In the NY Times Book Review, no less! The old man continues to amaze and teach us. His conclusion:
It is an assumption of Aristotle's philosophy of nature that the highest good of each species is accessible to all, or nearly all, its members. For man the highest good is wisdom. But since few if any human beings attain it, Aristotle's nature requires a supernatural correlate: the afterlife. Whatever one thinks of this argument, it points to a dialectical friendship between Athens and Jerusalem. All the more reason for them to join forces in the desperate struggle, still going on, between civilization and barbarism.
In a breathtaking essay Joshua Lerner uses the concept of the political from Carl Schmitt to illustrate the radicalism of Progressivism. Schmitt was the German legal theorist whom Leo Strauss critiqued in an essay central to his return to the ancients. See his early work and Strauss's here. Schmitt became a supporter of the Nazis.
Lerner does not engage in drive-by slander of the Progressives as Nazis. Rather, he paints a compelling portrait of the perilous parallels between the two radical movements:
In many ways, seeking redemption via politics is the quintessence of the primacy of the political. But once we have established that politics is of at least some primacy and provides a meaningful source of ethical values--again, think of any number of liberals or leftists who feel the need to politicize even the most mundane of consumer activities--we must move on to another very powerful conclusion: political primacy means the irrelevancy of the practice of politics.
It is rather well known that Progressives were rather contemptuous of common politics; they hoped to replace it with scientific administration of essential tasks....
Lerner is the co-editor of Counterpoint, the undergraduate University of Chicago conservative journal, where his essay appears. The current issue features a symposium on conservative films, including Diana Schaub on Shane, Abe Shulsky on Casablanca, and Thomas Pavel on Bladerunner.
I can't compete with William Voegeli's erudition or work ethic, but let us also remember this example of "us-and-them campaign rhetoric that, turned to the proper angle, reveal a seething hatred of the nation's enemies."
You'll determine whether this America will be unified, or, if I lose this election, Americans might be separated black from white, Jew from Christian, North from South, rural from urban.
Jimmy Carter Chicago 1980
Sounds kind of "light on facts and heavy on Apocalypticism [also on the cheap partisanship]" right Mr. Cassidy? My takeaway isn't that Republicans or Democrats are the greater sinners on this kind of thing. It is that:
1. A lot of the criticism of Bachmann will be lazy, mean-spirited, cynical, and hypocritical and will come from people who (like Cassidy) think of themselves as too smart and too wonderful to be bothered to make a cogent and consistent argument against her.
2. Bad arguments against Bachmann's suitability to be President should not be used as an excuse to ignore good arguments against her (though it is up to her critics and opponents to make those arguments.)
Or that other guy named Marx: "Those who worry about socialized medicine won't be happy to learn that according to Lulzsec the password for flag@ whitehouse.gov was 'karlmarx.'"
Refine & Enlarge
We meet at ... a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more...
These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.
America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.
We believe in the value of doing what's right for everyone in the American family.
And that is the choice in this election.
We believe that what matters most is not narrow appeals masquerading as values, but the shared values that show the true face of America. Not narrow appeals that divide us, but shared values that unite us. Family and faith. Hard work and responsibility. Opportunity for all - so that every child, every parent, every worker has an equal shot at living up to their God-given potential.
The thing that makes me angriest about what has gone wrong in the last 12 years is that our government has lost touch with our values, while our politicians continue to shout about them. I'm tired of it!
I was raised to believe the American Dream was built on rewarding hard work. But we have seen the folks of Washington turn the American ethic on its head....
Our people are pleading for change, but government is in the way. It has been hijacked by privileged private interests. It has forgotten who really pays the bills around here. It has taken more of your money and given you less in return.
Bill Clinton, 1992 acceptance speech
We have been a nation adrift too long. We have been without leadership too long. We have had divided and deadlocked government too long. We have been governed by veto too long. We have suffered enough at the hands of a tired and worn-out administration without new ideas, without youth or vitality, without vision and without the confidence of the American people. There is a fear that our best years are behind us. But I say to you that our nation's best is still ahead.
Our country has lived through a time of torment. It is now a time for healing. We want to have faith again. We want to be proud again. We just want the truth again.
Jimmy Carter, 1976 acceptance speech
The destiny of America is always safer in the hands of the people then in the conference rooms of any elite.
So let us give our ... country the chance to elect a Government that will seek and speak the truth, for this is the time for the truth in the life of this country.
George McGovern 1972 acceptance speech
I encourage readers to find other examples of routine, us-and-them campaign rhetoric that, turned to the proper angle, reveal a seething hatred of the nation's enemies.
John Lennon, the right-wing, reagonite war-hawk? So say's Lennon's last personal assistant:
John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter.
I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who's an old-time communist... He enjoyed really provoking my uncle... Maybe he was being provocative... but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.
He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he'd been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete.
I don't know if Lennon's alleged conservative conversion is genuine, but it would make listening to Come Together all the sweeter.
Justice Clarence Thomas has authored one of the Court's most unusual and as usual most instructive court opinions, dissenting in the violent video case (look about 40% of the way down, after the majority opinion). In voting to uphold California's restrictions on sales of violent video games to minors, Justice Thomas surveys the Founders' views of child rearing, noting among other items Jefferson's education instructions to his wife, the contrasting views of Locke and Rousseau, and children's reading of the time. The upshot:
"The freedom of speech," as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors without going through the minors' parents or guardians. Therefore, I cannot agree that the statute at issue is facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
The Court's version of the first amendment appears to have little to do with the original purpose of that element of self-government--the protection of political speech.
George Will seems high on Rick Perry (h/t to Peter Schramm for the link.) I dunno. Perry is, in one sense perfectly positioned for the Republican primary race. He is much more of a small government guy than George W. Bush and he is a social conservative with long executive experience in a state with strong recent job creation. That is pretty much the sweet spot.
But I don't have strong feelings either pro or anti-Perry. It isn't just that Texas has a higher unemployment rate than the supposedly Obamneycare-afflicted state of Massachusetts or Tim Pawlenty's Minnesota. Assigning praise and blame according to state by state unemployment and job creation statistics is difficult. Perry is having budget issues. Depending on how he and the Texas state legislature solve them, he might have a strong case to run as a candidate of fiscal consolidation.
I hope he runs, but I'm keeping my expectations modest.
Among his other jobs, Herman Cain has been a radio talk show host. This is not, in itself, a qualification to be President (though being a talk radio host strikes me as a hard job), but it was an opportunity for preparation to be President. This is to use Ross Douthat's definition of preparation as "the hard work of scaling up one's understanding from state-level challenges [or in Cain's case the opinions of a politically interested businessman] to national issues that any aspiring candidate needs to do."
As a talk show host, Cain was, in a sense, paid to think about public issues and then talk about them for three hours a day five days a week. From my limited understanding, talk radio show prep tends to focus on the day-to-day, but Cain could have immersed himself in the best conservative policy thinking. He could have worked at making this thinking accessible to his audience. Cain seems not to have done that. Maybe he did and we just haven't seen it yet, and he is going to surprise us.
Chicago has long been a favorite city--not exotic in the way San Francisco and New York are, with less history than comparatively tiny Boston, but even so it has a character that still speaks to us. This came to sight as I sunned on Ohio Beach, next to the Navy Pier. From this vantage point the city's vista is spectacular. Vision, ambition, low politics, greed but above all pride created such a scene. The skyscrapers are the sensuous products of these noble and base passions. One cannot look at Chicago without being affirmed that this is a country full of ambition, a great country bent on even greater things.
I am staying in the "Dick Tracy" house, in the Chicago suburbs, the one in which the young Chester Gould got his family and cartooning career started. How appropriate that the always proper Dick Tracy was given birth in mob-fascinated Chicago. Contrast the steady Tracy with our psychically tortured Batman. Shouldn't virtuous acts be done with pleasure, in order to be virtuous?
All this puts into perspective the strange case of our Chicago-based President, who has brought to the national scene all that is low about Chicago and who seems intent on suppressing all the grand motives that made America a great nation. His vision of American destiny would rob America of all its distinctiveness.
The Civil War & Lincoln
Mitt Romney's support is being challenged on two separate fronts.
Politically, he is now tied with Michele Bachmann in Iowa. While Romney was always likely to lose a portion of the conservative vote to one of the many candidates to his right, the Minnesota congresswoman is also stealing his spotlight and leaching away his star-powered popularity. Romney is a household name - an advantage he holds over most of his intra-party rivals (now that Trump is out of the race and Gingrich seems to have stalled). But Bachmann is fresh and attractive (politically, I mean) - she has the power to siphon votes founded upon Romney's charm and charisma. She's the only candidate who can compete cosmetically with Romney's "hair factor."
Economically, Romney's critical base of donors among Utah's Mormons is being courted by Jon Huntsman. Romney must be reeling from the statistically improbable appearance of another Mormon in the presidential race. The dueling Mormons have now created a fissure in the Mormon constituency - which is conservative on most issues, but very liberal in campaign donations.
Romney is still a well-funded frontrunner - but that makes him a legitimate target for other Republicans and threatens that his political star may have risen too quickly in electoral time. He's the king of the hill, but Queen Bachmann and the rest of the GOP brood are eager to knock him from his perch. Romney will need to display true political skill if he is to stave off contenders and preserve his elevated stature.
Steve Hayward's new home has received an article from David Harris, the American Jewish Committee executive director, which was declined by Harris' blogging site, The Huffington Post (which recently devoured my former blogging home, to my continuing dismay).
Nearly two years ago, I was invited by The Huffington Post (HuffPo) to become a blogger on their site. I was honored. It is one of the most heavily trafficked news sites anywhere, and it reaches an influential audience. Since September 2009, I have published nearly 50 articles there, and look forward to publishing many more. This week, for the first time, I was told by HuffPo that an article submitted was "not for us." ...
The topic? "The Hamas - Oops, Gaza - Flotilla."
I mentioned in an earlier post that Democrats and liberals are hostile to religion. With regard to the Jews, that religious hostility translates into overt political hostility toward Israel - culminating in the absurd apologetics and sympathies witnessed among liberals for Arab-Muslim terrorists obsessed with murdering Israeli Jews. And yet, nearly 90% of Jews vote for Democrats. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma....
I posted an article on Michele Bachmann "Queen or Kingmaker?" at my second on-line home last week, and the Weekly Standard's latest edition has followed up with an answer: "Queen of the Tea Party." Matthew Continetti's canvassing bio and assessment of Bachmann's avoids the breathless outrage and (not-so) subtle disdain which often accompanies mainstream accounts of the rising star.
"Energetic, charismatic, intelligent, and attractive, the 55-year-old Bachmann is . . . ." So leads Continetti's dive into her popular perception among voters. The article covers her youth, faith and political style, as well as specific moments which define her strengths, weaknesses and inspirations. Of course, Continetti addresses the obvious comparison to Sarah Palin ("What unites Bachmann and Palin, above all, is the contempt with which they are treated by liberals.") and Bachmann's connection to the Tea Party ("Michele Bachmann was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.").
You'll either read about her now, or you'll play catch-up later when Bachmann's national role can no longer be ignored by scholarly observers. The Standard article is a very good introduction.