Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Democrats and religion

I’ve written about this before (see also here and here), but this article brings us up to date. From my own point of view, moralism without humility isn’t compelling, yet that seems to be what the Democrats are offering. The point of emphasizing (or at least including) personal morality is that it reminds us how far from godliness--how weak and dependent--we are.

Mansfieldian manliness

A review and an article, both written by women. Hat tip: The Politic

"Hippie Chimps" a dying breed?

Yes. You read that right. Hippie Chimps. The bonobo breed common to the Congo and known for resolving their conflicts and differences with sex rather than violence (Make Love Not War!) is having a rather hard time of it. This article outlines the details of the story (and is worth a quick read on many amusing levels). Apparently the strategy of these chimps is not working. For one thing--despite all their sex--the chimps only seem to produce one offspring per female every five years. Mark Steyn ought to have a word with them. And now, their peaceful ways are being disrupted by a violent enemy--man. It seems that the "sensual body rubs" and other forms of kneading these chimps engage in makes for a pretty tender and delicious meat. Poachers are getting big prices for these chimps. You gotta love the response from one policeman who admitted to illegally eating the chimps: "What can we do if bonobo meat is tasty?" he asked.

Ave Maria Town again

I’m not a Catholic, but I don’t regard Catholics as boring. Indeed, I would argue that the more backtracking in which the developers engage, the less distinctive and hence less interesting Ave Maria Town will be.

More here.

Hat tip: Mike DeBow.

Cap’n Crunchy

I’d sworn that I wouldn’t say another word about Crunchy Cons until I’d finished the book, but Jonah Goldberg seems to say almost everything that would seem to need to be said. I will still finish the book, and I probably won’t be able to resist saying a few things, but you’ll have to wait.

Muslims in Europe: integration or separatism?

This article by David Pryce-Jones (sorry, registration required) is a brief and useful history of how Muslims came to regard their presence as immigrants in the West as an opportunity to conquer it for Islam. He suggests that the crucial moment was “Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power in 1979,” which shattered the previous live and let live atmosphere:

In his manner, he was confirming that there are a billion Muslims in the world, they have only to make themselves felt as such, and power will then accrue to them, concluding in rightful God-given conquest. More than a challenge, here was an updating of the ancient division of the world into the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-Harb. What he preached and exemplified has spread rapidly through one Muslim country after another, activating those who agreed with his dogmatic vision, as well as challenging those with alternative political, secular, or nationalist definitions of their societies. In response to Khomeini, the struggle for self-definition within the Dar al-Islam has left behind it a huge trail of sectarian and communal horrors in Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, Palestine, and elsewhere.

Including, we can add, Europe and America. If Pryce-Jones is right about the inspirational (to Muslims) character of the Iranian revolution, one is prompted to think that if Khomeini’s heirs succeed in their quest to acquire nuclear weapons, the West will be faced with a much bigger disaster than most people realize. On the other hand, by crushing that quest, the West might go far to reduce the problem of terrorism.

The essay lists some of the signs of the spread of Islam in Europe, as well as many examples of the amazing surrender and abasement of the multicultural European elite to this spread. The reaction of the elites is summed up by the President of the Italian Senate, who sarcastically described the West today as “a land of penitents beating their breast whenever someone strikes them.” (Incidentally, you hardly ever hear about an elite/mass distinction in Europe, one that would parallel our red state/blue state difference: does that exist in Europe?)

Pryce-Jones also makes the useful observation that the decades of Muslim immigration into Europe coincided with the project of the European political elite to centralize and unify Europe. This required citizens of historic nation-states to “acquire a new collective identity replacing their ancient individual nationalities, calling into question all the moral, legal, and cultural features of their heritage.” But, while the old attachments and beliefs have withered, nothing solid has replaced them. In other words, just as the Muslims arrived in large numbers, radicalized by Iran, Europe was profoundly weakened internally. For the author’s pessimistic view of where this will probably end, see his last paragraph.

My weekend

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and I am attending this conference on it over the weekend at Indiana University. I’m looking forward to it. The Hungarians stood alone in 1956 and they failed. After the revolution was crushed a Soviet general was quoted as saying something to this effect: "We will not leave Hungary until crayfish learn to whistle." Well, it turned out that crayfish could be taught and free Hungary is no longer alone. And the Soviet general--and the thing that gave him his title--is dead. And I’m reading Mansfield’s Manliness.

Hollywood and Osama

"Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor." The rest is Charles Krauthammer at his best. 

Catholic Democrats

Earlier this week, 55 Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives issued a brief "Statement of Principles." Here’s its core:

We are committed to making real the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching: helping the poor and disadvantaged, protecting the most vulnerable among us, and ensuring that all Americans of every faith are given meaningful opportunities to share in the blessings of this great country. That commitment is fulfilled in different ways by legislators but includes: reducing the rising rates of poverty; increasing access to education for all; pressing for increased access to health care; and taking seriously the decision to go to war. Each of these issues challenges our obligations as Catholics to community and helping those in need.

We envision a world in which every child belongs to a loving family and agree with the Catholic Church about the value of human life and the undesirability of abortion—we do not celebrate its practice. Each of us is committed to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term. We believe this includes promoting alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, and improving access to children’s healthcare and child care, as well as policies that encourage paternal and maternal responsibility.

In all these issues, we seek the Church’s guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience. In recognizing the Church’s role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas. Yet we believe we can speak to the fundamental issues that unite us as Catholics and lend our voices to changing the political debate -- a debate that often fails to reflect and encompass the depth and complexity of these issues.

I assume that the statement was drafted so as to gain the largest possible number of signatures; hence the reference in the first of the above paragaphs to the different ways in which the commitment to the basic Catholic social teaching could be embodied in laws and policies. Reasonable Catholics can disagree about how best to promote these ends. We may not be sure about which measures work best, about which levers in human nature we should be pressing now. (See, for example,
this conference.)

But it strikes me that there’s a difference between accommodating prudential disagreements about how to achieve a prospective good and silence regarding legislative efforts to limit access to abortions. There’s no reason why one cannot both undertake efforts to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and move toward taking abortion off the table as a last-resort means of birth control. The statement’s silence regarding the latter is telling. Taken together with its almost-Protestant emphasis on "the primacy of conscience," the statement amounts to an evasion of the Church’s clearly-stated position on abortion.

Steve Dillard and Robert Araujo get it. I’m not sure that E.J. Dionne, Jr. does.

I wonder as well whether there are any Catholic members of the House who didn’t sign this statement.

Update: See this article and this article, as well as the first comment below. I pretended to be a social scientist for a few minutes and found the following: there are probably only 71 Catholics in the House at present (Robert Menendez having moved to the Senate and not having been replaced yet); and one, Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, is not a voting member. That leaves 15 Catholic Democrats in the House who didn’t sign the statement. Of the fifteen, six (Costello and Lipinski of Illinois, Cuellar of Texas, Kanjorski and Murtha of Pennsylvanis, and McNulty of New York) are pronouncedly anti-abortion (having earned a score of 25 or less from NARAL in 2005); one (Hinojosa of Texas) is a "moderate," earning a 45 from NARAL; the other eight have scores ranging from 85 (Kaptur of Ohio) to 100 (Bishop, Higgins, and Rangell of New York, Dingell of Michigan, Kucinich of Ohio, Tauscher of California, and Visclosky of Indiana). Of the signatories, 39 are on the high end of NARAL’s range, five are in the middle, and 11 look like pro-lifers (Langevin of Rhode Island, Kildee and Stupak of Michigan, Ryan of Ohio, Doyle and Holden of Pennsylvania, Taylor of Mississippi, Marshall of Georgia, Salazar of Colorado, Oberstar of Minnesota, and Lynch of Massachusetts).

While NARAL scores are a bit problematical as measures of a representative’s real position on abortion (I bow to anyone who has local knowledge that would correct or refine my classifications), they’re the best I can do on the fly. Given the political cover that the statement gives to Catholic representatives who score high on NARAL’s scale, I’m most interested in why eight of them didn’t sign. Are they the most "radically" pro-abortion Catholics in the House? Or the least willing to concede anything to those who believe that it’s possible for reasonable people to disagree about social welfare policy? I’m curious. Anyone know anything about the particulars?

Update #2: See Wheat and Weeds for another interesting point: there’s nothing in the statement about the principle of subsidiarity (see the quotes from the W&W post here), as well as this longer exploration of the tensions between subsidiarity and the welfare state.

Update #3: Democrats for Life supports the "Statement of Principles."

Conference wrap-up

I survived hosting our conference, thanks to the able and efficient assistance of our PR Office, housekeeping crew, and food service (great lunch!). I enjoyed reconnecting with old friends, including one I hadn’t seen since 1979. The Oglethorpe and Berry students and alumni acquitted themselves well as presenters, commentators, and questioners.

From my rather idiosyncratic point of view, the two most interesting issues broached during the course of the day were these. First, while many argue that liberal education is in substantial tension with civic education (raising and examining questions that the latter has to regard on some level as settled or closed), is it not the case that the former depends upon the latter, not only materially but intellectually? We always begin within an horizon constituted by moral and civic education, even if we engage with it critically. And our critical engagement itself can’t be sustained unless its material conditions are protected. We professors and students can’t do what we do without those who are protecting our freedom. I’m always grateful for the risks they take and the sacrifices they make.

The second issue, which hovered around the whole conference was crystallized by a question Peter Lawler posed to our Cicero’s Podium debaters (video will be posted soon at this site). Jim Stoner and Jerry Weinberger agreed that a free society requires something, Jim arguing for the traditional virtues (courage, moderation, justice, and prudence) and Jerry for self-interest properly understood, which is to say somewhat as Benjamin Franklin would have understood it. Both conceptions of "virtue" seem to operate within an horizon that recognizes human finitude, but Franklin and modern biotechnology both look forward to the infinite expansion of human life and power. Would the freedom from human limitations promised by biotechnology liberate us as well from the demand to be virtuous, certainly in Stoner’s but also in Weinberger’s sense? If we become creators, not creatures, above all, why must we be courageous, moderate, just, and prudent? If we explode all our limitations, what would it mean to understand our self-interest properly? Good questions.

Update: Mike DeBow has posted the text of his conference contribution here and some general commentary on the conference here. Thanks, Mike!

Black flight to charter schools

Katherine Kersten says that something interesting is happening in Minneapolis: "African-American families from the poorest neighborhoods are rapidly abandoning the district public schools, going to charter schools, and taking advantage of open enrollment at suburban public schools. Today, just around half of students who live in the city attend its district public schools."  

Hooray for Capitalism

In the latest issue of the Atlantic, Clive Crook wonders why, even though capitalism has brought the United States to a level of prosperity unprecedented in world history, Americans still regard it with distrust. Traditionally conservatives have blamed liberals in Hollywood for consistently producing films in which businessmen are the villains, but Crook has his doubts:

In this...the culture is not really driving attitudes. It is expressing widely held (though not very closely examined) beliefs; it is itself responding to demand.

The problem, he claims, lies not with popular culture but rather with many of capitalism’s defenders. Economists, for instance, have become so concerned with "math, quantitative methods, and narrow specialization" that they have all but given up demonstrating that markets work (and, given their use of jargon, it’s questionable whether anyone would understand them if they took it up again). But the worst of all are the corporate leaders and conservative politicians who emerge as defenders of the free market:

They speak of capitalism’s virtues, then get down to the real business of subsidies, import protection, tax relief, and other favors. People see through it, and find their prejudices confirmed. The conflation of the interests of business with the interests of the nation is virtually an organizing principle of the Right. Yet in reality those interests are usually opposed--as Adam Smith again pointed out. What best serves a nation’s economic interests is competition--it’s why markets work, when they do. But competition hurts individual businesses, and most CEOs hate it. Don’t look there for intellectual enlightenment.

Latin bumper sticker

How is this for a bumper sticker? "Si hoc adfixum in obice legere potes, et liberaliter educatus et nimis propinquus ades." (If you can read this bumper sticker, you are both very well educated, and much too close.) (via Oxblog).

Those fragile Russian men

Sergei Kapitsa asserts that Russia’s population has dropped by 9.5 million, caused by the high rate of early death among males.

The End of Fukuyama

According to Christopher Hitchens, Francis Fukluyama’s latest book--and F.F.’s latest "thinking"--is a mess, a boring one at that. Hitchens is sad, but not surprised.

USSR as assassins

This is shocking news, just shocking. An Italian parliamentary investigative commission said in a report that the leaders of the former

Soviet Union were behind the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981. I can’t believe it. I’m utterly surprised and shocked.

A word to the wise

If you’re a high-profile Hispanic academic, it’s hard to have friends in high places.

Ralph Ellison

Today is Ralph Ellison’s birthday. Invisible Man is one of the great American novels. Also see Lucas Morel’s book on Ellison, the best on him, in my opinion. This is the PBS, American Master’s spot on Ellison. If you have read nothing of Ellison’s, read the very short story "In a Strange Country," in the volume Flying Home and Other Stories. Also see former Ashbrook Scholar Carolyn Garris’s thesis, Improvisation and Self-Emancipation in the Novels of Ralph Ellison. She got the Charles E. Parton Award for it in 2005. Happy Birthday Mr. Ellison!

"Whitman viewed the spoken idiom of Negro Americans as a source for a native grand opera. Its
flexibility, its musicality, its rhythms, freewheeling diction and metaphors, as projected in Negro
American folklore, were absorbed by the creators of our great nineteenth-century literature even
when the majority of blacks were still enslaved. Mark Twain celebrated it in the prose of
Huckleberry Finn; without the presence of blacks, the book could not have been written. No
Huck and Jim, no American novel as we know it. For not only is the black man a co-creator of
the language that Mark Twain raised to the level of literary eloquence, but Jim’s condition as
American and Huck’s commitment to freedom are the moral center of the novel." R.W.E.

Y’all come

The annual Oglethorpe-Berry conference will take place tomorrow on the lovely Oglethorpe campus. (I don’t mean thereby to diminish Berry’s charms. Its 10,000 26,000 acres are breathtaking.)

The overall theme of the conference is "politics, culture, and constitutional republicanism." We have a panel of undergraduate papers, showcasing some of the best work done by Oglethorpe and Berry students (9 a.m.), a faculty roundtable on liberal education and civic education (10:45 a.m.), a panel of graduate students (mostly Oglethorpe and Berry alums) on the general topic of "Politics, Law and Culture" (1:45 p.m.) and a "Cicero’s Podium" debate (3:30 p.m.), featuring our old friends Jim Stoner and Jerry Weinberger. All the events (with the exception of lunch) will take place in Lupton Auditorium.

Other program participants include Peter Lawler, Michael Bailey, Michael Papazian, and Sam Crowe of Berry, Brad Smith, Misha Smith, and Michelle Harrington of Oglethorpe, Mike DeBow of Samford and Southern Appeal, Mark Kremer of Kennesaw State, Matt Oberrieder of Mercer, and Hunter Baker of Southern Appeal. The graduate programs represented on our graduate panel are Baylor Political Science, Baylor’s J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, and the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at UVA. ISI’s Chad Kifer will also be with us.

I’m looking forward to a lot of interesting conversations throughout the course of the day. Come join us. If you identify yourself as a reader of NLT, I’ll invite you to lunch.

Midterm elections

As we know, the election season is heating up and much ink is going to be spilled on it all, never mind the sleep that will be lost by those deeply involved. And, of course, the Dems are salivating because this is a midterm election in the second term of a president whose party controls both houses. They are very hopeful. Andrew Busch writes the first of many articles on the midterm elections. In this one he recounts the various ways that midterm elections have affected the course of American politics over the years. Enjoy.  

Jaffa in the Journal

Peter mentions his podcast with the good professor below. You might want to augment your daily dose of Jaffa with this article on "the Central Idea" in today’s Opinion Journal.  

Where’s McCarthy when you need him?

The latest issue of the Weekly Standard features a story about the latest outrage from academia, only this time it doesn’t involve the faculty. Apparently the student senate at the University of Washington voted down a resolution to construct a monument on campus in honor of Col. Greg "Pappy" Boyington, one of the university’s better-known alumni. Boyington, for the history-deficient, was a U.S. marine fighter ace during World War II. He shot down 28 Japanese aircraft before becoming a prisoner of war, and was tortured and nearly starved to death by his captors.

During debate on the resolution, student senator Jill Edwards "questioned whether it was appropriate to honor a person who killed other people," according to the minutes of the meeting. Karl Smith said Boyington should be honored for his service, but Smith was also bothered by the killing thing. Senator Ashley Miller was against the resolution because "many monuments at UW commemorate rich white men." The debate went downhill from there.

Interestingly, back in 1998 the university constructed a monument to some war veterans, but not ones who served in the U.S. armed forces. The monument was built in honor of the eleven University of Washington alumni who fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Again for the history-deficient, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was created, financed, and commanded by the Communist International, which was in turn controlled by Josef Stalin.

As for Pappy Boyington, the article concludes:

Pappy Boyington would’ve laughed at Student Senator Ashley Miller’s "rich white man" crack. A beer salesman is hardly rich, and Boyington had money problems most of his life. As for being white: he was part Sioux. But he was fully a man. At least she got that right.

Jaffa podcast

I had a chance to talk with Harry V. Jaffa the other day. I wanted to talk about Lincoln or Macbeth, but he chose the clash of civilizations. I’ll talk with him about other matters in the weeks and months following. As with the other "You Americans" podcasts, they are meant to be informal and conversational, rather than interviews. The good professor was recovering from a cold; his voice is weaker and less clear than is normal, so be attentive. It’s worth it.

Leadership, politics, and the ports

That’s the subject of this week’s TAE Online column. Bottom line: everyone’s to blame, beginning with the White House, which failed to anticipate how badly (almost) everyone else would behave.

More Evidence that Teachers Unions Really Care About "THE CHILDREN"

This story about the AFL-CIO announcing a partnership with the NEA cannot be good news. But it does clarify things, doesn’t it? Time to play hard ball with these folks.

More ports

Yesterday, Senator Susan Collins released this unclassified excerpt from a Coast Guard report produced in December. You can read other stories here (AP), here (WaTi), and here (NYT).

The burden of the excerpt--a small portion of a larger report produced early in the process--is that there are questions as yet unanswered regarding security. Fair enough.

The Coast Guard says they were answered by the time CFIUS made its final decision:

At the briefing on Monday, Adm. Thomas H. Gilmour, assistant Coast Guard commandant for marine safety, security and environmental protection, said the unclassified portion of the review should be considered in the context of the full report, which is classified.

And a statement issued Monday night by the Coast Guard described the excerpt as part of "a broader Coast Guard intelligence analysis that was performed early on as part of its due diligence process." The statement said the excerpt, taken out of context, did not reflect the full analysis, which "concludes ’that DP World’s acquisition of P&O, in and of itself, does not pose a significant threat to U.S. assets in ports.’ "

Senator Collins can’t imagine that these questions were answered by the end of the 30-day process, but here’s what someone from DHS said:

"We negotiated unprecedented assurances from these two companies with respect to their security practices, assurances that I think addressed the question of what are their operations," said Stewart A. Baker, an assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

I understand what opponents of the sale gain by releasing the Coast Guard snippet, which appears, but only appears, to vindicate their concerns, both about the sale and about the approval process. Offering us partial information like this simply serves further to inflame public opinion, or perhaps to fan flames that were beginning to die down. But it doesn’t help us resolve the question of whether this is a good and safe sale.

I also note in passing that Hillary Rodham Clinton is co-sponsoring two bills, one to mandate the 45-day review of this sale and retain Congress’ authority to block it and one that would altogether "block the sale and ban companies owned by foreign governments from controlling U.S. port operations." The latter suggests that she has made up her mind and that no further information can alter her conclusions, which is not a position becoming to someone who is a member of what used to be called "the world’s greatest deliberative body." While I expect that she thinks this helps her presidential aspirations (bashing an ally shows that she’s tough on national security?), but I wonder how warm a welcome she would receive as President (shudder!) from our erstwhile allies in the Gulf.

Update: Rich Lowry smells a nativist rat.

Plastic surgery

If you have political ambitions, make yourself look more like Hillary Rodham Clinton. Don’t ever, ever make yourself look like John McCain.


Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness landed on my desk this afternoon. The publication date was moved up by a few weeks. Not good. My life will be more confused, for everything will take a back seat to this gift from the deep. I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon and took the book. As I waited for the body doctor I read randomly from the soul doctor...every sentence interesting, biting, clear, even poetic. Not a blemish on any. The book is full of he-men and man-words and ideas that build on the flat world because man’s worth has been asserted and there is blandness no more. So Mansfield asserts the worth and then proves it, as does the old man against the sea. The doctors let me go (all is well, I’m fine), so I stayed in the ante-room and read a bit more. There is Darwin, and Kipling as Darwin, in spirit if not in letter. Men can’t be indifferent to "some God of Abstract Justice." Mansfield: "Every man is his mother’s son and thus better defended by her than by himself. But he would not be better ruled by her. A woman’s disregard of justice gives her license to command but not to govern, since governing has to do with justice." There was more at the Chinese restaurant, despite the poor lighting. "Manliness is not too modest to assert itself, to tell us the value of the manly man." And later, there is Socrates showing that it is the logos in command and not he, and because philosophy is devoted to the what, it abstracts from the who, from the particulars of human life, indeed, from human life itself. Attention to human life is what we call realism, says Mansfield, "especially womanly realism as shown in the following he/she joke. He ’The trouble with women is that they always take things personally.’ She: ’Doesn’t apply to me.’" And then a reminder that teachers have to take manliness into account when they teach for sometimes their teaching calls students to manliness and not moderation. And as he moves toward his conclusion he reminds us that we have to respect the differences between male and female, yet remind ourselves that the convention in which we do this is modern liberalism, not ancient Greece. So the last chapter is called "Unemployed Manliness" I glance at it, sip more tea, and drive home in the snow storm. It will be a rough couple of days, but welcome.

Cheney to Resign after Midterms?

Insight Magazine reports that Dick Cheney will likely step down following the mid-term elections as he becomes "an increasing political liability" to the administration. Of course, it’s hard to say whether reports like this are to be taken seriously, but it does sound plausible. Perhaps more interesting than the resignation would be the appointment of a replacement. Would Bush attempt to play king-maker and name one of the candidates hoping to succeed him, or name someone widely respected but certain not to seek the 2008 nomination? (via Drudge)

Taliban at Yale

Chip Brown writes the cover article for the Sunday New York Times Magazine on Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former ambassador-at-large for the Taliban, and now a Freshman at Yale University. Do you think this is a little odd?
John Fund does. He thinks it would be something akin to Yale letting Josef Goebbels come in. I wonder if Yale alumns (which includes Bush) will be happy with this. I hope not.

Michael Joyce, RIP

Michael Joyce passed away Friday at the age of 63. I only met him once, when he spoke at the Ashbrook Center in 2001 on the New Science of Public Administration. He was congenial and smart and a man who loved his country and contributed greatly to its well being. I liked him. I’m sorry that I never got the chance to know him better. May he Rest in Peace.

John J. Miller has a nice piece on him.

Malcontents, here and in Iraq

The threat of civil war has apparently driven the Sunnis toward "moderation," says the New York Times. Instead of talking about civil war 24/7 (as the MSM has been) we will now be talking about the re-integration of the minority Sunnis (the caterpillars of the commonwealth) into "participating in the political process." This has been very interesting. It proves that the Sunnis are not the only group who know something about the disciplines of war, and the use of fear, so to speak. The controlled fury of the Shiites was impressive and useful. They have reminded the Sunnis that men are like fish: the great fish are able to eat up the little ones. The Sunnis may now get it. That reminder allows them to talk about the political process (justice) again. And the MSM malcontents are displeased again. Good.

Peace Studies

A couple of students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School want the peace studies class (taught by retired WaPo reporter Colman McCarthy) banned from the school. They’re going to fail, of course, but the article reveals much about liberal arrogance.

All ports, all the time

It looks like there’s a deal in the works that would extend the vetting period, and presumably buy time to make the case for the sale. A good thing, I think.

People need to learn more about the nature of the international shipping business. We’re not really in a position to "buy American" here, and DPW has a very substantial American presence in its senior management ranks.

Yes, there may have been some political insensitivity in the CFIUS vetting process, not to mention in the Bush Administration’s response, but much of the negative reaction smacks of pure politics.

Consider these quotes.

"This is just a screw-up," said GOP pollster Whit Ayres. "I think the base will, after some initial bluster, give him the benefit of the doubt, once they have the facts."

Gov. Mike Huckabee, an Arkansas Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, said the deal "put a lot of elected officials in an impossible situation." He said, "The visceral reaction they got from their constituents left them no choice in opposing it."

Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican and usually an administration loyalist, thinks it may be too late for Mr. Bush to win congressional acceptance of the contract.

"This may be one of those situations where the horse may be so far out of the barn that you can’t get it back," Mr. Huckabee said.

He isn’t necessarily opposed to the deal, the governor said, but thinks the president should have made his case beforehand.

"My comfort level is good, but I have 99 other United States senators who need the opportunity to ask their questions," Frist told the Lexington Herald-Leader before speaking at a Republican dinner Saturday evening in Lexington, Ky.

"We’re behind the president 100 percent," he added. "We believe the decision in all likelihood is absolutely the right one."

I’d love to say that I find it outrageous that Mike Huckabee regards it as impossible for political leaders to resist the ill-informed emotional reactions of their constituents, and then, having resisted, to educate them. But I’m merely saddened by the democratic degeneration inherent in the response: leaders follow public opinion, they don’t form and inform it. Is it something in the water in the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock that leads its occupants to think and behave that way?

And then there’s this:

"We knew that some in the administration were arrogant, but we assumed they were competent," Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said. "But to be arrogant and not competent raises real questions."

"We were told that the president didn’t know about the sale until after it was approved. For many Americans, regardless of party, this lack of disciplined review is unacceptable," Jon Corzine said.

Given what we now know about the review process, both in general and in this particular case, neither observation really holds up. Shays’s only objection could be to a certain political insensitivity, which is surely not the equivalent of the kind of policy and technical incompetence he’s alleging. And Corzine is holding the Bush White House to a standard only met on television--in the "West Wing." Given the nature of the international shipping business (see above), this looked like a more or less routine technical decision that could (and perhaps should) have been made at the Assistant Secretary level. Of course, only after it looked like it was going to be politicized was it imperative that it receive high-level attention. The Bush Administration should have gotten in front of the debate, but many shouldn’t have entered it without being better-informed than they were. There’s plenty of blame to go around. In this case, the folks in the White House were perhaps insufficiently political, while the folks outside, especially on Capitol Hill, were only too willing to pander to a short-term public outburst. You decide which is the greater failing.

Will on conservatism

George F. Will reviews two books on conservatism--Jeffrey Hart’s memoir of National Review and Bruce Bartlett’s screed against George W. Bush. Here’s his summary of the two books:

Jeffrey Hart’s "Making of the American Conservative Mind" is a relaxed amble along conservatism’s path to the present. Bruce Bartlett’s "Impostor" is symptomatic of the way many conservatives developed a thirst for fights over ideological purity during the wilderness years, and today slake that thirst by fighting one another. They do so partly because liberalism, in its current flaccidness, offers less satisfying intellectual combat than conservatives can have intramurally. Bartlett is angry as a hornet but, like a hornet, he stings indiscriminately.

Read the whole thing, as it raises some interesting questions about the future of conservatism.

Hat tip: Power Line.