This week I vote for Joe. It's a simple thought, but good enough.

My Endorsement:

The exclusion of Joe Lieberman from the recent presidential debates seems to have doomed his candidacy. Of the nine Democrats currently running, and the others who might consider running, he was the only one that I believe could have saved the party from electoral disaster.

The Honorable Senator Zell Miller endorsed George W. Bush in early November. Zell and I represent the same wing of the Democratic party--the James Jackson wing. Even so, I have held off following in the good Senator's footsteps, in the hope that the Democratic party might be saved.

I still hope it might be, but I do not think it will be in this election. It may be that, in the aftermath of the loss the Democratic party is racing toward, the survivors will finally be willing to listen to their Southern cousins when we say, "The party of the American people must love America with all depth and purity of heart; for the American people do. The party of the American people must trust the American people with their freedom and their money; for the American people trust themselves." Not this time, but perhaps the next.

I might have waited longer, but today a man did something brave, to warm the hearts of fighting men. Consider our President:

With the president out of sight, L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. civilian administrator, told the soldiers it was time to read the president's Thanksgiving proclamation and that it was a task for the most senior official present.

"Is there anybody back there more senior than us?" he asked. That was the cue for Bush, who promptly stepped forward from behind a curtain, setting off pandemonium among the troops.

"I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere," Bush joked to some 600 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division and the 82nd Airborne Division, who were stunned by the appearance and applauded wildly while giving Bush a standing ovation.

"Thanks for inviting me. I can't think of finer folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all."

That it was courageous to take Air Force One into Baghdad only a few days after the DHL flight was attacked goes without saying. That it was the right thing to do, to greet our fighters as they spent a lonely holiday on a distant front, goes likewise. What impresses me is not that; it is the humor. A brave but stern man can be terrible. A jolly coward is useless. A brave man with a laughing heart, though, is a man indeed.

In light of this act, I have now no more trouble than our Senator had in endorsing George W. Bush for re-election to the Presidency in 2004. Zell Miller was correct, as he usually is: Bush is the right man, at the right time.

Let us be thankful to have found him. Enjoy the holiday.

The Crusades:

Historian Thomas F. Madden speaks to the Crusades as wars of defense instead of wars of aggression:

Misconceptions about the Crusades are all too common. The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. For variations on this theme, one need not look far. See, for example, Steven Runciman�s famous three-volume epic, History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones. Both are terrible history yet wonderfully entertaining.

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression�an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity�and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion�has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed�s death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt�once the most heavily Christian areas in the world�quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to push back the conquests of Islam at the Council of Clermont in 1095. The response was tremendous. Many thousands of warriors took the vow of the cross and prepared for war. Why did they do it? The answer to that question has been badly misunderstood. In the wake of the Enlightenment, it was usually asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne�er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. The Crusaders� expressed sentiments of piety, self-sacrifice, and love for God were obviously not to be taken seriously. They were only a front for darker designs.

During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.
But were they worthwhile? In his summation, Madden gives two reasons that we should be grateful for the Crusades:
Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. The ancient faith of Christianity, with its respect for women and antipathy toward slavery, not only survived but flourished.
There is more, if you like. Hat tip: LGF.