HER MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION

A new low for Maureen Dowd’s sadly knee-jerk dismissal of Bush. She’s really better than this. Maybe this column makes a good faith attempt to explain why some people disagree with missile defense. Or maybe it’s worthy of Molly Ivins. I particularly liked this group of sentences: “The last time a president became infatuated with Star Wars, the obsession was easier to understand. Ronald Reagan was by temperament a utopian. He believed that the unattainable was attainable. He confused real life with the movies.” And of course, Reagan turned out to be a fool, his foreign policy collapsing into thin air, his delusion that Star Wars might hasten the demise of the Soviet Union pure fantasy. Why, the end of the Cold War was just a figment of his movie-addled imagination! Does Maureen still buy this interpretation of Reagan? Was she alive in the late 1980s? Or is this just more crowd-pleasing throw-aways for know-nothing blue-zoners? On another matter, imagine a column being written that made the same simple assumptions about another completely risky, utterly unproven and possibly dangerous area of research: on embryonic stem cells. Now imagine it in the New York Times.

IAIN DUNCAN PAPIST: I remember a telling moment when I was a whipper-snapper on the editorial board of the Daily Telegraph at the tender age of 20. Under the tutelage of a wonderfully erudite and funny man, Peter Utley, it was my job to write editorials while the real editors were on vacation or on an extremely long lunch. Peter was a ferocious Unionist and Anglican and saw both identities as central to what English conservatism was all about. I once asked him, in jest, if a good Catholic could really be a Tory. Peter replied in all seriousness that this was a deeply vexing question. I was a little stunned. A gay Catholic, I quietly surmised, might as well join the Socialist Workers Party. So how remarkable that the front-runner for the Tory leadership, Iain Duncan Smith, is a) a practicing Catholic and that b) no-one has even mentioned this. An interesting piece in the Irish Independent notices. What a difference it might make to those Catholics still persecuted in Ulster to have a prime minister who actually shares their faith.

THE RESILIENCE OF BIGOTRY: Two stories from different parts of the world, revealing just how vile humanity is. In Ulster, Unionist bigots traumatized elementary school children for the crime of going to a Catholic school in a predominantly Protestant enclave. My recent skepticism of the IRA should not, I hope, be taken as implicit support for the poisonous hatred that some Protestants in Ulster still hold for Catholics. Having endured anti-Catholic sneers of a far milder kind growing up in a state high school in England, I’m under few illusions as to the sweetness and light of some unreconstructed Protestants. And these school kids face yet more barrages of hate in the days to come. Then in the Times of London, some more reporting about the bigotry vented in Durban. It seems that Egypt told the U.S. that Cairo would never accept a conference declaration that didn’t condemn Israel as inherently “racist.” The Times goes on: “The warning was accompanied by a statement from Syria saying that the Holocaust, in which more than six million Jews lost their lives, was a “Jewish lie” and a demand from Iran that anti-Semitism should not be accepted as discrimination because it was not “a contemporary form of racism”.” These are the people with whom the Israelis are urged to make peace.