The Muslim world, for its part, is rich with the opportunities created by great longing, great resentment, and great anger. Those longings (for a more glorious role for Islam) and those resentments (over the fallen estate of Islam) have been brewing for a long time. For those in the Muslim world moved by these sentiments, the attacks of September 11, 2001, offered the satisfaction of a victory and produced admiration for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
But Osama also promised further victories, that this was the beginning, not the end, of the new Islamic jihad. And in this he has not been successful, presumably because of the vigor of American and allied attacks on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Even in Iraq, where al Qaeda under the direction of Abu Musab al Zarqawi keeps up the battle, it has not yet achieved its aim of driving American forces out and may not. Moreover, its engagement in Iraq has had liabilities for al Qaeda, which were the substance of al-Zawahiris letter of last summer. Al Qaeda as such may be in decline.
In these circumstances, Ahmadinejad has attempted to step into bin Ladens place as the leader of the radical Islamic movement, as the man with the will and capacity to challenge and threaten the United States. Ahmadinejad has already enjoyed some success in parts of the Muslim world. This has been accompanied by the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and especially Palestine, where Hamas won control of the Palestinian Authority. This has permitted him to assert, as he does in his letter, that the forces of radical Islam--or, as he would have it, simply Islam--are on a roll. Ahmadinejad has bent every effort to support and join forces with Hamas and may well succeed. And, as always, he has Hezbollah in Lebanon at his disposal.
From all these developments, the radical movement has gained renewed confidence in the claim, first put forward by Osama bin Laden, that its adversaries, principally the United States, do not have the stomach for a long fight, or even a short one. Islams enemies can and will be pushed back and defeated by radical forces, because the latter, unlike their enemies, do not fear death and even welcome it. They can even, as Ahmadinejad recently said, accept the possibility of nuclear war as a necessity of the struggle. Altogether the spirits of the radical Islamic movement are high, and Ahmadinejad is the most powerful voice of that spirit.
[W]hat is known, or what should be known and deeply grasped, is that everything Ahmadinejad--and for that matter the radical movement as a whole--does is guided by an ideological vision and commitment. It needs to be addressed as such. For the moment and not only for the moment, this requires that liberal democrats declare that they have no intention of abandoning their way of life and see no need to do so, since they are fully prepared to defend it and because that way of life provides the resources--political, economic, and military--to defend itself.
It is necessary to inform Ahmadinejad and his radical allies that they are in for a real fight. This may not suffice to lead them to question their fundamental assumption and inspiration that we are on the run. But it may give pause to the many Muslims and non-Muslims standing on the sidelines, who see radical success and do not see American or Western resolve.
Of course the best person to make the first such declaration is President Bush--not as a Christian but as the worlds leading liberal democrat. And not to Ahmadinejad, for whom a direct reply would be a victory, but to the Iranian people, the Muslim world, and the non-Muslim world.
Unlike GWB, who ultimately professes confidence in everyones innate longing to be free, Fradkin offers no such assurances. What is necessary, regardless of how one answers the question regarding the universal attractiveness of liberal democracy, is resoluteness in its defense. The expression of resoluteness (at which GWB has been quite good, as have others in the Anglosphere) is, however, only a beginning. The words and deeds have to be sustained. For a long time.
Therell be no Triple Crown winner this year, as Barbaro, winner of the Kentucky Derby and favorite of all the handicappers in todays race, suffered a leg injury when he came out of the starting gate prematurely. Just seconds into the actual race Barbaros jockey pulled up on the reins.
Bill Finley at ESPN was one of the few who thought that there was far too much fuss being made over Barbaros chances for a Triple Crown. Of course, Finleys favorite was Brother Derek....
Over at TCS Daily, Don Boudreaux punctures the argument that the United States cant absorb any more immigrants.
Once, this was the place that housed those who fled tyranny in Europe. Now, when in a chilling reminder of the past, Iranian Jews and Christians are being forced to wear colored badges, students at the New School respond in a rude and childish manner to John McCain’s commencement address. A sample:
He eventually enters into a Bushian rift: “All people share the desire to be free”; “human rights are above the state and beyond history”; we are “insisting that all people have the right to be free.” Someone shouts: “We’re graduating, not voting!” Lots of derisive shouts and laughter and applause.
As McCain continues with a personal story, a student shouts: “It’s about my life, not yours.” McCain:
“When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest value...” Groans from the students. “It’s not about you!” “Sit down!”
McCain circles back around to the theme of civility: “We are not enemies, we are compatriots...” Boos, shouts. McCain: It “should remain an argument among friends”; we should be “respectful of the goodness in each other.” Literally one person applauds.
McCain goes on to tell his story about his reconciliation with an opponent of the Vietnam War: “I had a friend once...” Groans, boos.
He talks about forgiving his friend who dissented from the war. Hostile rumblings from the students.
He says after the reconciliation, he and his friend “worked together for shared ideals.” A shout: “We don’t share your ideals!” As McCain closes there is a mix of boos and applause, and a few people even stand to clap.
This needs no further commentary.
Update: The report about Iranian legislation appears to be incorrect, but not the report of how badly McCain was treated. The graduates insisted that the occasion was intended to honor them, but those who behaved rudely were not themselves honorable. Should we take the New School grads as exemplars of how to behave hospitably to our guests? Or how we should conduct our discussions?
I wrote on this theme some time ago, responding in part to a previous article by the tireless Amy Sullivan, who is at it again. This time she argues that some evangelicals can be won over by stressing environmental issues--"creation care," so to speak, or stewardship, if youre just a little old-fashioned.
There are at least two things wrong with her picture. First, she virtually concedes that environmental issues can largely be tie-breakers, assuming all other things are equal (two pro-life or two pro-choice candidates, for example). Rick Santorum should be worried, but how many other Republicans will be facing credibly pro-life Democratic opponents this fall? (Michael Barone surely knows; I dont, but I suspect that there cant be more than a handful in House and Senate races.) The folks, it seems to me, who have more to worry about, given Sullivans own argument are pro-choice Republicans, who cant count on abortion to differentiate themselves from their Democratic opponents.
Second, in her effort to persuade Democrats to get serious about the evangelical vote, Sullivan regales us with stories of Democratic ham-handedness.
Whether Democrats take advantage of this turning point remains to be seen. At the local level, they have made a good start, with unprecedented efforts by state parties to reach out to evangelicals. Following the example of newly elected Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, some Democratic candidates have launched ads on religious radio stations, and state party leaders have met with evangelical and Catholic leaders to "clear the air." In some cases, these gatherings represent the first time the two groups have ever sat down with each other. While Democrats know they wont win over conservative evangelicals, they realize there is an advantage to improving their image in the broader religious community. "You dont have to convert everybody; you just have to take the edge off," one state party leader explained. "Now that theyve met me, they can see I dont have two horns and a tail."
Unfortunately, this enthusiasm in the states has not yet been matched by support from the national party. In part, thats because many professional Democrats continue to believe that evangelicals arent "their" voters--or they confuse evangelicals with fundamentalists and so assume the whole demographic is out of reach. These assumptions may explain the general tone-deafness with which some leaders approach evangelicals. In the summer of 2005, an unnamed party official explained Democratic outreach to evangelicals this way to U.S. News and World Report: "Were dealing with a serious bloc of people, not just crazies with big Bibles." Imagine Ken Mehlman explaining Republican outreach to black voters by saying, "These are not just lazy high school dropouts."
When Howard Dean attempted to make things better in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he just made them worse. Tellingly, if unintentionally, he distinguished Democrats from Christians: "We [Democrats] have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community and particularly with the evangelical Christian community." And he bobbled the answer to repeated questions about the Democratic National Committees (DNC) evangelical outreach efforts. First, Dean responded by mentioning that his chief of staff, Leah Daughtry, is a Pentecostal minister. Then, sensing that was insufficient, he named some black and Hispanic religious leaders with whom he had met as part of a "vigorous outreach program." Officially, the DNC has a name for this program: the "Faith in Action Initiative." Alas, that initiative--which Daughtry describes as a way "to help state parties develop faith outreach programs"--has done little to actually help state efforts, at least according to the handful of party chairs I called. And, while the party has hired a staffer to oversee outreach to black churches and is searching for another to meet with Catholics, there are no plans to hire a counterpart for white evangelicals.
Im tempted also to revisit the work I did for my Patrick Henry posts, calling attention to this AmSpec piece, written by incoming PHC president Graham Walker, which on some level echoes worries Ive heard voiced in other contexts about the "liberal" tendencies of elite evangelical colleges: without a substantial intellectual tradition of their own, theyre more susceptible to being influenced by "the culture."
This leads me to ask two questions. First, are the moderate noises that Amy Sullivan discerns a result of the "evolution" of some portion of evangelical higher education? My friends at Touchstone might have a thing or two to say about that.
Second, ought the folks at Patrick Henry to be a little concerned about perhaps losing touch with the Reformed and even (shudder!) the Roman Catholic traditions that might give greater intellectual heft and stability to their conservatism?
A last point and then Im done: over at Mere Comments, James M. Kushiner and Russell Moore wonder how much influence the National Association of Evangelicals really has.
It turns out that one of the protagonists at Patrick Henry College describes himself as a loyal NLT reader. Erik Root, whose essay on St. Augustine was no longer available at its original location, provided a copy to me. You can read it for yourself here, thanks to the efforts of Ashbrook’s Ben Kunkel.
For those of you not up on your 17th century theology, some of what’s going on here is a debate between Calvinists and Arminians, not to be confused with Armenians. The incoming president of PHC, Graham Walker, sounds kinda Arminian to me. The college’s statement of faith would seem to encompass both contending points of view, but it remains to be seen how big the tent really is.
Right now, PHC looks a little more like an enclave and a little less like an instrument for engaging the culture.
Update: My further and somewhat more formally stated thoughts are in an op-ed here.
Update #2: A WaPo article here.
Joseph Knippenberg and I had a good conversation about higher education, the liberal arts, and such matters. Joe’s one of the smart guys on these issues, and he is worth hearing. Of course, there was not enough time....but, we’ll do it again. Thanks, Joe.
Jed Babbin has a thoughtful examination of the troubles brewing between conservatives and the President. Do we need to enter couples therapy to avoid the divorce that will, as he puts it, give Nancy one house and Hillary a white one?
Babbin thinks, "[w]hat drives conservatives bonkers is Mr. Bush’s failure to speak and act decisively on the problems we think most urgent." Uhhhhh . . . yeah. That about sums it up.
On the other hand, saying that is not such a good starting place for therapy. Why not, as they say, let’s discuss the things we like about each other? I’ll go first: W., I like it when you talk tough. I loved it when you, standing at ground zero in front of the firemen, spontaneously told the terrorists they were going to hear from all of us soon. That was very, very fine and an inspiring moment that has carried me through many a hard journey with you. Because when you said that, I knew you meant it. I knew then that whatever may be our disagreements about this or that particular thing involving the carrying out of the war, you mean business about conducting it and you’re going to do the best that any man possibly can given the circumstances. You made me trust you. So I guess what I’m asking for here is another example of that. Can you inspire us all in the right direction here? How about let’s quit talking about policy for now and talk about what it means to be an American? I’m for (and I think most folks are for) letting anyone who really wants to sign up for that difficult job have a go at jumping through the hoops. But let’s be clear about what an American is first. Then, when I trust you again, we can have a grown up discussion about what those hoops should be. O.K., your turn.
With lots of chatter over the last 24 hours that The Da Vinci Code movie is something of a plodding bore, what kind of an omen might this be for the film about the guy whos name rhymes with "bore"--An Inconvenient Truth?
If youre keeping up with this subject, heres my latest article on climate policy from the current issue of National Review, and if there are any NLT readers in New York, Im debating NASAs chief climate alarmist James Hansen next Tuesday evening. The forum is free and open to the public, and you can get the details here.
Glenn Reynolds has an interesting post today pontificating on the possible connection between the declining birthrates in this and other industrialized countries and the increasing burdens of parenthood. He doesnt mean that parents have suddenly acquired real responsibilities that previous generations did not have--but our collective psyche has willingly taken on burdens that our grandparents would have repudiated.
Think especially, of the safety craze--you know that tendency to want to encase your precious charges in bubble wrap? Everything from car seats, to hyper "parental involvement" in the schools, to organized "play dates", to chaperoned after-school activities that require chauferring--all these things whether for the ultimate good or ill of the children--have undoubtedly added to the social cost of raising children. Unless you are a celebrity and can give your kid a completely wierd name like "Apple" and wear them like an accessory, there is little social prestige associated with being a parent these days. Reynolds argues that the trend away from minivans to SUVs is a small piece of the evidence supporting that claim. If it were considered more prestigious to be a parent than it is to be an outdoorsman, people would put their kayaks on top of their minivans rather than pack their kids into an SUV.
Having said all of that, I have to plead guilty to alot of the new parenting sins Reynolds spells out. My kids have play dates; they are in (some, but not too many) organized activities; they cannot roam the neighborhood without adult supervision; Im very involved in their schools; I drive an SUV (though we actually do use it for towing); and I generally wouldnt think of putting them in a car without a carseat. Why? I think it come down to a fundamental issue of trust. Its not so much a question of trust for our children (though I acknowledge that can sometimes be a problem) but trust for other adults. It is particularly difficult to trust adults who are supposed to be in charge. Again, why? I think it is because unlike my parents or my grandparents generations, it is not safe to assume that most other adults (even adults with children) are coming at life from the same basic moral outlook. I think parents "hover" (as our principal likes to say) these days because they dont really believe that they safely can do otherwise. I think there is a real sense in which parents these days know how precious their children are but no longer believe (or have much reason to believe) that the rest of society shares in that opinion. The safety craze, in my view, is the natural and loving reaction of good parents to a society that is indifferent (at best) and sometimes openly hostile to the best interests of children. A small example of this: Driving home from a field trip to the Long Beach Aquarium last week another mother and I with our two 6 year-olds in the back seat, were astonished by the question from one of them, "What is better than sex?" Until we realized that they were reading a billboard on the freeway advertising for a radio station! You cant even drive in your own car for an innocent 1st grade field trip without these kind of assaults on decent sensibilities!
Hat tip: Richard Samuelson at The Remedy.
In it, I act the heretic, suggesting (shudder!) that in the name of republican virtue we raise gasoline taxes.
I suppose that this makes it even less likely that Ill join Steves august company (for which, by the way, congratulations are very much in order).
I didnt think Id experience an unsolicited endorsement for my Age of Reagan
as nice and fulsome as Jonah Goldbergs on The Corner a couple weeks ago, but now Jonah has competition from the Prime Minister of Australia. I was puzzled to have been invited to the White House state dinner for Howard last night--I figured it had to be a computer glitch or some other grand confusion. Just check the guest list and see if you can spot whos out of place.
But then I went through the receiving line, whereupon Prime Minister Howard hears my name and says, "Youre a writer!"
Me: "Um. . . yes."
PM Howard: "The Age of Reagan, right?"
Me: "Why yes. You actually know of it??" (The book has sold exactly 2 copies in Australia.)
PM Howard: "I just finished it."
Pres. Bush: "Is it a good book?"
PM Howard: "Terrific book."
Pres. Bush (to me): "Hes well briefed."
Cue to photographer. Meanwhile, Ive started packing our bags to move to Australia.
Kenny Chesney was good; Bush clearly likes to boogie to country music; he was bipping and bopping in his chair. Other cabinet members who I wont name looked more like Easter Island statues during the set.
P.S. One reason The Age of Reagan tended to escape wider notice (outside of NLT and the Ashbrook Center that is) is that it arrived in bookstores on September 10, 2001, and was, needless to say, overtaken by events, though it did receive good print reviews. Volume 2, on the Reagan presidency itself, is taking me forever to get done for a variety of reasons, but for those of you who keep e-mailing, it is on the way!
President Bush didnt quite strike out with his speech last night, it seems to me. What he did was, arguably, worse. He tried to bunt--but it got caught. See, if you havent already heard, Hugh Hewitts interview with I.C.E. Asst. Secretary, Julie Myers. Its titled "How to undo the impact of a Presidential address in one easy lesson" by Radioblogger, but Im not sure there was much impact to undo. There is a basic problem of trust in politics. When you havent got it there isnt much you can say to earn it. You certainly cannot go around saying things that attempt to appeal across the wide spectrum of opinion that the President tried to attract last night. When no one believes you to begin with, you look even more vacuous and pathetic.
Let me try to be more clear: I do not doubt that the President is sincere in his wish to deal with a problem that is--largely--inherited and certainly messy. But his thought on the matter continues to display--to my way of thinking--a kind of soft-headed compassion that just is not useful. If you cannot wrap your mind around the importance of the fence and securing the southern border, period, whatever it takes--and continue to muddy the waters with perepheral questions of "guest workers" etc., there is something huge missing from your sense of priority. If it were me, I would simply drop all talk of what to do about the illegals who are here--for now. Fix this problem and then pick that up again when it is reasonable to discuss it.
By way of segue to the question of what to do about illegals who are here--he needs to begin talking in a serious way about what it means to be a citizen of this country. What are our rights and what obligations do we have if we mean to protect them? What ought we to expect from our fellow Americans? How ought we to think about questions of patriotism and love of country? We cannot begin to address the problem of assimilating some 12 million or more immigrants--legal or otherwise--unless and until we seal the border and understand what citizenship in America means.
Its hard not to regard this CNN poll as good news, though its value is limited by the overall composition of the polling group, more Republican than the population at large (since--however unfortunate this may be--Republicans are more likely to watch a speech by a Republican president than are others).
You can read and watch the speech here. The folks at National Review didnt much like it, thought the sites symposiasts had a few--only a few--nice things to say, amidst much criticism and grumbling.
I await the inevitable editorial by Bill Kristol, with whose mildly positive comments I found myself in agreement last night.
You can read the article that caused some of the brouhaha here. I regard it as unexceptionable.
PHC’s new president is Graham Walker, author of these books. PHC’s new academic dean is Gene Edward Veith, who blogs here. I wish them all the best as they navigate through a rough patch in PHC’s development.
Update: There’s more on this issue here. Unfortunately, another article that is, shall we say, of interest, "Of St. Augustine and Politics," originally published here in a PHC magazine, is no longer available on the web. If anyone out there has a copy they’re willing to send my way, please do so.
There is one misleading feature of the piece in CT. I’m not altogether certain of the timing, but the search for an academic dean long antedated this particular controversy, and while there is some coincidence in Michael Farris’ announcement that he was stepping away from the college presidency and the publication of the currently unavailable article, I suspect (but do not know) that the change in roles had to be in the works long before the article was published. In other words, even if this controversy hadn’t broken, PHC would have had a new president and a new academic dean.
Jim Ceaser is one of our best commentators linking theory and practice in American politics. If you havent read Reconstructing America, The Perfect Tie, or Red Over Blue (the latter two with Andrew Busch), you simply must. His latest is Nature and History in American Political Development: A Debate, which I just ordered via the Ashbrook site.
You can find what appears to be a summary of that books argument in this essay (a 25 page pdf), which is the "framing essay" for this conference. The essay ranges widely over the American political spectrum, offering incisive commentary on tendencies and theories on both the Left and Right. Heres the concluding paragraph:
The non-foundationalist position represents a utopian experiment that has as yet no basis in real political science. Nothing in experience suggests it could ever work, at least for a nation that is tasked with performing an important role on the stage of world history. Without a foundational principle, even more without the moral energy that derives from a concern for foundational principle, a community cannot exist in a deep or meaningful sense. And without this energy, a community would be unable to extract from its members the added measure of devotion and resolve that are needed for its survival and for undertaking any important projects. What is involved, ultimately, in the shift to non-foundationalism is an evacuation of what makes a nation. When the illusion of a genuine nation existing without foundations is finally acknowledged--if it is acknowledged--political life will return to the real political question: which is not whether to have a foundation, but rather, which one(s) to embrace and in what mixture. This conclusion only gets us back to where sensible political life begins, which is finding foundational remedies to the problem most incident to foundational thinking. On that ground, and on that ground alone, let the polarization continue.
Christopher Hitchens writes what might be the perfect example of a book review, that is, if you want to do harm to the book and great pain to the author, in this case John Updike. Too bad, but you cant get the whole thing on line. Worth the price for the paper copy of the current Atlantic.
Being middle-aged these days (aaaaghh!!), I seldom stay up late enough to see Saturday Night Live anymore. So I missed Al Gore in his comedy debut (some would say his comedy debut was his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, or his 2000 campaign). The complete video can be viewed at Expose the Left. (Idle query: who needs to "expose the Left" when theyre so busy exposing themselves?? Never mind.)
The parallel universe Gore paints is, of course, a liberal fantasy, bit who doubts lots of libs think it plausible.
Here is Hayward’s "other" blog The Commons: "The Commons Blog is a collaborative web log dedicated to the principle of promoting environmental quality and human dignity and prosperity through markets and property rights. Put more simply, it’s about free markets protecting the environment." Note the explanation for the name. He also blogs at The Corner, and his better half (Allison) has her own blog, Skeptics Eye where she talks about campaign finance issues. By the way, do note that she is, shall we say...ahem...slightly better looking than Steve.
I occasionally blog at another site. Yes, its true. and todays posting is worth mentioning here, but as Im trying to build up traffic at that other site, I wont cross-blog it here; youll just have to click the link to see it.
Boston Globe headline:
An alternative headling for this post might be: "Analysts Puzzled at Sharp Decline in Newspaper Circulation."
Adam Nagourney write today in the New York Times about the thought I expressed in my previous post, Hillarys Headache, namely, that the Democrats would be better positioned in 2008 if they come close but fail to capture either house of Congress in November.
As strange as it might seem, there are moments when losing is winning in politics. Even as Democrats are doing everything they can to win, and believe that victory is critical for future battles over real issues, some of the partys leading figures are also speculating that November could represent one of those moments.
From this perspective, it wouldnt be the worst thing in the world politically to watch the Republicans struggle through the last two years of the Bush presidency. Theres the prospect of continued conflict in Iraq, high gas prices, corruption investigations, Republican infighting and a gridlocked Congress. Democrats would have a better chance of winning the presidency in 2008, by this reasoning, and for the future they enhance their stature at a time when Republicans are faltering.
This WaPo story is based on interviews with 100 of the some 500,000 veterans of the war in Iraq. (In other words, these are anecdotes, not data. Interestingly, however, if theres an agenda driving the choice of interviewees and topics, its not the one you might expect. This isnt "Iraq veterans oppose war.")
Two points stand out. First, theres the gratitude and support coming from ordinary people--spontaneous applause in airports, for example (which Ive seen as well). Second, theres this, which reveals such agenda as there is:
But perhaps the worst is when [people] dont say anything at all and just go on living their lives, oblivious to the war.
Which is exactly what Army Capt. Tyler McIntyre was trying to explain to some family members while eating at an Italian restaurant when he was home on leave a couple of years ago.
He looked across the restaurant and saw everyone stuffing their faces with pasta and drinking wine. "And everyones kind of just sitting there doing it," he said.
Which is really sort of extraordinary, he said. The country is at war. People are fighting at this very moment. Dont these people know whats going on? Dont they care?
No, he decided. They have no appreciation for their easy, gluttonous lives and dont deserve the freedom, prosperity and contentment he was fighting to protect.
He wanted to yell, "You dont know what you have! You dont appreciate it! You dont care!"
But he didnt. He kept his mouth shut. He was only home on leave. Soon, he would be going back to the war.
Republican (that is to say, non-bourgeois) virtue, anyone?