Commentary Magazine


Topic: Commonwealth Day

A Policy That Pleases No One

In a private meeting with British MEPs on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Britain Louis Susman is reported to have said: “Washington wants a clearer British commitment to remain in the EU. … [A]ll key issues must run through Europe.” He was not expressing a personal preference. He was reiterating the administration’s policy. After all, it was the vice president who last May described Brussels as “the capital of the free world.” But this is not a policy that is likely to achieve results satisfactory to anyone.

I wrote my doctoral thesis on the first British application to the EEC in 1961 and, more broadly, on the European issue in British politics from 1956 to 1963, so I’ve had 10 painful years of slogging through thousands of pages of public and private documents on this subject. The reactions of the British people to the negotiations to enter the EEC in 1961 to 1963 are particularly relevant to the ambassador’s statement and the administration’s policy. Harold Macmillan’s government took these reactions so seriously that it carried out a secret survey of public opinion — surveying the public in this way was then a rather novel idea — to figure out if it was winning or losing, and why. (As it happened, it was losing,)

The survey found that opposition to joining the EEC centered, first, on loyalty to kith and kin in the Commonwealth. Second came the somewhat parochial concerns of the farmers, who were worried (and how wrong they turned out to be) that the Common Agricultural Policy wouldn’t ship enough money their way. Less significant than both of these sentiments, but still important, came the belief that Britain was only entering Europe because the U.S. had ordered it to do so and that the U.S. was collaborating with the EEC in an attack on British sovereignty. As a matter of fact, this was not fully true. The U.S. did strongly support British entry, but Macmillan wasn’t simply being ordered around. He had his own reasons for his policy. Indeed, he had so many reasons that it is almost impossible to answer the seeming simple question “Why did Britain apply for entry?” Read More

In a private meeting with British MEPs on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Britain Louis Susman is reported to have said: “Washington wants a clearer British commitment to remain in the EU. … [A]ll key issues must run through Europe.” He was not expressing a personal preference. He was reiterating the administration’s policy. After all, it was the vice president who last May described Brussels as “the capital of the free world.” But this is not a policy that is likely to achieve results satisfactory to anyone.

I wrote my doctoral thesis on the first British application to the EEC in 1961 and, more broadly, on the European issue in British politics from 1956 to 1963, so I’ve had 10 painful years of slogging through thousands of pages of public and private documents on this subject. The reactions of the British people to the negotiations to enter the EEC in 1961 to 1963 are particularly relevant to the ambassador’s statement and the administration’s policy. Harold Macmillan’s government took these reactions so seriously that it carried out a secret survey of public opinion — surveying the public in this way was then a rather novel idea — to figure out if it was winning or losing, and why. (As it happened, it was losing,)

The survey found that opposition to joining the EEC centered, first, on loyalty to kith and kin in the Commonwealth. Second came the somewhat parochial concerns of the farmers, who were worried (and how wrong they turned out to be) that the Common Agricultural Policy wouldn’t ship enough money their way. Less significant than both of these sentiments, but still important, came the belief that Britain was only entering Europe because the U.S. had ordered it to do so and that the U.S. was collaborating with the EEC in an attack on British sovereignty. As a matter of fact, this was not fully true. The U.S. did strongly support British entry, but Macmillan wasn’t simply being ordered around. He had his own reasons for his policy. Indeed, he had so many reasons that it is almost impossible to answer the seeming simple question “Why did Britain apply for entry?”

The problem with the Obama administration’s policy — which has basically been the policy of most U.S. administrations since 1961, with the partial exception of the more Euroskeptic tenure of George W. Bush — is that it raises these concerns about American bullying all over again, and raises them in a uniquely unhelpful way. Let us suppose for a moment that you desire — as I do not — that Britain should remain in the EU. U.S. declarations to this effect do nothing to convince those skeptical of this policy, because they suggest that the U.S. is cooperating with the EU to destroy British sovereignty, which is precisely why the skeptics are opposed to EU membership in the first place. Americans who desire Britain to stay in will best achieve this aim by not talking about it.

On the other hand, if you favor British withdrawal, it is regrettably true that the ambassador’s statements will anger the Euroskeptics — who tend to be more pro-American — and damage the Special Relationship by suggesting that the Americans have more or less given up on the idea of Britain as a sovereign and self-governing partner. The result is not to encourage strong Anglo-American relations; it is to encourage weaker British relations with both Europe and the U.S. Paradoxically, again, Americans who believe Britain should leave the EU have little to gain from statements like the ambassador’s, no matter how much public uproar they cause in Britain.

I am tempted to say it’s amazing that the administration has come upon a policy in this realm that will not achieve good results for anyone, no matter what they believe. But, as events in other parts of the world are illustrating, they seem to have a positive knack for this kind of thing.

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Was It the Lavish Vacation?

Politicians of both parties fall prey to gaffes of the “lives of the rich and famous” variety. But liberals, very rich ones, are especially susceptible to flaunting their wealth because they can’t imagine that their motives and dedication to the poor and the underprivileged would be called into question. After all, they support every social engineering project of the liberal welfare state, insist that taxes (well, other people’s taxes) be increased and redistributed, and attend so many important charitable functions in each-other’s magnificent homes. Hence we have the John Kerry “park the yacht elsewhere” gambit, which was quickly reversed when the voters thought it peculiar that Kerry didn’t want to pay $500,000 in taxes that he would have be owed, had he docked his floating palace in the Commonwealth’s waters.

Then there is Michelle Obama. After a rocky campaign, she’s gone on a charm offensive that puts to shame her husband’s Jewish “make nice” outreach. She grows vegetables. She exercises with children. No more do we hear about the America she was never proud of before Hillary went down the tubes in the primary. (And really, what’s not to like about a country that elevates your husband to the White House and confers queen-bee status on you?) But there, too, the bloom is off the rose: “The first lady’s rating, a combination of the very positive and somewhat positive answers, has fallen from 64 percent in April ’09 to 55 percent in January 2010 to 50 percent today.” Byron York thinks it is the vacation that may have done it:

Mrs. Obama’s personal popularity is lower than former First Lady Laura Bush’s ratings in the same poll by the same pollsters. In December, 2001, 76 percent of those surveyed had a positive opinion of Mrs. Bush. In February 2005, that number was 65 percent. In October 2006, with her husband’s job and personal approval ratings plummeting, Mrs. Bush’s personal approval rating was 56 percent.

Michelle Obama received the first negative press of her time in the White House in recent weeks during her vacation trip to Spain. Critics questioned why the first lady chose to go to a glitzy, high-priced resort at a time when unemployment is high and many Americans are suffering economically. The White House pushed back, first giving reporters the story that Mrs. Obama made the trip to comfort a friend who had recently lost her father and then stressing that the first lady is so popular that she will be in great demand by Democrats campaigning for House and Senate seats this November. But the new Wall Street Journal/NBC numbers suggest that Mrs. Obama’s popularity is falling, not rising.

It may be that the lavish trips (maybe the date night in New York was over the top?) aren’t the only thing at work. Perhaps, unlike Laura Bush, who — feminists, hold on to your hats — carved a separate identity and established a pleasing persona, which survived her husband’s ups and downs, Michelle has not. She is the perfect distillation, as is her husband, of the elite left (don’t tell me she was raised as middle class; she was educated in the Ivy League and lived a life of privilege from Hyde Park on). She and he are two peas in a pod. And right now the public seems increasingly fed up with both of them.

Politicians of both parties fall prey to gaffes of the “lives of the rich and famous” variety. But liberals, very rich ones, are especially susceptible to flaunting their wealth because they can’t imagine that their motives and dedication to the poor and the underprivileged would be called into question. After all, they support every social engineering project of the liberal welfare state, insist that taxes (well, other people’s taxes) be increased and redistributed, and attend so many important charitable functions in each-other’s magnificent homes. Hence we have the John Kerry “park the yacht elsewhere” gambit, which was quickly reversed when the voters thought it peculiar that Kerry didn’t want to pay $500,000 in taxes that he would have be owed, had he docked his floating palace in the Commonwealth’s waters.

Then there is Michelle Obama. After a rocky campaign, she’s gone on a charm offensive that puts to shame her husband’s Jewish “make nice” outreach. She grows vegetables. She exercises with children. No more do we hear about the America she was never proud of before Hillary went down the tubes in the primary. (And really, what’s not to like about a country that elevates your husband to the White House and confers queen-bee status on you?) But there, too, the bloom is off the rose: “The first lady’s rating, a combination of the very positive and somewhat positive answers, has fallen from 64 percent in April ’09 to 55 percent in January 2010 to 50 percent today.” Byron York thinks it is the vacation that may have done it:

Mrs. Obama’s personal popularity is lower than former First Lady Laura Bush’s ratings in the same poll by the same pollsters. In December, 2001, 76 percent of those surveyed had a positive opinion of Mrs. Bush. In February 2005, that number was 65 percent. In October 2006, with her husband’s job and personal approval ratings plummeting, Mrs. Bush’s personal approval rating was 56 percent.

Michelle Obama received the first negative press of her time in the White House in recent weeks during her vacation trip to Spain. Critics questioned why the first lady chose to go to a glitzy, high-priced resort at a time when unemployment is high and many Americans are suffering economically. The White House pushed back, first giving reporters the story that Mrs. Obama made the trip to comfort a friend who had recently lost her father and then stressing that the first lady is so popular that she will be in great demand by Democrats campaigning for House and Senate seats this November. But the new Wall Street Journal/NBC numbers suggest that Mrs. Obama’s popularity is falling, not rising.

It may be that the lavish trips (maybe the date night in New York was over the top?) aren’t the only thing at work. Perhaps, unlike Laura Bush, who — feminists, hold on to your hats — carved a separate identity and established a pleasing persona, which survived her husband’s ups and downs, Michelle has not. She is the perfect distillation, as is her husband, of the elite left (don’t tell me she was raised as middle class; she was educated in the Ivy League and lived a life of privilege from Hyde Park on). She and he are two peas in a pod. And right now the public seems increasingly fed up with both of them.

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Measuring Obama: Their Finest Hour but Not Ours

In the wake of yet another disappointing Oval Office speech, this time about the oil spill and energy policy, the arrival today of the 70th anniversary of two of the most influential speeches by world leaders is a harsh reminder of the gap between President Barack Obama’s pedestrian yet self-aggrandizing style and the measure of genuine leadership. Measuring anyone, even someone whose supporters tend to speak of him as if he were the Messiah, against the standards set on June 18, 1940, by Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle may be unfair. But the contrast between Obama and these historical icons isn’t so much one of eloquence but their ability to see moral choices clearly, to act decisively based on those choices, and then to be able to articulate the reasoning behind them in such a way as to not only render them explicable to a general audience but also to inspire their listeners to act and sacrifice in the cause they have set forth.

Addressing the House of Commons after the collapse of the French army under the weight of the German blitzkrieg, Churchill made one of the most justly famous speeches in history. His concluding sentence still has the power to raise the hair on the back of our necks today: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”

But there was more to this speech than just a memorable phrase. He was brutally frank about the extent of the catastrophe to the Allies while urging that time not be wasted on recriminations. He spoke of the hope of victory but grounded that hope in practical policy. Most important, unlike many in the Commons as well as in his cabinet who still thought that peace with Hitler was possible and that accommodation with the reality of Nazi victory was merely common sense, Churchill was unafraid to state explicitly that such a decision would be unthinkable, because “if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”

Elsewhere in London that day, De Gaulle, a mere brigadier general and an undersecretary of war in the last government of France’s Third Republic, made a speech on the BBC declaring that he and not the French leaders who would soon sign an armistice and set up the Nazi puppet Vichy regime truly represented the people of France. Though almost all of his countrymen could not see past their lamentable predicament at that moment, DeGaulle, almost alone, refused to submit. Like Churchill, he saw the war as more than merely a struggle of countries but of ideas. As he put it, “Honor, common sense and the best interest of our homeland all command the free French to fight.” He asked the French to consider that when “the forces of liberty finally triumph over those of servitude, what will be the destiny of a France which submitted to the enemy.” Though most of the French passively waited out the war until they were liberated by the sacrifices of others, De Gaulle not only saved the honor of his country but also inspired many Frenchmen and others to fight on against the Nazis.

Taken together, it is easy now to see these two statements as examples of how true statesmen can react at a crucial moment of history. By contrast, today the United States may be in a far stronger position than was Britain and France in 1940, but it, too, is faced with grave threats to its security that force it to fight wars that also demand inspired leadership. But it is led by a man who prides himself above all on his cool temperament, his willingness to see the world in terms of moral equivalences, his irrepressible desire to apologize to enemies of freedom rather than to confront them, and to temporize and prevaricate and to choose half measures when faced with dilemmas rather than to act decisively and with honor.

Comparisons with historical greatness are inevitably invidious, but seen in this light, the gap between Churchill and De Gaulle on the one hand and Barack Obama on the other must force Americans to sadly admit that this is not our finest hour.

In the wake of yet another disappointing Oval Office speech, this time about the oil spill and energy policy, the arrival today of the 70th anniversary of two of the most influential speeches by world leaders is a harsh reminder of the gap between President Barack Obama’s pedestrian yet self-aggrandizing style and the measure of genuine leadership. Measuring anyone, even someone whose supporters tend to speak of him as if he were the Messiah, against the standards set on June 18, 1940, by Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle may be unfair. But the contrast between Obama and these historical icons isn’t so much one of eloquence but their ability to see moral choices clearly, to act decisively based on those choices, and then to be able to articulate the reasoning behind them in such a way as to not only render them explicable to a general audience but also to inspire their listeners to act and sacrifice in the cause they have set forth.

Addressing the House of Commons after the collapse of the French army under the weight of the German blitzkrieg, Churchill made one of the most justly famous speeches in history. His concluding sentence still has the power to raise the hair on the back of our necks today: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”

But there was more to this speech than just a memorable phrase. He was brutally frank about the extent of the catastrophe to the Allies while urging that time not be wasted on recriminations. He spoke of the hope of victory but grounded that hope in practical policy. Most important, unlike many in the Commons as well as in his cabinet who still thought that peace with Hitler was possible and that accommodation with the reality of Nazi victory was merely common sense, Churchill was unafraid to state explicitly that such a decision would be unthinkable, because “if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”

Elsewhere in London that day, De Gaulle, a mere brigadier general and an undersecretary of war in the last government of France’s Third Republic, made a speech on the BBC declaring that he and not the French leaders who would soon sign an armistice and set up the Nazi puppet Vichy regime truly represented the people of France. Though almost all of his countrymen could not see past their lamentable predicament at that moment, DeGaulle, almost alone, refused to submit. Like Churchill, he saw the war as more than merely a struggle of countries but of ideas. As he put it, “Honor, common sense and the best interest of our homeland all command the free French to fight.” He asked the French to consider that when “the forces of liberty finally triumph over those of servitude, what will be the destiny of a France which submitted to the enemy.” Though most of the French passively waited out the war until they were liberated by the sacrifices of others, De Gaulle not only saved the honor of his country but also inspired many Frenchmen and others to fight on against the Nazis.

Taken together, it is easy now to see these two statements as examples of how true statesmen can react at a crucial moment of history. By contrast, today the United States may be in a far stronger position than was Britain and France in 1940, but it, too, is faced with grave threats to its security that force it to fight wars that also demand inspired leadership. But it is led by a man who prides himself above all on his cool temperament, his willingness to see the world in terms of moral equivalences, his irrepressible desire to apologize to enemies of freedom rather than to confront them, and to temporize and prevaricate and to choose half measures when faced with dilemmas rather than to act decisively and with honor.

Comparisons with historical greatness are inevitably invidious, but seen in this light, the gap between Churchill and De Gaulle on the one hand and Barack Obama on the other must force Americans to sadly admit that this is not our finest hour.

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Is It Worth It?

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is pushing back against Democrats’ complaints that he is wasting the Commonwealth’s money in suing to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional. Well, aside from the obligation of all elected officials to defend the Constitution, it seems it’s as smart a use of public funds as one could possibly find. In a news release, the AG explains:

The court filing fee for the case of Commonwealth v. Kathleen Sebelius in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was $350.  There has been no additional cost above this amount, as the litigation is being handled entirely by the attorney general’s staff.  The office also does not expect much outside cost, as outside counsel has not been retained.

Additionally, since the case is centered around a purely legal constitutional argument, the office anticipates no material costs for things such as discovery, witnesses, etc.

If the suit is successful, the savings to the Commonwealth of Virginia alone is estimated by the governor’s office to be about $1.1 billion from 2015-2022.  This is because if the health care reform act remains law, Virginia would realize an additional $1.1 billion in costs for the new Medicaid requirements called for in the act.  This savings figure does not take in to account the tax and fee savings to individuals and businesses if the federal law is struck down as unconstitutional.

That is $1.1 billion for a middle-sized state. If you think the fiscal impact of ObamaCare and the hue and cry resulting from the gush of red ink it will send spewing forth will be limited to the federal government, think again. All 50 states and  their elected officials will be coping with this — or trying to figure out how to rip it out before it wrecks not only the federal budget but state and local ones as well.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is pushing back against Democrats’ complaints that he is wasting the Commonwealth’s money in suing to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional. Well, aside from the obligation of all elected officials to defend the Constitution, it seems it’s as smart a use of public funds as one could possibly find. In a news release, the AG explains:

The court filing fee for the case of Commonwealth v. Kathleen Sebelius in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was $350.  There has been no additional cost above this amount, as the litigation is being handled entirely by the attorney general’s staff.  The office also does not expect much outside cost, as outside counsel has not been retained.

Additionally, since the case is centered around a purely legal constitutional argument, the office anticipates no material costs for things such as discovery, witnesses, etc.

If the suit is successful, the savings to the Commonwealth of Virginia alone is estimated by the governor’s office to be about $1.1 billion from 2015-2022.  This is because if the health care reform act remains law, Virginia would realize an additional $1.1 billion in costs for the new Medicaid requirements called for in the act.  This savings figure does not take in to account the tax and fee savings to individuals and businesses if the federal law is struck down as unconstitutional.

That is $1.1 billion for a middle-sized state. If you think the fiscal impact of ObamaCare and the hue and cry resulting from the gush of red ink it will send spewing forth will be limited to the federal government, think again. All 50 states and  their elected officials will be coping with this — or trying to figure out how to rip it out before it wrecks not only the federal budget but state and local ones as well.

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Re: Not in Virginia

Gov. Bob McDonnell wants there to be no doubt about his views. He has released the following statement on the KSM trial:

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell today reiterated his longstanding opposition to the detention or trial of any Guantanamo Bay detainee, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, taking place in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He also noted his agreement with Congressional leaders from both parties that all Guantanamo Bay detainees be put before military tribunals, rather than civilian courts as outlined by the United States Department of Justice. Virginia has several locations, including Alexandria and Newport News, that have been suggested as possible civilian trial locations.

Speaking about the issue Governor McDonnell noted, “Officials in New York City have made clear they do not want a disruptive civilian trial of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad taking place in that city. As they are appropriately acting in the best interests of their citizens, today I am doing the same for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Commonwealth has been the site of previous terrorism trials, most recently the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui at the federal courthouse in Alexandria. That trial led to ongoing significant disruptions and potential threats for the citizens of that Virginia community, and local leaders have made clear they do not want to host such a trial again.  I strongly oppose any Guantanamo Bay detainees being either held or tried in Virginia.”

Now the question becomes, what other governors will step forward? Is there any state willing to take on the financial burden and security risk of the Obami’s grand experiment? I think it unlikely.

Gov. Bob McDonnell wants there to be no doubt about his views. He has released the following statement on the KSM trial:

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell today reiterated his longstanding opposition to the detention or trial of any Guantanamo Bay detainee, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, taking place in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He also noted his agreement with Congressional leaders from both parties that all Guantanamo Bay detainees be put before military tribunals, rather than civilian courts as outlined by the United States Department of Justice. Virginia has several locations, including Alexandria and Newport News, that have been suggested as possible civilian trial locations.

Speaking about the issue Governor McDonnell noted, “Officials in New York City have made clear they do not want a disruptive civilian trial of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad taking place in that city. As they are appropriately acting in the best interests of their citizens, today I am doing the same for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Commonwealth has been the site of previous terrorism trials, most recently the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui at the federal courthouse in Alexandria. That trial led to ongoing significant disruptions and potential threats for the citizens of that Virginia community, and local leaders have made clear they do not want to host such a trial again.  I strongly oppose any Guantanamo Bay detainees being either held or tried in Virginia.”

Now the question becomes, what other governors will step forward? Is there any state willing to take on the financial burden and security risk of the Obami’s grand experiment? I think it unlikely.

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Not in Virginia

With the apparent decision by the Obama administration to throw in the towel on a New York trial for KSM, speculation has turned to what other locales might take on the burden of a public trial for the world’s most notorious jihadist. One suggestion has been Alexandria, Virginia, where the 2006 death-penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui was held. However, Gov. Bob McDonnell is having none of that. His spokesman, Tucker Martin, had this to say on the subject when I inquired as to the possibility of a trial in the federal court in Alexandria:

The governor is adamantly opposed to that trial taking place in Virginia. He has been unequivocal in his opposition to any trials of Guantanamo Bay detainees taking place in the Commonwealth. He will continue to make his strong opposition clear, and will work with Virginia’s congressional delegation to prevent any Guantanamo Bay detainees from setting foot in Virginia.

Martin referred me to McDonnell’s multiple statements on the topic during the campaign last year when, at one time, Virginia Congressman James Moran evidenced enthusiasm about hosting Guantanamo trials and accepting released detainees in his district. Back in May of 2009, when rumors circulated that the Uighurs might be coming to Virginia, McDonnell declared support for the “Keep Terrorists Out of America Act,” which would have required the president to certify that the detainee did not pose a security risk and to inform Congress as to why a specific location had been chosen. Again in August, then candidate McDonnell released a statement declaring:

I strongly oppose the trials of any Guantanamo Bay detainees being conducted in Alexandria, or anywhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The federal courthouse in Alexandria is located just feet from hotels, shops and apartment buildings. In 2006 the Alexandria trial of terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui demonstrated firsthand the tremendous burden such events place on the community.

The bottom line: if the Obami intend to relocate the KSM trial to Virginia, they will get quite a fight from the governor and, I suspect, other elected officials. And frankly, any governor of another state who takes a less adamant stance on the topic is likely to encounter a storm of criticism.

Perhaps it is time to return KSM and his associates to a secure, offshore location where he can be tried before a military tribunal with no risk or further financial burden on the American people. We have one built specifically for that purpose: Guantanamo Bay.

With the apparent decision by the Obama administration to throw in the towel on a New York trial for KSM, speculation has turned to what other locales might take on the burden of a public trial for the world’s most notorious jihadist. One suggestion has been Alexandria, Virginia, where the 2006 death-penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui was held. However, Gov. Bob McDonnell is having none of that. His spokesman, Tucker Martin, had this to say on the subject when I inquired as to the possibility of a trial in the federal court in Alexandria:

The governor is adamantly opposed to that trial taking place in Virginia. He has been unequivocal in his opposition to any trials of Guantanamo Bay detainees taking place in the Commonwealth. He will continue to make his strong opposition clear, and will work with Virginia’s congressional delegation to prevent any Guantanamo Bay detainees from setting foot in Virginia.

Martin referred me to McDonnell’s multiple statements on the topic during the campaign last year when, at one time, Virginia Congressman James Moran evidenced enthusiasm about hosting Guantanamo trials and accepting released detainees in his district. Back in May of 2009, when rumors circulated that the Uighurs might be coming to Virginia, McDonnell declared support for the “Keep Terrorists Out of America Act,” which would have required the president to certify that the detainee did not pose a security risk and to inform Congress as to why a specific location had been chosen. Again in August, then candidate McDonnell released a statement declaring:

I strongly oppose the trials of any Guantanamo Bay detainees being conducted in Alexandria, or anywhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The federal courthouse in Alexandria is located just feet from hotels, shops and apartment buildings. In 2006 the Alexandria trial of terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui demonstrated firsthand the tremendous burden such events place on the community.

The bottom line: if the Obami intend to relocate the KSM trial to Virginia, they will get quite a fight from the governor and, I suspect, other elected officials. And frankly, any governor of another state who takes a less adamant stance on the topic is likely to encounter a storm of criticism.

Perhaps it is time to return KSM and his associates to a secure, offshore location where he can be tried before a military tribunal with no risk or further financial burden on the American people. We have one built specifically for that purpose: Guantanamo Bay.

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Acts of Union

The 300th anniversary of the union of England and Scotland fell on Tuesday, May 1—in a sense, the birthday of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The Act of Union of 1707 provided for the amalgamation of the two parliaments at Westminster, the Hanoverian—hence Protestant—succession, and the creation of a single flag, the Union Jack.

It may seem strange to American eyes that the English show no desire to commemorate what is in effect their country’s tricentennial. But there remains deep resentment in some quarters at the overrepresentation of Scots at Westminster and the constitutional anomaly (known as the “West Lothian Question”) that allows Scottish members of Parliament to vote on English legislation but not vice versa. Meanwhile, north of the border, the bitterest opponents of the union—the Scottish Nationalists—are predicted to become the largest party in the newly resurrected Scottish parliament when Scots go to the polls this Thursday.

These matters may seem highly parochial today. And even if Scotland were to vote for independence in a referendum, it would be greeted south of the border with a shrug: English taxpayers are quite aware how generously they subsidize their Scottish counterparts. But there was a time in the 17th century when relations between England and Scotland had implications far beyond either realm.

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The 300th anniversary of the union of England and Scotland fell on Tuesday, May 1—in a sense, the birthday of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The Act of Union of 1707 provided for the amalgamation of the two parliaments at Westminster, the Hanoverian—hence Protestant—succession, and the creation of a single flag, the Union Jack.

It may seem strange to American eyes that the English show no desire to commemorate what is in effect their country’s tricentennial. But there remains deep resentment in some quarters at the overrepresentation of Scots at Westminster and the constitutional anomaly (known as the “West Lothian Question”) that allows Scottish members of Parliament to vote on English legislation but not vice versa. Meanwhile, north of the border, the bitterest opponents of the union—the Scottish Nationalists—are predicted to become the largest party in the newly resurrected Scottish parliament when Scots go to the polls this Thursday.

These matters may seem highly parochial today. And even if Scotland were to vote for independence in a referendum, it would be greeted south of the border with a shrug: English taxpayers are quite aware how generously they subsidize their Scottish counterparts. But there was a time in the 17th century when relations between England and Scotland had implications far beyond either realm.

The original union of 1603, which brought together the two kingdoms under the Stuart dynasty but preserved both as separate and intact realms, had enhanced the power of the monarchy. In 1641, however, a second union, with a very different purpose, was agreed by treaty. This Anglo-Scottish union was the work not of King Charles I but of the two parliaments in Westminster and Edinburgh.

According to The Noble Revolt: The Overthrow of Charles I (Weidenfeld and Nicolson), the magnificent and authoritative new history by John Adamson, the creation of this Anglo-Scottish union was “perhaps the deepest challenge to traditional monarchical authority, at least as it had been exercised in the half century to 1640.” Charles I was deliberately excluded from the treaty negotiations, the prime objective of which was “to ensure that London-based monarch’s permanent constraint.”

At the solemn inauguration of the 1641 union, a sermon was given by Jeremiah Burroughes, a famous Congregationalist preacher and a believer in elective monarchy on the Polish model. The union, he declared, would secure the new constitution created by the Triennial Act, whereby the power of the king to summon parliaments had been abolished in favor of automatic elections every three years.

Under the new union treaty, each parliament could call on the other for military aid against the king, and it was this threat of insurrection that Burroughes had in mind when he proclaimed that “God hath put in a barre to this our doore of hope, to keep it from being shut.” And the effect of the union was, in the view of the Venetian ambassador Giustinian, to promote “Dutch”—that is, republican—“forms of government” among the English, “for which the people here show far too much inclination.”

Already in September 1640, even before the treaty, the English rebels were making plans to raise a joint Anglo-Scottish force, to be known as the “Armies of the Commonwealth”—thereby usurping the prerogatives of the monarchy. Adamson calls this plan “unambiguously treasonous” and argues that the parliamentarians were intent upon reducing Charles I to what he calls a “Duke [Doge] of Venice,” a mere figurehead.

In many respects, the formation of the Anglo-Scottish union in 1641 and the civil war that began in the following year anticipated the events of the American Revolution. (Just as the Constitution of the United States is a working-out of ideas originally generated by the British crisis of the mid-17th century and further enunciated by European thinkers from Hobbes to Locke and Montesqieu.) Americans may be forgiven for being a little hazy about this part of their history, but their ancestors in the 1770′s knew it very well indeed. And Americans, at least, have more excuse for their ignorance than the British, most of whom seemingly neither know nor care about the origins of their own liberties. Nobody buys an antique without informing themselves of its provenance. But we treat our freedom as if its history did not matter.

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The British Pat Buchanan

The battle has been joined for the soul of the British Conservative party in, of all places, that leading organ of the Left, the Guardian.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author of The Strange Death of Tory England, a polemic against Thatcherism, and Yo, Blair!, a diatribe against Tony Blair’s alliance with George W. Bush, has published an article in that paper taking the British Conservative party to task. According to Wheatcroft, “the Tories have been infiltrated by Anglo-neoconservatives, a species easily defined. Several of the younger MP’s are fanatical adherents of the creed with its three prongs: ardent support for the Iraq war, for the U.S., and for Israel.”

Wheatcroft wheels out the old anti-Semitic canard of “dual loyalty” by suggesting that only in Britain “is there a Conservative party, and Tory press, largely in the hands of people whose basic commitment is to the national interest of another country, or countries.” He quotes one such member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, who insists that “it is in our national interest to support Israel . . . because I believe they are a front-line ally in a war against people who wish to destroy our democratic way of life.” Wheatcroft then twists his words to ask if the Tory leader, David Cameron, shares “Carswell’s belief that the British army in Basra and Helmand is fighting on behalf of Israel.”

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The battle has been joined for the soul of the British Conservative party in, of all places, that leading organ of the Left, the Guardian.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author of The Strange Death of Tory England, a polemic against Thatcherism, and Yo, Blair!, a diatribe against Tony Blair’s alliance with George W. Bush, has published an article in that paper taking the British Conservative party to task. According to Wheatcroft, “the Tories have been infiltrated by Anglo-neoconservatives, a species easily defined. Several of the younger MP’s are fanatical adherents of the creed with its three prongs: ardent support for the Iraq war, for the U.S., and for Israel.”

Wheatcroft wheels out the old anti-Semitic canard of “dual loyalty” by suggesting that only in Britain “is there a Conservative party, and Tory press, largely in the hands of people whose basic commitment is to the national interest of another country, or countries.” He quotes one such member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, who insists that “it is in our national interest to support Israel . . . because I believe they are a front-line ally in a war against people who wish to destroy our democratic way of life.” Wheatcroft then twists his words to ask if the Tory leader, David Cameron, shares “Carswell’s belief that the British army in Basra and Helmand is fighting on behalf of Israel.”

Wheatcroft is equally hostile to the United States: “There was once a vigorous high Tory tradition of independence from—if not hostility to—America. It was found in the Morning Post before the war, and it continued down to Enoch Powell and Alan Clark.”

As it happens, I met both these colorful figures, who served in various Tory administrations, though never at the highest level. Powell is best remembered for his “Rivers of Blood” speech of 1968, in which he denounced mass immigration from the Commonwealth and warned of civil war. This speech was widely interpreted as racist; it permanently marginalized Powell in mainstream politics. A few years later he left the Tory party. Some people now see him as a prophet who foresaw the difficulty of integrating a large Muslim minority, but his concerns were about race rather than religion.

Powell was once asked whether he was anti-American. He replied: “Most people are. The only change is that it has become a term of abuse.” In answer to the question why, he said: “Well, I just don’t like America, or Americans. It’s like saying you like sugar in your tea. De gustibus non est disputandum.”

At least Enoch Powell was not an anti-Semite. Alan Clark, however, was not only anti-American, but an enthusiastic and unashamed admirer of Hitler, whose portrait he kept on his wall. Clark’s pro-Nazi views permeate Barbarossa, his well-known history of the German invasion of Russia, but they also shine through at several points in The Tories: Conservatives and the Nation State, 1922-1997. He hints that German-Jewish refugees hindered Anglo-German efforts to preserve peace. Of Chamberlain’s belated decision to declare war on Germany in 1939, he writes: “Not since the Angevin kings had responded to mystic revelations from the Divinity instructing them to call a crusade to arms can any group of national leaders have taken so momentous a decision on such tenuous assumptions.”

But it is when Clark comes to Rudolf Hess’s flight to Scotland that his agenda is clearly revealed. Not only is he convinced (against all the evidence) that Hess brought a genuine peace offer from Hitler, that Churchill turned down this “wasted opportunity” to save the British Empire, and that the entire British establishment then engaged in a conspiracy to cover it up right down to 1987, when Hess was “strangled in his cell.” Clark also believes that a fall in Wall Street stocks on the news of Hess’s flight holds the key: peace, he claims, would have hit profits, which were far more important to Americans (many of them Jewish) than “the certain fate of human beings.”

As for more recent episodes: Clark depicts the Falklands war as a behind-the-scenes struggle between the Reagan administration, determined to frustrate the British attempt to regain the islands, and a stubborn Mrs. Thatcher—which is more or less the opposite of the version she herself recalls. Clark gained notoriety by publishing his sensational diaries, but they merely reinforce the impression of a clever but twisted mind, a crashing snob and conspiracy theorist, who fantasized about his boss, Mrs. Thatcher, as a kind of female Hitler, describing the thrill he got from her proximity as “Führer-Kontakt”.

So much for Alan Clark and Enoch Powell as keepers of the Tory flame. But Wheatcroft also admires the Arabist tradition exemplified by the vehemently anti-Zionist Ian (now Lord) Gilmour. Then he goes further back, rejecting Charles Moore’s claim that Conservatives have usually supported Israel in the past: “That highest of high Tories, Lord Curzon, deplored the Balfour declaration. . . . In his day Curzon might have seemed the truer Tory than Balfour, and it’s only recently that his spirit has been stifled in his old party.”

So, in Wheatcroft’s mind, true Tories reject the existence of Israel. He ignores such Conservative heroes as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, who staunchly supported both America and Israel, or in the more remote past Edmund Burke and Benjamin Disraeli. Instead, he postulates “infiltration” of the party by “zealous Anglo-neocons” who have “encircled” the Tory leader. He does not want David Cameron to become “the Hugo Chavez of Notting Hill,” he says, but to “forge a foreign policy that, unlike Blair’s, is based on the national interest of this country and not another.”

Geoffrey Wheatcroft emerges here as a British equivalent of Pat Buchanan. It is not often that such venomous resentment of the United States and Israel from the Right is brought out into the open in Britain—and no accident that it is the Guardian that offers these views a platform. To judge from the readers’ comments on the Guardian website, he has brought quite a few extreme anti-Semites out of the woodwork, too. But the tenor of Wheatcroft’s article is not untypical of the circles in which many senior Tories move. It is not only in America that paleoconservatives exist. Britain evidently has its very own Anglo-paleocons.

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