The Truth, Mainly - 10/04/1999

Mona's right: Good news beats lamentations
by Leon Satterfield

The trouble with newspaper columnists, Mona Charen lamented and decried in her newspaper column last week, is that "it often seems that columnists are put on this Earth to lament and decry." They should spend more time noticing "the good things that are happening in our nation and the world."

I couldn't agree more.

So here's a columnful of good things that have happened lately.

One of them came last month when Texas Gov. George W. Bush responded to yet another outbreak of gun slaughter.

"I wish," he said, "I knew the law to make people love one another."

It's a good thing to find out what the top fund-raising candidate thinks is the antidote to people using guns to blow away other people: A law to make us love one another. Except he doesn't know what that law might be.

In the absence of such a law, how about one that says only people who already love everyone can own guns?

Such thoughts might even lead to common sense, and common sense is always good news. So thanks, George W., for demonstrating a futile way to address a problem and thereby goosing the rest of us into less futile ways of thinking about it.

And on the same topic in the same state, another good thing happened recently. In Lubbock, U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings ruled that a man had a constitutional right to the handgun he was waving at his wife. And that's even though he was thereby breaking a 1994 federal law that prohibits anyone under a restraining order—as the man in question was—from owning a gun.

The good thing is that Judge Cummings' decision was appealed after 52 legal scholars questioned his interpretation of the Second Amendment. They argued that it's about rights of a well-regulated militia rather than rights of angry men under restraining orders who want to wave guns at their wives.

The case may go all the way to the Supreme Court for a definitive ruling. If the Court agrees with Judge Cummings, expect a national debate about repealing the Second Amendment—a debate that might clarify a muddy issue.

And clarifying muddy issues is nearly always salutary. We have Judge Cummings to thank for getting the ball rolling.

Or how about that wonderful story of the proposal to add a thirteenth month to the fiscal year? It came from Republicans in Congress who want to look as though they're observing their own spending caps. But at the same time they know that if they don't come up with an extra $12-16 billion for popular health, education and social programs, they might not get re-elected.

So they plan to approve the $12-16 billion in the thirteenth month of the fiscal year—after the spending cap expires.

Try that one with your wife the next time you need a new SUV and you've promised her you won't spend any more money this year. So in December you find one of those deals where you get the new car but you don't pay for it till January.

"Look, honey!" you tell her. "I got my new SUV and still stayed under this year's spending cap. Am I fiscally responsible or what?"

That's when she bonks you on the head with the frying pan. It makes a hollow sound.

It's the same deceptive game the congressional majority is playing when it pays for the 2000 census out of emergency funds not covered by the spending cap. It's as though nobody knew there'd be a 2000 census. It just—surprise!—popped out of a cake.

All that sounds bad, but it's really good. Because it demonstrates convincingly what should have been demonstrated convincingly when the national debt quadrupled during the Reagan-Bush administrations: Republicans are no more fiscally responsible than Democrats.

It's almost always a good thing when we rid ourselves of illusions.

And finally there's that great feel-good story of just last week:

Linda Tripp filed suit against the White House and the Pentagon for—get this—violating her rights to privacy by leaking "embarrassing or damaging information for partisan political purposes."

Yes she did. The very woman who for partisan political purposes violated the pluperfect hell out of her friend's privacy.

The White House, Linda says, subjected her to "extreme public embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, ridicule," and she wants big money.

The story makes the country laugh itself silly. And it's always good when a country laughs itself silly. It eases the national indigestion. It clears up the national complexion. It wonderfully sharpens the national vision.

So thank you, Linda.

And thank you, Mona. I see what you mean. Good news is such a rush.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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