The Mind of Anders Breivik

From Theodore Dalrymple:

How does a man in one of the most peaceful societies in the world come to the conclusion that shooting a large number of people unknown to him is to serve the cause of his country?

Several ingredients must be in the witch’s brew of Anders Breivik’s mind.

First is resentment; second, self-importance; third, the desire for fame or notoriety; fourth, the search for a transcendent meaning to life, and fifth, a difficulty in forming ordinary human relationships, whether of love or friendship.

A final precondition is an above-average level of intelligence, for this is necessary in order to rationalise the commission of a deed that would otherwise be repugnant.

Resentment arises when you are not treated or rewarded as you think you deserve to be. Your merits, whether by virtue of birth or accomplishment, go unrecognised. You are therefore a victim of injustice. By definition you can do no wrong when you try to right them.

Self-importance prevents you from putting the wrongs you think you have suffered into any kind of perspective.

You do not see that, by the standards of most people, you have suffered little. You cannot see the difference between mere inconvenience or distaste and severe oppression.

In a world in which celebrity seems so important, obscurity is felt by many as a wound to their ego. Why should others be famous and not me?

If you cannot achieve celebrity by force of talent, then you can do so by means of murder – witness the Crossbow Cannibal.

A wider cause gives meaning and purpose to your life, and persuades you that your resentment, your anger, is not petty or personal, but something much grander. Breivik thought that by acting on his personal resentments he was a saviour of Europe; he might just as well have been an animal rights activist as a nationalist. His monomania relieved his inner emptiness.

A difficulty in forming normal human relationships is another cause for resentment of a man like Breivik, and of yet another wound to his ego. It has to be compensated for somehow, and producing an event of historic importance is one way to do it.

A man must be intelligent to act like Breivik – for he needs not only to plan and execute his “historic” deed, but to be able to weave a coherent, if paranoid and ultimately stupid, justification for it.

The pity for others of a mass killer like Breivik is nil; for himself, infinite.

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The Monster of Monsters

From The Guardian:

What he was about to describe, he cautioned, would be “horrendous”.

But no warning could truly prepare Oslo criminal court for the experience of listening to Anders Behring Breivik detail in a calm, blank way how he gunned down terrified teenagers in the second of two attacks he carried out on 22 July last year.

The 33-year-old spent two hours on Friday afternoon giving a bullet-by-bullet account of what he refers to as his “operation” on the island of Utøya., where the youth wing of Norway’s Labour party was holding its annual summer camp. He shot and killed 67 people on the island that day; another fell off a cliff and died trying to escape. One more, a 17-year-old called Håkon Ødegaard, drowned while attempting to swim away.

Leaning back in his chair, twizzling a pen in his right hand, Breivik – flushed, but never losing control — told of how some of the children he killed were so paralysed with fear that he had time to reload his rifle before shooting them. He’d never seen such a thing, he said – not even on TV.

He recalled teenagers “playing dead” whom he slowly approached before shooting them at close range.

Relatives of those he had killed hugged each other. Some who had dodged his bullets stared straight ahead. There were tears in the eyes of some of the most experienced journalists in the courtroom. Lawyers bit their lips as they listened to Breivik, in a clear, measured voice, remember how he decided halfway through the massacre to “look for places where I would naturally try to hide.”

On the west side of the island, he said he came across a group “hiding, pressing themselves against the cliff face.” With nowhere to run, he was able to shoot them too. Another gang had clustered near an escarpment beneath Kjærlighetsstien, Lovers’ Path. Spotting them, he murdered five, claiming his youngest victim, Sharidyn Meegan Ngahiwi Svebakk-Bøhn, who had just celebrated her 14th birthday.

Breivik remembered campers “screaming and begging for their lives.”

One boy saw him coming and shouted “Please, mate”. Breivik shot him regardless: “I shot everyone there.” He repeatedly recalled taking what he called “follow-up” shots to ensure that those on the ground were really dead. It was just one of a string of military terminology he used on Friday to describe the massacre. He also referred to using a building on the island as a “forward operational base”. It was to there that, in one of the most tragic twists, he had persuaded his first victim to help him carry a bag containing extra rounds of ammunition.

Trond Berntsen, 51, one of the island’s security officials, had met Breivik off the ferry. Utøya’s head of security, Monica Elisabeth Bøsei, had been told by Breivik that he needed to her help to sail to the island because he was a police officer who had come to reassure campers in the wake of the Oslo bombing he had carried out barely an hour earlier. He was dressed in police uniform, and Bøsei believed him. As Breivik put it: “She bought it.” Within five minutes of Breivik setting foot on the island, both the security officals were lying dead between the pier and the so-called information building.

The maximum sentence he can receive in morally enlightened Norway is 21 years in prison: about 100 days per victim.

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Obama v. SCOTUS

From Charles Krauthammer:

“I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

— Barack Obama, on the constitutional challenge to his health care law, April 2

‘Unprecedented”? Judicial review has been the centerpiece of the American constitutional system since Marbury v. Madison in 1803. “Strong majority”? The House has 435 members. In March 2010, Democrats held a 75-seat majority. Obamacare passed by seven votes.

In his next-day walk back, the president implied that he was merely talking about the normal “restraint and deference” the courts owe the legislative branch. This concern would be touching if it weren’t coming from the leader of a party so deeply devoted to the ultimate judicial usurpation — Roe v. Wade, which struck down the abortion laws of 46 states — that fealty to it is the party’s litmus test for service on the Supreme Court.

With Obamacare remaking one-sixth of the economy, it would be unusual for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation so broad and sweeping. On the other hand, it is far more unusual to pass such a fundamentally transformative law on such a narrow, partisan basis.

Obamacare passed the Congress without a single vote from the opposition party – in contradistinction to Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, and Medicaid, similarly grand legislation, all of which enjoyed substantial bipartisan support. In the Senate, moreover, Obamacare squeaked by through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation that was never intended for anything so sweeping. The fundamental deviation from custom and practice is not the legal challenge to Obamacare but the very manner of its enactment.

The president’s pre-emptive attack on the Court was in direct reaction to Obamacare’s three days of oral argument. It was a shock. After years of contemptuously dismissing the very idea of a legal challenge, Democrats suddenly realized that there actually is a serious constitutional argument to be made against Obamacare — and they are losing it.

Here were highly sophisticated conservative thinkers — lawyers and justices — making the case for limited government, and liberals weren’t even prepared for the obvious constitutional question: If Congress can force the individual into a private contract by authority of the Commerce Clause, what can it not force the individual to do? Without a limiting principle, the central premise of our constitutional system — a government of enumerated powers — evaporates. What then is the limiting principle? Liberals were quick to blame the administration’s bumbling solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, for blowing the answer. But Clarence Darrow couldn’t have given it. There is none.

Justice Stephen Breyer tried to rescue the hapless Verrilli by suggesting that by virtue of being born, one enters into the “market for health care.” To which plaintiffs’ lawyer Michael Carvin devastatingly replied: If birth means entering the market, the Congress is omnipotent, authorized by the Commerce Clause to regulate “every human activity from cradle to grave.”

QED.

Having lost the argument, what to do? Bully. The New York Times loftily warned the Supreme Court that it would forfeit its legitimacy if it ruled against Obamacare, because with the “five Republican-appointed justices supporting the challenge led by 26 Republican governors, the court will mark itself as driven by politics.”

Really? The administration’s case for the constitutionality of Obamacare was so thoroughly demolished in oral argument that one liberal observer called it “a train wreck.” It is perfectly natural, therefore, that a majority of the Court should side with the argument that had so clearly prevailed on its merits. That’s not partisanship. That’s logic. Partisanship is four Democrat-appointed justices giving lockstep support to a law passed by a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president — after the case for its constitutionality had been reduced to rubble.

Democrats are reeling. Obama was so taken aback, he hasn’t even drawn up contingency plans should his cherished reform be struck down. Liberals still cannot grasp what’s happened — the mild revival of constitutionalism in a country they’ve grown so used to ordering about regardless. When asked about Obamacare’s constitutionality, Nancy Pelosi famously replied: “Are you serious?” She was genuinely puzzled.

As was Representative Phil Hare (D., Ill.) As Michael Barone notes, when Hare was similarly challenged at a 2010 town hall, he replied: “I don’t worry about the Constitution.” Hare is now retired, having been shortly thereafter defeated for reelection by the more constitutionally attuned owner of an East Moline pizza shop.

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President Petulant

From John Fund:

I spoke last night at a symposium on “The Obama Presidency” at the University of California at Berkeley. In a radical city known sometimes for its liberal anger, it won’t surprise you, many of those in the audience were upset at the prospect of the Supreme Court’s overturning part or all of Obamacare. After all, Berkeley voted 88 percent for Obama in 2008. But almost no one present at the symposium was as petulant as President Obama was yesterday, when he incorrectly claimed that if the Court rules against his landmark legislation it would be taking “an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

The implication of his statement was that he hasn’t heard of Marbury v. Madison, in which the Supreme Court laid down the doctrine of judicial review in 1803, and by which the Court can strike down unconstitutional laws. Indeed, since 1981, the Court has struck down 57 specific legislative acts of Congress, an average of two per year.

The president’s statement was so extraordinary that a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Justice Department to answer by Thursday whether the administration indeed respects the right of court to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional. As CBS’s Jan Crawford reported, Judge Jerry Smith became “very stern,” telling the lawyers arguing a separate case on the constitutionality of Obamacare that it was not clear to “many of us” whether the president believes such a right exists. He also noted Obama’s remarks yesterday in the Rose Garden about judges being an “unelected group of people.” The court was clearly not amused.
There appear to be few limits on how far President Obama will distort facts. In truth, his health-care plan passed the House by only 219 to 212, despite that body’s overwhelming Democratic majority. It was the first major piece of social legislation within memory to pass Congress without a single vote from the opposition party.

Even some liberals believe the president went too far yesterday. Ruth Marcus, an editorial writer who covers the Supreme Court for the Washington Post, said Obama’s assault “stopped me cold . . . for the president to imply that the only explanation for a constitutional conclusion contrary to his own would be out-of-control conservative justices does the court a disservice.” It was a mistake for Obama to “declare war” on the court, says Jon Meacham, a contributing editor of Time magazine. Voters don’t like hearing assaults on the Supreme Court itself, probably because Americans believe “life needs umpires, even ones who blow calls now and then.”

So it is surreal for Obama, a former constitutional-law professor and president of the Harvard Law Review, to go after the court as if he were a demagogue seeking reelection. As the Wall Street Journal put it: “Obama’s inner community organizer seems to be winning out over the law professor.”

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