Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

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).