Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bloom Brontosarous Bardolator

This interview with Harold Bloom is worth reading. He is rare (especially for a professor of English) in that he doesn’t talk the academic mumbo-jumbo-talk and makes very clear that he loves books, especially the best ones, and above all Shakespare. Such men are hard to find, and such men who will say in public about the corruption within English departments especially are almost impossible to find. You don’t have to agree with his interpretations of some of the great texts to have great respect for such a man; and I do. Here are a few lines, just to whet your whistle:

"Well, it’s such a complex thing. I left the English department twenty-six years ago. I just divorced them and became, as I like to put it, Professor of Absolutely Nothing. To a rather considerable extent, literary studies have been replaced by that incredible absurdity called cultural studies which, as far as I can tell, are neither cultural nor are they studies. But there has always been an arrogance, I think, of the semi-learned.

You know, the term ’philology’ originally meant indeed a love of learning—a love of the word, a love of literature. I think the more profoundly people love and understand literature, the less likely they are to be supercilious, to feel that somehow they know more than the poems, stories, novels, and epics actually know. "

"Ultimately, I feel that Shakespeare is so comprehensive and huge a consciousness that he’s inclusive not just of the Western tradition. Students and visiting scholars and friends who travel, people from all over the world, have told me about productions of Shakespeare in Indonesia, Japan, Bulgaria, and various African nations by no means Anglophonic. They tell me that the audiences, even when they are not themselves highly literate, are transfixed, because they somehow believe that Shakepeare has put them, their relatives, and their friends all upon the stage."

Presidential Medal of Freedom

The White House has released the list of the receipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (ceremony to be on July 23rd). The list includes Jacques Barzun, James Q. Wilson, Vaclav Havel, and Edward Teller. I am especially happy to see Teller thus recognized. He has done some great work for this country and on behalf freedom, the latest being his work on missile defense. Here is an interview with Teller from about three years ago.


Seymour Hersh writes an interesting piece for The New Yorker that may be revealing about our relations (and their help with intelligence on al-Qaeda) with Syria. He starts with that incident just inside the Syrian border in which we took out a number of vehicles, and apparently, dozens of people, back in June. Although I am never sure what to make of Hirsh, he is always a good read. But put some salt in your coffee.

Taxpayers to pay for inmate’s sex change?

Is this a good example of our tax dollars at work? "In a decision that outraged state officials and prosecutors, a federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit by a convicted murderer who wants the state to pay for an operation to make him a woman can go forward."

Cherry-picking the Europeans

John C. Hulsman of the Heritage Foundation testified before the House Committee on International Relations last month about how the US should act toward Europe. He suggests "cherry-picking" our friends one at a time, and making sure that a Franco-German-Russian alliance doesn’t come about. Sound advice, in my opinion. Worth reading. It may already be working, see Joschka Fisher’s recent remarks in which he tries to distance Germany from France.

Fuming Mfume and the Cost of Candidacy

Daniel Henninger had a nice op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday (sorry, paper edition), entitled “The Democrats Have a Failure to Communicate.” As you may have heard, presidential hopefuls Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt, and Dennis Kucinich all skipped out on last week’s NAACP convention, and the NAACP was none too pleased. As Henninger put it, group president Kweisi Mfume “went ballistic,” saying that each of the absentees was now “persona non grata,” and had “political capital equivalent to confederate dollars.” Maybe it’s just as well for Kucinich et al, turns out that Al Sharpton scored highest on the applause-o-meter that night when he announced that he was the only presidential candidate to have done jail time. Inspiring, isn’t he?

Henninger makes the point, and I think it’s a good one, that Lieberman, Gephardt, and Kucinich all sent their regrets because they believed they could afford to. In the land of Democratic politics, you might say, they had confederate money to burn—or at least they thought they did. According to Henninger, this is because the Democratic Party has been replaced by “literally dozens of largely independent political groups, of which the NAACP is but one.” So, a rationally calculating presidential contender surveys the “crowded Darwinian marketplace” and tries to pick from a NASDAQ of political stocks—human rights, NARAL Pro-Choice, the Children’s Defense Fund, gay marriage, the public worker’s union, Green Peace, and the NAACP. But the candidates proved, as only Democrats and my broker could, that it’s still possible to be rational and calculating, and wrong. After all, John Kerry, who attended the event, followed Sharpton’s popular criminal history with a more rational history of his own, telling the tale of how he once became friends with a black man over in Viet Nam—seems Kerry was quite the civil rights soldier. (Inspiring, isn’t he?) And Joe Lieberman, after begging off for the evening, quickly calculated that he was now a few confederate bucks shy of his very own White House, apologized to the NAACP, and offered Kweisi Mfume a seat on the Supreme Court. Rational, calculating, and oh so wrong.

The non-scandal

Bill Kristol writes a lucid interpretation of what this uranium from Africa non-scandal is all about: It is a manifestation of George W. Bush’s genius (not Karl Rove’s) to sucker the Democratic Party (and the elite media) into a great big ocean without having any way to get back ashore. The fact that the Demos have been trying to make something out of nothing is driving them "stark, raving mad." The Demos are acting "as a pathologically disgruntled lunatic fringe," instead of making serious criticisms of either the war or how reconstruction has been carried out (which would be good for the country). Why are they acting as if they are a fringe party? Kristol: "George W. Bush’s one great and unforgivable sin, it seems, was to have acted on the judgment that Saddam Hussein was a present danger--acted, as Clinton and Gore repeatedly threatened but failed to do, the way a serious president must. At his moment of decision, the American people supported Bush. They support him still. And the fact of that support--as the Democrats’ hysterical attack on a 16-word sentence in the State of the Union suggests--is driving one of our two major political parties...stark, raving mad."

And Mark Steyn adds worthy words and claims that the Left thinks it is spilling Bush’s blood, whereas it is their own that they see flowing. Bush is as good as re-elected, Steyn claims. Charles Krauhammer also sees all this as Democratic folly.

Inverted Totalitarianism?

Sheldon S. Wolin, retired Princeton professor of politics, writes this amazing--even for a Left winger--op-ed claiming that the U.S. (because of George W. Bush, of course) is an "inverted totalitarian" state. This passes for thoughtful commentary? If you can figure out what this means, please let me know.

Tony Blair’s power of speech

Prime Minister Blair’s speech to Congress was excellent, in the highest tradition of democratic rhetoric. It was to the point, high minded, and properly impassioned. He had the words and wit, he is an orator. There were a couple of passages that were especially good, in my opinion. But do read the whole thing.

Members of Congress, if this seems a long way from the threat of terror and weapons of mass destruction, it is only to say again that the world’s security cannot be protected without the world’s heart being (one/won? ). So America must listen as well as lead. But, members of Congress, don’t ever apologize for your values. (Applause.) Tell the world why you’re proud of America. Tell them when "The Star-Spangled Banner" starts, Americans get to their feet -- Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Europeans, East Europeans, Jews, Muslims, white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers, and those whose English is the same as some New York cab drivers I’ve dealt with -- (laughter) -- but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress. Tell them why Americans, one and all, stand upright and respectful. Not because some state official told them to, but because whatever race, color, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That’s why they’re proud. (Cheers, sustained applause.)

That’s what we’re fighting for, and it’s a battle worth fighting. And I know it’s hard on America. And in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I’ve never been to but always wanted to go -- (laughter) -- I know out there, there’s a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me, and why us, and why America?" And the only answer is because destiny put you in this place in history in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do. (Sustained applause.)

Another interesting federal court nomination?

The Washington Post reports that President Bush is thinking of nominating California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This would mean that another thoughtful conservative could be left hanging by the liberals, since the appointment would no doubt be seen as a way station to the Supremes.

Comment on Tucker

I bring to your attention a comment by E. Michael Kajca on the David Tucker column mentioned below (in case you are not habitually reading the comments section): "Tucker has an excellent point. The way the administration has defended itself has been deplorable. What their defense has done is fuel the fire. Furthermore, from everything I have read and studied the information provided by the Brits may not have been altogether wrong in the first place. I have read statements by the IAEA that seem as though their inspectors investigated Iraq with the idea that they were innocent regarding their nuclear program. For example: The IAEA admits that Iraq has aluminium tubes, high-strength permanent magnets, flow forming capability but that Iraq claims to be using these materials for something other than reconstituting their nuclear program. Yeah, well, I suppose Manson says he isn’t crazy either. As to the uranium claim it appears that there is no denying that Iraq could not have attempted to buy yellowcake, only that the particular claim appear unlikely. The point is that IAEA can no more say the materials are not for nuclear purposes than they could say that they are for such practices. Thus, Tucker’s point of the doctrine of pre-emption is very legitimate. It would appear to me that the intelligence community would be wise to keep their options open. As oppose to hearing what the IAEA says and giving up on it, as the left has done. But, of course, their whole cry is less on reality than it is discrediting the president. Bush needs to be more direct and forceful in his defense of this whole issue."

Advice for Rumsfeld

Mac Owens pontificates at some length on what the relationship between the military and and the civilian authorities should be (i.e., the civilians should control the military). Yet, he has some wise words for Rumsfeld: imitate Churchill and Lincoln more than you do. Rummy should pay attention when good advice comes from a friend.   

The real intelligence problem

Jim Hoagland writes of the real intelligence problem that exists, and the one the Bush administration is not handling well. He has a point. This should be read in conjunction with David Tucker’s admonition to the administration that I mentioned the other day.

Is a Christian university possible?

Rod Dreher writes an op-ed in The Dallas Morning News on Baylor University and the possibility of a university maintaining its Christian identity. Dr. Sloan, the president, wants to strenghthen Baylor’s identity as a Christian institution, even as he pushes to make it a nationally ranked research university. Dreher writes: "What Dr. Sloan actually is undertaking is an audacious and much-needed experiment in American higher education and religious life. The tide of 20th-century secularism washed away entirely the religious identities of historically Protestant universities like Harvard, Yale, Duke and Vanderbilt and dramatically eroded the distinct vision of Catholic colleges. That was likely to be Baylor’s future, too. As Dr. Sloan told me, ’If you’re not intentional about your identity, you can’t maintain it. I’ve never seen a school slide into Christian orthodoxy.’"

"Echoing a scholarly Christian conviction as old as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Sloan refuses to accept the dominant post-Enlightenment view that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Baylor 2012 is his bold attempt to show how they are complementary and how a religious university can speak to the broader culture from an intellectually sound but morally distinct vantage point. The plan doesn’t impose dogma on scholarly inquiry but tries, in the tradition of Christian humanism, to ask how the knowledge mined in various academic disciplines fits into the broad Christian vision – and vice versa." Very good stuff.


Democratic Misrepresentations

Edward Koch, the former Democratic mayor of New York, agrees with me that the Democrats are doing something very foolish indeed by trying to make (literally, in this case) a federal issue whether or not Saddam "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Instapundit goes further and calls them "stupid." And Max Boot gets into Clinton’s attacks on the Sudan in 1998 and Senator Biden’s defense. Quite a story, and a good time to remember it. Clifford May nails the whole thing to the wall by pointing out the simplest of facts: the Democrats are misrepresenting what Bush actually said. This whole things should be an embarrasment to both the Democrats and the elite media that has gone into a crisis mode over it. And, as John Podhoretz points out, while it may be to the Demos tactical advantage to call Bush a liar, it cannot be to their long-range advantage, and they will suffer for it. He explains why.

Out of the Closet on Gay Marriage

Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, just
his support for gay marriage. Not much of a surprise really—he’s been running hard left from the get-go—except that as a congressional contender in 1996, Kucinich opposed changing the law to allow same-sex marriage. His reason for the flip-flop: gay issues were not in the headlines that year. But now, of course, headlines being as they are these days, Kucinich says “there should be a federal law that would allow gay couples to be married.” Ahh, sweet liberalism—there ought to be a law, and it ought to be federal. Why? Well, because “[w]e cannot have states making separate rules with respect to basic human rights,” according to Kucinich.

Someone should probably tell him that states already make their own “separate” marriage rules. But, alas, he’s only a congressman.

Judge Proctor’s Gamble II

An NLT reader asks, “if soliciting sodomy from a member of the same sex is freedom of expression, then what about other forms of sex from any gender? How could the Lawrence decision become this broad?” Indeed, it would seem only logical under Judge Proctor’s ruling that solicitation from any gender would also be a protected form of speech or expression—in fact, if his ruling only applied to sodomy solicitation, it would likely violate the Equal Protection Clause. How could Lawrence become this broad? Simple. Lawrence has no limits. In taking “transcendent liberty” with the Constitution, the Supreme Court, to borrow from David Currie, may have finally found a decision that allows it to strike down any law it doesn’t like.

Intelligence Matters

David Tucker argues that in this controversy surrounding the Bush administration’s use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq, lies one critical issue: the doctrine of preemption. Must read.   

What Gay Studies Taught the Court

Rick Perlstein has an interesting piece praising the new academic "discipline" of gay studies. He argues that it had a lot to do with influencing Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence, and overthrowing the Court’s opinion about such matters in Bowers, decided in 1986. I submit this not because I think Lawrence was well decided, it was not, but rather because Perlstein shows how academics (even in a non-discipline) still control the flow of events and the arguments. The fact that Perlstein thinks this is a good thing, and agrees with Lawrence is not to the point.


John Fonte has a good piece at NRO on immigration policy, specifically he beats up on the idea that there is a fundamental right to free immigration and argues that the American people, through consent, have a right to restrict immigration as a matter of policy and national interest. He argues, correctly, that the Foundes understood this and uses Thomas G. West’s book to great effect.  

Tex Schramm dies

Tex Schramm (no relation) has died. Schramm built the Dallas Cowboys into a great team. For a while--in my youth and in Tex’s heyday--I took advantage of our common last name for, well, some selfish if not nefarious purposes. I remember a few introductions to, well, ladies, who, when they heard my last name would at least talk to me, for a while. It didn’t last. But I hope Tex’s accomplishments do.

Judge Proctor’s Gamble

Well, that didn’t take long. Three weeks, tops. Despite liberal assurances to the contrary, the Charlotte Observer reports that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision has just been extended to include public solicitation. So much for privacy being, well, private. North Carolina district judge Nate Proctor has not only declared his state’s sodomy law unconstitutional, but has found that after Lawrence “the act of soliciting sodomy is an issue of free speech and personal expression.”

And to think we were afraid of a little slippery slope.

Overstatement on everything insignificant

This David Broder column is a perfect example of overstatement and exageration in politics. I am not really holding Broder responsible for causing this, it is merely that this column so perfectly reflects the views (and passions) of both the elite media and the Demo presidential candidates. It is fascinating how Bush’s not insgnificant trip to Africa was intentionally overshadowed by the uranium buzz. Then before that it was the WMD buzz, and so on. To go from item to item--in an attempt to to de-authorize Bush by de-legitimizing some specific decisions he made (or words he used) when there are much larger and politically more interesting and substantive issues that really are arguable--is a sign of political tactics replacing political strategy. Bush’s opponents have placed themselves in the unenviable position of trying to question Bush’s motives, integrity, and character, rather than raising important truly political questions (e.g., are we handling the Iraqi military-political situation well, etc). I predict, contrary to Broder, that this method will not go very far at all, indeed, it will backfire on Bush’s opponents because they cannot establish, especially on foreign policy, a greater share of the citizen’s trust than Bush can for their motives and integrity are more deeply in doubt than that of Bush or any member of his cabinet. This is not the way politics should be conducted.

Bruce Cole

Tom Diemer writes a good front-page article on Bruce Cole, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, in today’s Plain Dealer. It’s a pretty good overview of Cole’s thinking about our "collective amnesia," and so on. Also note that Cole is from Ohio, went to school here, and rides (or rode) motorcycles, prefering Nortons and Triumphs. Good man. 

"the most beautiful revolution"

Today is Bastille Day, I just remembered. So without prolonging the agony, let us just remind ourselves that Robespierre thought that the French revolution was "the most beautiful revolution that has ever honored humanity." Well, I have a different idea of beauty, I guess. The carnage of the revolution was its logical consummation, not incidental to it. Besides, it produced Napoleon, while our lovelier revolution produced the US Constitution and George Washington. I think even Napoleon understood the difference. So, happy Batille Day; wish I could write that in French!

New York Times

Bill Keller has been named the editor of The New York Times. And see Andrew Sullivan’s comments on the Howell Raines interview by Charly Rose, in which Raines proves he is both vapid and foolish, not to say vainglorious.

Iraqi Uranium purchase

Robert Novak may shed some more light on the origin of the Iraqi attempt to purchase uranium from Africa. And here is the Leiby/Pincus story from the July 6th WaPo. All this aside, the political and elite media reaction to this is another story which I hope to comment upon within a week or so; I want to see some things play out first.

Professor wins

Buffalo chip throwing contest. Notice the headwind problem.

A Soldier’s Story

A Gettysburg grave and a Marine in one of Saddam’s palaces ending a long lost search. A fine story, worth a good coffee, and five minutes of peace.   

Elections in Mexico

Vincente Fox’s party loses 49 seats in the election. This is not good news, in my humble opinion.

Iraq attracting al-Qaeda?

Al-Qaeda are taking credit for the attacks on Americans in Iraq. If it is true that they are being attracted to Iraq--as has been pointed out before--this could be a very good and useful thing; if we are prepared. But note that US Intelligence plays down the claim.

Ugly German

Ralph Peters has a fun piece on the recent exchange of words between Germans and Italians, and cancelled vacations. I love this line: "Forget the fact that the German contribution to the Renaissance was the realization that you could fit more beer in a bigger mug. The Germans still regard Italians as Untermenschen, fit to run a neighborhood pizzeria, but not to have an equal say in the future of Europe."  

Flannery in the NY Times

Christopher Flannery makes not only an appearance in The New York Times, but a lengthy one (see "Can Anyone Put a Zing Into Liberal Radio?"). His Claremont Review of Books article entitled "No Limbaughs on the Left" is quoted to good effect.

Dull Old Europe

Christopher Hitchens writes a short review of Patrick McCarthy’s Language, Politics, and Writing: Stolentelling in Western Europe. He reveals (and regrets) its dull and vapid tone and points: "But what his collection of essays illustrates is something insufficiently remarked upon: the evolution of the European left into a status quo force, somewhat inclined to sit out the storm and to content itself with essentially voyeuristic comments on the brashness of the United States. (The great exception, if it is indeed to be counted as a ’left’ one, is Tony Blair, who receives only the most superficial mention here.) I was once as happy as anyone to sit with McCarthy and to discuss Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks or the ambiguities of Sartre’s Les Tempes Modernes. I still enjoy these pursuits, though they occasionally strike me now as comparable to well-conducted tours of Atlantis. Perhaps that’s why the cultivated guides have such a marked tendency to gurgle, as they make their appointed rounds."

The Huah Life

David Brooks reviews David Lipsky’s Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point. It sounds as if the book is worth reading.