Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Mark Lilla ought to know better

Small wonder that Andrew Sullivan ate this column by Mark Lilla with a spoon. Here’s his conclusion:

The leading thinkers of the British and American Enlightenments hoped that life in a modern democratic order would shift the focus of Christianity from a faith-based reality to a reality-based faith. American religion is moving in the opposite direction today, back toward the ecstatic, literalist and credulous spirit of the Great Awakenings. Its most disturbing manifestations are not political, at least not yet. They are cultural. The fascination with the ’’end times,’’ the belief in personal (and self-serving) miracles, the ignorance of basic science and history, the demonization of popular culture, the censoring of textbooks, the separatist instincts of the home-schooling movement -- all these developments are far more worrying in the long term than the loss of a few Congressional seats.

No one can know how long this dumbing-down of American religion will persist. But so long as it does, citizens should probably be more vigilant about policing the public square, not less so. If there is anything David Hume and John Adams understood, it is that you cannot sustain liberal democracy without cultivating liberal habits of mind among religious believers. That remains true today, both in Baghdad and in Baton Rouge.

What if it is, so to speak, "no accident" that liberalism is failing, if its precepts and nostrums are unsatisfying, not because human ignorance and credulousness are ultimately insuperable, but because they offer spiritual gruel too thin to satisfy the longings of the human spirit, i.e., because, ultimately, liberal teachings are inadequate to nature and human nature? This is a theoretical possibility that Lilla doesn’t want to confront, so he follows
Stephen Macedo in an effort to procure by coercion and coercive civic education what he can’t win theoretically or--dare I say it?--rationally. It’s not clear to me, in other words, that more or less secular liberals have the better theory, that the intellectual, moral, and spiritual heft is all on the secular liberal side of the debate, Lilla to the contrary notwithstanding.

By raising the spectre of contemporary parallels to the collapse of Weimar Germany into Nazism, Lilla seems also to have joined the confraternity of fever swampers thus far largely populated by members of the secular Left. I can think of many differences between our situation and that of interwar Germany, but the one most salient for our purposes is that revealed religion is a much bigger force now. That is, it seems to me, a strength, so long as religionists adhere to the belief that faith cannot be coerced, which is central to Christian doctrine, if not always to Christian practice. (It goes without saying that it isn’t necessarily central to the doctrines or practices of other faith traditions.) This is something that Locke highlighted in Christian doctrine, and so can serve as part of an "overlapping consensus" between a liberalism respectful of faith and a faith chary of coercing consciences. But it’s not just the "liberal" churches and denominations that hold to this position; the fever swampers are wrong to assume that those committed to evangelization are willing to make use of coercion. As I argued here, conservative evangelicals have by and large embraced the spirits of 1776 and 1787, if not necessarily of 2005.

For more, go here, where Tom Cerber points us to an article by Cliff Orwin, and here.

Lunch with friends

I had a lovely lunch with seven Ashbrooks today (I mean Ashbrook alumns, but, as with the Marines, once an Ashbrook, always an Ashbrook) at a Greek restaurant near DuPont Circle. I haven’t seen most of them in years. They work at think tanks, for senators, for congressmen, for congressional committees, for the White House; and the successful one is a banker! What a great bunch of folks. Still smart, still enlivened, still meaning to do the good in the world.

I want to make clear that I take no real responsibility for their education, although I am proud to have been associated with them in their youth. They are--to speak truly--all self-educated in the best and oldest sense of that term. My colleagues and I may have introduced them to a few good things while they were in college, but they are the ones that tasted and chewed the food. We just placed it in front of them, after lighting the fire. Their opinions were formed--to paraphrase Churchill--through those processes of youthful discussion that takes place at the Ashbrook Center, and should take place at any good university. They were always ready to learn (although sometimes didn’t like being taught!). They continue to think and talk and act according to their best lights and they do it all in a friendly and open and amusing way. They are tough and persitent and smart and know that in the end all will be well. I love them. And I thank them.

Nebraska ruling again

Here’s the best the Washington Post can muster in its attempt to calm the outcry after Judge Bataillon’s decision in the Nebraska case. Conceding that the case "is weak in critical respects and will be vulnerable on appeal," the unsigned editorial suggests only that the amendment may be overbroad, But here’s the kicker:

Even if Judge Bataillon’s opinion were entirely frivolous, however, it would still be a lousy argument for writing discrimination [an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman] into the federal Constitution. The American judiciary has a process for correcting its mistakes: two layers of appellate review, culminating at the Supreme Court of the United States. In the American system, the Constitution shouldn’t be changed to reverse a single judge in Nebraska.

Two thoughts: First, the Constitution has yet another process for correcting judicial mistakes; it’s called the amendment. Second, the Democrats, supported by the Post, would likely seek to appoint judges (such as Bataillon, appointed by President Clinton), who would not correct, but rather embrace such "mistakes." The judiciary is part of a larger constitutional system, not simply and solely self-correcting, but also corrigible by the people and their representatives, through the processes of nomination and appointment, impeachment, legislatively altering jurisdiction, and constitutional amendment. The problem with awaiting final judicial settlement of this case is that (and the editorialists at the Post surely know this) the appeals process takes a long time, so that "correction" may not occur for a decade or more (at which point a Democratic President may have altered the balance on the Supreme Court). What’s more, if the courts happen to embrace rather than reject this opinion, the Post’s line of argument would have us accept it as the final word, with the full "moral authority" of the highest court, which would make it much more difficult to overturn by amendment.

In other words, the actual effect of the Post’s argument is to favor the supremacy of the very judiciary to which gay rights advocates constantly turn in the fond and often well-founded hope that they can win in court what they can’t win at the ballot box.

The Reagan years

Steve Hayward reviews two books on Reagan and his era in the latest Weekly Standard

The Air Force recruiter

I’ve received a lot of comments on my post a few days ago on the Marine and Air Force recruiter. Not all the comments were public, many were e-mail notes to me, and some are angry, thinking that I denounced or disparaged the Air Force. I did not disparage the Air Force. I have absolutely no reason to disparage any of the branches. I hope that’s clear. And John is free to sign up with any one of them. I did think the story was worth telling. Now, it is also true that I have always been prejudiced for the Marine mode of recruiting because it emphasizes manliness and the martial virtues and, therefore, a kind of exclusivity that appeals to some young men. Enough with the e-mails already!

No excuses: serious schools close the achievement gap

The Washington Post reports on Amistad Academy, a school in New Haven, Connecticut that is successfully challenging inner-city kids to academic excellence. Not surprisingly, the school works because it demands results and doesn’t tolerate nonsense.

My mom and dad worked for many years in inner-city public schools, so I know the challenges they face. I also know that there are a lot of cultural, social, and economic reasons for the achievement gap between African-American/Latino youngsters and white/Asian kids. But every time a school like this succeeds, there is one less excuse for not having the courage to confront the need for real education reform. There is no question that academic rigor, student discipline, and passionate teachers can close the achievement gap.

Japan’s military

Harold C. Hutchison considers Japan’s military potential, including going nuclear: "Japan could have a working nuclear weapons capability in one year should they decide to." All this is interesting, given the rise of China. Also see Hutchinon post on the Japanese navy,
"arguably the second-best navy in the Pacific, trailing only the United States Navy." Again, I bring to your attention again Robert D. Kaplan lengthy article on china in the current The Atlantic (not avaliable on line). Also see this
and this.

Huffington Parody

Huffington’s Toast is a good parody of Arianna’s latest attempt at fame by becoming the unchallenged Queen of the internet. Amusing.

Another bad guy gets it

ABC News reports:

A senior al Qaeda operative was killed by a missile fired from a CIA Predator aircraft on the Pakistani side of the remote area near the Afghan border earlier this week, U.S. intelligence officials told ABC News.

The CIA refused to confirm or deny any operational matter.

Haitham al-Yemeni, a native of Yemen known for his bomb-making skills, had been tracked for some time in the hope that he would help lead the United States to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, intelligence officials said. But with the recent capture in northwest Pakistan of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, thought to be al Qaeda’s No. 3 man, officials worried al-Yemeni would soon go into hiding, and decided to take action.

Al-Yemeni was in line to replace al-Libbi, intelligence analysts said.

WaPo culture critic settles some old scores

Philip Kennicott (Yale College ’88) must have gotten a bad grade from Donald Kagan. How else to explain this WaPo hit piece on Kagan’s Jefferson lecture, which Peter describes here?

Kennicott manages to demonstrate, first, that he has no real interest in ideas or in education: he dismisses Kagan’s argument as "boilerplate," asking "who really cares whether poetry or philosophy or history sits at the top of the humanities heap? Is it really a contest?" Anyone who takes education or philosophy (Kennicott’s major at Yale) seriously cares. A "culture critic" ought to care.

Then Kennicott tries to hoist Kagan by his own petard, accusing him of partisanship. We go from a dismissal of Kagan’s pedagogical and intellectual concerns to an attack on his politics. If you don’t care about the former, isn’t the latter all that’s left (the double entendre is intentional, by the way)? In other words, Kennicott offers a partisan attack on Kagan’s alleged partisanship, all the while arguing that partisanship gets in the way of "sane evaluation of real threats."

His example of Kagan’s failing in this regard was his worry, in a book published in 2000, about WMD in Iraq. It seems to me that in 2000, worrying about WMD in Iraq was a bipartisan and multinational activity. Only when it became convenient to claim that Bush and Blair "lied" about WMD did people on the Left forget what they had thought just a few years earlier.

It is instructive, by the way, to contrast Kennicott’s fawning portrait of Columbia University Middle East Studies Professor Rashid Khalidi, who "straddles a difficult line between academic historian and political commentator," with his treatment of Kagan, whose straddling clearly doesn’t meet with Kennicott’s approval.

U.S. Senate as a paradise for bullies

John Podhoretz crushes not only Sen. Voinovich for his abuse of Bolton, but the whole Senate as well. How about discussing some issues for a change, rather than engaging in character assasination? Rebeccah Ramey is also a indignant at how Bolton is being treated. She says its not a Mr. Rogers we need as our ambassador to the U.N. I agree. There are a lot of folks hopping mad about this, I have to tell you. One of them wrote this: "Voinovich is lucky he just got re-elected. I know of ten people who would love to run against him!"


George Will praises, and goes a long way toward understanding, Paul Wolfowitz. Note this line: "He [Wolfowitz] says, however, that to the very limited extent that ’academic thing’ shaped him, they were classes on America’s Constitutional Convention and Lincoln’s political thought, classes stressing that ’the foundations of liberal democracy are about a helluva lot more than elections.’"

Why GOP dominates

This Washington Post article on a Pew Survey is very interesting. It reports on the Pew Survey (called "Beyond Red vs. Blue"): "The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, helped redraw the political landscape in America, giving President Bush and the Republicans an advantage over the Democrats." Two major points: people like Bush, and they think we ought to go hard against those who want to hurt us. The survey also shows this: "The survey underscored how important the issues of terrorism and national security and Bush’s personal appeal were in helping the GOP put together a winning coalition of voters in 2004. The findings suggest that Bush’s reelection depended not just on motivating the Republican base but also on his success in attracting swing voters and even some Democrats." Read the whole thing.

Donald Kagan

I attended the NEH’s Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities tonight. Prof. Donald Kagan defended history. Fully aware of both poetry’s and philosophy’s claims, he used manly words to defend the particulars that history has to offer. One need not agree with him to fully sense his pith and eloquence and his attempt to get the modern (post-modern especially) ear to listen to Sophocles injunction:
"Reason is God’s crowning gift to man." Kagan argued that a liberal education is possible, that wisdom and virtue are not dead things, that history understood wrongly as no nature, no human nature, teaches nothing, can study nothing, is blind to its own ineptitude and
has inhuman consequences. His eloquence was as a painting of his thoughts. Glad I went. Kagan’s lecture will be avaliable on line by Monday.

Federal court decision on gay marriage ban

Here is Eugene Volokh’s discussion of this decision, striking down Nebraska’s attempt constitutionally to define marriage as between a man and a woman. According to Volokh, the decision is bizarre and sweeping:

But in any event — and here I return to what I said in point 1 — if the court is right about the Romer analysis, then it must be because there is no legitimate government interest in favoring opposite-sex long-term relationships over same-sex ones. Likewise, if the court is right about the intimate association analysis, then it must be because the right to intimate association guarantees same-sex couples the right to equal government benefits with opposite-sex married couples, rather than just a right to live together. And if the court is right about bills of attainder, then its analysis equally applies to state law rules that preempt contrary marriage provisions at the city level. (Imagine Portland or San Francisco trying to set up its own marriage rules, over the objections of the rest of Oregon or California.) And if that’s so, then despite the court’s protestations, its reasoning necessarily means that states are constitutionally required to recognize same-sex marriage (or, under the bill of attainder analysis, at least are required to let any locality recognize same-sex marriage).

So this isn’t just a battle over state constitutional amendments, and what voters can do and what they must leave to the state legislature. The court’s decision, if upheld, would be a Massachusetts Goodridge (or at least its Vermont civil-union cousin, Baker) for the whole nation. I don’t think this is at all required by Romer, Lawrence v. Texas, or any other Supreme Court decision. I’m pretty sure that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will reverse the decision; and if it doesn’t, I’m pretty sure that the U.S. Supreme Court will — and should.

The judge, by the way, is a Clinton appointee. I agree with Volokh that the decision is likely to be reversed. But it is "timely" in another way: it cannot help but add to the pressure on the Senate to overcome Democratic obstructionism on the President’s judicial nominees. When the ACLU and its allies on the bench overreach, as they have in this case, they will provoke a backlash. Under the circumstances, how can Ben Nelson continue to support a filibuster?

Stanley Kurtz weighs in and Ben Nelson was "unavailable for comment."

Condi Rice on guns

Although she has said this before, it is worth noting again that Secretary of State Condi Rice said some good things on the Second Amendment on Larry King’s show. How can one not like this woman!

What the mainline churches seem to mean by sin

Rayond J. Keating offers a very nice discussion of these two statements, one on the environment, the other on the Bush Administration’s FY 2006 budget proposals. Keating rightly asks why these organizations are ready, willing, and able to use the language of "sin" with regard to the environment, but much less willing to do so when it comes to issues connected with abortion and marriage. 

Hat tip: PowerBlog.

Greatness in a Democracy

It was nice to see Hayward in the AEI palace. Good lunch, great conversation. Even over lunch the man is thinking (I can’t think while I eat!). I learned much from him as I always do. Most of the conversation had to do with the necessity of going back and understanding the heart of the Progressive movement in American politics; you understand "progress" and the removal of nature from politics, and you understand what’s left of contemporary Liberalism, or, as Howard Dean now says (since the word Liberal no longer excites the many) contemporary progressives. And, best of all he gave me the page proofs for his latest book, Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders, which, although it will not appear until early October, you can already purchase through Amazon (click on the title). This will be a wonderful read during the rest of travels, which will go on for two weeks. It should sell very well because it is a fine book on an eternal subject (why greatness is needed in a democracy) and also because it is published by Crown Forum (Macmillan) and should get very wide distribution. Buy your Christman presents early, let’s make this a best seller! Thanks much Steve, now get back to work on the second Reagan volume!

I like this quote from Churchill at the start of Chapter 2: "In politics a man, I take it, gets on not so much by what he does, as by what he is. It is not so much a question of brains as of character and originality."

Export boom

I’m on the road. In DC for the next few days, so I pick up the Washington Times coming our of Hayward’s office. Front page above the fold story on how a record surge of exports and unexpected fall in imports in March enabled the economy to grow faster than expected. There is a 9.2% drop in the monthly trade deficit. And crude oil price dropped to below $49 per barrel for the second day; Chinese demand is down.

New development on the faith-based front

Representative Mark Green (R-WI) has introduced H.R. 1054 (pdf), the "Tools for Community Initiatives Act," which would institutionalize the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, as well as the department- and agency-based centers. By setting these offices in legislative concrete, the bill would make it highly unlikely that they would depart when President Bush leaves. The bill also would offer "sense of Congress" support for the more controversial elements of the faith-based initiative, like the co-religionist exemption in hiring.

I applaud Rep. Green’s proposal, but expect that Democrats will throw roadblocks in front of it.

Church and politics

Christianity Today’s weblog sheds a little light on the, ahem, big story about political conflict in a N.C Baptist Church. You know the one getting headlines for supposedly expelling Kerry voters. Here’s a side of the story you probably hadn’t heard:

As it turns out, though, the debate is more about the new demographics of the congregation than it is about IRS standing.

"The storm that hit the church … divided it along generational lines," The News & Observer’s Yonat Shimron explains. "Many of the older members are traditionally Democrats, though some have voted Republican in recent elections. Many of the newest and youngest members have always been Republicans. In this, the church reflected Southern voting habits that have dramatically embraced the Republican Party in recent decades."

Chandler, by the way, is 33. Those reportedly "kicked out" of the church are about twice his age, and they’re not crazy about these kids today, what with their conservative ideas and such.

"A lot of these young people had not been in the church more than a year," Maxine Osborne, 70, told The News & Observer. Chandler and his wife, she said, "brought in a lot of young people, but they also brainwashed them."

Chandler, by the way,
resigned, apparently taking a number of church members with him.

Gee, generational conflict in a church? Never heard of such a thing! No wonder it was front page news!

Pew Center survey

I’ve just started reading this survey report, which is (inadequately, I think) summarized in this article. The allegedly big take-away from the survey is that both parties are more complicated than the simple "red vs. blue" storyline would have it.

Here are a few interesting snippets from the executive summary:

Republicans also have much in common beyond their overwhelming support for a muscular foreign policy and broad agreement on social issues. Voters inclined toward the Republican Party are distinguished from Democrats by their personal optimism and belief in the power of the individual. While some voting blocs on the right are as financially stressed as poorer Democrats, Republicans in this situation tend to be more hopeful and positive in their outlook than their more fatalistic counterparts in the Democratic Party.

Clearly, there is more than one kind of conservative. The Republican groups find common ground on cultural values, but opinions on the role of government, a defining feature of conservative philosophy for decades, are now among the most divisive for the GOP.

While the Republican Party is divided over government’s role, the Democrats are divided by social and personal values. Most Liberals live in a world apart from Disadvantaged Democrats and Conservative Democrats.

I took the
typology questionnaire, which is supposed to help me identify myself. Turns out I’m an "Enterpriser"; this "extremely partisan Republican group’s politics are driven by a belief in the free enterprise system and social values that reflect a conservative agenda. Enterprisers are also the strongest backers of an assertive foreign policy, which includes nearly unanimous support for the war in Iraq and strong support for such anti-terrorism efforts as the Patriot Act." My "defining values" are:

Assertive on foreign policy and patriotic; anti-regulation and pro-business; very little support for government help to the poor; strong belief that individuals are responsible for their own well being. Conservative on social issues such as gay marriage, but not much more religious than the nation as a whole. Very satisfied with personal financial situation.

I guess I didn’t know that my satisfaction with my financial situation was a "value," and, since, as my wife is fond of saying, I’m not a real doctor, I’m not sure that "very satisfied" describes me in that respect anyway. Gentle readers, what do you think? Am I rightly described as an "enterpriser," or am I a "social conservative," "pro-government conservative," "upbeat," "disaffected," "bystander," "liberal," "disadvantaged Democrat," or "conservative Democrat"? This LAT
"Info Box" might help a little. And you should take the questionnaire yourselves, to see how satisfied you are with the distinctions the Pew Center asks you to make.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for April

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Andrew Willis

Stefanie Smith

Paula Fentnor

Mark Favazza

Harold O’Keefe

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter May’s drawing.

Bioethics Council again

Via Instapundit, we learn that James Q. Wilson has resigned from the President’s Council on Bioethics. The Reason post manages to both to say nothing about Wilson’s motives for resigning and to insinuate that his departure was welcome, while also insulting our friends Peter Lawler and Diana Schaub, neither of whom I would regard as "tractable." Considering that Wilson effusively defended Kass and the Commission publicly less than two months ago (click on the "Q." above), I don’t think Wilson was encouraged to leave.

The Marines

I took a young man to an Armed Forces recruiting station yesterday to meet with an Air Force recruiter. He had made the appointment, and just wanted to hear the recruiter talk about the Air Force and why he should consider signing up. The young man, let’s call him John, has been thinking about joining up for a while, and--for reasons I can’t quite fathom--showed interest in the Air Force. The twenty minute conversation went like this. The recruiter began by saying that there are great educational benefits (it turns out that all the branches have the same educational benefits). And finally, when pressed as to why a young man should consider the Air Force over another branch of the military, the fellow said this (my paraphrase is close to a quote): "Being in the Air Force is least like being in the military. It feels more like a regular job, you come to work at eight, and you leave at five." I could see that John wasn’t exactly swayed by this reasoning, so he had no more questions. We left his office, passing the Marine recruiter’s office on our way out.

We were both disappointed by the meeting. I asked John if he thought the Marine recruiter would talk the same way. He said he hoped not. I said, why don’t we find out?
So we walked back inside into the Marine’s office. Clearly, we had interrupted him, but he saw us anyway. I asked him a simple question: "Why should a young man consider joining the Marines over another branch?" This was his response (again, a close paraphrase):

"All the branches offer the same tangible benefits. But we offer the intangibles. Pride, honor, patriotism. When your signing bonus runs out after joining another branch, you still have to look yourself in the mirror every morning. I do that. And I see that I am the tip of the spear. We go in first, and we have been doing this since 1775. We are always ready. We protect our embassies abroad, and all the other hard work. We are Marines."

The Lance Corporal kept talking, and our hearts were lifted. It was five o’clock exactly as the Air Force recruiter passed us in the hallway on his way home. Soon after that we had to put an end to the conversation--the Marine wanted to keep talking--and stepped out into the sunlight. Well, John, what do you think? That was more like it, said his faster beating heart. On our drive home, we heard a news report that over one hundred bad guys were killed in heavy fighting near the Syrian border, and three Marines met their maker. Good ratio, we said. My wet eyes made it hard to see the road ahead.

Bush Apologizes for Yalta

For many, the Yalta agreement, forged by FDR, Staliln and Churchill was a terrible concession to the Soviet tyranny.

Anne Applebaum writes about the apology George Bush issued on his recent trip to Europe to the nations of eastern Europe for the Yalta agreement.

More religious extremism

The Interfaith Alliance, about which I’ve written before, says that it works "to promote interfaith cooperation around shared religious values to strengthen the public’s commitment to the American values of civic participation, freedom of religion, diversity, and civility in public discourse and to encourage the active involvement of people of faith in the nation’s political life."

Of course, when the wrong religious people get involved, the Interfaith Alliance becomes concerned, issuing sententious pronouncements like this one:

Neither religion nor democracy is well-served when religious leaders try to define an individual’s faith and religious commitment by how it fits their political posturing. Playing the religion card divides people rather than unites people. No one’s religious conviction should be attacked as anti-faith just because that person doesn’t agree with destroying a tried-and-true democratic process. This kind of litmus test signals a redefinition of religion that is blasphemy and a redefinition of democracy that is scary.

But the other face of the Interfaith Alliance is shown

Religious groups critical of Sen. Ken Salazar’s support of the Senate filibuster for judges were denounced Tuesday by clergy and political leaders as crackpots, American Taliban and the Gestapo.

The intent of such groups, said the Rev. Bill Kirton of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, is to impose their religious values on others.

"This, my friends, is the Gestapo," said Kirton, a United Methodist minister. Later, Kirton defended his description saying, "I said Gestapo, and I meant it."

Kirton was among speakers who rallied behind Salazar at a news conference at the state Capitol. In a supportive letter to Salazar, the group condemned "the pursuit and abuse of earthly power," which was driving religious groups to support an up-or-down vote of President Bush’s court nominees.

"These are the actions of an American Taliban, of reactionary, religious zealots," said the Rev. Peter Morales, head of the public policy commission of the Interfaith Alliance.

Whatever happened to the commitment to civility in public discourse? Will C. Welton Gaddy repudiate the extreme statements of his supporters and subordinates? Or will he by his silence endorse those whose stock in trade seems to be the demonization of those with whom they disagree?

Offensive in western Iraq

There’s good analysis here and a detailed report of some of the fighting here.

Jim Wallis and the Democrats

Here’s a nice article on the Democrats’ favorite evangelical.

A guide out of the fever swamp

My old acquaintance Mark Hall wrote this op-ed for the Portland Oregonian. He effectively makes the case for the "normality" of most evangelicals.

An excursion into the fever swamp

The good folks at the Acton Institute’s PowerBlog called my attention to this rather feverish post by Max Blumenthal, who seems of late to have made it his personal business to reveal to the world the insidious character of conservative evangelicals and their fellow travelers. Here’s an example of the silliness Blumenthal takes seriously:

By emphasizing God’s grace over free will, right wing Evangelicals also grant themselves permission to dictate what everyone else’s moral decisions should be. It also allows them to grant themselves permission to use immoral means to accomplish their ends and bear false witness against those who disagree with them. Since God’s grace does not depend on good works, being born again gives them the freedom to impose theocracy through duplicitous, deceitful and sinful actions.

If you haven’t read them already, Stanley Kurtz’s two articles at NRO offer a good place to begin tracking your way through the fever swamp.

Of course, Blumenthal is tame and sensible by comparison with some of the folks Kurtz has read. (If you click on this last link, you’ll discover that Leo Strauss, "the father of the neo-conservative movement," offers us clues as to the plans of the Dominionists. I guess it does pay to read old books.)

Multiple Choice Prediction

Senator Richard Lugar predicted on the Sunday talk shows that John Bolton would be confirmed when the Foreign Relations Committee meets on Thursday. Lugar predicts that all ten Republicans will vote for Bolton and that all eight Democrats will vote against Bolton.

What do you think? Pick One.

A)Bolton wins approval of the Committee.

B)Hagel decides to vote no.

C)Chaffee decides to vote no.

D)Voinovich decides to vote no.

E)The vote is postponed.

I think the temptation to become a media darling will be too great for one or more of these Republicans.

Asia rising

is on the cover of Newsweek. The big fat question is posed: "Does the future belong to China?" Fareed Zakaria’s essay is very much worth reading, despite some problematic points. Of course he talks about China’s size, it’s phenomenal economic growth, including its internal politics and stability. But it is paragraphs like this that make you ruminate:

There have been two great shifts in global power over the past 400 years. The first was the rise of Europe, which around the 17th century became the richest, most enterprising and ambitious part of the world. The second was the rise of the United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it became the single most powerful country in the world, the globe’s decisive player in economics and politics.

For centuries, the rest of the world was a stage for the ambitions and interests of the West’s great powers. China’s rise, along with that of India and the continuing weight of Japan, represents the third great shift in global power—the rise of Asia.

Of course, to simply say
the rise of Asia" doesn’t tell us everything. It doesn’t tell us that Japan will have something to say about China’s rise, and we are allied with them and are encouraging them to rearm. It doesn’t tell us that India is now an ally, and much freer than it has ever been. India is a natural geopolitical opponent of China, as are Korea and Vietnam; and one could hope that both Indonesia and the Phillipines will become stronger actors.
And, do not fail to note that President Bush was called a guest of "special importance" by
Russia’s Putin.
Russia will continue to show interest in China’s power-surge. I also note in passing our especially good relations with Mongolia.

Huffington blog

I watched CNN inteview Arianna Huffington this morning about her new site, which includes a blog, written mostly by Lefties from Hollywood.
I couldn’t figure out what thew big deal was. Why interview a blogger, indeed, a would be blogger? Well, I guess it turns out that if you have some sort of gimmick, and are on the Left, CNN will get sloppy friendly with you and push your product, even if you haven’t proven yourself. Her site is
called the Huffington Post. You may want to check it out. It’s pretty cool looking, but I don’t see how much of Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Brown I can read without having a stiff drink!

John Podesta and the religious Left

Here’s a transcript of an event sponsored by the Pew Forum, in which John Podesta, who runs the Center for American Progress, discussed his ideas for mobilizing the religious Left. His issues: health insurance, third-world debt relief, and the living wage. Only when he was pressed did he--an observant Catholic--discuss abortion, and then only in terms of which HRC could approve.

This is perhaps the most revealing passage in the whole long transcript:

On the candidate side, I think if you’re authentic [in your religious expression] and it’s part of who you are and you express your conviction in those terms, then I think that the secular wing of the Democratic Party is unlikely to have a problem with you expressing a moral vision of the country that at least in policy terms they generally agree with.

In other words, progressive Democrats will welcome religious voices so long as the religious voices tell them what they want to hear. But don’t think of offering a position regarding abortion that strays far from the "safe, legal, and rare" evasion. And be very, very careful what you say about the "coarsening" of our culture.

I’m not convinced that Podesta can offer the Democrats the "salvation" they need, nor that progressive religionists can provide the same sort of additional support for Democrats that religious conservatives provide to Republicans. (Aren’t their numbers dwindling, and aren’t they already voting?)

More on Lincoln

Mac Owens

criticizes Peter Lawler’s piece on David Brooks New York Times op-ed on Lincoln, which both Lucas Morel and Joe Knippenberg have already noted. All that seems a little complicated, doesn’t it? The point is this. Owens lectures Lawler (a dangerous move, by the way), on an important point he claims Lawler overlooked: Lincoln knew that the key to ending slavery where it existed lay not with the national government but with the states. I also made this point
last year regarding the virtue of Allen Guelzo’s book on the emancipation.

Blair’s victory

Bill Kristol points out that with Blair’s victory (see results here) "The electorates of the major democracies--at least the English-speaking ones--have thus shown a willingness to support the
leaders who took them to war." Yet, he warns that the Bush administration must get better at
making its case for its foreign policy in the Middle East.

Whatever happened to English Departments?

No summary or one-liner could do justice to this unself-conscious revelation of the decline of a discipline through the embrace of political activism.

Forgetting our history

Victor Davis Hanson: "Our society suffers from the tyranny of the present." He bemoans our lot. Perhaps this should be especially noted on May 8th. On this day the Germans laid down their arms in 1945. Hanson:

We rarely mention our forebears. These were the millions of less fortunate Americans who built the country, handed down to us our institutions, and died keeping them safe.
Such amnesia about them was not always so. Public acknowledgment of prior generations characterized the best orations of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, who looked for guidance from, and gave thanks to, their ancestors.

Bruce Cole, the Chairman of the National Andowment for the Humanities, has also addressed the amnesia problem.

Of course, we at the Ashbrook Center also understand this problem. Along with the Department of History and Political Science, we work at making sure that our students do not have such amnesia and they understand the things for which we stand. We have taken our work one step further. We have established a Masters degree in American History and Government. The work for this degree will be done entirely in the Summer for it is intended for high school teachers. It is a very intensive
program, with a great core curriculum, with outstanding professors
teaching them. Have a look at this unique program. Classes will begin this next month; there are four sessions each Summer.

Presidential politics

John McCain thinks that John Kerry would like to run for president again; McCain advises against it. Robert Novak thinks that Mitt Romney is gearing up for a presidential run. Novak also notes that Howard Dean is failing to raise money for the DNC: The Demos have raised a disappointing $16.7 million raised in the first quarter of 2005, compared with $34 million reported by the Republicans. John Edwards is making plans to run; he is calling his advisors and big donors together for a meeting in North Carolina. There is more evidence that Evan Bayh is going to run. Joe Klein thinks that Hillary run would be a disaster "on many levels." Some are guessing that Virginia SenatorGeorge Allen is the "drak-horse front runner" for the GOP nomination.

How we would fight China

Robert D. Kaplan writes the cover story for the June issue of The Atlantic on the next Cold War, or our fight with China. You will have to get a hard copy, because it is not available on line. It is worth reading. He points out that the functional substitute for a NATO (which had a great role in the Cold War but is now dead, our invasion of Afghanistan killed it) of the Pacific is already in place, and is up and run ning. It is the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). There is much more.

Tom DeLay and Congressional Ethics

Rich Lowry puts the Tom DeLay scandal in its proper context.

Left, right, and judicial restraint

This article surveys the debate and makes a few interesting points, some of which we may have forgotten or did not know.

First, the argument against judicial overreach has decades-old roots, and hence (though the author doesn’t say this) is not a product of the religious right (which seems to be the burden of this article).

Second, arguments to limit the scope of judicial decisions are not exclusive to the right; there’s a "popular constitutionalism" movement on the left. If left and right can join in insisting that the three branches are actually all entitled to interpret the Constitution as they carry out their constitutional responsibilities, we’re making some progress.

For more on these issues on the left, go here, here, and here.