A young friend of mine, Chris Preble of CATO Institute, recently recounted to me an incident in which Republican controversialist Ann Coulter made a statement on FOX (where else?) that Chris found “€œparticularly disgusting.”€ When asked whether the U.S. should launch an attack on Iran, Ann, true to bad form, responded “€œThink how much fun it would be to blow up Iranians.”€ Having heard this Republican equivalent of Alec Baldwin say equally scandalous things for years, I was not surprised to learn of her most recent infantile outburst. Like Chris, I despise Ann but the reason for my distaste may be different from his. What disgusts me most about this loudmouth is the function she faithfully serves. Ann shills for the Republican Party, and the reason that she is the darling of FOX is that she is good at what she does. Far from being a “€œright-wing extremist,”€ as one might imagine from reading about her in the New York Times and the French press, Ann keeps the American Right from taking off as an electoral force. Her predictable answer to “€œgodless”€ and cowardly Democrats is to go out and vote for generic Republicans or for Lieberman Democrats, a course of action that would allow us to kill more “€œtowel-heads”€ while giving the social Left a more or less free hand domestically.

I am still waiting for Ann to attack W and Rudy for their views on immigration with the same savagery she regularly unleashes on Democrats. If Dame Coulter were a right-winger, instead of a Republican shill, she would be doing exactly this. Instead she exposes her listeners to endless tirades against “€œantiwar”€ Democrats, without even telling us that there are people on the social Right who disapprove of the present neocon-incited war in Iraq as much as the leftist bloggers. It is also never explained why starting a war against Iraq to bring its inhabitants women’s rights and the current American version of “€œdemocracy”€ is a “€œconservative”€ enterprise. I might find Ann minimally bearable if only she had the honesty to point out that the two parties are for the most part indistinguishable. They are both big-government, welfare-state parties, which truckle to designated minorities and which engage equally in such moronic rituals as pulling down Confederate flags to please black race-hustlers and the liberal media. If Ann told us that she hates both parties but considers the Stupid Party slightly less obnoxious than the Evil one, I would find her diatribes less disgusting. Unfortunately she spends her time whipping up her fans to vote for one of the two parties, as a serious conservative alternative to the other one. And she plays this game by impersonating what we are supposed to take for an authentic right-winger. 

Coulter’s recent expression of pleasure at the thought of blowing up Iranians brought to mind the reaction of Mussolini’s son in 1936, as he watched bombs fall on Ethiopia, a country that the Italian army was then trying to conquer. The young Mussolini, a fan of the Italian Futurists, dwelled on the “€œbeauty”€ of modern warfare, which he considered a source of aesthetic pleasure. Such musings raise the question of whether something that is artistically satisfying can nonetheless be morally offensive. But in Coulter’s case, there is no need to consider such a dichotomy between the ethical and the aesthetic. She and her sponsors are simply not subjects for intellectual debate. What they are about is not the unity or disunity of the beautiful and the moral but drumming up votes for Republican placeholders and hacks. In pursuit of this end, Coulter appeals to the vulgar and easily duped Right.

[T]he Antichrist presents himself as a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist.  He convokes an ecumenical council and seeks the consensus of all the Christian confessions, conceding something to each one.

The crowds follow him, except for tiny groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants.  Chased by the Antichrist, they tell him, “You have given us everything except for the one thing that interests us, Jesus Christ.” 

“€”Giacomo Cardinal Biffi, meditation at Lenten Retreat for the Papal Household, February 2006.

Giacomo Cardinal Biffi is not a man to shy away from controversy.  For the better part of the past decade, the deeply conservative former archbishop of Bologna has been the most outspoken Catholic advocate of the writings of Russian journalist, philosopher, and mystic Vladimir Solovyov  (1853-1900).  Solovyov is best known for his “Three Dialogues on War, Progress and the End of History,” which includes, as part of the narrative, a “Short Tale of the Anti-Christ.”  (Despite its apocalyptic subject, Solovyov’s story fails to mention either the Rapture or the state of Israel, so it is not much read in America today.)

Those of us who have followed Cardinal Biffi’s career with appreciation were pleasantly surprised when the Vatican announced that he would lead this year’s Lenten retreat for the papal household.  We weren’t at all surprised, however, when the cardinal turned to Solovyov’s musings on the Antichrist for his one of his meditations.

The same can’t be said for the American Catholic blogosphere.  Knowing nothing about the good cardinal (or Solovyov), they latched on to the details of his remarks, running as far as their misinterpretations would take them.  If the Antichrist will be a pacifist, an ecologist, and an ecumenist (as well as a vegetarian, as news reports reminded us that the appropriately named Cardinal “Beefy” had claimed a few years back), what better way to combat this evil than to rally behind a warmongering Texas rancher and oilman?  If only the President would agree to nuke the Orthodox and Prots, then we could be sure he’s an anti-ecumenist . . . Of course, being a Protestant himself, President Bush might be more likely to lob a few bombs at Catholics, but that’s OK, since all the parishioners of St. Blog’s Parish know that there are no real Catholics outside of America (and quite a few false ones here”€”those who, for instance, agree with Pope Benedict on the war in Iraq or on Israeli aggression in Lebanon, or with Pope John Paul II on torture).  Either way, the Orthodox would get it, which would be the greatest triumph for Western Christianity since the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth CrusadeBombs away, O Lord, we pray, for they make their crosses backward….

Virtually alone in the Catholic blogosphere, the redoubtable Mark Shea, who has taken quite a beating from his fellow “conservative” Catholic bloggers for agreeing with two successive popes, took note of the forest, pointing to something else that Cardinal Biffi had said:

“The Antichrist is the reduction of Christianity to an ideology, instead of a personal encounter with the Savior.”  Any attempt to co-opt the Faith for the service of a particular ideology has about it the air of sulfur.

Solovyov, Cardinal Biffi pointed out, had predicted that “Days will come in Christianity in which they will try to reduce the salvific event to a mere series of values.”  Could there be any better description of the state of Catholic (not to mention more broadly Christian) political action in the United States today?  Christianity transformed the Roman Empire and built up the medieval Europe we know as Christendom not through the preaching of Christian “values” but through the lived experience of Christians’ encounter with Christ.  What, exactly, are “values voters” building up now?

The problem with “values” is that they are inherently relative.  (Consider, for a moment, the very meaning of the term.)  “Conservative” Catholics have understood this when criticizing the “seamless garment” approach to politics, which was often used simply to justify the political agenda of the Democratic Party, but they have failed to realize that their own emphasis on values is, in some ways, even worse.  At least the seamless garment has a presumption in favor of life, which is more than we can say for pro-life Catholics who have never met a war they didn’t like.

If our principles consist entirely of a series of “values,” then we can easily convince ourselves that political circumstances”€”elections, cold hard cash”€”justify stressing some and deemphasizing others.  We can see this process at work in the current pandering of Newt Gingrich to the Christian right, as he desperately seeks the Republican nomination for president in 2008.  After his resignation from the House of Representatives, he took a cushy job at a neoconservative think tank (the American Enterprise Institute) and spent much of his time as a cheerleader for expanding the war in Iraq into Iran and Syria, but now he’s stressing a different set of values.

In a widely publicized two-part interview last week with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Gingrich dealt with the question of his multiple marriages and admitted affairs (one of which he was carrying on while leading the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky).  “There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards,” Gingrich told Dobson.  “There’s certainly times when I’ve fallen short of God’s standards””€”which explains why he felt comfortable authoring (or at least putting his name on) a new book entitled Rediscovering God in America.

Why would a man who has made his name as a Christian moral leader squander that capital on the political rehabilitation of a philandering laptop bombardier?  The answer, of course, lies in the values that Dobson and Gingrich share.  “€œMy theology indicates that Israel is covenant land,”€ Dr. Dobson told the New York Times last fall, explaining why he thought it was wrong for the media to dwell on Lebanese civilian casualties in Israel’s assault on Hezbollah.

How far will this inversion of values go?  Noemie Emery, a moderately socially conservative contributing editor to the Weekly Standard, provides us with a clue.  In answering objections to her Weekly Standard article “Let’s Make a Deal: Social Conservatives, Rudy Giuliani, and the End of the Litmus Test” at The Corner on National Review Online, she wrote:

[A]ll things being equal, I would support a pro-life candidate against one who was not.  This does not mean I would do so if things were NOT equal: for instance, I would vote for Joe Lieberman over Sam Brownback, or another Republican who was not strong on the war.

If the early poll numbers for Giuliani are to be believed, Emery is far from alone.  Apparently, the best way to show your pro-life credentials these days is to be willing to rain death and destruction upon the home of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East.  The blood of thousands of dead Iraqi and Lebanese civilians, it seems, can cover a multitude of aborted American babies.

Scott Richert is Executive Editor of Chronicles Magazine.

If you think stand up comedy is in a rut, you should try Gholamhossein Elham, an Iranian government spokesman. Old Gholam had me in stitches when he stood up and screamed foul over the blockbuster 300 a couple of weeks ago. He called 300 an insult because it portrays the Persians as slobs back in 480 B.C.

Well, I got news for Gholam. They were terrific slobs back then, and many of them continue to be slobs today. They wear tablecloths on their heads, sit on the floor to eat, and eat funny-smelling food with their hands. They also scream a lot, beat themselves to a pulp with chains, and think Uncle Sam is the great Satan. Persians, as they used to be called before the Shah decided to call them Iranians—it means Aryan, but if the Iranians are Aryans I’m Monica Lewinsky—are not very popular with the neocons, which makes them very popular with me. Sure they’re slobs, but so are many people in Hollywood and Noo Yawk.

Back in the old country we’ve been making jokes about the Persians since 480 B.C. But we also like them because they made heroes out of us Greeks. We only lost once to them, in Thermopylae in 480 B.C., but they were 400,000 of them and 300 of us. A fool like Victor Davis Hanson calls that a defeat, but a far greater historian, Taki, calls it a resounding victory. Mind you, we never lost to them before or after.  In 490 B.C., general Miltiades wiped the floor with them in the battle of Marathon. Ten thousand Athenians routed 100,000 in close corps-a-corps fighting. Miltiades then ordered a fat hoplite who had not mixed it up and was fresh to run like hell back to Athens and tell the locals not to burn down the city as was the plan in case of a barbarian victory.

The fat hoplite ran the 42 kilometers 385 yards (or 26 miles), and dropped dead as he entered the city walls and pronounced “Enikikamen”: “We won.” Legend, however,  gave the credit to Pheidippides, a renowned runner, but Pheidippides was a general and generals are not messenger boys. In any case, he was on his way to Sparta, a good three days away,  to enlist Spartan help. The Spartans sat on the fence, so to speak. But back to the blockbuster 300 and Gholam the angry.

The historian Herodotus recorded Xerxes’s army as one million strong, but it now seems to be an over inflated number. Old Herodotus may have gotten carried away. The number of barbarians was closer to 400,000, or more than 1000 to I against. The Spartans were not neocons, however. They relished a fight, as long as they were the ones doing the fighting. A jerk by the name of Donald Kagan wrote a book about the Peloponnesian War and called Sparta a “fascist place.” Thank God it was, otherwise it would not have survived as long as it did. My mother was a Spartan, as were both her parents,  and our ancestral home is now the Spartan museum. When the Italians invaded Greece in 1940, my mother had five brothers and a husband fighting in the front . For some strange reason I suspect no Kagans ever did any fighting, but then I could be wrong. 

Sure, helots worked the fields and performed all manual tasks. So do Hispanics today in America. Male Spartans were forbidden any profession, trade or business except the business of war.  Had the barbarian hordes overrun the Spartans quickly,  Western civilisation would have never taken place. Today we’d be wearing tablecloths on our heads and have even worse table manners than we do. Spartans threw sickly babies down Mount Taygetus, figuring they’d never make good soldiers—a cruel thing to do but it ensured a tough army. (A theory has it the sickly ones thrown down the ravine were the first neocons, but I believe it’s a theory like any other).

When the Spartans left their home to go up north and intercept the Persian hordes, most Greeks accepted they would fight bravely then retreat in good order, surviving to fight another day. Not the Spartans. They actually fought to win, and could have pulled it off in the narrows of Thermopylae if it weren’t for a traitor, Ephialtes, (the very first chickenhawk) who showed the barbarians another path which enabled them to come around and encircle the Greeks. “The Spartans, reckless with their own safety and desperate, since they knew their destruction was nigh at hand, exerted themselves with the most furious valor against the barbarians,” writes Herodotus. 

A simple inscription marks their sacrifice. “Passerby, tell the Greeks that we have done our duty.” Athens was the cradle of democracy and birthplace of western thought, but it was Sparta, 100 miles to the southwest, which made it possible. Their heavily armed foot soldiers used eight deep shield walls moving in perfect step, like Panzer tanks, to bulldoze the enemy off the field of battle. In the battle of Plataea, where they threw the Persians out of Greece forever, these Spartan formations broke through the enemy stockade and massacred everyone in sight. Never again would a Persian army invade the Greek mainland.  Alexander the Great took care of them later in their home field. Gholam, you’re lucky to be living in the present.

This January, in an attempt to appeal to the voters of both parties as they basked in the glow of their recent victory, the majority leadership team in the House of Representatives promised many reforms. Among other things, the American people were informed that the new Congress would enforce a one-year moratorium upon certain special projects that often go unnoticed when they are slipped into major legislation. These appropriations are a version of what used to be known as “€œpork”€ and a way for a House Member to “€œbring home the bacon”€ to his or her constituents. Nowadays these programs are called “€œearmarks.”€ They are discretionary appropriations directed at a specific program or a specific group of people. Earmarks can be found almost everywhere in the federal budget and for almost any project that someone or some interest group wants the Federal Government to pay for. Earmark appropriations may range from several thousand to more than a billion dollars per item. 

The new majority in Congress said it was different from the old majority and that multi-million dollar bridges to nowhere and money for frivolous projects would be a thing of the past. This is what they said and are on record saying on television and in newspapers all across the country barely two months ago yet their self-declared moratorium on earmarks seems to be falling apart already.

In December of 2006, before being sworn in officially, the House Leadership declared its intent to extend the federal budget for most agencies under a Continuing Resolution. A CR, as it is known, funds agencies at the same level as the previous year while a new budget is fought over. (The last time budgets were submitted and passed on time for the forthcoming year by both Houses of Congress was 1994.)  The intent of the leadership was to remove any and all earmarks from the previous and the forthcoming 2008 budgets while making the budget process itself “€œmore transparent.”€ 

Within two weeks House Members of both parties were discreetly calling in favors and attempting to get their pet projects re-included without being held accountable. By February behind-the-scenes bargaining grew so common that Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Rob Portman was forced to issue a memo to the heads of federal departments and agencies telling them to ignore any requests, telephone calls or suggestions they were being given and that nothing that wasn”€™t written in the legislation known as HR 20 would be appropriated.
On March 23, HR 20—a supplemental bill similar to a CR—passed the House by a vote of 218 – 212. Not only is HR 20 filled with earmarks, it also contains a provision that would require the troops to come home from Iraq by September, 2008.

Here are just a few of the projects included in HR 20 as passed by the House last week: $25 million dollars for spinach growers who suffered because of an E Coli outbreak last year; $252 million for dairy farmers, inserted into the bill by the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, David R. Obey (D-WI); $1.5 billion for “€œlivestock assistance.”€  Now, there may be nothing wrong with helping out our nation’s agricultural industries when they have problems “€“ though that subject is debatable and may be discussed at another time “€“ but all of these things are earmarks. And clearly it is not a coincidence that the date certain for withdrawing the troops from Iraq was included not in a direct up-and-down vote but attached to a CR which needed to be passed quickly.  The deadline set, September of 2008, is also only two months before the next Presidential and Congressional elections.

Not content to break their word on earmarks after only a few short weeks, by combining the vote on Iraq with an appropriations bill the leadership made it much easier to get the votes they needed from their own Party.  However, only two Republicans voted with the majority while fourteen Democrats voted against their Party leaders. Summing up the situation for many of us, Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO) put it best. Quoted in The Washington Post, he stated that the bill as passed was “€œa poorly assembled wish list of non-emergency spending requests, wrapped in a date-certain declaration of defeat.”
Now a similar bill goes to the full Senate. As early as Tuesday, Republican Senators have promised to strike the Iraq ultimatum from any bill they might consider. It will be difficult for Democrats to get the 60-vote, cloture-proof majority needed to go forward with this legislation and even if they do succeed the President has vowed to veto. But the point has been made by the House of Representatives. President George W. Bush has been repudiated and the Majority Leadership has failed to keep its word on earmarks.  

The dollar amounts listed in House and Senate appropriations bills look ridiculous to the average citizen. Who among us honestly can imagine what $400 million looks like? As the late Senator Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL) said about the federal budget: “€œA billion dollars here, a billion dollars there and pretty soon you”€™re into real money.”€ When he made those remarks about appropriations more than fifty years ago, Senator Dirksen was exaggerating. In our current era, with hundreds of millions of dollars allocated each year to federal agencies and billions for programs like Medicare and Social Security, his words seems more like an accurate assessment of the 110th Congress attitude toward earmarks and the entire budgeting process. Clearly, they can”€™t stop themselves from spending the taxpayers”€™ money for even a few weeks.

A Free Congress Foundation Commentary. Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

One year ago last May, I was walking back to my London flat after a vigorous match of tennis in Belgrave Square when two men came up to me. “Are you Mr Taki?” “Sadly yes,” I answered. They looked as if they meant business. “I am inspector detective so and so, and this is detective inspector so and so. Can we have a word with you?” In view of the fact I had not broken any laws since 1984—the year I was busted—I was not unduly worried.

“How do you know my name?” I asked in my most supercilious manner. “Oh, we know you play tennis and we know where you live, and in view of the fact you were holding a racket….”

Well, it wasn’t what I thought. For the last three years Lord Stevens, ex-head of the London Metropolitan Police, has been holding an inquest over the death of Princess Diana, an inquest, I might add, which came about after the rib-tickling charges of Mohamed Fayed (the Egyptian tycoon whose son died alongside the princess that fateful night in the underpass of the Place de L’Alma in Paris). Fayed charges that the tragic couple was murdered by people unknown under orders from people very well known. In short, Fayed has accused Prince Philip of murder most foul, and in the plot he includes Prince Charles. Basically he says that Diana was pregnant by his son Dodi, and that a conspiracy was hatched to get rid of the mother of a future king of England and her half-Arab child. And now he’s saying it in court: On March 19, Fayed (who can afford to waste his lawyers’ time) launched a lawsuit against two hapless British cops whom he claims are leading a cover-up of the conspiracy to murder his son and the princess. What a lot of bally nonsense, as Bertie Wooster would say.

So far so bad. But back to my flat in Cadogan Gardens. The two detectives could not have been more polite. They told me what they were doing and when I asked them how did I fit in the equation, they said that mobile telephone records showed that I was among the last people to have spoken to Diana. In fact I remember it well. I rang her that afternoon from Gstaad, and when she teased me about being stiff and formal I said to her I was calling as a journalist for the London Sunday Times, where I was writing a column at the time. “Will you be wearing a chador soon?” I asked her. “You’ve got to be kidding,” she said. “Are you having a mad love affair?” “You know better than that.” “Is it all a big joke?” “What do you think?” End of story. I wished her well and that night I heard that she had died.

Which brings me to the point of the story. Diana’s best friend, Rosa Lawson, married to Dominic Lawson, son of the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson,  and I agree on this. Rosa went on the last trip Diana took before her death and realised that there was nothing going on between Dodi and the princess. She said nothing at the time, but after her death, when I openly declared I thought there was no hanky panky going on, just a gigantic hoax in order to bother the royals who had so cruelly abandoned her, Rosa went public with her opinions, but being a lady she did not go as far as the gory details.
Dodi was not sleeping with Diana, hence if she were pregnant at the time of her death, it would have been a far greater story than it was. It would have been the second Immaculate Conception.

We must, of course, feel sympathy with Mohamed Fayed, who dreamed the whole thing up in the first place. The royals had gone off to Balmoral for the summer. Poor Diana was left alone in London, pursued by the ghastly paparazzi, unable to see her real love of the time, a Pakistani doctor. In stepped Fayed, a man of charm, a fantasist, and one not afraid to take on the big boys. He suggested a holiday on his boat and his St Tropez villa, and arranged for his son Dodi to escort her. Both Diana and Fayed had it in for the royals, and they sure made them pay for past snubs. The press went wild, and then came the tragedy.

But let’s stick to the facts. Ten years on, after numerous inquests by the French and British governments, it is undeniable that the couple died because Mohamed Fayed’s employee, Henri Paul, was drunk, drove too fast, and neither Dodi or Diana were wearing their seat belts. Tests proved that Diana was not pregnant, and I hate to say what other tests proved—mind you, tests which special branch detectives claim proved she had not been making love. I took this with a grain of salt at the time, but after ten years of an open and shut case, I feel it’s fair to mention it. Mohamed Fayed may hate Prince Philip, and I do feel for him having lost his son, but it’s scarcely credible that an inquest which opened in 2003, and whose facts were so clearly established, can still be used to claim a conspiracy against Dodi and Diana by the British establishment.

All this is part, of course, of the movement by those who hate the real England and the real English to purge that land of its culture and institutions—to undermine its monarchy (as that sausage-eating vulgarian Rupert Murdoch is constantly trying to do), to indoctrinate its schoolchildren with self-hating nonsense, to replace its population with the worst backwash of the Empire in the form of murderous mullahs, to replace fox-hunting with honor-killing, and to rip up its ancient Constitution and liberties. It pains me to see my old friend, a good-hearted girl who died in a drunk-driving accident, dug up and employed by these ghouls to suit their squalid purposes. Requiem aeternam dona eae Domine. 

Neocons must be getting awfully nervous as Condoleeza Rice moves into the final stretch of her Middle East trip. They have managed to keep the Bushies from doing anything positive for peace in the area for six long years—what with Eliott Abrams in charge—but suddenly things look different. It seems even the Saudis think that enough is enough. Actually it’s very simple. Israel has to dismantle the illegal settlements on the West Bank and allow the Palestinians free access to their fields. In return, the Palestinians have to recognize Israel, stop terrorist attacks against Israelis and adhere to previous agreements.

Easier said than done. The crimes Israel has committed against the Palestinian people for the last 60 years cannot be wiped away like a stain. Nor can the Palestinian hate for those who have oppressed them for so long go away with the signing of a document. There will always be hotheads and deadenders among a people born under an occupation. The trouble is the Palestinian authorities cannot control the hot heads, whereas Israel can—and does—control the Nazi-like settlers who think shooting at a Palestinian boy throwing rocks is good sport.

So, why are the neocons worried? For the first time in six years their champion George W. Bush has obviously been told by Rice and others that the only way he can save his disastrous presidency is by acting—for the first time, mind you—as an honest broker between the two sides. Whereas once the neocons insisted that a germ of democracy was spreading through the Middle East, now they are silent. They believe in democracy as much as Paris Hilton believes in self-effacement. For every successive election in Middle East countries has shown that the people of the region want precisely the opposite to what Western politicians want them to want. Unless the election is gerrymandered, as in Afghanistan and Egypt, the people of the Middle East will always vote for those who have stood up to Israel as well as to the West.

The neocons have their own axe to grind—to make the Middle East safe for Greater Israel—but the West does not necessarily follow an Eretz Israel agenda. Or should not, in any case.  It is strange that people like Bush and Blair have not caught on all these years. The more we mix up in their business, the more the people of the Middle East will hate us. All the more so if that involvement in their lives requires the use of tanks, American-made cluster bombs and American soldiers. No sooner had we forced the Palestinians to vote then they voted in Hamas. And we stopped all humanitarian aid because they democratically elected people we didn’t approve of. Some democracy, as Winny would have said.

What we should do right now is funnel in selective assistance to ministries controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and also assure Hamas that if the cease-fire holds, its ministries will be next to receive it. Then we should tell Israel that the game is up. One could start that by firing Abrams and Cohen, and telling Cheney to take a long needed rest. The neocons have put the kibosh on peace efforts since they came to power six long years ago. The Likudists in Israel have been resisting peace since 1948. Bush could save his legacy by stepping on the right toes. But I won’t be holding my breath.

Tomorrow Taki writes an exclusive on Diana’s death and the great hoax perpetrated by Mohamed Fayed. Taki was the last person to speak to her before she got in the car in which she died.

Rudy Giuliani’s closet is filled to overflowing, and its contents are dropping out all over just as he ratchets up his presidential bid. And there’s a lot more than bones in those dark recesses: go here for the full (450 pages!) story, but I’ll give you the short (and spicy) version:

It’s all about the “weirdness factor,” as a secret study done by the Giuliani election team and leaked to the “Smoking Gun” website puts it. There’s the matter of his first marriage, to his cousin, Regina Peruggi: Rudy claims that for 14 years he didn’t know that she was a twig on his very own family tree, but if you buy that, you’re no doubt still waiting for those “weapons of mass destruction” to be unearthed in Iraq any day now.

Although he doesn’t say exactly when he took the trouble to investigate his family genealogy more closely, Rudy started seeing Donna Hanover in 1982: his marriage to Peruggi wasn’t annulled by the Church until the tail end of ’83. This particular corner of Giuliani’s closet is a particularly dank and cobwebby realm, best not looked at too closely. As the secret study put it, the matter of his first marriage “has been raised in the media as an extremely bizarre event.” And we’re talking about his home town media: just wait until the evangelicals in the outbacks get the lowdown on what has charitably been described as Rudy’s “chaotic” personal life, which is racy even for cosmopolitan New York: this was reportedly the real reason he backed down from challenging Hillary Clinton in the Senate race. The Giuliani dossier goes on to bluntly assess the candidate’s vulnerabilities:

“In reviewing the news stories describing this event and others in his private life, there are numerous inconsistencies and questionable circumstances about how long the two were married, whether Giuliani knew he was marrying his second cousin, whether he dated other women while still married.”

None of this matters, of course, to the neocons who seem to have united around Giuliani: indeed, they rather prefer it, I think, because it underscores their elitism, their sense of themselves as philosopher-kings exempt from the myths that dominate the lives of ordinary men and women. There is one truth for the elites, and another one for the masses. If you’re a Straussian, this isn’t monstrous hypocrisy: it’s the natural order of things.

Ah, but don’t worry, the anointed one will be able to bamboozle the bourgeoisie on account of his ascension into the mythic iconography of 9/11, and his reputation as America’s Mayor and his hardline neoconservative foreign policy views: according to CBS News, Rudy “perhaps more than any other candidate comes closest to holding neoconservative views on foreign policy.” Rudy will come packaged as the uber-Bush, a more decisive and even ruthless leader who will complete the neoconservative revolution by launching simultaneous invasions of all Muslim countries, and with Russia thrown into the bargain for good measure. This is to be followed very shortly by the ditching of the Constitution, and, presumably, the End of History.

Or, at least, the end of our old republic, and the beginning of the age of the American Caesars. Let a descendant of the ancient Romans reclaim the imperial purple – yes, life is full of little ironies, and mostly they are unpleasant surprises.

The neocon conception of American foreign policy as seeking out “benevolent global hegemony” is perfectly suited to Rudy’s imperial persona. His supposed strengths as the “national security” candidate are what, one supposes, the neocons regard as their trump card: i.e., a continuation of our crazed foreign policy which is opposed by more than two thirds of the American people.

This, however, is what counts to the ghoulish coalition that currently controls the GOP: Upper West Side neocons, and born-again backwoods folk quite inured to the idea of kissin’ cousins. Add to this the rising generation of Ann Coulter fans who are ready for a new Lider Maximo, and we have Bushism without Bush, a dissolute prince of the city whose inner demons are to be enacted on the world stage.

If we are going to compare American Presidents to Roman emperors – a practice, I fear, bound to become customary in the annals of future history tomes – a President Giuliani would probably turn into an American Caligula, who, in a gesture of contempt for the surviving institutions of the old Roman republic, appointed his horse proconsul. Bernard Kerik, Rudy’s former close associate and his pick for Homeland Security chief, is probably comparable to that, although I wouldn’t want to insult horses, but you get the idea if you follow the links.

What interests me about Kerik, however, isn’t the alleged organized crime connections, or even his typically New Yawkish grabbiness and gaudiness, his persona as a “character” – the “Mayhem Magnet”—but his briefly held position as “interim” minister of the interior in newly-conquered Iraq. Here we had just subjugated the country, and the first wave of neocon-connected appointees were flown over there, including Kerik – who, as unofficial head of the thuggery department, set up the Iraqi national police. Here’s a clip  from his interview with the Lehr News Hour that gives us the flavor of his methods and practices:

“If you pick the right leaders and you place them in the right positions, let them do their job and that’s sort of what’s going on in the police now. We appointed a senior deputy minister, we appointed the chiefs in Baghdad throughout the rest of the country. We have to make sure that we keep track of them, monitor them, but let them do their job, let them pick the right people; then the job gets done.”

These “police” are now functioning as death squads, executing and ethnically cleansing Sunnis from Baghdad and environs: they have already accomplished this in the largely Shi’ite south. The job is indeed getting done.

If and when Rudy takes the oath of office, and swears to uphold the Constitution, there will be many more Keriks to come. Believe you me, it isn’t going to be pretty. About as pretty as Rudy in drag.

Not that there’s anything wrong with drag queens, provided they’re either entertaining or convincing. I once saw a group of them standing on a Jalan Sultan Ismail in Kuala Lumpur, on Christmas eve: they seemed like young and very girlish elves, so small and willowy were they, calling out in their singsong voices. More feminine than your average American woman, in any case: exclaiming on their beauty, I was corrected by my young, uh, guide, who assured me that these were “lady-boys.” (Another of life’s little ironies: there are more lady-boys on Jalan Sultan Ismail, a busy thoroughfare in a supposedly Islamic country, than there ever were on San Francisco’s Castro Street. )

I don’t care one whit about Giuliani’s private life, although I have a hard time believing the evangelicals are quite ready for the rutting Rudy. He is, after all, an Italian male, with certain impulses wired into his brain, particularly that part of it that rules the sexual imagination. I say, more power to him in that department – life, as the Italians know, is to be enjoyed, rather than endured. But what we shouldn’t have to endure is a Giuliani presidency, which would be a disaster in both the foreign policy and civil liberties departments. As far as the latter is concerned, if he treats the Constitution like he treated the New York City Charter, we are in for a hard time. Regarding the latter, I’ll just cite his stated views:

“We’ve got to start getting beyond Iraq. We’ve got to be thinking about Iran. We have to think about Syria. We have to be thinking about Pakistan and Afghanistan and making sure that the transition in Afghanistan goes correctly. We have to be ready for the fact that, whatever happens in Iraq, success or failure — success will help us in the War on Terror. Failure will hurt us. But the war is still going to go on. They’re still going to want to come here and kill us.”

It wasn’t Iraqis who attacked us on 9/11, and yet Giuliani insists on seeing everything through the prism of 9/11 – and so, in his world, we don’t need to inquire too closely into who “they” are. In this Orwellian age, the enemy is bound to change, anyway, at any particular moment: you’ll recall that, yesterday, the enemy was the Ba’athist “dead-enders,” and their Sunni supporters. Today it is renegade Shi’ites, like the Mahdi Army, and the very “police” force-death squads that Giuliani’s buddy Kerik set up. A more classic example of “blowback,” as the CIA types call it, would be hard to imagine. And we’ll be getting plenty of blowback from the foreign policy of the Giuliani administration, promising to be even more reckless (if that’s imaginable) than Bush’s – and that’s my real objection to the first drag queen in the White House.

Dripping with malice, envy and venom, hacks are having the time of their life as Conrad Black goes to trial in Chicago, a city known for its smiling wallet-lifters and corrupt public officials. Not since Fat Bob Maxwell took a dive into the Med back in 1991 have those holier than thou members of the Fourth Estate enjoyed themselves as much. The trouble is there’s quite a difference. Maxwell stole hundreds of millions of pounds from pension funds and ruined thousands of lives. Lord Black’s accusers—Savonarola types who love publicity and the limelight almost as much as they envy Conrad’s superior mind and knowledge—accuse him of siphoning off payments that should have been distributed among the shareholders.  Either side could win this one. It depends how this particular case is handled in court. Personally I see no crime there.

Mind you, while the hacks are happily throwing around 100 years of jail time, the whole amount being disputed comes down to around 80 million greenbacks, peanuts when compared to other cases of white collar crime where the investors lost billions, including the life savings of employees. Obviously it’s news when a rich man gets into trouble, especially one as well known as Conrad Black. But it’s the tone that bothers me. The glee that describes the Blacks’  straightened circumstances, the joy expressed by the hacks as they describe the “physically diminished” couple. If they have been physically diminished, it certainly has escaped yours truly.

Tom Bower’s book on the Blacks hit a sleazy new low where hatchet jobs are concerned. So low, in fact, that it probably had a contrary effect among those who know the difference between real life and the movies. Did Bower really believe that Conrad Black bought a second jet because Barbara Amiel scolded him in public about not keeping up with the Kravises? I don’t think so, but it looked nice on paper so he ran with it. People don’t speak or act that way, not even the gruesome nouveaux Russians, although I wouldn’t put it past the latter. Then there is the surprise party at La Grenouille, which allegedly cost $62,000, two-thirds of which was charged as expenses to Hollinger.

Well, it wasn’t too much of a surprise, thanks to the poor little Greek boy. The Blacks and the Kissingers and I were at the Buckleys watching the returns of the 2000 elections when Conrad told me about it and asked me to keep it quiet. I was in my cups and told Barbara straight away. “Thank God you’re a journalist and not in the CIA,” was all Conrad said to me. But here’s the important point. The party, as far as I was concerned, was a flop. No loose women around. It was full of businessmen, people Conrad did business with, like Leonard Lauder, who was a big advertiser in the Black papers, Donald Trump, the ghastly Richard Perle and others prominent in Wall Street and D.C. . If that party wasn’t a legitimate business expense, I am Monica Lewinsky. And that other BS about Conrad describing his wife’s naked allure was more of Alice in Wonderland. He did nothing of the sort, in fact mentioned the poor little Greek boy twice. Something to do with ancient Greece and how indiscreet I had been.

America has a terrible system where prosecutors are concerned. An ambitious district attorney can go after anyone—and the more prominent they are the bigger the headlines—have the case thrown out of court, and still reap the benefits as a fearless, public-minded official. A gruesome clown by the name of Eliot Spitzer, whose father is a billionaire real estate developer, is now the governor of New York State. Spitzer made his name going after developers and Wall Street magnates, using the press and electronic media to show boat, and got zilch convictions. But his public showboating propelled him to the governorship. If McCarthyism has a bad name, you should try Spitzerism. This is how that undertaker look-alike, Rudy Giuliani, made his name before running for mayor. I think the system stinks.  District attorneys should be held responsible for egregious and over-zealous prosecutions. Especially when they are as blatantly publicity-seeking ones as those Spitzer made his name with.

In Lord Black’s case we have this Fitzgerald fellow who smells like a Kennedy to me: Bobby Kennedy, cruel, opportunistic, smart as hell and holier than thou. The Inquisition would have suited him to a tee. The rat in all this is, of course, David Radler, the closest to a rodent human being I have ever encountered,  whom the Feds made a deal with and who will turn state evidence against Conrad. Stool pigeons are hardly reliable, but this is how the cookie crumbles.

I hope my former boss gets off, but the climate in America right now is not unlike the one immediately after World War II, when millions of German women were being raped by the Russians, but we were busy showing movies how wonderful Uncle Joe and his henchmen were. If Conrad walks, I plan to give a very big party for him. Envious and malicious hacks need not look for their invitations. But I shall not be holding my breath.

There is ample reason to be disgusted and depressed by the state of the American conservative movement. Its leading journals are run either by ideologues or arrested adolescents, and the president it has backed to the bitter end has betrayed, successively each of its governing principles:

Fiscal responsibility. Spending like a compulsive geriatric gambler wearing Depends so he needn”€™t get up from his slot machine stool in Atlantic City, a Republican president has transformed a modest surplus into an unthinkable, unpayable deficit that has our country in hock to China. (Let’s not forget that before what they viewed as the “€œdivine surprise”€ of 9/11, the neocons were goading us into confrontation with China”€”even as they”€™re now picking fights with Russia.)

Limited government and individual rights.  The same pundits who screamed that fascism was coming to America when the Clinton administration took Elian Gonzalez back to his father, who howled about the “€œpersecution”€ of the militia movement, now favor the unrestricted arrest without charge, trial, or appeal, of American citizens”€”on the word of the President. Complain all you like about how the neocons are fundamentally Trotskyites”€”their president claims the powers of Josef Stalin. (The Black Maria rattles up in the middle of the night, and you disappear into the Lubyanka….)

Prudence in Foreign Policy.  In a direct betrayal of his campaign promises (remember the words “€œmodest foreign policy”€?), that same combat-shy president has muffed the chance to capture our real enemies (Al Qaeda, remember them?), and instead launched two separate campaigns to transform Islamic backwaters into Western European democracies”€”squandering American lives and treasure, and costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. He also helped destroy one of the last refuges for Christians in the Middle East (Israel has wrecked Lebanon, and Bush may well hand Syria over to the Islamists.) He now contemplates a direct, aggressive war against Iran that would be no more just than Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor (another “€œpreemptive war”€).

But why go on? Readers of this site know all about how the conservative movement has dropped its pro-life litmus test, and is now rallying behind a serial adulterer who supports gun control, partial-birth abortion, gay marriage, open borders, and aggressive wars. 

Just now I”€™d like to depress the reader even further, by pointing out that the Left offers no alternative. Sure, they favor a more reasonable policy in the Middle East (at least, the far Left does), one which would encourage a just Israeli settlement with the Palestinians that might defuse the possibility of war”€”and get the Israelis off land they can”€™t populate, and won”€™t ever have the gall to ethnically cleanse, and which if they don”€™t abandon will soon put them in the minority, just like the South African whites.

And the Left opposes the all-encompassing police powers demanded by the Bush administration”€”mostly because they”€™re aimed at Moslems rather than at home-schoolers, prolifers, or middle-class folks who”€™d like to carry guns in self-defense.

That’s about it, folks. On every other issue”€”and I know this may be hard to swallow”€”the Left is even worse than the neocon right. As crackpot as the Christian Right has become”€”John Hagee’s translation of Mein Kampf into pidgin King James English, Jerusalem Countdown, is already a best-seller, being pimped by the likes of Human Events“€”it is the only force holding back the kind of outrages which the Left gets up to when there’s no force to oppose it.

What am I talking about? Let’s take a look at a few sites around the world where the cultural Left has taken undisputed power, and see what these fine folks get up to once they”€™ve chewed through the straps and taken over the asylum:

In Quebec, a proposed government policy would forbid private Christian schools from teaching Biblical sexual ethics. 

A law with similar intent is pending in Brazil, which according to Zenit News “€œseeks to criminalize anything considered a condemnation of homosexuality, including priests who speak against the practice in homilies. Priests could face two to five years imprisonment for preaching against homosexuality. And a rector of a seminary who refuses admission to a homosexual student could face three to five years.”€

In Britain, the “€œanti-discrimination”€ regulation which will prevent Catholic and other serious Christian adoption agencies from placing children only with married, heterosexual couples will also restrict the teaching of Christian sexual ethics in schools, according to the non-partisan, secular news site MarriageDebate.com.

In Germany, where home-schooling was outlawed by Hitler and the law left on the books, the parents of 15-year-old Melissa Busekros lost custody of the girl for teaching her at home. She is now being held at a psychiatric institution“€”diagnosed with “€œschool-phobia”€ at an undisclosed location, with no access to her parents. In the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, laws restricting religious garb”€”which were aimed at the Moslems that country unaccountably allowed to settle there”€”are now being used to strip teaching nuns of their habits.

In Poland and Ireland, the democratically-passed laws restricting abortion on demand may well be stricken from the books by the diktat of unelected judicial bureaucrats of the European Court of Human Rights”€”who by the way, ruled against the parents of the abducted German teenager.

Meanwhile, in France, children are still forbidden to wear visible crucifixes or yarmulkes, since this is the only way that anti-clerical country can justify to itself stripping Islamic girls of the Hijab they are religiously moved to wear.

Across the Rhine in Deutschland, a judge recently ruled in favor of an abusive Islamic husband who beat his wife”€”basing his decision on the Koran

To what does this all add up? The fact that the secular Left, around the world, is engaged in a systematic persecution of Christianity, per se”€”even as it bends itself into knots to accommodate other religions, and every conceivable lifestyle perversion. The only reason that the secularist elites in this country haven”€™t tried harder to crack down in the U.S. is the presence of a large, Evangelical Christian movement”€”and a few Catholic intellectual cheerleaders. The presence of that movement serves as a bulwark against these forms of repression”€”for the moment.

But with every occasion on which the Christian Right squanders its moral capital, every unjust war it supports, every foolish statement designed to provoke a war between Israel and her neighbors, every ham-handed attempt to keep Christians from taking the environment (and the survival of God’s Creation) seriously, that bulwark erodes just a little. Intelligent young people look at the movement which can sanction such irresponsibility, which touts the likes of Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, and George W. Bush, and turn away in disgust. Like the Catholics of Spain who associate the Church with Franco’s secret police, they shudder and look for something else”€”a worldview which is not so manifestly juvenile and irrational.

They may very well turn to the secular Left. The Christian Right could vanish like the “€œmassive”€ Southern resistance to desegregation, like the Temperance movement which once outlawed alcohol in 50 states, like the Black Power movement… like every other half-baked ideological crusade which faded away with the irrational emotions that had driven it, in the absence of serious thought.

And then we will be in the same boat as our cousins in Brazil, Quebec, and England. We”€™ll be facing real persecution by a “€œsoft”€ totalitarian system that holds the family in contempt, regards Christianity as its enemy, and covets cradle-to-grave control over the thoughts, feelings and actions of its subjects. 

The only hope of resisting the partisans of secular intolerance is to clean up the Christian Right (Catholic and Protestant), to purge it of jingoism, anti-intellectualism, and end-of-the world nihilism, then to break up its shotgun wedding to the hacks who run the conservative movement. The Christian Right must become less “€œRight”€ and much more Christian, reassert its intellectual and moral independence of partisan politics, and insist on applying its principles consistently. Pastors must stop endorsing torture, public Catholics must choose their pope above their president, and all of us must remember that the real war is not between the Democratic and Republican parties, but between the Church and the World. And the battlefield lies within our hearts. 

California did it. Governor Arnold “€œThe Terminator”€ Schwarzenegger signed into law a measure passed by the ultra-liberal California Legislature which moves the Presidential primary to February 5, 2008. Many other States, including New York and Texas, may do so. New Hampshire, the nation’s first primary election, is forced now to move its date up a bit so that it retains the status as the kingmaker of American politics. Depending how the New Hampshire Legislature legislates, the Iowa Caucuses may be moved up even earlier. Next thing we know we will all be casting our ballots on the way to church on Christmas Eve or to our synagogue on the way to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

If this weren”€™t so serious it would be humorous.

At the beginning of the 20th Century primaries were unknown. Each State selected its delegates to the national conventions by holding a caucus of some sort. I don”€™t mean anything like the Iowa Caucuses, which now attract well over 100,000 participants. No, these caucuses were relatively small. At most a few hundred of the party faithful gathered together for the purpose of sending a select few to the national gathering, which was much larger and often in a distant city. It was about these caucuses that the term “€œsmoke-filled room”€ was born. In a few States, just a handful of people in a room, where cigars and brandy were abundant, sat down to play cards and to figure out who the next nominee of their party would be.

Then along came Governor Robert M. LaFollette (D-WI,) who initiated the primary system as a means to select delegates to the national conventions.

LaFollette was one of the founders of the Progressive Party and the primary was one of his many reforms, designed to put more power in the hands of the people, thus lessening the power of the smoked-filled room. A few States adopted the Progressive Party reforms but most continued to select their delegates to a national convention by a caucus of some sort. It wasn”€™t until the latter half of the 20th Century that the majority of States adopted the primary system. Now only a handful of States still select delegates by convention.

The primary system is a good one provided that it is stretched over several months. From the Iowa Caucuses in January to the California Primary in June potential nominees could be vetted by the electorate. It was a time for practice, if you will, for the major national election in November.

The Governor and the Legislature in California got all hot and bothered to move their primary to February 5, 2008 because it had been a long time since California had been the major factor in a race for the Presidency. To be precise, it was 1964 and Senator Barry M. Goldwater won a close primary election over New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. That was the last time California determined who the nominee of either party would be.

The move to February 5 would not be so pernicious if California alone were doing so. But most of the large States are accelerating their primaries as well. So we will have a super-duper primary and, bang, the nominee will have been chosen right then and there. Whom does super-duper primary help? In the case of the GOP it helps Rudolph W. (Rudy) Giuliani, assuming he can keep the poll numbers he now has. Rudy is the big-money candidate. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Senator Charles T. (Chuck) Hagel (R-NE), Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AK), Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX) and Thomas G. (Tom )Tancredo (R-CO) will have absolutely no chance under this system. On the Democratic side, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM), Senators Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Joseph P. Biden, Jr.  (D-DE) and former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) also will be relegated to has-beens under this new system because Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) has the money.

In fact, it is doubtful that Governor Ronald W. Reagan (R-CA) could have come back from his earlier defeats, as he did in 1976 in North Carolina.  He would require a huge sum of money to win on this super-duper primary system. And since Reagan was defeated in New Hampshire by incumbent President Gerald R. Ford (R-MI), he would not have been able to raise in a few days the huge amount of money required of a defeated candidate.

I always have favored a series of regional primaries spread over six months. Each region of the country would hold a primary on a different day, a month apart from another region. That would give candidates from all over the nation an opportunity to be nominated.

But this system says that our Presidential candidates must be rich and must have money to burn all during the year before that February doomsday. It is a distortion of our political system.

If we had a series of regional primaries it could take until the last primary for a candidate to be nominated. Incumbent Presidents would win by default. It is the challengers that concern me. This is the first time in more than half a century that there is no clear heir apparent in either party. But if this goes through it will be Hillary v. Rudy. And that will produce a massive walk-out from the Republican Party. Many are in that party because of pro-life and pro-family concerns. They have given up on the Democratic Party since 1980. If the Republicans are foolish enough to nominate a candidate who favors abortion rights and rights for homosexuals and so on the GOP will be left with only bitter partisans. All of those grassroots people who joined the Republicans because its candidates protected life will find themselves without a party. Even though it is terribly hard to start a new party, because the rules are stacked against you, it would be done in these circumstances. Without all of the pro-life and pro-family people voting Republican, Hillary would win.

Without intending to be sacrilegious, one is tempted to use the words of Jesus Christ from the Cross: “€œFather, forgive them for they know not what they do.”€

A Free Congress Foundation Commentary. Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.