Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Compassionate conservativsm 2.0

After being subjected to a hatchet piece roughly six months ago, Sam Brownback is featured on the cover of the current Weekly Standard and profiled by Terry Eastland, who does quite a nice job. A snippet:

Brownback’s compassion agenda is still in development. The senator recognizes that "people can have good hearts," but "come out a lot of different ways" on policy means and ends. Brownback allows that policy abroad, whatever else it may achieve, is supposed to further the national interest. Asked why America should be so deeply concerned about Africa, he says we can’t deny our interest in a part of the world with so much suffering, especially when we have the capacity to address it, and especially when, if we aren’t there, making positive relationships, we will be ceding Africa to the Chinese, who are "all over" the continent in search of natural resources, and also to terrorists looking for headquarters. Neither of those prospects, he says, can be in our national interest. Meanwhile, Brownback tends to address the question of means from the standpoint of efficiency. For example, he wants to make sure that dollars appropriated to combat malaria are used not for conferences and meetings, but for bed nets and insecticide sprays.


Regarding the domestic side of the compassion agenda, Brownback shows the influence of his late colleague Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who famously said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself." Brownback agrees that politics can change a culture, and he believes that poverty can best be addressed through a politics that (in general outline) encourages people to get married, get a job, and not to have children out of wedlock. He wants policies with "measurable results" and cautions against ones that create "dependency." Here he may be trying to distinguish his compassion agenda from that being discussed among Democrats, at least some of whom (John Edwards, Barack Obama) are now invoking religious faith as the motivation for new action against poverty.

Eastland also calls our attention to
this speech, which lays out Brownback’s agenda and aspirations quite nicely.

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