Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Jared Diamond, Fabulist?

Our friends at Powerline wrote several weeks back about how the unctuous Bill Moyers had slandered Reagan’s Interior Secretary James Watt by recycling the canard that "Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.’"

Watt never said any such thing, and though this urban legend has been knocked down for more than 20 years, as the Moyers article shows it lives on. Moyers had to issue a public apology to Watt, as did the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where Moyers article appeared. (He also made the same charge in a speech at Harvard.) So, too, the environmental website issued an apology and retraction (it had been Moyers’ source for the quote): "Grist has been unable to substantiate that Watt made this statement. We would like to extend our sincere apologies to Watt and to our readers for this error."

All of this is prologue for considering what is likely an equally spurious quotation, if not in fact a fabrication, that appears in the pages of Jared Diamond’s new best-seller Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. In a particularly frothy passage on page 462 attacking mining companies, Diamond writes:

“Civilization as we know it would be impossible without oil, farm food, wood, or books, but oil executives, farmers, loggers, and book publishers nevertheless don’t cling to that quasi-religious fundamentalism of mine executives: ‘God put those metals there for the benefit of mankind, to be mined.’”

The “mine executive” who supposedly said this is not identified, nor the name of her company. (There are no footnotes or source notes for this quote, or any other in the book.) It is not clear from Diamond’s prose whether this is meant to be a verbatim quotation, or a stylized characterization, The doubt about the authenticity of this quote is deepened by the immediate sequel:


The CEO and most officers of one of the major American mining companies are members of a church that teaches that God will soon arrive on Earth, hence if we can just postpone land reclamation for another 5 or 10 years it will then be irrelevant anyway."

Again, Diamond identifies neither the mining company nor the denomination in question here. These things matter. Precisely because Diamond is a bestselling author of considerable reputation, his distortion or invention of ridiculous quotations threatens to inject them into wider circulation. In fact, it has already started.

Reviewing Collapse in Science magazine, Tim Flannery writes of “the CEO of an American mining company who believes that ‘God will soon arrive on Earth, hence if we can just postpone land reclamation for another 5 or 10 years it will then be irrelevant anyway.’” Suddenly we’ve gone from executives who attend an unidentified congregation that believes this to an unnamed CEO who “believes” this. The next short step will be directly attributing this non-quotation to the unnamed CEO.

It is beyond doubtful that any denomination believes as a matter of doctrine the ridiculous views Diamond describes. To paraphrase Orwell, only a university professor could believe such nonsense. Diamond owes it to his readers, and the mining company executives in question, to come clean with specifics about who supposedly said this and what denomination holds these views, so other journalists can verify the story. Either Diamond was had by some woolly faculty room chatter, or he fabricated another shameful slander reminiscent of the Watt remark.

Why better schools are immoral

This report in the London Guardian
about the possibility of having something like charter schools (they call them academies) in Britain is revealing. Note this paragraph:

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the academies’ programme would be a priority at the union’s conference. He described the initiative as "immoral" and said the union planned to set up local campaign groups to oppose each new school. "This is an experiment in children’s education," he said. "It is creating a situation in which the academies become schools that are more attractive to parents who have higher aspirations and more skills to find their way round the education system."

I am left speechless by such honesty. It is revealing, is it not? This is another story from a few months ago that helps explain PM Blair’s intention to revive inner city education with these private academies. (Thanks to Atlantic Blog).

Steyn on life and everything else

Mark Steyn reflects on the important things, and ends up with "it’s the demography, stupid."

Since 1945, a multiplicity of government interventions - state pensions, subsidised higher education, higher taxes to pay for everything - has so ruptured traditional patterns of inter-generational solidarity that in Europe a child is now an optional lifestyle accessory. By 2050, Estonia’s population will have fallen by 52 per cent, Bulgaria’s by 36 per cent, Italy’s by 22 per cent. The hyper-rationalism of post-Christian Europe turns out to be wholly irrational: what’s the point of creating a secular utopia if it’s only for one generation?

The world economy and us

Peter F. Drucker is almost the only economist I like to read, and that is because, of course, he isn’t an economist. In this essay for The National Interest, Drucker maintains that the U.S. is no longer the world’s single dominant economy.

The emerging world economy is a pluralist one, with a substantial number of economic "blocs." Eventually there may be six or seven blocs, of which the U.S.-dominated NAFTA is likely to be only one, coexisting and competing with the European Union (EU), MERCOSUR in Latin America, ASEAN in the Far East, and nation-states that are blocs by themselves, China and India. These blocs are neither "free trade" nor "protectionist", but both at the same time.

Even more novel is that what is emerging is not one but four world economies: a world economy of information; of money; of multinationals (one no longer dominated by American enterprises); and a mercantilist world economy of goods, services and trade. These world economies overlap and interact with one another. But each is distinct with different members, a different scope, different values and different institutions.

While almost everything he says can be argued with I bet, it is an interesting and thoughtful piece. His understanding of the EU and its policies, and his warning about how they are exporting their regulations, I found especially interesting. Also note his emphasis on the U.S. deficit.

I’m glad the old guy is still alive and thinking!

Paying for analysts up front

This is a report, not necessarily unbiased, but quite useful, about the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program. This is a pilot project (four million dollars, max of about 150 students; the program lasts through Spetember of 2006) that encourages students to study certain languages and areas of the world, their tuition is paid for two years, and then they are required to spend eighteen months working for a federal agency as analysts. The pilot program is meant to bring analysts into intelligence agencies as quickly as possible. Also see the NSA site
and this on line discussion of the article with Professor Felix Moos, the founder of the program.

Irangeles and counterterrorism

This Los Angeles Times article considers what the CIA and FBI are doing with the largest expatriate Iranian community in the world (LA area). Intrigue enough for a couple of great movies! 

Military transformation

This WaPo story by Bradley Graham considers the Pentagon’s "Terms of Reference" which will set the framework for the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which Congress has mandated to compel a comprehensive look at U.S. military strategy at the start of each presidential term. Although the process and the TOR is supposed to be secret, the WaPo appears to know much. For a variety of reasons, Rumsfeld seems to be in a position to initiate a much more fundamental transformation than has happened in the recent past. The transformation, in large measure, will move away from building forces only to deal with major combat operations. 

Newspapers are retrograde and dying

Michael S. Malone, and old newspaperman, bids farewell to newspapers. They are dying. He tells the story of how and why he stopped reading them.

The last redoubt for the survival of newspaper was, in my mind, accessibility. Hopping from section to section, story lead to story jump, just seemed so much easier than crawling through a long story on a computer screen. Then I saw the first links embedded in blogs. There was simply nothing in the physical world that could ever hope to match the ability to leap through cyberspace from story to story, file to file, with almost infinite extension.

Looking back, it was then that I stopped reading print newspapers.

Needless to say, I still read the news, much of it coming from the newspapers I used to religiously read. But I am not reading the "paper," either literally or figuratively, that the publishers want me to read. Throughout the day, I construct my own newspaper in cyberspace, a real-time assemblage of wire service stories, newspaper features, blogs, bulletin boards, columns, etc. I suspect most of you do, too.

Stories about the U.S.

brought to my attention a site called Watching America. It translates news stories from foreign media about the U.S., something like what MEMRI does for Arab news about everything (not merely articles about the U.S.). Worth a look.

Executive Action to Save Schiavo

Bill Bennett and Brian Kennedy of ’The Claremont Institute’ argue that Governor Jeb Bush should take action to secure the life of Terri Schiavo in this article.

Bennett and Kennedy argue that Governor Bush ought not defer to the judicial branch on this Constitutional question. The Governor ought to uphold his Constitutional oath as he understands it. As a co-equal branch of government, the Executive should risk impeachment in order to prevent the starvation of Terri Schiavo.

According to this article in today’s, USA Today, Governor Bush is scouring Florida statutes to find a legal way to do just that.

Brazil’s theft

Desmond Lachman has some advice for Rob Portman, the President’s nominee for U.S. trade representative: pay attention to Brazil’s failure to crack down on intellectual property piracy. And then do something about China’s currency manipulation. Good advice.

Tyrannosaurus rex’s soft tissue

have recovered what appear to be soft tissues from the thighbone of a 70 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex, potentially enabling dinosaur research to make a leap into studying the animals’ physiology and perhaps even their cell biology. The scientists found the soft tissue when they were forced to break the thighbone into pieces to fit it aboard a helicopter. They normally don’t like to break bones, prefer them to be intact for museums. Although scientists immediately claimed that "there’s no ’Jurassic Park’ scenario" (i.e., cloning), I wouldn’t bet on it.

FEC and weblogs...again

As usual, Win Myers has the goods (or, in this case, "the bads"). He links to this post as well. Read them both, weep, and then do something.

The Problem with Relying on the Courts

Andrew McCarthy at NRO argues today that the Schindlers should file one more motion in federal court, this time based on the theory that the "due process in the United States requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt before a court may issue an order that results in the taking of life . . . ." Of course, there is only one way for him to get there: transform due process into substantive due process. He concedes that

[t]hose of us who believe government action — whether by U.S. or Florida authorities — must be taken to save Terri’s life should not shrink from the forthright admission that we are asking for her federal due-process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to be given substantive content.

His defense is less than stirring: "Is this substantive due process? Of course it is. But it already exists, it is irreversible, and it is so much a part of our legal tradition now that we don’t even think about it any longer." But, of course, that’s not quite true. Substantive due process, once the bastion of Earl Warren, is not exactly enjoying a heyday. Indeed, in at least one prominent case, DeShaney v. Winnebago Co. Soc. Svcs. Dept., the Supreme Court, to put it charitably, curbed the progress of the theory.

McCarthy’s argument is somewhat understandable--after all, there is this sense that conservatives must play by the Marquis of Queensbury rules, disavowing the use of any legal theory which we find erroneous despite the fact that the issue may be sufficiently well settled that there is no conceivable practical benefit in keeping to principle. But the breadth of substantive due process is not so well settled (indeed, as I note below in the update, there is no right to a beyond the reasonable doubt standard of review in civil cases) that I should feel comfortable with advancing its cause. The problem is that McCarthy appears to be reaching, as is evidenced by his clinging to one of the Lefts favorite phrases: "death is different." The notion is undisputable insofar as it suggests that the imposition of death has a greater finality than any other sentence, and therefore requires circumspection and review. That said, the Left generally uses that as the rallying cry to ignore the law or to simply reshape it to fit an outcome, and I fear that McCarthy may be using the phrase for essentially the same end.

UPDATE: Jonathan Adler seems to agree with my sentiment over at The Corner, and raises the issue that I slid past: proof beyond a reasonable doubt simply has not been required in civil cases, even where death may be a result.

Frank Rich’s anti-religious screed

This column by Frank Rich is absolutely dripping with hostility to religion. We live, he says, in
"a time when government, culture, science, medicine and the rule of law are all under threat from an emboldened religious minority out to remake America according to its dogma." "Our culture," he continues, "has been screaming its theocratic inclinations for months now."

Yeah, I always knew that those rap artists and Academy Award winners were theocrats.

And did you know that efforts over the weekend to have Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted were a "full-scale jihad," and that values voters are the equivalent of the judges at the Salem witch trials or the Taliban?

I can’t help thinking that if Rich had unburdened himself in this way against other minorities, he would be hooted by all right-thinking people from the pages of the New York Times. But sincere religious believers are fair game. We know they’re all bigots and zealots, after all, out to establish a theocracy.

Except for the politicians, who are just Cecil B. DeMilles out for votes.

Hat tip: The Revealer, which calls this bigoted screed "a decent beginner’s survey of this month’s God wars."


Here, via Inside Higher Ed, is an interesting analysis of what may about to a death embrace between the postmodern academic left and the Democratic Party. Here’s the concluding paragraph:

If the Democratic Party comes to be dominated by angry ill-informed activists who believe that George Bush is more evil than Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, it will have a bleak future. It’s time for Democrats, if only out of their own self-interest, to start paying attention to the tragic decline of our college and universities. If they don’t, the party’s future will be in the hands of the acadeaniacs.

Read the whole thing.

More on the Schiavo "talking points memo"

Just read this and draw your own conclusions. The guys at Powerline are reeling in another big catch. And I don’t think it’s a boot or a tire.

Update: Read this too, as well as this and this.

Living and living well

Not surprisingly, Ken Masugi has some very smart thoughts about this characteristically impoverished libertarian reflection on "living well." (There, that should provoke a few people.)

Here, in a nutshell, is Nick Gillespie:

It’s useful to think of any given area as making a deal with people who might live there: We’ll throw off this much employment opportunity, this many diversions, this much action, at a given price —a figure that includes not only money but all the sorts of petty tyrannies that zoning and planning boards routinely generate.

In other words, for Gillespie, "living well" amounts to some combination of employment opportunities ("mere life"), "diversions," and "action." (To a friend who lived in Lebanon, New Hampshire in the late 80s, Boston meant sushi, delis, bars, bookstores, and Bradley Lectures at BC, not necessarily in that order.)

Here’s Masugi’s riposte:

Living well has required institutions long associated with urban culture. But there are ways to achieve human happiness that emphasize family, rootedness, local culture, and faith. I have friends in Washington, DC that would dearly love to return to Kansas for precisely those reasons. Unlike for Gillespie, the exotic big city doesn’t offer the best of life, even as it offers many enticements.

As a single guy (aren’t almost all single guys practically libertarian?), I probably would have sided with Gillespie. As a married guy, I’m with Masugi all the way.

Making Sense of Schiavo

Much has been written even today about the Schiavo case. I have chosen to limit my postings on the subject essentially to updates, because the issues are too large to be addressed in traditional blog length posts. However, because I have received several emails with questions, I will address it here. Accordingly, please pardon the length of the post.

The Schiavo case has created a conundrum perhaps best captured by Charles Krauthammer’s column today:

For Congress and the president to then step in and try to override that by shifting the venue to a federal court was a legal travesty, a flagrant violation of federalism and the separation of powers. The federal judge who refused to reverse the Florida court was certainly true to the law. But the law, while scrupulous, has been merciless, and its conclusion very troubling morally. We ended up having to choose between a legal travesty on the one hand and human tragedy on the other.

Why a Human Tragedy

While I am not as intimately familiar with all the details of the state court proceedings or Terri’s medical condition as I’m sure a number of NLT’s readers are, several features raise serious questions about withdrawing food and hydration.

First, there are credibility and motive issues with her husband, who has been made the surrogate decisionmaker by the Florida courts. He has started a new life with a woman, with whom he lives and has two children. I think that few people blame him for this, but one thing is a bit peculiar: why has he not terminated his marriage with Terri? Given her state, he could do so easily, and no one would blame him or call him a cad. He would essentially be formalizing the fact that he has started a new life with his new common-law wife. I don’t see how this would disrespect Terri any more than starting a new life, which is to say, the social mores against divorcing her seem fairly weak. Furthermore, divorcing Terri would permit him to formally remarry, rather than continue his status as—you’ll pardon the phrase—a common-law polygamist. One possible answer as to why he has continued his marriage is that Terri received a large jury settlement (exceeding $1 million) after her accident. This fund must be used for her care while she is alive, and Michael would presumably lose his claim to these funds if he divorced her. Suddenly, Michael has an incentive both to remain married, and to pull the plug. There are, admittedly, varying accounts as to how much money remains, but I am unaware to what extent the courts took this into account.

There are also claims from several doctors, including a leading neurologist who examined Terri before speaking with Maj. Leader Frist, and a leading speech therapist at the University of Chicago, that Terri could actually progress with the aid of therapy—even to the point of speaking and, key to this inquiry not requiring a feeding tube. Yet Michael has refused to authorize any of these therapies in the 15 years of hospitalization. The question of this inaction is only complicated by the fact that he is so adamant in refusing the requests of her parents to attempt any of these therapies, which to my understanding they have offered to do at their own expense. Even if we assume that he is sincere and genuine in his proffer that Terri would not want to live like this, why would he not want to at least try therapies that could improve her standard of living? Why the rush to die?

Finally, there is a hint of a pro-euthanasia agenda on the part of the local Florida judge who has presided over the case for these many years. Bill Kristol has noted that the neurologist that the judge relied upon is a major proponent of euthanasia, and the has given short shrift to conflicting evidence by other experts who have examined Terri.

In short, there are serious doubts as to whether all reasonable steps have been taken, and there are questions of the motives of those making the decisions. While I think that many in society believe that in tough calls, the presumption should be in favor of life, this case looks like one in which the presumptions may have run the other way.

Why a Legal Travesty

Despite these questions, issues of family law are traditionally the province of the state. For this reason, there have been howls about federalism as a result of Congress creating federal jurisdiction for this case.

I have seen a number of good and bad arguments in the federalism context. The most prominent “bad” argument—indeed one which is put forward today by Charles Fried, is the comparison to habeas reform. The argument is essentially that Congress limited federal habeas review for state offenders, and yet here they go hypocritically creating special jurisdiction for Terri. Aside from the fact that a life may be at issue, the analogy is actually rather weak. First, contrary to what Fried argues, it is not inconsequential that you are comparing apples and oranges. A habeas petitioner has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of his peers (following which, I might add, he has a right to appeal through the state system, generally has a state post-conviction habeas proceeding which again can go all the way to the state supreme court, and then he gets a hearing in federal court), whereas in Terri’s case, her fate was decided not based upon her guilt, but rather based upon who was her guardian. Because the case was civil, no issue had to reach the high level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the nature of the proceedings leading up to federal review are sufficiently different as to raise some doubt as to the utility of their comparison.

But even if we treat them as the same, the habeas reform initiated by Congress simply prevented state prisoners from bringing endless appeals in federal court. Instead, Congress reaffirmed that prisoners would have one bite at the apple, during which they could raise any federal or constitutional claims arising from their state criminal conviction and preserved during their state proceedings. Congress thereby reaffirmed that in our federal system, despite the fact that we believe that state courts are competent to adjudicate federal and constitutional claims, there is still a place for limited federal review where criminal convictions result in limitations on core liberties. In Schiavo’s case, Congress created a similar, one-bite review exclusively to review federal and constitutional issues. Contrary to those who suggest that this is different than the habeas reform bill, it actually is quite similar in its effect in this case. The only way to call them different is to make the thin debaters point that Congress made one law more strict (preventing endless petitions in federal court) and the other created new access. O.K., but the motion in opposite directions led to the same functional result: one review of exhausted federal claims in federal court.

That does not answer the tougher federalism question, however, which is whether Congress rightfully got involved in the first place. First, Congress was careful to act within its constitutionally limited power. Unlike other pet conservative projects, such as the partial birth abortion ban (which I talked about here), Congress did not illegitimately appeal to a bloated version of the Commerce Clause. Rather, they legitimately appealed to their authority to create and modify the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Even so, there are several features of the bill which, even if permissible, seem imprudent. For example, the fact that they created jurisdiction just for this case, and stated that any findings of the court would not have precedential value (the latter of which may well be beyond congressional power) are both questionable judgments. I would have much preferred that Congress pass the version of the bill which passed the House—one which provided for removal to hear exclusively federal claims in any such case where cessaton of life-sustaining procedures was imminent following the exhaustion of state court proceedings.

Yet the fact that Congress acted within the constitutional limits on federalism does not speak to whether Congress acted within the philosophical limits of federalism. This is, I think, the strongest objection. The general rule that family law is the province of the state is a very strong one in American law, and one which should not be ignored lightly. The best reply is that Congress sought simply to assure that Terri had a venue for exploring her federal rights. This may be true, but that is also the reason why Terri has lost who appeals to date, and why she will most likely lose her appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. While she does have a right to life, unless we indulge in reading the Constitution broadly, she has been afforded Due Process by the state court proceedings. Congress was able to give her a venue to assure that her federal claims were heard, but the federal claims end up being narrow, and therefore we should not fault the courts for applying the law correctly.

Where Should We Go From Here?

I have seen a number of news broadcasters and commentators suggest that the moral of the story is that everyone should have an advance directive. But this is only part of the story. The real moral of the story is that courts—both federal and state—are not particularly good venues for deciding these kind of contentious moral issues. Contrary to all the screaming about the influence of politics on this matter, it is precisely the political branches that should be weighing in, and passing laws to prevent future Schiavos. (Indeed, Krauthammer has suggested that they weigh in to specifically save Schiavo.) Anyone who doubts the respective capacity of the branches to resolve disputed moral questions need only recall that the representational function of government which gave us the Declaration of Independence (" . . . all men are created equal . . .), and the judicial branch which has given us such glowing statements as Dred Scott and Plessy. Update:The examples are admittedly a bit glib, and counter examples can be (and indeed have been) raised. That said, it goes to the proper function of the branch of government. Courts are designed to handle specific cases and controversies, not to create policy. The liberals have turned to the courts specifically because they cannot get their agendas passed by the legislatures. But the courts do not have the capacity to do the kind of hearings, townhalls, and general factfinding that the legislative branch does. Judges are not chosen to represent the people. And, importantly in the case of the federal judiciary, they cannot be corrected when they create rules which are contrary to the desires and moral sentiments of the people. Even when the legislatures have endorsed laws such as Jim Crow which were contrary to the principles of constitutional law and notions of right, these interpretations were checkable through the political process. Dred Scott offered no such easy check.

People should have advance directives, but they should do a good many things that people don’t do. We need to have general norms in place for when people become afflicted with these kinds of conditions without directives, and if those norms do not comply with public sentiments of right (which seems to be the issue with Schiavo), it should be the political branches, not the courts, which alter those norms.

Salazar for governor?

I find this interesting. Why would a newly elected Democratic Senator from Colorado, Ken Salazar, be interested in running for Governor in 2006. Is he not amused with working with the national Democratic Party? Perhaps he doesn’t like being in the minority? Colorado is all a buzz.

EU warming, China cooling

I note with interest that even the New York Times understands that the Bush administration deserves credit for the European Union’s turnabout on its plans to lift its arms embargo on China. Today’s NYTimes article
notes that "European diplomats cited China’s newly adopted antisecession law and intense American opposition to easing restraints on weapons sales to explain the shift. The Chinese law adopted this month threatens military action if Taiwan pursues formal independence from the mainland."

And then this:

But sentiment shifted after President Bush visited Europe in February, where he lobbied against the lifting of the embargo while also backing a highly restrictive code of conduct on arms sales to replace it. Congress has appeared ready to increase the stakes, threatening to punish any European companies that sell arms to China and seek defense business in the United States.

Though European officials cited the antisecession law as the reason for maintaining the embargo for the immediate future, some Chinese analysts say it was the United States that played the decisive hand.

Intelligent Design and intelligent science education

Jay Mathews has a smart column in today’s WaPo. He quotes, among others, John West, with whom he disagrees. Which is what makes the column smart.

Let me explain. Mathews’ big point is that by actually addressing the controversy between proponents of I.D. and evolution in biology classes, students would become better, more self-conscious scientists. The material would be more engaging, and students would be compelled to think both about the big issues underlying all of science (and all of life) and about the ways in which scientific theories are developed and disproven. This is what would make a science class something other than indoctrination, i.e., the propounding of a doctrine simply asserted to be true.

Since I think that people become more self-conscious and better informed adherents of their positions when they are "compelled" to think through the challenges to them, I find Mathews’ position quite congenial. Most of my students come into my classes as vaguely Lockeian liberals (that is, they know they have rights). We read Locke, but we also read the thinkers against whom Locke as reacting (like Aristotle and Aquinas, to name just two), and we read those who criticize Locke (like Rousseau). They leave the class having a much better sense of what’s at stake in thinking they have rights, as well as a better sense of what might be missing from a "purely Lockeian" vision of the world. Even if they remain Lockeian (most of them do), they’re more thoughtful and self-critical Lockeians. I’d rather have folks who can intelligently defend Locke’s views (even if their convictions are less passionate and more "nuanced"--a word I use with some trepidation since John Kerry so debased its currency) than folks who can simply and passionately repeat slogans.

Just so we’re clear: this is a post about education, not about I.D.

Hogzilla lived

A team of National Geographic experts has confirmed south Georgia’s monster hog, known to locals as

was indeed real — and really, really big. O.K. the thing wasn’t 1,000 pounds as claimed by the myths, but he was 800 lbs heavy, which ain’t bad. I bet the locals are already saying that the monster had many sons and daughters. This ain’t the end of it!

Dukakis speaks

This interview with Michael Dukakis (remember him?) might be worth a glance. Note his comments on grassroots campaigning. At first sight it seems, well Karl Rove-like and sensible, and then he confuses real mano-a-mano politics with internet fundraising. He is asked what he thought of Kerry’s campaign:

I think the one great missing piece in this campaign, and it’s something that we Democrats have got to get serious about at every level, was that we still aren’t doing the grassroots job the way it has to be done. I happen to be a product of grassroots campaigning, grassroots organization. I wouldn’t have been elected dogcatcher in my state had it not been for that.

When I’m talking about grassroots organization, I’m not talking about parachuting kids in with two weeks to go from seven states over. I’m talking about a precinct organization with a precinct captain in every precinct and block captains – maybe a half a dozen per precinct – who systematically make contact with every single voting household in that precinct, beginning early. This is not something you do in the last couple of weeks. You have to start months in advance. And you do it on a 50-state basis. I don’t care if the state is red, blue or polka dot.

Then he goes on to explain how this can be accomplished at no cost (and no work) by using the internet. I guess he didn’t learn from Karl Rove.

Kofi Annan’s report

In Larger Freedom has been published. This is Kofi Annan’s proposal to reform the United Nations. The Belmont Club outlines the fat thing, and says this:

In my own opinion Kofi Annan’s proposals are a recipe for disaster for two reasons. His entire security model is philosophically founded on a kind of blackmail which recognizes that the only thing dysfunctional states have to export is trouble. He then sets up the United Nations as a gendarmarie with ’a human face’ delivering payoffs to quell disturbances. This is the "bargain whereby rich countries help the poor to develop, by promoting the Millennium Development Goals, while poor countries help alleviate rich countries’ security concerns." Second, his model flies in the face of the recent experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and the entire democratizing upheaval in the Middle East. It is by making countries functional that terrorism is quelled and not by any regime of international aid, inspections, nonproliferation treaties, declarations, protocols, conferences; nor by appointing special rapptorteurs, plenipotentiary envoys; nor constituting councils, consultative bodies or anything else in Annan’s threadbare cupboard.

I like Wretchard’s concluding paragraph:

It was a dictum in Field Marshal Zhukov’s Army that a good commander never reinforced failure only success. It is a maxim of the United Nations that progress is achieved by doing everything that never worked all over again. Probably nowhere is the bankruptcy of Annan’s vision (and I use that word consciously) more evident than in Paragraph 29, where he lays out the UN vision for a better world. It is a laundry list of all the special interest ’development’ goals the UN has acquired over the years where problems of different orders of magnitude and positions in the chain of causality are jumbled together; a bureaucrat’s dream and a human being’s nightmare.

Holbrook on Kennan

Richard Holbrooke writes a pretty fair assesment of George F. Kennan and explains why he almost always disagreed with him. And that is quite revealing. He sees Kennan as "not the brilliant architect of containment but an eloquent skeptic, forcing people in power to make sure their easy justifications stood up before his polite but ferocious criticism." Kennan was always bemused that his doctrine of containment inspired the heardheaded power politics that shaped the cold war. Holbrook shows us Kennan’s great flaw. He writes that Acheson had Kennan right: Achison said that Kennan reminded him of his father’s old horse who, when crossing wooden bridges, would make a lot of noise, then stop, alarmed by the racket he had caused. Kennan will be remembered as a footnote--not as a cause--to the policy of containment.

Public reason and prophetic witness

Michael C. Dorf’s column contains much that is sensible, but then he invokes the ghost of John Rawls and conjures up fears of religious warfare and persecution.

Having argued persuasively that we can’t really impeach a person’s (religious) motive for supporting a particular piece of legislation, he nonethless insists that "in a pluralistic society like ours, it is fair to demand that our laws be justifiable by reference to secular ends and means." I won’t quarrel with the argument that government may pursue only secular ends, but why must the argument in defense of the secular end be a secular argument? And why must the means be secular? Why not a level playing field, offering support for both religious and secular means of addressing secular problems?

Dorf’s response to this line of argument is to point to the good old slippery slope:

what the objection overlooks is the reason we as a society have for trying to prevent public policy debates from becoming competitions between different religious sects. As the framers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights well knew, history teaches that societies in which political divisions track religious ones frequently descend into bloodletting. And sadly, our own era provides no shortage of further examples.

Of course, I do not suggest that the injection of religious arguments into American politics by evangelicals or others will plunge us immediately into a religious civil war. But the abundant lessons of the past and present do provide reasons to be wary of even the first step down that path.

I have a different thought. In the first place, there are significant religious freedom concerns at stake here. If the only way I can bear prophetic witness in the public square is by means of "public reason," then I can’t genuinely practice my faith.
Those who "conscientiously object" to the requirement of public reason have a point. Second, the experience of participating faithfully in a pluralistic public square need not simply teach us to persecute those with whom we disagree; it might teach us how to deal respectfully with them. On the other hand, the secular "silencing" of the religious teaches them about the appropriate use of political power to marginalize those with whom you disagree. Achieving and maintaining respectful "non-toxic" pluralism (I’m borrowing the language, not endorsing the author’s use of it) may require some bumpy experience; I don’t think it can be achieved by the simple exercise of state power, or even by a kind of secular censorship.

Carter-Reagan Continuities

Joe asks me to weigh in, so I shall. Yes, there are some striking parallels between Reagan and Carter’s idealism, especially on wanting to abolish nuclear weapons. The fundamental difference in their statecraft, though, is that Carter approached the world through a Kantian moral framework, while Reagan was more Aristotelian; that is to say, Reagan had great practical judgment where Carter had none. And look whose approach succeeded, and whose didn’t.

I am reviewing the Gil Troy book on Reagan and the 1980s shortly in The Weekly Standard, and I won’t give away much here, except to say: I really don’t like it. Stay tuned for the review.

One final footnote: Reagan quickly came to regret signing the abortion bill that Jenkins mentions. Also, his environmental record as president was just as good as his record as governor, as you can see if you review the actual results here.

Democrats (can’t) Move On

This is required reading, since it tells us so much about the Democratic Party’s center of gravity (but not gravitas). Note also the presence of HRC at this rally; her moderate noises to the contrary notwithstanding, this is a constituency to which she must pay obeisance.

Carter-Reagan continuities?

Philip Jenkins is a bold man, arguing in his review of this book that we exaggerate the differences between Ronald Reagan and his predecessor:

just how different was Reagan from his predecessor? In terms of popular memory, the contrast seems absurd: the Gipper versus the Wimp. But Carter and Reagan had much in common. Carter was more conservative than is often recalled, and Reagan more liberal. On issues of gender and morality, Reagan had a distinctly moderate record, having endorsed the ERA and opposed California’s anti-gay Briggs initiative. His two terms as governor included liberal measures on abortion rights and no-fault divorce, not to mention a fairly progressive tax policy and a respectable environmental record. At times, he looked like the kind of politician the Reaganites were warning about. The two men also shared much in their idealistic moral vision and their religious sense of national purpose. Both saw national problems in moral terms, as issues of the human heart. Neither was reluctant to invoke moral justifications for policy or to see a divine hand in political destiny, and both were attacked for religious sentiments that the secular-minded regarded as naïve or hypocritical.

Having read
this book and having lived through both presidencies (not to mention much of the Carter post-presidency at first-hand here in Atlanta), I couldn’t disagree more. Carter’s moralism was much less friendly to American patriotism than was Reagan’s and his character ultimately much less generous and patient.

Steven Hayward, what do you think?

2004 election discussion

This will be interesting. If you’re in D.C. on April Fool’s Day, you should drop in; if not, you can watch it live on the Heritage Foundation site.


Powerline is suggesting the possibility that the memo described in this article may be a fake. Here’s the text of the memo; Powerline is awaiting a facsimile. And here’s an update from Powerline casting a little more doubt on the authenticity of the memo.

Are these guys gunning for the 2005 "Blog of the Year" award, hard on the heels of their orchestration of the information necessary to discredit Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes story? Note: I’m not suggesting untoward motives on the part of the Powerline guys; their skepticism is healthy and well-informed, and plays the role the press is supposed to play in a democratic republic.

Update: More here. The story gets curioser and curioser. And it is a pretty stupid memo, whoever produced it.

New Politics and Technology Blog

For those who are interested in how blogs and other internet technology are impacting politics, Chip Griffin has launched the InterAdvocacy Blog. It is worth a checking out.  

More on Ending the Filibuster

For those who missed it, George Will wrote an article over the weekend stating his objection to a ruling from the chair declaring filibusters of judicial nominees impermissible, and on Monday Mark Levin responded on NRO.

Dionne goes (anti-) nuclear

I’m not surprised by E.J. Dionne’s overall argument. But this chunk is quite revealing:

Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, called an urgent meeting last week with leaders of civil rights, civil liberties, environmental and women’s groups. His message: The Senate faces a nuclear winter that could engulf them.

What emerged at that meeting was an order of battle that could mark American politics for years. Reid told the participants that he had learned from friendly Republican senators that Bill Frist, the majority leader, intended to push forward with what has come to be known as the "nuclear option," a fiddling with Senate rules that would block filibusters of judicial nominees.

And Reid warned the groups that the Republican effort to curb the rights of the Senate minority would not stop with judges. If Frist won on judges, Reid predicted, Republicans would be emboldened to roll other legislation through on narrow majority votes.

Dionne says that minority "rights" are threatened; I’d call them "interests." And the best--indeed, the truly constitutional--defense of those interests comes through the ballot box. If the Republicans overreach, if the interests they threaten are genuinely popular, then they’ll pay at the polls in 2006 and thereafter. The Democratic "constitutionalists" are so accustomed to working around inconvenient, recalcitrant, backward-looking voting majorities that they’ve forgotten the true basis of all constitutional government, the will of the people, expressed (to be sure) through the constitution (albeit not through the judges’ "policy preferences") but also through voting.

If the Democrats were so confident that the Republicans are playing a losing electoral hand, they wouldn’t be hiding behind the judiciary and the "constitution" as much as they do.

Schiavo Update

U.S. District Judge James Whittemore declined to enter an injunction this morning which would have required the reinsertion of the feeding tube in Terri Schiavo. The Fox News/AP report is here. The parents have vowed an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Calling the Democratic Bluff

There has been much talk in Washington about using the so-called "nuclear option"--a grossly misnamed procedure designed to stop the unprecedented Democratic filibuster of judicial nominees. I must admit that I have my doubts as to whether the Republicans have the intestinal fortitude to actually force a vote. After all, they never forced a "real" filibuster for any significant length of time; and they have allowed a simple rule clarification to be dubbed an apocalyptic weapon.

But Senator George Allen’s article in the Washington Times today provides some hope. He argues that the Republicans to "go for it" without timidity. Here is a taste:

As senators, we have a constitutional responsibility to give our "advice and consent" regarding the president’s judicial nominations and that responsibility is being thwarted by a minority of Democrats who don’t agree with these nominees’ ideological positions. No senator has an obligation to vote in favor of a nominee, but every senator should have the backbone to get off their haunches and vote yes or vote no on these nominees and explain their vote to their constituents.

He also asks the right question about the Democratic threat of becoming uncooperative, essentially asking what is this becoming nonsense. I think he is right. The Democrats have established themselves as the party of "no." The only way that they can become less cooperative is to force a government shutdown, and that is a risk that I don’t think they actually want to take. I think it is past time to call their bluff.

Beinart on Bolton

Peter Beinart argues that times have changed in the world and at the U.N.; hence the confrontational style that worked for Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, when U.N. majorities deserved a spanking, would be counterproductive now, when the U.S. actually stands a chance to build coalitions at the U.N.

I think Beinart fundamentally misunderstands the appointment. Bolton isn’t there to criticize the member states so much as he is to criticize the demonstrably corrupt U.N. bureaucracy. The problem this time lies not with the emerging democratic states (save, perhaps, insofar as they insist on condemning Israel), but with the bureaucracy (I could do more of this, but just go here for all the links you could possibly want) and the few contrarian "allies" who are complicit with it.

Germany’s stagnant economy

Germany’s unemployment is at 12.6%, when Schroder took office in 1998 it was at 10.2%. Good summary of Germany’s problems from the Christian Science Monitor.

Diana Schaub, Star Trek , and bioethics

Diana Schaub was due for some good press. Lord knows, she was lambasted by libertarians and the science lobby when President Bush appointed her (and my good friend Peter Lawler) to his Council on Bioethics.

While not quite as puffy and fluffy as this piece or as perfervid as this one, the Baltimore Sun treats her views respectfully. She’s a conservative, yes, but not particularly religious; and she’s catholic (small "c") in her sources of inspiration--looking to Abraham Lincoln and Star Trek for grist for her mill.

You can find her two most famous or infamous bioethics articles here and here.

Schaub’s most provocative statement on cloning comes from the first of those pieces:

Cloning is an evil, and cloning for the purpose of research actually exacerbates the evil by countenancing the willful destruction of nascent human life. Moreover, it proposes doing this on a mass scale, as an institutionalized and routinized undertaking to extract medical benefits for those who have greater power. It is slavery plus abortion.

Her view, it should be emphasized, doesn’t depend upon religion, though it is certainly compatible with a religious view. In that respect, she harkens back to the early rather heterodox Lincoln, who abhorred slavery as an evil long before he began to utter vaguely orthodox religious sentiments.

The second piece, on aging, is one that I read just last week, in preparation for a paper I’m writing (on Tolkien and bioethics) for
this conference. She uses two Star Trek episodes to elucidate some of the issues connected with the natural (but problematical) desire to prolong our lives. Here’s a brief snippet:

Apparently, in the research conducted thus far, the most common (though not universal) side effect of age retardation is sterility or reduced fertility. It seems as if, in pursuing an ageless body, the balance between the individual and the species is altered. When we choose vastly longer life for the individual, the propagation of the species is sacrificed. The society in the Star Trek episode is a drastic rendition of the trade-off. In pursuing immortality for themselves, the residents of the planet made clear their hostility to the succession of the generations. They sought to make themselves irreplaceable.

If I may be permitted an editorial comment based upon my reading of Schaub, the Council on Bioethics materials, and Tolkien: the desire "unreasonably" to prolong life is a selfish and distorted response to our finitude, while reproduction and child-rearing are natural and ultimately "pious" responses. The former response leads us to dwell ever more intensely on ourselves; the latter to think of our responsibilities to others.

When the Tolkien paper is finished (gee, I still have almost three weeks!), I’ll have more to say and will share my half-baked thoughts with anyone who wants a copy.

Legislative Whims

The NYT editorializes about Justice Scalia today. Recoiling from a recent speech in which Scalia questioned whether the nine unelected judges should act as moral arbiters for the nations, the NYT opines:

The implications of Justice Scalia’s remarks are sweeping. Many of the most central principles of American constitutional law - from the right to a court-appointed lawyer to the right to buy contraception - have emerged from the court’s evolving sense of the meaning of constitutional clauses. Justice Scalia seems to be suggesting that many, or perhaps all, of these rights should exist only at the whim of legislatures.

Oh dear lord, not the legislatures! You mean that the elites might be subjected to the will of the representatives of the filthy, unwashed masses! There’s a lot of Red State folks in that group. Why, I bet most of them have never even been to Martha’s Vineyard! How can they determine my "rights!" Far better for to promote the NYT agenda through the whims of the unelected judges!

Of course, the NYT at base suffers from the modern delusion that the question of whether something is constitutional really asks whether it is "good" or whether we as a society (or as elites) like it. But of course, the Constitution actually only covers a few baseline issues. Everything good is not in the Constitution. To protect the NYT’s expansive panoply of rights, the Founders and the Constitution requires you to turn to the filthy masses represented in the legislatures.

Rehnquist on Freedom of Speech

Geoff Stone writes about CJ Rehnquist’s Freedom of Speech and Press jurisprudence over at the ACS blog. Geoff compares Rehnquists votes on these issues to those of other justices, and finds him wanting. This particularly seems to be so for Stone because, while Rehnquist was less likely to vote for First Amendment plaintiffs in cases involving, for instance, the press and porn, he was more likely to find a First Amendment right when speech that the Left is less likely to value was at issue (e.g., religious speech, commercial speech, and campaign speech). Stone offers this truly ridiculous conclusion:

His inclination to sustain First Amendment claims only when they involved commercial advertising, campaign expenditures, or religious expression belies any plausible theory of originalism, judicial restraint, or principled constitutional interpretation.

First, Rehnquist did not sustain only those claims. By Stone’s own account, those just happened to be areas where he was more likely than his colleagues to vote in favor of a First Amendment interest. Second, the originalist view of the First Amendment holds that political speech is the core of what the Freedom of Speech clause meant to protect, so it is perfectly keeping with that theory to specially protect that speech. Similarly, because religion is given special consideration by the Free Exercise Clause elsewhere in the First Amendment, and because most originalists believe that religion is included in the same Amendment as Free Speech for a reason--that is, because the framers(even in prior drafts) expressed the view that speech and religion were both freedoms of conscience, it would likewise make sense from an originalist perspective to be especially protective of that speech. Commercial speech is the least likely of these three to find support in originalism, but Stone goes further and suggests that Rehnquist’s position is outside any principled constitutional interpretation. O.K., protection of commercial speech certainly finds some support in textualism, as well as in a simple case-based jurisprudence that takes seriously the prior expansive rulings of the Supreme Court. Indeed, it "belies any plausible theory of . . . principled constitutional jurisprudence" to say that there is a grand right to display porn at drive-ins, but that the same First Amendment does not protect the right of a business to truthfully advertise prices.

I think that Stone got a bit ahead of himself. It is fine if he disagrees with the originalist view of the First Amendment, but it is sloppy and erroneous to say that a justice who grants heightened protection to religious and political speech is acting outside the confines of that jurisprudential view.

March madness

No, not that kind, this kind!

Hat tip: NRO’s The Corner. My Elite Eight, btw, are: Santorum, Ridge, Coleman, Barbour, Frist, Jeb Bush, Condi Rice, and J.C. Watts.

Russell Jacoby on conservative PC

Inside Higher Ed pointed me to this article by Russell Jacoby.

He "magisterially" dismisses evidence of left-wing bias on college campuses (the studies are flawed; faculty Democrats aren’t really leftists; what about disciplines like business and engineering; the return rate on questionnaires wasn’t very high; and so on). He also repeats the tired arguments that conservatives are anti-intellectual and would rather make money than teach English, despite the fact that there are no even flawed studies that demonstrate this. Perhaps common sense tells him so. Well, common sense (backed up by numerous studies of varied quality) tells me that there isn’t much intellectual diversity on many high-prestige campuses and that even smart conservatives are sometimes either denied tenure or not offered jobs there.

His best line (a pretty good one) is this:

If life were a big game of Monopoly, one might suggest a trade to these conservatives: You give us one Pentagon, one Department of State, Justice and Education, plus throw in the Supreme Court, and we will give you every damned English department you want.

He thinks professors should be subversive, challenging their students. And he thinks that the various movements inspired by David Horowitz, about which I’ve posted before, most recently
here, will make college campuses blander places.

I don’t want bland; I want lively. But I don’t equate liveliness exclusively with leftism or liberalism. Peter Schramm is lively; Allan Bloom was lively; I’m (kinda) lively, even though I was once described by a president of my university (not the current occupant of that office) as "to the right of Attilla the Hun" (a bad line that Jacoby also uses), if not necessarily of Schramm the Hungarian (a bad line that only I use).

Jacoby assimilates the activities of liberal and leftist professors to a tradition that goes back to Socrates. Well, Socrates was eager to have all sorts of interlocutors. And while he questioned authority, he also cared about the truths that could be found in old books. Socrates is no conventional conservative, but he would also be a questioner of liberal pieties. And he famously didn’t spawn or support any political party, though he did leave his unphilosophical sons to be educated by Athens. And I’ll leave you, dear readers, to chew over the import o that final observation.

More on Good News in Iraq in the NYT

Let me add to Joe’s post below, and suggest that John Burns’s article about the transformation of Haifa Street is much worth reading. Burns is an interesting fellow. Among the reporters in Iraq, he was something of a local celebrity. When I was there, he had spent more time reporting from Iraq than anyone else I met. Because of this, he actually understands the Iraqis and their situation more than most of the reporters. Having seen the atrocities committed by Hussein, he was a strong and vocal opponent of Saddam’s regime--which put him in something of a minority position among the press. (Few were vocal about Saddam, and if they were, they were quick to add a "but," followed by a string of blame the Americans.) While I find that Burns is a little too quick to editorialize in his columns, and often times offers opinions with which I disagree, he is interesting, and worth reading.

Burns’s article is about Haifa Street, a road in Baghdad known as the wild west, which runs directly into the Assassin’s gate of the Green Zone. I know this gate well. I went through it less than an hour after bombs exploded outside the gate. I have heard gunfire down Haifa Street as I exited or drove past the gate. This is the gate I would have to take if business (or a poker game) kept me in the Green Zone late into the evening, when the gate at the Convention Center would on occasion be closed. Beyond the gate, which was manned with crows-nest gunners peering through their scopes at all hours of the day and night, stood Haifa street, populated by Saddam with many of his loyalists. Not surprisingly, then, Haifa Street was the locus of many a fire fight. For example, my recollection is that the Bradley fighting vehicle that was overrun and had to be destroyed (killing one journalist who foolishly stood next to the vehicle broadcasting while looters attacked the vehicle) was on Haifa Street. But Burns offers us good news about this street:

On Haifa Street, at least, insurgents are attacking in smaller numbers, and with less intensity; mortar attacks into the Green Zone have diminished sharply; major raids have uncovered large weapons caches; and some rebel leaders have been arrested or killed. . . .

But the change American commanders see as more promising than any other here is the deployment of large numbers of Iraqi troops. American commanders are eager to shift the fighting in Iraq to the country’s own troops, allowing American units to pull back from the cities and, eventually, to begin drawing down their 150,000 troops. Haifa Street has become an early test of that strategy.

Last month, an Iraqi brigade with two battalions garrisoned along Haifa Street became the first homegrown unit to take operational responsibility for any combat zone in Iraq. The two battalions can muster more than 2,000 soldiers, twice the size of the American cavalry battalion that has led most fighting along the street. So far, American officers say, the Iraqis have done well, withstanding insurgent attacks and conducting aggressive patrols and raids, without deserting in large numbers or hunkering down in their garrisons.

This is good and welcome news. Worth a read.

Campaign reform and astroturf

John Fund writes today on a story that was all over the blogosphere last week. Catch up, if you missed it the first time. And while you’re at it, read this from the estimable Win Myers.

Update: Glenn Reynolds weighs in, and there’s yet more at Democracy Project

A note on Kennan

Barton Gellman writes an op-ed for the WaPo on George F. Kennan that reminded me how much I disliked the guy. Although I think Gellman is meaning to praise Kennan (note the title of his piece), his piece has the opposite effect as far as I’m concerned. Kennan was not the sort of man who should play a central role in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. The good news is that hard-heads like Acheson and Truman knew this and got rid of him. His influence on foreign policy by the late ’40’s was non-existent. Kennan turned out to be the mouthpiece for the Left.

Note this:

Kennan’s containment was not a military endeavor. In lectures at the National War College, he spoke not of "counterforce" but "counterpressure." Containment’s primary instruments, as Kennan saw them, were political and economic. As early as 1948, he took vehement exception to the creation of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, predicting that it would cement the division of Europe into opposing military blocs. He bitterly opposed development of the hydrogen bomb, which multiplied the destructive power of atomic weaponry. And he despised the Truman Doctrine, which called for military support to governments threatened by communist insurrection, liberally defined, anywhere in the world. Later he became an early critic of the Vietnam War, called for abolition of nuclear weapons and disparaged President Bush’s war in Iraq.

Read the whole thing and take special note of the last paragraph, wherein Kennan is quoted at length.

Japanese sub discovered

An I 401 class sub was discovered off Hawaii. The submarine is from the I-400 Sensuikan Toku class of subs, the largest built before the nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the 1960s. They were 400 feet long and nearly 40 feet high and could carry a crew of 144. The submarines were designed to carry three "fold-up" bombers that could be assembled for flight within minutes. "An I-400 and I-401 were captured at sea a week after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. Their mission — which was never completed — reportedly was to use the aircraft to drop rats and insects infected with bubonic plague, cholera, typhus and other diseases on U.S. cities.

When the bacteriological bombs could not be prepared in time, the mission was reportedly changed to bomb the Panama Canal."

Good news from Iraq

In the New York Times.

A note on Sullivan

Joe notes Andrew Sullivan’s prediction about a civil war within the GOP (or among conservatives, if you like). On the one hand, almost any prediction in politics is worth making because there is always some chance that a prediction may come true. On the other, there is only a very slim chance that Sullivan’s prediction (or wish) will come to be. His assumptions are wrong. No ordinary citizen (that is, one without a Ph.D., or a non-pundit) is really concerned with these weird distinctions between paleo- and neo-conservatives, or even much between libertarians and social conservatives. Besides, a civil war among Democrats is much more likely than one between Republicans, but even the Democratic civil war will be put off until after their 2008 loss.

Since 9/11 especially, the main issue that citizens have been concerned with and moved by has to do with trust. And that trust is especially (albeit, not solely) given to Bush and the GOP because of the war on terror. And I don’t mean by this that the people trust Bush in how he carries out the war on terror. The basis of the trust is something much more fundamental. This is not a small point, and Sullivan above all should understand it. The people know (or sense, if you like) that there is a dividing issue between the parties on something like a fundamental principle, and that principle has to do with what it is the country stands for, and why it is worth fighting for (it is not on how the war is being fought, that is a technical issue). In the voters mind (rightly, I think) this question of what we are as a country and a people is connected to what are loosely called social issues. Not unimportant questions (like the size of government, fiscal policy, etc.) take a back seat to this massive fact having to do with fundamental principles. The so called policy questions, from Social Security to the deficit, are deeply affected by the fundamentals. Sullivan, oddly perhaps, given that everyone used to think he was a smart guy, has forgotten this. As one commentator
says, Sullivan has become deeply confused ideologically. I should add that it is because Bush is not confused--and that is why he acts and talks in such an authoritative and confident manner--that is a special irritant to his opponents. Hence they call him arrogant and keep asking him to admit to mistakes he has made. This works entirely to Bush’s advantage because his manner and mode show citizens that he is firm in his stand on principle. This is no small accomplishment for a president; it is the basis of his political capital.

Bush and the GOP talk and act as if they are representing the ground of a political consensus; they are acting as if they represent the majority, and indeed even a long term majority (as in a realignment). This is extremely frustrating to their opponents and since they themselves cannot come to some sound representation of a principle, they are acting out the negative in politics. And this will go on through the 2006 elections, and will last until after they lose the presidency yet again in 2008. Then they will have their civil war, and it will last about twenty years. They are now bent on putting that off because they do not yet believe any of this. They still think that Bush’s victories (and the GOP’s victories) are mistakes. They think that the majority is still with them. This explains some of their outrageous statements, the most recent example is

Howard Dean calling the Republicans "brain dead."

This also explains Sullivan’s hope that there will be a civil war within the GOP. That there will be disagreements (indeed, there are disagreements already) within the party goes without saying. But none of those disagreements will come to the level of a principled division, at least not this soon after they have formed the new ground of consensus. Besides, if such a major division will come, it will likely come on an issue that might surprise Sullivan and his ideological soul-mates. It will not come on the war on terror, or even foreign policy broadly understood. It is likely to come on questions having to do with immigration, especially illegal immigration. While it is true that illegal immigration, or control of our borders, if you prefer, is related to the war on terror, it is in fact closer to the fundamental question of who we are as a people, and how citizens should be made in this human rights republic. This will be the hardest nut to crack. But it is not likely to lead to a civil war. But Sullivan doesn’t see this, being so preoccupied with his own interests and with "policy" issues narrowly understood. Sullivan is wrong: The Republicans already had their civil war, Barry Goldwater won the first battle, the victories continued with Reagan, and culminated with the two elections of George W. Bush. The GOP will only be inclined to re-think itself, and go to war with itself, if it takes many poundings in many elections over a long period of time. And that is unlikely for a generation; first the Democrats have to go through their civil war, and they haven’t started yet.

Republican crackup?

Andrew Sullivan predicts a civil war (or an uncivil war) in the Republican Party, but for some reason (can someone explain this to me?) can’t make consistent distinctions. He talks about realists and neocons in foreign policy, but characterizes paleocons as realists. I thought that the paleocons were isolationists. Have I missed something?

And there are obvious disagreements in domestic policy as well, but the fault lines aren’t altogether clear here either. Do paleocons, for example, prefer small government or government promotion of morality? What do neocons think about domestic policy? Are ambitious attempts at nation-building only for Iraq and Afghanistan, or for the U.S. as well?

One could say that these are the growing pains of the new majority party, or one could predict blood and gore (small g) and guts. Sullivan for obvious reasons chooses the latter.

I wish this smart guy could shed more light than he’s willing to do.

Fat Germans and and others

No Passaran says that another stereotype about Americans is ready to be challenged. The AP

At least seven European countries now challenge the United States in size — at least around the waistline. In a group of nations from Greece to Germany, the proportion of overweight or obese men is higher than in the U.S., experts said Tuesday in a major analysis of expanding girth on the European continent.

Evangelicals and politics for the umpteenth time

There were two articles in this morning’s Atlanta paper about this report and this book.

Not surprisingly, much of the emphasis in both articles was on how the evangelical engagement in politics isn’t or shouldn’t be just about abortion and gay marriage. Fair enough; but the implication for the most part is that concern with the poor would lead evangelicals away from the Republicans, which is, to me, far from self-evident.

To be fair, neither article says simply that concern with poverty is an exclusively Democratic issue; indeed, one quotes Ron Sider to the effect that the Republican emphasis on personal responsibility and the Democratic emphasis on structure are complementary. But there remains little serious discussion of how market-oriented economic policies can promote the welfare of the poor.

Harvard faculty meeting

Here, courtesy of my new penpal Katie Newmark is an extended account of the infamous Harvard faculty meeting. Of the members of the Government Department who spoke, Stanley Hoffmann went down in my estimation and Nancy Rosenblum went up.

Presidential reading habits

This puts GWB’s reading habits, impressive in themselves, in a nice perspective. Here’s my favorite line, from an early critic of the MSM: "The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers."

Read the whole thing if you want to know who uttered it. 

Reagan’s imagination and prudence

Rich Lowry reviews Paul Lettow’s Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and finds it good. Lettow tells the good story of Reagan’s seriousness and--contra all his advisors--pushed on with his views and, in the end Reagan

wanted to do away with nuclear weapons entirely, perhaps because he thought the biblical story of Armageddon foretold a nuclear war. He believed that the Soviet economy would buckle under the pressure of stiff competition in the arms race. And he supported missile defense as a technological and moral alternative to the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.

The 1986 Reykjavik summit is a key to both Reagan’s thinking, and his ultimate success. 

Lawrence Summers bad for Harvard?

Brendan Conway’s review of a bad book on Lawrence Summers raises some interesting questions. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Should he continue on his current path, Mr. Summers will continue to steamroll calcified Harvard lefties and give conservatives reason for glee. But he’ll also continue to change the university rapidly, and he won’t solve longstanding problems like declining standards in undergraduate education.

And that, in the end, is a mixed bag. It means more wealth, more technological advances and presumably more resources for everyone. But it could also mean stripping intellectual pursuits of their primacy of place.

Read the whole thing.

Boys and girls

This LAT piece caught my eye. Turns out that a study by Duke University shows that boys do worse--in some cases, substantially worse--than girls on a variety of social indicators. The press, Glenn Sacks argues, has gotten this wrong, not just now, but for a long time. All hail, Christina Hoff Sommers!

LAT praises Bush, Republicans

Read this analysis of Republican legislative successes. My favorite paragraph:

"The plate tectonics are being shaped for some really big fights — really big fights on Social Security, judges, the budget," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). "I don’t think it’s at all obvious how these things are going to work their way out."

Interesting stuff, eh?

Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee

If you remember the song with that refrain, you’re OLD. Now instead of "Mohammed, Mohammed Ali, floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee," sing "Michael, Michael Kinsley, floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee."

Read the whole thing, which manages gracefully to cover both the Lawrence Summers controversy at Harvard and his exchanges with Susan Estrich (without actually naming her), while also smothering Maureen Dowd with kisses (yech!).