Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Americans and some would-be tribes

The Spanish language version of the national anthem is in the news, and it is adding an interesting mix to the illegal immigration debate, almost none of it in the interest of the elites who seem to be demanding that America become more Balkan-like. President Bush has entered the debate:

"Asked at a news briefing in the Rose Garden on Friday whether he believed the anthem would have the same value in Spanish as it did in English, Mr. Bush said flatly, ’No, I don’t.’

’And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English,’ Mr. Bush said. ’And they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.’"

The New York Times story is worth reading. There are a number of revealing moments in the piece. The author finds it "striking" that Bush has entered the debate in this way, after all, he does speak Spanish, and is the first president to give his weekly radio address in Spanish. So, I presume this means he should be more "understanding"? And note this: "But his statement about the anthem was taken by members of both parties as a clear signal to conservatives that he stood with them on what many of them see as a clash between national identity and multiculturalism." Is the man "throwing a bone to the right"? Or, is he speaking his mind? I have talked with a dozen people on this question today, and not one of them thought that Bush was wrong, and all of them thought that the Spanish anthem (changed words and all) was silly at best, and stupid at worst. The putative strike on Monday may be a revealing moment, and not to the advantage of the multiculturalist drum-beaters.

By the way, the Liberal Princeton (sorry, I’m being redundant) historian Sean Wilentz, periphrastically contemplates why Bush may be our worst president. Not the best thing Wilentz has written. Until recently, such historians were proudly asserting that Reagan was the worst president ever. But the last few years they have stopped saying that, haven’t they. The truth is Carter is our Buchanan, not Bush or Reagan.

United 93

Last week, I was in New York City for a wedding, and my son was with me for what was his first trip to the city. Among our first stops was the World Trade Center complex. We walked around the fenced Ground Zero, and down into the Path Subway station, where, standing at the basement level, you can still see what little of the sub-basement girders remain. I tried as best as I could to reconstruct for him how the buildings had stood—what the place looked like before 9/11. I described briefly some details of the day that I thought that he did not know. It is an exercise in remembering that I recommend for anyone traveling to NYC.

Last night, I did a different kind of remembering. I saw the United 93 film, which tells the story of the flight that crashed on 9/11 in Shanksville, PA. The first thing that struck me was that there were no previews. I presume that this was a business decision by Universal Studios. Nonetheless, it was effective in creating a sudden, stark, almost jolting opening. Accustomed as I am to fifteen minutes of previews, United 93 begins with the sounds of the hijackers offering their evening prayers on what is the night before the hijacking, as images of bustling New York City streets are interspersed on the screen.

As the movie progresses, we are thrust immediately into the events of the day. The travelers are already traveling, the air traffic controllers are at work, and the hijackers are carrying out their plot. There is no extended character development—we do not know who the passengers are, what Todd Beamer does for a living (indeed, I had trouble telling who he was), or what brought the terrorist to this place. The one character the viewer gets slightly more detail about is Ben Sliney, National Operations Manager at the FAA, who, in one of the first scenes of the film, is welcomed to the command center for his first day in that lead position. I found the actor’s portrayal quite realistic—and it should be. The actual Ben Sliney played himself in this movie.

Giving additional realism, the fight scenes on the plane are chaotic. At times, it is difficult to tell what is happening. You are one of the passengers. Director Paul Greengrass used some of the jerky camera work that he, to my mind, overused in directing The Bourne Supremecy. I didn’t like the jerkiness there, but it worked here.

Some of the early reviews I have seen complain that the film creatively filled in too many gaps of events on the plane. As an initial matter, I don’t share that complaint. There are not a lot of new events added. The frenetic discovery by the passengers and decision to take action is done with very little dramatic elaboration. Indeed, the one substantive change I noted was that the famous, "Let’s roll," quote is actually downplayed, and made less dramatic by being uttered by what appeared to be a different passenger out of earshot of any phones.

The other complaint I presume will follow is that the film’s depiction of the hijackers praying and praising Allah as they carried out their terrorism is somehow anti-Islamic. The prayers may make some people uncomfortable, but the depiction is supported by the actual events. I will note that there is one particularly poignant scene toward the end, during which the lead hijacker is praying in the cockpit, and the passengers, who are about to storm it, pray the "Our Father."

Finally, there is the repeated complaint that the film was made "too soon." I disagree. For far too many of us, 9/11 has become a distant memory. For those at the ACLU, security issues are not to be taken seriously, but are the punch lines of fundraising letters. But for members of Al Qaeda, we are still at war—a war which Bin Laden has said even recently he will bring again to our shores. The only thing that has happened "too soon" is our attempt to put 9/11 behind us—to believe that we are, once again, an island away from the troubles of the rest of the world. We must not forget. If the complete silence in the theater as I exited is any indication, United 93 does an impressive job of helping us to remember.

Religion and immigration yet again

The Family Research Council sponsored a panel discussion on "Faith, Culture, and the Law in the Immigration Debate" (video and audio available on this page). With lots of interesting commentators, including Sam Brownback, Richard Land, John O’Sullivan, and (drum roll please)
Tom Tancredo, the occasion seems to have produced more light than heat (though still some of the latter).

You can read accounts of it here, here, and here, as well as a preview here.

Richard Land offers his measured views here.

Remarkably, none of the "national" papers seem to have covered this event. Does this mean that religious voices gain their attention only when they engage in a kind of grandstanding?

You Americans

I did a Podcast with Julie on my Born American piece. This time I did most of the talking, and she helped it along. Thanks, Julie.

AU Campus

Spring is come again, and she is lovely. Here are a few good shots of the campus, always pretty this time of the year.

And then this—aside from riding Isabella—is where I spend a lot of my time (working out, swimming), the new recreation center. Note "Old Abe," the eagle.

Casting aspersions on the religious

Joe Knippenberg takes apart Kevin Phillips’s American Theocracy: "I didn’t need Phillips to convince me that we’re overly dependent on oil, especially from sources not particularly friendly to the U.S., and that our personal and public debt loads are problematical. I also didn’t need him to convince me that we’re not necessarily effectively competing with our Asian counterparts when it comes to cultivating technological brainpower. But to blame our failure effectively to confront these issues on the malign Christian influence on the Bush Administration and on America as a whole is more than a stretch."   

Count your, er, blessings

Gas prices are more than twice as high in Europe, thanks to taxes. Note that most of the article is non-hysterical, offering a market-oriented explanation of high prices. Only one person blames Bush, though I wonder how a nuclear Iraq, together with a nuclear Iran, would have affected world oil prices. And, by the way, I can’t imagine that a nuclear Iran will do anything but push prices up.

Two out of three White House correspondents prefer


When do representatives not do their job?

When they pander.

The Dems Cling to a Wing and a Prayer

Missing from this summary of Ohio as battleground for control of the House of Representatives is any discussion of the power and impact of the GOPs sure candidate for governor, Ken Blackwell. But then, the Ohio GOP hasn’t figured that out yet either, has it?

DiIulio on the faith-based initiative

Former FBCI Director John DiIulio remains hopeful that some good can come from President Bush’s faith-based initiative.

He argues that a very small proportion of the organizations actually would take advantage of the kind of co-religionist hiring exemption to which opponents of the initiative object and which he says the public doesn’t support. Ignore the obstacle, he suggests, and move on. Explain the importance of religious freedom and of assuring fidelity to mission, I reply, and move on.

Red-state students

Terrence Moore writes compellingly about some future Ashbrooks here. I’ve seen a few like that myself, both where I work and where I worship.

Gives me hope.

Advice I Hope the Dems Will Take

This link to an article from The American Prospect offers some advice to Democrats and progressive types that I hope they will take. I’m sure they will because it’s really just a thinly veiled justification for their existence. The authors argue that the old moderate/centrist politics of the Democrat party have not acheived much for them. They call this the politics of inoculation and is consists of the following:

* Appeal primarily to the median voter;

* Downplay or repudiate liberal policies;

* Create distance from the progressive base;

* Anticipate criticism and move to shore up perceived weaknesses, primarily on social, cultural, and national security issues; and

* Push a clear centrist agenda focused on fewer governmental and more market/individual solutions to problems; fiscal discipline; “common sense” cultural positions; and a Truman-like national security posture that puts the war against terrorism at the core of the progressive project.

Instead they offer what they call a politics of mobilization which they think will turn the party around by shoring up their position with strong constituencies like single women and Hispanics and reducing the deficit they have with the white working class. The politics of mobilization consists of the following:

* Rally the progressive troops and maximize base turnout

*Grow the base by finding nonvoters and drop-off progressives rather than appealing to the center;

*Take a no-holds-barred approach to the opposition that is highly critical and contrastive; and

* Fight for every progressive priority equally.

Ummmm . . . yeah, that’s the ticket! Do that!

But seriously, it’s easy to understand progressive frustration and to see where they’re getting their strategic thinking. That kind of strategy (i.e., sticking to your principles) works well for conservatives almost every time it is tried. But there’s a big difference between us and them that they’re forgetting. It’s the substance, stupid! Didn’t Bill Clinton teach them anything? When you’re as wrong as they are it’s better for you to be a liar.

Being American and Loving It

As you may know, the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution against the Communists is this year. None of us knows more about it than our own Peter Schramm. And, in part, he has written about it here. But what he has written is (like him) much more expansive than any simple discussion of the history of the Hungarian Revolution. It is the story of tyranny vs. freedom, the harrowing journey rejecting the former and embracing the latter and, above all, his continuing love affair with America--for all the right reasons. When you read it (as you must) you will be hard pressed not to love her as he does. And you, as he, will be richer for your love. (A perfect read, by the way, to supplement your understanding of the immigration debate.)

Tony Snow

Tony Snow is the new White House press secretary. I think this is a good move, although, as Hugh Hewitt notes, it must have been a tough one for Snow to make. And yet, Snow did it for the right reason. Good luck, Tony.

A different kind of outsourcing

Over 180,000 people have been killed (with about 2 million refugees) in the Sudan during the last three years. Hire a private army, and put an end to genocide in the Darfur? Tempting. Note that we (John Bolton) has prevalied in the UN: the Security Council passed a resolution on Tuesday imposing the first sanctions having to with Darfur. The UN will freeze the assets of four Sudanese accused of war crimes and instructs nations to block their entry.

A Decade of Evidence Proves Welfare Reform (Mostly) Worked

Maggie Gallagher has a nice article summarizing and expounding upon this more in-depth analysis by Kay Hymowitz in the City Journal. Ten years after the hyperbole surrounding the welfare-reform debate, the facts are in. There is no big surprise that none of the dire predictions of the left came to fruition (i.e., cities full of 8 and 9 year-old prostitutes, etc.) but the most important factor in the well-being of children--stable families--is also not addressed as many on the right quixotically predicted may happen. For the accounting books of the federal government and for the mothers affected, welfare reform has been a great success. It has also, Gallagher notes, produced a "sustained pause" in the growth of illegitimacy. It has not, and probably cannot, reverse the trend. Critics and advocates alike overestimated the impact of economic issues on the behavior of human beings.

Gas prices: what he said

Ken Blanchard says it better than I could have.

All hail, South Dakota Politics!

Diversity and toleration on campus

This week’s TAE Online column deals with a lawsuit brought by the Christian Legal Society chapter at UC-Hastings. At issue, as in so many other cases, is whether the organization must follow the school’s nondiscrimination policy in order to be a recognized student group. The district judge in San Francisco said yes. Fortunately, he won’t have the last word.

Here’s the CLS resource page on this case.

Update: Rob Vischer notes that Judge White cites Rumsfeld v. FAIR in support of his conclusion. Is in this case what’s sauce for the goose also sauce for the gander?

Update #2: Thomas Berg responds to Rob V. that the Hastings CLS opinion takes Rumsfeld much further than the Justices intended.

Jane Jacobs, RIP

Jane Jacobs has died. She was the author of probably the best modern book on cities, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which confounded the conventional wisdom of "urban renewal" in the early 1960s. Jacobs was herself non-ideological, and so it was interesting to watch over the years as she found devotees all across the political spectrum. In recnet years she became a favorite of the "smart growth" movement, which is mostly a liberal-left enthusiasm. I used to enjoy taunting "smart growthers" by pointing out that Jacobs outraged the urban planning intelligentsia in the 1960s, and that one of her early champions was William F. Buckley Jr. This usually gave her contemporary fans pause, because of course they are guilty of mis-reading her great book or reading selectively. We shall miss her, though her books will be read for decades to come.

U.S. Bases in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has agreed to open three military bases to permanent use by 2,500 U.S. troops who would be available for combat in the Middle East and other nearby regions. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will seal the deal when she visits the country this week.

Ashbrook Center

Tony Snow

If, in fact, Tony Snow ends up taking the White House press secretary job, as CNN is reporting, it will do Bush much good. Snow is a smart guy, and people like him. He is gentle, but can be very firm, and if he can show that hard inside against the pushy front-row in the briefing room from time to time, that will do the administration much good in tough times. He gave a talk on federalism at the Ashbrook Center back in 1995.
Categories > Ashbrook Center

Han rule?

While promoting Mandarin is politically interesting, it is unlikely to become an international in part because it has to be promoted. I think gung-ho is of Chinese origin, it has to do with working together.

Salvatori Prize

As Steve already noted, I was honored with the Salvatori Prize in American Citizenship. Ed Meese and Matt Spalding said a few good words (only some of it true), then I spoke for a few minutes. I will try to get both texts up sometime within the next week or so. Before the award, Dr. Terrence Moore, principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools gave a great speech, and I will see if I can get too. The whole thing was a lovely event. I am deeply honored and grateful. Aside from the $25,000 award (not chump change, obviously), I received this lovely Houdon replica of George Washington.

Boys Still Lagging Behind

USA Today has a balanced editorial today on the problem of boys lagging behind girls in college admissions and overall academic performance. The undeniable facts are that in every socio-economic class and among all races, boys as a group are not up to par with their female peers in academics--although the problem is particularly pronounced among minorities and the poor. But some feminists are trying to dismiss the problem as "manufactured" and are insisting on gender equity in studies intended to focus on problems unique to (or, at any rate, more pronounced with) boys.

The paper speculates that the root cause of this gender gap is that today’s economy places higher value on literacy skills. It skirts away from the question of whether the educational establishment in this post-feminist era is geared in a way that intentionally favors girls. That case has been made persuasively in other articles and studies cited on this blog. Polemically there is much in this line of argument that is appealing and could prove useful . . . but perhaps the USA Today approach is even more useful in this case. To sum up their argument with their own words:

Promising ideas for addressing those problems include giving teachers courses on how boys and girls learn differently, adapting teaching techniques and reading assignments to restless boys, and experimenting with same-sex classrooms. The KIPP charter schools have found innovative ways to erase the stigma that reading is for girls.

In other words, look at what is working where it is working and apply it. Forget about the debate over what is causing the problem (and dismiss those who say there isn’t one). Just get serious about saving our boys. Even feminists have sons and, I presume, love them and want to see them prosper. I’d be willing to bury my hatchet if they would.

Religion maps timewaster

Rick Garnett links to a discussion of these maps, detailing proportions of religious adherents across the U.S.


All honor to The Poet on his birthday!