Patterico's Pontifications


A Cop’s Christmas (Again)

Filed under: General — Jack Dunphy @ 4:22 pm

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

As has become my Christmas custom, and with apologies to those who have read it before, I present below a column I wrote for National Review Online in 2001. I hope the years haven’t dimmed the sentiments I tried to convey. Merry Christmas.

A Cop’s Christmas

For reviving the spirit, there is little in life that can rival standing among a thousand people singing “Adeste Fidelis” in church on Christmas morning. And while I don’t presume to know the minds of my fellow worshipers, I feel safe in saying there was no one in church that morning whose spirit was more in need of reviving than my own, for few professions can rival mine for glimpses into the darkness that sometimes dwells in the souls of men. In the days and indeed the very hours leading up to Christmas, I waded through the anguished aftermaths of two murders, two suicides, an attempted suicide, and a variety of other lesser tragedies, the accumulated sadness of which left me reeling and in doubt as to the wisdom in my choice of careers.

To get one’s intellectual arms around the meaning of that song and the event it commemorates is a challenge even under the best of circumstances, but as I dressed for church Christmas morning I couldn’t rid my mind’s eye of those haunting images: the faces of people who, only moments before I came upon them, were calmly going about their lives unaware of the horror about to befall them, or, as with the suicides, were all too aware of it. I was tempted to go back to bed. Christmas, it seemed to me in that moment, was for the birds.

There have been many such moments in my years as a policeman, but even in the bleakest of them I’ve tried to remember that it has been the blessed combination of faith, family, and friends that has sustained me. So, albeit reluctantly, off to church I went.

I was distracted when I first arrived, looking around at all those people who hadn’t been in church since last Easter and would not be again until the next. Even as the church was filling to capacity and beyond I felt an urge to get up and go home. Then the choir began to sing “Adeste Fidelis,” and then the congregation joined in, and finally even I, falteringly at first, began to sing in praise of that Baby born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

The Gospel that day was from Luke – my favorite description of the Nativity, with all its angels and shepherds and heavenly hosts. By the time the Mass ended and we had sung “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” and a few others, the woes of the previous days had receded into a more proper perspective, one that allowed me to return to work and face the certainty that those awful images will never completely fade from memory, and that new ones just as awful surely will join them before I take off my gun and badge for the last time.

I know too many good and decent people of other faiths – or of no faith at all – to be absolutely certain that we Christians have the final word on God and salvation and the meaning of life. And I know that every civilization throughout history has had its creation myth. But I was raised to believe – and still do believe – that God sent us His only Son to be born as Man in a humble birth, to walk among us, to teach us, and finally to endure injustice, cruelty, and death before rising again, all to show that we, too, with His help, can endure injustice, cruelty, and even death.

If that’s a myth, it’s a pretty good one. I’m sticking with it.

–Jack Dunphy

Merry Christmas Eve

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 3:08 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Our host will wish everyone a Merry Christmas so I’ll pass along my Christmas Eve wishes. Our household celebrates on Christmas Eve. We think it’s less stressful and we especially like that we don’t have to get up so early! Observing Christmas tonight also extends the holiday into two days, making it a nice family time.

Other families are celebrating Hanukkah and other holidays, or just enjoying being with or thinking about people they care for. Whatever you celebrate, wherever you are: Best wishes to everyone.


Obama and the Bush Doctrine

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 2:39 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby writes that progressive Democrats are peeved at Obama’s transition decisions — especially the appointments of “hawks” like Robert Gates, General James Jones, and Hillary Clinton to handle national security — as well as key roles handed to a “passel of former Clinton operatives” and the naming of Pastor Rick Warren to give the Inaugural Invocation.

If so, the bad news just keeps coming. A reported Obama appointment suggests to me that Obama may accept the substance of the Bush Doctrine, limited by America’s ability to enlist the support of some democratic nations or a regional alliance. (That’s not a minor limitation but my point is many Obama supporters might be surprised to learn Obama does not reject the Bush Doctrine.)

Yesterday’s Austin American-Statesman reports Obama will name James Steinberg, Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, as Deputy Secretary of State. In 2005, Steinberg and a co-author published an opinion piece in the LA Times that identified preventive war as a useful and “legitimate tool for dealing with new security threats.” In the article, Steinberg approved the Bush Doctrine and argued it should be expanded:

“Conditional sovereignty is central to a new norm of state responsibility. In September, U.N. members embraced the idea that states have a responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide and other gross violations of human rights. That logic also suggests that states have a responsibility to head off internal developments – acquiring weapons of mass destruction and harboring terrorists, to name two – that pose a threat to the security of others.

When states fail to meet their responsibilities, the international community will need to step in. Diplomacy and economic pressure are frequently sufficient to do the job. But there will be times when limited military action will be the only effective way to obviate an imminent threat – before, say, a state produces enough fissile material to make nuclear weapons or before terrorists are fully able to hatch their plots. One problem with the Bush doctrine, then, is not that it is overly reliant on preventive force but that it too narrowly conceives of its use, primarily to deal with terrorism and to remove threatening regimes.”

Steinberg and his co-author argued Bush was not only right to use preemptive war to stop terrorism but suggested they would go even further and use preventive force in the case of “genocide and other gross violations of human rights.” (Iraq, anyone?)

However, Steinberg’s article argued the flaw of the Bush Doctrine is that it should only be used in partnership with international organizations:

“The Bush doctrine’s other problem is that it insists that individual states, or at least the United States, must have the right to decide when preventive force is justified, even though the threat affects the security of many. The decision to use force in these cases cannot be one state’s alone.
Preventive military force has a role in managing today’s security challenges. Understanding that role is step one; establishing agreed standards for its use is step two; and implanting these standards in an effective institution is the third step. The Bush administration got the first step right, and the logic of its arguments builds toward the second. But it has gotten step three wrong. Unilateralism is not the only alternative to the Security Council. Regional organizations and a new coalition of democratic states offer ways to legitimize the use of force when the council fails to meet its responsibilities.”

Perhaps Steinberg has changed his views but I doubt it, which makes this an interesting appointment given the perception by some that Obama rejects the Bush Doctrine.

My guess is that, rather than relying on a set of guiding principles, Obama trusts his judgment and intellect to help him solve problems as they arise. I think this is something every President has to do, but there are limits to what even a very smart person can handle. I know lawyers who think they are smart enough to solve any problem … and they often are. They are typically perfectionists and the good news is that they rarely fail. The bad news is that their few failures tend to spiral out-of-control because they have a hard time accepting there are some things they can’t control.


The End of Brit Hume’s Last “Special Report”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:02 am

Via Hot Air:

Class act.

‘Tis the Season to Forgive

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:47 am

Everyone is making pardon recommendations. First, Mark Bowden suggests that President Bush ask the Iraqi government to pardon shoe-thrower Muntazer al-Zaidi:

With a simple gesture of reprieve, he could completely rise above it. Mr. Zaidi would be nothing more than a rude prankster. The president would be the story’s hero.

I feel no sympathy for the shoe-thrower, and I’m torn on this, but Bowden makes a decent argument. Meanwhile, Michael Barone says Bush ought to pardon Scooter Libby (via Hot Air):

Libby was a dedicated and hypercompetent public servant who was brought down by a prosecutor investigating a scandal that wasn’t a scandal. The investigation purportedly was an attempt to discover who had told Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was a CIA “operative” (Novak’s word). But prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew before the investigation began that the leaker was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

I’m not persuaded. I think it would have been irresponsible for Fitz to stop dead in his tracks without investigating whether Armitage acted alone or at the direction of someone else.

I say no pardon for Libby, and I really don’t care what happens to shoe-guy. My prediction: the commentariat says pardon Libby and throw the book (if not the shoe) at the shoe-guy. Let’s see whether I’m right.

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