Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

"The Free Market Brings Fire, Flood and Famine; Socialist Planning Needed"

Um, I know the Hollywood writers strike is still going on, and that second rate scabs like me are trying to fill the void on open-mike night, but isn’t this a Daily Show parody??

Good answer

As far as it goes.

Guess who said this

"I believe that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are divinely inspired documents, written by men especially raised up by their Creator for that purpose. I believe that God has made and presented to us a nation for a purpose -- to bring freedom to all the people of the world."

You can find the answer

Love Letters for America

Once, while discussing Peter Schramm’s Born American theme (various versions can be found here and here) with a friend who I believe also could write a similarly moving account of her experience as an American, she demurred saying that she didn’t know where to begin. "Oh, that’s easy," I said, "just think of it as writing a love letter to America." She said she liked the idea and I do hope she takes me up on the suggestion. Anyone who can write such a thing really ought to do it. We need these accounts, now more than ever, in our politics. We need them because they remind us of the ties that bind and the things that are most noble and inspiring in our regime. In talking about the things we love, we address that which has the potential for uniting us as a people. Too much of what passes for political discourse today is really just thinly veiled grousing and fault-finding. There’s a place for fault-finding and for expressing grievances . . . but how many of these grievances might be better addressed by motivating people toward the good instead of always scolding them for the bad? I don’t remember ever having been persuaded by a scold. But I’ve reformed many a fault (or at least tried hard to reform them) because of the persuasive power of good example, good humor, kind enthusiasm and gentle suggestion.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I heard Rich Lowry on Hugh Hewitt’s show (wonderfully guest-hosted by Mark Steyn, by the way) say that everything good about Mitt Romney’s speech stemmed from the way in which it read like a love poem to America. That is exactly right! But why didn’t Mitt tell us that he thought these things about America before now? THAT might have been helpful. THAT might have been important. Unfortunately, everything that was wonderful and lovely in Romney’s speech is now forever tied to his defense of himself as a Mormon. But everything that was wonderful and lovely in that speech had nothing to do with his Mormonism (or even his relative Christianity) and everything to do with his AMERICANISM. It’s the Americanism, stupid! And doesn’t that make we conservatives look rather ridiculous in all this silly hysteria about religion?

I am very disappointed in the performance of my fellow conservatives and Republicans this week. Again, I think Romney should have quietly addressed the Mormon question long ago and then stubbornly refused to answer any question about it ever again. Then he should have given us his love letter to America quite apart from this whole absurd drama. Every candidate for the presidency should give us such a letter or such a poem. That will tell me more about who I want to be my president than any statement of policy--and certainly of religion--will ever do.

Romney and the lost faithless

O.K., our own thoughtful Joe Knippenberg suggests how Romney would (or should) respond to those critics (Brooks, Noonan, et al) who chastize him for not leaving room for faithlessness in America in his Big Speech. Joe is thoughtful, and might be more persuasive than Romney, and that is not to Romney’s advantage.

Romney’s speech, as delivered by a theocrat

Courtesy of Patrick Deneen. Kinda eats away at this universalist pablum:

"I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims.

Shameless Self-Promotion: Here’s a Review of my HOMELESS AND AT HOME IN AMERICA a very smart and perceptive CANADIAN. I’m not endorsing either the praise or the thoughtful criticism, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you settle for the summary at the expense of depriving yourself of the joy of buying and reading the whole book. I appreciate the nice display of the work of art that is the book’s dustjacket, which is well worth the low price in itself. There’s plenty of time for Christmas ordering.

Memo to Mitt on the atheist question

Leave behind the Adamses for a moment and quote the obviously heterodox Jefferson to this effect: "[C]an the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?" I know that there’s also this: "[I]t does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god." But Jefferson recognized that relatively silent, inactive atheism isn’t harmful in small doses.

Romney could also quote the questionably orthodox Washington’s Farewell Address:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Yes, there are "minds of peculiar structure," but, for the rest of us, there’s religion as the essential prop to liberty.

Finally, he might call attention to the practice of Benjamin Franklin, also a man of dubious orthodoxy, who seems to have contributed to all the churches in Philadelphia.

So Romney could have it on pretty good authority that liberty requires religion, and even the atheistic friends of liberty should concede that.

Update: Romney could also take RJN’s advice, which, in this instance, is more religious than political:

Mr. Brooks is right to complain that “there was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious.” There should have been more than a sentence explaining why such respect is mandated precisely by the Judeo-Christian tradition Romney so strongly affirms.
Yes, th liberty religion demands for itself, it cannot refuse to others. No one’s conscience should be coerced. But politically the atheists who contribute to our liberty are those who either respect religion or hide their disdain for it.

More reactions to Romney’s speech

I’m going to write something "formal," and would have done so already, were it not for those pesky student papers that need to be graded.

In the meantime, you can read E.J. Dionne, Jr., who likes Romney’s pluralism, but not his claim that freedom requires religion. I agree that not all religion conduces to freedom, but the pluralistic--indeed, pluralistic to an almost universalist fault--Romney can’t say that. At the same time, he probably can’t respond as vigorously to Dionne’s challenge about secularism as someone who isn’t looking for votes could.

Michael Gerson is more generous in his praise, finding merit in Romney’s differences from his older Massachusetts model.

Like Kennedy, Romney affirmed that "no authorities of my church . . . will ever exert influence on presidential decisions." But Romney also argued, "Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people." Repudiating Kennedy’s exact language, Romney contended that religion is not merely "a private affair." Martin Luther King Jr., Romney reminded us, did not regard religion as a purely personal matter or lay his deepest convictions upon the shelf.

It is one thing to assert, as Kennedy did, that politicians should not take orders from popes and prophets -- that is the institutional separation of church and state. It is another thing to assert, as Kennedy seemed to, that politicians should not take guidance from their own religiously informed conscience -- that is a multiple personality disorder.

His conclusion:

Romney’s speech, however, was an achievement. It had the boldness to argue with Kennedy on key issues and the intellectual seriousness to win some of those arguments. Kennedy’s speech remains a landmark of American rhetoric. But Romney’s deserves to be read beside it.

This is high praise from someone who, whatever your differences with his political views, belongs in the top echelon of presidential speechwriters over the past fifty years.

Charles Krauthammer goes after the proximate cause of Romney’s speech:

The God of the Founders, the God on the coinage, the God for whom Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving day is the ineffable, ecumenical, nonsectarian Providence of the American civil religion whose relation to this blessed land is without appeal to any particular testament or ritual. Every mention of God in every inaugural address in American history refers to the deity in this kind of all-embracing, universal, nondenominational way. (The one exception: William Henry Harrison. He caught cold delivering that inaugural address. Thirty-one days later, he was dead. Draw your own conclusion.) I suspect that neither Jefferson’s Providence nor Washington’s Great Author nor Lincoln’s Almighty would look kindly on the exploitation of religious differences for political gain. It is un-American. It is unfortunate that Romney has had to justify himself in response.

David Brooks was less enthusiastic than most of the social conservatives with whom he spoke.

When this country was founded, James Madison envisioned a noisy public square with different religious denominations arguing, competing and balancing each other’s passions. But now the landscape of religious life has changed. Now its most prominent feature is the supposed war between the faithful and the faithless. Mitt Romney didn’t start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people’s minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.

The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not. There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I’m assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press.

The second casualty of the faith war is theology itself. In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics.

In Romney’s account, faith ends up as wishy-washy as the most New Age-y secularism. In arguing that the faithful are brothers in a common struggle, Romney insisted that all religions share an equal devotion to all good things. Really? Then why not choose the one with the prettiest buildings?

In order to build a voting majority of the faithful, Romney covered over different and difficult conceptions of the Almighty. When he spoke of God yesterday, he spoke of a bland, smiley-faced God who is the author of liberty and the founder of freedom. There was no hint of Lincoln’s God or Reinhold Niebuhr’s God or the religion most people know — the religion that imposes restraints upon on the passions, appetites and sinfulness of human beings. He wants God in the public square, but then insists that theological differences are anodyne and politically irrelevant.

I think that Romney’s implicit civic theology is a little more demanding than Brooks says, although there is some bland smiley-faced stuff in the speech. And I wonder how Romney will respond to the challenge issued by Brooks and, a little less sympathetically, by
this WaPo editorial, to explain his view of the place of people with no religion in America.

Finally, I don’t think he should have to answer this willful misreading of his text by the NYT editorialist.

Update: While I’m at it, here’s Peggy Noonan, a high priestess in the Church of the Speechwriter. Her take on the atheist question:

There was one significant mistake in the speech. I do not know why Romney did not include nonbelievers in his moving portrait of the great American family. We were founded by believing Christians, but soon enough Jeremiah Johnson, and the old proud agnostic mountain men, and the village atheist, and the Brahmin doubter, were there, and they too are part of us, part of this wonderful thing we have. Why did Mr. Romney not do the obvious thing and include them? My guess: It would have been reported, and some idiots would have seen it and been offended that this Romney character likes to laud atheists. And he would have lost the idiot vote.

My feeling is we’ve bowed too far to the idiots. This is true in politics, journalism, and just about everything else.

A Comment or Three on Mitt’s Speech

It was dignified. It was or came off as authentic. He was firm on what he thought was relevant, and what he should not have to say. So he didn’t come off as evasive or shifty. And he gave us confidence that his faith really does give him a solid moral and political foundation. I’m not sure the speech’s content is particularly memorable, but he did quite effectively position himself between the extremes of Huckabee and Giuliani. Mitt supporters should hope he can stay with this new and more manly tone.

A NOTE ON HUCK’S APPEARANCE ON THE TODAY SHOW. He was good, as usual, except: Huck is now referring to himself as authentic (a lot). That’s not very authentic.

More on Romney’s Speech

Here is a link to John Podhoretz and--for the extreme pro-Romney analysis--here’s Hugh Hewitt. Hewitt also does us the favor of reprinting the speech within his comments so you can refer to it as you read his analysis. I read the speech and was able to catch about 5 minutes of it this morning as I chased the kids out the door for school. I thought it was only o.k. (though certainly too long winded) and I agree with Podhoretz in this assessment:

For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now. For the next two or three days, it’s all anybody will know about him. Chances are it is the word that people will most associate with him from here on out. I don’t think that’s a good direction for a campaign that finds itself in the fight of its life in Iowa against the most explicitly Christian candidate in the field.
I stand by my earlier contention that Romney should have given this speech a very long time ago (as his wife argued) and that, had he done that, the question would have been off the table and not so prominent in the face of the Huckabee challenge. And while I sympathize with what Hewitt is trying to do with Romney (i.e., present Romney as a credible and electable alternative for conservatives to Giuliani), I think Hewitt’s comment that anyone who denies the magnificence of Romney’s speech is "not to be trusted as an analyst" is so over-the-top as to be unworthy of him. It was a well-intentioned and worthy effort, but I think it’s pretty clear that his efforts were better than Romney’s.

Romney’s speech

You can read the text here. You can read the news stories here and here, and some background here and here.

The pundits respond here (WaPo’s Chris Cillizza), here (NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez), here (NRO’s Byron York), here (Jonah G.), here (TWS’s Stephen F. Hayes), here (TWS’s Matthew Continetti), and here (TNR’s Noam Scheiber).

I’ve read the speech. Now I have to think about it.


I’m late to this game, but I can’ resist calling your attention to John Bolton’s analysis of its substance and Robert Kagan’s suggestions about the only remaining alternatives for President Bush.

Obama’s individuality and ours

Shelby Steele writes about Obama the man and citizen, the masks available to him, and advises him to drop all masks, all obsessions with identity, and tell us what he truly believes as an individual. A lovely and well-purposed essay.

Notes from the election on campus

This morning’s Inside Higher Ed brings news of the formation of Academics for Ron Paul, as well as of this poll of youth political attitudes. Democratic youth liked Obama in early November (the time of the poll), and their Republican counterparts favored Giuliani. There were more undecideds and more dissatisfaction among young Republicans, which is to say, there’s lots of volatility in that part of the electorate.

Has Michael Gerson endorsed Mike Huckabee yet?

That’s the question to which I’m led by this post by Jonah G. at The Corner. His conclusion is worth pondering:

If carried to its logical conclusion Huckabeeism is rightwing progressivism. If I have to choose between leftwing progressivism and rightwing progressivism, I’d probably choose rightwing progressivism on most issues and leftwing progressivism on a few issues. But I don’t want to have to make that choice. I don’t think I will have to either.

But more importantly, it needs to be said that progressivism from the right is nearly as flawed and bound to fail as progressivism from the left (I say "nearly" because I think the Right’s understanding of the fallen nature of man is more realistic). The left believes government can love you. Now, Huckabee and (some of) his supporters believe that too. If he is successful — which I doubt very much — in taking over the GOP, both Republicans and Democrats will craft policies grounded in the desire to translate their "love" for people they don’t know into public policy. And both sides, as well as many innocent bystanders, will feel the baton of unintended consequences in their teeth. Of course, there would be some political successes which would be construed as "transformative" events. But, in the process great violence would be done to the principle of limited government and liberty and — I hope — conservatives would be on the sidelines, once again, standing athwart history yelling "Stop" to anyone who might have ears to hear.

There’s more along these lines here.

The question one can pose is whether and how religiously-inspired moralism can be chastened. I take it for granted that a stark claim on behalf of "liberty" can’t do the trick, because that’s not the end for the religiously-inspired moralist. "Liberty for what?" he’ll reply. If he wants to reach out, he might also say something about cultivating the conditions of liberty (such as a sense of self-restraint and responsibility), which don’t spring up by themselves.

Another chastening possibility is suggested by Jonah’s resurrection of the language of "unintended consequences," which was a central weapon in the arsenal of the old neoconservative critique of transformative public policy. This line of argument might grant the goodness of the end while questioning the efficacy of the means, not to mention emphasizing the ways in which fallible human beings can get things wrong. Moralists of all sorts don’t necessarily like to hear this, but Jonah is perhaps correct when he argues there’s a little more receptivity among those who think that human beings are fallen than among those who regard us as perfectible, if only we give the Enlightened Ones the resources to bring this New Age about.

So, anyone think the Christian Leader can be sobered up? Or is Mitt the sober version?

Hillary’s Charm Offensive

Every election cycle poses questions for students of politics to reflect on. One of the 2008 questions raised by Hillary Clinton’s campaign will be whether a repellant human being can be elected president. Or, for those who take a more jaundiced view of American political history, whether a repellant human being, who can’t or won’t conceal that fact, can become president.

David Corn observes, “Candidates are always responsible for their campaigns, and they can be judged accordingly. If the Clinton campaign throws anything it can against Obama – with little regard for accuracy or decency – that will reflect her own character and values.” He reports that the Clinton campaign’s “Defcon 1 assault on Obama” is fueled by hatred. The Clintonistas “can’t stand” Obama. “They talk about him as if he’s worse than Bush.”

What accounts for this hatred, this determination not just to defeat but destroy? “It’s his presumptuousness,” Corn’s source relates. “That he thinks he can deny her the nomination. Who is he to try to do that?”

Haven’t we seen this before – the boundless sense of entitlement, the fury at those who would presume to deny the self-anointed candidate her destiny? Despite all the talk about how Hillary had grown in the aftermath of the health care debacle, the stories about how she had learned to play nice with others in the Senate, the same attractive attitudes and habits that endeared her to the nation 15 years ago are once again on display.

Carl Bernstein’s book, A Woman in Charge, reports that in 1993 the First Lady beguilingly told a group of Democratic senators, who expressed doubts about the political feasibility of passing ambitious health care reforms, that the Clinton administration would “demonize” those who stood in the way of her plan. It was the last straw for Sen. Bill Bradley. “You don’t tell members of the Senate you are going to demonize them. It was obviously so basic to who she is. The arrogance. The assumption that people with questions are enemies. The disdain. The hypocrisy.”

When her task force of 500 members and 34 committees sent the Democratic Congress a bill that was 1,324 pages long, it sank like an anvil. Smaller, simpler measures might have passed, but the First Lady refused to support any plan but her own. Bob Boorstin, a media relations deputy with the task force, told Bernstein that Hillary is “among the most self-righteous people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Her many years in the public eye have given New York’s junior senator ample opportunity to grow in office. She has apparently used them to grow even more self-righteous, more arrogant, more vengeful against those who have the temerity to oppose her. One bumper sticker sums up the situation: “Women Against Hillary: We’ve Waited Too Long To Get It Wrong.”

Huck Pulls Ahead

by three percent over Rudy, according to Rasmussen.

Dr. Pat and ROE (and Dr. Paul)

Deneen is right in reminding us of the limits of what really will be accomplished simply by overturning ROE. But it’s also true--very true--that the our souls are shaped, in part, by the law. And so it is, quite literally, demoralizing for people to be led to believe they have a right they don’t really have. ROE really was an egregious act of judicial imperialism that replaced democratic moral deliberation with that of the experts. No true populist could think its overturning would be trivial or affirm a party that has regarded the Court as its legislative arm. William Jennings Bryan would have been mad as hell about ROE.
And no one who has any respect for the true understanding of our equality and liberty under the Constitution could be indifferent to the way ROE has distorted our understanding of both constitutionalism and the purposes of political life. Abraham Lincoln would have been mad as hell about ROE. Dr. Pat is right enough about the demoralizing impact of nominating Giuliani, who has said that affirming the precedent of ROE might be compatible with judicial restraint properly understood.

Teen Birth Rate and Births to Unmarried Mothers Rise

. . . for the first time in 14 years. Not a cheerful or a promising development . . . unless it indicates a reduction in the number of abortions (which I doubt). The widespread availability of birth-control--even to Jr. High students and without the knowledge of their parents--seems to counter the argument that kids need ever-increasing access to and education about birth control in order to promote a reduction in teen birth rates. We’ve done that and now we have more. Hmmmm. Perhaps there are other causes. Oh yes! Sex causes pregnancy. I think I remember learning that once (or twice).

Atheist Answer to Lord of the Rings and Narnia?

This film set to be released this weekend seeks to stir up a lot of controversy and animosity from religious and conservative groups in order to promote itself. I hope they won’t be satisfied in this desire, but I see that boycotts are already organized. I think that is unnecessary. I think the film will suffer the same fate that the recent spate of anti-war movies have suffered--all by itself and without organized opposition. It is good to get the word out that the movie is not just another innocent fantasy film (a teacher at my children’s Christian school almost unwittingly organized a trip for her students to see this film as a reward until another teacher in the know informed her about the plot) but this is yet another example of protests and boycotts working in a counter-productive manner.

UPDATE: Here’s a review from someone who has actually seen the movie. He makes the interesting point that the message of this first installment works against the atheist intent of its author . . . good.

A Green Argument Against Divorce and Against Hannukah Candles

Divorce, apparently, is very bad for the environment. Two households use more resources than one. Just as a factual matter, I’m sure that’s probably true--but whether it impacts the environment as much as is assumed in this article is another matter. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure there are better arguments against divorce . . .

In a related matter, The Jerusalem Post reports on an effort to get Israelis to reduce the number of Hannukah candles they burn this year . . . (hat tip: Dennis Prager).

Does anyone see the birth of a new morality in all of this? Morality is defined as what pleases or displeases Mother Earth . . . we sacrifice to the new goddess at the expense of the old God. On the other hand, at least this goddess is a figure outside of ourselves. The "anything goes" attitude of the sexual revolution doesn’t seem to fit in this new order, or does it? There’s always the possibility that we could just go "continental" and eliminate our "sexual jealousy" (as Peter Lawler discusses below). We’d still have to marry and remain married in order to please Mother Earth, but I guess there isn’t an argument for fidelity in this Green argument against divorce. How romantic!


Michael Novak calls our attention to this attempt by Richard Dawkins to transvalue values. In Dawkins’s world, "sexual jealousy" is reprehensible, while infidelity (and lying about it) isn’t.

My question: Does Dawkins think that people who regard infidelity as a sign of a character flaw should be permitted to vote?

The Speech, again

NRO’s Mark Hemingway ghost-writes it, hitting many of the right notes.

Update: Knowing that you can’t get enough of this, I call your attention to this battle of the titans between Rick Garnett and Douglas Kmiec.

More Advice for Mitt: Or More Evidence I’m Not a Smart Person if you needed it. Contrary to what the experts are saying, it’s clear to me that Romney’s big job is no longer reaching out to Huck’s supporters. Attacking him as a Christian progressive nanny-stater isn’t going to impress them. They can tell the difference between Christian hope and socialist, progressivist hope. (See our great pope’s new encyclical on hope, and see Tocqueville on how Christianity prevents Americans from imagining that political reform should be pursued by all means necessary etc.) Instead, Mitt should start convincing Giuliani supporters that he is the plausible alternative to Huckabee, that his more moderate but REAL social conservatism and policy wonkish market-based expertise on the domestic issues (like health care) are the keys to victory. The Huck surge should be a wake-up call that suggests to many Republicans that Mitt is more electable than Rudy. Romney should acknowledge the fact of the Huck surge, reflect soberly on its significance, but avoid any divisive attack on the new man from Hope.

Mitt should be prepared to endure the defeat in Iowa and fight on through an appeal to voters in the more urban and urbane states who are, for now, for Giuliani.

I also think, as I’ve said before, that another imperative in our volatile times is a reevaluation of McCain as maybe the best deal Republicans have right now.

Last night, we closed my elections class through a close reading of Ramesh Ponnuru and Richard Lowry, "The Grim Truth: Repubicans Face a Calamitous Political Situation, but They Can Act to Avoid It."
Here’s what those astute authors say about Rudy: "...Giuliani has broken with the base of the party, but only in ways that will not help him with the larger electorate. And to make up for those deviations on social issues, he is projecting a bring-it-on bellicosity that conservatives like but that most voters simply do not feel."


Twenty percent of people living in Canada are foreign born. "The 2006 census counted more than 6m foreign-born people out of Canada’s population of 31.2m, the highest ratio of immigrants since the 1930s.

The immigrant population grew four times as fast as the Canadian-born population between 2001-2006.

Nearly 60% of the newcomers came from Asia and the Middle East."

The Romney speech...what smart people are saying

If it’s all about Huckabee’s rise, as some have contended, then by all means go after Huckabee’s substantive record. So say Ross Douthat (with good links) and James Poulos (also with good links). (Douthat also has more here and here.) Romney’s problem in the Republican electorate is with evangelicals (see this Pew report for the details). He can’t persuade them that he’s a Christian, but he can try to persuade them that his Mormonism shouldn’t matter. The question then would be whether his substantive positions, character, and electability are superior to Huckabee’s (leaving aside for a moment the other candidates). This is, of course, where the debate ought to be.

Update: Count Jonah G. in this camp.

Huck Pulls Even with Rudy, according to Rasmussen. He’s also running even with Hillary. Dean Barnett’s explanation of Huck’s surge: He’s the best politician in the land. Dean adds: His campaign is easily in the best shape. Any of the other candidates would glady trade places with him at this point.


Here is the thought experiment I threw together last Friday. It may be catching on. Speaking of Romney and just back from Notre Dame, I gotta say that his Thursday speech has all the desperation of a "Hail Mary" pass at this point. I’m not in the business of endorsing candidates, but I will say that Romney would almost surely be a good president. The problem is, of course, that he hasn’t found the "voice" that would make him a good candidate, and his discomfort with being a Mormon in public is only one aspect of his "authenticity" problem. Those who remember another talented man from Boston, Doug Flutie, know that Hail Mary passes sometimes work. (And if knew Peter S. was going to link the above I wouldn’t have posted this, but too late now. Thanks, Peter.)

Notes on McCain and Huck, and Romney

I just wanted to make sure you saw these thoughts from Peter Lawler on how the last debate revealed something about the virtues of both Huckabee and McCain and what it might mean for the campaign. And Joe Knippenberg explains that in his upcoming Big Speech, Mitt Romney should not do what John Kennedy did in Houston, but rather take the opportunity to explain the true ground of religious freedom and limited constitutional government. Please read both.   

Prison Fellowship Ministry case

Howard Bashman provides a link to the opinion and some news coverage about the Iowa Prison Fellowship Ministry case, about which I blogged here, here, and here. The bad news is that the appellate panel (which included Sandra Day O’Connor) found against Iowa and PFM in many respects. The good news is that it did not uphold the district court’s very punitive requirement that PFM reimburse the state $1.5 million or require that the current privately-funded version of the program be shut down.

The folks at the Becket Fund are putting a happy face on a ruling with which they must be generally displeased, as do the PFM people. It’s true that nothing in the decision prevents states from permitting privately-funded faith-based programs in prisons, but all three judges still affirm that, as it operated for most of its term, the program violated constitutional strictures. The other piece of good news coming from the decision was the panel’s repudiation of the district court’s talk about "pervasive sectarianism."

The folks at Americans United regard this as a big victory, though I think they overreach at least a little when they claim that "[t]his ruling is a major setback for the White House’s ‘Faith-Based Initiative.’" Liberal Baptists are also pleased.

Once again, my own view is that, in general, opponents of programs like this ought to spend their efforts creating secular alternatives, guaranteeing inmates more choices, rather than working hard actually to reduce the rehabilitative options they have.

The upcoming Romney speech

We learn from our friends at Power Line that Mitt Romney has decided to give a speech about his faith, at the (GHW) Bush Presidential Library, no less.

You can read more stories here (stressing the latest poll results from Iowa, showing Huckabee in the lead), here (stressing the GHWB connection and reprinting he 1960 Kennedy speech), and here.

Not that the Romney folks want my advice, but I offered it here. Above all, he shouldn’t say what Kennedy said, which emphasizes no-aid separationism above all else, raises the secularist boogeyman of churches and denominations ordering people around, and looks forward to a time when religious distinctiveness will diminish to a point of insignificance. Some pundits will treat this as Romney’s template, but it wouldn’t work for at least two reasons. First, its no-aid separationism is much more appealing to secularists and liberal Baptists than to anyone else. And second, if he’s going to honor the role that faith plays in the lives of Americans (which I think he has to, given his immediate audience), he can’t be as hostile to the "prophetic" role of denominations as JFK was.

It will be interesting to see what he says.

No, We’re Not Nuts!

...or at least we don’t think we are. Studies show that Republicans have a much higher opinion of their mental health than Democrats. Other variables, such as income, can’t account for much of the difference, and so being a Republican is clearly a significant cause of self-reported sanity. It could be that Republicans are as crazy as Democrats, but have a manly sense of self-confidence that causes them not to notice. Or it could be that Democrats just whine more and are angling for mood brighteners. (Thanks to Rob Jeffrey.)

Nationwide Huck Surge

...according to Rasmussen, he’s only five percent behind Rudy. And it’s clearly a wide open race with a herd of candidates bunched closely together. It’s time for Republicans to start really thinking, because the inevitability of Giuliani is even more questionable now than the inevitabiity of Hillary.

Shameless Self-Promotion: I’m Coming to Notre Dame

Come hear me talk on the unjustly neglected American Catholic thinker Orestes Brownson next Monday night (December 3) at 8. And of course you’ll want to bring your copy of the ISI edition of Brownson’s THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC with my book-length introduction for ME to sign.

Here Are Some Christmas Book Lists

...including mine. And don’t forget my HOMELESS AND AT HOME IN AMERICA.

McCain-Huckabee (or Huckabee-McCain?)

I actually proposed this idea on Friday and wrote a brief article on it that I will post on Monday. But here’s another version. Huck and John really do balance each other in terms of strengths and weaknesses, and they are the two candidates who shine in the debates and on the campaign trail right now.