Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Brothers up in arms," Oct. 26, 2002

War wounds

Why aren't Democrats smothering Republicans during this election cycle? OpinionJournal.com columnist Thomas J. Bray notes that historically during midterm elections, a first-term president's party loses big-especially when the economy is sluggish. But this year is shaping up to be different. Polls show the GOP holding its own, and Mr. Bray believes the reason has to do with the way Democratic leaders have handled themselves during the debate over war with Iraq. "They came away seeming hollow," he argues, with the debate "underlining their cynicism and mean-spiritedness." Instead of making serious arguments against going to war, he contends, "Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, after demanding for months that President Bush make his case, folded like a cheap suit when he did so-even though the case was no different than it was back in August, or June, or even Sept. 12, 2001." Democrats wanted to appear supportive of the war, while keeping the option of saying "I told you so" if trouble develops. Mr. Bray detects similar cynicism in domestic policy as well. Democrats criticize GOP proposals on Social Security and taxes but offer no serious alternatives. The result, he argues, is that Republicans are defying history and keeping this election close.

Winging it

So far this fall season, NBC has had one of its best wings clipped. USA Today's Gary Levin reports that ratings for The West Wing, which stars Martin Sheen as a heroic liberal commander-in-chief, have fallen 26 percent compared with last year. Among the advertiser-coveted 18-49 age group, the decline has been 31 percent. The ratings drop comes as Warner Bros., which produces The West Wing, is trying to negotiate a new contract with NBC for the show. Other NBC shows, including Frasier and ER, have also slipped in the ratings, Mr. Levin points out.

Gun nuts

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Even with a sniper running amok in the Washington, D.C., area, gun control isn't a hot issue this year. Reuters calls the issue "dead and buried," unlike after the Columbine shootings, when the issue took off. "We know the political realities and we're not going to get anything through right now," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told the wire service. Researcher John R. Lott Jr. reports on National Review's website that Gov. Gray Davis is bringing up the issue in California, but few others are following his lead. He notes that one Pennsylvania Democrat, gubernatorial candidate Ed Rendell, has campaigned at gun clubs-even though Mr. Rendell once called for lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Mr. Lott argues that burying the past will be difficult for former gun-control advocates: "Having supported everything from waiting periods to one-gun-a-month rules to what amounts to registration makes the sale that much harder."

Persecuted for righteousness sake

Christian converts from Islam face lives of persecution, ostracism, and even death threats-and not just overseas, reports Julia Duin in The Washington Times. She quotes numerous believers who were harassed and threatened by Muslims for following Christ. Calvary Chapel evangelist Samy Tanagho told Ms. Duin of a Saudi princess who converted but was shipped home. "Her faith was genuine," he said. "We tried to help her and even contacted Congress to try to protect her. All of a sudden, her family sent a limousine to where she was living and they took her away. She didn't have much support here from Christians, and her family had cut off all financial support." The converts say the harassment ranges from computer viruses to death threats. "The threat is real," Victor Gill of Christian Voice of Pakistan told the paper. "They think they are doing something to earn credit with God when they kill Christians. When John Walker Lindh converted to Islam, his family supported him. But not so for the converts here. The Koran said people who leave Islam must be killed."

Dangerous "missions"

An Earth First! activist fell out of a tree to his death during a logging protest this month. The man, Robert Bryan, plunged 50 feet from a redwood located in the Santa Cruz Mountains about 20 miles south of San Jose. Witnesses say he had been in the tree for about 12 hours and wasn't wearing a harness. San Jose Mercury News reporter Ken McLaughlin notes that a logging crew rushed to the scene and tried to rescue Mr. Bryan, but he later died at a hospital. Mr. Bryan is the second tree-sitter to perish this year; a woman named Beth O'Brien was killed last April in Mount Hood National Forest. "They think they're on a mission and they don't consider the risks involved," said Jim Branham, a spokesman for Pacific Lumber Co.

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