Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Yes, I’m back

The beautiful and moving funeral was yesterday. We’re all wondering how the children will be able to do without the mom who anchored the family and how the grandchildren are going to do without the grammy who encouraged their musical talents and made wonderful meals for them. It goes without saying that the widower will have to figure out how to live alone after 49 years of sharing a home with someone.

I’m simply struggling back to a sense of work-related normalcy after having the teeth kicked out of me (figuratively, this time; earlier in the year, it was more or less literally).

All of which is to say that it may be some time before I do a lot of blogging.

Thanks, by the way, to all those who expressed kind wishes and kept us in their prayers.

Brownback on immigration

This WaPo article, not altogether accurately, portrays Kansas Republican Sam Brownback as allied with Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy on immigration issues. Unlike Reid, who resisted attempts to permit votes on amendments to the Martinez-Hagel compromise, effectively killing the bill for the time being, Brownback would have permitted floor votes on measures that would have strengthened border enforcement. Not surprisingly, Reid’s motives seem to be connected with election year politics. For more, go here.

Brownback’s position seems a little more complicated and perhaps less calculating. He’s not always voting with his party and he’s taking heat from the right. His position genuinely seems motivated by religious concerns, though without the degree of indifference to national security and the rule of law that marks all too many of the explicitly religious utterances on the issue. One wonders what those who call Brownback a theocrat make of all this.

President Guiliani?

Hat tip to Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner for bringing this to our attention: Rudy Giuliani is working with Senator Rick Santorum and other conservatives in tight races on fundraising. A possible way to improve his standing with conservatives for an ’08 run? There is much discussion and speculation on his interest and intentions for such a race in the link above. Useful information.

A note on immigration debate

Powerline has some comments on the immigration debate in the Senate, and brings to our attention this article on the similar debate in France. And this is
Krauthammer’s take on the whole matter.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for March

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

Chuck Herrick

William Hickey

Patricia Taylor

Carol Drury

Jim O’Malley

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

A Calorie Emissions Trading Program?

People who follow this stuff know that the hottest idea for fighting greenhouse gas emissions is an emissions-trading program, which has worked reasonably well (though for reasons most people don’t understand that make it not comparable to greenhouse gases) for sulfur dioxide. In today’s Washington Post, a cardiologist proposes that we use the same idea to fight obesity. People would have to buy calorie credits for high-calorie foods. In other words, what we have here is another do-gooder who wants to make my cheeseburger more expensive. Would someone earn credits for exercise, or will this just be another tax-raising scheme in disguise?

All I can say is, the old Schramm would have been in big trouble under this scheme. And is shows the mischief that can be made under such so-called "market-based" policies to achieve good ends.

"The Jimmy Carter Desert Classic"

Don’t miss Mark Bowden’s (of Black Hawk Down fame) account of the failed 1980 Iranian hostage rescue mission in the next issue of The Atlantic. I studied several accounts of that mission in the course of research for volume 1 of The Age of Reagan, and Bowden adds new detail not previously published.

At the time The New Republic referred to the debacle as "The Jimmy Carter Desert Classic."

USSR shouldn’t be dead, Gorbi

I continue to be surprised how many liberals still think well of Gorbachev, and the USSR. Things were nice and neat, stable; everything was clear. No more. In this USA Today interview with him, he makes clear that the USSR should have been preserved, and could have been preserved; he merely wanted some decentralization, but things got out of hand. Oh, and he also doesn’t like the rearranging going on the Middle East.

Blacks to GOP?

From this morning’s Washington Post: "An internal document prepared by a top Democratic strategist warns that a majority of African American voters in Maryland are open to supporting Republican Senate candidate Michael S. Steele and advises the party not to wait to "’knock Steele down.’" The report says that as much as 44% of likely black voters could abandon the Dems. Now, if you are a Democratic operative, you tell me why this is only true in Maryland? Why not Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan, for example?

In Christ there is neither Anglo nor Latino

I wonder if Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, believes this proposition, given what he says here:

"This is the watershed movement -- it’s the moment where either we really forge relationships with the white evangelical church that will last for decades, or there is a possibility of a definitive schism here," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which serves 10,700 Hispanic evangelical churches with 15 million members.

"There will be church ramifications to this, and there will be political ramifications," he said.

Mark Krikorian wonders how the numbers claimed for this organization make sense. I wonder whether this is a good way of building bridges.

Here’s a letter from some evangelical leaders to President Bush and members of Congress. Here’s my weekly TAE Online piece, which deals with the politics and political principles of the religious intervention in the immigration debate.

I didn’t put it this way, but probably should have: the language of the religious intervenors is properly pastoral, prophetic, and universalistic, but it can too easily be understood to mask an immediate concern for "our people." Rev. Rodriguez’s statement, quoted above, is simply the most blatant example of this. In the past immigrant churches have been ethnic and pastoral, but have also worked for the integration of parishioners and congregants into the mainstream of American life. This is a fine line that’s hard to tread. Are the churches still committed to trying? Do they have the skills to succeed?

In Christ there is neither Anglo nor Latino...and in America there should only be Americans.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: I don’t mean to define "American" in 19th century WASP terms, but rather in terms of a common commitment to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, to responsible participation and integration in the community, society, and polity, which ultimately requires learning English, as well as U.S. history. Integration must inevitably change those who join, and it will change the country they join. (I say this as the son of relatively recent immigrants, both of whom are proud Americans, and as one whose first language was not English.)

Thank Goodness for This News

Blondes are not going extinct. Another urban legend bites the dust.

The Vast-Left Wing Environmental Conspriacy, Take 2

Julie’s reference below to Dave Mastio’s story about the Enviro-Media Complex raises a mystery: the enviros, as I noted in my Weekly Standard article a few weeks ago, have embarked on a massive PR campaign to elevate the profile of global warming in American politics. This would seem foolish on the surface: the Bush Administration has shown that it is not for turning on this. So why make this kind of effort more than two years before the next election?

Dick Morris offers a clue in this column from The Hill. Al Gore might run again in 2008. Not only will he run to Hillary’s left on the war, but he may also run as the candidate to fight global warming. I can tell you from conversations I’ve had with enviros that one of the great mysteries in their mind is why Gore was so silent about global warming (since that is the ONLY issue for most greens) in his 2000 campaign. Typically I just run through the Gallup poll numbers for them: the issue is a loser politically. But if public opinion can be brought around over the next couple of years, then Gore can campaign on it. And if he wins, then he’d be in a position to do something, rather than flounder around as the Clinton administration did with its non-starter idea for a BTU tax.

This is the surest hint yet that Gore is indeed getting ready to run again.

The CRB: Best Review of Books Going

My fresh copy of the best review of books in the English language The Claremont Review of Books arrived on my doorstep yesterday. Professor Mansfield has an article in it and there is also a review of his book Manliness--so I’ll have to put down his book for awhile. Harry V. Jaffa has a new essay, as does Victor Davis Hanson. Our own Steve Hayward has an excellent review of Martin Gilbert’s latest on Churchill. And I would be remiss in my duties as a shameless self-promoter if I did not mention that I have a small review in this issue as well. At this point, none of the articles are available online--so, by all means, go to Barnes and Noble and pick one up or do yourself a real favor and subscribe today! Happy reading.

The Vast Left Wing Environmental Conspiracy

O.K., that may be over the top . . . but not by all that much. David Mastio at Real Clear Politics connects the dots in a striking article about the near seamless symmetry between the media, radical environmentalists, and left wing politics.

Philadelphia Society and My Latest Podcast

I went to the Philadelphia Society meeting last week. There were some panels, some OK speeches, and some very foolish ones (some so-called conservatives can be almost willfully stupid, I must say). One of the best panels was on "Republic, Democracy, and Empire" and Mac Owens gave the best talk at the event. Read it.

I’m in West Virginia for a couple of days at some interesting events at Marshall University, so I’ll blog light, if any. Ben will post my podcast with David Foster on Huckleberry Finn later today. Be sure to listen to it. Good stuff.

Light blogging this week

Charlotte Boggus, my mother-in-law, lived a full life, but died suddenly, sparing her family the long ordeal of passing that everyone dreads. A decidedly mixed blessing, I should say.

On a happier note, you can read about an honor given to my teacher, M. Richard Zinman, as well as some of his reflections on teaching, by clicking on this link, then clicking on "Publications" on the left sidebar, then on HConnections, and finally on pages 22-27 of "2005 in Review" (if there’s a better way, I can’t find it). Dick richly deserves the honor, and his thoughts are always worth reading.

While I can’t blame him for making me who I am today, he put me on the path to perdition, and I’m grateful.

Liberals Are Manic Depressive Girly-Men

The Washington Post carries a short report this morning (page A2) that I can’t find an online link for about a forthcoming article in the Journal of Research in Personality that analyzes in detail the language used by Bush, Cheney, Kerry, and Edwards in the 2004 campaign. (The study was done by linguists at the Univesity of Texas/Austin--a blue outpost in that red state). The finding: "Sen. Kerry seemed the most depressed and suicidal. And Kerry’s running mate, Sen. John Edwards, sounded most like a ’girly man.’"

It gets better (and even more depressing for liberals): "Cheney easily sounded the smartest of the four. . . Edwards also was the most likely to use feminine speech patterns and ’female’ words, while Cheney sounded most like a man’s man. . . The Vice President sounded the most honest of the four, and Kerry the least." The study’s authors said that Bush also used a lot of feminine language (that’s the trouble with compassionate conservatism), but at least he wasn’t depressed like Kerry.

Sounds like liberals could use a dose of Manliness. And also this.

Zacarias Moussaoui

A federal jury
"found Zacarias Moussaoui eligible to die for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, concluding that Moussaoui’s lies to federal agents paved the way for the deadliest terrorist strike in U.S. history." John Hinderaker has some thoughts.

How Do You Know When the Left’s Finished?

When you get a right-wing rock band pounding out a metal tune called "Bush Was Right>

If the left starts to lose rick and roll, what’s next? Hollywood and Harvard.

Hang onto your hats, Damon Linker is....

A Rawlsian advocate of public reason! In response to some commentary by Ross Douthat, he elaborates here:

I prefer to call this the "liberal bargain" whereby every citizen of a liberal order is given the freedom to worship God as he or she wishes, without state interference, in return for giving up the ambition to political rule in the NAME OF HIS OR HER FAITH -- that is, the ambition to bring the whole of social life into conformity with his or her inevitably partial and sectarian theological convictions. As I said in TNR, short of universal conversion to a single faith community, such attempts will always end up being the imposition of one part of a highly differentiated community onto its other parts.

Neuhaus is the leader of an ideology that actively encourages religious believers to refuse the liberal bargain, which is, once again, profoundly unwise. But even if he merely tried to make room for orthodox religious believers AS RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS, AS OPPOSED TO AS CITIZENS, at the table, I’d still consider it a mistake. Why? Consider the case, which Ross raises, of MLK. King’s version of the civil rights movement might have been largely motivated by religious convictions, but it employed the rhetoric of citizenship and appealed to a non-sectarian understanding of equality and the Constitution. One did not need to be a Christian or a believer to be moved by his words and deeds. One needed only to be a human being. (And of course King also inspired and impressed people, Christian and non-Christian, all over the world.) This was thus a pretty good example of religious faith being translated into public reason.

I don’t see how he can answer
Alan Jacobs’s response, which points out that MLK did precisely the kind of thing Linker accuses RJN of attempting. I can’t help but think that the difference between MLK’s relative success (there were a few people who disagreed, on secular as well as religious grounds) and the contestability of RJN’s positions has more to do with the degradation of public discourse and the relative success of the anti-rational celebration of self-definition and self-assertion. If Linker wants to argue that the mere popularity of this kind of self-definition renders any effort to restore even a minimal substantive moral order suspect, then he’s become in effect an historicist, with no real capacity to resist whatever history brings on. He also, by the way, comes perilously close to "privileging" this position over against its natural law alternative.

Neither his "historicism" nor his (rather weak) "nihilism" strikes me as compelling.

Talking Back

The enviros are in the midst of a huge campaign to push the global warming issue onto the front burner of American politics, complete with an Al Gore feature film, and Ad Council ad campaign, a new church group, etc. There are a few signs of puchback to note, starting with this George Will column from yesterday, and this Robert Novak column today. And in case you missed it, see my Weekly Standard feature from a few weeks ago.

Same-sex marriage and polygamy

Tom Cerber also calls our attention to and comments on this piece, in which Jonathan Rauch tries to decouple same-sex marriage from polygamy. Offering a good public policy argument against polygamy--imagine lots of men without the prospect of marriage and imagine how uncivilized they’d likely be--Rauch by implication raises, as Cerber notes, the connection between marriage and liberal democracy. What’s the connection--historical and theoretical--between traditional monogamy and liberal democracy? Cerber has the right answer. Rauch wants to avoid the question.

European religion and/or lack thereof

Tom Cerber, back in the blogging saddle after a bit of an absence, notes this book review in today’s NYT. Cerber notes one of the smartest passages from Mark Lilla’s review of Michael Burleigh’s Earthly Powers, which covers the history of religion and politics in Europe during the long 19th century. Here’s the less satisfying conclusion:

The West as a whole, and not just Europe, faces a double political challenge from religion today. One is to realize that the world is full of peoples whose genuine faith in the divine gives them a precise, revealed blueprint for political life, which means that for the foreseeable future they will not enter into the family of liberal democratic nations. Only if we give up the fantasy of a universal historical process driving all nations toward a secular modernity can we face this fact squarely and humanely.

The other challenge is to learn how to distinguish between those whose political programs are inspired by genuine faith, and those whose defense of religion is inspired by a reactionary utopianism having less to do with God than with redirecting the faulty course of history. In radical Islam we find both phenomena today, authentic faith and antimodern fanaticism, shaken together into an explosive cocktail.

And even in the United States we are witnessing the instrumentalization of religion by those who evidently care less about our souls, or even their own, than about reversing the flow of American history since the "apocalypse" of the 60’s. Michael Burleigh’s book shows how difficult it was for Europe to cope with both these challenges as recently as the 19th century. It is no easier for us today.

What Lilla doesn’t tell us is whether it’s possible for there to be authentic religion in a liberal democracy, whether the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberal democracy are potentially complementary or necessarily at odds. This interesting inquiry is short-circuited by the need to take a swipe at some fellow citizens he dislikes.

News You Can’t Use

Did you know that last week was National Sleep Awareness Week? I didn’t either. I imagine most people sle. . . no, I won’t do it. To easy.

Then there’s this trenchant front-page headline from today’s New York Times: "Internet Injects Sweeping Change into U.S. Politics." No! Ya think!? That’s what I love about the Times--their consistent ability to be on the cutting edge of societal evolution. I’m sure we can look forward to: "Jet Travel Cuts Down Time, Distance." Or, "Islam Seen Taking Radical Turn; State Department Concerned."