Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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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.

Discussions - 18 Comments

In my view, this was a terrific speech. It elevated Romney in two respects: (1) showed him to be a man of moral and religious character, and (2) showed he has an unusually sound grasp of the founding principles, especially the moral nature of religious freedom.

What I never expected but what I believe resulted from it is, real pressure on Giuliani to give a speech along similar lines. Frankly I favor Giuliani, but for the first time Giuliani's questionable character and personal failures come to the fore and make him appear weak, compared with Romney's wholesomeness as indicated by both his faith and his grasp of the principles that ground the nation. Giuliani's strength is his dogged courage, which is a virtue; he can't afford to appear weak.

If Romney were to stay on the new course he charted today, looking at his policy agenda in light of the founding principles, and he moved away from business management gobbledygook, he could begin to mount a formidable challenge to Rudy.

"showed him to be a man of moral and religious character"



Was he a man of moral and religious character when he was shilling for abortion and gay marriage before he decided to run for pres ... err ... saw the light?

Now Red, you know you're supposed to rave over how dignified" and, get this, "authentic" Romney was. Of all the words in the English language to describe Romney, I didn't think I'd see someone use the term "authentic." Other than Hugh Hewitt that is....

There is no question that Mitt can give a heck of a speech. It was well reasoned and delivered, and I agree with most everything he said. I don't think it helps him that much. It is not going to persuade amyone to vote for him that was going to on the basis of his faith. Their hearts have been hardened to him long ago. By the way, I think most evangelicals are not supporting him based on his stance on gay marriage and abortion.

A question concerning the speech, say for purposes of discussion that another line of thought was available, instead of that developed in the actual speech. And now say that the other argument polled and focus grouped better than the one Romney delivered today. Assuming that to be the case, now which of you would go so far to suggest that Romney would have ignored that other speech, because "authenticity" dictated that he deliver the speech that he actually delivered today. How many are willing to say Romney would have given this speech come hell or highwater, REGARDLESS of favourable polling and focus grouping for another speech, and another line of argument.

Many seem impressed that Romney delivered the speech well. Don't you think he was practicing? Can you possible imagine how many focus groups went over each sentence, each clause of each sentence in this speech today? Who here actually thinks that Romney edited so much as a single sentence of this speech today? I don't think he dictated or drafted a single sentence of that lengthy speech today. Because the Romney campaign was going to leave NOTHING to chance

I don't think anyone would argue that he would have delivered the speech regardless of his polling status or any other factor. But that's the point and touches on the "timing" question raised by skeptics. He didn't give this speech months ago to take his faith 'off the table' because he didn't need to and shouldn't have had to in the first place.


As for the speech itself, I'm nearly as enthusiastic as Hugh (although, I didn't write a book about him), but the speech came off as very powerful by highlighting common moral positions amongst all Americans. By being more broad it helped all conservative candidates and articulated what separates those on the right against Hillary & Co.


I don't think the speech was designed to win over those who weren't going to vote for him already but rather those who (A) haven't made a decision yet, (B) religious conservatives who aren't yet sold on Huckabee—and yes there are still some out there, and (C) situate him between MH and RG just as Peter thinks.

There are MANY religious conservatives out there not sold on Huckabee - from my parents to my KJV-loving boss. Many like him, but most (from what I've seen) are holding off before they jump on the bandwagon.

Dear Red: You ask disdainfully about whether Romney was a man of character when he supported gay marriage and abortion?

1. FULL DISCLOSURE: I have generally not been a Romney fan, though I am rethinking it in light of this speech.

2. I believe Romney has never been for gay marriage. He fought it fiercely when it was imposed by the court on MA during his governorship.

3. Ask whether Ronald Reagan was a man of character when he signed the nation's most liberal pro-abortion bill during his Governorship in CA, before he ran for President and changed his mind.

dennis, I am all for genuine changes of heart. Why wouldn't I be? I just don't think there is any way we can know if Romney's change of heart is sincere. It is just too convenient. It seems just as likely to me that what he believes now is what he really believed when he was a RINO Governor and Senate candidate. Maybe then he was putting on a liberal act to get elected in Mass.

Dear Red: Your questioning Romney's "sincerity" is along the lines of my rationale for not supporting him before yesterday's speech.


Can you ever tell whether anyone who claims explicitly or implicitly to have had a change of heart is "sincere"? Of course not.


However, what is at issue in Romney's speech and persuasive to me is this: Romney for the first time showed a serious and thoughtful understanding of the principles of the founding. In my view, doctrines from religious sects ALONE are not sufficient to justify banning abortion. In fact there are denominations that have no problem with abortion, others that express limited approval, and so on. In our nation no one denomination has a superior claim to enforce public morality over others who disagree.
The decisive question is what does REASON say about abortion? And that question is answered by the founding principles which are rooted in reason as well as religious faith, in "the Laws of Nature" as well as "the Laws of Nature's God."

It is specifically the natural law of reason that all men have an equal right to live, a right that must be "secured" by government, which requires that abortion, the taking of a man's life, be forbidden of anyone, regardless of religion.

Thus, when Romney frames his understanding of his faith and his morality IN LIGHT OF THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES, he speaks from the standpoint of what reason demands of him and of everyone else in our nation, which is "dedicated to the proposition" of equal natural rights.
Precisely because Romney has shown in his speech that he grasps the moral significance of the founding, and that his opposition to abortion does not come only from his Mormonism, I see his growth as "sincere."

One could wish that any other candidate in either party would begin to meditate on the rights and laws of nature at the heart of our constitution of self-government! Then we might get somewhere in debating the awful social issues of our day.

By comparison permit me to say that Huckabee is nowhere on these matters. So long as it is his religion alone, however "sincerely" held, that drives his opposition to abortion, he will persuade none but his coreligionists and would have no success as President in making progress on these matters of public morality. This is also why I believe many Americans will not ultimately entertain a Huckabee Presidency. I know my good friends at NLT have differing opinions on Huck, but he cannot be nationally successful on the basis of evangelicalism alone.

dennis, I don't even know where to begin. I am a classical/paleo/traditionalist conservative. What you just wrote was neocon (liberal) boilerplate. I don't have time to deal with all of it now. I will say this.



Reason alone is not sufficient. Classical conservatism has always know this. It was Enlightenment liberals who elevated reason and much that is bad has been the result. That is why classical conservatives look to tradition, history, nature (which is different from the idea of natural law that you mention), and of course, Revelation.



There is a view of natural law that is consistent with classical conservatism, but classical conservatism always rejected the idea of "natural rights" and a "natural law" of equality of which you write.



I reject that the "Founding principles" of which I am sure you speak are really the founding principles. I categorically reject that America was founded on a "proposition." America is a particular nation, founded at a particular time, in a particular place by a particular people. I am an unashamed particularist as all conservatives should be. I am not persuaded by your appeal to universals. Universals are for liberals.

Hey Red,

I have yet to see the assertion "neocon = liberal boiler plate" ever drawn out and explicated. Calling anyone who takes a Natural Law position a neocon and assuming that will settle the argument isn't going to cut it: Either you can make a better argument against neoconservatism or you can't.

Further, how can you claim that Huckabee is the man while holding on the particuarlist position of paeloconservativism? If we are look to Divine Revelation, is that not a Universal? Granted, you might reply that Universals founded on God rather than on Man's Reason (á la the Enlightenment) are different; but just don't see how you can hold both claims. Besides what are we looking for? Certainly not Truth by your standard because that would be a Universal in the liberal-credo. But then if not for Truth, why look to Revelation in the first place?

According to you, America is a particular nation in a particular time and history and change dictate the direction it should go... That appears to be a strict-pure historicist position there. If I'm wrong, please correct me. But along those lines, I think you completely missed Dennis' point. He claimed that religious arguments alone were not enough and you seemed to have that reason alone is enough to argue.

The particularist logic would, as it seems to me, have to accept a certain degree of fatalism. Institutions change and that's the way it is. "History has spoken."

Don't get me wrong, Burke was right to resist France on the grounds that the French were radical and dangerous to tradition. Tradition does teach us to respect what has come before us and informs our decision making process. But the position you advance can not, if followed as rigorously articulate thus far, defend conservative principles against the arguments of progressivism — especially since they claim that their positions are rooted in history and America's .

Dear Red: I respect your seriousness and dedication to what you have called "revelation." (You have not elaborated WHICH tradition of "revelation" you are dedicated to, and I -- speaking as a Catholic -
- am sure that there are very great differences about every important moral question among those of us who believe the revealed word of God.)

But when you write:

"There is a view of natural law that is consistent with classical conservatism, but classical conservatism always rejected the idea of "natural rights" and a "natural law" of equality," you say right up front that you reject the Declaration of Independence which established the very basis of the AMerican political order. Moreover, I am compelled to say that to reject the moral principle of equal natural rights is to place yourself beyond citizenship, which as you know from your Aristotle is defined by your loyalty to the regime.

We conservatives have struggled for decades to persuade our fellow citizen voters that we should be trusted with rule. You do yourself, the conservative movement, the country, and indeed Christian civilization itself no favors when you proclaim that you reject the equal natural rights of the people we hope to govern.

Luke P,



I am not a Huckabee supporter. I strongly support Ron Paul. When I say liberal I don't mean liberal as in Jane Fonda and Hillary Clinton. I mean liberal as in the big idea of liberalism. Although one could make a strong argument that the latter inevitably leads to the former which is part of the problem.



dennis,



I don't think the Declaration means what you say it means. That is historical revisionism. It is interpreting the document in the light of modern standards, not the standards of the time it was written. We have been over and over this here esp. in the Lincoln/WBTS threads. I guess you missed those fireworks. What Jefferson was most likely asserting was the corporate equality of Colonists with Englishmen. He was not asserting universal equality because they so clearly were not practicing it.



One of the reasons that Christian civilization has been unable to defend itself is because it has (even the "conservative" elements) adopted your universals instead of defending Christian particularity. Natural rights have always been used to bludgeon traditional societies and the traditional social order in the name of some right. If you accept the underlying premise then you can not logically defend against its expansion. Gay marriage is the perfect example. If you accept the underlying premise of equality, then opposition to gay marriage (or gay adoption, or women in combat, etc.) become just an unprincipled exception. The underlying premise has to be rejected. Then we can get about the hard work of preserving and restoring what we had.

Dear Red: Well, I certainly agree with your view that Jefferson (writing the Declaration as a public document for the Founders at Philadelphia, not a private letter for himself alone) meant something different from what "we" 21st century historicists read into it.

You seem to think that equal rights deduced from the Laws of Nature are empty vessels, filled with any poison anyone cares to pour into it, such as gay marriage. In truth, the rights that derive from "Nature" are logically, definitionally limited by "nature." So, using your example, if same-sex "marriage" were a relationship given by "nature" (a word which directly takes reference from being born, "natus," hence sexual reproduction is of its very essence), then of course it could claim a right by nature to be recognized. If it is in contradiction to the standards established by nature, it cannot make a claim to be a natural right.

I happen to like human finger sandwiches, yet everyone knows, except for decadent cannibals who cannot recognize the rights of human beings by nature, that it is wrong to eat the body parts of another--not by any tradition alone but by a universal proposition, a law of nature.

If you cannot understand and accept this at the minimum, you are granting, I fear, that there IS no such thing as the human species. There may be Texans, or Americans, or Iraqis and such, but they are as alien to one another as any other beast that lives by other traditions.

If there is one species called "human being", there must be universal laws of some kind that characterize that species. In the case of the human species, given its nature as a behavior choosing animal, those universal laws must relate to his behavior in the form of statements about what is choiceworthy and what is not.

This is so elementary to grasp that I confess that I find it mysterious as to why anyone would resist it. I think it is based on fear that somehow natural law is subjective. But properly understood, it does NOT give ground to that moral relativism you speak of. In fact I follow the constant argument of Pope Benedict XVI here that reason is the way to disprove moral relativism and to open man's vision to the eternal truth inviting all to that ultimate happiness that perfects and completes the nature of man.

Red,

My mistake, but the questions still remain: (1) How do you hold to Divine Revelation and reject all Universals? (2) How do we expect change relativist-drift and get back to a form of government that Huckabee er, Ron Paul proposes?

I get that you mean liberal in the classical sense, but if you're so interested in preserving the particularity of the American order, how can you reject the classical liberal order of America at the time of revolution and formation of the Constitution?

Luke P,



I don't reject all universals. Christianity obviously asserts a universal means of salvation. It asserts certain universal moral rules. I do believe Christianity still leaves a lot of room for individual cultural variation. My problem is with universals derived from "reason" alone.



but if you're so interested in preserving the particularity of the American order, how can you reject the classical liberal order of America at the time of revolution and formation of the Constitution



That is the essence of the debate, is it not? There were certainly classical liberal elements of early America, but I do not think it was as classically liberal as is often asserted in hindsight. Especially not the South.



dennis, the problem is that these rights and law arrived at solely by reason can not logically be bound. They turn out to be very much in the eye of the beholder. Is there a natural right to housing or a living wage? Why not? The Soviet Constitution said there is.



I understand the conservative appeal of "natural law" as a counter weight to moral relativism, but isn't Christianity alone a counter to moral relativism? Why appeal to a universal law unless it is out of a felt need to pluralize/democratize/de-Christianize that appeal. Then you are starting with certain liberal presuppositions? You are now playing ball on their court and scratch your head as to why you can't win. Why concede the need to universalize your appeal from the beginning?

Well stated, Red. Although It seems that you're trying to draw a hard distinction where one cannot be made. You're point is that a natural law understanding of the founding is to concede too much ground to the relativists; granting equality and then having no claims to prevent its expansion. But my assertion is not that historical-particularism is invalid but instead "valid but insufficient" just as natural law it.

Earlier, Dennis made a comment about Pope Benedict's understanding of Reason as being a gift of God. Perhaps you have or have not but I would take a close look at his Regensburg Lecture (again), especially the early part where he traces the merger of Christianity with the Greek Logos. His claim is not that Reason and Revelation are incompatible but interwoven. This makes when we think about "EN ARCHÊ ên ho logos"/"in principio erat Verbum".—But I digress


but isn't Christianity alone a counter to moral relativism?

No it isn't. Because the claims of modernity and free government compel us to accept that anyone can chose to reject the Truth claims of Christianity and still expect us to "tolerate" their views. (without diving into the problems of many definitions of "tolerance".) However, formulating an understanding that integrates all these ideas—as I believe the Founders did—allows us to bolster the soft spots of the various interpretations of the Founders.

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