Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

My Reply to Heilbrunn

I’ve sent the following letter to the NY Times book review in response to their Sunday essay, Winston Churchill, Neocon?

New York Times Book Review
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036-3959

To the editor:

Jacob Heilbrunn’s essay “Winston Churchill, Neocon?” (Book Review, February 27, 2005) casts a jaundiced eye on whether Reagan and Bush deserve to be regarded as Churchill’s heirs, and whether Churchill’s imperialism, which Heilbrunn badly caricatures, makes him worthy of admiration in the first place. Since Heilbrunn rightly implicates me in the pro-Churchill chorus (though neither he nor the Times’ copy desk can seem to spell my name correctly), perhaps I might be allowed a few words to respond.

The case for Reagan’s continuity with Churchill is straightforward. Reagan’s affinity with Churchill went beyond borrowing the memorable quotation. Churchill said in his famous “Iron Curtain” speech that World War II could have been prevented “without the firing of a single shot.” Reagan, heeding Churchill’s vivid lesson of “peace through strength” (for which liberals ridiculed him relentlessly) prevented World War III “without firing a single shot,” as Margaret Thatcher observed. (Indeed, Reagan’s partnership with Thatcher in the 1980s could be seen as the very fulfillment of the Anglo-American unity that Churchill had envisioned in the “Iron Curtain” speech and elsewhere.) And this is just the most obvious of the deep parallels between Churchill and Reagan.

As to whether Bush has some claim to the same tradition, merely consult the recent thoughts of Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert: “Although it can easily be argued that George W. Bush and Tony Blair face a far lesser challenge than Roosevelt and Churchill did—that the war on terror is not a third world war—they may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill. Their societies are too divided today to deliver a calm judgment, and many of their achievements may be in the future: when Iraq has a stable democracy, with al-Qaeda neutralized, and when Israel and the Palestinian Authority are independent democracies, living side by side in constructive economic cooperation . . . Any accurate assessment of Bush and Blair must wait, perhaps a decade or longer, until the record can be scrutinized.” (The Observer, December 26, 2004.) I’m happy to await the judgment of history, while Heilbrunn continues his heckling just as his ideological soul mates did to Reagan in the 1980s.

One final thought: When it came to American politics, Churchill always preferred the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Would he today?


Steven F. Hayward
Resident Scholar
American Enterprise Institute

(Note: My book comparing Reagan and Churchill will be published in October by Crown/Forum: Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders).

P.S. I mailed the hard copy to the Times in an envelope with a Ronald Reagan stamp. Heh.

Lebanon’s government resigns

Syrian backed government is resigning.

"Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead," Prime MInister Karami told parliament in Beirut. The resignation was preceded huge illegal demonstrations demanding the resignation as well Syrian pullout. In the meantime, Israel
says it has proof that Syria was behind the Tel Aviv bombing this weekend. And Iraq
claims that they got Saddam’s half-brother from the Syrians.

Bryan and Mencken on Academic Freedom

I’ve recently been enjoying Terry Teachout’s excellent biography, The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken. I’ve just read his account of the Scopes Trial, and was struck by a couple of passages that seem relevant to recent discussions of Ward Churchill and Larry Summers. The first comes from William Jennings Bryan, who assisted the State of Tennessee in prosecuting the case against Scopes:

A scientific soviet is attempting to dictate what is taught in our schools. It is the smallest, the most impudent, and the most tyrannical oligarchy that ever attempted to exercise arbitrary power.... If it is contended that an instructor has a right to teach anything he likes, I reply that the parents who pay the salary have a right to decide what shall be taught.

Mencken despised Bryan and just about everything he stood for, but here’s what he said about the Scopes case:

No principle is at stake in Dayton[Tennessee, where the episode occurred]save the principle that school teachers, like plumbers, should stick to the job that is set for them.... The issue of free speech is quite irrelevant. When a pedagogue takes his oath of office he renounces the right to free speech as certainly as a bishop does, or a colonel in the army, or an editorial writer on a newspaper. He becomes a paid propagandist of certain definite doctrines and attitudes, mainly determined specifically and in advance, and every time he departs from them deliberately he deliberately swindles his employers.

New Poll Data

For all of you political junkies who obsessively checked the latest poll numbers during last fall’s campaign, here are some numbers you might want to look at, courtesy of Scott Rasmussen:

A solid majority of Americans (57 percent) have an unfavorable view of France, while fewer than a third hold a favorable opinion of that country. Indeed, more Americans see France as an enemy in the War on Terror than an ally (31 percent to 22 percent).

Rasmussen has also begun polling voters on their preferences for the 2008 presidential race. He has found that in a hypothetical matchup between Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice, Clinton leads by a margin of 47 percent to 40 percent. On the other hand, if Rice were running today against John Kerry, she would enjoy an advantage of 45 percent to 43 percent.

Could Europe be wrong?

Is it possible that Bush is right now, as Reagan was in 1987 when he asked Gorbi to "tear down this wall"? The Europeans were sceptical (to say the least) then, and they are sceptical now. But an article in the German Der Spiegel maintains that it is possible that Bush will prove to be correct. Also note a few good lines, example:

Maybe we don’t want the world to change, because change can, of course, be dangerous. But in a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. In Mainz today, the stagnant Europeans came face to face with the dynamic Americans. We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.

(Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily).

Brains, white and grey

For what it’s worth, the AP runs this story on the on going scientific research that seems to support some difference between the brains of men and women; they use their brains differently in some situations, but there is no difference in IQ’s.

In recent years, scientists have found that male and female brains are wired differently from one another, due to the role of testosterone and other male hormones during gestation. Brains growing under the influence of male hormones are slightly larger and have denser concentrations of neurons in some regions.

Male brains also contain a greater proportion of gray matter, the part of the brain responsible for computation, while women have relatively more white matter, which specializes in making connections between brain cells.

Brain-imaging studies suggest that both sexes exploit these differences to their benefit. UCLA researchers have done brain scans of men and women who scored in the top 1 percent on the math section of the SAT. As they worked on math problems, the men relied heavily on the grey matter in the brain’s parietal and cerebral cortices. Women showed greater activity in areas dominated by the well-connected white matter.

For Political Junkies

These two web-sites provide a lot of very useful information.

If you want to know the results county by county of recent Presidential elections or know why James Polk beat Henry Clay in 1844, Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections has the numbers. Every Presidential election from George Washington’s 1st victory to George W. Bush’s re-election is documented here. A note, Leip’s very useful Electoral College maps are color coded in this way: Republicans in blue, Democrats in Red, as they should be.

If you want to watch every (well, almost every) televion ad in every Presidential Election since 1952, then go to the Online Exhibitions of the Museum of the Moving Image here.

What a country.

Tricky Dick (Cheney for President, after all?)

Fred Barnes explains why Dick Cheney is, in Barnes’ opinion, the best GOP man to succeed Geroge W. Bush in 2008 here.

According to Barnes, the other potential candidates simply don’t measure up next to Cheney. Barnes believes that Cheney makes up in gravitas and wry humor what he lacks in charisma.

My own opinion is that short, frumpy, balding, grey-haired guys with glasses should be eligible for public office. Let’s just say Cheney has esoteric charisma. For beginners, esoteric charisma means that Cheney’s charisma is made conspicuous by its absence.

The politics of good and evil

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. After excoriating President Bush for his excessive moral line-drawing--making a distinction between good (innocent victims of terrorism) and evil (terrorists)--the Democrats (some of them, at least) have taken their own dive into the moral deep end. Here, via Hugh Hewitt is DNC Chairman Howard Dean: "This is a struggle of good and evil. And we’re the good." The evil? Well, that would be "right-wing" pastors and politicians who don’t believe that a woman has a right to choose to have an abortion and who "don’t think tolerance is a virtue." All this didn’t go far enough to satisfy at least one member of Dean’s Lawrence, Kansas audience:

"I feel like he could have gone even stronger with his language," said Katherine Dessert, a student and preschool teacher. "I feel like he was a little bit too conservative. It didn’t move me.

So there you have it: there is evil in the world, and it’s coming to a neighborhood near you. Actually, it’s already there--in culturally and theologically traditional churches, synagogues, and temples, which are really little different from the Wahhabi madrassas from which the Islamicist terrorists were recruited.

Of course, this hyperbolic rhetoric is nothing new: Bill Clinton made much the same point from the pulpit at Riverside Church in New York City right before the DNC convention and accusations of religious fanaticism were regularly hurled at President Bush during the campaign. But I don’t recall anyone in a position of leadership ever using the word "evil."

I suppose Dean could be defended by saying that his job is to keep the base stoked so that money keeps flowing into party coffers, and we all know how much money Bush-hatred generated during the last campaign season. Keep it up, Howard: give us enough of this kind of invective to make it impossible for any Democratic nominee in 2008 to reach out beyond her base. We’re listening. And we’re remembering.

How much do we need "friends like these"?

I remember reading Ramparts magazine when I was a teenage wannabe leftist in the early 70s. And after I had migrated rightward (my first Republican presidential vote was in 1980), I noticed that David Horowitz, the erstwhile editor of Ramparts had done so as well. To be sure, his migration was much more consequential and courageous than mine, which required little in the way of repudiating publicly-taken stands, cost me only one or two high school friends, and demanded only that I let my dad tell me "I told you so."

One thing that hasn’t changed about Horowitz is the take-no-prisoners style he honed in the 60s, now deployed over at Front Page Magazine and on behalf of the Academic Bill of Rights. It was on display over at MSNBC’s Scarborough Country this past week, where he claimed that there were "thousands" of Ward Churchills on college campuses across the country. Now, I’d be the last person to say that political discourse on college campuses isn’t skewed to the left and that there are not more Wards than Winstons to be found behind the lecterns in the ivy-covered halls. But Horowitzian hyperbole invites this sort of response from a prominent liberal political theorist:

SCARBOROUGH: He says there‘s not. But let me say this, though. I mean, last year, two professors did a large-scale survey of American professors and how they vote. Politically, this is what they found.

Anthropology professors vote Democratic by 30-1, sociology professors 28-1, political science professors 6-1. And on average, professors vote Democratic 15-1.

I suppose Scarborough’s "let me say this, though" acknowledges that he’s changing the subject. It would be hard to say with a straight face that the evidence of lopsided party membership — and I’ve already insisted that universities should be more diverse — supports the claim that there are thousands of Ward Churchills. Or even 1,000. Before Scarborough produced that data, Horowitz had suggested a link:

HOROWITZ: ... It‘s a well-known principle of group psychology that, if you fill a room with like-minded people, the center of the room is going to move to the extreme. Our faculties are 90 percent to 95 percent people of the left, so, of course, you are going to get a lot of Ward Churchills as a result.

His "a lot" quickly followed his "thousands." I doubt the "well-known principle" generates thousands of Churchills. I doubt it partly for empirical reasons: I don’t know any, and I’ve been in universities for decades. No, don’t try suggesting that I wouldn’t even notice. And I doubt it partly because it’s very hard to imagine the effect could be so extreme. Does your church generate martyrs and saints?

(I’ll let the last sentence go, for the moment, though there are plenty of
contemporary martyrs and "sainthood" may not have to be conferred by the Roman Catholic Church.)

The point is that Horowitz’s extreme claims are easy for academics to dismiss. As Don Herzog (the theorist I quoted above) points out, Horowitz is really not talking to those of us inside the academy, but uses his inflammatory rhetoric to mobilize external constituencies, like state legislators. Now, Horowitz insists that if universities regulate themselves, he’ll back off:

Look, the bill is necessary. The legislatures are necessary because the other side, as represented by Mr. Bowen [Roger Bowen, of the AAUP] and by these university presidents, will not even acknowledge that there‘s a problem until they have a hammer over them. The minute they recognize that and take steps to reform their institutions, we will withdraw the legislation.

What troubles me about the entire undertaking is what remains of Horowitz’s 60s-era political sensibilities, that politics is everything and that it essentially determines the way faculty approach their classrooms and their students. If that’s true, then the only way to achieve "balance" on campus is to engage in "affirmative action" for conservatives or conservative viewpoints. But what if what we’re trying to accomplish is not so much equal ideological representation as a return to fair-mindedness? Horowitz’s willingness to turn up the heat doesn’t get us there, because it essentially concedes that ideology is everything, which means that there’s no possibility of genuine intellectual community, no possibility (ultimately) of genuine rational discourse, and hence, in the end, no real univers[al]ity. If Horowitz is right, we will have met the enemy and found that they are us.

Asymmetrical conflicts, then and now

Victor Davis Hanson writes another good piece for the City Journal, "Postmodern War." This is abroad-ranging essay on how war has been conducted and what is the relevance of the past to today. And, what does the will to win have to do with it?

Bush in Europe

The irresistable Mark Steyn on (Old) Europe: "Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, there’s no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere." He thinks that Bush did exactly the right thing on his visit. Diplomacy is the art of the other fellow letting have your way.

Egypt’s new wave

Egypt’s Mubarak, as has been mentioned before, is now saying that the constitution will be changed to allow for multi party popular elections; more than one man will be allowed to run for president. Not bad. Mubarak said that the decision was rooted in his "full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy." Note these two paragraphs in the
Washington Post story:

Mubarak’s speech followed a decision this week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cancel a visit to Egypt, a move attributed to the lack of reform initiatives there. Egypt had also jailed Ayman Nour, leader of a newly authorized political party and proponent of multi-candidate elections. The State Department criticized Nour’s Jan. 29 arrest and suggested that Mubarak had no intention of loosening his hold on power.

The United States provides Egypt with about $2 billion in annual foreign aid. Bush has singled out Egypt along with Saudi Arabia as ripe for reform. In his State of the Union address, Bush said that "Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."

This is the New York Times story on the subject, and it notes that it is a "sea change." The region is "bubbling with expectations for political reform."

Note this good essay on the good news coming out of the Middle East by David Warren. Warren gives Bush a lot of credit. But do not miss his mentioning of the "boredom" factor among the young of the region: "Boredom is seriously underestimated as a motive cause in history. And among the more intelligent young, it is always potentially lethal."

California’s Field Poll

California Insider notes that the latest Field Poll is out, and the Democrats (even if their candidate is Rob Reiner) don’t have much of a chance: 56% say they will vote for Arnold if he runs for governor next year; when possible Demo candidates are paired against Arnold he beats them by 15 to 19%.

Here is the poll (PDF file).

The Harvard (and all other) faculty made clear

Joe linked us to the Harvey Mansfield piece on Harvard President Larry Summers and political correctness. I have read it and am compelled to say a few words about. First, it is a terrific piece of writing. This piece should be used in writing classes. It is perfectly clear and there is nothing in it that shouldn’t be there. This is what language is for, to clarify. Second, it is true. It is true in the larger in the sense that both feminism and political correctness are understood; what they are, and what effects they have. It is also true in its understanding of both Summers’ character and the nature of intellectual inquiry in the academy. The two things are related.

Summers’ accusers are relentless and humorless. "They complained of being humiliated, but they took no care not to humiliate a proud man." That Summers lives (unlike most university presidents) by "straightforward argument" is a significant point. He isn’t, Mansfield explains, looking for victory in argument. "But his forceful intelligence often produces it, in the view of those with whom he reasons. Sometimes the professors he speaks with come out feeling that they are victims of ’bullying,’ as one of his feminist critics stated. As if to reason were to bully." This latter point is critical--and clear and true--to anyone who has had experience in conversation and even argument with a professor. A collegaue, a reasonable and quiet gentleman, and I recently met with another professor on a curriculum issue. We engaged in perfectly balanced and quiet conversation for about an hour. Our interlocutor then made clear that the next time we make our case to anyone else (or a committee on campus) we should be less "bullying," less "intimidating." After we left the meeting my colleague and I spent a half an hour trying to figure out what she could have meant since we were certain we did not bully. We concluded that to give reasons for something was to bully, according to our interlocutor. It was a bit of a revelation, I’ll admit. But it was true. Mansfield clarifies this problem, and it is a much larger problem than feminists running amok, or mere political correctness, and I thank him for it. You must read his essay.    

France and Shakespeare

Does it mean anything that the French thought, for almost three centuries, that Shakespeare was a genius, yet was vulgar and "deprived of elementary tatste" and not worth playing or reading? His ideas of propriety was wrong, somehow. Does this have to do with France’s misunderstanding of republicanism and its relationship to comedy and tragedy? Does it reveal a broader "crisis of confidence" and a "chronic distemper?" Sebastian Faulks reviews Shakespeare Goes to Paris: How the Bard Conquered France, by John Pemble, and says many interesting things about the French, their view of poetry, why Shakespeare was not appreciated until the 20th century, and why he had no good French translators for 300 years.
The book he reviews might be worth reading. It will be out in a month or so.

It strikes me that it should be noted that in many countries (for example, Hungary, Germany, Spain) the best poets learned English just to be able to translate Shakespeare, and most did this much earlier (I think) than the French. And those translations seem to my untutored ears to be quite good. It should also be mentioned that there isn’t a major city in any part of the world where a Shakespare production is not currently in progress. This is not so for Racine, Voltaire, or Corneille. That Shakespeare speaks to more than the English is clear, and has been clear for a long while, the opinion of the French, and oddities like Tolstoi, to the contrary notwithstanding.

Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr....

has a piece on Lawrence Summers here.

Hat tip: Powerline., mischief for Democrats

Tim Dickinson writes a surprsingly critical piece for Rolling Stone on Dickinson points out that has failed thus far:

They signed up 500,000 supporters with an Internet petition -- but Bill Clinton still got impeached. They organized 6,000 candlelight vigils worldwide -- but the U.S. still invaded Iraq. They raised $60 million from 500,000 donors to air countless ads and get out the vote in the battle-ground states -- but George Bush still whupped John Kerry. A gambler with a string of bets this bad might call it a night. But just keeps doubling down.

But failure has nor kept them down. They have revolutionized Democratic politics and they mean to push on. Their man Dean is now chairman of the DNC. They think they own the Democratic Party, and they are engineering (with Dean?) a serious campaign for Liberal Demos to take back the House in 2006 (in imitation of Gingrich’s great success in 1994). Livingstone is sceptical, to say the least. Very much worth reading.   

Mubarak and Egypt

Condi Rice will go to London next week, but is not going to Egypt, it turns out. Mubarak is probably not amused. He is trying to get himself into the Mid-East changes as best as he can, hosting Palestine-Israel visits, sending folks to Syria, and now stating
that he has ordered a revision of the country’s election laws saying multiple candidates could run in the nation’s presidential elections, a scenario Mubarak has not faced since taking power in 1981. The reformers
in Egypt are sceptical, but see cause and effect: Mubarak is doing this because of American pressure, rather than from the internal dialogue from within. It has been a long wait for that internal dialogue!

Togo developments

The president of Togo, taking power after his president father died, has resigned.
He bowed to both demonstrations in the streets as well as international pressure.
There will be elections. Sanctions have been lifted.

Another parrot jabbering

Jacob Heilbrunn’s essay, "Winston Churchill, Neocon?," will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review brings up all the pap about neocons in an unsurprising way. Are we not used to the so-called neocons being attacked, their motives questioned, some of their teachers panned? Is it getting boring yet? Have we learned anything from the Left’s inability to understand serious thinking, and real statesmanship? Are we not yet tired of the Left’s arrogant presumption of superiority?

Has the Left learned anything in this? Not yet, as far as I can tell.

It would seem that anyone (Strauss, Churchill, et al) talking about the possibility of excellence and human greatness is suspect. They must be talking about Platonic guardians, or at least to elites of some kind. And then, and here Heilbrunn reveals his contempt even more, there are those--Bill Kristol, Steve Hayward, Larry Arnn, are mentioned, among others--who really take seriously the possibility that human beings act in history and actually make history, contrary to what Marxists have been preaching for a century or more. This focus of human beings acting in the world and understanding their purposes and means, and making judgements about both, seems to especially rile folks on the Left. And there is utter contempt from the Left if one should compare a Churchill to Reagan, as Hayward does (never mind bringing W. into it). Hierarchy and comparison and judgement are the things that they have been trying to cut out of the heart and mind of the Western world. They have failed. And the anger becomes rage.

Add to this the emphasis on the possibility that some ways of life, constitutions we might say, might be better than others, and the rage of the contemporary Left is comprehensive and permanent. These neocons must be talking about empire, and they should admit it!

The short of it is that Heilbrunn (who is working on a book on neoconservatism!) is not amused, that, as he puts it, neoconservatives "are inventing a new interventionist tradition for the Republican Party." We will continue to see such polemics for many years to come, and aside from the reasons noted above, there is one massive reason (as Winston might say): The Left is lost and they have nothing to add to our current conversation about politics, especially the politics of security and war. So they pout and pant and reveal that they are in the midst of a deep intellectual malaise and they see no way out save to criticize and
jabber. The parrots are jabbering, it turns out, even as the eagles act and talk. But the parrots are not being heard.

Lawrence Summers as Socrates

I found an interesting passage in today’s NYT article on Lawrence Summers:

He takes a very Socratic approach," Mr. Gergen said, referring to Dr. Summers’s customary method of intellectually engaging others through probing, even combative, questioning and challenging.

It was this method, perhaps, that was on display at a conference last month when Dr. Summers suggested that "intrinsic aptitude" might be one explanation for women’s relative lack of success in math and science careers. Many women scientists and other academics at Harvard and around the country were furious.

Mr. Gergen said: "Socrates was ultimately put to death. People couldn’t deal with the hard questions all the time. History tells us that this approach can be jolting."

The execution of Socrates is often taken to point to the limits of enlightenment, limits that the modern university is supposed to have overcome as it served as a home for free inquiry and radical questioning. The only things you can’t question in the modern university are, it seems, the secular pieties of the faculty.

For further reflections prompted by this article, go

Ten Commandments cases

For a useful analysis of the upcoming Supreme Court cases and their constitutional backdrop, go here. The Pew Forum’s analysts argue that, unsurprisingly, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen Breyer hold the balance of power, with the result that many arguments are pitched to appeal to O’Connor’s highly contextual "endorsement" test. Here’s the concluding paragraph:

In Van Orden and McCreary County, the constitutionality
of government displays of the Ten
Commandments will very likely be determined
by the contextualists’ judgment and deciding votes.
Justice O’Connor defends her contextualism as the
most appropriate balance between respect for the
religious sentiments of the majority and protection
for the liberties of religious minorities and nonbelievers.
Perhaps she is correct; but this approach
has its own costs, as the last 15 years of litigation in
the lower courts over holiday displays have shown.
If determining the constitutionality of such displays,
whether of holiday religious symbols or texts like
the Ten Commandments, depends on considering
the “unique circumstances” of each display, controversies
of this type will remain a recurrent feature
of our law and public life.

Barone on the 2004 Election

The encyclopedic Michael Barone offers his thoughts on the 2004 Elections

here. Barone knows more about American campaigns, elections and party history than anyone.

The Ownership Society versus LBJ

In today’s ’Wall St. Journal,’ Myron Magnet writes that George Bush’s compassionate conservatism has morphed into the ownership society which aims to dismantle the failed programs in LBJ’s Great Society.

Interesting, if not entirely persuasive.

Here’s the full article.

Dean notes

Senator Reid says that Howard Dean is "not some wild-eyed, left-wing nut." Dean is visiting GOP strongholds, but he is not necessarily being received with open arms by Democrats, including the Demo governor of Kansas.

Stephen Knott on Hamilton

I forgot to remind you that today’s Ashbrook Colloquium is on Hamilton; it just started. You can listen to Professor Stephen Knott (Miller Center & University of Virginia) on Hamilton by clikcing
It will be in the archive by Monday afternoon, if you missed some of it. See his book here.

Georgia and Florida: it’s not just a football game any more

Katie Newmark--the youngest of the blogging Newmarks--shows how state constitutional considerations in Georgia and Florida are part and parcel of any serious thinking about educational and welfare reform. As they all too often have been in football, the folks in Florida seem to be a little ahead of us Georgians. Katie’s post was good enough to lead to excuse her Blue Devils for beating my (adopted) Yellow Jackets.

Condi Rice Celebrates African-American History Month

On February 18th, Secretary of State Condi Rice gave a speech at the State Department in celebration of African-American History month. This paragraph captures the powerful sentiments expressed in the talk:

Rice said: "When we talk about family, we mean extended family in the African-American experience," she continued. "So black Americans, African-Americans, have always depended on faith and family and education. In the most hostile times, in the most difficult times, that’s what saw us through. But something else saw us through. And that was a belief in America and its values and its principles - even when America didn’t believe in us. ... Speaking of African-American civil rights leaders, she said black Americans’ belief in America and its faith and its principles "was so strong that [the great black 19th century abolitionist] Frederick Douglass didn’t appeal outside of America’s principles and values, he appealed to America’s principles and values for America to be true to itself. It was such that Martin Luther King didn’t appeal outside of America’s principles and values, he appealed to America to be true to itself in [promoting] progress for black Americans."

Here is a news report on the speech.

The complete text is here.

Thanks to Prof. David Bobb, Director of Hillsdale’s Center for Teacher Excellence.

GWB’s "evangelical conservatism"

Win Myers reminded me that Bill McClay lectured on "American Culture and the Presidency" at the Ethics and Public Policy Center yesterday. It’s an interesting and penetrating talk, such as one would expect from McClay. Here are a couple of snippets:

It is, then, quite legitimate to ask whether Bush is even rightly understood as a conservative. Clearly, this question can involve us in an endless semantic game, and I don’t want to spend our time doing that. But the fundamental dynamic at work is, I think, pretty clear. Although many secular observers seem not to understand this, evangelicalism, by its very nature, has an uneasy relationship with conservatism. To call someone both an evangelical and a conservative, then, while it is not to utter a contradiction, is to call him something slightly more problematic than one may think. Of course this is, or should be, true of all Christians, who have transcendental loyalties that must sometimes override their political commitments, even very fundamental ones. But it is especially true of evangelicalism. As a faith that revolves around the experience of individual transformation, it inevitably exists in tension with settled ways, established social hierarchies, customary usages, and entrenched institutional forms. Because evangelicalism places such powerful emphasis upon the individual act of conversion, and insists upon the individual’s ability to have a personal and unmediated relationship to the Deity and to the Holy Scriptures, it fits well with the American tendency to treat all existing institutions, even the church itself, as if their existence and authority were provisional and subordinate, merely serving as a vehicle for the proclamation of the Gospel and the achievement of a richer and more vibrant individual faith. As such, then, evangelicalism, at least in its most high-octane form, may not always be very friendly to any settled institutional status quo. In the great revivals of earlier American history, it nearly always served to divide churches and undermine established hierarchies, a powerful force for what Nathan Hatch called “the democratization of American Christianity.”

True, evangelicalism can also be a force of moral conservatism, in insisting upon the permanence of certain moral and ethical desiderata, particularly if those are clearly stated in the Bible. But it can also be a force of profound moral radicalism, calling into question the justice and equity of the most fundamental structures of social life, and doing so from a firm vantage point outside those structures. David Chappell’s excellent recent book on the Civil Rights Movement, A Stone of Hope, very effectively made the point that it was the power of prophetic evangelical Christianity that energized the Civil Rights Movement and gave southern blacks the courage and fortitude to challenge the existing segregationist social order. And one could say similar things about many of the great nineteenth-century American movements for social reform, notably abolitionism, a rather unpopular cause in its day which would have made little headway without the fervent commitment of evangelical Protestants who believed the country was being polluted and degraded by the continued existence of slavery.

I am not claiming that Bush is a radical reformer. I don’t think anyone, other than an opponent straining for partisan advantage, would do that. But I am pointing out that the religious vision that energizes him is not always compatible with conservatism as conventionally understood, and may not, in the long run, be easily contained or constrained by it. Yes, Bush is a conservative, but he is a conservative whose conservatism has been continuously informed, leavened, challenged, reshaped, and reoriented by his religious convictions; and many of his closest aides and advisors have undergone a similar process. To capture this distinctive, I’m going to use the term “evangelical conservatism” to describe his position. I should hasten to add that there is a very great difference between “evangelical conservatism” and “conservative evangelicalism,” the latter of which refers to a theologically conservative position which may or may not translate into conservative political views. What I’m calling “evangelical conservatism” is better understood as a form of conservatism, then, and not as a form of evangelicalism -- a political, rather than a theological, term.

He concludes this way:

There is not much of Niebuhr, or original sin, or any other form of Calvinist severity, in the current outlook of the Bush administration. That too is a reflection of the optimistic character of American evangelicalism, and therefore of evangelical conservatism. It certainly reflects the preference of the American electorate, which does not like to hear bad news, a fact that is surely one of the deep and eternal challenges to democratic statesmanship. And it is, by and large, an appropriate way for good leaders to behave. It is, in some respects, a political strength.

But conservatism will be like the salt that has lost its savor, if it abandons its most fundamental mission -- which is to remind us of what Thomas Sowell called “the constrained vision” of human existence, which sees life as a struggle, with invariably mixed outcomes, full of unintended consequences and tragic dilemmas involving hopelessly fallible people, a world in which the legacy of the past is usually more reliable than the projections of the future. As the example of Niebuhr suggests, such a vision need not reject the possibility of human progress altogether -- which, by the way, has never been characteristic of traditional conservatism either, from Edmund Burke on. But it does suggest that it is sometimes wise to adopt, so to speak, a darker shade of red, one that sees the hand of Providence in our reversals as well as our triumphs. To do so is as needful for American evangelicalism as for American politics.

I think I see just a little more "fallibilism" and "fallenness" in Bush’s self-presentation than McClay does, but I agree that there is a substantial admixture of confidence and perhaps even occasionally over-confidence. We should be grateful to McClay for reminding us of what is under-stressed in the President’s particularly American brand of "evangelical conservatism" and of where we can go to find the correctives.


The Churchill Museum

Powerline has a good note on the new Churchill Museum (Winston, of course, not the kook in Colorado), opened last week by the Queen. It would seem, according to the review Powerline mentions, that the museum is unable to teach us much about Winston. We have to stick with the good biographies. A couple are mentioned, and I would add Geoffrey Best’s, Churchill: A Study in Greatness to the list. Some good links, including to James Muller’s new edition of The River War, due out in the Fall. Also remember Steve Hayward’s excellent Churchill on Leadership.

Mid-East notes

"parliament on Thursday approved a new Cabinet dominated by professional appointees, a major move toward long-sought reform." This means that most of Arafat’s people have been purged.
The leaders of Lebanon’s
"banking, industrial and commercial sectors said they would shut down next Monday to demand the country’s pro-Syrian government resign and that a "neutral" one replace it." Syria
is announcing that it will leave Lebanon. Here is the text of UN resolution 1559.

Bush’s immigration plan

Tamar Jacoby makes a case for Bush’s immigration plan as a "conservative" plan. The whole immigration issue, and Bush’s plan in particular, merits serious conversation. I am not yet ready to have it (too busy!), so I’m sticking this out there, and will add a few other things during the next few days. And then, maybe, we can talk, if anyone is interested.

The faith-based initiative in Congress

I am on a number of email lists, including that of the Interfaith Alliance, a "non-partisan" separationist organization. Today I received a message urging me to contact my member of Congress (yeah, right; Cynthia McKinney is just dying to hear from me) to head off a major roll-back of civil rights in H.R. 27, "The Job Training Improvement Act." The problem? A co-religionist hiring exemption, enabling faith-based organizations to take fidelity to their religious mission into account when they hire. According to TIA:

Simply put, this Bill allows religious organizations receiving federal tax dollars for their job training programs to discriminate based on religion when hiring staff.

This represents a dramatic shift in government policy towards religion as it repeals longstanding civil rights protections which have traditionally protected people of faith and goodwill from religious employment discrimination in federally funded job training programs.

I beg to differ. It is not a dramatic shift, as faith-based organizations have long been permitted a co-religionist hiring exemption, even in government-funded programs, where it is (of course) not a matter of constitutional right, but rather of legislative grace, warranted (I would argue) by respect for religious freedom and diversity. If you want to read more about this issue, I can point you to two pdf documents:
here’s a long e-book from the Center for Public Justice and here’s a much shorter White House booklet.

For an article on the debate surrounding the measure, go here.

Folks in Ohio should contact principal sponsor John Boehner, urging him to stick to his guns on this. I’ll do the same in Georgia for Charlie Norwood, another one of the sponsors.

Realistic European realism

Austin Bay weaves the threads together much better than I can: GWB’s steadfastness, which produced successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq (against all the nay-sayers) makes it hard "realistically" to accept the same old power game in the Middle East. Most of the nay-sayers (in the Old World or the New) will never admit that they were wrong; they’ll just "move on." I noticed, for example, that Schroeder had a lot to say about Kyoto. For my bits and pieces of the picture, see here, here, here, and here.

Berlin Wall has fallen in the Mid East?

This David Ignatius article in the WaPo, "Beirut’s Berlin Wall," should be read. Please note quote in the third paragraph from the end, from
Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria’s occupation:

"It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

The Science of Nazi Extermination

Nasser Behnegar, Asst. Professor of Politics at Boston College, reviews this book: Architects of Annihilation: Auschwitz and the Logic of Destruction by Goetz Aly and Susan Heim. The review is a powerful explanation of the role of modern social science in the development of the Nazi policy of extermination. The annihiliation of minorities, especially the handicapped and Jews, is simply an economic problem to be solved to insure the emergence of the ’rational’ society.

Reason unanchored from it’s classical and Biblical roots becomes the most savage tyranny in the history of man. The modern administrative state becomes the place where scientific experts (bureaucrats) routinely murder human beings for the sake of progress in a world beyond good and evil. A good and sobering critique of modern utopia.

What’s your major?

Summers: focus on the family

Anne Applebaum’s column in today’s WaPo focuses on the family-work trade-offs that have gotten short shrift in the Summers brouhaha. Here’s my favorite snippet:

Too often the missing component of the debate about the dearth of tenured female scientists, or female chief executive officers, or women in Congress, is the word "family." But Summers did call the work-vs.-family choice the most important problem for women who want tenure: In academia, as in other professions, high-powered employers "expect a large number of hours in the office, they expect a flexibility of schedules to respond to contingency, they expect a continuity of effort through the life cycle, they expect . . . a level of commitment that a much higher fraction of married men have been historically prepared to make than of married women." It isn’t ability or discrimination that hold women up most, in other words, but the impossibility of making a full-time commitment to work in a culture that demands 80-hour weeks, as well as to family in a society unusually obsessed with its children.

We all know this anecdotally, but research confirms it. A British sociologist, Catherine Hakim, recently concluded for example that out of 3,700 working-age women she surveyed, about a third were fully focused on their jobs, about a third were fully focused on their families, and about a third wanted a mix -- meaning, invariably, that they took the sort of job that doesn’t lead to fast-track promotion. If these numbers hold there never will be a 50-50 split between men and women at the highest professional or managerial levels of anything: The ratio will always hover around 2 to 1.

Is this nature or nurture? I don’t see that it matters. What matters is that those women who want to become high achievers can do so, but those who want to stay home some of the time aren’t forced, by economics or social pressure, to take high-pressure jobs.

George Washington

A friend reminded me of this short piece I wrote on George Washington a few years ago. He said I should put it out on his birthday. So, here it is. Also see his wonderful letter to Lewis Nicola, shaming him for thinking that he would participate in something so unrepublican. It reveals the good father of the good country.
My regards to M. Chirac and Napoleon, while wishing a very happy birthday to Mr. Washington . May his children continue to prosper.

Anti- Bush political vulgarity in Belgium

Since this is a family blog, I will not comment on this item.

Arnold vs. women

Oh, oh. And he isn’t even president of Harvard. As if "girlie men" wasn’t bad enough, it looks like Gov. Arnold is making some women mad. He is accused, again: The female executive director of the California Nurses Association says:

"He behaves like an arrogant patriarch with respect to women’s occupations. Nurses, teachers, home health workers — it’s vulgar how he’s run roughshod over them. He’s arrogant, and he’s a bully."

Another female critic of Arnold copied this: "The arrogance of taking on teachers, nurses and other professions where women are underpaid, overworked and vital to society is beyond the pale. But Arnold is someone who treats women as objects, so it’s natural for him to have a tendency to disregard and devalue professions that are made up of women."

Clever tack, this. Get self-righteous leaders of organizations who represent factions that are losing support, like the California Teachers Association, to say that they represent women, and then attack Arnold for attacking women. Makes perfect sense.

McConnell as CJ; the campaign continues

Robert Alt doesn’t mention Michael McConnell in his post on the NYT article, a defect in his otherwise excellent commentary that is remedied here.

Quick notes on the world

Paul Johnson writes a quick paean to America and Bush’s democracy push. Not really in passing, he condemns the European continent’s "pseudodemocracy." In the meantime demonstrations against Syria continue Beirut.
Palestinian Authority
Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia is overhauling his cabinet, a first for the Palestinian Authority.
Ibrahim Jafari is chosen to be the next Prime Minister of Iraq. Bush wins some NATO support for Iraq. Ukraine says it wants to join NATO, but Chirac agrees with Shroeder that NATO should be revamped (read, let’s lessen America’s influence in Europe). Tony Blair is more optomistic than ever about peace breaking out in the Mid-East. Australia commits a few more troops to Iraq. About three-quarter of Canadians
think that the U.S. shouldn’t be trying to promote the creation of democratic countries, according to a poll. Back to the deeply misunderstood Arab streets for a moment (what is Christian Amanpour saying these days, I haven’t seen CNN for a while?). I note in passing that there have been demonstrations in Cairo.

The winter of Summers discontent

Here, via Stanley Kurtz at NRO’s The Corner is a WaPo article on efforts both to save Summers’s job and to take it from him. Here’s an attack on Summers from he op-ed pages of the same paper, also via Kurtz. And here, from Win Myers, is a summary of a Harvard Crimson poll of Harvard faculty.

College and university presidents typically wear out their welcome sooner or later, angering or alienating one intense constituency after another until the opponents outnumber the defenders. That, I take it, is a fact of life in the academy, most certainly in any university where the personal and intellectual agendas of various constituencies aren’t qualified by or subordinated to a larger sense of a common mission or by a prudent willingness on the part of the grown-ups involved to recognize that no one is perfect and no one is perfectly and always right. Summers can, I think, survive this particular conflict and if he can force his critics to gain a sense of proportion (a dubious proposition, I admit), he might emerge with a strengthened hand. But I think the likelier outcome is that, down the road, there will be a new conflict, one that ultimately brings his presidency to an end.

I hold no particular brief for Summers, but his comments deserved a more nuanced and scholarly response than provided by many in his audience. For an example of "appropriate" criticism, you could do a lot worse than look at this piece. If Harvard’s faculty are incapable of this level of nuance and equanimity, then perhaps the best that can come of this brouhaha (I was going to use "kerfuffle" or "kerfluffle," but I can’t decide which is the proper spelling) is greater insight into the character of that instituttion and its denizens. So much the better for the rest of us.

Update: Another interesting and temperate piece of Summers criticism, focusing on what he calls "the work-intensity tournament model of choosing people for the high-prestige prize academic slots."

Tom Wolfe Remembers Hunter S. Thompson

Tom Wolfe writes an intriguing article in today’s WSJ upon the passing of Hunter S. Thompson, the self-described "gonzo journalist." I must confess that Thompson’s real heyday was before my time, so I know little about him, but Wolfe paints a picture of Thompson so vivid that one might mistake Thompson for one of Wolfe’s fictional characters.

Supreme Speculation

The New York Times has an article this morning speculating that Rehnquist will be retiring at the end of the current term of court in June, health permitting. However, the authors don’t believe that any of the sources relied upon for the article were recipients of any statement from Rehnquist supporting this theory; rather the Times is reporting educated guesses. The article also lists a number of potential replacements, which seem to be fairly accurate. (I rather expected that Linda Greenhouse would try to float someone like Justice Kennedy for Chief Justice, but perhaps she realizes that it will not happen, and that it would be the kiss of death for her to give what could be interpreted as a NYT endorsement.) The one judge who did not appear on the list who should have is California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who I think must be considered on the short list of potential nominees.


After criticising the administration for ignoring the events in Togo, Oxblog apologizes for its pessimism and notes that the U.S. has cut off all military assistance to Togo and has gone along with the tough sanctions imposed by the regional association, ECOWAS.

American higher education

There’s not much new here, but it is a useful summary of the state of American higher education.

Well, I didn’t know that 70% of the undegraduate courses at NYU are taught by adjunct faculty (!!!), and hadn’t thought of conceiving the collective undergraduate population at America’s liberal arts colleges as fitting inside a Big 10 football stadium. Here’s my favorite snippet, since it hits close to home:

As for the relatively few students who still attend a traditional liberal arts college—whether part of, or independent from, a university—what do they get when they get there? The short answer is freedom to choose among subjects and teachers, and freedom to work out their own lives on campus. Intellectual, social, and sexual freedom of the sort that today’s students assume as an inalienable right is never cheaply won, and requires vigilant defense in academia as everywhere else. Yet there is something less than ennobling in the unearned freedom of privileged students in an age when even the most powerful institutions are loath to prescribe anything— except, of course, in the "hard" sciences, where requirements and prerequisites remain stringent. One suspects that behind the commitment to student freedom is a certain institutional pusillanimity—a fear that to compel students to read, say, the major political and moral philosophers would be to risk a decline in applications, or a reduction in graduation rates (one of the statistics that counts in the US News and World Report college rankings closely watched by administrators). Nor, with a few exceptions, is there the slightest pressure from faculty, since there is no consensus among the teachers about what should be taught.

So by the author’s lights I’m on a suicide mission, teaching at a college that dares to require students to read the major moral and political philosophers. I can’t wait for the second installment.

Bush in Europe

I decided to give my rusty German a workout by rummaging through the German papers. Here are some rough translations.

First, from Die Welt:

Already in the foreground there was the attempt on the diplomatic plane to set aside the disputes over the war in Iraq and to improve trans-Atlantic relations again. Guy Verhofstadt, the Prime Minister of Belgium, the host country, said to Bush that "the most recent tensions should be brought to an end." On Monday, the visit of the U.S. President was accompanied only by small demonstrations.

Also from Die Welt, a sampling of elite opinon:

"I also hope and expect that he takes up his father’s tradition and reaches out to the Germans again. We shouldn’t be so foolish as to refuse it. In America we have more friends than in Europe, and more than most Germans realize" (Hans-Werner Sinn)

"Bush’s announcements at the beginning of his second term were strong signals. The composition of his foreign policy team signals that he wants actively to involve Europe again. If this succeeds, it depends not only on Bush’s willingness to cooperate. Just as crucial are Europe’s contributions to the substantial formation of geostrategic tasks." (Norbert Walter)

There’s more in this vein, everyone recognizing that there’s an opportunity to start anew, hoping that Bush will behave better, and recognizing that the U.S. is the major player here. I didn’t find any talk of Europe as a counterbalance.

Here’s a piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine:

Above all, the President’s forceful inaugural and State of the Union addresses have not failed in their effect. The message of the transformative power of freedom--that gift of God to all mankind--seems less utopian, even in the Middle East, than a few months ago, after on the whole successful elections in Afghanistan, among the Palestinians, and especially in Iraq. However bitter it may sound for many European ears: the possible contributions of erstwhile opponents fo the war to further stabilization of Iraq seems only to be a footnote in the current American debate over Iraq.

In another article, based on a meeting between GWB and European reporters, there’s this:

A new Bush? Not so fast. This George W. Bush is, just as before, and perhaps after the elections in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq even more, convinced of the power of freedom and the example of democracy....So, as it is his way, Bush will remind his European friends from the real-political/postmodern school that it is "our duty to work together so that people can be free." Where? In the Middle East, for example, in Syria or in Iran.

For English-language, America-friendly blogging, see Davids Medienkritik, where they’re organizing a pro-American demonstration in Mainz.

I’ll try to keep an eye on the papers to see if the tune and tone change substantially over the course of GWB’s Europareise, but at the moment it seems as if his steadfastness is winning grudging respect and prompting the recognition that this gent’s not for turning.

Iraqi Women Post Saddam

Reuters is reporting that Amnesty International is poised to release a report stating that women in Iraq "are no better off than under the rule of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein." I am interested to see this report, which does not appear to be on their web site yet, because it seems that they have a very selective memory of what life was like under Saddam, or what life is like now for Iraqi women.

Toward the end of my time in Iraqi, I recall chatting with a Lebonese woman who was providing humanitarian aid. She (and others) explained to me that if Saddam’s son, Uday, happened to be travelling anywhere near where you lived, you kept your daughters inside to prevent him from capturing them as his sex slaves. I visited one of Uday’s palaces--his love shack--where the soldiers found sex slaves locked in a room when they liberated the country. These women were lucky to have lived: Uday was known to be impotent, and would often kill the women he kidnapped, blaming them for his own his own failure. Of course, Uday was not the only rapist in the regime: Saddam officially sanctioned rape as a punishment in his now famous rape rooms.

Yet the Reuters’ article makes no mention of any of this. Rather it quotes the report for the following offenses: "Women have been subjected to sexual threats by members of the U.S.-led forces and some women detained by U.S. forces have been sexually abused, possibly raped[.]" Any crimes committed by U.S. soldiers should be seriously examined and, if proven, punished, but the hedge word "possibly" means that Amnesty didn’t have particularly solid evidence regarding the more serious of the allegations. Under Saddam, rape was officially sanctioned, and there is no question that it occurred regularly. How then can conditions be the same?

Amnesty also cites to increased violence, which keeps women from working or going to school. I personally travelled throughout Iraq, and I just didn’t see this. I saw girls going to school in increased numbers, largely because of improvements made to the school facilities. I saw people going about their daily lives in the face of random violence. More recently, it was the women who shamed the men by going out to vote in large numbers in the violent centers of Fallujah and Sadr City while the men stayed home.

The article also fails to mention the increased political role that women have gained: women now constitute roughly 25% of the legislature. You get the idea. Women have a long way to go in Iraq to achieve meaningful equality, but that does not mean that they have not made any progress since Saddam was removed, and it takes a demonstrably skewed perspective to suggest otherwise.

NYT Attacks Blogs and Their Readers

At a fundraiser for Columbia University’s newspaper--The Spectator--NYT executive editor Bill Keller offered some thoughts on print journalism and the effect of blogging. While he admittedly gave some praise to bloggers for their ability to break stories, his criticism was far more, shall we say, colorful, such as when he noted that a blog "can sometimes fall as low as being a ’one man circle jerk.’" He also offered criticism for blog readers, stating "There is a pressure to feel well informed without ever confronting an opinion that confronts your prejudices[.]" He is not the first to make this argument about selective reading. Law professor Cass Sunstein made this argument in his absurdly silly book, in which he suggested that the government should provide warning labels for web sites based on ideology. But it is surprising to hear Keller make this argument: after all, his own public editor acknowledged last year that the NYT is liberal in its story selection and coverage of issues on the news pages. Why then doesn’t he criticize those who rely solely on his paper for their news, for they likewise never have to confront an opinion with which they disagree?

Keller is just cranky that someone else has joined the party. It was just fine when the news was made up of the liberal bastions of the NYT, Washington Post, the network news, and CNN. But when Fox News and the internet got in the game, why then there was a risk that people could get all their information from one ideological perspective. I find this particularly silly because most conservatives I know read the NYT, or the Washington Post, or gain information from some other liberal outlet along with their conservative news sources. However, I know very few liberals who watch Fox News or read conservative publications.

More Presidents’ Day reading

Mickey Craig has done us a favor by linking to the D.C. Examiner’s reading list. Let me add a few more and invite readers to recommend their favorite presidential biographies.

Richard Brookhiser’s Founding Father is the closest thing I’ve found to a Plutarchian presentation of an American president. There are so many good books on Lincoln, it’s hard to know where to begin. Actually, let’s begin with Ken Masugi’s recommendations in the D.C. Examiner--Harry Jaffa’s A New Birth of Freedom and Crisis of the House Divided. Then there’s Allen Guelzo’s Redeemer President and WIlliam Lee Miller’s Lincoln’s Virtues.

Update: Ken Masugi raises an interesting question, as does Mickey in his comment: Is it Presidents Day or Presidents’ Day, or should we just give up and go back to good old Washington’s Birthday? It’s Presidents’ Day at NRO’s The Corner; Presidents Day at VOA; and President’s Day at Kids Domain (which comes up near the beginning of my Google search).

Gentle readers, let’s take a vote: should it be Presidents’ Day, Presidents Day, President’s Day, or Washington’s Birthday?

2008 GOP Presidential Contenders: A Dark Horse

Leading up to the 2000 Republican Presidential nomination contest, conservatives, especially GOP Governors, rallied around George W. Bush as the best bet to take back the White House in 2000. With this help, Bush raised $70 million by December 1999.

Looking ahead to 2008, conservatives once again scout around for a candidate. Dick Cheney and Jeb Bush have taken themselves out of the running.

The conservative Council on National Policy recently met in Florida to seek a candidate. Many names were floated but one dark horse who has emerged is the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty. This

article is a good introduction to Pawlenty. Much to make conservatives happy.

I like George Allen of Virginia myself. A Pawlenty-Bush (Jeb) or an Allen-Bush ticket might be able to defeat the Hilary-Richardson ticket in 2008.

Presidents’ Day

It’s Presidents’ Day. Here’s a good list of book recommendations for 10 Presidents from George Washington to Slick Willie.

Thanks to The Corner.

Apologies to the romantics in the crowd, no book recommendations for Jeff Davis.

More Good News from the Middle East

Victor Davis Hanson reports on more good developments for peace and liberty in the Middle East. The main-stream-media doesn’t report these things.

Hanson is excellent as always.

Insurgency is failing in Iraq?

The Belmont Club is trying to piece together some interesting facts coming out of Iraq: Hillary thinks the insurgency is failing; there are reports that the U.S. military is negotiating with old regime elements; new-found Europian friendliness; U.S. aggressiveness toward Syria, and so on. It smell’s like something’s up. Read it.

Meanwhile, Back in Red-Blue America

Did anyone catch the photo on the front page of the New York Times this morning? It showed Presidents Bush (41) and Clinton touring an orphanage in southeast Asia as part of their tsunami relief effort.

Sure enough, Bush was wearing a red polo shirt, while Clinton was wearing . . . a blue polo shirt.

Advice to Americans in Europe: Try not to giggle

Bush is on his way to Europe and much ink is being used by the writing class, trying to figure out what is going to happen, how he will be received, what will this subtle French phrase will mean, and so on. Dull reading and not helpful. They are missing the important things. I guess it’s too much to hope that the Europeans don’t read this hillarious piece by Mark Steyn, for the jig will be up for sure. And yet, it won’t matter because they don’t listen and there isn’t much they can do about it anyway. A Europe that makes no difference to anything important is just fine by us, says Steyn. He’s right. Steyn is a great writer. He is clear, very clear, and while talking about the most important things--even earth shaking things--he makes you laugh. How does he do that? Most people who write don’t listen and don’t observe. Steyn does both. When you write you have to listen and see and write down what you hear and see. Nothing more. My father, who never wrote anything, taught me to see things. We would be walking down the street and he’d ask me how many people just walked passed us. He would then ask me describe them. We would walk into a room and after leaving it he asked me to describe in detail and tell me how the room felt. It should feel the same to him, as to me, he said, if I described it correctly. It did. When I was about eighteen and working as a waiter he told me to hug a customer as she was leaving (she hugged everyone, but I always withdrew). She had been a famous actress in her youth and very pretty, and still was at age sixty. I asked him why I should do this. Because it is an experience you should have, he said. So I let her hug me. I almost fainted. He asked me what it was like. I said it was like touching a hot stove. Exactly, that’s why I only hugged her just once, he said. So Steyn, in laying something out so precisely is doing nothing more than listening to Chirac, Schroeder, Bush, and Rumsfeld. And he is funny because they are funny. We just missed it because we are trying to impose our dull sobriety on their words and actions. Read it and laugh.

Bush’s nine hours of tapes

The political buzz on the tube this morning has to do with long The New York Times story on about nine hours of secret tapes made by Doug Wead, the author of a new book, The Raising of a President. Wead, who had worked for H.W. Bush, made the tapes between 1998 and shortly before W. accepted the GOP nomination in 2000. Wead said he did not mean to reveal the existence of the tapes, but was forced to let his publisher hear some of them. Then, he says, the N.Y. Times got a hold of them. Wead was interviewed on ABC News this morning.

All of the above is worth reading even though Wead seems like a knave for having done this (both the recording and making it public). Yet, what comes through in the story is, as the N.Y. Times puts it,

The private Mr. Bush sounds remarkably similar in many ways to the public President Bush. Many of the taped comments foreshadow aspects of his presidency, including his opposition to both anti-gay language and recognizing same-sex marriage, his skepticism about the United Nations, his sense of moral purpose and his focus on cultivating conservative Christian voters.

Update: Stephen Tootle has some detailed comments, and concludes:

The overall picture is better than I expected. The tapes reveal Bush to be sincere, blunt, tough, politically shrewd, and within the context of his own beliefs, remarkably principled. He would use his faith to his political advantage as long as he was being honest. He would say what he needed to say to please religious groups, but he would not attack homosexuals for political advantage. He would bend on most issues, but he would not compromise his core beliefs. He actually did believe he was campaigning to restore dignity and responsibility to the presidency.

Kyrgyzstan’s lemon revolution?

Interesting pro-democracy developments--in part due to events in Ukraine--may be going on in Kyrgyzstan. It could lead to the first democratic movement in Central Asia. The CIA’s World Factbook has some background info. Both the Russians and the U.S. have a military base in Kyrgyzstan. It borders north of China. I bet Bush will encourage Putin not to make the same mistakes in Kyrgyzstan that he made in Ukraine. Here is the U.S. State Department site on Kyrgyzstan.

The Gannon/Guckert affair

Powerline has a full piece on what happened in this infamous Jeff Gannon (Guckert) White House press pass afair. This is about all that has to be said on the subject. Very much worth reading. Powerline thinks this sordid affair (which includes the outing of this apparently homosexual fellow by the Left and homosexual activists) shows the depths to which the Left has fallen. "Rarely have I seen such deeply contemptible conduct." Ditto.

European Jews Move Right

This story in this morning’s New York Times notes how Jews in Europe have been throwing their support to political parties of the moderate Right--and how a few are even embracing Far Right parties. Jews, the story notes, have been increasingly disgusted with the anti-Israeli views of the European Left, and some find appealing the extreme Right’s calls for restricting Arab immigration.

Henri Rosenberg, an Orthodox Jew whose Polish parents survived Hitler’s camps, is unapologetic about his support. "Orthodox Jews are thinking in the same ways that non-Jews are thinking, that Vlaams Belang can protect them," he said. "Throughout the Middle Ages, Jews had to compromise with the societies in which they lived and this made it much easier for Orthodox Jews to go with the standard, ’Is it good for Jews or bad for Jews?’ " he said. "Today, it seems it is good for Jews."

Bush in Europe

The New York Times asked a number of European commentators what GWB should do to "reinvigorate trans-Atlantic relations." Here’s my favorite answer:

I grew up under communism in the former Czechoslovakia. We were taught that Ronald Reagan was a servant of the military-industrial complex, a man who wanted war and scorned ordinary people. Paradoxically, most Europeans shared this view, not just those of us who lived behind the Iron Curtain. Had leaders in Moscow, Prague, Paris and Madrid been asked at the time what Mr. Reagan could do to reinvigorate relations between the United States and Europe, they probably would all have had the same answer: he should abandon his dream of American hegemony and start to consider Europe, including the Soviet Union, as an equal partner.

But Mr. Reagan didn’t seek their advice, and communism eventually collapsed. Mr. Reagan reinvigorated relations between the United States and Europe by staying true to his convictions.

You get the drift. Read the whole thing (it’s short).


Estrich vs. Kinsley

I’ve got to start reading the D. C. Examiner more regularly. Otherwise, I’d miss this, this, this, and this. Ken Masugi provides some valuable context, which helps to explain why a newspaper in D. C. would have anything to do with a controversy in Los Angeles (hint: Charlotte Allen). So engage in a little Schadenfreude this weekend!

Update: But wait, the Inkwell has more!

Harvard and the Iraqis

Joe asked below, Iraqis at Harvard, what I thought of this visit by six Iraqis to Harvard, and the classes they would take or sit in on. It is, as you say, and the other links you note, very silly or worse to put such people through this pseudo-sophisticated claptrap (e.g., "Gender and the Cultures of U.S. Imperialism"). Other things aside, it doesn’t do anything for the Iraqis: It doesn’t engage them in conversation, it doesn’t teach them anything. I had some experience (well, perhaps a lot of experience) in doing such things with Estonians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, et al) and the simple truth I learned is this: Begin at the beginning and let those thinkers who are the most clear on the ends and methods of republican government talk for themselves. They read Jefferson, Madison, and so on. They almost always focus on why human beings have a right to rule themselves and, once that is reasonably assumed, what do they do with that awesome power? Is there a limit to it? And why should folks who have asserted their right to govern themselves limit their own power by, for example, dividing their own power? Everything else--the flaws and imperfections (chattel slavery, bad or disputable decisions), the things most difficult to understand (e.g., that it is individuals who have rights rather than nations or tribes or groups) is eventually made clearer. You start at the beginning, in other words, and then you go from there. You don’t start where the Left intellectuals have led us because you never are able to work it backwards; they have killed the clarity and the naivete of the beginning.
This isn’t rocket science. That’s why I am able to do it pretty well. But those Harvard profs think that the connection between gender and imperialism can only be seen by the rocket scientists, and it is their job to "explain" it to the peasants, for they will have likely missed it, being unsophisticated and boorish as they are.

I think ordinary human beings can think about these matters pretty clearly, and the thinking has to be done naturally, without the overlay of the PC that pretends depth and nuance. When people start thinking about the foundations of self government, they want to start from scratch, better to get to know the minds of Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln--and have conversations with them--than with professor Robin Bernstein, the Assistant Director of Studies and Lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, or Peter Schramm for that matter. I have done this in many different settings here and abroad, and I have found that it works every single time. It is, of course, in principle, exactly the same problem we have in teaching undergraduates. Start at the beginning, use the words that are the most clear--the words that the naive founders and framers used--words that everyone understands, and then let the thinking begin. It is exciting and radical and revolutionary for any mind that until then had been enslaved. Here is a gimmick I once used. I am in the former USSR, about three months after the fall of communism. There are sixty secondary school teachers in front of me. We will be together one week. I am introduced as the teacher of the seminar on civics. I am said to be be an important and learned person who comes from the great big free country from far away. I approach, ignore the podium that would elevate me three feet above the others, stand eye to eye with them and the first words from my mouth is this: "Is the human mind free?" All sixty of them agreed that it was. Good I said, we agree on the only thing we have to agree on in order to have a conversation about these important things. When we finished the seminar a week later the women hugged and kissed me....well, so did the men. You know how those folks are, cultural differences and all.

All human beings speak a language and

human nature, equality, and freedom, are understood in human languages. This isn’t rocket science. Contempt and shame to the Harvard professors who think it is. And pity to the six Iraqis at Harvard.

Bill Maher, Intellectual

Bill Maher on MSNBC earlier this week (according to today’s Washington Post):

"We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. . . I think religion is a neurological disorder."

Sign that man up for Mensa. Give him a talk show. Make him the Democratic Party nominee in 2008.

The Iraqi street

I thought that this comment by an Iraqi injured in yesterday’s attacks on Shiite worshippers was interesting:

"Those infidel Wahhabis, those Osama bin Laden followers, they did this because they hate Shiites," said Sari Abdullah, a worshipper at the al-Khadimain mosque who was injured by shrapnel. "They are afraid of us. They are not Muslims. They are infidels."

Note that he doesn’t blame Sunnis or Baathists, i.e., people with whom the Shiites might have to work in the new government.

More on Harvard’s Summers

Kathleen Parker writes a good piece on the Summers bruhaha at Harvard. It has a nice light touch, and, coming from a smart and attractive woman, it should be especially painful to those weird zealots who defend the awful Ward Churchill on the grounds of "academic freedom" and yet attack the president of Harvard for saying something--in an all-too-conditional and meanederingly sophisticated way--that is at least arguably true. I had a conversation with a professor on campus the other day who did just that: he defended Ward Churchill because "academic freedom" means he can say anything, but then chastized Summers for being an antedeluvian barbarian who should give up the presidency of the country’s oldest university because he said something some faculty objected to. Sometimes I think we are better off just mocking such people instead of trying to engage them in conversation. Yet, measure for measure must be answered. Read Parker.

Deficits do Matter

In today’s ’New York Times,’ David Brooks argues that deficits do matter and predicts the emergence of a leader who will take up the issue.

Brooks writes, "There’s going to be another Ross Perot, and this time he’s going to be younger. There’s going to be a millionaire rising out of the country somewhere and he (or she) is going to lead a movement of people who are worried about federal deficits, who are offended by the horrendous burden seniors are placing on the young and who are disgusted by a legislative process that sometimes suggests that the government has lost all capacity for self-control. ... In the past months we have learned that the prescription drug benefit passed last year is not going to cost $400 billion over 10 years. The projections now, over a slightly different period, are that it’s going to cost over $700 billion. And these cost estimates are coming before the program is even operating. They are only going to go up. That means we’re going to be spending the next few months bleeding over budget restraints that might produce savings in the millions, while the new prescription drug benefit will produce spending in the billions. ... We may as well be blunt about the driving force behind all this. The living and well organized are taking money from the weak and the unborn. Over the past decades we have seen a gigantic transfer of wealth from struggling young families and the next generation to members of the AARP. In 1990, 29 percent of federal spending went to seniors; by 2015 roughly half of all government spending will go to those over 65. This prescription drug measure is just part of that great redistribution."

Could it be that the Republican Party will crash and burn trying to manage the entitlement programs of FDR and LBJ?

2008 Democratic Presidential Contenders

Here’s a list of the top 50 Contenders for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, provided by the NewPolitics blog. Topping the list, of course, is Hilary, John Edwards is 2nd, and, it gets silly toward the end, Lyndon LaRouche is 50th.

The real sleeper is at #18. Tennessee’s Governor Phil Bredesen emerges as the southern dark horse. Can this work again, an unknown Southern Governor wins just like Carter and Clinton. Just Google ’Phil Bredesen for President.’

The race is on; given campaign finance laws, the early and jam-packed primary/caucus season, it will as Yogi Berra says, ’get late, early,’ this go round.

The WaPo steps up to the plate

The Washington Post editorial page has this to say about Lawrence Summers:

One can agree or disagree with this ranking of reasons or with Mr. Summers’s reading of the research on gender and ability. But it’s contrary to the mission of a university to attack people for provoking fresh thought on big issues -- issues that, as Mr. Summers rightly put it, "are too important to sentimentalize." The furious reaction from some members of the Harvard faculty may reflect disaffection with Mr. Summers’s leadership on issues ranging from his questioning of tenure to his expansion of the campus. Mr. Summers has sparked controversies on other subjects, too, including political diversity in the law school, the quality of African American studies and campus criticism of Israel. If those subjects in part underlie the movement against Mr. Summers, his critics should engage them directly and not unjustifiably paint him as an anti-feminist bigot.

Read the whole thing.

Update: And the
NYT whiffs.

Iraqis at Harvard

Peter, is there any way the Ashbrook Center can provide Harvard’s poor Iraqi guests a somewhat less alienating vision of American freedom? A sample of what’s in store for them in the PRC:

Here is a bit of the syllabus for Prof. Bernstein’s course to be attended by the Iraqi visitors at Harvard:

We will use the methods of Cultural Studies to consider US imperialism not only as a military venture, but as a cultural project. Cultural Studies is (to offer a very condensed definition) an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the creation and flow of power and resistance, especially through ordinary people’s uses of mass-marketed products. The field of Cultural Studies enables us to consider imperialism not as a narrowly defined governmental venture, but rather as a sprawling set of practices in which many, if not all, people participate. These practices include performances on stage and screen, tourism, holiday rituals, and the writing and reading of literature (both “high” and “popular”). One may look for imperialist practices not only in military units, but in World Fairs, museums, and schools.

Cultural Studies opens unique avenues by which to consider issues of gender. Analyses of imperialism based in military history or international relations often focus on men as colonizers and conquerors, women as victims. In contrast, this course’s focus on culture opens the following questions:

1. How has gender affected the experiences of colonized people (and how has the experience of being colonized affected those people’s genders)?

2. How has gender affected the experiences of colonizers (and how has the experience of colonizing affected those people’s genders)?

3. How has gender functioned as part of the ideologies and strategies of American imperialism?

4. How has gender functioned as part of the ideologies and strategies of anti-imperialist activism and resistance?

These four questions constitute the heart of this course.

Here’s Win Myers’s conclusion:

All of this adds up to an attempt to leave the six visiting Iraqi students with the impression that America, liberator of their country, is in fact a racist, sexist, homophobic land. They will learn, in effect, just how awful life here really is, as seen through the eyes of one of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

But will they believe it? At the very least, the danger exists that they will speak with media, here or abroad, and tell of what they learned in this course. So armed, anti-American media in the Arab world can bombard its audience with news from the belly of the beast on just how horrendous life here is. Or, conversely, they may seize upon such a class to demonstrate our ostensible degeneracy to an audience already propagandized by decades of anti-Western bile.

Let’s hope that our Iraqi visitors find the presentation of life at Harvard to be so at odds with the world they observe around them, and with the nature and generosity of their hosts while they’re in America, that the conclusions they draw will be more enlightened than the ideology of some Harvard professors. Let’s hope, that is, that they ask themselves: how could a people so vicious sacrifice blood and treasure to free us from Saddam? If they draw the logical conclusion, they will have a leg up on many Harvard students and professors who, never having experienced real tyranny, spend their lives imagining themselves victims of the freest society on earth.

Here’s hoping that the Harvard Republicans, mentioned in the NYT piece on Karl Rove’s speech at CPAC, make the effort to offer the Iraqi guests a different picture of life in America.

Betsy’s Page has a lively discussion--well, a discussion--of Win’s post. Here’s the Harvard course catalog for this academic year; you pick the courses the Iraqis should be sitting in on. (I named my choices here.)

Greenpeace Gets Stuffed

It seems some Greenpeace protestors thought it would be fun to storm the international petroleum exchange in London yesterday, but the oil traders were not amused and beat the crap out of them, sending two to the hospital. Would this have happened 20 years ago?

Reminds me of the moment in 1970 when a bunch of long-haired construction workers opened up a can of whup-ass on some anti-war protestors who burned the flag in New York city. The point to be grasped then was that while the Vietnam War was unpopular, the anti-war movement was even more unpopular. Today, while most people are "pro-environment" in the ordinary sense, much of the environmental movement has lost its moral authority and is no longer popular. I’m sure most readers in London are saying today, "Those silly blokes got what they deserved."

Karl Rove speaks at CPAC

Read this, this, and then this.

The President has set an agenda and the best the Democrats can do is say "us too!" The humility Beinart urges is already present in Bush’s speeches and he has already articulated the standard to which we are to be held. So the Democrats seem to be caught between rigid opposition and shameless imitation. Not a good place.

Hat tip: Democracy Project

The 2008 campaign

Craig Crawford swears that the campaign has already started for 2008, much earlier than ever before. O.K. Maybe. But if I were advising the Democrats, I would say this: Do not worry about 2008; be seriously concerned about the 2006 elections. You must not lose any House or Senate seats for if you do, you will have no chance of winning the presidency in 2008. And, even if you should win the the presidential election in 2008, no good will come of it for your party. Be concerned with your party, not with who the candidate for president should be. The Republicans, by being concerned with party victories in 2006, are playing very smart politics that will have lasting consequences. The Demos still seem not to get it. Hillary Clinton’s contribution to this debate (along with John Kerry and other Demos) is to urge that Election Day be made a federal holiday to encourage voting. She also pushed for legislation that would allow all ex-felons to vote. This will not solve your party’s problems, Hillary. Peter Beinart’s advice to the Demos about their rhetoric is more serious, but they are not listening to him, or, they know they can’t do it. If the Demos don’t get their act together, politics will become boring.

UPDATE: A bad omen for Hillary’s prospects. Llloyd Grove reports on a speech given by David Geffen:

Friends no more? I hope Sen. Hillary Clinton isn’t counting on help from Hollywood mogul David Geffen in her possible run for the White House in 2008. Geffen, a generous supporter and pal of Bill Clinton when he was President, trashed Hillary’s prospects last night during a Q&A at the 92nd St. Y. "She can’t win, and she’s an incredibly polarizing figure," the billionaire Democrat told his audience. "And ambition is just not a good enough reason." Geffen’s dis was met with hearty applause. (Thanks to Drudge)

Big Government Conservatives

I think President Bush is a great man and I’m happy that Dennis Hastert is Speaker of the House and that Bill Frist is Majority Leader in the Senate. But did you know that since George Bush became President that the Federal Budget has grown by 38% to $2.57 trillion dollars.

George Will offers some thoughts on that here .

As Bob Dole said to equal effect, "Where’s the outrage?"

Ralph Reed...

is running for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. The newspapers will hate him. There are some Republicans who really dislike him, and this story suggests that the primary will not be a cakewalk.

The Lawrence Summers speech

announces that Harvard President Lawrence Summers--bowing to faculty pressure--has released the full text of his speech on women. This is the so-called controversial speech that almost put an end to his career as president. Here is the full text
of the speech. The Reuters story also states that he released "a letter in which he again atoned for the things he said." I couldn’t find the letter. Now look, do yourself a favor and read this speech, which includes questions and responses, and then ask, is Summers deserving of the kind of treatment he got? Are his detractors--you know, the ones who thought they would have to run outside to throw up because of his opinions--correct in saying that this guy is some sort of closed-minded ideologue? Or, is the world quite mad? If I’m missing something, please inform me. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that college presidents (Summers, and maybe six others) never have anything interesting to say. Go ahead, make a cup of Java, and read it. I’d like to hear some opinions on this.

Jimmy Carter, attack submarine

The Jimmy Carter, the third and final submarine of the Seawolf class, will be commissioned in two days. It’s an attack submarine. This has led to much commentary if not merriment. My chivalrous spirit (as Bertie Wooster might say) prevents me from saying more. But others have opined, here and, perhaps the best is this cartoon.

Negroponte to DNI

The President has nominated John Negroponte to the newly created position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Here
(PDF file) is the full record of the Senate Foreign Relations hearings (September 13, 2001) when he was nominated to be Ambassador to the United Nations. The Senate voted 95-3 to confirm him to the UN post. He has been in Iraq since June, 2004.

Polygamy denied

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart

rejected the argument that the state’s ban on polygamy violates constitutional rights of religion and privacy, saying the state has an interest in protecting monogamous marriage.

The judge emphasized his ruling was about marriage, not personal sexual conduct. He cited cases as far back as an 1878 Supreme Court ruling upholding the polygamy conviction of George Reynolds, personal secretary to Mormon pioneer leader Brigham Young.

The purple finger in Lebanon?

Thomas L. Friedman is calling for a revolution in Lebanon. He makes perfectly clear that the mischief in Lebanon--once called the oldest real democracy in the Arab world--is directly related to Syrian imperialism. He reminds us that the city of Hama was leveled by the Syrian army (10,000 to 20,000 Syrians slaughtered) in 1982, and that that method is still alive. But Friedman says that Hama no longer rules, rather "Baghdad Rules" is now the name of the game:

What else can the Lebanese do? They must unite all their communities and hit the Syrian regime with "Baghdad Rules," which were demonstrated 10 days ago by the Iraqi people. Baghdad Rules are when an Arab public does something totally unprecedented: it takes to the streets, despite the threat of violence from jihadists and Baathists, and expresses its democratic will.

Rafik Hariri stopped playing by "Lebanese Rules" - eating any crow the Syrians crammed down Lebanon’s throat - and openly challenged Syrian imperialism. If the Lebanese want to be free, they have got to take the lead. They have to summon the same civic courage that Mr. Hariri did and that the Iraqi public did - the courage to look the fascists around them in the eye, call them in the press and in public by their real names, and confront the European Union and the Arab League for their willingness to ignore the Syrian oppression.

Read it all.   

Read this and weep

Via Democracy Project, a post by Bill McClay about a CHE article on a suicide hotline, originally sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. Here’s Bill’s conclusion:

Having been associated for the past twenty-five years with American institutions of higher learning, most of them secular in character, it takes a great deal to shock me. But this article did. Imagine the fact that universities like Brown, and others all over the country, which bend over backwards in other respects to be as touchy-feely as possible---but where suicide among students is a shockingly common problem---have refused to make use of this service, for which there is an obvious and crying need, SIMPLY BECAUSE THE SERVICE IS PROVIDED BY A RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION, even though there is not a shred of religious content in what that organization does---nor is anyone claiming that there is. Better to run the risk that suicidal students have nowhere to turn, than to run the risk that they might turn to.....a Christian organization. That says all that needs to be said about their priorities. And Mr. Repak has decided, it is better to renounce any and all vestiges of Christian identity than to cease providing the service.

Does the animus really extend that far? And is this the sort of attitude that proponents of "faith-based" initiatives have to look forward to? I fear that the answer to both questions may be "Yes."

Enough said.

Politics as usual in Iraq

This is heartening. Here’s a taste:

for the moment, Iraq does seem to have turned a corner politically. The most telling sign is that the Sunni Muslims who mostly boycotted the political process are now said to be looking for ways to get back in. One prominent Iraqi describes a recent meeting with leading Sunni sheiks who complained that they had mistakenly assumed that the Americans would lose their nerve, postpone the elections and thereby enhance the power of the insurgents. Now the sheiks want a piece of the action.

Whether this Baghdad Spring continues depends largely on the wisdom of the leaders of the Shiite alliance that won nearly 50 percent of the vote. This week they are negotiating over who will get the top positions in the new government that was elected Jan. 30. But perhaps more important, they are debating ways that would give the Sunnis a role in the new government.

Read the whole thing.

More on the wrong Right

John Moser’s post below on the Birch Society reminds me to tell you that he knows of what he speaks (not that you would doubt that!). When his next book is published (next month, I think), Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Transformation of American Liberalism you will have the opportunity to read something quite interesting and engaging about John Flynn, a man who moved from the Left to the Right, and thereby revealed some problems and contradictions in both positions. Moser does a masterful job of laying out Flynn’s "ideological odyssey." Look for it (published by New York University Press).

Thunder on the Right

Schramm’s mention of the Politically Incorrect Guide to American History reminded me of a notice I received recently about the opening of the new Robert Welch University. An online degree-granting institution (its web address is a dot-org rather than a dot-edu), it is committed to "providing a liberal arts education combined with an emphasis on the timeless principles of limited constitutional government." Many of the new institution’s history courses will be taught by the author of the book Schramm was talking about.

Some of you might be familiar with the name of Robert Welch; in 1958 he founded an organization called the John Birch Society.

In 2000 the official magazine of the JBS, The New American, published a series on twenty five "Heroes for All Time." Among them were such advocates of "the timeless principles of limited constitutional government" as Joseph McCarthy, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, and Chiang Kai-shek.

Do Deficits Matter?

Since Bob Bartley died, I’ve been looking for a columnist who can make sense of economics for me. Irwin Stelzer, who writes for the ’Weekly Standard,’ does a good job of bringing common sense to the dismal science.

In this article, Stelzer raises the question

’Do Deficits Matter? His answer is that the current deficit of some $400 billion probably doesn’t matter that much since it is only 3% of GDP. He worries about the trade deficit.

I still miss my daily dose of Bob Bartley.

Wrong history

Killing time at a bookstore I am accustomed to frequent, listlessly looking toward yet another shelf, my tired eyes were stopped by a great title: Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Couldn’t resist, got down to it, hoping it lived up to its title. No dice. I was reeling, the hogwash between the covers gave me quite a wallop. Max Boot has done us a service. He has read it and pointed out some of the crap to be found in it. You know the stuff, Calhoun was a good guy, Lincoln a tyrant during the war between the states (as the Civil War is called), and on and on. Boot is right, shame on Regnery for publishing this hooey. The author of it, by the way, seems to be a founding member of the League of the South which "advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic." Read Boot, but don’t buy the book.

Jefferson at the Super Bowl

Rafael Major was surprised, and deeply moved, by the reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Super Bowl.

Syria and friends

As thousands mourn the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in a raucous display of the depth of their anger and unity against those they blame for his assassination, the governments of Lebanon and Syria, we recall our ambassador from Syria and Russia it wanted to supply Syria with advanced missile systems. You might want to note the few comments of the Belmont Club on Syria. Note that Israel claims Iran will have the necessary knowledge to build an atomic bomb in six months. Timing. Timing is important in politics.

California GOP upbeat

There is a new mood among California Republicans, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

These are heady days for the California Republican Party, a once bitterly divided band that is unified, energized and relentlessly upbeat today.

The difference: California’s Republicans, who failed to win a single statewide office in 2002 for the first time in nearly half a century, are cheering on popular Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as he takes to the road to push his reform agenda, and following a confident President Bush as he does the same on the national front.

High school graduation rates

The Manhattan Institute (PDF file, 27 pp.) has published a study, "Public High School Graduation and College-Readiness Rates: 1991-2002." Interesting stuff. For example, Ohio graduation rate is 78%, Pennsylvania 80%, California 67%, Tennessee 57%. Worth a look.

Now coffee

We already know that alcohol (and cigarettes) are good for you, and now coffee is thought to help prevent the most common types of liver cancer.

Th Gates in Central Park

Myron Magnet is not happy with "The Gates" project in Central Park. A sample from his short piece:

The art project—7,500 steel gates, 16 feet high, hung with orange nylon curtains, along 23 miles of the park’s paths—is like an alien invasion, taking over the park from top to bottom. The opposite of cheerful, the gates are oppressive, claustrophobic, even on a brilliant winter Sunday. They crowd as inescapably together as riot police, and are just as lumpish in their inelegant proportions and angular profiles. Like the riot police’s plastic shield and shiny helmets, their materials proclaim Industrial Man’s brute mastery over the elements, producing by unimaginably powerful forces, in white-hot furnaces and giant petrochemical vats that only legions of technicians could design and run, the steel and nylon that shoulders aside the trees and sky.

Central Park, by contrast, is a triumph of man’s ability to cultivate nature, not conquer it. It is dedicated to allowing the citizen, even in the heart of the crowded city, to feel free and large against the trees and sky, to wander at will from prospect to prospect —even, as the name of one area of the park proclaims, to ramble. But as crowds thronged the park to experience “The Gates,” they looked, as they trudged along the strictly delineated paths and disappeared over the crest of a hill, as if they were being herded off to the Last Judgment. They were not enlarged, as is the usual effect of Central Park, but diminished.

More Baylor

There are three new articles about Baylor posted on the Christianity Today site. Robert Benne has this to say:

a friend at Baylor had predicted this [Sloan’s resignation] would happen several months ago, after the Baylor faculty senate unanimously endorsed the Baylor 2012 plan—something they had not done for several years. His prediction seemed counterintuitive. After all, Sloan was the main architect of Baylor 2012—the blueprint for elevating Baylor to the top tier of research institutions in the United States while strengthening its Christian identity. Wouldn’t faculty senate support of that plan strengthen Sloan’s claim to continue to be Baylor’s president? No, my friend said, now that the plan was in place the plan’s architect could go. Thus opponents, supporters, and Sloan himself saw that he was expendable now that 2012 was secure.

Sloan said he would not have made the decision to resign if he had any doubts about the future of the 2012 vision. "I think the tipping point for me was when I realized that the 10-year vision had really taken hold at the university," he said. "I became persuaded that our board would take up the mantle of the central convictions of Baylor 2012." Sloan will move to the chancellor’s office, where he will be devoted to fundraising and institutional relations, but no longer involved in setting university policy.

And this:

The timing of the resignation was crucial. First, it gave the supporters of Baylor 2012 more time to move forward with it in all its dimensions. Second, Sloan’s firm stand in the midst of great turmoil forced the issue of 2012 on the board and the faculty senate, both of which endorsed it. Third, his tenacious resolve and the public support for 2012 make it much more likely that his successor will not be able to take Baylor in a different direction. Fourth, holding on as long as he did makes it possible for his supporters to accept his decision to step down with a sense of hope, not despair. And, fifth, his standing firm sent a clear message that Baylor was not being run by an assortment of its critics, but by the board of regents and the university president.

Thus, there is good reason to believe that Baylor 2012 will go firmly forward under a new administration. There is no guarantee that this ambitious plan will be completely successful or that it will now be free of controversy, but its likelihood of success is now greater without Sloan than it was with him.

Duane Litfin is somewhat less sanguine:

Baylor’s governing board has insisted they stand behind Baylor 2012, but it remains to be seen what they mean. If the root problem really was the agenda and not the man, will the next president be any more successful in furthering it? In other words, can the turmoil at Baylor be resolved while continuing to move Baylor 2012 forward?

Or more basic still, are the dual aspirations of Baylor 2012 even compatible? No institution has accomplished its twin agenda yet, for the very reasons so evident in Baylor’s recent experience. The question is, given the size, complexity, and astonishing costs inherent in becoming a first-rank research university, are there sufficient personnel and resources to enable such an institution to be systemically Christian?

That famous philosopher Charlie Brown once bemoaned, "There is no heavier burden than great potential." By such a measure Baylor 2012 represents a heavy burden indeed. Let us all pray that the Baylor community can find a way to shoulder it.

Steven Moore contributes his view that only God knows.

It will be interesting to see, not only who the interim President is, but who the next President will be.

Wolfowitz and Cornell: Leo-Cons in Bloom

Here is an interesting article about Paul Wolfowitz, "the most influential Deputy Secretary of Defense in American History," and his years at Cornell. Some interesting discussion of Strauss, Allan Bloom, Bloom’s circle of students, and Wolfowitz’s father, who taught math at Cornell.

Bill Sammon speech

Bill Sammon, the Washington Times’ Senior White House Correspondent spoke at the Ashbrook Center on Monday. The title of the talk is "Misunderestimated: The Historic Presidency of George W. Bush." Click on his name to listen to it. Very good talk. He received a standing ovation.

McPherson’s Collloquium

You can listen to James McPherson’s colloquium on Antietam of last Friday by clicking on his name.

Church and state in Georgia again

This isn’t all I wrote, but it’s all the Atlanta paper published. Anyone who wants to see the original--much more brilliant, of course--can shoot me an email. Or, as the editors at the Atlanta paper might have it, anyone who wants to see can shoot me.

Update: Although I didn’t know it when I was writing it, I was providing the counterpoint to this editorial. Just a few more jabs at my hometown paper, whose editorial page is led by Cynthia Tucker (a media personality you might have encountered on The Jim Lehrer Newshour). The AJC blithely asserts that the state is currently funding all sorts of programs based in churches, just so long as they don’t proselytize or hire only co-religionists. There are no legal challenges, the state attorney general’s office assures us. Not at present, though the United Methodist Children’s Home settled out of court a couple of years ago, having been sued for attempting to uphold a faith-based mission by terminating a lesbian counselor and refusing to hire a Jewish psychologist. And then there’s the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s suit against a faith-based program run out of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, which, I am happy to say, the FFRF lost (at least in the first round). So the concerns about lawsuits are not quite as far-fetched as the AJC suggests.

But my favorite paragraph is this:

Even with an explicit ban on school vouchers, this amendment represents a dangerous erosion of the separation of church and state that Georgia’s founders crafted into the constitution as early as 1789. As nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia show, when state and church intertwine, freedom for all is diminished.

The measure before the state legislature would bring Georgia’s constitutional doctrine into line with current Supreme Court doctrine. I guess Cynthia Tucker and her colleagues can’t tell the difference between Islamist theocrats and Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy. Well, they all do wear robes.

"Liberal" education

Here, via NRO’s The Corner, is a transcript of a panel discussion held at AEI. The subject, the ideological tendencies of American higher education, is one on which I have gassed on at great length here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Among the panelists are leaders of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and the AAUP, along with Daniel Klein, whose research on faculty political opinions I discussed back in December. It was, I think, somewhat courageous for Roger Bowen, General Secretary of the AAUP, to enter a roomful of critics.

Indeed, Bowen’s comments, for once outside the "mainstream" of this particular moderate-to-conservative room, were the most revealing. Here’s his response to Klein’s data:

with all due respect, I don’t think we’ve learned anything new. If you go back to the Lipset-Ladd study, 1975, or you look at the Michael Faia study, The Myth of the Liberal Professor, probably issued in 1974, what you find is this was based on the Carnegie survey that looked at over 100,000 faculty, 300 colleges, asked 300 questions and had a 60 percent return rate. So as a data source in comparison I think much more reliable and perhaps more interesting.

But the bottom line, if you set aside Faia, is that, yeah, then ’75 as well as today, you will find in the social sciences and the humanities most faculty tend to be Democrat. And as anticipated by our moderator, so what? Not that one ever inquires, my earlier point, but if they are, I think there may be reasons, and those reasons are suggested in the classic study by Seymour Martin Lipset.

This is taken from him, paraphrased, I’m not quoting, it’s too lengthy, but I encourage you to look at this study. Anthropologists, which apparently according to the study, Democrats far outnumber Republicans. What do they do? Anthropologists, the discipline itself is focused on questioning religious and cultural myth, particularly myth that celebrates national, cultural or racial superiorities. That in many classrooms will be a shocker for a lot of students.

Sociologists tend to inquire on the origins of inequality as a source of alienation. New concepts to many college students that will seem, I imagine, given illustrations using the American example, rather shocking.

Political scientists, they focus on questions of legitimacy, and when Lipset was doing his study it was in the wake of the Vietnam War and we were trying to understand why are campuses these hotbeds of revolt? Is it because the faculty are so liberal? And many said yes.

Historians, they look at progress frequently in terms of overcoming inequalities of the past, sometimes inequality is endorsed, even embraced by conservatives.

I’d translate these remarks this way: in Bowen’s view, there’s an inherent "bias" in some of the disciplines in favor of rationalism, progressivism, and, in general, "the Enlightenment." For Bowen, this seems to be just a fact of life. But I would argue that any "science" that loses sight of its origins and of serious alternatives to its foundations runs the risk of degenerating into mere ideology. Those in the academy who are honestly devoted to "good science" ought to welcome the debate fostered by their conservative and neo-conservative critics.

When challenged along these lines by Jeff Wallin of the American Academy of Liberal Education, Bowen had this to say:

We’re speaking as if the professoriat, even if they were all Democrats, are somehow monolithic, that you don’t have distinctions between liberal Democrats, moderate Democrats, weak Democrats, whatever. Anyone who spent time in the academy knows that there are enormous differences. It is not monolithic, and faculty are by nature disputatious. They are taught early in graduate school to think critically, and thinking critically usually means attacking conventional wisdom. Whatever stands within your own particular discipline as authoritative, you make a reputation by going after it, rethinking it, revising it, and they do that with one another. And even then, even then there is so much in the way of substantial difference on policy issues as well as opinions among faculty within one particular party or one particular camp, it is still extraordinary.

In other words, the Democratic Party on campus is a big tent. Cold comfort, that.

Smoking is good for you

Sometimes a piece comes along that appeals to my vice, but makes it into a (almost) virtue. So this

George Blecher essay on smoking. He mentions all the unmentionables: bans on smoking, the cult of health, "it’s become the single religion of much of Western society," and so on.

It is short and good enough for you to read the whole thing. And keep in mind what Churchill said about cigars: "Smoking cigars is like falling in love; first you are attracted to its shape; you stay with it for its flavor; and you must always remember never, never, let the flame go out."

An inside perspective on the faith-based initiative

David Kuo, formerly of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives isn’t happy. The combination of Democratic resistance and Republican indifference has, he said, dulled the shining promise of President Bush’s "compassionate conservatism." Here are the nicest things he has to say:

I take solace in realizing that the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives that now sits outside the White House gates has effected change. The Office has used regulations and executive orders to end overt religious discrimination in the government grant-making process. Groups like the Metropolitan Council for Jewish Poverty, once denied an HHS application because it had "Jewish" in its name, are now welcome partners. Tens of thousands of faith-based social service groups, churches, synagogues, mosques, and secular non-profits attended free White House conferences where they were given information needed to navigate the federal grants labyrinth and the rules about what to do with money if they get it. A website now allows all social service groups to sort potential grants by category. These are good things.

But they are a whisper of what was promised. Irony of ironies, it leaves the faith-based initiative specifically, and compassionate conservativism in general, at precisely the place Gov. Bush pledged it would not go; it has done the work of praising and informing but it has not been given "the resources to change lives." In short, like the hurting charities it is trying to help, the Initiative has been forced to "make bricks without straw."

Here’s his take on the initiative’s unfulfilled promise:

over time it became clearer that the White House didn’t have to expend any political capital for pro-poor legislation. The initiative powerfully appealed to both conservative Christians and urban faith leaders - regardless of how much money was being appropriated.

Conservative Christian donors, faith leaders, and opinion makers grew to see the initiative as an embodiment of the president’s own faith. Democratic opposition was understood as an attack on his personal faith. And since this community’s most powerful leaders - men like James Dobson of Focus on the Family - weren’t anti-poverty leaders, they didn’t care about money. The Faith-Based Office was the cross around the White Houses’ neck showing the president’s own faith orientation. That was sufficient.

At the same time, the White House discovered urban faith leaders had been so neglected for so long that simple attention drew them in. Between 2002 and 2004 more than 15,000 white, Hispanic, and African-American religious and social service leaders attended free White House conferences on how to interact with the federal government. The meetings, held regularly in battleground states, were chock-full of vital information and gave thousands of groups invaluable information about government grants. They were hardly pep rallies for the President. But the conferences sent a resounding political message to all faith-oriented constituencies: President Bush cares about you.

Some liberal leaders have been quoted as saying the administration was looking to "buy minority votes." Nothing could be further from the truth. There wasn’t enough money around to buy anyone. The conferences actually underscored how difficult it was to even get a grant. But by traveling across the country, giving useful information, and extending faith-based groups an open hand, powerful inroads were made to "non-traditional" supporters. One senior Republican leader walked into an early conference, stared wide-eyed at the room full of people of diverse ethnicities and said to me, "This is what Republicans have been dreaming about for 30 years."

I continue to believe that the faith-based initiative is good politics and good public policy. I share Kuo’s hope that Republicans will, sooner rather than later, get it right. This depends in part upon religious conservatives "getting it right." For an argument that they’re not, go
here and here. For an argument that they are, go here and here. My review of the latter two books will appear soon in the Claremont Institute’s Local Liberty.

For more on Kuo’s column, go here and here.

Hat tip: The Revealer, which has all sorts of other questions about the faith-based initiative, some of which seem to forget that the full title of the initiative is the "faith-based and community" initiative. But I don’t want to be too snarky.

In favor of intra-party disagreements

Kenneth Baer, a former speechwriter for Al Gore, argues that what the Democrats need is not unity but a good internal discussion about some major issues, including global economics and national security. I not only agree, but think the principle of intra-party conversations and disagreements about the most important matters facing the country is a good thing for both parties. This includes primary contests, on both federal and state levels. This process should begin, for example, in the Republican Party at every level. I say this not because I want to GOP to hack at itself, but because such conversations are not only good for the party, but good for the country as a whole. There is a massive tendency (described clearly by Baer for the Demos) among Republicans (on the state level, see Ohio, for example) to try to prevent having any substantive conversations and disagreements by not having meaningful primaries. The Party leadership thinks that doing this will put them at a disadvantage. They are wrong. Exactly the opposite is the case. Such disagreents are both necessary and good. I hope the GOP changes its ways, else it risks losing whatever authority and power it has on both state and federal levels.

Democrats: Listen to Paul Krugman and keep losing

This column is revealing. Here’s one snippet:

Mr. Dean’s political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House.

It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a "Clintonesque Republicrat," someone who, as governor, tried "to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required."

And here’s another:

In fact, by taking on Social Security, Mr. Bush gave the Democrats a chance to remember what they stand for, and why. Here’s my favorite version, from another fighting moderate, Eliot Spitzer: "As President Bush embraces the ownership society and tries to claim that he is the one that is making it possible for the middle class to succeed and save and invest - well, I say to myself, no, that’s not right; it is the Democratic Party historically that created the middle class."

Read the last sentence again. According to Krugman, moderate Democrats believe that the government created the middle class. So there was no middle class prior to the New Deal? I’m not naive about the role of public policy in promoting economic activity and influencing individual behavior, but this is preposterous.

The lead-eared Arthur Miller

Someone finally wrote a sensible piece on Arthur Miller. He has been much overpraised, the author of the American "Lear," and other such foolery. Terry Teachout calls him lead-eared, without a poetic bone in his body. There is more.

Howard Dean’s religion offensive

Here’s an article from the Christianity Today website:

The day before he was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee last week, Dean went to the leaders of different Democratic constituencies outlining an approach that will emphasize outreach to evangelicals and people of other faiths. His talks sought to distance himself and the Democratic Party from an image as a secular party out of touch with common Americans.

To a standing-room-only caucus of women Democratic leaders, Dean urged them to learn to talk and cooperate with people of faith. "People of faith are in the Democratic Party, including me," Dean declared.

In response to a question from CT, Dean said, "We are definitely going to do religious outreach. Even in my campaign I was interested in reaching out to evangelicals." Later, Dean tactfully expanded his remarks, noting "our religious outreach will not solely be to evangelical Christians but to Americans of all faiths."

But I’m not sure these
tired old tropes from the Democrats’ 2004 campaign playbook will get them very far:

Dean mocked the Republicans as family values hypocrites. "The GOP wants to cut the money for feeding kids. They only get two of the values of the New Testament. Do they talk about having walked among the least of these?"

Comparing the Republicans to Sadducees and Pharisees, Dean said, "I haven’t heard the Republicans talk about that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man through the gates of heaven."

There’s a lot more in the article, including a reminder that Dean once said that Job was his favorite New Testament book. Let’s just say that the folks at CT are skeptical. So am I.

Update:Since this post has provoked a good bit of commentary, let me add
this into the mix. Click on the link and you’ll be reminded why HD left the Episcopal Church for the Congregational Church. Hint: it had nothing to do with deep thoughts over church polity and perhaps little explicitly to do with his views of theology.

They’re All Above Average

The latest issue of Ashland University’s student newspaper, The Collegian, announces that nearly fifty percent of the university’s student body ended up on the Dean’s List last semester. To his credit, our Provost, Dr. Robert Suggs, recognizes that something is deeply and terribly wrong.

Arnold’s great battle

George Will explains how Arnold is practicing "permanent revolution" in California. He will place four proposals before the voters this year that, according to Will: "He has submitted to the Democratic-controlled legislature four proposals aimed at unlocking some interlocking political and economic irrationalities produced by a political class that has treated public office as private property. Because the legislature probably will not act soon and affirmatively, ballot language has been drafted and fundraising for four ratification campaigns has begun."

"If Schwarzenegger successfully employs the plebiscitary mechanism this year, he will approach reelection next year ranked among the state’s most transformative governors. And ripples raised by the boulders he is throwing into this nation-state’s political pool will roll eastward across the country." Read it all. Excellent piece.

And here is John Fund’s take on Arnold’s revoltion against "the unions and other interest groups blocking his package of four reform initiatives that will likely go before voters this fall."  

Blogs and the GOP advantage

Michael Barone explains that the left blogosphere has moved the Demos farther left, "and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans’ adversaries in Old Media," and thereby helps the GOP.

Iraqi election results

The Washington Post reports on the election:

" According to preliminary returns, which will be certified in three days, the largely Shiite coalition known as the United Iraqi Alliance won 48.2 percent of the vote, the low end of what its officials had predicted. A coalition of two main Kurdish parties won 25.7 percent of the vote, and a bloc led by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi got 13.8 percent. Together, the three coalitions accounted for nearly 88 percent of the vote, making them the dominant players in the National Assembly, which will choose a largely ceremonial president and two deputy presidents. They, in turn, will appoint a powerful prime minister who will choose a Cabinet."

Also note that 8.5 million people voted, and this turned out to be about 58% of the vote (I had predicted 60%). I think this is a great turnout, and everyone, I hope, will see it as such. I am also glad that the United Iraqi Alliance (Sistani’s party, but also includes Sunnis and others) won just under 50% of the vote. It should be easier to form a majority that is more moderate than would have been the case say, if the UIA won 60% of the vote.

If you are still of the mind that the regime change in Iraq has no effect on the rest of the region, note this Lee Smith article on Ammar Abdulhamid, a liberal Syrian. The liberals in the region, says Smith, "seem to be gathering a little momentum."

The leader of the vast left-wing conspiracy?

Congressman Rahm Emmanuel, elected in 2002, with experience in the Clinton White House, is the "canary in the mineshaft," according to Eleanor Clift. He is, she says "an early-warning system that is unafraid to alert his party and the country to the dangers ahead." He is well positioned to do that. He is a "man in a hurry," and she notes his drive and discipline. Clift: "If there’s a vast left-wing conspiracy, Emanuel is its high priest and rabbi." While the article ends up moving away from Emmanuel, I get Clift’s point: She is looking for Democrats who are smart and engaged and ambitious, those who may be the future of the party. O.K. that’s fine, we have Rahm Emmanuel, and by everyone’s assertion, Barak Obama. Its’ a start. But Clift should keep looking.

Relationships 101

Our college students have different kinds of problems with love (or, as everyone seems to call it, to my dismay, "relationships") than we had at their age. So classes are being offered on "relationship skills," how to take the relationship to "the next level," and marriage. Now, those of us who are around young people do understand that such matters are important to them and that, and I have noticed that progressively over the years, they have become more and more confused about how they should get to know one another, how they should behave (should I treat her as a lady, or just as a friend?, etc.). And sometimes, I must say, one is forced to step in and offer some guidance. I sometimes have, and, perhaps surprisingly, the students appreciate it. They do need help and, for some reason, parents are helping less than they should, and the forces outside of the family are not exactly teaching how to behave as ladies and gents. But such guidance is not a matter of teaching "skills" or "health", as the article would have it.

Some years back, when I kicked an Ashbrook Scholar out of the program for mistreating a young lady, I noticed that much hushed conversation ensued, entirely beneficial for civility. I also remember a worthy colleague who once taught a class on chivalry (or manliness); it was extremely popular. But, of course, it wasn’t a class on relationships, it didn’t have marriage homework, and he wasn’t a therapist. They read wonderful books, and they talked about men and women, and how they may differ, what each sees as happiness, and how the two views (if they exist), when properly understood and combined, may lead each toward something more human than not. My friend certainly did not take guidance from the International Association for Relationship Research as some of these courses do. Maybe love doctors are needed; I wouldn’t be surprised if colleges started offering degrees in "Relationships", but only after some Ph.D. programs in relationships are established first! Maybe Harvard would be a good place to start. For some thoughts on such matters from Terrence Moore see this
and this.
You might also want to consider this and this and this.

It seems entirely appropriate to let The Poet have the last word, from Love’s Labor’s Lost:

From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive:
They are the ground, the books, the academes,
From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire.

Or, a few lines later:

From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive.
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
They show, contain, and nourish all the world.

Wahhabis vs. red roses

Valentine’s Day, or the "Feast of Love" in Arabic, is taken very seriously in Saudi Arabia. This Reuters
dispatch, filed under "Oddly Enough," is more than amusing: "Saudi Arabia’s morality police are on the scent of illicit red roses as part of a clampdown on would-be St Valentine’s lovers in the strict Muslim kingdom. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious vigilantes, have banned shops from selling any red flowers in the run-up to February 14." Naturally, things don’t work exactly the way the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue would like. Red roses are available, but at twice the normal cost. And, as one florist said, "It’s the Saudi women who want these roses anyway." I’d be tempted to send a red rose to Saudi woman, if I knew one.

Dean consequence one

This short report from Florida speaks volumes to one of the consequences of Howard Dean being elected chairman of the DNC.
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual Caucus of the Florida Democratic Party in Orlando met and one of their leaders said this, in the words of the
Sun-Sentinel: With a rebel now heading the Democratic Party, Florida’s gay Democrats vowed Saturday to be puppets of their party no longer and to bring social issues to the front of their party’s concerns.

The Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party promised to offer more political candidates "with guts," saying that in the last election "our candidates were afraid to tell what was exactly in their hearts." Another Democrat said, "We’re liberal; we’re not in the middle. Let’s get away from that." Good. Clarity helps in politics.

Live, It’s The Ward Churchill Show!

Did anyone catch Ward Churchill on C-SPAN Saturday night? (Shows how boring my life is if I’m watching C-SPAN on a Saturday night. . .) Three observations:

1) If this is the face of the Left today, they haven’t much of a future. Pathetic.

2) What’s with the burly security perimeter around the dude? The audience was whooping and hollering for the guy; there was no threat of disruption or harm to the speaker. The security people, with their fake paramilitary-looking vests, made the thing look like a low-rent Nuremberg rally--which is what it was, come to think of it.

3) When the Italian-American chap asked why he shouldn’t have his free speech rights to hold a Columbus Day parade, Churchill offered an absurd explanation involving the Ninth Amendment and international treaties. To repair once again to the Gertrude Stein-on-Oakland remark, "There’s no there there" with this guy. It is all posing and hatred. At least the SDS in the 1960s had a manifesto, the Port Huron Statement. This guy probably writes in crayon.

Prediction: Whether this guy is fired or not, he is going to be a leading Left celebrity for the next few years. Watch for book contracts, appearances with Michael Moore, TV shows, T-shirts, etc. But all the while don’t ever forget how American represses dissent.

Ohio’s proposed "Academic Bill of Rights"

Peter mentioned the proposed "Academic Bill of Rights" in an earlier post. Here’s the text of the proposal, for those who are interested.

The law purports to apply to all colleges and universities in the state, not just public institutions. Of course, there are all sorts of issues one can raise with respect to this proposal. What, for example, would be the enforcement mechanism? None is mentioned in the legislation. I assume that if the bill were passed, a student who felt that his or her rights were violated could file suit seeking some sort of relief. If the legislation passed, and I were teaching in Ohio, I’d probably look into purchasing professional liability insurance, because I’m not sure I’d want to rely solely on my institution to defend me from the potentially frivolous lawsuits such a measure might inspire.

But there’s another issue I find even more troubling, one that trenches on the freedom of an institution to define its own educational mission. Here’s what the proposal says:

Faculty and instructors shall not use their courses or their positions for the purpose of political, ideological, religious, or antireligious indoctrination.

This sounds great until you think that, for example, promoting a religious point of view might well be integral to a college’s mission. The proposal seems to demand that every institution adhere essentially to a single standard--the liberal marketplace of ideas. What becomes of what some have called "institutional academic freedom," the freedom of an institution to define and pursue a distinctive mission?

And then there’s this:

University administrators, student government organizations, and institutional policies, rules, or procedures shall not infringe the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience of students and student organizations.

Again, this sounds great, until you think about "institutional academic freedom." A religious institution could not maintain a religious atmosphere on campus, for that would violate the freedoms of students and student organizations to speak and express themselves in heterodox ways. A religious school would have to permit--and, indeed, as another provision makes clear, fund out of student activities fees--an "atheist club."

Stated simply, in the name of promoting intellectual diversity (a most laudable national goal, not to mention a most laudable goal for Ohio and for many colleges and universities, one that I support wholeheartedly when it is consonant with the mission of the institution), the proposal seeks to impose a sort of institutional uniformity. In this respect, it departs from the model proffered by David Horowitz’s
Students for Academic Freedom, which contains this proviso:

These principles fully apply only to public universities and to private universities that present themselves as bound by the canons of academic freedom. Private institutions choosing to restrict academic freedom on the basis of creed have an obligation to be as explicit as is possible about the scope and nature of these restrictions.

I remember a debate when I was in grad school between
Walter Berns and someone from the port side of our department. At issue was the extent to which the university should be conceived as a servant of the society and subjected to democratic control. Mr. Berns’s (I can’t help it; he’s still "Mr. Berns" to me) response: "Do you really want the rug merchants to control the university?" Well, in Ohio, the rug merchants are banging on the campus gates. Why? Because all sorts of folks have been pursuing committed ideological agendas in their classrooms. Not everyone. Probably not even a majority. But there are enough people out there who enjoy inflicting their views on captive audiences. And they haven’t seriously considered the consequence of their actions, which is to provoke a political response to what they themselves understand to be a political act. And when the response comes, especially in this ham-handed form, we all lose. As someone said recently, the chickens are coming home to roost.

For another take on this issue, from a different point of view (I’m all about diversity), go here.

Update: It occurs to me that in the early 90s at least two of the regional accrediting associations--the Western States Association of Colleges and Schools and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, if memory serves--sought to impose a "one size fits all" vision of diversity in higher education on schools seeking reaccreditation. Among the targets were Thomas Aquinas College and St. John’s College Annapolis, whose "Great Books" curricula were insufficiently diverse, and Westminster Theological Seminary, whose Board of Trustees was insufficiently diverse. Defenders of genuine institutional diversity across the spectrum of American higher education successfully resisted this push (so much so that I was on the Middle States reaccrediting team for St. John’s). While accrediting agencies can threaten the future of colleges and universities in ways that the Ohio proposal (at least immediately) cannot, the two are similar in their indifference to genuine institutional diversity of mission.

None of this means that we should countenance faculty who indoctrinate and/or intimidate while hiding behind the barrier of academic freedom, nor that we shouldn’t do what we can to promote intellectual diversity on campuses that are ostensibly and officially devoted to it. But this legal sledgehammer is not terribly helpful to those of us in the trenches.

Hitler Riesling, Stalin Sherry

This Reuters out of Canada is interesting for two reasons. One, "wine labeled with a photo of brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was pulled from shelves in the Canadian province of Manitoba this week." The sherry and port came from the Massandra winery in Ukraine, it was an attempt to commemorate the Yalta conference held near the winery sixty years ago. (The photo included FDR and Churchill). A Canadian with Ukranian roots objected. He said: "I don’t think anyone in Canada would welcome a Hitler Riesling or a Stalin sherry or a Pol Pot port or a Mao Tse-tung merlot." Second, notice that the article says this: "About 3 percent of Canadians, or more than 1 million people, identify themselves as ethnic Ukrainians in census surveys." Whoa! That’s a lot of Ukranians. Could that be right? The very next sentence says: "About 40,000 Ukrainian political refugees moved to Canada after World War II." I guess a lot more Ukrainians have moved to Canada since, or, they’re not penguins. I didn’t know.

The trouble with liberals and democracy

Ross Terrill, a man on the Left, considers why the Left has lost faith in democracy (why the harsh change of tone in their rhetoric?) and its advancement. While not a sufficient answer, it is self-conscious enough to be taken seriously.
(via Instapundit)

Bill Moyers unrepentant

I’ve written about this before, but I just came across a new version of Bill Moyers’ now infamous article on conservative Christians and the environment.

Here’s the new version, published in In These Times, which I recall as a product of the 60s and which calls itself "a magazine of news, opinion and culture, committed to extending political and economic democracy and to opposing the tyranny of the marketplace over human values." While the slander of James Watt is gone, the rest of the article remains intact, including a slimy and out-of-context reference to a statement by Zell Miller. (The fact that Miller actually said what Moyers said he said is, I guess, sufficient warrant for a "journalist" of Moyers’ caliber--take that as you will--to wrench it out of context and attribute an entirely different meaning to it.)

Also remaining in the article is the implication that politicians supported by religious conservatives (most of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate, for example) probably support changing our environmental regulatory regime, not to mention upholding our friendship with Israel, for the reasons Moyers attributes to believers in the Rapture. By the same logic, I suppose, the fact that "rapturous Christian Zionists" support Israel must mean that most Israelis agree with their expectations regarding the "end times."

I should stop here, but I can’t resist adding this. Moyers started out putting words in James Watt’s mouth and distorting the words in Zell Miller’s mouth. He was called on both of these points, but has not backed off the second. Clearly he doesn’t respond to subtlety (and surely he’s incapable of it on his own). So I feel compelled to add--only for Mr. Moyers, not for the readers of this blog who are clearly quicker on the uptake--that the religious right is a demonstrably diverse group, not all of whom hold to the version of the "end times" about which Mr. Moyers is so worried. That religious conservatives support Republicans is thus far from prima facie evidence that they support the Republican environmental regulatory regime; Blaine Harden’s WaPo article ought to be sufficient to lay that line of reasoning to rest. The same "nuanced" line of reasoning should (but of course won’t) lead Mr. Moyers to the conclusion that the Republican environmental regulatory regime might follow from considerations other than those available to readers of the Book of Revelation. There are, after all, scientists and economists who support the Bush Administration on these matters too.

Again, I apologize for having to spell all this out. It’s not for you, gentle readers, it’s for him.

Update: For more on this, see John Hinderaker’s Weekly Standard piece and Byron’s York’s article for Front Page. It’s quite clear, among other things, if you read Moyers’s source, this article in the online journal Grist, that at least a portion of his own speech/article almost qualifies as plagiarism. Indeed, the logical flaws I identified above come not from Moyer’s mind, but from that of Glenn Scherer, the author of the Grist piece.

Congratulations to Allen Guelzo

Since Peter just mentioned Allen Guelzo’s book--Guelzo, it may be recalled, spoke at the Ashbrook Center last year--it is surely worth bringing up here that he has just become the first two-time winner of the annual Lincoln Prize. The prize is endowed by Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Guelzo won the first time in 2000 for his book Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. The second award was for Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. Hats off to him for this outstanding achievement.

Dean is chairman of DNC

Howard Dean has been elected Chairman of the DNC by voice vote. See
Michael Ramirez’s cartoon on this.

Lincoln’s birthday

Today is Lincoln’s birthday. Celebrate by reading and remembering why he is worth remembering. Here are couple of things worth a look. My review of Guelzo’s book on the Emancipation Proclamation; Lucas Morel’s review of three books on Lincoln; a good essay by Scott Johnson & John Hinderaker. And you might want to read Second Inaugural.

Eason Jordan’s resignation from CNN

This is the New York Times story on Eason Jordan’s resignation. If you want more, see this and this and this.
Michelle Malkin has a very good and short retrospective on the story, with good links.

Why is the AARP so opposed to Social Security reform?

Adam Dubitsky makes a good point about the AARP’s extreme stance on Social Security:

News reports have pegged AARP’s initial advertising blitz at $5 million; one could also assume that a forest’s worth of trees will be felled in the accompanying direct mail campaign. Before AARP members make up their minds about President Bush’s proposed private account option, they may want to peruse another AARP document: its consolidated financial statement.

And this:

n 1998, AARP began the transition from its defined benefit pension plan (such plans are crippling many of the nation’s airlines, steel mills and factories) and began offering its younger workers the option of diverting a portion of their paychecks into private accounts. The full transition will take decades, as older AARP retirees and their spouses continue to receive benefits promised under the old system.

It’s time for AARP to live up to its credo and stop opposing the very system of private accounts that has served its members and employees so well.

Read it all. Powerful.

Conservatives in the academy

Over at The Corner there is a conversation about conservative professors on college campuses. The conversation, in part, is brought about by the Ward Churchill flap (which John Moser notes below), but the issues in fact has been around for a long time. Note Steve Hayward’s comments at The Corner (and click down for more). Hayward rightly states this:

I went to Claremont for political science 25 years ago because it was one of the few graduate programs that had more than one conservative on the faculty, and had a curriculum that covered serious instead of frivolous subjects. About one-fourth to one-third of the relevant faculty, and roughly half of the graduate students in the department, were conservatives, which meant that we totally dominated the place. This is what liberals really fear: they may tolerate one conservative in isolation, but get two and you have a critical mass that takes over the place. Allow three conservatives on campus and it is all over for them. At Claremont it drove the new lefties crazy that they had do few students doing dissertations with them. To their great credit, some of the old New Deal liberals on the faculty (such people are downright right-wing on today’s campus) recognized that their best students were the conservatives who came to study with Harry Jaffa, Bill Allen, Jim Nichols, Harold Rood, etc and spilled over to their courses. That made some of the old liberals our allies in the academic fights. It is a long sad story, but Claremont Graduate University (not yet Claremont Mckenna College, but watch out) mostly succumbed to political correctness and trendiness.

The main points are two: First, the old New Deal liberals were actually allies of conservative students for the most part because they either recognized that their best students were conservatives and/or they recognized that the post-1960’s New Left were really quite off the mark and even dangerous; and the conservatives on campus were helping the old-fashioned liberals defend themselves from the New Left attacks. (This is a pregnant point: Why couldn’t the Old Liberals defend their own liberal principles from the New Left? Oddly, so-called conservatives had to do it for them; this proved the downfall of the Old Liberals. I say in passing that I have never met an old fashioned liberal with whom I couldn’t work, nor have I met a post-1960’s so-called liberal with whom I could work.) Second, Hayward is right in saying that when you get more than one conservative on a campus (especially in the same department) an intellectual tidal wave starts that is very hard to stop and the new liberals get angry. Why is this? It is partly the result of the fact that the so-called conservatives are more reasonable, more open, and more prone to allow for dissent in the classroom; and this is apprecaited by students. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, because of the students. The intellectual and moral disposition of most students (at least in the non-ivy league institutions) is rather more conservative than most people think. They are not disposed to think that the U.S. is a bad regime, or that there is no isness to is, or that God is dead, or that so called literary criticism should replace reading Shakespeare. This latter really irritates liberal professors on campuses: they have lost the students; they can no longer energize them, move them in their direction as they once did.

What to do about the liberal domination? That is a big question, of course. But, given the institutional arrangements, I can understand why so-called conservative graduate students go into something else than teaching. Life can be rough in the academy if you are a conservative. The march through the academic institutions by conservatives will take about fifty more years, and this is partly due to the structure of a university. I can also understand why people get impatient and want to pass laws, like the one proposed by Ohio State Senator Larry Mumper, that would (at least at state institutions) that would legislate that professors have to include diverse opinions in the classroom. The AP story on this states: "The proposal in Ohio to create an academic ’bill of rights’ would prohibit public and private college professors from presenting opinions as fact or penalizing students for expressing their views. Professors would not be allowed to introduce controversial material unrelated to the course." State Senator Mumper calls this an "academic bill of rights." This is a bad idea for a number of reasons (one is that it cannot be done, the other is that it should not be done). And I don’t think it will get anywhere, by the way. I understand the temptation to have an easy legislative solution to such a problem; the problem is much deeper than that, however.

Academic Freedom in Colorado

By now you’ve all heard about the Ward Churchill flap at the University of Colorado. You might have found yourselves wondering how a conservative in the Colorado public university system would be treated if he made controversial statements.

Well, wonder no more. Back in 1997 Luis Chavez, a history professor at Pikes Peak Community College, satirized th proliferation of ethnic studies programs by submitting a mock proposal for a "Gringo American Studies" program. He was suspended.

But wait, there’s more! Chavez appealed the decision, and it was overturned, but when his department chair, Katherine Sturdevant, testified on his behalf at the appeals hearing, "the administration stripped her of her chairmanship of the history department, took away her office on the college’s new campus, reassigned her to the older campus, removed her from various college committees, denied her merit raises, and gave her a negative evaluation after twelve years of positive performance reviews."

Professor Sturdevant decided to take legal action, and, four years later, a federal court ordered that she be reinstated, and that the college award her $75,000 and a raise.

Hat tip to Ralph Frasca at Division of Labour.

McPherson Speaking Today

Civil War historian James McPherson, the author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Battle Cry of Freedom, will be at the Ashbrook Center today at 3:00pm speaking on his latest book, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. You can listen online by clicking here.

North Korean gambit

Now that North Korea has admitted that it has nukes,
and thereby also admitting that it has been lying for a while (including to Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter), the stakes are getting very interesting. China is the one who could apply most pressure, of course. This will become interesting.
The Belmont Club has more thoughts (click down).

Rumsfeld in Iraq

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld made an unscheduled stop in Iraq yesterday after meeting with NATO
defense ministers in France. NATO countries are commiting to train Iraqi soldiers and police. Bush is to visit Europe in a few weeks.

Church and state in Georgia

For two years in a row, Georgia’s Republican Governor Sonny Perdue has been promoting a measure to bring our state’s constitutional provisions in line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment, which, of course, is not perfect, but better than what we have here in the Peach State. The current provision reads as follows:

No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution.

As it currently stands, this language prohibits much of what comprises the faith-based initiative at the federal level, permitting only contracting with largely secularized organizations, like Catholic Social Services. A working mother could not take a state-provided child care voucher and redeem it at a church-based pre-school. An addict could not use a state-provided voucher to receive services from a faith-based rehab program. And, obviously and most importantly, no parent could use a voucher to send his or her kids to a religious school.

That, indeed, is the rub, the principal reason that opponents of the proposed amendment prevailed yesterday in the state senate, with the measure falling three votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority.

The irony is that the argument deployed in opposition assumes that the current constitution prohibits vouchers, such as those currently given to Georgia students attending private (including church-related) colleges and universities and those financed through the state lottery for pre-kindergarten. The wildly popular HOPE Scholarship also is redeemable at church-related colleges and universities. So either the opponents of the Governor’s proposal are wrong, and the state constitution already permits what they say is their principal fear, or they’re right, and some of the most popular programs in Georgia--the cornerstones of our effort to raise ourselves from the bottom of national educational rankings--are unconstitutional, existing either because no one had been foolish (or smart) enough to sue or because judges are willing to overlook the plain meaning of Georgia’s constitutional language.

Sorry for intruding this "parochial" concern on this page, but it’s the only place I can vent. And Georgia’s battle is, after all, a microcosm of what occurs across the country, indicative of obstacles the faith-based initiative faces on the ground.

Praising Bush

Oh, oh. President Bush is reading books, Richard Cohen notes. This proves that he is taking things seriously. In Bush reading is an "ominous sign," according to Cohen. Bush is proving that he is unorthodox, and his former image is fading. The scoffing has stopped. "Because Bush is certain he can bend history, he just might become one of those American Presidents who is thought to have made a difference. The most recent was Ronald Reagan."
I’m tempted to put Cohen on the couch, but let’s just leave this as is and say that Cohen is admitting, however reluctantly, that Bush is a serious person. That will do. The Senate
has "approved a measure Thursday to help shield businesses from major class action lawsuits like the ones that have been brought against tobacco companies, giving President Bush the first legislative victory of his second term." The vote was 72-26. And the House
has passed a bill that makes sure that states do note give drivers licenses to illegal aliens. The vote was 261-161.

A racial slur in a prep-school

There might be more to this than meets the eye, but I don’t see it yet. It is at least a dispute over a grade. A teacher in a prep school in Chicago
has been accused of inappropriate conduct for using a racial slur. The teacher has written a letter of apology.


reports that a fifteen member regional African group is not recognizing the new president of Togo and they are threatening sanctions. The current president is the son of the former president, and the constitution was changed by the legislature in order to allow him to take over the day after his father died. This is a short essay on what has been going on in Togo by a former Peace Corps volunteer. He asks why the U.S. is not more involved. I’m trying to find out what the French are doing, if anything.


Here is a brief report of a talk by Francis Fukuyama at the University of Chicago a few days ago.

Ramirez Cartoon

The bad Churchill

Andrew Busch was an undergraduate at the University of Colorado. He has a special interest in this ill-named Ward Churchill. Busch modestly advises:

Instead of being fired, perhaps he should be studied and examined, much as one might probe the victim of a once-rare psychiatric disorder that has become rampant. Ward Churchill might be more valuable to the opponents of the academic left employed than unemployed.

Above all, he can serve as a living window into the intellectual, moral, and political bankruptcy of the left.  

Liberty and Prudence

Terrence Moore wrote a long and very good essay on Bush’s rhetoric, using Bush’s Second Inaugural speech. We have published it as an Ashbrook Dialogue so that you can use it at will, including for classroom pruposes. The title is revealing: "A Lot of ’Liberty,’ Not a Lot of ’Prudence’?:
President Bush and the Western Rhetorical Tradition" It is about ten pages in PDF format. A sample:

As Americans, we have inherited our rhetorical tradition from two different sources, two cities that demand particular kinds of citizenship: Athens and Jerusalem. All great speeches or public utterances in American history have been inspired by one or both of these rhetorical traditions. President Bush’s Second Inaugural is arguably a great speech because he has combined these two traditions in order to define the American mission not only for his second term, but for this coming century. The question remains whether he has left unspoken a part of this tradition that would prevent us from a fatal overreaching.

Abbas takes "unprecedented step"

Just in case you are a bit pessimistic about the movement toward real peace in the Mid East, note this. Palestinian President Abbas did something quite interesting today: He "fired three of his top security chiefs on Thursday after militants, puncturing a cease-fire he reached with Israel, bombarded Jewish settlements in Gaza with mortar rounds."

Condi on the road

Condi Rice has made her first trip aborad. You have seen reports on it for days, and this Arizona Republic editorial nicely captures the effect: "The European media are falling all over themselves parsing her ambiguities." This is exactly what we wanted. A little movement (maybe a lot) in the Middle East, a little support from the Germans, nothing especially antagonistic from the French, and everyone thinking that this is a smart, subtle (and good looking) Secretary of State. How do you say "darn it" in French? Welcome home Condi.

Addition: A kind reader sends this: "One says ’zut’ or ’zut alors’. The vowel is pronounced midway between the
oo in pool and the oo in foot." Thank you.

Red state Demos wary of Dean

The Hill reports that "some Democrats in Republican-dominated states already look to be putting distance between themselves and incoming Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean, the Vermont firebrand." Also note this: "These Democrats insist that Dean...won’t be a political liability, despite Republican efforts to turn him into a national whipping boy." John Kerry, by the way, has donated $1 million to the DNC.

Hillary beats Kerry in poll

In case John Kerry thinks he has a chance of beating Hillary in 2008, note that a Sufforlk University poll of voters in Mass. finds that Hillary Clinton beats John Kerry in a 2008 prsidential primary matchup, 51-34%. I guess everyone in the state has seen his performance on Meet the Press, or, they just remember his campaign.

Senator Al Franken?

The good news yesterday was that Democratic Senator Mark Dayton (MN) will not run for re-elecgtion. Too bad, easy seat to win for the GOP, it seemed to me. But then even better news showed up: It looks like Al Franken will run for the seat. Excellent. The good news just continues to roll in.

Addendum: Apparently, at the end of his radio show today, Franken said he will not run in 2006, but may run against Coleman in 2008, according to the AP.

Religion and the universities again

Terry Mattingly has this interesting post on Baylor, God on the Quad, and Bob Jones University. The most interesting portions are on BJU (follow the link to this Newsweek interview) and, in the comments section, on Baylor.

Update: You can find reviews of God on the Quad here and here, and an interview with Naomi Schaefer Riley here. I’m still withholding final judgment, but here’s the lead paragraph from the first review linked above:

If the past two decades have been an era of religious revival in America--what some observers have called the fourth Great Awakening in the nation’s history--the predominantly secular world of U.S. higher education seems at first glance to have been remarkably untouched by the spirit of the times. Large majorities of undergraduates, for instance, say they seek meaning and purpose in their lives, yet just 8 percent report hearing professors discuss spiritual or religious issues in or out of the classroom, according to a major study of campus religious life by University of California-Los Angeles researchers. "There is a poor fit today between students’ interest in spiritual matters and the universities’ general lack of interest in those concerns," says Alexander Astin, founder of UCLA’ s Higher Education Research Institute.

And then there’s this from

Christianity Today’s weblog:

Rarely is the watering down of a college’s religious commitments spelled out so clearly than in the revisions to the Davidson College Statement of Purpose and bylaws, approved last week by the board of trustees.

No longer does the North Carolina college seek "ties which bind the college to the Presbyterian Church." (Davidson has official ties to the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) Now it’s "ties that bind the college to its Presbyterian heritage." And where the school used to "intend that this vital relationship be continued to the mutual benefit of church and school," it now doesn’t say that it wants to benefit the church.

Likewise, the new statement dropped the line that it’s "a college whose tradition commits it to nurture the life of the spirit."

Fortunately, the trustees rejected the most astounding change proposed by ad hoc committee of its members. The proposal had "Davidson commits itself to a Christian tradition that recognizes God as the source of all truth" replaced with "The religious tradition that has shaped Davidson recognizes God as the source of all truth." The final version now says "The Christian tradition to which Davidson remains committed recognizes God as the source of all truth."

Ted Olson, who compiles CT’s weblog, which I consistently find extremely useful, concludes in the following way:

At Davidson, apparently, it’s best to view religion as an old historical thing that’s shaped stuff in the past rather than something that "nurtures the life of the spirit" and has an active, present role in directing one’s educational aims.

For those concerned about religion and higher education, this is an interesting case study. Davidson is one of the crown jewels among
PCUSA-afilliated colleges and universities. I suspect that the trustees are simply acknowledging and acquiescing in facts already on the ground, rather than actually charting a new course for the institution. But this recognition or surrender--consigning religion to the dusty bookshelf, if not the dustbin, of history--bespeaks the difficulty of maintaining a serious connection with one’s religious heritage in the face of a pervasive public culture whose preferred response to religious pluralism is to stress secularism or to change the subject.

For Davidson’s somewhat different take on its changes, go here.

Update #2: A friend writes from North Carolina:"there has been a gradual decoupling from the Presbyterian church over the last several years, much to the dismay of a number of bright and thoughtful religious students of mine. It will, however, take several years for Davidson to assimilate entirely to the homogenous, indistinguishable academic establishment--above all because there is an active Christian subculture among a sizable minority of students."

More on James Watt

Via Powerline, there’s this account of how the phoney quote from James Watt made its way to the Washington Post. Interesting reading and good journalism.

"Where can you go when there ain’t no San Francisco?"

I remember that song from when I lived in the Bay Area a long long time ago. The next line had something to do with tying up your boat in Idaho, after an earthquake centered on the San Andreas Fault had caused the slate to slip into the ocean. Joel Kotkin offers us a somewhat less apocalyptic version of that vision here, arguing that things like affordable housing and business-friendly political climates are attracting talent away from backward-looking "Euro-America" (you know, New York, Boston, San Francisco...) to places like Boise and Reno. But before all you Karl Rove wannabes out there start celebrating, Kotkin offers this caution:

CONSERVATIVES AND REPUBLICANS have reasons to celebrate the conflict between a slowly declining Euro-America and the cities of aspiration. Yet the future may not be so easy to predict. Success, defined as increased jobs and population, has a way of turning cities of aspiration toward a more European worldview.

This has already occurred in places like Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, where public employees have made common cause with wealthy environmentalists, resulting in a kind of one-party, status-quo politics. Over time, this phenomenon could spread to today’s aspirational cities. As places like even Phoenix, Houston, and Reno grow, become congested, and attract refugees from Euro-America, a powerful lobby against economic expansion will start to develop.

These issues tend to gain currency as traffic jams worsen, schools get overcrowded, and the countryside recedes. And while conservatives offer bromides about the free market, open space grows more scarce, and infrastructure, including schools and roads, is neglected. This failure opens the door to liberals and Democrats, even in states such as Nevada, Arizona, and Florida.

But, in the end, he argues:

Euro-American politics do not work in aspirational cities. Where and when such policies do become influential, companies, entrepreneurs, and individuals will seek their future elsewhere, in places where they don’t have to subsidize fancy nightclubs, art galleries, gay bars, and yuppie lofts, or pay the freight for inefficient public-sector bureaucracies. If the contagion takes over Phoenix, these restless Americans will move further out, into the unregulated exurbs or deeper into the hinterland, to Boise, the Salt Lake Valley, or beyond.

The American future belongs to those places where people can most fully engage in their private pursuit of happiness. The party--and the politicians--that can appeal to these voters, wherever they are, will be the one likely to win political power.

"People I talk to and want to recruit seem more than willing to come here," notes Reno entrepreneur Darik Volpa. "It’s a different feel here. It’s more friendly, people open doors. In the Bay Area or Boston, it’s get in line. Here it’s still open to new people and new ideas."

I have some hesitations about this line of argument, as, apparently does Kotkin, who makes a somewhat different one
here. In this past weekend’s WaPo, he argues that the latest developments seem to suggest a desire on our part to replicate some of the "communal" features of cities--walkable neighborhoods, cultural and religious institutions, and so on--in the suburbs. This isn’t the private pursuit of happiness simply, and it’s a lot closer to James Howard Kunstler’s vision than Kotkin wants to admit. Kunstler, by the way, has delivered a lecture, sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute on "Why Conservatives Should Care About the New Urbanism."

My own view, briefly stated, is that safe walkable neighborhoods are ultimately more kid-friendly than typical suburban tracts. (And we all know, I say only somewhat facetiously, that children are the glue of the community. To restate a hackneyed point: "It takes a bunch of kids to raise a village.") Wherever you can produce housing that is kid-friendly, you’ll have population growth. So put the doggone new urbanist developments where we want them, where our kids can be safe!

I hasten to add that I am not anti-"Euro-America" or anti-urban: cities still have a prominent place in our economic and cultural lives (Kotkin nails that one in his Weekly Standard piece), and I’m not about to demand that all students and bohemians abandon their "enlightenements."

Update: Ken Masugi has a post full of interesting and provocative thoughts about related issues here.

Food for thought

What do people think about this? Here’s a sample:

President Bush’s second-term agenda would expand not only the size of the federal government but also its influence over the lives of millions of Americans by imposing new national restrictions on high schools, court cases and marriages.

In a clear break from Republican campaigns of the 1990s to downsize government and devolve power to the states, Bush is fostering what amounts to an era of new federalism in which the national government shapes, not shrinks, programs and institutions to comport with various conservative ideals, according to Republicans inside and outside the White House.

A brief observation (dental work today, so I’ll be "remarkably passive"): some of what the Post is describing is principled conservative push-back against liberal activists (e.g., the gay marriage amendment); some of it is a variation on the theme of federally-driven devolution and "privatization" (e.g., the faith-based initiative); I’m prepared to defend this stuff. I’m less prepared to defend "No Adolescent Left Behind" because I was never really keen on "No Child Left Behind" as the solution to our education problems. I’d prefer school choice (yes, vouchers), but teachers’ union resistance makes that extremely hard to sell. So politicians are driven to ham-handed accountability measures like No Child Left Behind, to which many schools respond by "teaching to the test," which is the easy way out.

O.K., I’m going to go turn on the television and stare at it until the pain pills start working.

Public cyberschools

This, front page, above the fold, story in the New York Times on Branson Online, an internet-based public school that is national but was founded locally (Branson, Colorado). I find this especially interesting. Apparently, such online public schools--attached to sponsoring districts--are experiencing "explosive growth." This has become an attractive alternative for parents "who wish to supervise their children’s education at home, and for students who hold jobs or are disbaled." There is more to be said on this interesting phenomenon (related, obviously to charter schools and vouchers); I find it very interesting and will look into it and report back.

Straws in the Wind

One aspect of the whole Eason Jordan affair that is bouncing around the blogosphere that has gone unremarked is the fact that two people who continue to corroborate the worst version of Jordan’s remarks are two certified world-class liberals, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. This suggests that Jordan’s remarks really were egregious and beyond the pale, though of course the wimpy David Gergen could be relied upon to gloss everything over. (Gergen’s role in this sent me scurrying for Michael Kelly’s wonderful description of Gergen back in 1993: "To be Gergenized is to be spun by the velveteen hum of this soothing man’s smoothing voice into a state of such vertigo that the sense of what is real disappears into a blur." Michael, do we ever miss you.)

If one ponders the Frank-Dodd resolution and forthrightness in this matter, it is possible that what we are seeing here is a couple of very smart Democrats recognizing when it is politically smart to stand up and defend America’s military from scurrilous attack. In other words, maybe Frank and Dodd have absorbed the election returns.

A second such indicator came during Treasury Secretary Snow’s testimony about the budget yesterday in the House. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (who once asked NASA if th Mars Rover could find the spot where our astronauts landed in in 1969) said Social Security could be saved simply by raising taxes on the very rich. Suddenly Charlie Wrangel intervened to disavow Lee, and say that such an idea was not (yet) the policy of the Democratic Party.

Who says these guys will never learn?

Gallup poll

This is the new Gallup Poll showing that Bush has a 57% appproval rating (up from 51% three weeks ago), with only 40% saying they don’t approve. There is more. That the Democrats are having a bit of a time of it at the moment is an understatement. I remind you of this
Noemie Emery article, "The Dems’ Week from Hell," I mentioned a few days ago.

Karl Rove to have bigger role in policy

Karl Rove will become a deputy White House chief of staff in charge of coordinating policy between the White House Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, National Security Council and Homeland Security Council. He has been a senior advisor to the President, and responsible for expanding the Republican base, one might say. Although he has been involved in policy matters, this will solidify his authority (as if he needed more solid ground upon which to stand!), and proves that Bush is serious about his agenda, including Social Security.

More Charlotte Simmons

This piece from the New York Times is a surprisingly sympathetic review of the reviews, especially those that appeared in campus publications. The author points to the phenomenon described by Naomi Schaefer Riley’s God on the Quad as a response and possible antidote to the corruption Wolfe describes.

Other little essays on Wolfe that are worth reading can be found here and here. My old friend Carol McNamara anticipates some of the Charlotte Simmons themes in an article published in the current Perspectives on Political Science.

As for Naomi Schaefer Riley’s book, I’m in the middle of it, having persuaded the good people at Touchstone to let me review it. Let it not be said that she doesn’t start with what some might regard as the toughest institutions to sell to a general readership, BYU and BJU. For a snarky review of the book, you can go here. I promise you, it won’t influence me.

Koran scholars wanted for elite anti-terror squad

This is interesting:

When Judge Hamoud al-Hitar announced that he and four other Islamic scholars would challenge Yemen’s Al Qaeda prisoners to a theological contest, Western antiterrorism experts warned that this high-stakes gamble would end in disaster.

Nervous as he faced five captured, yet defiant, Al Qaeda members in a Sanaa prison, Judge Hitar was inclined to agree. But banishing his doubts, the youthful cleric threw down the gauntlet, in the hope of bringing peace to his troubled homeland.

If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle," Hitar told the militants. "But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence."

The prisoners eagerly agreed.

Now, two years later, not only have those prisoners been released, but a relative peace reigns in Yemen. And the same Western experts who doubted this experiment are courting Hitar, eager to hear how his "theological dialogues" with captured Islamic militants have helped pacify this wild and mountainous country, previously seen by the US as a failed state, like Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Since December 2002, when the first round of the dialogues ended, there have been no terrorist attacks here, even though many people thought that Yemen would become terror’s capital," says Hitar, eyes glinting shrewdly from beneath his emerald-green turban. "Three hundred and sixty-four young men have been released after going through the dialogues and none of these have left Yemen to fight anywhere else."

Of course, you have to catch ’em first.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip:
Jeremy Lott at Get Religion.

Howard Dean is it

Howard Dean is now the only candidate for DNC Chairman. Tim Roemer has withdrawn. He offered this warning to Democrats:

"I got into this race five weeks ago to talk about the devastating loss we experienced in November. It was not about 60,000 votes in Ohio. It was about losing 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties in the country. If that’s a trend in business or politics you’re in trouble."

Roemer also said that Republicans are in the strongest position they’ve been in since the early 20th century. He is right.

The Nation article

I read the Nation article about which Joseph Knippenberg blogged. His characterization of it is wrong. Most of what it says is accurate, although it, like Knippenberg, misses the point. The issue in the founding was not the status of religion but the status of revealed religion or religion beyond the bounds of reason. It is undeniable, I think, that the Founding was at best neutral to revealed religion. Religion as subordinate to the needs of politics, what Knippenberg’s snippet from the Farewell Address discusses, was fine with the Founders but that is religion within the bounds of reason. It was not revealed religion, which is always some particular religion. Anyone is free to follow particular religions, according to the Founding, but none has any political authority. Madison in fact wanted lots of sects, as he called them, so that they would counteract one another. As a historical and political fact, the Founders’ understanding of religion turned out to be wrong. This is not my opinion but that of John Quincy Adams, who, unlike the Founders he knew personally, was an orthodox Christian.

The Nation strikes again

Some time ago, I took up for Jim Wallis against the onslaughts of Katha Pollitt. His crime? Taking religion too seriously, which would bring back the Spanish Inquisition or the wars of religion.

Now The Nation is at it again, publishing a crude farrago, consisting mostly of snippets and quotations from Washington, Madison, Franklin, Jefferson, Tom Paine, and John Adams, all in an effort to expose the Bush Administration’s "lie" that America was founded on Christian principles. I must have missed something, since I don’t recall the President having made such a claim. Or is Brooke Allen taking as her point of departure the oft-repeated claim that liberty is God’s gift to humankind and making it much more robustly sectarian than it is. (Indeed, it would be ironic to invoke, as she does, Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, against this notion.)

Ann Althouse begins the demolition of Allen’s argument by noting that many of the Madison quotes are wrenched out of context from his "Memorial and Remonstrance," hardly an anti-religious work. I’ll add my two cents’ worth by noting Washington’s "Farewell Address":

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. ’Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free Government. Who that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric.

I could go on at great length, but I’ll cite only one additional piece of evidence, a provision of
the "Northwest Ordinance", passed under the Articles of Confederation and repassed by the First Congress, which had a high proportion of constitution signatories:

Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Allen is surely right that some of the Founders were not conventionally religious men, but many more were. And even some of the "godless" founders thought that religion had an important public role to play. Hence the First Amendment enjoined the establishment of a national religion, but did not operate in any way, shape, or form to disestablish state religions. I think that it’s important to have a debate on the role of religion in American public life, but the folks at The Nation need to do more homework before they can hold up their end of the argument credibly.

By the way, most of the documents I cited in this post can be found on this totally wonderful Ashbrook site.

Update: Ramesh Ponnuru can’t remember examples of the Bushian political rhetoric of which Brooke Allen complains either. And please see my response to David Tucker’s post. I don’t think we’re as far apart as he thinks.

Why I love my job

Today was a good day. In my morning class on "Moral and Political Leadership," we were discussing Abraham Lincoln, relying on William Lee Miller’s very fine Lincoln’s Virtues. Taking as our point of departure Miller’s treatments of Lincoln’s stance on the Mexican-American War (ch. 7) and his role in the 1848 election (ch. 8), we worked toward a distinction between two different moral roles in political life--prophetic witness and statesmanship. Since both episodes in Lincoln’s life have close contemporary parallels, making a case for their relevance wasn’t too terribly difficult. Since there is an awful lot of talk in contemporary religious circles about the role of the church in offering prophetic witness--speaking truth to power and letting the chips fall where they may (relying, in other words, on Providence)--I left my students with the following questions. Statesmen, who are responsible for the ongoing welfare, security, and prosperity of their communities, have to care about the consequences of their actions. They have to make decisions based upon moral principle, the best information they have available, and their best estimates of how others will respond to their actions. And as new situations emerge, they have to re-evaluate. A prophet called by God has a responsibility only to utter the word of the Lord. But how does the prophet know that he or she is called? How do we know that the prophet is called? How frequently is prophetic witness an explicitly and self-consciously political stance, in which case the same strictures regarding information, reactions, and consequences would seem to apply? In other words, is there really a sustainable distinction between prophetic witness and statesmanship, assuming that those who inhabit both roles are moral actors?

And then there was my afternoon class on "Liberal Education and Political Philosophy," in which we were supposed to get to Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, but continued a discussion (begun last week) of Leo Strauss’s "Liberal Education and Responsibility" (from Liberalism Ancient and Modern). The issue I pressed my students on is the very "political" nature of Strauss’s presentation of the role of liberal education, as he addresses himself to people living in democratic times and treats specifically of the role of liberally educated people in a democracy. Why can’t we have an "aristocracy of everyone"? Why can’t we realize Marx’s vision in The German Ideology, where everyone is a hunter in the morning, a fisherman in the afternoon, and a critical critic after dinner, i.e., where everyone acts in effect like a liberally educated person with leisure? And if we can’t realize these goals, then why shouldn’t we do the just thing and offer everyone the same "mediocre" education? How can we "justify" offering some an excellent (liberal) education that isn’t available to everyone? How can people so educated profit those who don’t share in their education?

Fun stuff that makes students’ heads hurt.

D’Souza Defends Lincoln from the Right and the Left

In American History magazine (April 2005), Dinesh D’Souza (now residing at the Hoover Institution as their Rishwain Scholar) has written an excellent defense of Lincoln for those unaware of the attacks Lincoln has received recently from the Libertarian and Southern Agrarian Right and the Liberal Left. "Abraham Lincoln as Statesman" argues that Lincoln’s greatness derives from his profound understanding of, and maneuvering within, the American tension between the equality of rights possessed by all human beings and the consent of the governed that produces legitimate political action. Here’s a teaser from the end of the article:

Lincoln was acutely aware that many people in the North were vehemently antiblack and saw themselves as fighting to save their country rather than to free slaves. Lincoln framed the case against the Confederacy in terms of saving the Union in order to maintain his coalition--a coalition whose victory was essential to the antislavery cause. And ultimately it was because of Lincoln that slavery came to an end...

In my view, Lincoln was the true "philosophical statesman," one who was truly good and truly wise. Standing in front of his critics, Lincoln is a colossus, and all of the Lilliputian arrows hurled at him bounce harmlessly to the ground. It is hard to put any other president--not even George Washington--in the same category as Abraham Lincoln. He is simply the greatest practitioner of democratic statesmanship that America and the world have yet produced.

Reagan’s birthday

Criag Shirley’s book, Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign that Started it All, just landed on my desk and I was reminded that yesterday was Reagan’s birthday. Normally, that is, when I was younger, I would remember. Sorry about that. Shirley’s book looks pretty good, it recounts how Reagan almost won the nomination in 1976. When notified that Reagan had picked the liberal Republican Senator Schweiker as his running mate (were he to get the nomination) Congressman John Ashbrook, according to Shirley, said that "was the dumbest thing I ever heard." He also said, according to Jeff Bell, who was deputized to tell Ashbrook who the choice was, "You can tell him that he [Reagan] can go plumb f___ himself." No one ever doubted where Ashbrook stood. Anyway, a belated Happy Birthday to the Gipper!

Semper fi, General Mattis

Both Ralph Peters and Mac Owens have opinions about Lt. Gen. Jim Mattis’ comment on a panel discussing the future of war (Peters was on the panel and Owens is a Marine) when he said Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot… It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling… You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.
Now, you can read their comments on your own; they’re both tried and true men. You don’t really need my opinion on this one. Yet, I will just say this: It is good that our military is under civilian control and it is good that we have warriors in our military who understand that war is a harsh teacher and who understand that it is best of our enemy to say of us, "it is a terrible thing to fight the Americans." And it should be added, this is true even though the Americans are not Spartans. And yet, we should not do as the Ancient Greeks did: Elect our generals, or, discard them, exile them, indict them, or fine them, over almost nothing, even less than the great Greek generals Miltiades, Themosticles, Percicles, Alcibiades, and Epaminondas were. And certainly we cannot have the MSM or CAIR play the judge, jury and executioner of those who are willing to bleed for us. The General spoke honestly. He thought he was speaking to warriors; that’s what he is used to. Imprudent, maybe, but no crime. I note in passing that the Budweiser commercial of soldiers getting off a plane, being appluaded by civilians, slowly coming to that recognition and smiling, was the best ad during the Super Bowl yesterday, according to polls. The Americans, though not Spartans, recognize the cruelty of war, as well as the need for honor. But then, the American citizen is not the MSM or CAIR, thank God.

Bill Clinton on Social Security

Bill Clinton in 2002:

When I left office, there was enough money to keep Social Security going till 2053, enough money to keep Medicare going tail 2027, through half the life of the baby boomers. I don’t know what the latest numbers are going to show but they won’t be good. If we don’t modify the tax cut to have more tax cuts now but we reinstate fiscal responsibility over the long run, we’re going to be in real trouble there. So, what’s our option? If you don’t like privatizing Social Security and I don’t like it very much, but you want to do something to try to increase the rate of return, what are your options? Well one thing you could do is to give people one or two percent of the payroll tax, with the same options that Federal employees have with their retirement accounts; where you have three mutual funds that almost always perform as well or better than the market and a fourth option to buy government bonds, so you get the guaranteed social security return and a hundred percent safety just like you have with Social Security. (via Instapundit)

Blog power

Yesterday I posted on an interesting article on evangelical environmentalism. This morning I updated it to take into account Powerline’s takedown of Bill Moyers’ sloppy effort to discredit religious conservatives on environmental grounds. While I can’t at the moment take credit for Powerline’s having noticed that the WaPo article repeated Moyers’ smear of James Watt (I did send them an email, but any number of their other faithful readers might have done the same), Hindrocket updated his post and indicated that he had asked WaPo to run a correction. Roughly fifteen minutes ago, I emailed Blaine Harden, the WaPo reporter, asking if there was any evidence to corroborate the Watt story. Within five minutes, I received a reply that the quote was a phony and that the Post will be running a correction tomorrow.

Checks and balances, folks. Wish we didn’t need them. Very glad we have them.

Update: Bill Moyers has apologized to James Watt on the telephone and will think about ways to publicize a written apology. Enough said.

Update #2: But wait, there’s more. Bill Moyers isn’t as repentant as I had originally thought.

Movement toward Mideast peace

The White House is downplaying expectations that the invitations to both Sharon and Abbas to come to Washington this Spring (separately) will lead to peace. And they should play down such expectations. Yet, the movement toward a serious settlement is clearly on the way. Condi Rice didn’t visit with both men for nothing. The first steps have been taken. All this, of course, has to do with my prediction about Bush’s Nobel Peace Prize. My note of a few weeks ago seemed to anger a lot of people, both on the left and right. Some have misunderstood me. Let me be clear. I do not care anything about the Nobel Peace Prize. I don’t think Bush does, either. I said Bush would get it only to point to something obvious: Even the left, and the international left, even the MSM, and every other (well, almost every other) Bush hater will have to admit at a certain point (probably three years away, meybe less) that Bush might merit the Prize, if it were based on merit. Therefore, chances are very good that he will get it, if the world were just. If the Prize were based on merit he will end up getting it. That’s all I meant. Although it has to be admitted--the way the world works and all--that Jimmy Carter may get another one for his books of poems, or, that Bill Clinton will get one for helping the Tsunami victims. I hope you get it.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for January

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

Luke Vogt

Barbara Heran

Lori Hahn

Donald F. Hawbaker

John Rice

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 February’s drawing.

The Demos’ vision gap

Noemie Emery explains why the Democrats are not doing so well, and are unlikely to do any better given their disposition on just about everything. The "vision gap" between the Republicans and the Democrats is perfectly clear during one week in January. Note their attacks on Condi Rice, Kennedy calling Iraq Vietnam, Evan Bayh’s self serving vote against Rice, and John Kerry’s Meet the Press performance. And, it should be added, in a few days Howard Dean will become the chairman of the DNC. Perfect.  

The Demos Deanspeak on Social Security

George Will applauds Bush’s use of Hamilton for Hamiltonian ends (as opposed to the Progressives motto of using Hamiltonian means for Jeffersonian ends) in trying to restructure Social Security and, in doing so, he beats up on Harry Reid especially (but also slaps at other Democrats). He says that Teddy Roosevelt’s designation of John Tyler as "politician of monumental littleness" applies exactly to Reid. Bush is not playing roulette, Reid to the contrary notwithstanding, with Social Security. Will explains.  

Bush’s reading

Elizabeth Bumiller on on President Bush’s reading habits. She emphasizes that he has read I am Charlotte Simmons and is recommending it to friends, but she doesn’t understand why.
Also note that he has been reading Oswald Chambers. Ken Masugi understands why Bush has been reading Wolfe:

Charlotte Simmons in fact is a major work on moral and intellectual decline, the corruption of the youth, and the complicity of America’s intellectual class in this rot. That observation the President surely appreciates. Those who argue that Bush is anti-intellectual are more right than they know.

Sophistry vs. education

John Moser’s reference to the current issue of The Atlantic reminds me that a week or so ago he noted an article by Walter Kirn, "Lost in the Meritocracy," which was not available on line. I got a copy and read it. John’s right. It is a great article about the difference between sophistry and education. Very much worth reading, I recommend it as well.

The Crimes of Saddam Hussein

In this month’s issue of The Atlantic there is an article by William Langewiesche, who back in the summer of 2002 had a series on 9/11 that was absolutely incredible. Anyway, this month’s piece, "The Accuser" (sorry, access is by subscription only) deals with Hania Mufti, the Jordanian human rights activist who since the early 1980s tracked the atrocities carried out by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. It is not for the faint of heart, and I imagine makes particularly uncomfortable reading for those who argued that the Iraq War was unjust.

When I asked her [i.e., Mufti] what she had felt in Kurdistan during the lead-up to the invasion, she did not answer for herself but described the concern of the people around her. They were worried that international opposition to the war might cause Britain and the United States to hesitate, or back down. She said, "The question about whether there were weapons of mass destruction or not, I think for many Iraqis that was just a red herring. It didn’t matter whether they were found. And there were all these antiwar demonstrations being shown on television, in Europe and the States, and elsewhere in the Middle East. And I remember sitting with various groups of Kurds watching the news, and they’d look at the TV screen and gesture in this way"—she waved her hand dismissively—"and they’d say, ’These people don’t know what they’re talking about. They should come here and try Saddam for a while, and see whether or not they like it for themselves.’"

Ten worst Super Bowl moments

Fox Sports lists the ten worst Super Bowl moments. Number one is this:

It’s still the only last-minute, game-winning field goal attempt that’s ever been missed. Jim O’Brien and Adam Vinatieri and ... Adam Vinatieri all made theirs. And those three kicks all came with the score tied. But not only did poor Scott Norwood miss wide right, but his team trailed by one, meaning the miss was the difference between winning and losing, not between winning and OT as with the others.

The important thing, though, is that coach Marv Levy’s crazily conservative play-calling that left Norwood with a 47-yard attempt has served as an object lesson for other NFL coaches.Except apparently for Marty Schottenheimer and Herm Edwards who both got bounced from this year’s playoffs by doing the exact same thing.

Volunteers in Britain

Apparently, more than half of the British
population is involved in volunteer work. Amazing.

Philip Johnson as fascist

Ann Applebaum corrects the history of Philip Johnson, the architect who recently died. He was hailed as a brilliant architect and aesthete. It seems that most of his obituaries falied to mention that he was, effectively, a fascist. I didn’t know anyhting about this guy, just knew that I didn’t like what he built. Maybe my instinct was right.

Johnson helped organize a U.S. fascist party. He worked on behalf of the Nazi sympathizer and radio broadcaster, Father Charles E. Coughlin. He attended one of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies in 1938, and in 1939 he followed the German army into Poland. "We saw Warsaw burn and Modlin being bombed," he wrote afterward. "It was a stirring spectacle." Read it all.

Democratic politics

John Edwards will head a University of North Carolina center that will study ways to lift people out of poverty. It is called the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. But this doesn’t mean that his political career is over. Edwards was the featured speaker at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s winter fundraising dinner yesterday. He spoke on poverty. Donnie Fowler withdrew from the DNC chairman race on Friday, and so did Simon Rosenberg. This means that Howard Dean has a lock on the Chairmanship of the DNC. Washington Whispers says that Dean admires Gingrich more than Bill Clinton. The latter brough defeat on Democrats, while Gingrich "created a real success for the right wing."
Todd Purdum walks us through how Dean reinvented himself, was able to persuade fellow Demos that he is not a nut job by talking to them one-on-one. You will also note that he has promised not to run for president in 2008. So, we will have an uneasy alliance between Hillary and Dean. It should be interesting. But Michael Goodwin thinks this could be death of the Democratic Party. In public, there is silence from those who know that Dean will take the party over the cliff and into an abyss of fringe liberalism that has no foundation in the American populace. Dean and the extremists he represents shouldn’t even be allowed to call themselves Democrats. Deaniacs is what they are.

Academic freedom

Roger Kimball follows up on the Ward Churchill story, but expands it to something a bit broader than the words of this malicious academic pretender and what should be done with him.

Saving Jews

This is a good story of four brothers named Frieder from Cincinnati who ran a cigar factory in in the Philippines, and how they worked quietly to help 1,200 Jews flee to Manila.

Russia: Reform and Retreat

Michael McFaul writes a good essay, in the form of a book review, on the state of democratization--a fanciful project--in Russia and Putin’s policies. The continuity between the old regime and the new is pretty clear. Here is another piece by McFaul in the December isssue of the Weekly Standard on developments in Ukraine and Russian policy.

Secretary of State Rice met with her Russian counterpart in Ankara yesterday and told him that Moscow’s crackdown on dissent was making Russian-American relations "more difficult," a State Department official said. The state department official also said "Ms. Rice made the expression of American concerns more central to the discussion than previous American officials had with the Russians in the past." Bush will meet with Putin later this month in Bratislava.

Evangelical environmentalism?

This will resonate. The stewardship argument is a strong one and militates against the moral core of the classical liberal attitude about nature as something to be overcome and transformed.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that lots of evangelicals will be joining the Green Party.

While evangelicals are open to being good stewards of God’s creation, they believe people should only worship God, not creation," [University of Akron political scientist John C.]Green said.

It strikes me as very important that this attitude be addressed by those who wish to bring sound science and economics to bear on environmental issues. The alternative is potentially a larger constituency for heavy-handed environmental regulation of the sort supported by the left wing of the environmental movement.

Update: Powerline provides indispensible political and intellectual context for the WaPo article and corrects a slander of James Watt repeated by Bill Moyers and the article.

Academic freedom

This thread at the Volokh Conspiracy on academic freedom has much to recommend it, including extensive citations of the University of Chicago’s 1967 Kalven report.

One of the saddest things about Ward Churchill, whose vicious ideological stupidity has occasioned a veritable blizzard of postings in the blogosphere, is that he profits from academic freedom, probably without understanding its purpose and without himself appreciating or fostering the critical diversity it is the function of the university to provide. It is a shame that someone as intolerant as he appears to be can take advantage of the university’s toleration.

Togo crisis, and a note on languages

Gnassingbe Eyadema, the president of Togo and Africa’s longest ruling leader, has died of a heart attack. The army has installed his son as the head of state in order to "maintain stability."
This is the BBC’s
coverage. And this is the CIA’s recently updated factbook. Note that the country--sandwiched between Ghana and Benin--a former French colony, is smaller than West Virginia and, while French is the official language, there are almost three dozen languages used in a country of about five and a half million. This is a good language map of Togo. Most people use a pidgin French to communicate between different groups. The word pidgin is a Chinese corruption of the word business.

The large number of languages in Togo reminds me of something I recently read. The island of New Guinea (part is an independent country called Papua New Guinea and part is part of Indonesia) has more languages than any other area of the world. It is about twice the size of Britain, has about five million people, and just under one thousand languages, i.e., about twenty percent of all the languages on the earth!
See this
(just for Papua New Guinea). The explanation for this is that the place is so hilly and sparsely populated, with very primitive agriculture, that people have had (until recently) very little contact with each other. So each language is spoken by only a few hundred or a few thousand people at most. A kind of common language has developed over the years called Tok Pisin (as in the English "talk pidgin"). As in all cases, the root of this pidgin language began at a port, a center of commerce and exchange where various ethne came together and had to find a way to talk to one another. Its vocabulary comes mainly from English. Very interesting, see this pidginist. The Australia Broadcasting Corporation even has programming in Tok Pisin.

More on Oil-for-Food scandal

The scandal has rocked the United Nations, no question. And there will be more to come. Bill Safire posed some very interesting questions early on, and as facts are being revealed, he was right on the money, so to speak. Note the Annan-Primakov connection. Kofi Annan’s documents are being scrutinized. Boutros Boutros-Ghali says that Annan’s contribution to the mess is more than his. Manhattan District Attorney has launched his own criminal investigation against Benon Sevan.

While I’m at it....

Win Myers also has an excellent roundup of stories and opinion about the execrable Ward Churchill. I was tempted to make a crack about UVM, but I wouldn’t wish Churchill on them.

A collegiate underground railroad?

Win Myers over at Democracy Project has a devastating commentary on the efforts of northern universities to recruit students in my adopted hometown of Atlanta. (To be clear: I was born and raised in blue states--California, New York, and Maryland--and in an even bluer country--Germany--while Win is a native Georgian who happens to live in Delaware.)

Here are my favorite paragraphs (one from the New York Times article Win is discussing):

It seems that college recruiters from states with shrinking student-age populations are looking around the nation, and especially to states like Georgia, for kids with parents who’re rich enough to pay out-of-state tuition up north. That not only brings in more money for the schools, but fills their increasingly empty classrooms. It doesn’t seem that folks in Vermont are producing enough children to do that on their own, and so they have to go shopping.

But not just any God-fearing, straight-laced kid with a Southern drawl will do, you see. You have to find those who, like Miriam, have the attributes necessary for life in enlightened places that don’t have the economic or demographic power to make it on their own.

One might think some bright folks might put two and two together and understand that, perhaps, the attitudes necessary for success in Vermont must be found outside the state in order for said attitudes to, er, thrive.

"You have to think that there are tens of millions of blue voters in red states," said Daniel M. Fogel, president of the University of Vermont. "There are plenty of people who are culturally attuned to us. In fact, we’ve tended to sell more on our location and ethos than on our academic caliber."

That last sentence pretty well sums up the problems with modern liberalism. It’s not about academics -- all that intellectual, cerebral stuff. It’s about attitude and affectation. Not much to go on, it seems.

Vermont’s a nice place to visit (my folks have a time-share at the

Trapp Family Lodge), but I wouldn’t want to live there. Too many people who haven’t left the Sixties behind, like Ron Jacobs, a fellow army brat with whom I went to high school.

Campus diversity

Let us all praise Brown University President Ruth Simmons for her remarks and hold her accountable for living up to them. Here’s what she said:

Simmons began by telling the audience that one of the questions she receives most frequently when visiting Brown alums and parents around the country is, "What is the University doing about the lack of diversity of opinion on campus?" She said that students on campus of all political stripes have told her of "a chilling effect caused by the dominance of certain voices on the spectrum of moral and political thought."

Such a chilling effect is detrimental to education and intellectual inquiry because "we are often creatures of habit when it comes to learning," Simmons said.

"Familiar and appetizing offerings can certainly be a pleasing dimension of learning, but too much repetition of what we desire to hear can become intellectually debilitating," she said.

As for concrete actions the University will take to improve civil discourse, Simmons pointed to the forthcoming Brown University Community Council, which will be composed of faculty, students, staff and alumni and will serve as a "standing platform" to discuss "issues of importance to our community." She also announced the creation of a fund that will be devoted to bringing a wider variety of speakers to campus and will be open to requests submitted by students and faculty.

While I can’t speak for other Ashbrook Center fellows, my speaking fees are relatively modest and I would be happy to contribute to intellectual diversity at Brown.

Hat tip: Don Herzog at Left2Right, who called this "an encouraging story."

Mothers, Wives, and War: part II

Adding some anecdotal evidence to Peter’s point below: My son’s pre-school teacher has a 26 year-old son who is a Marine and just left for his second tour of duty in Iraq on Sunday. Adding even more emotion to this parting is the fact that his wife just gave birth to their second son in mid-January.

In talking to her about it, however, she will accept offers of prayers but no show of pity. Her own husband escaped Castro’s Cuba and has told her what it is like to live without freedom. They raised their kids to respect what we have in this country and to understand that it is our responsibility to protect it.

She related the following story of her son’s emotional departure: All of the kids ages 10 and up were summoned and it was pointed out to them that though they were being asked to sacrifice some time with their fathers they had been blessed with the inestimable gift of having been born in a free country. It was also pointed out that that would not have been possible without the sacrifice of many other fathers before. It was further noted that the children of Iraq had not been equally blessed but that their fathers were great heroes for helping to make freedom a possibility for those kids as well as for them.

Great stuff and further proof that we Americans are not made of sugar candy.

A Patriot’s History of the United States

I heard one of the authors of this book, Larry Schweikart, interviewed yesterday and it sounded terrific so I went to Amazon and ordered it this morning. Here’s an interview with the same author posted at FrontPage magazine. If anyone has already read this book, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

New Deputy National Security Advisor

I just noticed that J.D. Crouch, ambassador to Romania, has been named the new deputy national security advisor. He is a very smart, tough, and thoughtful man. Good move. Here is his State Department biography.
And this is the President’s announcement of his appointment.

Mothers and wives and war

The Washington Post tells a good story of the unscripted hug between Janet Norwood and Safia al-Souhail during the State of the Union. One lost her son, the other her husband. John Podhoretz has some thoughts, as does John Kass. Frailty, thy name is not woman.

The other bookend

Peggy Noonan has weighed in on the State of the Union Address. She liked it, in part because it was "calibrated" and "less messianic" than the Second Inaugural.

Fortunately, the President spoke the very next morning, which is to say yesterday morning, in tones that are not at all messianic but express the very sort of argument I was calling for here. The setting? Why, the National Prayer Breakfast, of course. (By the way, John Kerry was there, "suppressing numerous yawns," as the Washington Times reporter observed.) Here’s the President’s finest moment:

In these great moral challenges of our times, our churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are providing the vision that is changing lives. I’ve seen some of their miracles up close. Last June, I met Veronica Braewell, a 20-year-old refugee from Liberia. As a 13-year-old child, Veronica witnessed armed men killing children in horrific ways. As she fled this madness, Veronica left -- was left for dead atop a pile of bodies, until her grandmother found her. In August 2003, Catholic Social Agency helped resettle her in Pennsylvania, where Veronica is now completing the circle of compassion by working in a home for elderly in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and studying to become a certified nursing assistant.

When Veronica told me of her story, it was through the kind of tears no young woman should ever know. And when she finished, she dried her eyes and said, "Thank you, Mr. President, for my freedom." But I told her, it wasn’t me she needed to thank, she needed to thank the good hearts of the United States of America. The America that embraced Veronica would not be possible without the prayer that drives and leads and sustains our armies of compassion.

What leads to these generous attempts to liberate others--not by the force of arms, but by the force of (can I say it without sounding irredeemably sappy?) love--is that "[w]e recognize in one another the spark of the Divine that gives all human beings their inherent dignity and worth, regardless of religion."

You might, of course, respond: what else could or should one say at a prayer breakfast? Any politically-responsible hypocrite could utter such sentiments. Fair enough. But there’s a good bit of evidence that this President means what he says here. These words express his mind and inform his political vision. Good speech, Mr. President. Let’s see these sentiments--"calibrated," of course--in other settings.

Some politics

Jonathan Chait, senior editor of The New Republic, doesn’t ask whether the Demos are "suicidally crazy," but "why" they are so. He explains why Dean is even less suited to run the DNC than he is to run for president. Ryann Lizza explain how Dean won.

Bad sign for the Demos’ chances in future elections.

Also note that just six Democratic Senators joined the Republicans to vote for Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General. Note the stem-winder delivered by Senator Christopher Dodd against Gonzales.

In the meantime President Bush
was in North Dakota and Montana yesterday, pushing Social Security reform. Note that Bush won North Dakota by 27 points, and Montana by 21 points. Democratic Senator Kent Conrad (ND) is up for re-election in 2006, and Max Baucus (MT) is up in 2008. The Ray
C. Bliss Institute
released a study (they do one every four years) showing that Bush took the Catholic vote 53-47; the mainline Protestant vote split evenly, best showing for a Democrat ever; Bush had a 31 percent gain among Hispanic Protestants. There is more. See the full study (PDF file, circa 18 pages) by clicking here.
Also note that Senator Russ Feingold continues to talk about running for president in 2008. It sounds to me like his begging for support, so far without success.

Volcker’s UN Report

Paul Volcker’s Interim Report on the UN’s oil-for-food program. (PDF file, over 200 pages) It does seem that the program was corrupt to the core; but this report will not be the end of it. Senator Norm Coleman said, "There is more than enough probable cause to believe Benon Sevan’s actions constitute criminal activity." It is said that Kofi Annan has ordered "disciplinary action" (whatever that means) against Benon Sevan and one other.

Chaos in North Korea

The London Times Online runs an article that claims that Kim Il Jung’s rule is on the verge of collapse. It is a report from the inside and the description of the country and the penury of the people is nothing short of horrible.

Religion in the State of the Union

We have come to expect soaring, religion-tinged rhetoric from President Bush. Michael Gerson has defended this language as an essential part of American culture, without which our political speech would be impoverished. I’ve discussed these matters here, here, here, here, and here.

That said, there were almost no explicitly religious moments in yesterday’s SOTU Address. The only one I can find is a reference to "the road of Providence" at the very end. Others have noticed as well, some with somewhat mean-spirited glee, some with perhaps a little concern. Terry Mattingly would like to see a broadening of the rather narrow focus of the President’s "culture of life" language, perhaps further in the direction of the Roman Catholic social teaching from which it is drawn. I don’t think he’s holding his breath, unless he’s happy with Michael Novak, whose latest book is The Universal Hunger for Liberty, and doesn’t long for the soothing words of J. Bryan Hehir.

The good folks at Christianity Today are also concerned:

Viewers who had to tuck their kids into bed may have missed the President’s brief remarks on life issues, wedged as they were between the speech’s far more detailed sections on Social Security and political freedom. Does this suggest that now that Mr. Bush, who ran on a pro-life platform, has safely won a second term, he is less than eager to spend some of his "political capital" to defend the sanctity of human life and marriage? We hope not.

Yet, in an hour-long address, the President devoted but two short paragraphs to what we’d broadly call "life issues" (for lack of a better term). The words were good, but they were too few if he is really serious about building a "culture of life." This brevity in the midst of the nation’s unfolding moral confusion is unsettling. Why is he bold and visionary on economic issues that may affect our children and grandchildren, but strangely reticent on the very definitions of human life and community? While "values voters" certainly care about Social Security, they didn’t return Bush to office on this basis.

Granted, the President is not the nation’s senior pastor. But his words and actions can set a tone that allows a culture of life to flourish.

And there’s this:

Political issues such as reforming Social Security and encouraging democracy overseas are worthy challenges—both of which in broad terms we support. But we dare not neglect the issues that touch upon the foundations of human dignity and the family. What will it profit us if we gain retirement benefits and freedom and lose our national soul?

I am at the moment willing to give the President a bit of a pass. There are more appropriate venues to elaborate on and defend the culture of life. But there do need to be speeches to explain the deeds. Most promising will be, I think, opportunities to connect human dignity and human liberty, about which I’d like to hear more. Mr. McGurn, are you listening?

This is the Enemy

Today’s Washington Post features this story about Dutch politicians who dare to criticize Islam fearing for their lives. In other news, Power Line brings us word that the terrorists in Iraq are now using mentally retarded young men to carry out suicide bombing attacks. Remember, these are the men whom Michael Moore has compared favorably to the Minutemen of the American Revolution.

Marine General,

Marine Lt. Gen. James Mattis got himself in some hot water by saying the following:

A senior U.S. Marine Corps general who said it was "fun to shoot some people" should have chosen his words more carefully but will not be disciplined, military officials said on Thursday.Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, made the comments at a conference Tuesday in San Diego.

"Actually it’s quite fun to fight ’em, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling," said Mattis.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil," Mattis said during a panel discussion. "You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Another religion and politics survey report

The religion and politics "Gang of Four"--John C. Green, Corwin Smidt, James Guth, and Lyman Kellstedt--has produced another report of the American religious landscape, post-2004 election. There are no huge surprises here, though the report will gratify those who like to see the electorate sliced and diced (demographically, not the way one of Zarqawi’s thugs would do it).

There remains ample evidence of a split across the board between religious traditionalists and modernists, a split that has pushed the mainline Protestant center of gravity in the direction of the Kerry camp (mainline Protestants, now only 16% of the population, split 50/50 in the survey). Non-Latino Catholics went for Bush, largely on the strength of 72% traditionalist and 55% centrist support. Evangelicals went for GWB over JFK 78-22, with 88% of traditionalists and 64% of centrists supporting the President. Latino Protestants, a small (2.8%) but growing portion of the electorate, supported Bush by a 63-37% margin.

Social issues loomed relatively large for all traditionalists, but not so much for others. Economic issues loomed largest for Latinos (Catholic and Protestant) and African-Americans. Others either responded most emphatically to foreign policy concerns or split pretty evenly between foreign and economic policy concerns (centrist evangelicals and Catholics, modernist mainline Protestants).

According to the survey, fully 27% of Bush’s overall support came from traditionalist evangelicals. By contrast, African-American Protestants comprised 13% of the Kerry coalition. Both numbers strike me as high water marks for the parties. It’s hard to imagine the 2008 Republican nominee getting more than 88% of the traditionalist evangelical vote, and I suspect that we’re seeing the beginning of an African-American migration away from total fealty to the Democrats.

I am nonetheless hopeful about the Republican future (though my crystal ball is famously cloudy). In 2004, things were exploitably bad for Bush on both foreign policy and economic fronts, and are likely to be better down the road (I’m an Iraq optimist). Bush’s future accomplishments in both arenas will be rewarded by constituencies who care about them. And his allies in the culture war won’t be swayed by the ritual and meaningless religious invocations, such as those offered last night by Reid and Pelosi, nor by HRC’s efforts at triangulation.

More on Howard Dean

Andrew Busch reflects on what the Howard Dean era as DNC chair may mean for the Democrats. Thoughtful essay, and note this:

This point is part of a broader illustration: what Dean’s ascent (or re-ascent) says about the current status of the Democratic Party. While some individual Democrats have taken the hints offered by the 2004 (and 2002) election, the party as a whole has either not come to grips with its recent defeats or has chosen to interpret those defeats as the result of insufficiently clear liberalism. The replacement of Clintonites like McAuliffe with Dean, following the 2002 replacement of Richard Gephardt with Nancy Pelosi, would signal that Democrats as a group have made a conscious decision to shift back hard in the direction of McGovernism. One might even declare the era of Clintonism within the Democratic Party to be over or at least suspended until further notice. Dean’s rise—whether he ultimately wins the DNC vote or not—may also be evidence of the depletion of talent on the Democratic side.

Grudging words of praise for GWB

From David Corn:

He produced grand and effective political theater. In the middle of the address, he transformed the war in Iraq--which even after the historic election there arguably remains his largest liability--into a single, powerfully poignant moment. Exploiting the tradition of inviting symbolically significant guests to sit with the First Lady, Bush introduced the mother of a US Marine killed in Fallujah and an Iraqi human rights advocate whose father had been assassinated by Saddam Hussein and who had voted in Sunday’s election. With the House chamber awash with emotion, the two women hugged. Bush was near tears. Members of Congress--perhaps including those legislators who had dyed their index fingers purple for the event--were crying. In a nutshell, here was Bush’s story of sacrifice, liberty and freedom. Sentiment--sincere sentiment--was in full synch with spin. The not-too-hidden partisan message: Match that, you naysayers. This was a triumph of political communication. And it was a reminder that despite the apparent difficulties Bush faces in his top-priority effort to partially privatize Social Security, he should hardly be counted out. This man does what it takes.

From Harold Meyerson:

What a time for George W. Bush to learn how to deliver a speech. Compared with his past performances, he was a g-----n [pardon my delicacy, but this is a family blog]Demosthenes during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.

That’s in good part because he had more to say. Last year’s State of the Union is memorable for abandoning Mars and declaring war on steroids. Now, it’s the Bush agenda that’s on steroids.

For one thing, the election in Iraq has finally made it possible for the president to point to a positive consequence -- however transient it may prove to be -- of his decision to go to war recklessly and wage it stupidly. Unlike past years, when Bush came before Congress insisting ridiculously that Iraq posed a mortal threat to the United States, he came before Congress and teared up as an American mother who’d lost her son embraced an Iraqi daughter who’d lost her father. The moment was not just the emotional center of the speech; it was the emotional center of his presidency, imparting to his tenure in office something it’s lacked since the United States ousted the Taliban: a plausible raison d’être.

These are, of course, straws in the wind, but the successful election in Iraq has silenced the critics, or at least made it difficult for them to say anything "bold." Witness Nancy Pelosi’s plastic performance last night: if you do what we say (that is, what you’re already doing), then the next round of elections in December will be significantly better. Gee, that’s tough talk!

Lest we forget John Kerry (who won’t let us, however much we try):

But the greatest tribute to the memory of the fallen is an exit strategy called success.

I think the President said that, more clearly and elegantly. On Iraq and foreign policy in general, the Democrats do not have a plausible alternative.

A New Definition of "Solvency"

In scanning the AP piece that Peter called our attention to below, I noticed an interesting couple of paragraphs:

Declaring Social Security will go broke if nothing is done, Bush said that by 2042, "the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt."

In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (news - web sites) forecasts Social Security as it is would be able to pay 73 percent of benefits in 2042 and stay solvent for 10 years beyond that.

So in other words, the system will remain "solvent," assuming that benefits are reduced by over one-fourth? Is that supposed to make those of us who will be thinking about retirement at around that time feel better about the health of Social Security?

Voter Irregularities in Wisconsin

While certain members of the tinfoil hat wing of the Democratic Party continue to make accusations about the vote in Ohio, it seems that more tangible evidence of voter fraud has emerged in Milwaukee. In no less than seventeen wards there were over 100 more ballots cast than there were registered voters. In two of these wards the gap was larger than 500. Of course, these were wards that went overwhelmingly for John Kerry and, you may recall, Kerry’s margin of victory in Wisconsin was extremely narrow--much narrower than the margin of the Bush victory in Ohio.

State of the Union

Bush’s State of the Union address was strong, straightforward, and effective. The moment of the hug of the American mother and the Iraqi voter was full of eloquence and meaning. That a dead Marine’s mother could hug the woman for whom he gave his life explains everything and it is that idea and image that explains the Cowboy’s actions and the reason why. Ineradicable moment. A very fine speech altogether. Social Security reform is the politics of this season and judguing by the Demos response, Bush will win this one too. I note in passing that Harry Reid talked about a Marshall Plan for America, and if you think of the devastating effects of the war on Europe and the growling bear from the East and what the Marshall Plan did--and then think of America as you find it today--you will realize that Reid said something very stupid and very revealing about where the Democratric Party stands today, what they are thinking about, and why they are going to continue to lose elections.
I am absolutely confident that the sensible part of that Party are embarrased by that comment. I note in passing that President Bush kissed Senator Lieberman, unscripted. It is no wonder that my young son said, "I love this guy."

Here is Lucas Morel’s quick take on the speech. Also note comments by Richard Reeb, Joe Katzman, and note this AP report on the speech; it’s really an editorial. Amazing. And, in case you still think Bush is an idiot with no sense of humor, note this comment from the WaPo’s Reliable Source, as reported by Tom Brokaw:

We already knew about the President’s opening quip to the former Bill Clinton aide -- "Welcome back to the White House, George. We’ll have to make sure that we count the silverware" -- but Brokaw recounted an even sharper jape. Discussing his upcoming State of the Union address, Bush told the assembled media heavies: "I’m prepared. I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to sit in the back of the limo on the way to the Capitol and rewrite my speech. Know what I mean, George?"

Yesterday, Stephanopoulos told us: "If I’m going to go through my rookie hazing, it might as well be from the commander in chief." [This refers to Clinton’s tendency to have sections of his speeches re-written in the limo on the way to the event, including the State of the Union.]

Eason Jordan and CNN

Eason Jordan, the CNN reporter famous for admitting in 2003 that he had NOT reported many horrible things about Saddam Hussein in an effort to keep CNN in Iraq, apparently stepped in it again during a speech he gave at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Jordan claimed, without any evidence offered, that the US military targeted and killed at least a dozen journalists. He also claimed that the US Military tortured journalists in a separate accusation two months ago. Read the details here and follow Hugh Hewitt for continuing updates on this story which has the potential to be even more explosive than the Rather scandal.

Party matters

The New York Observer notes that it seems as though Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton will, in an uneasy partnership, will define the Democrat Party for the next three years. The N.Y. Times claims that Dean is "almost assured" to become the DNC Chairman. Regarding the possibility of some bipartisannship, which Bill Frist claims to want, I was amused to read this quote by him: "I can play hardball as well as anybody. That’s what I did, cut people’s hearts out. On the other hand, I do it to cure them, to heal them, to make them better." See this N.Y. Times article. This L.A. Times article focuses on Bush’s agenda during the next four years, especially placing a limit on jury awards in lawsuits against doctors and businesses. "President Bush’s agenda for the next four years, much of which he will highlight in his State of the Union address tonight, includes many proposals that would not only change public policy but, the GOP hopes, achieve an ambitious political goal: Stripping money and voters from the Democratic Party and cementing Republican dominance for years after he leaves office." In other words, realignment in motion.

Ramirez Cartoon

More on Resnick

More on Justice Resnick’s DUI arrest from the Toledo Blade. Not pretty.

The Nobel Peace Prize to Bush?

Youssef M. Ibrahim writes that "As things stand right now, the whole Middle East political map is up for change." It’s a nice outline of some of the effects of the real regime change going on Iraq, the awe it has created in the Mideast, and some of the likely consequences. This, and the announcement that Sharon and Abbas are going to meet in Egypt next week--the start of things to come since this is the highest level meeting in four years--leads me to a thought. It is probable that this thought will lead you to think that that my wits begin to turn, as the Poet might say. But, maybe not. For it is obvious that the Bush guys are not being given enough credit for things already accomplished in the Mideast, nor is it assumed that they are capable of accomplishing more. This is wrong. Their design is working, and while I don’t think Bush is fortune’s knave, it has fallen in line with his purposes.

So I pose a question. What are the chances that President Bush will receive the Nobel Peace Prize before he leaves office? I think the chances are very much in his favor. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that unless an unseen catastrophe happens in the region, he will receive the Prize. I don’t say this because I think it is important that W. get the prize so that he may be in the company of Kofi Annan (2001), Jimmy Carter (2002), or Shirin Ebadi (2003), but because I look forward to the time when even the international Left will be forced to recognize his accomplishments. Wouldn’t that be something? Yes it would. Fortes fortuna adiuvat.

It’s Not Your Mother’s Tupperware Party

When I was a kid, my mom and her female friends would get together for card club, baby/wedding showers and, occasionally, that heralded institution: the party to which you are expected to come and buy some item that you don’t really need and is over-priced to boot. Tupperware was a perennial favorite and, living in Ohio as we did, Longaberger baskets were quite popular too.

Now that I am the Mom, I understand the popularity of this phenonmenon. It is an excuse to get together with the girls, meet some friends of friends, have a few glasses of wine, and escape the responsibilities and stresses of motherhood for a few hours. I have attended parties of this variety hocking everything from kitchen goods to jewelry.

But evidently, that is all old-school. Today I have learned that there are no limits to the scope and variety of these parties as an invitation to a "Passion Party" arrived at my doorstep. I am no prude--but really. Is this what passes as sexy today? Hyped up lingerie and sex toys?

I think I need to join a card club.

What do John Howard, Tony Blair, and George W. Bush have in common?

Answer: they are all overtly religious. And at least two of them--I don’t know about Blair--are reviled by the religious Left in their countries. I wrote about Bush and the religious Left here. You can find a somewhat critical review of Marion Maddox’s God Under Howard here.

Here’s an example of the publisher’s puffery:

How has American-style evangelicalism become so prominent in secular Australia? Why are abortion, creationism and family values now on the political agenda? Why is religion no longer a private matter for public figures?

In God Under Howard Marion Maddox explains how John Howard has harnessed the conservative social agenda and market-based ideology of American fundamentalists in order to stay in power. As a result, she argues that Australia’s democratic, egalitarian culture is now under serious assault.

Here are the more modulated tones of the review:

The radical Right in Australia just doesn’t stack up as the sinister, US-style force Maddox depicts. The chapter titled The Politics of Death charts the success of the anti-euthanasia push, which she characterises as "the staged unfolding of the next act in the Right’s carefully scripted culture wars". She seems furious that committed Christians within Australian politics are treading carefully and strategically, downplaying their fervency with often-legitimate appeals to natural law. But are they not entitled to a sound political strategy? Regardless, the 1997 Euthanasia No campaign was not a Coalition conspiracy, being co-ordinated by, among others, Tony Burke, a NSW Labor Right MP. To be just, the culture wars are not being waged only by the social conservatives.


John Howard talks, the French listen

AFP reports: "An accusation by Australian Prime Minister John Howard that France was guilty of lingering ’anti-Americanism’ drew sharp words from Paris during a visit by the Australian foreign minister.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, standing next to his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer, told journalists he was ’very, very surprised’ to hear Howard’s remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on the weekend."

A note on democracy

Robert Conquest argues that "democracy" arrived only after a "law-and-liberty polity" (or "culture") had emerged. In explaining this he--in his sort of moderate Burkean way--asserts that "habits of mind" and following the "traditional rules of the political game" are the most important things
in political life, rather than institutions or a "mere word" or "abstract human rights definitions." These latter are utopian and lead to despotism (note what follows the French Revolution). What he calls "political civilization" is "thus not primarily a matter of the goodwill of leadership or of ideal constitutions. It is, above all, a matter of time in custom." All well and good, of course. Time in custom, especially for the Brits, is important. Yet, we cannot really keep what he calls the "high-midedness of the Continental Enlightenment" entirely at bay. Since he quotes a line from Federalist #1, I’ll just remind the reader of the first paragraph, wherein Publius tries to appeal to the people’s justice, on the grounds of equality, for the sake of liberty and self-government, and yet not in a utopian way:

AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

I quite understand Conquest’s concern with moderation and habit (mind or heart) as well as the need for an evolution of important changes in the body-politic, and sometimes even in regimes. But there is the crux. There is not just evolution and custom and adhering to rules, and the creation of strong states by a civic order. Sometimes such accidents are painful, and they are almost always enforced. There is reflection and choice, and that is connected to natural rights. There really are regimes and such things--in reflecting the ever human qualities of their creators and participants--always determine which part of the "community" rules. It is not merely a set of rules that come about from custom. Here the people rule through the Constitution which they themselves established. And they rule for the sake of their freedom, and this becomes a way of life and we think it is the best way of life, and is connected more closely to happiness and freedom. And it is founded on natural rights. Now I do not think this all that abstract, although it is revolutionary, and it is so argued for by those who framed this regime and government. This doesn’t mean that Conquest’s attempt at measure is without value, yet it is incomplete. It might be too bad that we call this regime a democracy nowadays, but that’s just an example of how a "mere word" has life and brings forth its own children, through consent.

Republicans and African-Americans

During the election campaign, I wrote about GWB and the African-American churches here, arguing that we were witnessing the beginning of a shift away from the Democrats and toward the Republicans. More evidence can be found in this article. According to U.S. Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.), this development could spell disaster for the Democrats:

Even if it [African-American support for Republicans] rises 5 percentage points, Owens said, "the Democratic Party will be paralyzed."

Owens said the GOP strategy of courting church leadership was on target. "The churches are the last institutions alive and breathing in some of these neighborhoods, and people look to them for leadership," he said.

He added:

"I am frightened by what is happening," said Rep. Major R. Owens, an 11-term Democratic congressman from New York who has been conferring with colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus. "Our party is in grave danger. This Republican movement is going to expand exponentially unless we do something."

"Doing something" would seem to require actually working with African-American churches, rather than merely exploiting them for political gain during election campaigns and taking seriously the moral concerns raised by black pastors.

In my view, the next two years are crucial. If the Democrats do not get their act together and the Bush Administration does not implode, there could be a substantial exodus from the former to the latter. We live in interesting times.

The website for one of the groups mentioned in the article can be found
here. Another website of interest is here.

Update: Ken Masugi has further thoughts.

Update #2: Here’s the L.A. Times story about the event. According to the reporters, it focused on gay marriage.

Soros’ Open Society, no, really

George Soros is a very deep thinker, as you know. He hates Bush and loves what he calls the Open Society: Paradoxically, the most successful open society in the world, the U.S., does not properly understand the first principles of an open society; indeed, its current leadership actively disavows them. The concept of open society is based on recognition that nobody possesses the ultimate truth, that one may be wrong. Yet being wrong is precisely the possibility that Bush refuses to acknowledge, and his denial appeals to a significant segment of the American public. An equally significant segment is appalled. This has left the U.S. not only deeply divided, but also at loggerheads with much of the rest of the world, which considers its policies high-handed and arbitrary.

Never mind self-evident truths, or even propositions. But enough. I’ve laughed my way through the whole day. I have to compose myself.

Andrew Sullivan’s blog is finished

Andrew Sullivan has announced (click down) that he will stop blogging. He is a busy and energetic fellow with much on his plate, and I don’t blame him for wanting to retire from blogging. I thank him for many good years, and regret that the last year or so was a decline. He went overboard with his gay agenda, with a pretty serious and, to my mind, uncalled for, anti-Bush screed, so I stopped reading him because I learned ever less and his elegant style was covered by anger. In the early years I would read him daily, and in the end--maybe--monthly. Too bad. He was, at his best, a great writer, and great writers are always worth reading even when you disagree with them. His essay on September 11, "Why did it have to be such a perfect morning?", is one the best things ever written on the attack. Read it here.

One reader cares about this

Rick Myers, current Vice President for Academic Affairs at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick probably would like to know that this past weekend Russ Churchwell shattered the SCAC men’s career rebounding mark.

Rick would also like to know whether our old friend Dave Foster is still tearing up the basketball courts.

Liberal penance about Iraq?

Mark Brown, an opponent of the war in Iraq (and Bush) begins to ask himself some tough questions after having watched the brave Iraqis vote. Could Bush be right about Iraq? What, then do we Liberals do? Some kind of penance, he suggests. I’d like the New York Times to ask itself similar questions. Perhaps in an editorial? I’m waiting.

A DUI for an Ohio Justice

Alice Robie Resnick, a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, was arrested for driving under the influence.

The ownership society and the investor gap

Here is short and very informative piece by James K. Glassman explaining what the Ownership Society means. He claims that Bush’s idea--and this is no surprise to you--goes way beyond the Social Security issue, etc. The investor gap has profound implications for electoral politics, as well. Scott Johnson & John Hinderaker explain that because of the personal income tax, a large majority of citizens are not inclined to restrain the growth of government. The title of their piece is, "Broad ownership needs broad taxpaying."

Blue to red counties

This USA Today article attempts to figure out why this happened: "153 counties that voted Democratic for president in 1996 and 2000 chose Bush in 2004; only 11 chose Democrat John Kerry after voting Republican in 1996 and 2000." And, is this evidence of a spreading of GOP dominance? The article examines four counties in four different states. It basically reports on the interviews of citizens they conducted, and, is therefore, imprefect, but still worth a look. The thrust of it, if there is one, is that the war and Iraq, and being a tough leader were the most important factors. Note the nice map.

Not unrelated, Democrats
are distancing themselves from teddy Kennedy’s remarks on Iraq as Vietnam, but are still calling for an explicit "exit strategy." Also note that Christopher Hitchens explains, once again, why Iraq is not Vietnam. The Vietnam/Iraq babble is, from any point of view, a busted flush. It’s no good. It’s a stiff. It’s passed on. It has ceased to be. It’s joined the choir invisible. It’s turned up its toes. It’s gone. It’s an ex-analogy.

General education and the life of the mind

I sympathize with some of what Mark Oppenheimer says here, but take issue with more of it.

Here’s a snippet:

Our students have lost the space in which to act with purpose, which I think of as narrow but deep attention, not quite obsession but a healthier version of it. The ideal is now versatility, four years of learned attention deficit disorder (except in sports, where the three-sport dilettante has been replaced by the highly directed thoroughbred one-sport stud). As activities have multiplied, the curriculum has diversified, which is both a cause and an effect. Choosing from a menu of activities – academics, sports, student government, community service, etc. – students spend less time on academics, and what time they do spend is forcibly divided among various disciplines or “distribution groups.”

Yes, our students often behave as if they have attention deficit disorder, but the culprit is not the requirement that they be liberally educated as well as specialized. Oppenheimer’s strictures apply to cafeteria-style distribution requirements that have no organizing principle for any student other than scheduling convenience, the relative easiness of the material, or the popularity of the professor.
Katie Newmark is right when she observes about her own experience that

Duke’s gen ed requirements, which the students pejoratively refer to as "The Matrix," are designed to give students breadth of knowledge. But many people regard The Matrix as a burden; they look for the easiest classes that will fulfill the requirements, taking them not out of intellectual curiosity but just to meet the requirement, and they don’t take these Matrix classes seriously.

But students can come to appreciate a coherent core curriculum, where they achieve depth over time, amounting to what we at Oglethorpe sometimes call "a second major." Yes, an intellectually serious experience of specialization is a good thing, but by itself--without the perspective afforded by a coherent, genuinely liberal education--it is stultifying, illiberal, and ultimately subject to the kind of lampooning Nietzsche offers in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where he describes Zarathustra’s encounter with the man who is an expert on the brain of the leech.

Charlotte Simmons again

Betsy Newmark’s daughter Katie, a Dupont, er I mean Duke, University alumna, had this interesting post about Tom Wolfe’s book.

Teenage recklessness

Forgive me for the unrestrained laughter in reading this report from the WaPo on teenage driving. Remember, Vicki and I have four children (16 to 26). Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have discovered "that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25, a finding with implications for a host of policies, including the nation’s driving laws." The psychiatrist leading the study said this:
"We’d thought the highest levels of physical and brain maturity were reached by age 18, maybe earlier -- so this threw us." He then adds that that makes adolescence "a dangerous time, when it should be the best." There is more rocket science here. For example, it was discovered that the judgment of teens further deteriorates with distractions. Another said, with Solomonic wisdom, "Teenagers’ brains are not broken; they’re just still under construction." The next thing we’ll hear is that there might be some differences between men and women regarding such matters as risk taking. Read the whole thing and amuse yourself.   

Iraq election

Some choice quotes from this morning’s Washington Post. Here’s one, the concluding paragraphs of an article on election security:

Still, in the long term, those working to establish stability in Iraq counted Sunday as a big win.

"They tried to stop us doing Fallujah," the diplomat said. "They failed. They tried to stop planning for the elections. They failed. They then set out to stop the election. They failed.

"Sooner or later, these failures add up."

Here’s one, from an article assessing Bush Administration reaction to the election:

It was a big, climactic moment in history, which this clearly was because it had a lot of dramatic consequences and will be unfolding for many years," said historian Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Certainly at this point, you have to say that the Bush administration’s critics have made as many mistakes as the Bush administration in assessing Iraq."

article noted this ironic Arab reaction:

But many Arab leaders were mute or urged election winners to ensure that power would be shared fairly among religious and ethnic groups.

Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, said in a statement that the elections were "an important step toward launching an effective political process in which all components of the Iraqi people can participate."


E. J. Dionne can’t be a totally wet blanket:

But even opponents of the war and critics of President Bush should not be cynical about the immense courage shown by so many Iraqis, and by the troops protecting them. Nor should they -- we -- be cynical about the obvious superiority of even a flawed form of democracy over dictatorship. As John F. Kennedy might have put it, we observed on Sunday not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom.

George Will can have the last word:

Forty years ago Kennedy suffered a continuing brain cramp. He and an aging but vocal portion of his party have no prism to see through and no vocabulary to speak with other than Vietnam. Hence they see the Iraqi insurgents as another iteration of the Viet Cong. But the Viet Cong had a marketable model for organizing the modern world. Marxism -- "scientific socialism" -- is today as vanished as a pricked bubble, but when Ho Chi Minh was in Paris, it was considered the last word in modernity, and found a mass market. Zarqawi’s "program" is a howl of rage against modernity, promising only different boots -- clerical ones -- on the same faces.

Americans are understandably weary of hearing, "Now comes the really hard part." But those who said that after Baghdad fell 22 months ago were right, and those who say it after Sunday might be. Nevertheless, getting to, and through, Sunday was hard, and those -- Iraqis, Americans and other coalition forces -- who did it might yet pull that country into modernity. Isn’t it pretty to think so?