Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Peggy Noonan on Woodward

Several people have emailed me about Peggy Noonan’s unexpected conclusion that Woodward’s denial book is both better and less damning than its critics have said. "History is human" is the main lesson. Another is that, contrary to its critics, the administration can probably be faulted for not having been Machiavellian enough. Ryan Rakness especially is of the opinion that we can’t help but benefit from discussing her seductively written piece.

Polls and such

This Pew poll suggests that the Foley mess hasn’t made a huge difference in voter attitudes, which were already unfavorable to Republicans. Does this mean that things can only get better?

Well, no, says the WaPo’s Alan Cooperman, who’s looking at Pew data I can’t find anywhere. His data, which may find its way to one of the Pew sites in the next few days, suggest that evangelicals are cooling a bit on Republicans (Foley hurts here, but so do a lot of other things), but not warming to Democrats:

"The allegiance of evangelicals has been more in flux over the past 12 months, suggesting that the considerations going into their votes are changing," said Scott Keeter, Pew’s director of survey research.

In addition to the war and congressional scandals, those considerations may include a broader definition of religious issues. Some influential ministers, such as the Rev. Rick Warren, author of the bestselling "The Purpose-Driven Life," are urging evangelicals to fight poverty, safeguard the environment and oppose torture on biblical grounds.

To the extent that evangelicals now view these issues as "matters of conscience" alongside abortion and same-sex marriage, they could shift some votes into the Democratic column, said Ron Sider, head of the group Evangelicals for Social Action.

Another factor in evangelicals’ changing loyalties may be the efforts of Democrats to reach out to them. In Michigan, evangelical pastors helped write the preamble to the state party’s new platform. "Democrats in this state are seeking the Common Good -- the best life for each person of this state. The orphan. The family. The sick. The healthy. The wealthy. The poor. The citizen. The stranger. The first. The last," it says.

But before Democrats take credit for the shift, they might ponder one of the findings in a recent survey of 2,500 voters by the Center for American Values, a project of the left-leaning People for the American Way Foundation: Republicans have lost more support (14 percentage points) than Democrats have picked up (4 points) among frequent churchgoers.

That rings true to Michael Cromartie, an expert on evangelicals at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank. "Erosion for evangelicals doesn’t necessarily lead to Democratic voting. It leads to nonvoting," he said.

Here is the other survey that Cooperman cites.

The Pew site also has this commentary on state-level partisan allegiances. If you look at the regional trends, things continue to look pretty good for Republicans over the past six years, except on the coasts (shocking!). A closer look at particular states suggests that the Power Line guys would have to be unhappy with Minnesota, which looked better a couple of years ago than it does now, and everyone (well, every Republican) should be worried about Virginia, which seems to be trending Democratic. You couldn’t tell it by the horserace polls, but Ohio looks better for Republicans now than it did a few years ago. So if you step back and look at the proverbial big picture, the Bush years have been relatively good for Republicans. But that doesn’t mean that November 7th, 2006 will be good for them, only that politically the underlying trends look mildly favorable.

Madame Speaker’s agenda

Is here. Wonder what Chairman Conyers would do?

Civic education revisited

Claremont’s Larry Peterman takes a closer look at why may prestigious institutions don’t serve their students well when it comes to imparting crucial civic knowledge and understanding. You won’t be surprised by what he finds.

Foley politics

I can’t at the moment improve upon John Podhoretz’s summary of the political fallout.

Fighting the Good Fight at the AHA

My friend David Beito at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa has for some years been waging a lonely battle in the American Historical Association against university speech codes. He has repeatedly raised the incongruity between the AHA’s denunciation of the Patriot Act and its tolerance for the stifling of unpopular speech at colleges and universities. Anyway, he is looking for AHA members to sign on to the following resolution, so that it might be voted on at the organization’s national meeting in January. I don’t know how many historians read this blog, but if you’re out there your support would be much appreciated.


Whereas, The American Historical Association has already gone on record against the threat to academic freedom posed by the Academic Bill of Rights; and

Whereas, Free and open discourse is essential to the success of research and learning on campus; and

Whereas, Administrators and others have used campus speech codes and associated non-academic criteria to improperly restrict faculty choices on curriculum, course content, and personnel decisions; and

Whereas, Administrators and others have also used speech codes to restrict free and open discourse for students and faculty alike through such methods as "free speech zones" and censorship of campus publications; therefore be it

Resolved, The American Historical Association opposes the use of speech codes to restrict academic freedom.

To give your support, e-mail David Beito, cc’ing your message to Sharon Tune at the AHA, indicating your intent to sign, affirming that you are a paid-up member of the organization, and indicating your institutional affiliation.

A Crisis in Musical Literacy?

The following is from Terry Teachout’s webpage:

How many of these songs do you know well enough to whistle?
• “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”
• “Back in Black”
• “Blowin’ in the Wind”
• “China Girl”
• “Hot Fun in the Summertime”
• “Hotel California”
• “Instant Karma”
• “Jailhouse Rock”
• “Jolene”
• “Light My Fire”
• “Maria”
• “Money”
• “My Favorite Things”
• “Over the Rainbow”
• “Roxanne”
• “Satisfaction”
• “Sheep”
• “Superstition”
• “That’ll Be the Day”
• “We Will Rock You”

No, this isn’t a test. Here’s why I’m asking: Daniel J. Levitin uses these songs as illustrations in the opening chapters of his new book THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC: The Science of a Human Obsession (“For example, the main accompaniment to ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder is played on only the black keys of the keyboard”). Obviously, he’s assuming that most of his readers will know most of the songs he cites. Is he right to do so?
As I read THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC, I remembered the ear-training class I took thirty-one years ago as a freshman music major, in which we learned to recognize the various musical intervals by associating them with well-known pop tunes in which they figure prominently. That list of songs, like the ones found in Daniel Levetin’s book, assumed the existence of a common stock of musical reference—the musical equivalent of what E.J. Hirsch has dubbed “cultural literacy.”

I’m old enough to be musically literate enough, despite the fact that none of you would recognize any of them from what is, in effect, my tonedeaf whistling. I did draw a blank on "Sheep," though. It may be a sign of how aesthetically challenged I am that the only ones I would WANT to whistle are BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND, JAILHOUSE ROCK, LIGHT MY FIRE (despite the fact that it’s a genuinely stupid song). OVER THE RAINBOW, THAT’LL BE THE DAY, and (God knows why) WE WILL ROCK YOU.

But I’m certain that most of our students, even those at the most elite colleges, lack the basic musical literacy required to benefit from Levitin’s most informative cultural study.

How Low?

In answer to Joe’s question, let me quote the last sentence from David Brooks’ column today: "In the long run, the party that benefits from events like the Foley scandal will be the party that defines the core threats to the social fabric, and emerges as the most ardent champion of moral authority." And obviously, if Republican statesman act today with "the long run" in mind, they’re most likely to salvage a victory in the short run too.

How low can they go?

I just told my students that I think that the House Republican leadership has perhaps one more chance to get its response to this scandal right, with a full accounting of who knew what when and who did what when, with no attempts at deflecting responsibility. On the basis of what I’ve seen so far, I’m not confident that this opportunity will be taken.

I also wondered whether some might not be tempted to take the low road here, opening the sludge gates to inundate Congress with the raw sewage of scandal. I fear that there’s lots of bad behavior out there, much of it of the "open secret" variety. And I have no doubt but that both parties have been remiss in the self-discipline department. And I know that negative campaigning works. And I know that the existence of the blogosphere makes emptying the septic tank relatively easy.

I don’t know whether this strategy would "save" the Republicans, but I do know that the institutional price to be paid for such a victory would be very high.

Am I right about any of this?

October Surprise! Leadership Demise? Larry Sabato on Fall Foley-age

Here’s Larry Sabato’s rather discouraging list of parallels between 2006 and 1994, including one involving the name Foley. His question: Are the Republicans just giving it away? We need to take it seriously. The news this morning--after the Foley stuff--was mostly excellent for Americans: Stock Market up, inflation down, record profits, gas prices quite reasonable, etc. But the Republicans seem incapable of taking credit, even when credit is due. There’s still time to turn this around, but statesmanship is required.

Politics and moral capital

Rich Lowry has a thought. George Will and Howard Fineman agree that if the Democrats can’t take the House now (given the indignation caused by the Foley affair) then they ought to get out of politics (i.e., go the way of the Whigs). 

Harvard’s new new gen ed plan

Harvard University has yet another general education plan, this one not (yet?) available on the web, because many of us took potshots at last year’s version.

Bad news: it’s still a cafeteria plan, in which faculty pander to students’ desire for lots of choices.

Good news (well, perhaps): students have to study the U.S. and take courses on reason and faith, as well as on "the ethical life."

Of course, as long as a wide variety of relatively specialized courses fit into these capacious categories, it’s hard to claim that students are thereby prepared to be, among other things, "citizens of a democracy within a global society.”

Update: Any minuscule hope I might have had about Harvard’s proposed reform (and, trust me, it was minuscule) has been further diminished by this story, containing this, from Louis Menand:

``No general education should be timeless," he said. "There’s no question it’s a response to the world we live in now."

Now, all of what he said may have been more nuanced than that, but taken by itself this is a full embrace of trendiness. Hat tip: Stanley Kurtz.

Partisanship and collegiality in the Foley affair

This WaPo article, mostly about House Speaker Denny Hastert’s travails, contains this nugget from Thomas Mann, one of the deans of Congressional studies:

"I think what has been revealed about the way in which the Republican leadership, and Hastert in particular, has handled this matter is fully consistent with his prior behavior as speaker," said Thomas E. Mann, a scholar on Congress at the Brookings Institution and author of a critical new book on the decline of Congress’s role in governance." This is a man who has never taken seriously his institutional roll [sic] as a constitutional officer of the United States and the head of the whole House, not just the head of the Republican Party."

I agree that Hastert needs to take his institutional role seriously. Whether he and his subordinates were as aggressive in this investigation as they should have been is question
reasonably raised by Majority Whip Roy Blunt, who thinks that his experience as a university president is apposite here. (I’ve been thinking about the higher ed parallels all along! We professors are almost as drunk, if not more so, on the elixir of power than are those guys on Capitol Hill, though we’re much cheaper drunks. O.K., I speak loosely and humorously, but it’s not as if colleges and universities don’t have their share of, shall we say, indiscreet faculty.)

But back to my main topic: in addition to a leader who takes his institutional responsibility seriously--who is, for example, concerned about the integrity of the whole House, not just about the reputation of his party--we need a membership that takes these responsibilities seriously as well. Foley clearly didn’t or, perhaps more charitably, was unable to. But there are others who were culpable as well. If you’re serious about holding Hastert accountable for the integrity of the House (and you should be), then you should offer him the support he needs to be its chief steward. What that means in this case is taking the egregious IMs to Hastert, not to the press. Once he knew about them, he acted quite decisively and rightly.

So yes, Hastert and his staffers can perhaps be faulted for their lack of vigor in looking for the fire where there was allegedly some smoke. But those who sat on the incendiary evidence for Lord knows how long are even more culpable: they had clear evidence of moral wrongdoing--the legal issues, as Steve Hayward notes, aren’t clear-cut--and simply exploited them for partisan advantage. If it was Hastert’s duty to investigate allegations aggressively, he needs the evidence on which to act. Withholding this evidence prevents him from doing his (non-partisan) job.

Heads should indeed roll. Some already have on the Republican side of the aisle. When will the Democrats demonstrate that they take institutional integrity seriously as something other than a campaign talking point?

Update: An apparent attempt by some of Hastert’s aides to deflect some blame has produced some blowback, which, if corroborated, is quite serious. And, in general, passing the buck here does not serve the interests either of institutional integrity or the GOP’s November fortunes.

In addition, if former Foley aide Kirk Fordham is telling the truth, then his subsequent silence is problematical. Why did he seem to let this very serious matter drop after people in Hastert’s office, as he said, wouldn’t intervene at his request? As Byron York notes, Fordham needs to get his story straight.

Andrew Sullivan’s Conservative Soul? Or Rat Choice Theory--Part 11

Here’s Mark Gauvreau’s very fine criticism of Andrew Sullivan’s identification of true conservatism with conscientious relativism. Gauvreau sets us straight on the true connection between conscience and the person’s openness to the truth, with the help of Benedict/Ratzinger. Facing up to and acting responsibly in light of what we really can know is, in fact, the very opposite of succumbing to some dogmatic absolutism that stifles conscientious self-reflection (as opposed to subjective affirmation of some personal experience). Among the most superficial, conscience-denying forms of absolutism is the identification of the truth with emerging fashion, popular or intellectual. Nonetheless, it’s always seemed to me that Sullivan’s writing has characteristically been conscientious in the weak sense of relatively sincere and sometimes genuinely searching. (He can also be mighty self-righteous with little real justification and, like us all, produce convenient rationalizations.) His book deserves our attentive consideration, unlike some other more opportunistic books we’ve discussed on this blog.

Oh Gawd

This next step in the story was sadly predictable. Can the Oprah appearance be very far off? How about a joint book tour with former NJ Governor McGreevey?

No Hope for the Tories

This video, comparing Tony Blair and his esrtwhile replacement, David Cameron, is laugh-out-loud hilarious. But a sign that British politics has become fully Clintonized.

Tough Words from Maggie Gallagher

The Republicans still need to take responsibility. The Speaker should resign. AND the Democrats have behaved despicably.

A reminder

I had lunch yesterday with a good old man. He is in his mid-eighties. He was born in Romania and lived in the corner of it that touches Serbia and Hungary. A rough part of the world, made rougher by the rise of modern tyrannies and modern wars. It was a place where might made right. But he lived and made it through the war, just barely, he was just lucky, he said. Walked through Hungary to get to allied lines, finally came here, became an electrician. He worked, and this place let him keep the fruits of his labor. He prospered. He now thinks of his children (my age) and his grandchildren, plays some golf, talks with friends, and sometimes--as he did with me--talks with folks about the old days in the old place where where necessity ruled, and all men had reaching hands, and the only stories you could remember have to do with which marauding and creedless men raped and pillaged most. He is happy to be in a place that tries to reverse the maxim of the other place, happy to be in a place that says right makes might.

I then spent an hour or two reading Cormac McCarthy’s latest, The Road. It is about a man and his son walking in an America that has been burned to the ground--the country is a waste--where there is nothing else, just the two of them "each the other’s world entire." No other sign of life, but the lawless. "The frailty of everything revealed at last." This bleak painting forced me into another coffee and another stogie and I finally turned away from the horror to my love and hope and the upcoming seminar. The political crisis of the 1850’s, giving up the philosophical cause, the apparent hopelessness of it all, the march of logic toward war. But even my moist eyes finally saw Abe’s words rise up from the sorrow and the fear and they began to heal my cracking heart. Wise and firm words, clear and full of right, and always touched by charity. I was reminded that the agony had meaning and he understood it. A remarkable country this, even good for old men with memories. The seminar was good, although I forced myself to use only words that move and heal and lift. Not that hard to do in such a country, with such a man.

Wednesday Wonders

The continuing ex-Foley-ation saga (thanks Joe for that tag!) offers a glimpse of what a Democratic House majority might be like--supercharged indignation and lots of investigative hearings. John Dickinson on worries that Democrats may be overreacting, in part because "Democrats may have to use homophobia in a way usually associated with the Republican Party." More:

But what if the inappropriate relationship were between a congressman and a 16-year-old female page? Would GOP leaders face the same outrage for missing the warning signs? What if we were judging their actions toward a congresswoman who asked for a picture of a 16-year-old female page? For GOP leaders to pay a heavy political price requires either more evidence that they really knew what Foley was doing or for Democrats to form an alliance, at some level, with people who find homosexuality outrageous no matter what the age.

And with is usual contrarianism, Mickey Kaus raises "the Densepack Theory--the anti-GOP media have launched so many damaging GOP stories that they are all arriving at once and, like fratricidal incoming ICBMs, are knocking each other out of the news rather than destroying their target!"

Meanwhile, the U.S. population is about to pass the 300 million mark. The indispensible Robert Samuelson ponders the matter in this morning’s Washington Compost Happy Wednesday.  

Latest Podcast

I just finished a podcast with Tom Suddes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on the upcoming elections in Ohio. Tom is an expert in these matters and the conversation was very good. Well worth a listen, I think.

An Almost Perfect Tie?

The notorious Abbie Hoffman has called our attention to this cool, user-friendly, yet quite expert electoral map for 2006. It shows the Republicans holding both Houses by the narrowest of margins (assuming the polls are accurate and the election is today). MT and PA are, quite correctly, showed leaning Democratic. The fate of the Senate, right now, resides in the toss-up or virtually toss-up races in NJ, VA, TN, MO, RI, and OH. Right now, the Republicans would only have to win two to organize the Senate. But there’s historical evidence that suggests that one party or the other will win them all.

For those who want to change the subject....

Damon Linker seems to have abandoned the blogging business. At the very least, his site has been down for the past 24 hours or so.

And here’s a review of Andrew Sullivan’s new book.

Finally, this group has issued a voters’ guide. Here’s the section on abortion:

Is it okay to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate?

When confronted with this question in 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger
(now Pope Benedict XVI) responded that it could be acceptable
for a Catholic to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate if
“proportionate reasons” exist, and if the voter is voting based
on those reasons and not the candidate’s “pro-choice” beliefs. It
is never acceptable to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate merely because of that candidate’s position in favor of legal abortion (CRM).

Here Cardinal Ratzinger is speaking about prudence. Many “prolife” candidates talk a good talk on ending abortion but don’t
produce results. On the other hand, there are candidates who don’t believe in making abortion illegal, but who support effective
measures to promote healthy families and reduce abortions by providing help to pregnant women and young children.

Catholics must look at a candidate’s position on other life issues. Can one really claim to be “pro-life” and yet support the death penalty, turn a blind eye to poverty, and not take steps to avoid war? Our Church teaches that the answer to this question is “no.”

Several critics have noted the problematical character of this approach, which operates above to provide for cover for those who won’t take opportunities to put even the most modest limits on access to abortion.


This NRO editorial is worth reading, as are the posts over at The Corner.

I spent most of my parties and elections class discussing the Foley case. There were, in our collective wisdom, three issues that came to the fore. First, and most obviously, Foley’s bad behavior, and its true, likely as yet unrevealed, extent. Second, how Foley’s colleagues on both sides of the aisle ought to have dealt with what people are claiming was an "open secret." This is of course a Republican problem, but it’s also a Congressional problem. I don’t stand aside and watch a colleague engage in questionable behavior, regardless of which side he’s on. If I don’t approach him directly, I go to someone in the other party with whom I have a reasonably good personal relationship and share my concerns. Congress ought, in the first instance, actually to police itself. It shouldn’t be a partisan matter, either in terms of discipline or, also, in terms of exploitation.

Which leads me to the third point: if the partisan context for dealing with this bad behavior is unavoidable, if each side is happy to leave it to the other to deal with its own, er, transgressors, then both sides are culpable for the resulting missteps. If you think that your opponents will jump on any evidence of misbehavior, then your temptation is to keep things as quiet as possible, to cover up or sweep under the rug, rather than fully investigate. Of course, this is a Republican problem, but it’s also a problem of Congressional hyperpartisanship. If either party didn’t have to pay for policing its own members, or if policing individual misbehavior were undertstood to be a collective (non-partisan) responsibility, we wouldn’t have this problem, or at least we’d have less of it.

Update: Here’s an article offering evidence for the "open secret" thesis. Hard evidence of "inappropriate" contact with pages, in this context, should have been pursued vigorously.

The Irresponsible WASHINGTON TIMES?

Mark Levin explains both that scandals don’t just happen and that THE WASINGTON TIMES acted irresponsibly in calling for the Speaker’s resignation. It’s certainly true that the "other TIMES" is reveling in "strange, new respect" from the MSM this morning. For myself, I’m reserving judgment on who knew what and when and who’s responsible and all that until I have a firmer command of the relevant facts. But the danger, as Joe said, is that ordinarily Republican voters will be creeped out by a party that allegedly condoned perversion to remain in power.

And here’s an article from THE WASHINGTON POST that conveys some sense of the beating the Republicans are now taking in the media. The combination of Foley and Woodward has produced the impression that the Republicans are generally in denial and unfit to govern. The social conservatives are understandably outraged, and much does depend on how effective the Republicans are in taking responsibility--which includes taking charge--over the next few days. No evasions, no denials of what’s true, and no asking for forgiveness!


This study from the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that Fox News had a small but statistically significant effect of voting preferences in the 2000 election. The summary says, for example, "The researchers find that Fox News significantly increased the Republican vote share for Senate, by 0.8 percentage points."

Of course, as everyone in the MSM is trumpeting right now, Fox News’ ratings are down sharply--perhaps a harbinger of the election? (Interesting that we hear a lot when Fox News’ ratings are falling, but no so much when they were blowing by CNN and MSNBC.)

Tuesday Tidbits

I missed this article in the Washington Compost yesterday by Shankar Vedantam (sounds like a lead guitar in a fusion jazz band) on the mistaken clarity of hindsight thinking in the now famous NIE about Iraq.

The lede:

Antiwar liberals last week got to savor the four most satisfying words in the English language: "I told you so."

This was after a declassified National Intelligence Estimate asserted that the war in Iraq was creating more terrorists than it was eliminating. For millions of people who opposed President Bush’s mission in Iraq from the start, this was proof positive that they had been right all along. Yes, they told themselves, we saw this disaster coming.

Only . . . that isn’t quite true.

Read on.  

Meanwhile, there are rumors this morning that the Foley page scandal may widen to implicate other members of Congress in inappropriate behavior toward pages. These things tend to go in waves: remember Bob Livingston having to retire rather than become Speaker in 1998 in the midst of the Clinton-Lewinski affair? And then Henry Hyde confessed to an ancient affair? I do know that during the Packwood sex scandal ten years ago, another Senator (since retired, so I won’t name him) told Packwood, "Bob--I’m glad it’s you and not me in the dock. If they investigated me, they could fill up RFK stadium and just say, "Section A, please stand up.’"

October surprise

The point of holding the vile and disgusting Foley instant messages until last Friday was to alienate religious conservatives. While there are some who argue that no particular candidate (other than Foley’s hapless replacement) will be hurt, I’d argue that these revelations, together with evidence of apparent long-time Republican tolerance of behavior that was at least creepy, and ought to have been worrisome, has the potential to keep lots of otherwise Republican voters at home next month.

On a slightly different note, this article reminds us of how past scandals have been handled.

Libertarian Democrats?

Well, it depends what you mean by a libertarian. Arguably Bill Clinton moved his party in a libertarian direction in the following ways: He largely reconciled it to the free market. He strengthened its adherence to the pro-choice positions on matters of morality and culture. He embraced the libertarian or "designer" position on the goodness of the unlimited progress of technology and biotechnology. He kept his party on the side of activist Court that would strike down state laws on the basis of an evolving conception of the "liberty" protected by the 14th Amendment. Of course, of course Clinton is no perfect libertarian, and I would add that an excessively liberationist Court or conception of designer biotechnology would surely end up bringing us unprecedented "statism" or tyranny. Still, if I were a libertarian, I might conclude that President Bush is further from my key principles than President Clinton.

The Senate Races

Here’s an informative overview of how the Senate races stand today. But I must say it’s a little optimistic to view MT and especially PA as even. And nobody in TN thinks that Ford is behind right now.

Fr. Schall on Benedict’s Regensburg Lecture

Ken Masugi does us a great service by interviewing Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. on the Pope’s Regensburg lecture. The conversation defies easy summary, so I’ll just give you a chunk from the conclusion:

Briefly, reason itself must be protected from the voluntarist position that no logos beyond "scientific verification" is ever possible. Once we grasp what reason is, it itself must be intellectually protected from positions that logically make it impossible. Moreover, the people against whom reason must be protected, are those in Islam, in the West, and wherever, who hold, in whatever form, that "violence is reasonable" in the pursuit of religious or ideological goals.

Implicit within this position, I would finally add, are the principles of just war and self-defense and the defense of the innocent. It is reasonable to defend oneself against those who, by the use of violence, deny any possibility of reason’s own ability to know the truth of things. The use of force against theoretic violence, when it manifests itself in practice, is not itself "unreasonable violence." The use of logos includes the proper use of distinctions whereby we may understand both what is and what is at stake both in theory and in practice.

Read the whole thing.

Libertarian Democrats?

Over at The Remedy, Josh Trevino (sorry I can’t do the ~ over the n) notes Markos Moulitsas’ paean to "libertarian Democrats", which is, of course, so full of qualifications as to be incoherent. Trevino notes this response and adds:

If the libertarian feels that he must become a Democrat, then one is hard-pressed to make a heartfelt plea on ideological or philosophical grounds for him to stay. In any case, he will experience the true regard that the Democratic party has for him soon enough. He will find himself in the company of people who do not grasp the connection between capitalism and freedom; he will find himself attending party meetings with neighbors who wish nothing more than to seize his household income for their own civic purposes; he will realize that his new fellow-travelers have not the slightest intention of allowing him to raise his children as he sees fit; and he will see Markos Moulitsas, having concluded that beekeepers are the next swing demographic, earnestly explain how he learned to be a Democrat by watching bees.

Here, I think, is the bottom line, intended to offend any libertarian reader: what Moulitsas’ essay shows is that strict libertarianism is probably impossible. If you worry about corporate power, you can’t really be a libertarian. If you care about individual empowerment, to the extent that it depends upon the extension of science and technology, you can’t be a strict libertarian: the extension of science and technology depends upon big science, which depends upon either big corporations, big government, or both. Genuine libertarianism would seem to require a measure of crunchiness.

Prison Fellowship Ministries case

The appeal in this decision, about which I blogged here and wrote more formally here, is moving forward. You can read the Becket Fund’s appellate brief here. I’ll provide a link to the AU reply brief when it becomes available.

Interesting Atlanta event

I’m going to be here on Thursday, October 12th. The price is right and the conversation should be stimulating.

Monday Musings

Ann Althouse, among others, makes the valuable point that now, at last, we’re finally getting around to what’s important in the election campaign: a sex scandal! Meanwhile, Foley has taken the predictable step: entering "rehab." What took him so long? The Kennedys have rehab facilities on speed-dial; it took Foley 48 hours. To paraphrase the inimitable character actor Paul Dooley in one of my all time favorite movies, we should start indignantly saying, "Rehab! Rehab!!

Meanwhile, don’t miss Sebastian Mallaby smack down the Democrats in today’s Compost column "A Party Without Principles."


After years of single-party government, the prospect of a Democratic majority in the House ought to feel refreshing. But even with Republicans collapsing in a pile of sexual sleaze, I just can’t get excited. Most Democrats in Congress seem bereft of ideas or the courage to stand up for them. They clearly want power, but they have no principles to guide their use of it. . . If the Democrats win a measure of power next month, it’s hard to see what they will do with it.

Read the whole thing, especially for Mallaby’s interesting comments on Social Security reform. Happy Monday!   

Civic education revisited

Newsweek noticed the ISI study which I discussed here. This, it seems to me, increases the likelihood that college administrators will respond to pressure to "do something about it."


It really does appear as though House Republican leadership hoped Foley’s indiscretions could be covered up until after the election, though they may not have known the worst of the matter and believed Foley’s explanation that his merely "creepy" e-mails were the worst of it. Even so, John Miller over at The Corner rightly argues that the Foley affair is political "dynamite," adding that "Foley could become the new Jack Abramoff. Except that whereas the details of Abramoff’s were always a bit complicated for the public to follow closely, the accusations now leveled at Foley are much simpler and more appalling. Foley is on the verge of becoming the poster child of a party that is concerned about little more than preserving its power."

One, Two, Many Floridas

Greybeards around Washington will tell you that one of the key turning points in the plunge toward extreme partisan bitterness in the House of Representatives came over the "Fighting Eighth" (I think that is the right district) in Indiana in the 1984 or 1986 election (I forget which exactly). If memory serves, the Democratic candidate won on election day by something like 20 votes. Then, after a recount found the Republican had won by an equally slim margin and was certified as the winner by the Indiana Secretary of State, House Democrats in Washington voted to refuse to seat the Republican, and seated the Democrat instead. House Republicans, especially Newt Gingrich, cried foul, and ratcheted up their guerrilla tactics in the House. (I probably have a number of details a bit off--I am going from memory.)

Before the 2004 election there were lots of stories in the media about whether there might be repeat of Florida 2000, and there were lots of preparations by both sides to litigate the matter, especially in Ohio. But so far there has been little or no talk about the prospects for this kind of disaster in this election. With control of the House and Senate possibly to be decided by just a seat or two, and with several House and Senate elections looking to be razor-close, there is a non-trivial probability that we could have several Florida-style post-election recount contests to decide control of the House or Senate or both.

This would not be a good thing.

Shared Values?--Rat Choice Theory--Part 10

Paul Seaton directed my attention to this clear and deep analysis of the pope’s new strategy for engaging Islam by John F. Cullinan. Is it possible to make progress based on shared religious values in the absences of a shared understanding of the truth about God? Is it possibile to agree that any shared claim for religious freedom is based on reciprocity? The value or principle that welcomes the building of mosques in Rome would do the same for churches in Mecca. There’s lot more. Here’s my first use of mugs:    

Sunday Signposts

In a review of one the first Bob Woodward books on Bush post-9/11, I noted Woodward’s "frustratingly iterative quality," adding that "Aside from doubts about the completeness and accuracy of Woodward’s narrative, there is ample reason to doubt whether Woodward is an adequate analyst of the unfolding scene." Once you look past the reconstructed conversations and mental states he alleges to have divined, is is clear the man is a lightweight.

Now with his new book that is sure to dominate the news cycles for the next week (that is, when we aren’t pondering the seemingly hapless quality of Republican House leaders who tolerated Mark Foley in their ranks), all the same problems of Woodward’s transcript-by-clarivoyance method come heavily into play. It is a well-known rule in Washington that if you don’t cooperate with Woodward on one of his books, you will get pounded in its pages. Bush cooperated with the first two, but not this once. Funny how Woodward’s views of the war and Bush track public opinion polls on the matter so closely. A real independent mind--yeah, right.

Over 800,000 copes of Woodward’s book are already in print, with more likely to follow. But ask yourself this: It is still possible today, 40 years later, to read David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest for valuable insights into the Vietnam War. Even though Halbertsam and his book have serious flaws, it is a masterpiece of contemporary history and analysis. Will anyone, 40 years from now, read any of Woodward’s three books on Bush? Doubtful.