Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Laugh ’til you cry

The NYT interviews HCM on manliness. A sample:

I am beginning to wonder if you have ever spoken to a woman. Your ideas are so Victorian.

I have a young wife who grew up in the feminist revolution, and even though she is not a feminist, she wants to benefit from it. I wash the dishes, and I make the bed.

How young is she, exactly?

She’s 60. I’m 73.

Irony alert.

Gay adoption as wedge

Dahlia Litwick has to know that legal permission for gay adoption knocks the pins out from under the legal argument against gay marriage. If courts find that it’s O.K. for gay couples to adopt, then how can they not accept the argument that parents need the legal privileges of parenthood, i.e., marriage?

I’m perfectly willing to put the interests of children first here. If Litwick were willing to concede (as she is not) that boys and girls are better off with both fathers and mothers, I would be willing to concede that gay adoption is superior to languishing forever in foster care. If she wants to argue that a minimum of support and stability is all that we can ask for when we’re talking about what’s best for the child, I can’t agree.

Let me state it another way. Asking what’s best for the child returns us to the natural standard of human flourishing that proponents of gay marriage and adoption want us to abandon. Within an orientation toward the naturally best, there’s room for considerations of second-, third-, and fourth-best. But advocates of gay adoption and marriage don’t really want to accept that. Their agenda is ultimately about themselves, and only secondarily about what’s best for the children.

Church, state, and the original intent of evangelicalism

Steven Waldman reminds us that evangelicals sided with Jefferson, Madison, and other opponents of established religion in the Founding Era and in the early Republic. I can’t quarrel with him as far as he goes. There is a strong separationist strain, especially in the Baptist tradition, which is where much (but not quite all) of his evidence comes from. What’s more, some of the old arguments still have some significant resonance, especially when one speaks of shekels and shackles.

But I wonder if the old arguments didn’t take place against the backdrop of a confidence in a broadly Protestant culture, which would be embodied in public schools, for example. Thus the Northwest Ordinance takes for granted that religion would be taught in public schools. And public schools, where they existed throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, were, in effect, non-denominational Protestant schools. I would be interested to see if Waldman has any evidence that evangelicals explicitly disapproved of such schools, and dissociated themselves from them. I’d be surprised if there is any.

Given the secularized state of public schools today, not to mention the overall change in the public culture, then (if my surmise is correct) it’s not at all surprising that many contemporary evangelicals have opinions that differ from those of their forebears. What might have been an appropriate prudential calculation in 1789 or 1804 might not be an appropriate prudential calculation in 2006.

Pious the First

My review of Jimmy Carter’s book Our Endangered Values is up over at The Weekly Standard.

Sending a message?

President Bush spoke last night to the National Newspaper Association, noting at the end the ways in which the Congressional reaction to the ports deal could complicate our relationships with strategic allies. Here’s what he said:

My administration was satisfied that port security would not have been undermined by the agreement. Nevertheless, Congress was still very much opposed to it. My administration will continue to work with the Congress to provide a greater understanding of how these transactions are approved, in other words the process, and how we can improve that process in the future.

I’m concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East. In order to win the war on terror, we have got to strengthen our relationships and friendships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East. UAE is a committed ally in the war on terror. They are a key partner for our military in a critical region.

And outside of our own country, Dubai services more of our military -- military ships -- than any country in the world. They’re sharing intelligence so we can hunt down the terrorists. They’ve helped us shutdown a worldwide nuclear proliferation network run by A.Q. Khan. UAE is a valued and strategic partner. I’m committed to strengthening our relationship with the UAE and explaining why it’s important to Congress and the American people.

You can read stories about the speech and related issues
here, here, here, and here. What I find most striking is the demand on the part of some Congressional backbenchers that they still be permitted a vote so that they can go on the record with their disapproval of the deal. Is it really necessary to poke an ally in the eye after you’ve already kicked him in the groin? While a few members of Congress have displayed some significant leadership on this matter, all too many have simply exploited it for short-term political gain.

Now go re-read Jonah Goldberg’s piece.

Bishops respond to Catholic representatives

Here’s their statement and a story on it. The gist:

While it is always necessary to work to reduce the number of abortions by providing alternatives and help to vulnerable parents and children, Catholic teaching calls all Catholics to work actively to restrain, restrict and bring to an end the destruction of unborn human life.

As the Church carries out its central responsibility to teach clearly and help form consciences, and as Catholic legislators seek to act in accord with their own consciences, it is essential to remember that conscience must be consistent with fundamental moral principles. As members of the Church, all Catholics are obliged to shape our consciences in accord with the moral teaching of the Church.

This is a predictably stinging rebuke of the representatives’ statement, which I discussed here.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for February

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

Caleb Verbois

Erik S. Root

Jeff Rank

Brian Goins

Lynn Ford

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 March’s drawing.

Ramirez Cartoon

Alabama arsonists again

Thanks to Peter for saying such nice things about my Alabama arson piece. Had I waited longer to write it, I would have had even more to say about its "liberal education" aspect. Today’s Birmingham News has this story about the fall-out on the Birmingham-Southern College campus (current home of two of the alleged perpetrators and past home of the other). BSC has a very strong regional and national reputation and a solid affiliation with the United Methodist Church. The religious mission pervades at least one aspect of the campus life, as this paragraph from the story makes clear:

Birmingham-Southern College has long prided itself on the actions of students who have gone all over the world to perform good deeds as part of the college’s social service emphasis.

BSC students clearly get the social service emphasis of this mainline Protestant denomination, and the college goes to great lengths to promote it on, and presumably off, campus. This is not an unusual emphasis at a lot of "elite" liberal arts colleges, regardless of how strong their religious affiliation is. (We do it at my place, which hasn’t had a denominational affiliation since it was refounded early in the last century.)

But here’s the part of the article--a statement by BSC President David Pollick--that sticks in my craw:

Pollick said Thursday that the college has pledged to help burned churches rebuild, but not because the college feels responsible for the actions of its students.

"In this particular case, I don’t think we feel responsible at all. ... I don’t think there’s a sense of guilt or a sense of repentance. There’s nothing to repent," Pollick said. "We’re clearly in the limelight because they are our students."

If he meant to say that the students are ultimately responsible for their own actions, he’s right. If, however, he meant to absolve his institution of any responsibility for the souls of its students, then I don’t know how it can call itself a religiously-affiliated institution. Does the United Methodist Church not think that church members should care about what goes on in the heads and hearts of the young people for whom they, er, care?

Update: David Mills takes the argument in a slightly different direction, contending that subversion of conventional morality is part of a pervasive design at some places. He’s right, of course, though many of the institutions with which I’m familiar would not and could not avow that intention in public.

The new nationalism and socialism

Much can be said on this (unfortunate) perfect political storm having to do with the Dubai ports deal, and

Jonah Goldberg moves a long way toward saying the right things. Call it economic nationalism, economic patriotism, populist anger, it doesn’t matter, it is a combination of nationalism and socialism; the wrong right and the left coming together. It is most certainly not patriotism rightly understood. Goldberg is very clear on this. Read it and weep and then do something. Support freedom, be truly patriotic.

On the souls of our students

Joe has already commented briefly on the Alabama church fires and those three accused students, but in this article, the good professor nails it. These three young men--who seem to be from nice families, and attend good liberal arts collge--remind us what colleges should do, and no longer seem to do well. This truth isn’t pretty: we are not paying enough attention to the souls of our students. Nihilism stands at the door and we have opened it. Read it all.   

It’s Going to Be One of Those Days

Not even 9 am here in the east yet, and already two ridiculous news stories have cast a pall on an otherwise unseasonably warm (and much welcome) Friday.

First, the Washington Post offers this lame story from Eric Pianin (surely one of the most mediocre environmental reporters at any major paper) about novelist Eugene Linden, who has written a novel about climate change in the form of a "who-dunnit" murder mystery set over a span of 4,000 years. Can’t wait.

Then over at the New York Times, Sen. Jeffords (who??) and another author raise an alarm about the EPA’s proposed changes to their annual measure called the "Toxics Release Inventory" (TRI). The TRI is one of the most burdensome reporting programs of the government, and even the EPA notes its serious limitations as an indicator of chemical risk or environmental quality. Now, I actually review all 500 pages of the TRI every year, and every year the EPA prominently says this:

This information does not indicate whether (or to what degree) the public has been exposed to toxic chemicals. Therefore, no conclusions on the potential risks can be made based solely on this information (including any ranking information).

So everyone can relax. The EPA is probably doing something sensible for a change. Jeffords will soon be gone from the Senate, probably to be replaced by an open socialist (Bernie Sanders), which will at least mean truth in advertising for a change. And much deserved for Vermont.

Principle and history

James W. Ceaser has written some very good books, including this and this., and I think I’ve read them all and profited from them all. This one may be his best. It is called Nature and History in American Political Development. It was the inaugural Alexis de Tocqueville Lecture at Harvard in 2004 and has comments (chapters, really) from Jack Rakove, Nancy Rosenblum, and Rogers Smith. Ceasar’s lecture (about 100 pages, or half the book) is simply terrific. He traces what he calls foundational concepts throughout American history, from Nature as a permanent, unchanging, or standard of right, to the idea of the Historical School (tradition), and then to the Philosophy of History (progress). To be short about it: Jefferson says we did not need to search musty records to "investigate the laws and institutions of a semi-barbarous ancestry. We appealed to those of nature, and found them engraved in our hearts." Then compare Woodrow Wilson, who said this (at a Jefferson day celebration, no less!): "if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface."

Ceasar understands that the two make claims of right. He artfully explains and interprets our history in light of this battle, explains how and why customary history is often sufficient to be used on behalf of natural right (see the Whigs elevation of tradition pre-1850’s), and then why Republicans (and then Lincoln’s statesmanship) came to see the necessity of an emphasis on nature again. And then Ceasar traces the
dark ages during the Reconstruction period when the Darwinian (Hegelian) ideas were allowed deep entry into American political life: "The original idea of natural right lost ground, and with it any plan for securing for the rights of all citizens."
Then came the Progressives--and Ceasar says that the name does not deceive--and their
full-throated attack on the idea of natural right, "making Progressivism the first major national movement to offer the concept of History as the nation’s primary foundational idea." He then talks about the present and how Progressivism has collapsed and how the new element has been introduced into American politics: "a restoration of the foundational concept of nature." And this has been done not on the basis of myth or convenient fiction (or something merely salutary), but "as something intelligible based on an account of the nature of human beings and of the political order."

You get the drift. Ceasar has it right, the essay is elegant and will lead you to all manner of good ideas. Get the book and chew on it.

Cindy Sheehan in Ohio

This news account from the Akron Beacon Journal announces an upcoming meeting of the Summit County Progressive Democrats--a meeting at which Cindy Sheehan is expected to speak. Akron is a short drive from Ashland, the meeting is free (so even starving college students can afford it) and it could be highly amusing. I’d love to hear what they think they’re going to do with Blackwell.

Our Manly Chief Justice

Chief Justice John Roberts gave a very well-received speech yesterday (his first since his swearing in) at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The event was sold out and even had the local television reporters gushing with enthusiasm about him. I can’t resist passing on this great line from his speech: You remember his precocious little son, Jack? Apparently when the little guy was told that his father had been named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and that this was a very important job, his face lit up and he asked, "Daddy . . . do you get a sword?"!

The Books of Virtue

Everyone recalls Bill Bennett’s best-selling compilation that became The Book of Virtues. Now, with the publication of Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness, we can now contemplate a whole bookshelf of virtues. Start with my Greatness, and then put in your onlne shopping cart James Bowman’s forthcoming book Honor, and add to it Joseph Epstein’s forthcoming book Friendship.

Manliness, Greatness, Honor, and Friendship. Soon to be an Ashbrook Center symposium?

Islam losing PR battle

The WaPo reports that a recent poll shows "a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence." The poll found that nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001. This shouldn’t surprise us, of course. You Americans are still looking for the moderates. Keep looking.

And you thought Syriana was bad...

Next Friday V for Vendetta opens in theaters nationwide. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, the hero is a terrorist who blows up buildings and assassinates political leaders in an alternate reality world where the British government is vaguely fascist. Okay, nobody expects Hollywood to get behind our president, or the war in Iraq, but is it too much to ask that occasionally a studio make a movie in which the terrorists are the bad guys? This isn’t moral relativism; it’s moral inversion.

In the late 1930s, to help gin up support for rearmament and a more internationalist foreign policy, the Roosevelt administration pressured the big Hollywood studios into making anti-Nazi and pro-military films. If they didn’t, the administration vaguely hinted, there might be a need to nationalize the motion picture industry in the name of national security. Would that be too much to ask for today?

Faith-based initiative

I’ve written about this umpteen times before, but President Bush’s faith-based initiative is in the news again.

After the impressive faith-based response to Hurricane Katrina, who could doubt the effectiveness of fbo’s?

Here’s the report causing most of the current round of reporting, especially when taken together with the President’s order creating a faith-based office in DHS.

Update: For more news coverage, go here. For more of the same old, same old fulmination, go here and here.

Update #2: President Bush delivered a very Tocquevillian speech on his faith-based initiative today, calling attention as well to these achievements. This article highlights one aspect of the speech and indicates why presidential leadership is necessary--too many philanthropies seem unwilling or unable to support fbo’s.

More manliness

By all means, listen to Peter’s podcast interview with Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.; he described it aptly. If you want to see, as well as hear, HCM on this subject, ISI has video of a Cicero’s Podium debate on the subject here.

For those who’d prefer to read, here’s James Bowman’s review and here’s an interview conducted around the time of the videotaped debate.

An argument for the return of in loco parentis

Liberal arts college students setting church fires in Alabama. Here’s an account of the student response:

On the Birmingham-Southern campus, peers of the two students, who are active in the campus theater scene, expressed shock. Moseley “is a goofy guy who loves making people laugh,” said Ashley Pope, editor of the campus paper, The Hilltop News, which published an article yesterday (written before the revelations) about the two students’ promising acting careers. “I’ve never seen or heard of him committing evil or violent acts before and I never imagined that he would be capable of something like this.”

She added: “If I had to guess, he considered it to be a joke and it went way too far. He doesn’t always think about consequences of what he does, he acts spur of the moment. Nine churches, of course, suggest premeditation, so it is very out of character.”

The law requires that we treat them as adults, but they’re not, at least on more occasions than we’d like to imagine.

Update: It occurred to me that I might be misunderstood, so let me be clear. These college students should be charged as adults and, if found guilty, punished to the full extent of the law. The law to which I was referring above is the one that requires me to secure a student’s permission before I can communicate any sort of information to his or her parents. That’s the law that assumes, in effect, that college students no longer need "parenting." As this example indicates, some clearly do. Unfortunately for them, the "tough love" that holds them responsible is going to come from the judicial system. Unfortunately for the churches, the tough love didn’t come sooner.

AAUP on Rumsfeld

I’ve never thought of joining the AAUP; this vindicates my indifference. Whether or not there’s a military recruiter on campus has nothing to do with academic freedom, which I thought had to do with the freedom of teaching and inquiry (within the limits of the law of libel, say). I’m still in control of my syllabus. My research and writing agendas are unaffected. The university remains a big tent, in aspiration, if not necessarily always in fact.

A more grown-up view can be found here.

Socrates as Achilles at Harvard

As I said here the other day, I love Mansfield’s book Manliness. It is a tough and just assertion of manliness in a world that is quite confused. We had a brief conversation today, or, maybe better put, two real-men asserted things to one another (oh, but I flatter myself!). It’s out as a podcast on You Americans. Enjoy it and go buy the book. By the way, somebody with a lot of money should send a copy of the book not only to Larry Summers, but one to each member of the Harvard Corporation.

Abortion politics, after South Dakota

Get Religion calls our attention to this carefully-done LAT article on the way in which South Dakota’s virtually total abortion ban (covered very well by our friends at South Dakota Politics) is roiling both sides of the abortion debate. Folks who are pro-life worry that the prospect of hearing the inevitable court case will make the next Supreme Court nomination battle even more toxic. Some think that a more prudent strategy is to continue chipping away at the precedents and to continue to move public opinion in a pro-life direction.

On the other side, the pro-choice folks are divided between those who think it’s important strategically to give some ground on the moral question in order to protect the choice:

The liberal think tank Third Way is circulating a memo on Capitol Hill advising politicians who support abortion rights to recalibrate their message. Instead of stressing a woman’s right to choose, they should tell voters that they support "personal liberty," but accept that it’s a "moral responsibility" to reduce the number of abortions.

This strikes me as nothing new--it’s just a version of the old "safe, legal, and rare" formula, which I discussed (most recently) here. But for some, this apparently (and astoundingly) concedes too much:

Such tactical positioning infuriates Dr. Warren Hern, who runs an abortion clinic in Boulder, Colo. He, too, would like to see fewer women with unwanted pregnancies; he counsels all his patients on contraception. But in his view, the availability of safe, legal abortions should be a cause for national pride — not shame.

He urges politicians to respond to the South Dakota ban with statements like this: "Before 1973, women were dying like flies from illegal abortions. That has stopped, and it’s one of the great public health success stories of the 20th century."

Susan Hill agrees. She’s president of the National Women’s Health Organization, which runs abortion clinics in five states, and she has been flooded with calls and e-mails from supporters outraged at South Dakota’s ban.

Hill sees only one way to capitalize on that anger: a campaign to remind Americans that abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in this country. One out of every three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

"We need to make people realize that this is about them: Their family. Their daughter," Hill said.

Above all, she said: "We have to stop apologizing" for the nation’s abortion rate — and start mobilizing the millions of women "who believe it was the best choice for them."

While the new salience of the "safe, legal, and rare" strategy explains something of the recent letter from Catholic Democrats in the House, the latter indicates a problem the Democratic Party is going to have holding its coalition together.

In closing, I’ll note that my friend John Seery is afforded the last word in the LAT article: "There is no conventional wisdom at this point," he said. "The traditional camps aren’t pursuing the traditional strategies … All bets are off. We’re in a period of transition."

No More "Yuck Factor" for Polygamy?

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a piece for the now defunct Women’s Quarterly (still available on-line through The Claremont Institute) about the attempt of the National Organization for Women to embrace polygamy as an attractive alternative for feminists. I tried to show then that this was but the logical conclusion of many feminist arguments regarding sex and marriage. It was of a piece with the larger cultural war in which we were asked to reconsider all sexual taboos and open up our minds and hearts to things formerly considered perversion or oppression. Still, at the time it was so shocking to most people that NOW quickly tried to disassociate itself from the position it clearly had staked out at a Utah meeting. Emissaries of the group denounced my reporting in the Washington Times but ultimately could not deny that my sources said what they said; namely: "We fight for lesbian families and single parent families. I don’t know why we wouldn’t support this."

What a difference a decade makes! As Peter has noted before, HBO will be airing a new series called Big Love in which the characters involved are part of a polygamous relationship. Maggie Gallagher has written a punchy article about the dawning of this brave new world in entertainment. Most disturbing, she quotes the series’ co-creator Mark Olsen speaking in Newsweek: "Big Love is everything that every family faces, just times three. The yuck factor disappears and you just see human faces." Uh, sorry, but YUCK!

Ramirez Cartoon

The tart new Chief

I like this George Will column on the Supreme Court’s decision on military recruiters on campus. The Court came to the right conclusion and did it in an appealing way. Will likes the new Chief Justice: "Roberts’s shredding of the law schools’ arguments included a tartness that betrayed impatience with law professors who cannot understand pertinent distinctions."

Will the House Swing?

Jay Cost considers the number of open seats in Congressional races this year. The Dems may gain two from open seats, but cannot take back the House, he concludes. Good article. 

Warrantless surveillance

The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved a bill, sponsored by Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, outlining procedures for warrantless wiretapping of communications in which one party is overseas and at least one party is suspected of belonging to or collaborating with a known terrorist group: the government can do so for 45 days, after which it must either seek a warrant from the FISA Court or certify that national security requires its continuation to a newly-created subcommittee. The Administration says that it welcomes this effort to "codify the President’s authority."

I find this reminiscent of the War Powers Resolution, which purports to establish procedures for introducing U.S. troops into combat situations. Presidents have always claimed inherent authority to do so and have regarded following the WPR as a kind of courtesy, rather than as a legal requirement. Similarly, no one should make the assumption here that the Bush Administration is conceding that it needs Congressional authorization to conduct this surveillance.

Democrats, Catholics, and evangelicals

This week’s TAE Online column discusses Democratic efforts to win over evangelicals and Catholics, building upon themes I began to develop here and here.

Parental notification and teen abortion

This NYT article, contending that parental notification laws have little effect on teen abortion rates, has gotten lots of attention. The University of Alabama’s Michael J. New has a different view. Using what he regards as more reliable numbers, he concludes:

[I]n three of the five other states analyzed by the Times reporters, I found significant reductions in the teen abortion rate after the passage of a parental-involvement law. In Texas, the teen abortion rate has fallen by 25 percent since the passage of the parental-notification law in 2000. Furthermore, both Virginia and South Dakota passed parental-notification laws in 1997. Since that time, the teen abortion rate in each state declined by over 33 percent.

It is true that in the remaining two states, Idaho and Tennessee, the passage of parental-involvement laws seems to have had little immediate short-term effect on each state’s teen abortion rate. However, additional information about each state provides some important context. Idaho already had one of the lowest teen abortion rates in the country prior to the passage of a parental-consent law. Similarly, Tennessee’s teen abortion rate fluctuated little in the years following the passage of its parental consent law in 2000. However, the Tennessee’s teen abortion rate fell sharply in the year before the passage of the law. It seems possible that Tennessee’s law might have played a role in preserving this decline.

You can find a more extensive version of the study on which this article is based here.

No war of ideas in Europe

Dutch Jewish novelist and commentator Leon de Winter (about whom more here) argues, in effect, that there is no war of ideas in Europe since the Europeans have surrendered. A taste:

But what does Western civilization mean in and to Europe? In the European welfare state, the system ensures that each individual can rely on maximum social security. Without doubt, the welfare state is the ultimate achievement of European civilization. But it did not come without a philosophy: the welfare state gave birth to a postmodern cultural relativism that underpins the tolerant, liberal, pacifistic and secular European societies of today.

Only the Earth is still a planet on which opposing forces collide. The welfare state, based on its provision of social services and the participation of reasonably acting civilians, is unable to respond to globalization or mass immigration. Its structures work as long as the system is closed. But because of vast changes in demographics and economics, the welfare state has become too expensive. All over Europe its fundaments are cracking.

This crisis is serious enough. The European political establishment is too preoccupied with its internal problems to even contemplate problems beyond its shores. Its philosophy holds that "soft power" alone can be brought to bear in any conflict between power blocs or ideologies or civilizations. That explains Europe’s inability or unwillingness to defend the freedom of speech in one of the smallest EU member states, Denmark, during the Cartoon War. That’s why there is near silence in Europe about the daily anti-Semitic provocations from Iran, which says that it’ll hit Jews worldwide if Israel tries to destroy the Iranian nuclear program.

The EU does not know why it should ever sacrifice its sons in military conflict. What sacred values are worth defending at such a high cost? The EU isn’t prepared to enter a conflict with Iran, with all its potentially devastating human casualties and economic hardships.

Read the whole thing.  


On the morning of May 6, 1945, Lou Dunst was literally at death’s door. A 19-year-old Ukrainian Jew in a Nazi concentration camp in Austria, he had crawled onto a pile of corpses outside the crematorium to perish. But that afternoon, Staff Sgt. Bob Persinger drove his tank "Lucky Lady" through the camp’s gates, liberating Dunst and the rest of Ebensee’s 18,000 prisoners. Dunst and Persinger met for the first time yesterday. Read the story and know why you are not a pacifist.

Desertion decline since 9/11

A short note on military desertion in the USA Today deserves notice: "At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001."

The decline of the West, part 467,321

Reese Witherspoon is related to John Witherspoon.

More Democrats and religion

Amy Sullivan writes about Democratic efforts to court moderate evangelicals. Her argument about their discomfort with the Republicans gives the lie to the "Republicans are theocrats" line, since she claims, pace Rod Dreher, that Republicans are much more serious about business interests than about religious interests. I can’t dispute the fact that there are "soulless capitalists" in the Republican Party, but I can’t help wondering whether evangelicals will ultimately fare any better with the Democrats. There will surely be a courtship, and there will be some sops thrown, but I’m dubious as to whether the Democrats can overcome their attachment to an essentially secular understanding of personal autonomy.

Of course, the concessions may be enough to detach some more evangelicals from the Republican coalition, at least for long enough to make an election cycle or two more interesting.

What’s more instructive, I think, is the suggestion that serious religious concerns, commitments, and affiliations don’t readily or directly track their political counterparts. Genuinely religious people are not solidly members of any political coalition since their concerns aren’t primarily political. Those who treat them in a merely political way are bound sooner or later to be unpleasantly (at least from their worldly point of view) surprised.

Update: Joseph Bottum offers a more explicitly political reading--focusing, of course, on abortion--of the Democrats’ religious dilemma than I do. I think that, as I said in an earlier post, the problem extends beyond abortion to a thoroughgoing attachment to human power of all sorts. While there may not be much humility and sense of limits in the Republican Party, there’s even less among the Democrats.

The war of ideas in Europe

Mike DeBow calls our attention to this speech on Europe and Islam. A snippet:

Put it another way: if you were Osama bin Laden at this moment, why would you leave the comfort of your own cave? Why risk turning on your mobile phone, dialling friends and family in order to plan the next mission, when the West is doing a nice job of self-destructing without you? Why bother beating on the infidels when the infidels are busy beating on themselves. Half a dozen low-ranking troops abuse Iraqi detainees and before you know it the Western elites claim (like Robert Fisk did in Britain’s Independent) that the West now has no moral authority and no right to act. And more and more Europeans nod sagely and agree how awful we are. Angela Merkel gets three hours with the President and uses her time to stand up for those poor little mujahideen holed up in Guantanamo who didn’t fight by the Geneva conventions and so I believe shouldn’t be treated as if they did.

For more along these lines, go here and here.

Supreme Court Rebuffs F.A.I.R.

As noted below, the Supreme Court today unanimously rebuffed many of the nation’s top law schools, upholding the federal Solomon Amendment, which requires schools receiving federal funding to permit military recruiters on campus.

In the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court first rejected a novel argument that had been put forward by the Harvard Law Faculty. It then turned to each of the many other arguments made by the F.A.I.R. organization, which brought the case, rejecting each of them in turn. The law schools are not forced to speak merely by permitting the military on campus for recruiting purposes, nor are they being forced to associate with the military in the way that James Dale had sought to associate with the Boy Scouts.

The Claremont Institute filed a brief in the case, and it seems to have had some influence, particulary on the Court’s holding that the Solomon Amendment was not an unconstitutional condition on federal spending because Congress could actually impose the military recruitment requirement even apart from the federal spending. Left unaddressed--though now getting a bit of a spotlight--is the fact, learned by many during the course of the litigation, that Harvard (with its $30BILLION endowment) receives more than $300 MILLION annually from the federal government. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the Harvard faculty to start protesting that corporate welfare any time soon.

The most troubling aspect of the case was how easily many of our nation’s top legal scholars were tempted to ignore clear constitutional law in order to reach their preferred outcome. The Court’s unanimous slapdown of their ill-conceived claims would, in a more perfect world, convince the dons of the legal academy that the Court is not the place to play out political disputes. Unfortunately, that is not likely.

Military recruiters on campus

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Solomon Amendment, rejecting a First Amendment challenge to the requirement that institutions that take federal money have to permit military recruiters on campus. I’ll have more later, when I have the time to read the opinion. Power Line, which was all over this issue earlier (no time to provide links), is sure to have commentary later in the day. The Volokh Conspiracy already has a brief snippet from the opinion, while How Appealing has all the relevant links.

Jon Stewart, Conservative Sleeper Agent?

I gather there was some kind of movie awards show on last night--I never pay attention to these things--where the host, Jon Stewart, is said to have bombed badly. I confess to being a fan of Stewart on "The Daily Show," and that, since so many college kids get their only news and commentary from The Daily Show, I often use Daily Show clips in the political science course I teach at Georgetown, notwithstanding Stewart’s professed liberalism. I find it is a good way to loosen up students and get them talking in class.

But according to this article, Stewart is doing great damage to the "progressive" cause. Who knew? Maybe I should show even more Stewart clips in class.

November, 2006

According to this article, Democrats have yet to settle on a way of nationalizing the upcoming election, which could make it difficult for them to wrest Congress from the Republicans. The electoral math is against them (only 32 competitive House seats, 11 currently held by Democrats, 21 by Republicans): they can’t run the table without something like the 1994 Contract with America. I suspect that, whatever they say, they’re going to rely on something like Bush fatigue, to which the response probably will be a reliance on Bush fatigue fatigue. In other words, I don’t think that an essentially negative campaign (likely, because negativism has dominated the Democrats since November, 2000) will succeed, but I also don’t think the Democrats will be able to find anything else to unite them and energize their base. Just as the Republicans in 1998 looked like the party of Clinton hatred, so the Democrats in 2006 look like the party of Bush hatred. Right now, I’d bet the big changes, if they come at all, will come in 2008.

NYT Finally Dishes on "Brokeback Mountain"

Well sort of. In Sunday’s New York Times travel section, there is a long article on spring skiing at Jackson, Wyoming. Along the way, this paragraph appears:

With lactic acid searing our muscles, there was only one thing to do, especially since Jackson’s boutiques had all closed. . . That one thing Saturday night was: "Brokeback Mountain," playing at the Jackson Hole cinema. For $7.50 each, we learned just how popular the gay cowboy movie is here in the state in which it is set: we were two of the four people in the audience.

The NYT "public editor" can now point to this as proof of the Times balanced coverage of the movie.