Joe Conason's Journal

Of course, compassionate conservatism saved the miners! Plus: "Bork in a dress" and the DLC is out to lunch.


Salon Staff
July 30, 2002 5:42PM (UTC)

Coal-mine kitsch
Ever wonder why the American Enterprise Institute pays Michael Novak the big tax-exempt bucks? It must be because he has few competitors as a creator of right-wing kitsch. Here he declares Somerset, Pa., the "Conservative Capital of the World." He further informs us that, among other things, the rescue of those "humble" folk in Somerset was a "politically incorrect" operation, "an amazing feat of conservative discipline, competence, professionalism and unyielding faith." It was the highest form of "compassionate conservatism," and so on. I hope the sage Novak isn't disillusioned to learn that the congressman representing Somerset is Rep. Jack Murtha, a veteran Democrat whose voting record places him firmly in the labor and liberal mainstream of his party. Somehow Novak manages to discuss his own family's humble mining background without mentioning the unions that helped such families survive. At National Review, that would be too politically incorrect.

"Bork in a Dress"
That is how a lawyer friend describes Priscilla Owen. He also recommends a more polite but no less scathing assessment of the Bush judicial nominee by author Edward Lazarus. Even the most committed conservatives ought to be shocked by his account of her callous handling of a product-liability case in which both Ford Motor and the plaintiffs, whose paralyzed son's enormous medical expenses were ruining their family, sought expedited review. That request was denied for no stated reason, and Owen dithered for 17 months before rendering a baldly biased reversal in favor of Ford. This is what passes for "pro-family" jurisprudence in Texas. In a just world this would be enough by itself to disqualify Owen from the federal bench.

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Free lunch for New Democrats
The Democratic Leadership Council maintains its status as the second most influential faction within the party (after the AFL-CIO) not only because of its centrist ideas but also thanks to heavy corporate funding. The specific sources and amounts of that money were of little curiosity to reporters covering their New York conclave, with the exception of the Hartford Courant's David Lightman. A clue could be found in the boxed lunch handed out to everyone attending the Monday sessions: a little card thanking AOL Time Warner for the sandwiches, chips and cookies. Incidentally, this story and others equally fascinating are linked every day from ABC's invaluable political site, the Note.
[Posted: 3:40 p.m. PDT, July 30, 2002]

Big government saved the miners
Awakening to the rescue of the nine trapped miners in Pennsylvania on Sunday was thrilling and gratifying. Neglected amid the joy of their televised salvation, however, were the political realities of an industry that has cost tens of thousands of lives. As a state environmental official explained during a Monday evening interview on MSNBC, the weekend miracle would not have been possible without swift technical assistance from the Mine Safety and Health Administration -- a federal agency routinely disparaged, harassed and penny-pinched by conservative politicians at the behest of mining lobbyists. As first reported by the Guardian, a previous overseer of Quecreek No. 1 may have faked an underground map, endangering future miners to increase profits.

Much backslapping blather has been heard about how tough miners are. They had better be. How many more of them would be killed and injured if they were left to the care of the mine operators, without government "bureaucrats" and union pressure? Ask Blaine Mayhugh, the young mineworker seen on the front page of Monday's New York Times after he was hauled up from that hellhole. He says the owners of the nonunion Black Wolf Mining Company haven't bothered to call or visit him yet.

"Homeland" without unions
The irritating name of the president's new, multibillion-dollar bureaucracy is beginning to sound truly ominous. First came the citizen snitch program, and now the White House is using terrorism as a pretext for union busting. The president hasn't explained exactly why the estimated 200,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security must be deprived of collective bargaining and due process. Perhaps he should detail his concerns in a speech before the Uniformed Firefighters of America or the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association or any of the various locals that represent America's unionized heroes. (The opposing argument is outlined here.)

If Ann Coulter can compare Katie Couric to Hitler's mistress and still bare her snarl in public, then I feel free to say that suppressing unions is an obsession of totalitarian regimes and their imitators. Organized labor is traditionally among the most patriotic institutions in this country (and considerably more loyal than corporations that are moving abroad to escape taxes while the nation is in deficit and "at war").

Most of them are perfectly nice
GOP adman Larry McCarthy's quip about a certain famous killer irked several readers. "Someone should remind McCarthy that Ted Bundy didn't look like a young Republican -- Ted Bundy was a young Republican," wrote one. "He worked for the Washington State Republican Party in the early 1970s: serial murderer and sexual predator were his nighttime gigs." I don't understand why they left this out of the TV movie. Don't forget clean-cut Ted when some right-wing windbag brings up the liberal environment that supposedly spawned John Walker Lindh.

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Time warped
Andrew Sullivan told us that about 10 minutes elapsed before he corrected his item blaming Bob Rubin for Enron. But another observer contends that it was more like four hours (scroll down to the Friday, July 26 post).
[Posted: 6:56 a.m. PDT, July 30, 2002]

For more Conason, click here. To e-mail Joe, click here.


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