Evan Bayh bemoans partisan politics in Congress. Canada’s Olympic Committee gets the gold for marketing hyperbole. Conrad Black bewails Russia as a nation of fraudsters from the confines of his prison cell.
A few things hit our desk with a hollow thud over the past week. Senator Evan Bayh’s recent discovery that politics is actually going on in Washington was one of them. He has held his senate seat from Indiana since 1998. His father held it from 1963 to 1981. Few are given such a golden opportunity to serve and to effect change. He was a favorite for re-election in the fall, unlike many of his Democrat colleagues. You might have thought he had an idea or two about what could be done to improve Washington, instead of declaring defeat and retreating to Indianapolis.
Canada’s Olympic Committee slogan at the Winter Games in Vancouver, “Own the Podium,” seems to have run into a snag in the mortgage department. Even with impressive displays by many host country athletes, Canada has fallen to fourth place in the medal count. It has been an unusual exhibition of bravura that detracts from the Olympic spirit and from the reputation of a country known for its modesty and civility. How odd that the worst display of sportsmanship and performance from the Winter Games comes from the highly paid marketing geniuses who dreamed up this twaddle.
But the ultimate chutzpah award would have to go to Conrad M. Black, who, with the help of the National Review, looked into the vanity mirror of Grimm Brothers fame and asked who was the biggest fraudster of them all. Why it’s Russia, the mirror answered back, to the man serving 78 months at Coleman Correctional Facility in Florida for his conviction on fraud charges and obstruction of justice.
Mr. Black observes, apparently with no fairy tale in mind:
Russia is a fraud. Its population is in steep decline and chronically afflicted by alcoholism. The governmental system is authoritarian and corrupt, allied with protégés who have been given monopolistic concessions and who repay their rulers with obscene kickbacks.
He makes his sweeping generalization without advancing much in the way of specifics. On the other hand, Mr. Black is a highly certified fraudster. Whether the Supreme Court upholds or overturns his conviction, at the current time, the law is required, and society is entitled, to view him as being officially guilty of the crimes for which he has been convicted. The comment about alcoholism is a recurring theme for Mr. Black. Before rendering his pronouncement about Russia in this regard, he claimed it to be a disease endemic to the profession of journalism. But Mr. Black should know as well as anyone that this is an illness that touches families around the world. Some have even lived among the mansions of Toronto. And about those monopolistic concessions: Where, exactly, would one place non-compete payments from companies in which you have an interest, Mr. Black? (See United States of America v. Conrad Black.)
Strangely, the National Review seems to buying into this baronial display of intellectual dishonesty. Its editors evidently have no problem publishing the thoughts of a convicted felon who is accusing others of the same crime for which he is presently serving time. They refuse to disclose his current confinement status, which might be of interest to readers now and in the future. In fact, they try to cover it up by describing him merely as an author. By contrast, they describe Bill Bennett, the conservative commentator, as an author whose full-time job is talk show host. Mr. Black’s full-time job is criminal serving time for fraud and obstruction of justice. To further distort the truth, NRO pictures Mr. Black in a business suit. His prison uniform has been his required attire for nearly two years.
While the contributions of the National Review are admittedly not something that prompt universal concurrence on these pages, there are aspects to conservative principles and philosophy that do resonate, especially after one has had the chance to observe the human condition for a number of decades. One tenet central to many conservatives is the idea that consequences should flow when the law is broken. It does not serve the interests of conservative institutions like the National Review or the ideas they seek to advance to hold Mr. Black to a different standard because he is one of their own.
As an aside, one has to wonder what Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) is waiting for before he calls the head of the Bureau of Prisons to ask exactly how it is that Conrad Black’s writing newspaper columns and giving lectures from prison to university students is consistent with established principles of justice and penal service. One thinks that public confidence in the latter would demand a distinction between what Mr. Black is actually doing in prison and what he might otherwise produce from his Palm Beach mansion.
With this post we begin an occasional series of the same name in which we explore the thinking, or lack thereof, behind the statements and actions of prominent people.