Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Meeting the Challenge of Obama

His
Notre Dame address
shows once more how formidable a politician he is--even though he did not go with the draft I posted here a few days ago. Instead of talking about abortion, he referred to his conversion to Christianity. Anyone opposing Obama’s call for civil discussion (even though it ultimately means agreement with him or at least capitulation to his power) is marginalized.

UPDATE: C-SPAN’S coverage of the commencement, including the speech.

In rallying conservatives, especially following hound-dog Huntsman and bail-out Specter, moderation and prudence need to be kept in mind: Reagan remains a rallying point--even though few people under 40 have direct political memory of him. As a leftish student, prepared to mock the gubernatorial candidate, I was charmed by him instead. (A young left-wing student of mine said he was moved to tears when he heard a Reagan speech, despite his loathing for Reagan policies.) I reiterate that Reagan’s own personal background (divorced, Hollywood, California) restrained his opponents from treating him at least initially like, well, like Governor Palin.

The only prominent conservative political figure I know of who has such personal appeal across partisan lines is Justice Clarence Thomas, whose ability to speak out is limited.

One problem with Rush and other conservatives, especially when they defend free markets, is that they argue for Grover’s "leave us alone" coalition yet also want America to be Reagan’s city on a hill. Libertarians as such cannot love any country. Free markets are by definition not patriotic, let alone American.

We are reminded again of Lincoln’s admonition that successful politics requires the combination of
duty and self-interest
. See his Springfield speech, on Dred Scott, June 26, 1857, third paragraph from the end.

Discussions - 19 Comments

Would you explain the logic of this sentence? -

Anyone opposing Obama’s call for civil discussion (even though it ultimately means agreement with him or at least capitulation to his power) is marginalized.

P.S.: I am asking for this reason: we heard that poisonous thought from the radical left in the 60s and 70s. It was a justification for intolerance.

Steve: Yes, your second comment about intolerance (what I meant by "marginalization") got it right; this is the poison concealed in his openness. This is the Leninism of liberalism.

His Notre Dame speech acknowledges that a consensus on key issues may never be reached (no end of history for him!) Still, decisions have to be made.

Art Deco: Yes, the fault lines are not what they were.

I think you misunderstood me. Yours is the poisonous thought. Or perhaps it is just Fishy.

Steve - I can't speak for Ken Thomas, but I would venture that the logic behind the statement you challenge is that Obama has redefined "civil discussion" to mean capitulation to Obama's conclusions, e.g., you can continue objecting to abortion in the privacy of your home or church, but the price of admission to participation in the "civil discussion" now constituting our politics is agreement that abortion, and any other "right" invented by the Left, cannot be abridged by the government, and so is really has no place in political discourse. Seen in this light, Obama's message is that of the radical left now that it has taken power.

Sorry, Steve Thomas: I don't understand how my reasoning is "poisonous." Obama is being clever. By the way, in an honest engagement with the pro-abortion side, pro-lifers can win. Of course it's not a level playing field, given elite culture, etc. But those who think that displaying aborted fetuses are not a help in that vital battle. Those who affirm the goodness of life are central to its success.

One problem with Rush and other conservatives, especially when they defend free markets, is that they argue for Grover’s "leave us alone" coalition yet also want America to be Reagan’s city on a hill.

There is a solid point there. But the fact remains that most of what gets justified by Republicans (and Democrats for that matter) as "free trade" is anything but. Our trade relationship with China is a textbook example of managed, unfree trade. But since our political class are making money off of it, they will defend it to the death.

Huntsman, and a great many other people who like to call themselves libertarians, are really throwbacks to the Rockefeller Republicans.

I really don't know where patriotism helps anything. I agree, the leave us alone crowd does tend to roll their eyes at fireworks and flag waving because it often boils down to a tribal, primitive sort of thing that lacks a clear Why? A guy sitting on a pickup gate saying we love America may really only be a patriot if he can tell you why beyond cliches that he does not fully grasp (thank you public education). I don't know that we have a patriotic history going that far back past WWII. It seems that people were always more suspicious of that sort of thing because they understood that with the sort of mindless worship of imagery came the possiblity of substance being lost. The founding documents are based on negatives, things that can't be done to you so I really think the leave us alone crowd is the real classical partriotic group. As a leave us aloner, I really do marvel at the understanding our founders had when I look at their warnings and what parts of their message gets corrupted today in the name of patriotism.

Ken Thomas - You imply that President Obama's call for civility -- for political debate and ordinary political struggle -- is a snare or a fraud. It is a "clever" and dishonest move comparable to Leninism.

Why would you think that? It must somehow come from a belief that abortion is wrong and must not be legally permitted under any circumstances. If you hold that belief, then you and the president have, as he said, an irreconcilable difference. From this you wrongly conclude that you are cornered and without recourse, that you must either agree with him or capitulate to his power. A strong-minded person in that (mistaken) position will either resort to force or give up and become, say, a real estate broker. So I worry.

Steve Thomas: Obama calls in the speech for respect for the pro-life conscience at the very moment his administration is poised to repeal--not "craft" as he says-- the HHS conscience rule protecting all medical professionals (not just doctors).

He asks for fair-minded debate, but his Homeland Security Dept. released a report identifying pro-lifers as potential terrorists.

He asks that we not caricature each other; I'll try not to do that as I cling to my guns and religion.

That's why I don't take anything Obama says about openness at face value. Civility isn't something he practices, it's a weapon he uses against his political opponents so they can't fight. Clever and effective.

If you hold that belief, then you and the president have, as he said, an irreconcilable difference. From this you wrongly conclude that you are cornered and without recourse, that you must either agree with him or capitulate to his power.

But he is without recourse. Thanks to liberals like you and Obama the matter has been effectively removed from the normal political process. It's hypocritical for people like you to subvert the Constitution and then to demand respect for the law from everybody else.

John M - If that's what liberals have done, then isn't it much worse than hypocrisy?

If that's what liberals have done, then isn't it much worse than hypocrisy?

I notice you don't deny that that is what liberals have done. A wise move, as such a denial would be laughable on its face.

John M - I was noticing that you have adopted some liberals' taste for the charge of "hypocrisy."

I was noticing that you have adopted some liberals' taste for the charge of "hypocrisy."


No, you were not "noticing" that. You were attempting to change the subject. I suggest you attempt to argue the matter at hand and refrain from playing your semantic games.

Let's see. I responded to a post from Ken Thomas. Then you said It's hypocritical for people like you to subvert the Constitution and then to demand respect for the law from everybody else. I have nothing to add to what I tried to say to Ken Thomas.

Let's see. I responded to a post from Ken Thomas. Then you said It's hypocritical for people like you to subvert the Constitution and then to demand respect for the law from everybody else.

Yes, I did. And it is.

I have nothing to add to what I tried to say to Ken Thomas.

Bully for you. But you clearly have something to say to me, something about how it is wrong to object to the hypocrisy of liberals hijacking the courts and then bleating about imagined judicial activism on the right. If you wanted to bite your tongue the time was before you accused me adapting "some liberals taste for the charge of "hypocrisy."".

The fact that liberals throw accusations around with reckless abandon does not mean that the words they use are forever off bounds to the rest of us. Ninety-nine percent of the time liberals don't even seem to understand what the word "hypocrisy" means. I'm not willing to concede exclusive rights over it to them.

Steve Thomas in #10: This misstates my position on abortion. More to the immediate point, the Obama speech does give thoughtful Catholics and prolifers the opportunity to give Obama the argument of his life. We may not win, but we need to argue as though we deserve to win. (So no resort to a right to revolution, no worries, though I am clinging to my guns as well as my religion; and no real estate license either, especially not in this economy). RC2's comment in #11 gets it right: Civility is Obama's trump card to suppress vital differences.

I am reminded of a Yale political science prof who said he believed in pluralism, but he would not hire a "Leninist or a Straussian."

The only prominent conservative political figure I know of who has such personal appeal across partisan lines is Justice Clarence Thomas, whose ability to speak out is limited.

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