Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The OAH and Academic Freedom

Back in March the Organization of American Historians organized a committee to "investigate reports of repressive measures having an impact on historians’ teaching, research, employment, and freedom of expression." That committee has just released its final report. Do you think it mentions politically-motivated vendettas against conservative faculty, or the stifling effect of campus speech codes? Guess again. But it does suggest the existence of a conspiracy on the part of federal agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities "to shape the content of teaching and research" in line with the Bush administration’s policies. The evidence for this? The Higher Education Act, placed before Congress earlier this year, called for support for "faculty and academic programs that teach traditional American history." Will the horrors never cease?

Hat tip to David Beito at Liberty & Power.

Straight Talk from a Dem

Brad Carson, the losing Democratic Senate candidate in Oklahoma, writes frankly about his loss in the nest issue of The New Republic. TNR’s website requires a subscription for access, so here’e the gripping part of Carson’s article:

"The culture war is real, and it is a conflict not merely about some particular policy or legislative item, but about modernity itself. Banning gay marriage or abortion would not be sufficient to heal the cultural gulf that exists in this nation. The culture war is about matters more fundamental still: whether nationality is, in a globalized world, a random fact of no more significance than what hospital one was born in or whether it is the source of identity and even political legitimacy; whether one’s self is a matter of choice or whether it is predetermined, before birth, by the cultural membership of one’s family; whether an individual is just that--a free-floating atom--or whether the individual is part of a long chain that both predates and continues long after any particular person; whether concepts like honor and shame, which seem so quaint, are still relevant in a world that values only "tolerance." These are questions not for politicians but for philosophers, and, in the end, it is the failure of liberal philosophy that we saw on November 2.

"For the vast majority of Oklahomans--and, I would suspect, voters in other red states--these transcendent cultural concerns are more important than universal health care or raising the minimum wage or preserving farm subsidies. Pace Thomas Frank, the voters aren’t deluded or uneducated. They simply reject the notion that material concerns are more real than spiritual or cultural ones. The political left has always had a hard time understanding this, preferring to believe that the masses are enthralled by a "false consciousness" or Fox News or whatever today’s excuse might be. But the truth is quite simple: Most voters in a state like Oklahoma--and I venture to say most other Southern and Midwestern states--reject the general direction of American culture and celebrate the political party that promises to reform or revise it."

CIA matters

The Washington Post reports that the deputy director has resigned and the agency is in chaos; there are threatened resignations, recriminations. Worth reading and keeping an eye on, but take it with a grain of salt. David Brooks has an op-ed on the dysfunctional relationship between the CIA and the White House. The CIA, partly by its nature, partly out of habit, is prone to certain vices, not excluding a pretty direct participation in presidential politics. Brooks is right, in another age this sort of insubordination would have been treated very harshly. Given everything, including 9/11, critical reports, etc., it may be time to simply end it, and create something entirely new. Serious, dangerous, but not without opportunities.

Ramirez Cartoon

Europe should adopt US’s view of terrorism

Some good news out of Europe: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO’s Secretary General, said this yesterday: "Your country focused very much on the fight against terror while in Europe we focused to a lesser extent on the consequences for the world. We looked at it from different angles, and that for me is one of the reasons you saw such frictions in the trans-Atlantic relationship."

"If the gap is to be bridged, it has to be done from the European side and not from the United States.

Where allies very much agree and must agree is the fact that whatever ways they have looked at the war in Iraq and the run-up to it and the split we saw, we cannot afford to see Iraq go up in flames. It is everyone’s obligation that we get Iraq right."

Kathleen Parker

I like Kathleen Parker for two reasons (one being more important than the other, but the combination is rare): she is smart (aka, good writer) and she is pretty. I just spotted this column she wrote the day after the election. It is very good. A sample: "The two-America divide isn’t fiction after all. And the division, as nearly everyone has noted, is about values. But what the Democrats got wrong, and what the New York Times subjects seem to be missing, is that traditional values and sophistication are not mutually exclusive. Nor does sophistication equate to intelligence, we hasten to add.

People who believe in heterosexual marriage because the traditional family model best serves children and therefore society are not ipso facto homophobic. Americans vexed about our casual disregard for human life are not necessarily Stepford-Neanderthals. And, those people who believe in some power greater than themselves are not always rubes.

In small towns across the nation, especially in the Deep South, one can find plenty of well-traveled, multilingual, latte-loving, Ivy-educated Ph.D.s, if that’s your measure of sophistication. But they’re not snobs, nor do they sneer at people who pay more than lip service to traditional values. In fact, they often share those very values in quiet, thoughtful, deliberative ways." But read it all. Thanks, Kathleen.

2006 mid-term elections

Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics has two nice charts of the
36 Gubernatorial and 33 Senate races on the ballot in 2006. He also has a few useful paragraphs on which party is at an advantage or disadvantage (GOP advantage for the Senate races, and slight disadvantage for gubernatorial races). He writes: "All in all it should be a very entertaining midterm, especially given what happened last Tuesday and knowing that, at least for those incumbents in the Senate [Mark Dayton in Minnesota, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, Maria Cantwell in Washington, Bill Nelson in Florida]. This will be their first time standing for election after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."

The new band of brothers

Amy White wrote a lovely piece about our soldiers in yesterday’s St. Louis Post Dispatch. God bless the warriors. Coriolanus’ mother speaking of her son: Before him he carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears: Death, that dark spirit, in’s nervy arm doth lie.

Harvey Mansfield elected

Harvey Mansfield, in opposition to the establishment and official candidates, has won, and will be on the governing body of the otherwise useless American Political Science Association governing body. If you are interested in understanding the Progressive (and Hegelian) nature of the APSA and the profession of political science, read Dennis Mahoney’s recently published, Politics and Progress: The Emergence of American Political Science.


Mark Bowden explains why Fallujah is important and even George Will is optimistic. This Washington Post report on the fighting is worth a read, as is this from the New York Times.

State by state comparison of 2000 and 2004 vote

Real Clear Politics has a very handy chart of the presidential vote by state, and the plus or minus in percentage for Bush. Handy. Keeper.

CIA wars continue

Mike Scheuer, a counterterrorist CIA agent (and the author of two books under "anonymous") is violating the trench-coat oath and has resigned from the CIA and will go public with his criticism of the government’s war on terror and the administration’s war on Iraq. He will also hit the talk-show circuit. No further comment necessary.

Truman’s stark courage and fighting heart

David Gelertner thinks that Truman, that provincial hick, and W. have much in common, including their stark courage and fighting heart, as do the the elections of 1948 and 2004. Good essay.   

The source of the president’s authority

That President Bush won the election is beyond argument. Did he win a mandate? As such things are normally talked of, the answer would be "yes." Yet, as

Andrew Busch reminds us, it is unfortunate that we talk in such terms. The mandate question reminds us that Woodrow Wilson and the progressives used this term first to argue that the president is given authority by the people because they elect him. Wilson and the other progressives were keen to go beyond the Constitution.
We should remind ourselves of our constitutional heritage: that the president’s authority resides in the Constitution, not in a plebiscite. Every presidential election should remind us of this massive fact.  

Reflections on the happy few

Today is Veteran’s Day. No better way to reflect on its meaning and honor those who have served than by reading this by

Robert Alt and this by Mac Owens. Mac, a Marine, also reminds us that yesterday was the 229th birthday of the Marine Corps. Semper fi. Remember those who have served, and pray for those who are serving. And let us hope that those who are serving will live long enough to be able to say: "There is nothing sweeter than to be an old man who has fought for his country."

Can They Please Keep Him?

Word on the radio this morning in Washington is that Jimmy Carter wants to attend Yasir Arafat’s funeral in Cairo. Can we please please get Jimmy a one-way ticket?

Not to be missed is Scott Johnson’s (aka, "The Big Trunk") revelation on Powerline about Arafat’s direct role in the murder of two U.S. diplomats in the 1970s (among other countless terrorist outrages bearing his fingerprints). Instead of being received at the Whie House, he should have had handcuffs clapped on him.

Ashcroft Out; Gonzales In

The White House reports that Judge Alberto Gonzales has been nominated by President Bush to be the Attorney General of the United States (what Bush called the fifth appointment of Gonzales to a position under his authority).

On March 31, 2003, Judge Alberto R. Gonzales delivered the Inaugural Powell Lecture at Washington and Lee University Law School. He was the chief counsel to President George W. Bush and considered by legal commentators to be a likely nominee for the next vacancy on the Supreme Court. For what it’s worth, I include below an aide-memoire that I wrote soon after I heard his remarks. (Please pardon the lengthy blog)

Gonzales’s 37-minute speech gave a glowing assessment of Bush. Some soundbites: "It is hard to be around George Bush and not learn from him." "It is hard to be around the president and not like him." In general, Bush is thoughtful, deliberate, charming, a man of faith (as Gonzales gave every indication of himself, as well), and has a "strong sense of his destiny."

Two "core principles" of his counsel to the president are "fidelity to the rule of law" and something like devotion to the constitutional prerogatives of the office in the face of daily challenges. Gonzales addressed the role of commander-in-chief and judicial appointments: "The world has changed but the words of the Constitution have not." Which means he counsels the president to submit to the Constitution but believes Bush has a correct understanding of his singular responsibility among the federal branches to protect the American people, especially in the face of enemies who do not cherish life, are not constrained by civil authorities, do not love liberty, and do not respect law. "We are at war," he reiterated without apology.

Gonzales gave examples of "anticipatory self-defense" in American history and U.N. backing for U.S. actions against Iraq since 1991. He added that lawyers "review" military targets for possible infractions of international or national law (e.g., effect on civilian populations or non-military institutions like hospitals, schools, or mosques), but certainly do not "approve" of targets.

He believed that "perhaps a president’s most lasting legacy" could be his judicial appointments. He added that Bush’s "compassionate conservative" approach to appointments was as follows: (1) personal character, integrity, and professional excellence; (2) follows precedent and the law, i.e., "ideologically neutral" in approach to adjudication with no agenda brought with them to the Court; and (3) no ideological litmus test.

Gonzales repeated the federal brief arguments on the Grutter and Gratz affirmative action cases: namely, racial diversity in higher education is important, though no commitment on this as a "compelling state interest" and race-neutral means are best so as to avoid the divisiveness that follows from race-centered policies that treat people differently according to race. The latter should be used "only as a last resort, if ever." He spoke of "the important goal of diversity" in light of King’s "I Have a Dream" quotation about color versus content.

He closed with a quick ode to balancing work and family: "Learn this now if you want to be happy."

I had to duck out early for a previous appointment, but was able to ask the second question: "Washington and Lee University joined an amicus brief by Carnegie Mellon University, which supports racial diversity as a rationale for affirmative action but not for remedial purposes. Curiously, it argued that while race is not a proxy for how a person thinks, race does shape how one thinks. Do you agree with this, and if not, how is racial diversity a compelling state interest in decisions regarding hiring and admissions in higher education?"

He dodged the question by simply restating the "president’s position" in the federal briefs filed in February, which was that Bush did not say diversity was a "compelling state interest" but an important goal of education because it represented "equal opportunity"--something the president is very sensitive about and cares very much about. Gonzales said, "This may not answer your question," to which I replied, "No, it doesn’t, but that’s OK," and then I quickly added, "I just want to know why racial diversity is important." He then repeated his statement about equal opportunity and how education, in the president’s mind, is the key to success for all Americans. (He had, pleasantly, given every indication during his formal remarks that he would not answer direct questions dealing with pending or potential cases.) Needless to say, my follow-up question turned many heads when I asked it, as if to imply, "How could anyone NOT know why racial diversity is important?!" Other questions about civil rights protections for prisoners of the war on terrorism and related matters were asked, then I left before the session closed.

Gonzales came across as a devoted counselor to the president, an amiable fellow who has his personal and vocational priorities straight, and who would not part from the president’s line on any given subject. He clearly admires the president, gets along with Bush, and possesses not so coincidentally the qualities outlined in his speech for a potential nominee to the federal bench (Supreme or otherwise). As I noted earlier, there was no way he was going to touch any of the hot-button topics dealing with any future court nominees of the president, though he did mention in passing the Estrada filibuster that will recommence tomorrow [April 2003].

There’s alot the president obviously likes in Gonzales, going back to their Texas service in the state house. If he is weak on abortion and affirmative action, as has been reported, his appointment to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general could be the best conservatives could expect.

New Study Blasts Affirmative Action at Law Schools

The Chronicle of Higher Education has run an article, "Does Affirmative Action Hurt Black Law Students?,"that confirms what we already know: namely, that educational mismatch occurs when racial preferences provide incentives for many aspiring law students to attend schools for which they are not well prepared. In a forthcoming Stanford Law Review article, UCLA law professor Richard H. Sander contends that there would be more successful black lawyers, both in terms of numbers attending law school and those passing the bar, if affirmative action was eliminated. His study, "A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools," concluded the following:

After the first year of law school, 51 percent of black students have grade-point averages that place them in the bottom tenth of their classes, compared with 5 percent of white students. "Evidence suggests that when you’re doing that badly, you’re learning less than if you were in the middle of a class" at a less-prestigious law school, Mr. Sander says.

Among students who entered law school in 1991, about 80 percent of white students graduated and passed the bar on their first attempt, compared with just 45 percent of black students. In a race-blind admissions system, the number of black graduates passing the bar the first time would jump to 74 percent, he says, based on his statistical analysis of how higher grades in less competitive schools would result in higher bar scores. Black students are nearly six times as likely as whites not to pass state bar exams after multiple attempts.

Ending affirmative action would increase the number of new black lawyers by 8.8 percent because students would attend law schools where they would struggle less and learn more, earn higher grades, and have better success on the job market.

With the exception of the most-elite law schools, good grades matter more to employers than the law school’s prestige.

Anita Hill

Remember Anita Hill? Well, I do, but I haven’t heard her name for a while. And wouldn’t you know that two days after the Clarenence Thomas trial balloon appears, she writes this op-ed for the Boston Globe. What is her article about? Well, voter intimidation, race, and so on. She’s really breaking ground, this professor of social policy and women’s studies at Brandeis. Brandeis? When did that happen? No matter, now that Thomas is being talked about as Chief, she baaaack! The trial baloon worked. But, it doesn’t matter. The deed is done.

The Generosity Index

Instapundit calls our attention to a study at the Catalogue for Philanthropy. It derives a state-by-state ranking by comparing the average wealth of each state to the amount of charitable giving that goes on there. The state at the top of the list is Mississippi which, although the poorest state in the union, ranks fifth in terms of overall philanthropy.

But here’s the really interesting part. Every state in the top half of the list went for George W. Bush in last week’s election. And among the ten states at the bottom of the list, all but one went for John Kerry. Hmm, maybe there’s something to this "compassionate conservatism" stuff after all....

The 2008 elections

John Zvesper begins to consider some of the electoral strategic calculations for both parties for 2008. While it may look as though the GOP is better situated, the Republicans have to think strategically, and their victory is by no means assured. Very thoughtful. A sample: "Marginally expanding the blue states is also a desperate strategy for the Democratic Party more generally, because even more doubtful than its success would be its success having any coattails. The incumbency advantage in Congress—which for so many years protected Democrats from partisan realigning forces—now protects Republican majorities, which are therefore likely to be less precarious than at any time since they first appeared in both houses in 1994. (In state legislatures, as well, Republicans continue to hold a small majority of chambers, though Democrats made gains in 2004.)

Against this gloomy outlook (for the Democrats), there remains one often denied but reasonably undeniable fact: this presidential election was very untypical, because it was a judgement of an incumbent president’s conduct of the nation’s affairs during a war. In fact, as enemy actions and speeches attested, the election itself was part of the war."  

How Hillary in 2008 & 2012

Good morning. French
"Histoire des Etats-Unis" published in 2150. This excerpt recounts how Hillary Clinton won the election of 2008 and 2012. (Thanks to Instapundit). Enjoy.

Bush as LBJ??

Touche, David. But see Brendan Miniter in today’s Wall Street Journal for a longer treatment of the seriousness and potential of the "ownership society" idea.

More Daedal Dyspeptic Dander

I like the phrase “ownership society.” It sounds like something Tony Blair would say. I look forward to social security reform and tax law reform. They will do something to compensate for the prescription drug benefit added to Medicare and the recently signed corporate tax bill. On the costs of big government conservatism, Steve Hayward is right (it “is merely low budget liberalism, and not all that low-budget any more”). According to a study reported in the Economist, the George W. Bush administration is responsible for three of the six largest annual percentage increases in real discretionary spending over the last 40 years. The Johnson administration is responsible for the other three.

How Bush almost let it slip away

Charles Krauthammer’s essay in Time is worth reading. It is an elegant essay arguing that Bush almost threw the election away with Iraq. Yet, this formulation is in a way too simple, for it is fair to say that if he just sat on his laurels with Afghanistan, he would have won the election with ease. He gambles, and he won. Krauthammer also has a few words on Kerry.


Ashcroft and Evans have resigned

The White House just announced that Ashcroft and Evans have resigned.

Good-bye to a blogger

The Horserace Blog is signing off. He covered the election and now that the horse race is over so is his blog. Be sure to read his essays (Election Analysis Part I and Part II), a few clicks down. He says he is too busy preparing for his qualification exams to continue. We thank him for a great and useful effort. Good luck!


Bill Garmer, the leader of the Democratic Party in Kentucky, announced his resignation. He said the party’s losses in federal and state elections had nothing to do with his decision:

"I would have done this whichever way it went because I had realized I was just stretched beyond the limits of my emotional and physical energy." The Democratic Party in Kentucky has to be rebuilt. Only one of six members of the U.S. House of Representatives is a Democrat. The governor and both U.S. Senators are Republicans, as is the state Senate (22-16). The state House is still in Democratic hands (64-35).

Fallujah and Ramadi

The Belmont Club has the details on the fighting in both Fallujah and Ramadi, where hundreds of insurgents have taken over the center of the city. Follow the links.

Which polls got it right

Bevan & McIntyre of RealClearPolitics analyze the polls and which came closer to getting the results right: Battleground/Tarrance and Pew. Worth reading and filing. Let me take this opportunity to thank those guys for all the good work they have done. RealClearPolitics has made itself indispensable. Thanks much.

Some comments on the election

George Will explains how not to win red America. True and well put; much of it, inevitably, amusing. Newt Gingrich, surely one of the smartest guys around--and the one most responsible for completing this rolling realignment--explains that if Republicans do three major things, they will be the governing majority for a generation to come. His points have to be thought through. James Q. Wilson thinks that it wasn’t the so called "values" that got Bush re-elected. While his piece is a bit ambivalent, it merits reading and thinking about. Carlos Watson, perhaps representing the more ordinary and establishment opinion at CNN, thinks that Bush’s political genius has been overlooked. I agree. Mark Steyn thinks we just weren’t dumb enough to vote for Kerry. John Podhoretz explains why Bush won a mandate by comparing this election to 1984 when Reagan won decisively, but without a mandate.
And Jay Ambrose thinks that the Hollywood Lefties (and especially Michael Moore) had a lot to do with getting Bush re-elected, and he delights in their failure.

Kerry thinking about 2008

Some mornings all seems to be well in the world. Arafat has gone into a deeper coma (whatever that means), we’re taking back Fallujah, Howard Dean is thinking about running for DNC chairman, and John Kerry is staying in the fight and is even thinking about running in 2008. Sometime "God tests you" said Kerry, and noted that Ronald Reagan (one of his heroes, of course) tried a couple of times before becoming president. Also note some of Bob Shrum’s comments in the article, as well. How can one be wrong so often and still have a job? It’s a real pretty day.

Simon Schama on Godly American vs Wordly America

Simon Schama is a very good historian. Or, at least I can say with certainty that his book Citizens is a very fine book. It is perhaps the best single volume ever written on the French Revolution. It tells a great story and it never misleads the reader. But alas, as this op-ed in the London Guardian makes clear, he is a man of the Left. And he is an angry man calling not for compromise but for a political mother-of-all-battles between the Demos (as he understands them) and the GOP (as he understands them). His analysis of the great divide in the United States between the red and the blue states he calls comparable to the divide between the Shia and the Sunny! He is a fine writer, this man of the Left, so this long op-ed is very much worth reading just for itself. Yet, it is also worth reading because some very intelligent and thoughtful folks really do think all this, and he defines it as clearly as anyone. Let the healing stop, as he says, and the fight begin. A sample:

"Worldly America, which of course John Kerry won by a massive landslide, faces, well, the world on its Pacific and Atlantic coasts and freely engages, commercially and culturally, with Asia and Europe in the easy understanding that those continents are a dynamic synthesis of ancient cultures and modern social and economic practices. This truism is unthreatening to Worldly America, not least because so many of its people, in the crowded cities, are themselves products of the old-new ways of Korea, Japan, Ireland or Italy. In Worldly America - in San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, New York - the foreigner is not an anxiety, but rather a necessity. Its America is polycultural, not Pollyanna.

Godly America, on the other hand, rock-ribbed in Dick Cheney’s Wyoming, stretched out just as far as it pleases in Dubya’s deeply drilled Texas, turns its back on that dangerous, promiscuous, impure world and proclaims to high heaven the indestructible endurance of the American Difference. If Worldly America is, beyond anything else, a city, a street, and a port, Godly America is, at its heart (the organ whose bidding invariably determines its votes over the cooler instructions of the head), a church, a farm and a barracks; places that are walled, fenced and consecrated. Worldly America is about finding civil ways to share crowded space, from a metro-bus to the planet; Godly America is about making over space in its image. One America makes room, the other America muscles in."

Karl Rove and Obama notes

This is the Meet the Press transcript with Karl Rove. This is the USA Today story on the Rove interviews with Meet the Press and Fox. Do note that it was Barak Obama who made the Sunday appearances for Democrats. Also note that Obama has signed an agent, looking for another book deal to sign, before he takes the oath.

The Democrats’ need

Ronald Brownstein writes a useful piece for the Los Angeles Times. He argues that the Demos have to enlarge their territory and pick a nominee for president that is outside the geographic base they now hold. He cites these examples: Vilsack (IA), Richardson (NM), Warner (VA). Some of the facts and figures he cites are useful to know, for example: "Kerry reached 48% of the vote in just three of those states: New Hampshire (the sole state Kerry recaptured), Ohio and Nevada. In 21 of the 29 Bush 2000 states, Kerry was held to 43% of the vote or less.

Partly because his own base was so strong, Bush was able to mount challenges for more Democratic terrain. Bush gained 48% or more in six states that Gore carried. Although Bush still fell well short in the Northeast, he significantly improved his performance in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Only in five of the 18 Gore 2000 states was Bush held to 43% or less."

A warning to the GOP

John Fund warns the GOP that they have some work to do in the states, especially the blue states that Kerry won. The Democrats now have (by a hair) more state legislators than the GOP and the Demos have won some major state battles in states like Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, California, Washington, Vermont, and Minnesota. He’s right. This has to be watched, and the GOP has to make a serious effort to win the state races.  

Operation Phantom Fury - Fallujah

The attack on Fallujah has begun. This is the Washington Post’s report on the battle (from 2 hours ago). And this is the AP’s
report (25 minutes ago). And this is the Reuters
report . The Belmont Club has some interesting analysis of what is happening or might happen. See both "The Banner of Zarqawi," and "The Assault Begins."

Advice for Democrats

John Leo looks at the elections and has some advice for Democrats.

Misleading exit polls on election day

The Wall Street Journal considers the crisis with the exit poll numbers (terribly wrong and misleading) on the afternoon of the election and what role the bloggers had in sending the bad info around cyberspace. I noticed all this at the time and how everyone was in a panic (even the largely sober crowd at NRO), looked at the numbers (much like Rove did a few minutes after he got them) and decided that they were wrong. I decided that either the Kerry campaign was releasing them or the media was leaking it to itself. Here is what I wrote at about 3 p.m. on election day: "Exit polls (leaked) are bad".

Ramirez Cartoon

The 51% nation

Michael Barone’s brief analysis of the election is, as always, worth reading. He focuses on the ground game, which the Republicans won, and notes that the media bias didn’t work because people liked Bush.  

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for October

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Sherry Milstein

Joe Lehane

Ed Loretto

Kevin Stremel

Sue Moritz

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter November’s drawing.

Tuckered Out

David Tucker (see below) expresses with his usual dyspepsia the skepticism many conservatives have had toward Bush since before he was elected in 2000. I had a conversation with Rich Lowry of National Review last spring in which we agreed that we needed to get Bush safely re-elected on November 2, and then begin attacking him on November 3 to slow up his big government conservatism.

To David’s question about whether there is a strategy to ebb away from "big government conservatism" (which is merely low budget liberalism, and not all that low-budget any more), the answer is emphatically Yes. Bush’s "ownership society" theme, and the specific policies that flow from it, should be taken more seriously. Remembering the lesson we learned during the Reagan years, Bush knows that a direct assault on government programs is unlikley to succeed. So, to reduce the supply of government, it is necessary first to reduce the demand for it. One way of reducing the demand for it is to transform by degrees entitlement programs into equity programs, i.e., Social Security privatization, and especially health care, with private, portable accounts, etc.

Whether Bush can get this through Congress, and then whether it will have the desired political effect in the fullness of time, may be doubted. But is does constitute a serious conservative governing strategy within the constraints of public opinion today. Combine this with Bush’ proposal to privatize many federal services (why should the folks who mow the Pentagon lawn be federal employees??), which is aimed not only at saving money but also at weakening public employee unions, and you can see a strategy for weakening the infrastructure of liberalism further.

His Excellency

Forrest McDonald reviews Joseph Ellis’ His Excellency: George Washington and likes it. A sample:

Restraining himself so as to earn the approval of the wise and the just was, as Ellis makes abundantly clear, no easy task for Washington. Citing Gouverneur Morris’s memorial eulogy, Ellis points out that ’’Washington’s legendary calmness and statuelike stolidity masked truly volcanic energies and emotions.’’ Morris described him as a man of ’’tumultuous passions’’ and said that ’’his wrath was terrible.’’ In Morris’s view, and in Ellis’s, Washington’s ’’vaunted capacity for self-control derived from the virulence of the internal demons he had been required to master.’’

The other internal quality derived from the 18th-century concept of character. As Ellis indicates, people of the time thought that ’’character was not just who you were but also what others thought you were.’’ Public figures and denizens of polite society customarily took on a character, like a part in a play, and attempted to wear it at all times. If a person persisted with the character long enough and consistently enough, it became second nature. Benjamin Franklin played a bewildering variety of characters that obscured which if any was the real one. Thomas Jefferson played a number of public characters, but was never comfortable with any. Washington took on a progression of characters, each nobler and more exalted than the last, until he had transformed himself into something more than human.

Addition: I just found this review of Ellison’s book by David Hackett Fischer. It is much more critical than is McDonald’s:
"The thesis of this book is that Washington’s life was a continuing struggle against dark inner forces, which led to an "obsession with control," which in turn caused him to favor control mechanisms for America, including a highly disciplined regular army, strong central government, and hierarchical society.

Psychological interpretations of this sort are difficult to test, but one can ask if they fit external evidence and enlarge our understanding. Some elements of Ellis’s conflict model are solidly confirmed by other sources. Jefferson wrote of Washington, "his temper was naturally high toned, but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendancy. If however, it broke its bounds, he was most tremendous in his wrath." Adams added, "He had great self-command. It cost him great exertion sometimes, and a constant constraint." Many historians have noticed Washington’s striking resemblance to his favorite model, Joseph Addison’s Cato, who "while good, and just, and anxious for his friends," was "still severely bent against himself."

That evidence supports part of Ellis’s thesis, but as his argument unfolded, this reader found himself arguing back.

Karl Rove

Dan Balz & Mike Allen write yet another profile on Karl Rove. Nothing special, but worth a quick read. And ABC News picks Rove to be "Person of the Week."

Florida, shock and awe

A front page, above the fold, article in the New York Times on Bush’s Florida victory is worth reading. It focuses on the ground war in Pasco County as a great example of the way the Bush campaign got out the vote in an area that should be voting Republican. Bush won Florida by almost 400,000 votes (by only 537 in 2000); this "astonished many top Democratic strategists." The article explains how the GOP did it, and also explains the "big head fake" that the Demos fell for (i.e., because the GOP warned the media that they might file challenges to deter felons and dual regsitrants from voting, the Demos sent in a battalion of lawyers to protect their votes, thinking that there would be the war); the GOP just concentrated on getting the votes out, and they did. And the Demos were astonished. The article--it is the NY Times and they can’t help it--tries to end on a positive note for Democrats, that this will be hard to duplicate again, etc., it doesn’t work. The GOP did it once, did it nation-wide, and now they know they could do it again. It’s almost a habit, especially when you consider that they tested it in 2002.

Arlan Specter

The good folks at The Corner are having a field day going after Sen. Arlen Specter: He should be prevented from being chair of the Judiciary Committee. Hugh Hewitt disagrees with them. It’s a good argument, maybe you should follow it. One of two things will happen; either Specter will be prevented from becoming chair, or, in allowing him to become chair his opponents (and there are plenty in the Senate) will extract some things from him before they allow it. Either way, good for Bush. I must say that his remarks about nominations to the federal bench were arrogant and highly imprudent; he only backed up after Sen. Frist called him and gave him a warning. Good for Frist.

Bush’s black support in Ohio

The Cleveland Plain Dealer runs an article oddly titled, "Both parties take heart from black voter turnout." It should have a different title because it argues that, while black turnout was high all around, Bush doubled the votes he got in 2000. He got about 16% of the black vote in 2004, but only 7 or 9% (depending on the poll) in 2000. He got about 55,000 more black votes in Ohio than he did in 2000. Kerry lost the state by about 136,000 votes. Also see Booker Rising and this.

for Tucker

David Tucker has his dander up, or tries to be provocative. I have already responded to most of his questions below. See The meaning of the election. The general point regarding foreign policy and terror is that the people trust Bush and the GOP and they don’t, for good reason, trust Kerry and the Demos. And that trust has very little to do with tactical issues regarding the war. So far, thank God, there hasn’t been another attack; even that’s something. Still, I find it hard to believe that there will not be one in the future because I don’t see how it can absolutely be prevented. Yet, this doesn’t mean that either I know of a way to prevent it, or, that Bush administration has an obligation to reveal their strategy or tactics to me regarding how they are trying to prevent it. I trust this administration more than I would have a Democratic one. Furthermore, so do the majority of the American people. And public opinion--even if it is wrong, and I do not think it wrong in this case--has to be considered. And public opinion, to be a bit too direct, said these bad guys attacked us, so let’s go and kick their butts, and let the administration figure out the best way to do that. Given that they have done certain visible things (Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.), and we have had an election, the citizens have approved. The rest is an inside-the-beltway discussion between folks who get paid for having opinions and for being testy and anxious.

Kerry and the Democrats gave us nothing, nothing in terms of their disposition, policy recommendations, or actions, that led the majority of citizens to have confidence that they could do it better. Furthermore, the flag bearer of that party had a notorious history for questioning America’s purposes and tactics, in Vietnam, in Central America, in the Cold War, in deploying mid-range missiles to Europe, in trying to establish nuclear free-zones, in the Gulf War, and the list goes on. Even Abraham Lincoln voted for appropriation for troops in the war with Mexico, all the while thinking that the war was unjust. But Kerry just couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Of course, it is possible to argue that sending a cruise missile into a desert hoping it will hit a camel’s rear is good strategy or tactics, or, that terrorist should be dealt with only as a criminal justice matter. I don’t accept such arguments. I also know that reasonable men can disagree about Iraq, but a decision has been made, and it’s time to come on board, for both strategic and tactical reasons. We will have to let future historians recount our disagreements, and make appropriate judgments.

If Bush is successful in overhauling the tax code and social security, as well as putting more rational folks on the federal bench, he will have made major contributions to the well-being of the Republic. Maybe he can even cut back on federal spending. Wouldn’t that be nice. But, given the daedal age we inhabit, such a former priority is now lower on the list. But tax cuts stay.

What’s Next?

David Tucker has asked us to address the question of what the administration’s strategy should be during the second Bush term. It’s worth noting that this is the first time since FDR that we have a second-term president who also enjoys a friendly majority in both Houses of Congress. This means that there has never been a more opportune time to clean up some of the mess the New Deal created. If by “big government conservatism” one means a certain amount of federal action aimed at finding market-based solutions to such problems, then I suppose I’m for it. The most pernicious aspect of the New Deal was that it has created expectations that no political party can ignore. It’s not, therefore, a simple question of slashing budgets and canceling programs a la Barry Goldwater. If Bush fails to take advantage of this historic moment, I’ll be the first to admit that he wasn’t the man I thought he was.

The greatest contribution I can see Bush making in the next four years is overhauling social security. Sure, there are problems with his proposal to allow Americans to invest a part of their contributions themselves, but it’s a solid first step. The beauty of it is that although it begins small (20 percent of contributions), once people begin to see the difference in what they make from that part of their social security, there will be a hue and cry to allow people to invest more of it themselves.

Something also needs to be done to index retirement age to average life expectancy, so we don’t have retirees drawing money from the system for 25+ years, as often happens now.

The Election

President Bush has now won two of the closest electoral college victories in the past 100 years, the second against what this blog claimed was an unusually weak candidate, who still managed to earn the votes of several million more people than Al Gore.

More important, what triumphed Tuesday? Why is big government conservatism better than big government liberalism? What ends justify these means? I am open to the argument that the first term was part of a master strategy (other than buying the support of certain interests) that will reveal itself in the second term. What is that strategy? As for foreign policy, one has to note that Mohammed Atta killed more Americans than Saddam Hussein. What is the Bush administration’s plan to reduce the likelihood of another Atta?