We just heard the Solicitor General of the United States argue the individual mandate before the Supreme Court. The Solicitor General is different from the Attorney General who heads the Justice Department. The Solicitor General’s whole job is to make argument on behalf of the federal government when controversies reach the highest court in the land.


Robin with Barbara, May, 2011.

Ted Olson had that job ten years ago, serving by the appointment of GWB. He was married to Barbara, a brilliant lawyer in her own right, and a mentor to other conservative women lawyers including Ann Coulter. The plane that was hijacked and flown into the pentagon carried Barbara Olson. Ann wrote a column for National Review two days later. The first two paragraphs read:

Barbara Olson kept her cool. In the hysteria and terror of hijackers herding passengers to the rear of the plane, she retrieved her cell phone and called her husband, Ted, the solicitor general of the United States. She informed him that he had better call the FBI — the plane had been hijacked. According to reports, Barbara was still on the phone with Ted when her plane plunged in a fiery explosion directly into the Pentagon.

Barbara risked having her neck slit to warn the country of a terrorist attack. She was a patriot to the very end.

Ann loved Barbara. The two days had focused her mind but her heart was still raging. The column was not a eulogy, but a shriek. The last two paragraphs of that column read:

Airports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.

When I read it, I had to laugh at the exquisite application of the invade/kill/convert prescription. Of course the first two elements are now accomplished facts. The third, while the only absolute solution, was utterly infeasible on many levels. But when three thousand of your countrymen are murdered while sipping their morning coffee, you must laugh in frank acknowledgement of the virtue of the suggestion. And when your friend and mentor is one of the three thousand, you make the suggestion. Sadly, Ann’s magnificent shriek got her fired from National Review – though in hindsight, it is only sad for National Review.

Two days before Ann’s column – and even as the 911 attack was ongoing – John Derbyshire posted a column to National Review which I reprint below in full. His instant understanding of the historic significance of that morning was brilliant. His confidence in the way history would then unfold was inspiring. Today, public discussion would benefit from his brilliant insight and inspirational confidence more than ever. And today, April 7, 2012, National Review fired John. Like Ann, he sees reality and writes truth. And like Ann, that is what got him fired. Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg simply cannot fill William F. Buckley’s shoes.

Steel and Fire and Stone
Under attack.

Mr. Derbyshire is also an NR contributing editor
September 11, 2001 11:40 a.m.

I am writing this less than an hour after the U.S.A. was struck by what looks very much like a coordinated wave of terrorist attacks. Two planes, one said to have been hijacked, crashed into the World Trade Center, setting both towers on fire. From my front lawn here in Long Island, thirty miles away, I can see the smoke plume. Something similar seems to have happened at the Pentagon, and the latest news is of a fire on the Mall in Washington D.C. The White House is being evacuated.

It is interesting to watch one's own emotions at such times. I was, as the news broke, writing some editorial matter for the forthcoming issue of the print National Review. The magazine has a section titled "The Week", with brief, pithy paragraphs commenting on the events of the day. We NR editors divvy up the topics, each getting four or five paragraphs to write. My topics were small things, domestic things: sharks, Senator Jeffords, the Little League scandals. I had sat down to this after seeing the kids off to school at the corner of the street, cheery in their bright clothes, lunch boxes in their backpacks. It is a bright, clear, sunny day. Walking back from the school bus, I commented to one of the mothers on the beauty of the morning — clear and bright.

As an event of this horror unfolds before one's eyes, a shift of perspective occurs. Kipling captured it in his magnificent poem on the outbreak of WW1: "For All We Have and Are":

Our world has passed away,
In wantonness o'erthrown.
There is nothing left today
But steel and fire and stone!

Like Kipling, we suddenly know that the distractions of our pleasant, commonplace lives must be set aside for a while. There is a terrible and ruthless enemy. He hates our country, our very culture. He wishes death to us and our children. He is, right now, crowing with glee. His friends and supporters are assembling in their streets, grinning and laughing, cheering and embracing. A blow has been struck at the Great Satan, a mighty blow! Rejoice, rejoice! There are people, millions of them, in the world right now, thinking those thoughts, saying those things.

Once more we hear the word
That sickened earth of old: —
"No law except the sword
Unsheathed and uncontrolled."

This is not an easy enemy to confront. This will not be a matter of great troop movements, of trenches and bombs and massed charges. This will be small teams of inconceivably brave men and women, working in strange places, unknown and unacknowledged. But is the same enemy, the same truth, of which Kipling spoke: evil, naked and proud: "a crazed and driven foe." This is what humanity has faced before, since our story began to be written down. This is civilization versus barbarism.

Comfort, content, delight,
The ages' slow-bought gain,
They shrivelled in a night.
Only ourselves remain

To face the naked days
In silent fortitude
Through perils and dismays
Renewed and re-renewed.

Let nobody think that Americans are incapable of facing this foe and defeating him. Let nobody think that this country is any less able to "face the naked days" than she was in 1861, in 1917, in 1941 and 1950. We shall rise to this. We shall take our revenge. We shall absorb these blows, and strike back a hundred times harder. Let America's enemies crow today: Tomorrow they will tremble, and weep.

Robin with John, June, 2004.