Summertime, and the hysteria's easy

The past week has seen two cases of hysterical overreaction that we could have done without. 

The first is the domestic left—wing response to the Hamdan decision. This was a strictly procedural decision in which the majority of justices decided that President Bush failed to touch third base and has to hammer out an agreement with Congress before he does what he planned to do in the first place. It's hard to look at it without wondering if the justices have perhaps a little too much time on their hands. 

But that's not how the media, the Democrats, or most left—of—center public—interest law firms see it. In their eyes, the court succeeded in prying the country (or the Constitution, or the Rule of Law) out of Chimpy W. Hitler's hands seconds before he dragged it into the abyss. Robert Alt has gathered various comments at NRO, ranging from the lawyer who believes the Al—Queda are 'the good guys' to Feinstein and Pelosi insisting that the Gitmo goons 'possess constitutional rights.'

But the representative comment comes from Walter Dellinger, a name that always makes me wonder if I'm thinking of somebody else (he was Clinton's solicitor general), who states that Hamdan is the 'most important decision on presidential power.. ever.' The national media, from the NYT ('...a definitional [sic] moment in the ever—shifting balance of power among the branches of government') on down (or up), seem inclined to agree. 

The other incident is North Korea's July 4th tantrum—by—missile, a weird episode even by the Hermit Kingdom's standards. Seven missiles in less than twenty—four hours may not be a record, but it's impressive. NORAD went on heightened alert. The State Department worked overtime. Presidential spokesman Tony Snow warned against escalation. All of which may well have been beside the point, since, as the unflappable Anthony Cordesman was alone in mentioning, the Taepodong—2 ICBM, the centerpiece of the operation, didn't work:

"To have it blow up shortly after it took off... is much more an indication of North Korean incompetence, than that North Korea's a threat." 

We can be sure —— as far as we can ever be sure about anything relating to North Korea — that the missile spasm was intended to cover up the Taepodong—2's failure after nearly two decades of development. (The first U.S. ICBM, the Atlas, was developed, launched, and put into operation in about seven years.) Such a failure in the midst of a transparent propaganda effort must be unbearable to the type of mindset embodied by Kim Jong—il. (I strongly suspect that the first two missiles were an attempt to see if the Navy's Aegis cruisers would take a crack at them before the Taepodong—2 launch. The last five were clearly a diversion.)

And that's what these two episodes have in common — they're both emblematic of failure.

The American left has had a very dispiriting 21st century so far. They can't win elections, they can't stop W's appointments to the bench, the antiwar movement has fizzled, they failed to bag Rove... and it's beginning to dawn on them that the upcoming midterms will be no different. So they latch on to this trivial decision that will be elided within weeks and forgotten not much farther down the road.

With Kim, we have a man who is a universal laughingstock and knows it, leading a country that's a basket case, known only for its prowess in developing cheap, knockoff weapons. And now the weapons don't work. As Herb Meyer has pointed out, Kim is a man with an agenda. But that agenda is based on convincing the world to accept a certain image of North Korea. And after the 4th, that image looks the slightest bit shaky....

Hysteria is a sure sign of someone with their back against the wall. Keep that in mind, and watch for further such incidents. It only takes a few to cut anyone down to size.

J.R. Dunn   7 6 06

The past week has seen two cases of hysterical overreaction that we could have done without. 

The first is the domestic left—wing response to the Hamdan decision. This was a strictly procedural decision in which the majority of justices decided that President Bush failed to touch third base and has to hammer out an agreement with Congress before he does what he planned to do in the first place. It's hard to look at it without wondering if the justices have perhaps a little too much time on their hands. 

But that's not how the media, the Democrats, or most left—of—center public—interest law firms see it. In their eyes, the court succeeded in prying the country (or the Constitution, or the Rule of Law) out of Chimpy W. Hitler's hands seconds before he dragged it into the abyss. Robert Alt has gathered various comments at NRO, ranging from the lawyer who believes the Al—Queda are 'the good guys' to Feinstein and Pelosi insisting that the Gitmo goons 'possess constitutional rights.'

But the representative comment comes from Walter Dellinger, a name that always makes me wonder if I'm thinking of somebody else (he was Clinton's solicitor general), who states that Hamdan is the 'most important decision on presidential power.. ever.' The national media, from the NYT ('...a definitional [sic] moment in the ever—shifting balance of power among the branches of government') on down (or up), seem inclined to agree. 

The other incident is North Korea's July 4th tantrum—by—missile, a weird episode even by the Hermit Kingdom's standards. Seven missiles in less than twenty—four hours may not be a record, but it's impressive. NORAD went on heightened alert. The State Department worked overtime. Presidential spokesman Tony Snow warned against escalation. All of which may well have been beside the point, since, as the unflappable Anthony Cordesman was alone in mentioning, the Taepodong—2 ICBM, the centerpiece of the operation, didn't work:

"To have it blow up shortly after it took off... is much more an indication of North Korean incompetence, than that North Korea's a threat." 

We can be sure —— as far as we can ever be sure about anything relating to North Korea — that the missile spasm was intended to cover up the Taepodong—2's failure after nearly two decades of development. (The first U.S. ICBM, the Atlas, was developed, launched, and put into operation in about seven years.) Such a failure in the midst of a transparent propaganda effort must be unbearable to the type of mindset embodied by Kim Jong—il. (I strongly suspect that the first two missiles were an attempt to see if the Navy's Aegis cruisers would take a crack at them before the Taepodong—2 launch. The last five were clearly a diversion.)

And that's what these two episodes have in common — they're both emblematic of failure.

The American left has had a very dispiriting 21st century so far. They can't win elections, they can't stop W's appointments to the bench, the antiwar movement has fizzled, they failed to bag Rove... and it's beginning to dawn on them that the upcoming midterms will be no different. So they latch on to this trivial decision that will be elided within weeks and forgotten not much farther down the road.

With Kim, we have a man who is a universal laughingstock and knows it, leading a country that's a basket case, known only for its prowess in developing cheap, knockoff weapons. And now the weapons don't work. As Herb Meyer has pointed out, Kim is a man with an agenda. But that agenda is based on convincing the world to accept a certain image of North Korea. And after the 4th, that image looks the slightest bit shaky....

Hysteria is a sure sign of someone with their back against the wall. Keep that in mind, and watch for further such incidents. It only takes a few to cut anyone down to size.

J.R. Dunn   7 6 06