Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "Abolition of C.S. Lewis?," June 16, 2001

BERRY SKEPTICAL: Mary Frances Berry leaked the U.S. Civil Rights Commission report on the Florida election debacle to the news media before the state's highest officials could see it and have a chance to respond. To no surprise, then, it charges that Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris were "grossly derelict in fulfilling their responsibilities and unwilling to accept accountability." National Review's John J. Miller had roughly the same words to describe the authors of the report, which amounts to "a partisan attack on the legitimacy of President Bush's election." Ms. Berry claims that black voters were disenfranchised by a disproportionate margin and that the Justice Department should investigate whether minorities were intentionally denied voting rights. Andrew Sullivan, senior editor of the liberal weekly The New Republic, wrote on his website that, absent any evidence of a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise voters (and the report presented none), observers need to be skeptical when they hear accusations of a racist conspiracy: "When this report is used to inflame racial tensions even further (as some McAuliffe Democrats clearly intend), this distinction needs to be kept in mind." DEMOCRAT GAINS: Even with Tom Daschle in power over the Senate, we may yet see a capital-gains tax cut. How is this possible? Donald Lambro explains in The Washington Times that such a measure has a surprising amount of Democrat support. Although a recent vote to cut those taxes failed, it gained the support of the likes of Zell Miller (Ga.), would-be Veep Joe Lieberman (Conn.), and even Charles Schumer (N.Y.). Mr. Lambro says that Trent Lott still plans to push the issue later this year and may find a surprisingly warm reception. Mr. Lambro argues that Democrats only recently used capital-gains cuts as a litmus test, but many within their ranks believe both Wall Street and Main Street need a fuel injection: "Cutting capital-gains taxes will unleash the animal spirits of entrepreneurial risk-takers, who would realize higher after-tax gains from their investments and immediately pour that money into new economy businesses and start-up ventures." ALL IN FAVOR? Another weight on Main Street is regulation-and a new report by Cato Institute scholar Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. argues that increased spending will effectively wipe out any benefits of budget surpluses. He calculates in his study "Ten Thousand Commandments" that federal environmental, health, safety, and economic regulations will gobble up over $800 billion this year. That means "$7,410 for the median two-earner family," he says. Mr. Crews says that regulatory costs are hard to calculate because they are often hidden and buried in legislation. Almost half the regulations come from a few departments: Treasury, Interior, Commerce, and the EPA. In the report published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, he argues that "regulations should be treated the same way federal spending is treated. Congress should be held directly accountable." STARVED FOR ATTENTION: Why not just ignore John McCain? That's what John Fund suggests in The Wall Street Journal. He argues that the pseudo-contrarian senator feeds on publicity and would have little future as a lone ranger. Mr. Fund brings up the oft-told story from political history: that third parties do not win. Partisan splinters like Henry Wallace, George Wallace, and John Anderson all split with their parties and came up short at the polls. "In bad economic times it could throw the election to a Democrat by crippling the GOP incumbent, as TR did to President Taft in 1912," he says. "But such a last hurrah for Mr. McCain would have no realistic chance of winning the White House." Since Sen. McCain can no longer hand the Senate to the Democrats, his bargaining power is diminished. When attacked, however, he can still play the "brave maverick" role before the media: "Perhaps the best policy ... is one of benign neglect." DEFINING NORMALCY DOWN: Whatever happened to "normal"? John Derbyshire wonders about our nonjudgmental society in National Review, noting census figures that households made up of unmarried individuals are increasingly common. After all, some liberals have fought for decades to wipe out any concept of normal life as bigoted, boring, or Ward Cleaver-ish, yet they find the concept useful for their own ends. Much of the liberal project in recent years has been characterized by a striving to accredit as normal all sorts of behavior. "Because everyone wishes to be seen as normal, imputations of abnormality are bitterly resented." Mr. Derbyshire follows up, arguing that "normal" is necessary for a nation's survival: "No society can remain stable without the ballast of huge numbers of citizens living their lives in much the same way; and not just any old way will do."

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