, in opposing the war in Iraq?” a Washington Post/ABC News poll recently asked. Fifty-three percent of the respondents said “Not far enough,” including 77 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Independents.

“Somebody needs to speak up,” Michelle Burgess, 41, a home health aide in St. Louis, told thePost. “Enough is enough. I don’t understand why we’re over there in Iraq or what [Bush is] doing on other issues.”

It’s a sentiment shared by many. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed disapproved of Bush’s handling of Iraq. Fifty-three percent believed the war is not worth fighting, up from just 22 percent in April 2003.

Liberal Hawks Still Hawkish—Amidst the chaos in Iraq and rising calls for withdrawal of our troops, so-called “liberal hawk” intellectuals are once again being asked to re-evaluate their Iraq War stances. The results are mixed.

One hawk who is backing away from his support for the original invasion, in 2003, is New Yorker writer George Packer. He told the New York Observer (August 29) that at the time of the invasion he wasn’t “as aware as I should have been of just how mendacious and incompetent” the Bush administration was. Packer’s new book, The Assassins’ Gate (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), will be released this October, and should be well received by the anti-war movement.

The prolific Christopher Hitchens blurbed Packer’s book but nevertheless remains a sort of one-man pro-invasion think tank. Hitchens told the Observer, “I feel no obligation to please or to massage the huge consensus of pseudo-intellectuals that formed against the policy [of George W. Bush].”

New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier bragged to the Observer that support for the invasion gives pro-war liberals “a perverse and somewhat paradoxical authority in expressing their criticisms of the way the war was conducted.” Disagreements with the antiwar camp have boosted the careers of thinkers such as NYU professor Noah Feldman and Harvard lecturer Michael Ignatieff.

“The fact . . . [that] the majority of my friends and colleagues think that I must have taken leave of my senses doesn’t make a difference at all,” Hitchens concluded. “I’m not someone shouting back at the TV in some bar.” Not all his comrades, however, are so confident. When asked what should be done in Iraq today, the hawkish editor of Dissent Paul Berman replied, half-jokingly, “I have to go now.”