Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

McClay on Ponnuru

Mere Commentator Russell D. Moore calls our attention to Wilfred M. McClay’s excellent review of Ramesh Ponnuru’s The Party of Death. The thrust of McClays’ review is that Ponnuru’s rights-based absolutism is in many respects insufficiently attentive to the emotional basis of our relationships, not to mention to the prudential judgments and figurative appeals required by successful politics. In McClay’s view, Ponnuru’s book has some real strengths, but also some significant weaknesses.

Above all else, he contends, it’s not clear that Ponnuru correctly describes and confronts the real challenge we face:

It is this commitment to radical individualism, this aspiration to human mastery, the godlike mastery of the sovereign will of those living here and now over all they survey and encounter, the ability to control and dictate the terms of existence, that distinguishes the so-called “party of death.” Such an aspiration is perhaps most ominously figured, not in the abortion industry, but in a different prospect, about which Ponnuru has surprisingly little to say: the very real possibility that our biogenetic mastery will give us the power to replace human procreation with the willful arts of manufacture, remaking our condition by engineering human life and “hybrid” forms of transhuman life.


Ponnuru is downright enthusiastic about the prospect of deriving pluripotent stem cells, for medical purposes, from certain nonviable, manufactured, human-like “biological entities” that carry the human genetic code but are not human embryos. What is more, he is surprisingly disdainful of critics who find such a prospect morally troubling. What, one wonders, if his concern were less exclusively focused on the narrow question of what constitutes embryo-killing, and more broadly on the ways that our readiness to destroy embryos is but one symptom of a larger problem, the way in which our ever-expanding exercise of our scientific powers of manipulation may be causing us to lose all sense of nature as a source of normative values? Such thoughts might have led to a more guarded conclusion. This is not to render a judgment about the specific procedures in question, except to say that they may themselves not be entirely morally unproblematic, even if they seem clearly preferable to embryo destruction. But it is to indicate a way in which Ponnuru’s overriding concern with the politics of abortion, and with an argument based on the natural rights of the individual human being, tilts his argument out of balance, and makes his book far less illuminating than it might have been. Natural rights, after all, have no authority apart from the larger authority of nature.

If this last statement is true (as I think it is), then a return to nature would take seriously some of the considerations I summarized above.

But I can’t adequately summarize the whole of McClay’s rich argument, which you’ll have to read for yourselves.

   

Value Added

Residents of the Washington, DC area received a bit of sad news today. Venerable classical music radio station WGMS, a small island of civility, will likely meet its demise within the next few weeks. This in and of itself is not surprising. Classical music stations, especially those commercially owned, are a dying breed. It was only a matter of time before somebody with deep pockets snapped up this precious FM slot. WGMS already had been pushed out of its familiar place (103.5) into a weaker frequency band by a Washington Post media venture.

What is noteworthy is WGMS’s executioner: Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Snyder bought the station in order to further his growing sports-talk-Redskins radio empire. His current outlets have poor signal coverage in the Washington area and he had been looking to upgrade. In typical Snyder fashion, he overbid to be sure he closed the deal. “They made an offer that can’t be refused,” the Washington Post quotes an executive involved in the negotiations. “If someone wanted to buy your house and was willing to pay 50 percent more than it was worth, you’d do it.”

Do the names Deon Sanders, Bruce Smith, Steve Spurrier and Jeff George come to mind? To say nothing of Adam Archuleta, Andre Carter, Brandon Lloyd and Al Saunders.

Madison once wrote that he hoped never to have to choose between liberty and republican government; but if he did, he knew which one he would choose. I hope never to be forced to decide between classical music and football. I know how I would come down – I don’t blog on Bach – but Snyder makes the choice difficult.

When I first heard that Snyder, a wealthy young entrepreneur and lifelong Redskins fan, was going to buy the team in 1999 from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, I thought it might be a good thing. That is, until I found out the source of Snyder wealth. I had assumed it came from something real, or at least quasi-real: technology, the dot.com boom, or maybe real estate. Uh, no.

Advertising.

OK, perfectly fine people work in advertising. But as I understand the story, after two or three business failures, Snyder, through hustle and chutzpah, assembled a paper advertising empire based on outsourcing and corporate acquisitions during the go-go 1990s. Then he actualized his virtual assets by selling out while the economy was still booming. Most of those assets (heavily leveraged) went into the purchase of the Redskins and their Stadium, for about $750 million.

Since then, Snyder has gone through five coaches. The team’s overall record is mediocre, even after he persuaded Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs to return. The Redskins have made the playoffs exactly once since Snyder’s first year. High-priced free agents, brought in well above market value, routinely prove to be busts. The draft has been disappointing. Ticket prices and amenities at FedEx field are out of sight.

So Snyder’s tenure has been disastrous, right? Not if you are his accountant. In 2005 the Redskins were valued at $1.3 billion, the highest in all American professional sports. More than the Yankees or the Cowboys and just below Manchester United. Snyder now looks to make a further killing through his Red Zebra Broadcasting Corporation, which is buying up radio stations in the mid-Atlantic as outlets for sports programming and live broadcasts of Redskins game. Sayonara WGMS.

A critical point – Snyder really is a die-hard Washington fan. He desperately wants to win. He is no Bill Bidwell – he spends money on the team and he’d spend more if the league allowed it. But Washington’s lack of success is surely no accident, even allowing for the vagaries of human fortune. The team’s direct and ancillary value skyrocketed because of Snyder’s promotional genius in a market with near-perfect brand loyalty (Redskins mania) – not because of the intrinsic, on-the-field value of the product. Snyder’s ethos seems to permeate the organization. And he refuses to hire and provide full authority to an experienced and knowledgeable front office type like the Colts’ Bill Polian. Every year there is a new plan, new faces, a new story, and virtually the same sorry results. To be sure, there are no guarantees in life or football. The highly-regarded Charlie Casserly, who Snyder pushed out as GM when he bought the team, was a complete bust in Houston’s front office.

Maybe Gibbs, a fine man and once a great coach, will turn it around next season. Maybe Snyder will decide to let professionals make the big decisions. Maybe the luck will turn.

Then I think about poor WGMS, a bug on the windshield of Snyder’s empire.

The party of responsibility

This not particularly penetrating CT piece on the 2006 elections reminded me of Elizabeth Powers’s FT post that calls our attention to William Saletan’s plea to the Democrats to become the party of responsibility by embracing an expansion of federally-funded birth control. If this isn’t a double evasion of responsibility, then I don’t know what is.

More on Jeane

I have time, before I run out the door, to reprint here an excerpt from The Age of Reagan on how she came to the attention of the Gipper:

“The failure of the Carter administration’s foreign policy is now clear to everyone except its architects,” Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote bitterly in the fall of 1979 in her famous Commentary article “Dictatorships and Double Standards.” “The foreign policy of the Carter administration failed not for lack of good intentions,” Kirkpatrick continued, “but for lack of realism about the nature of traditional versus revolutionary autocracies and the relation of each to the American national interest.”

Kirkpatrick’s article was a sensation among political intellectuals—and also with Ronald Reagan. Several people passed the article along to Reagan. According to Kirkpatrick’s own account, Reagan’s principal adviser on national security issues, Richard Allen, handed Reagan a copy of the article shortly before Reagan boarded a plane in Washington to return to California. Reagan called Allen two hours later when he was changing planes in Chicago, asking Allen, “Who is he?” “Who is who?”, Allen replied. “Who is this Jeane Kirkpatrick?” “Well, first, he’s a she.” Reagan wrote to Kirkpatrick in December to praise the article. Your article, Reagan wrote, “had a great impact on me. . . Your approach is so different from ordinary analyses of policy matters that I found myself reexamining a number of the premises and views which have governed my own thinking in recent years.” If possible, Reagan closed, “I should very much like to have the opportunity to meet with you and to discuss some of the points you have raised.” Reagan’s critics assumed his interest in Kirkpatrick was another example of the derivative nature of his ideas. In this case, as in many others, Reagan was there first. Kirkpatrick’s argument, in one sentence, is that there is a qualitative and relevant distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Kirkpatrick’s article was the first time many people had thought about the matter this way. Yet in 1977, two years before Kirkpatrick’s article, Reagan wrote in Orbis quarterly: "President Carter has also failed to take into consideration the difference between totalitarian and authoritarian governments. . . As a result, it has needlessly jeopardized good relations with several states which have been friendly to us and to their neighbors but whose governments have not behaved as we might wish in their internal policies."

In other words, Reagan saw a kindred spirit in Kirkpatrick. She, however, was less enamored. At that moment Kirkpatrick, a lifelong loyal Democrat, hoped for her own party’s revival, dismissing “this conservative Republican governor whom I have no interest in.” This attitude would soon change.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, RIP

Last night at AEI’s annual trustees dinner, we toasted Jeane Kirkpatrick in absentia, not knowing that she had passed away just a few hours before. For most of the last five years I was lucky to be housed two doors down from her on the 11th floor, where we would have numerous brief wide-ranging conversations in the adjacent hallway connecting our suites. I’ll have more to say about her later--unfortunately I have to head off to Annapolis directly to give an afternoon speech at an environmental conference--but I am sure the blogosphere will take ample and proper note of her passing in the next few hours.

Jeane’s corner office on 11 now seems reserved for distinguished former UN ambassadors. I was informed yesterday that my new neighbor in the office starting January 1 will be none other than the worthy John Bolton.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, RIP

One of the first people who made me aware of a neo-conservative approach to foreign policy was Jeane Kirkpatrick, who died yesterday. Her "Dictatorships and Double Standards" is a classic.

And her service at the U.N. reminds us of the importance of having a forceful advocate of American principles and interests in that position.

Update: In addition to the article linked above Commentary has posted a number of other Kirkpatrick pieces from its archives on the front page of its website.

Take THIS, Trans-Fat Fascists!

While New York City and other trendy enclaves attempt to ban frying in trans-fat, Jonah Goldberg helpfully directs our attention to a Texas eatery that serves--are your ready?--chicken-fried bacon!

Peter: I think we’ve found a reason for an Ashbrook road trip to Texas. (The steaks look pretty good, too.)

Murder most foul?

Charles Krauthammer writes on this Litvinenko mischief and this reminds me to suggest to you that--if you like murder mysteries, spy novels, biographies of tyrants--you should really pay attention to all this. Very interesting and perfectly weird, with layers upon layers of meaning and possibilities. Since there are entirely too many article and news stories to link to (see Drudge on a daily basis), I will only do so if something exceptional is revealed (or seems to be revealed). For example, it seems that he converted to Islam just days before his death. How do you say amazing in Russian, I mean Arabic.

Scalia and Breyer debate

You can watch the video here and read Dahia Litwick’s account here. Here’s a taste of what Litwick can write when she’s not trying out for a place in the WaPo’s Style section:

Breyer says that if the only thing that matters is historical truths from the time of the Constitution, "we should have nine historians on the court." Scalia says, "It’s not my burden to prove originalism is perfect. It’s just my burden to prove it’s better than anything else." He adds that a court of nine historians sounds better than a court of nine ethicists.

Hat tip: SDP’s Ken Blanchard.

God on the (high school) quad

The WSJ’s Naomi Schaefer Riley writes sympathetically about Christian secondary schools.

Speaking of Manliness . . .

This sad story about a man who tragically sacrificed himself in order to try and save his family has been the subject of some interesting and, I think, good fascination out here in California. Dennis Prager talked about it this morning on his radio program, which happened to be on as I was driving my son to a field trip (to the Nixon Library). Prager mentioned that he thought this story was a good illustration for young men about what it means to be a man. I was quite proud of my little guy (now 5) because he perked up at hearing that and started questioning me about the details of the story--and usually he just tunes out the radio as we’re driving.

HREF="http://www.nixonfoundation.org/">The Nixon Library is, by the way, a great place to visit if you are out this way. It is beautifully decorated for Christmas with trees and ornaments from all over the world. But none of this interested my son as much as the tour of the Presidential helicopter and, of course, the massive model train exhibit. But my favorite is always the replica of the White House’s East Room. You can have all the castles and cathedrals of Europe--they’re nice--but there is just something about the White House that makes a person stand a little taller. And you could see that the room had that effect on the kids too as their boisterousness left them (at least for a few seconds) and they took in the majesty of the place.

Mansfield on Greatness and Democracies

Prof. Harvey Mansfield writes a thoughtful essay on the question of greatness in democracies. It ends on the following note: "We democrats need to know that democracy has both a towering need and a limited appetite for greatness." But it also reminds us--somewhere around the middle--that "[i]n displaying Socrates in speech and in action, Plato conveys to us that greatness does not necessarily consist of heroic exploits full of stress and drama. A philosopher can be great; a woman can be great." This is an essay very much worth reading, and pondering, and reading again. It is also an interesting read in light of his recent work on Manliness and, I think, connected to it.    

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck was the speaker for our Annual Dinner last Friday. You can hear his comments on MP3 format or on Real Audio. A lively and energetic character, one who means to show folks that we had better pay attention to the bad guys. And he did.

Hail

Today is of course Pearl Harbor Day--except it’s not, really, an official "Day" in the same sense as Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, etc; Franklin Roosevelt vetoed a bill passed during World War II on the grounds that we should not memorialize in that fashion the "Day of Infamy"—and the Los Angeles Times brings us the story of what is being described as the "final reunion" of Pearl Harbor survivors. I suspect it won’t literally be the last one; some of these fellows are quite vigorous souls (I know one slightly, the founder of this academic center), but the Times is right to brong our attention to their dwindling numbers.

Birthday

Yes, there was a birthday party thrown for me by my former friends and staff. It was deeply embarrassing, but touching for a boy eternal. Many gifts, including a couple of large ones to the Center (thank you!!). Nice and silly and untrue things were said of me (and read from those who couldn’t be here), and for hours it seemed photos from my salad days were shown. The Ashbrooks seemed to enjoy the recollecting when my blood flowed and once my appetite was more to bread than stone. Wife and mother and half my brats were here, and I am only grateful that no one asked my mother to speak the truth for she would have, no doubt, told them all what a grieveous burden my birth was to her, and how wayward my infancy. I did come into this breathing world, more or less made up, on the 23rd of December, but the party was yesterday. Thank you all, and let’s end it. Oh, and one more thing: There is nothing wrong with either Jackie Gleason or Aristotle. Glad to be alive.
Thank you.

Give Me Oreos or (and?) Give Me Death

Thanks to our friends at Reason and Revelation, I have been alerted to "another new prohibitionism." New York City has banned foods made with trans fats, although they’re fine by the FDA. Do we have an inalienable right to eat dangerously? Or is it time for enlightened municipalities to take the lead in enhancing our health and safety--guided, of course, by the latest studies? Which do you fear more--Big Brother or the Big Sleep? Now I stopped eating Twinkies, Moon Pies, and such sometime ago, but it didn’t occur to me to make them illegal. When it came to banning smoking in public places, there was always the moderately, but far from completely, lame argument that others would be bothered or conceivably made sick by second-hand smoke. And I have to admit that I’m a bit more comfortable myself when nobody’s smoking. But I can’t imagine how it would hurt me to watch you scarf down a bag of cookies or chips, both of which are less disgusting than, say, sushi or tofu.

Happy Birthday Peter

It’s Peter Schramm’s birthday. I won’t say which one, in respect of his tender feelings on the subject, but I will allow as how it’s one of those significant ones that ends in a Zero.

My contribution to the birthday fest was some schtick, along the lines of: If "Peter Schramm" were a Jeopardy answer, what would the question be? Answer: "What is a cross between Jackie Gleason and Aristotle?" (500 points!.) Or, alternatively, you might say that Peter Schramm is what happens when you send Fred Flintstone to graduate school in political philosophy.

Peter may think that it is cruel, unkind, and inaccurate to call him fat, but let’s put it this way: when Peter steps on a cigarette, that sucker’s out.

Happy birthday Peter.

Another religion on campus case

This is getting tiresome. Phi Beta Conspirator David French calls our attention to this lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Georgia Pi chapter of Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), also known as Brothers Under Christ, a Christian fraternity. Seems that the folks at UGA don’t want to extend official recognition to a student group that makes faith requirements of its members. I’ve written on this general issue here.

Let’s hope that our local Athenians come to their senses and recognize that religious freedom for students requires a little accommodation on their part.

Update: This article suggests that the University won’t voluntarily accommodate: "We will comply with the law whatever the courts may determine that to be," said UGA spokesman Tom Jackson.

Update #2: UGA has
done the right thing. I’d like to say that it was the threat of the op-ed (now revised) that the Atlanta paper was to run tomorrow, but I suspect it had a whole lot more to do with the ADF/CLS legal team and a faith-friendly Governor who appoints the Board of Regents and happens also to be an alumnus. I’ll link to my op-ed when it appears on-line.

Last Update: Not the title I would have given it, but here’s my AJC piece, as well as the paper’s story.

The Truth: Hillary Clinton is the Single Most Likely Person to Become Our Next President

Our cagey friend Dick Morris actually does a nice job explaining why Senator Clinton might well win AND why she shouldn’t. She will mobilize the single-female vote, bringing its turnout "to its proper ratio of the adult population." More generally, she will inspire a new kind of enthusiasm in the electorate. Besides, Bill will campaign for her.

But Ms. Clinton shouldn’t win, Dick goes on, precisely because she’s so different from her husband. Bill is comparatively moderate, flexible, and un-ideological; the truth is he was "a very good domestic-policy president." She "specializes in advocacy," is "obtuse" and "ham-handed," and "deeply believes in European-style socialism." Not only that: Bill is "most like Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Bush Sr.--feeling his way, acting with caution, and skeptical of all advice. She is more like LBJ, Nixon or Bush Jr.--determined to charge ahead and do what she thinks needs to be done, the torpedoes be damned."


My own view is that Dick is exaggerating these differences. But they do have considerable truth and make for good talking points for any Republican campaigning against her. And we can almost wish that the Constitution be changed so that Bill could run against her.


For the reasons Dick gives, Jonah Goldberg is just wrong to think liberal voters would regard Hillary as just a stale figure from the "holiday from history" that was the 1990s. Kerry and Gore are, in fact, yesterday’s boring news and have no chance; Obama’s prospects are uncertain. A big question: Is Senator Obama preferable to Senator Clinton from a good-government perspective?

Maryland gay marriage case

The oral arguments in an appeal of a decision overturning Maryland’s traditional marriage law, about which I wrote here, took place yesterday. You can listen to the oral arguments by clicking on Docket #44 here and read the main briefs here. Be forewarned, both briefs are extremely long; I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet.

“Prediction is very difficult ... especially about the future

A friend close to the Ashbrook Center writes to encourage me to elaborate on my preliminary prediction of a Florida win in the BCS Championship game: “I don’t mind that you say Florida might win (?!!?), but some readers do! . . . do what you have to do, let the logos lead you! Although I personally hope that the Buckeyes whip those Florida wimps like dogs!"

All right, then. I offered my unelaborated assessment on behalf of Florida after considerable hesitation -- and not only because I knew that many NLT readers would differ strongly. We are still more than a month away from the game itself. Ohio State will have been off for fifty-some days. Any firm prediction must wait until we see how the interregnum plays out. Predictions are stupid things anyway. As my Maine correspondent constantly tells me, anyone who predicts or bets on games for a living – especially with a point spread involved – is like a lawyer who has himself for a client. Did anyone seriously forecast a UCLA victory over USC? Peter Gammons is as good a baseball analyst as there is and yet I believe he missed on all but one of the major league baseball playoff series, including the World Series. Buckeye fans should take particular solace in my own near unblemished record of predictive failure – although the logic behind my erroneous picks is always impeccable.

The quote about predictions and the future, by the way is attributed variously to Niels Bohr . . . and Dan Quayle.

But I digress. My prediction, really a first impression, is this. When there is no glaring disparity in the level of talent – and I believe this is the case here – one looks to a first order to intangible factors, rather than to Xs and Os or match-ups. These factors weigh particularly heavy in the long layoff between the end of the regular season and a championship bowl game.

I believe Florida will come into the game with a serious chip on its shoulder. For the next five weeks its players will be asked constantly to justify their existence, to apologize for crashing the party. They will be told that at least half of the country thinks they are pretenders. Their scratchy performances and close wins will be hauled out on Sports Center and College Game Day as Exhibit A for the prosecution. Florida teams from the Spurrier era had to fight overconfidence and arrogance, internally (beginning with their coach) and from fans and alums. A different dynamic, that of righteous indignation against disrespect, may be at work this year. This anger manifests itself not only on game day but in the team’s focus during the weeks of preparation and especially the time after the teams arrive in Arizona. It’s more than the usual underdog factor. Mistake it not, Florida has talent. They players can call on their demonstrated resilience and ability to win close games, a sense that they command fortune having dodged so many potential disasters.

But this is only a first impression. Let me tell you why it may be wrong and must be kept open to revision. Ohio State is a well-balanced team without any major weakness that is easily exploited, except perhaps its run defense. It has explosive players on offense and special teams, a veteran QB, and an opportunistic defense. (Fred and the Unbiased Observer, in the Comments section, offer good succinct analyses.) Most important, the record says that Jim Tressel is a great, not just a good, big game coach. The too-tight Tresselball is usually not in evidence. This isn’t his first rodeo. He knows how to prepare as the favorite as well as the upstart.

On the other side of the equation, the early returns on Urban Meyer are not so clear. I liked Meyer a lot when he was at Utah. But this season, particularly in the last few weeks, he seemed wound too tight, too defensive, too whiny, too negative. That may be completely unfair. One doesn’t know how he relates to his players away from the cameras. But based on his public persona, one wonders how well Meyer will play the disrespect card with this team. And Xs and Os do enter the equation. After two years there still seems to be a serious mismatch between Meyer’s unusual (quirky?) hybrid offensive scheme and the skill set of his players, especially Chris Leak. As a result Florida suffers from too many turnovers and negative plays. I tend to think that the layoff will benefit Florida because Meyer will have time to work out a game plan that squares the circle. But that’s pure speculation. Ohio State’s defensive coaches will have time to think about schemes to blow up that offense and force turnovers when it gets too tricky for its own good.

Of course, all this will go on behind the scenes and will be perfectly obvious – to me – only after the fact.

So. If you don’t have a particular rooting interest, wait and watch. See how Urban Meyer and his team act as the game approaches. See how well the other Big 10 bowl teams fare relative to expectations. Use a pencil, not a pen. And don’t bet the rent on Ohio State if the spread is anything like 14 points.

Obama watch

Barack Obama spoke in New York yesterday, taking the opportunity also to meet with big potential donors. Assuming that he runs, there’s really little or no room for anyone other than HRC in the Democratic field. I suppose that someone could pick up the pieces after a "Mutually Assured Destruction" nuclear exchange between Obama and Clinton, but thus far they’ve been careful not to confront one another directly.

In any event, both can’t occupy the "center" of the Democratic Party; it will be interesting to see who will be first in attacking the other’s left flank.

Update: Here’s Obama’s disarming World AIDS Day speech, delivered at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. A representative passage:

Like no other illness, AIDS tests our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes - to empathize with the plight of our fellow man. While most would agree that the AIDS orphan or the transfusion victim or the wronged wife contracted the disease through no fault of their own, it has too often been easy for some to point to the unfaithful husband or the promiscuous youth or the gay man and say "This is your fault. You have sinned."


I don’t think that’s a satisfactory response. My faith reminds me that we all are sinners.


My faith also tells me that - as Pastor Rick has said - it is not a sin to be sick. My Bible tells me that when God sent his only Son to Earth, it was to heal the sick and comfort the weary; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; to befriend the outcast and redeem those who strayed from righteousness.


Living His example is the hardest kind of faith - but it is surely the most rewarding. It is a way of life that can not only light our way as people of faith, but guide us to a new and better politics as Americans.


For in the end, we must realize that the AIDS orphan in Africa presents us with the same challenge as the gang member in South Central, or the Katrina victim in New Orleans, or the uninsured mother in North Dakota.


We can turn away from these Americans, and blame their problems on themselves, and embrace a politics that’s punitive and petty, divisive and small.


Or we can embrace another tradition of politics - a tradition that has stretched from the days of our founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another - and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.

Note the way he blends the spiritual and the pragmatic, the philanthropic and the governmental. Someone is going to have to make an extraordinary effort to pin him down.

Update #2: E.J. Dionne, Jr., predictably,
gushes all over the AIDS speech, but doesn’t seem to see how it’s possible to work with a politician on one issue, but not vote for him. Evangelicals, even conservative ones, don’t have to be single-issue voters, but being pro-choice and voting down distinguished Supreme Court nominees, most likely largely for abortion-related reasons (are there any others in judicial nominations these days?), are rather substantial barriers to support.

Don’t pack those bags for Alberta just yet

Ted Morton didn’t win the Conservative Party leadership and provincial premiership in Alberta, perhaps because he was "too scary for Alberta".

Not the Ted I know, and not the Alberta I know. But as one article noted, there were lots of "instant Tories" mobilized to vote against him.

I await von Heyking’s take, and note that Ed Stelmach (the first Ukrainian premier of a Canadian province) apparently owes his election to Morton voters, and that some expect him to be offered a fairly significant cabinet post.

Liberaltarians?

The WaPo’s Sebastian Mallaby describes Brink Lindsey’s TNR proposal (unfortunately behind a subscription firewall) that libertarians migrate to the Democratic Party. Here’s a part of SM’s summary:

Would libertarians be more comfortable in the company of Democrats? On moral questions -- abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research -- clearly they would. But on economic issues, the answer is less obvious. For just as Republicans want government to restore traditional values, so Democrats want government to bring back the economic order that existed before globalization. As Lindsey puts it in his New Republic essay, Republicans want to go home to the United States of the 1950s while Democrats want to work there.


If Democrats can get over this nostalgia, there’s a chance that liberaltarianism could work. For the time has passed when libertarians could seriously hope to cut government: Much of what could be deregulated has been, and the combination of demographics, defense costs and medical inflation leaves no scope for tax cuts. As Lindsey himself says, the ambition of realistic libertarians is not to shrink government but to contain it: to cut senseless spending such as the farm program and oil subsidies to make room for the inevitable expansion in areas such as health.

If this is right, then the libertarians have two problems with the Republicans--social conservatism and corporate welfarism. Mallaby (and I guess Lindsey) want to claim that they’re both characteristic of the South (everyone’s favorite whipping region, even if they’re a little less nasty than, say, Jane Smiley was after the 2004 election). But let me note a few things. First, to the extent that the South has an "appetite" for government programs, that taste was developed when Democrats ruled the region. Second, many of the current clients for government subsidies that head southward are poor folk, who, unfortunately, still exist in relatively large numbers south of the Mason-Dixon line. I’d wager that many of those poor folk vote Democratic, just like their northern cousins. Third, many southern Republicans were once northern Republicans (Newt Gingrich was from Pennsylvania, John Linder from Minnesota, and Tom Price from Michigan, to name three current and former members of Congress from the Atlanta area). Again, I don’t see any of them as great supporters of needless government spending.

While I might correct myself when I actually have the opportunity to read the article, I suspect that the real reason Lindsey and his fellow libertarians are making eyes at the Democrats is that they care more about the social issues with which Republicans are identified than they actually do about small government. The Democratic liberationist agenda (which includes liberating science, for example) will mandate bigger government to free us from all social and natural constraints, and then to deal with the inevitable fall-out of that freedom from constraint.

Where will the libertarians go then?

For what it’s worth, I’ve discussed other things Lindsey has said here and here.

Update: Here’s Lindsey’s piece, in toto (thanks to Jonah Goldberg for the pointer). It is, as I thought, a version of big government libertarianism: the promotion of individual autonomy will require some big-time expenses, and the cost of doing business with Democrats will be quite substantial:

We can have true social insurance while maintaining fiscal soundness and economic vibrancy: We can fund the Earned Income Tax Credit and other programs for the poor; we can fund unemployment insurance and other programs for people dislocated by capitalism’s creative destruction; we can fund public pensions for the indigent elderly; we can fund public health care for the poor and those faced with catastrophic expenses.

The remainder of the paragraph departs from realism inasmuch as it seems to forget that he’d addressing the party that can’t resist demagoguing on social security and Medicare:

What we cannot do is continue to fund universal entitlement programs that slosh money from one section of the middle class (people of working age) to another (the elderly)--not when most Americans are fully capable of saving for their own retirement needs. Instead, we need to move from the current pay-as-you-go approach to a system in which private savings would provide primary funding for the costs of old age.

Where were the libertarians like Lindsey when GWB was spending his 2004 "mandate" on social security reform...resisted tooth and nail, of course, by the Democrats?

One last point: Lindsey seems to have forgotten, as have most of his libertarian colleagues, that self-reliance requires character, and that character has to be cultivated. It isn’t the product of the "autonomous individual," as if, somehow, we produce our own character. It comes from a community that recognizes and upholds limits and responsibilities. Autonomous individuals who think of nothing but autonomy (modern libertarians, apparently, unlike their predecessors who may well have respected the need for certain socially-enforced limits, and hence could make common cause in a conservative fusion) are as likely to be (nay, more likely to be) subjects of a gentle despotism as they are to be genuinely "rugged" individuals.

By the way, Jonah G. is
promising to write about this.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Complaints

As you might assume from reading my previous posts, I approve the selection of Florida to meet Ohio State in the BCS title game. I won’t review all the complaints about the BCS or the very reasonable arguments on behalf of Michigan. My logic: in the absence of a post-season playoff, the conference races constitute the playoffs and filter out the contenders. Michigan had its chance in conference and lost to Ohio State. Florida won the SEC and among the other major conference champions (USC, Wake Forest, Oklahoma, and Louisville), the Gators have the best resume. Even that is debatable, of course, as Louisville had just one loss and Oklahoma was robbed at Oregon. But we are where we are. If not quite the infamous old Polish Constitution, not far away.

For those who think that this game will be a blowout given Florida’s uneven performance during much of the season – perhaps. Ohio State is indeed very good. But Buckeye fans remember that many experts gave little chance to the underdog in the 2003 title game (2002 season), in the face of the multi-talented juggernaut from “the U.” My early pick is Florida.

Perhaps lost in all the shouting is the accomplishment of Wake Forest, which will play Louisville in the Orange Bowl. The Demon Deacons had not won an ACC championship in 35 years. Even perennial doormat Duke (under Steve Spurrier) had managed a title during that time. Wake Forest has one of the smallest undergraduate enrollments among the Division I-A football schools (4,000) – which fact, unless you are Notre Dame (8,000), means a significant limit on the alumni and fan base that underwrite the big-time programs. Everything fell into place this year for Coach Jim Grobe, despite a number of key injuries. The ACC had a down year. The ball bounced the right way at the right time. The close games – and most of them were close, including a one-point win at home against Duke – fell into place. One suspects that this will be a blip on the radar rather than a trend, as the big time programs (Florida State, Miami) reload and as Butch Davis takes hold at North Carolina. But the story holds out hope for the little guys of the world.

The Pope Didn’t Back Down in Turkey: Rat Choice Theory--Part 14

RJN explains that his primary purpose was to show his solidarity with the beseiged Patriarch Bartholomew I. The two Christian leaders made it clear together what Europe should require of Turkey as a condition of its admission to the EU: Genuine genuine devotion to and protection of religious liberty and the other inalienable rights of human persons. Otherwise Europe IS nothing at all.

Dick Morris (Sort of) Hearts Huckabee

Here’s the judgment of the man who’s been trying to reinvent himself as a master of conservative strategy. If conservative Republicans are forced to go to the bottom of the barrel in 2008, Morris claims, they’ll find Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
(He ended up at the bottom after losing so much fat that he can no longer float at the top.) "Huck," his friends say, is more articulate and passionate than Brownback on "life" and related issues. After all, he’s a former Baptist minister and president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention (Dick mistakenly says Southern Baptist Convention). He also turned his massive victory over his own massiveness into advocacy for fitness and preventive health care policies, which evangelicals (and Catholics like Gary Seaton) sort of like. All I can say for sure now is that Dick is strangely attracted to Governors of Arkansas. I really do like Huckabee, I think, but I don’t heart him yet.