Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

An open letter to the religious right

EO’s Joe Carter writes a good ’un.

Hat tip: Steve Dillard (aka "Feddie") at the recently revived Southern Appeal, which he has brought back, to great applause from his friends.

Beat the Girl with the Boys

This is, essentially, the advice offered to Barack Obama by Richard Whitmire in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. In a typical Pennsylvania state college, Whitmire argues, boys of all races but--more recently, especially white working class boys--do not fare well. His advice to Obama is to acknowledge and demonstrate empathy for this problem without speculating too much about the causes of it (as Whitmire also does not do in this article). This would be a problem for Hillary, he argues, because the facts here speak against the party line of her feminist-leaning backers. The facts show that girls are thriving in school and graduating college in significantly higher numbers than boys.

We’ve talked about this issue on NLT before: here, here, and here. I think there may be even more posts about this topic, but I didn’t want to spend the whole morning combing the archives.

I don’t think Whitmire’s advice is going to do much to actually help Obama win Pennsylvania, but it’s not bad advice. It’s advice I have a lot more interest in seeing Republican candidates take, however, than Barack Obama. I think Whitmire is right to speculate that such talk will resonate in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

A theological pronouncement from Obama

O.K., he’s lost the Reformed vote.

Media Alert

If anyone has their TV tuned to C-SPAN at 12:30 eastern time today (Thursday, March 27), I’ll be introducing Newt Gingrich, who will be giving his response to Obama’s speech from last week. C-SPAN plans to broadcast live.

See: The Obama Challenge

Check C-SPAN for updates, since they sometimes change these things at the last minute.

Berry good

I spent the better part of yesterday attending the Berry conference, and can report that the portions I was able to enjoy, I enjoyed. The students gave a good account of themselves, discussing the desirability and consequences of being pro-choice on (very) long life. Patrick Deneen’s lecture on "Virtue, Technology, and Wendell Berry" was crunchiness at its best. Finally, dinner at a downtown Rome restaurant (featuring a special "crunchy and conservative menu in honor of" Dr. Pat) was excellent--not only the food, but also the conversation.

All in all, a good show, boding well for today’s events, which, unfortunately, I have to miss.

Gallup Poll on November

A new Gallup Poll: "A sizable proportion of Democrats would vote for John McCain next November if he is matched against the candidate they do not support for the Democratic nomination. This is particularly true for Hillary Clinton supporters, more than a quarter of whom currently say they would vote for McCain if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee." Read the details yourself. This is not a small problem for the Democratic Party.

The future of affirmative action

This article summarizes some of the papers in this session, focusing on Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s expectation, expressed in her opinion for the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, that the "need" for affirmative action will be gone by 2028. The consensus seems to be that this won’t be the case.

So far as I can tell from the article, the papers focused on college admission policies and on government support for education programs at all levels (elementary and secondary included). There seems to have been little or no talk about the "cultural" or "social" causes of academic achievement (or the lack thereof). These are surely more resistant to the policies the panelists seem to favor. What’s more, it’s not clear to me that affirmative action addresses these causes either.

See ya tomorrow!

I’ll be up at Berry College tomorrow, communing with some great minds. In particular, I’ll be responding to Patrick Deneen’s lecture on Wendell Berry (no relation, so far as I know, to Martha Berry).

Dionne on Obama’s faith

E. J. Dionne, Jr. calls attention to both the Niebuhrian humility and the full-bore Social Gospel worldliness of Obama’s religion. This is an uneasy mix, though Dionne doesn’t seem to realize it.

Truth Deprived

Sen. Clinton has, finally, with the help of dozens of contrary accounts and incontrovertible video evidence, recollected that her visit to Bosnia in 1996 wasn’t so harrowing after all. In a speech last week she said, "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

Now that her memory has been refreshed by apoplectic campaign aides, the candidate has tried to walk back her vivid memories to a closer approximation of objective reality. In admitting that the story didn’t happen the way she had so vividly remembered it, Clinton told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review today, "I was sleep-deprived, and I misspoke."

But Senator, won’t you be sleep-deprived when that phone rings in the White House at 3:00 a.m.? If you respond to the lack of sleep by clearly recalling events that never went through the formality of taking place, aren’t you likely to be responding to a national security crisis in, you know, sub-optimal ways?

A Choice, not an Eco

Wesley Smith has an interesting article about modern eugenics in the latest Weekly Standard.

It is a bitter irony that even as we are enlarging our commitment to human equality in many areas, we are turning our backs on it in others. In particular, we may be about to eliminate from our society people with Down syndrome (DS) and other genetically caused disabilities. . . . A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2005 found that of the approximately 5,000 babies born with DS annually, only about 625 were born to mothers who knew of their baby’s condition before birth. . . . Under the regimen of universal prenatal genetic testing urged upon us by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the number of DS babies born each year could plummet below 1,000.

Smith’s piece could use a slightly different lede: "Why is it that the same people who oppose genetically modified foods and pesticides seldom apply the same logic to member of their own species?"

Random Observations

1. On Richard Adams’ comment on the Founders: Maybe Obama is more Christian than lots of them, but I wouldn’t hold that against him. And maybe he isn’t, insofar as the Wright church seems to be rather secular and ideological. Of course at least the late Lincoln and Solzhenitsyn were/are certainly more Christian than the Founders, as is the current president.

2. I’ve gotten two emails from reasonable men who think that NLT has gone way overboard in nitpicking and such on Obama’s distancing speech. Of course people who write for blogs can say what they please, and so I’m inclined to be a bit more nonjudgmental.

3. Still, I really and truly hope McCain doesn’t make Obama’s religion a political issue. A real problem in this campaign--for both parties--is going to be managing racial animosity--among both whites and blacks. There’s no way the Democrats can deny Barack the nomination without seeming racist. And they’ll be a big perception problem if he loses narrowly to McCain in November. Preacher Huckabee displayed not only pagan genrosity but excellent political instincts in not making too much of the unscripted rantings of a man’s pastor.

4. I might add that it’s not so great for white folks to admonish black folks to take the advice of Bill Cosby and look to themselves alone for the sources of their misery. That might even be good advice, but black folks have to give it to themselves.

5. I see the advice here and there on the web that McCain should campaign as an independent and not a partisan Republican. That is, he should position himself to pick all the voters who are inclined to favor the Democrats on the level of principle but become disaffected with Obama for one reason or another. Is it really true that the only chance for victory of the party that now holds the White House is basically negative?

6. Kmiec’s endorsement of Obama is rather odd, but not completely inexplicable if his support for Romney was basically "socialy conservative" and in spite of the Romney/McCain position on Iraq etc.

7. McCain obviously should not make a speech on race and such matters to counter Obama’s. Maybe one of his strengths is that he’s personally sort of post-racist in the manner of a warrior, and so he’s not focused on the danger of "reverse discrimination."


Religion, the Founders, and Obama

As we continue this discussion of Obama's religion, is it worth turning to the founders as a basis for comparison. Most of the best known of the Founding Fathers were more around their churches than in them. The skepticism of Jefferson and Madison is well known. President Washington doesn't seem to have been an orthodox Episcopalian. Even John Adams was a Unitarian, and had rather harsh things to say about Puritan orthodoxy. They all seem to have believed that religion could be a positive good, and that revelation was possible. But they had trouble being certain about any particular revelation, or any particular interpretation of it.

Obama might believe rather more than they. There's nothing wrong with that, but the contrast is interesting. Obama's religion also has rather more of the social gospel than did theirs.

Categories > Presidency

More on Obama’s Religion

The indispensibleMark Steyn has some useful observations on Sen. Obama’s spiritual adviser. Here’s an excerpt, but read the whole thing. It’s short:

‘I’m sure,” said Barack Obama in that sonorous baritone that makes his drive-thru order for a Big Mac, fries, and strawberry shake sound profound, “many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.”
Well, yes. But not many of us have heard remarks from our pastors, priests, or rabbis that are stark, staring, out-of-his-tree flown-the-coop nuts. Unlike Bill Clinton, whose legions of “spiritual advisers” at the height of his Monica troubles outnumbered the U.S. diplomatic corps, Senator Obama has had just one spiritual adviser his entire adult life: the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, two-decade pastor to the president presumptive. The Reverend Wright believes that AIDs was created by the government of the United States — and not as a cure for the common cold that went tragically awry and had to be covered up by Karl Rove, but for the explicit purpose of killing millions of its own citizens. The government has never come clean about this, but the Reverend Wright knows the truth. “The government lied,” he told his flock, “about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied.”
Does he really believe this? If so, he’s crazy, and no sane person would sit through his gibberish, certainly not for 20 years.
Or is he just saying it? In which case, he’s profoundly wicked. If you understand that AIDs is spread by sexual promiscuity and drug use, you’ll know that it’s within your power to protect yourself from the disease. If you’re told that it’s just whitey’s latest cunning plot to stick it to you, well, hey, it’s out of your hands, nothing to do with you or your behavior.

Therapy for Your Soul from Dr. Pat

Here’s Deneen’s excellent advice for what to read to get acquainted with political philosophy. And he includes the unjustly neglected thanccentric existentialist.

Kmiec endorsement of Obama

Already noted by PWS. He has been hinting at this for some time.

I raised questions when he first gestured in this direction, and am not persuaded by the arguments he offers today. He notes massive disagreements with Obama on a variety of issues, hoping only that his mind isn’t closed. Is there any evidence of his openmindedness other than words meant to disarm?

The least unpersuasive part of his statement is here:

Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen. In pursuit of these fatally flawed purposes, the office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend in public office formally, has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment. Today, I do no more than raise the defense of that important office anew, but as private citizen.

About this, reasonable conservatives, and reasonable people generally, can disagree. I find it more than a little odd that Mitt Romney--Prof. Kmiec’s previous horse in the race--had this to say a couple of months ago:

It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now. It was not well managed in after the takedown of Saddam Hussein and his military. That was done brilliantly, an extraordinary success. But in the years that followed, we were undermanaged, underprepared, underplanned, understaffed, and then we come into the phase that we have now. The plan that Bush and General Petraeus put together is working. It’s changing lives there. Perhaps most importantly, it’s making sure that al Qaeda and no other group like them is becoming a superpower, if you will, in the communities, and having a safe haven from which they launch attacks against us. It’s critical for us. The most important issue is what do we do now, and their just run and retreat regardless of the consequences is going to be a real problem for them when they face a debate with a Republican on the stage.

If this judgment about the justifiability of the war wasn’t an obstacle to supporting Mitt Romney, why is it so problematical now?

I close by noting Prof. Kmiec’s recursion to a "law-enforcement" model of combatting global jihad:

Effective criticism of the incumbent for diverting us from this task is a good start, but it is incomplete without a forthright outline of a commitment to undertake, with international partners, the formation of a world-wide entity that will track, detain, prosecute, convict, punish, and thereby, stem radical Islam’s threat to civil order.

He is, of course, entitled to his view, but, once again, it doesn’t quite square with what Romney wrote here, where he focused on the military dimensions of our response to the challenge of global jihad. There’s one sentence devoted (if "networks" are the same as an "entity") to what for what it seems Prof. Kmiec thinks ought to be the core of our response.

So I’m left puzzled by this move from Romney to Obama. Surely there’s less distance between Romney and McCain than between the former Massachusetts governor and Obama. And surely both Romney and McCain are very likely to be better on a whole range of Prof. Kmiec’s issues (e.g., same-sex marriage, abortion, judicial appointments, "subsidiarity") than is Obama.

Or does Prof. Kmiec now regret his support of Romney?

Update: Power Line has more on the Romney-Kmiec-Obama disconnect here.

Kmiec endorses Obama

Doug Kmiec endorses Sen. Obama. Kmiec is Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University and served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (U.S. Assistant Attorney General) for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Although this may be surprising, I am betting that we will see more such during the campaign. While he gives other reasons, note this...."the office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend in public office formally, has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment."

Obama’s Religion

This post on the Belmont Club site paints a troubling picture of Rev. Wright and Black Liberation Theology. According to James Cone, one of the founders of Black Liberation Theology

Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community ... Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.

In Cone’s formulation--and by extension Wright’s--any God who isn’t "black" is an agent of the devil.

The piece draws parallels between Wright and Black Liberation Theology on the one hand and the arguments advanced by the likes of Louis Farrakhan and Edward Said on the other. The press, of course, has ignored this deeper story, but all in all, the more people delve into the "theology" of Rev. Wright, the more they are going to recognize that--in the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo--Obama has "got some ’splainin’ to do."

I Think Ben Stein Might Be Right

Ben Stein has been pumping for higher taxes on the "very rich" in the Sunday business section of the New York Times for a while now, I guess as a way of keeping in good graces with the NYT editors or something.

But the other day I was sitting in the lobby of a boutique luxury hotel in midtown Manhattan when a stretch Bentley the size of Delaware coasted up to the curb, and out stepped an obviously super-wealthy and well-appointed couple, who were greeted by practically the entire management staff of the hotel. The manager proudly announced to the couple that they were being bunked in the hotel’s presidential suite, whereupon the uber-coiffed wife said, "Well certainly not the current president!"

I’m with Stein here: Raise their taxes. "Through the roof!," as Jon Lovitz put it in his famous Dukakis After Dark sketch on SNL.