McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Oct 18, 2001 12:00 AM
THANKS, OSAMA The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have inspired a greater outpouring of patriotism by the American people than most, if not all, previous wars. "The signs of this upsurge are everywhere. The grassroots response of the American people has been phenomenal," says Walters Berns, resident scholar at Washington's American Enterprise Institute. In his opinion, the display of bottom-up public patriotism has been "unseen in this nation in at least half a century, slicing across boundaries of race, class, age, and gender." Just look again at all the American flags, Berns says, which continue to fly more than a month after the attacks from office windows, porches and the antennas of battered pickup trucks. "Not since Pearl Harbor, and perhaps not even then, has there been anything like it," says. Berns. "There surely was nothing like it during the years of Korea, Vietnam, or even the Gulf War. Not then did crowds of people gather in the streets, shouting 'USA, USA, USA!'" THE DUKE President Bush should airdrop a few select John Wayne flicks to Osama bin Laden, to help the terrorist pass the hours while he's cowering in his cave. "If someone is unclear about the character of America, he or she needs only to watch a few John Wayne films," explains reader Ray Kraft. "While the context and the plot lines differ, there is a constant quality in the character that John Wayne played in every film I can remember, from 'Flying Tigers' to the 'Shootist' to a lot in between. "In every role, John Wayne was the man who didn't want to fight. He was reluctant to be drawn into a conflict. But when his hand was forced, when he couldn't avoid a battle without losing his integrity, he put everything he had into it - and did whatever was necessary to win - even if it cost his own life." PROTECT HER He no longer pilots military bombing missions but that's not stopping Sen. John McCain from rallying around the troops. "My warrior days were long ago, but not so long ago that I have forgotten their purpose and their reward," the Arizona Republican, featured speaker at the U.S. Naval Academy's Forrestal Lecture Series, told midshipmen. "This is your call to arms. This is your moment to make history. There will never be another nation such as ours. Take good care of her. The fate of the world depends upon it." SAVE YOUR MONEY Number of gas masks sold since Sept. 11 to army surplus stores by one major distributor, Military Outdoor: 39,000. Number of gas masks sold by the same company during the same period last year: 250. (Note: Emergency officials in the United States say gas masks are ineffective in protecting against terrorism.) SMALL WORLD It's been 10 years since the controversial confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Commemorating the anniversary, Washington author John Greenya has written "Silent Justice: The Clarence Thomas Story." The book goes beyond the Anita Hill trials to examine not only the justice's personal and political philosophies but the often overlooked political impact that Justice Thomas has had on this country. Most recently, Justice Thomas administered the oath of office to another controversial presidential nominee, Attorney General John Ashcroft. Few realize that the two men once shared office space in Missouri. Justice Thomas, in fact, delighted in playing jokes on his office mate, at the time a budding and shy politician. Should the issue of constitutional rights - in light of the recent terrorist attacks - wind up before the nation's highest court next, there should be little doubt that Justice Thomas will line up behind his old friend. OSAMA'S ALLIES In the month-old U.S. war against terrorism, President Bush faces two enemies: the terrorists themselves and a left-wing element in the United States. Just ask Peter Beinart, editor of the liberal opinion weekly the New Republic, who is all but signing on as a speechwriter for the Bush White House. Recently, Beinart notes, the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) hosted a panel on "How to Think about the Islamic-Afghan Terrorist Threat." The moderator was Charles H. Fairbanks Jr., director of SAIS' Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. "In his extemporaneous presentation," Beinart writes, "Fairbanks said the United States could respond to Sept. 11 in one of two ways. It could retaliate against the governments that supported the attack. Or it could limit its response to Osama bin Laden and his followers." Fairbanks, a self-described conservative, argued for the former, in part because the United States wouldn't be able to find bin Laden himself. He added: "I'll bet anyone here a Koran on that." A woman in the crowd interrupted, calling Fairbanks' remarks, which spoke bluntly of U.S. enemies in the Middle East, "a pathetic attempt at stand-up comedy," and accused him of "innuendos intended to encourage and to assist people in conducting hate crimes toward Muslims." "Fairbanks tried to regain the floor but she interrupted him again," Beinart notes. "He apologized for the Koran comment but when she interrupted him yet again, he called for her to be removed. Security never came, but eventually the woman stopped speaking and the forum ended." A few days later, Stephen Szabo, interim dean of SAIS, was concerned Fairbanks' comments might be deemed offensive and requested the moderator issue a letter of regret. "Fairbanks agreed," says Beinart. "The two men negotiated the wording and a letter was sent to everyone who had been invited to the panel. Fairbanks thought the unpleasantness was over." But two days later Fairbanks was fired, with Szabo eliminating his SAIS position altogether (the dean would later reverse his decision, and allow Fairbanks to continue as director). What gives? "Ever since Sept. 11, the American left has been warning that war fever threatens free speech," says Beinart. "But patriotism didn't cost Charles Fairbanks his job. He (temporarily) lost his job because of identity politics paranoia. "In other words, he lost his job because of the culture of the American left. And his case reminds us that when the left condemns the war against terrorism for threatening free speech, its real motive may not be devotion to free speech at all. Its real motive may simply be hostility to the war against terrorism."