Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Ecco il Nemico

Here’s a nice, big chocolate Easter bunny for you: Maryscott O’Connor, perhaps the angriest of all the Angry Left. It seems she has a compulsive personality; is anyone surprised by that revelation?

Religion and immigration again

I took some heat for my criticism of Cardinal Mahony’s threat to engage in civil disobedience if the House immigration bill became law.

I probably should have softened the language a bit, arguing that the threat of civil disobedience runs the risk of turning natural law into a cover for all sorts of defiance of positive law. I stand behind the thrust of my analysis and would continue to raise the following question. Does Cardinal Mahony think it should be a crime actually to assist people to cross the border illegally, regardless of one’s motives in so doing? It’s one thing to help out immigrants, no questions asked, who present themselves at your doorstep. It’s another altogether to help them into the country. I take it that everyone thinks the "coyotes" are despicable criminals. What if "well-intentioned humanitarians" got into the business, arguing that sneaking into the country is inevitable, that the border is a meaningless line anyway, that as citizens of the world, we should share our wealth and resources, and that decent folks would actually help, rather than exploit, the immigrants? I don’t know whether this is a fanciful scenario or not. I do know that Cardinal Mahony’s argument, surely unintentionally, worked to diminish the difference between compassionate humanitarians and human traffickers.

One could of course defend the Cardinal’s tactic by arguing that it was effective:

House Republicans also said yesterday they are committed to rewriting a section of their immigration bill that caused an uproar among religious and humanitarian leaders who say the law could be used to prosecute them if they unwittingly give food or shelter to someone who turns out to be an illegal alien.

Since the House passed its bill in December, Democrats have seized upon the criticism as another reason for opposing the border security legislation.

"It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures, because this bill would literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, said last month.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said the provision is aimed at the ruthless "coyotes" and "snake-heads" who smuggle people into the country.

"Since the House bill’s passage, many have misconstrued the House’s good-faith effort to bring human traffickers to justice as a way to criminalize humanitarian assistance efforts," Mr. Sensenbrenner and other Republican leaders wrote in a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The House bill does no such thing, nor did it intend to."

Under current law, it is illegal to transport, harbor or conceal aliens and to encourage or induce them to remain in the United States. House Judiciary Republicans say courts have interpreted these laws broadly to mean "help or advise," and yet they have never been used to prosecute humanitarians.

"We can assure you, just as under current law, religious organizations would not have to ’card’ people at soup kitchens and homeless shelters under the House bill’s anti-smuggling provisions," Mr. Sensenbrenner wrote. "Prosecutors would no sooner prosecute good Samaritans for ’assisting’ illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. under the House bill than they would prosecute such persons for ’encouraging’ illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. under current law."

The aforementioned letter from Reps. Sensenbrenner, King, and Hyde can be found here. I think that it stacks up pretty well as an example of sober and prudent moral reasoning about a contentious political issue.

I also thank all my friends who took the time to look at my original piece and offer me their honest judgments about its tone and substance.

Update: Rob Vischer asks some interesting questions.

Update #2: I had a vague recollection of this in mind when I raised my questions above. Thanks, again to Rob Vischer, who asks still more interesting questions.

Cynthia McKinney again

I noted earlier this week that blogger Will Hinton was contemplating challenging Cynthia McKinney. He’s now reporting rumors that Denise Majette, who unseated McKinney in 2002, would challenge her again. Since Majette recently announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the state Superintendent of Schools, I’m not sure.

Majette could conceivably win that statewide race (unlike the one she jumped to when McKinney made noises about reclaiming her old seat in 2004), but it would have to be a good year for Democrats, which I don’t think 2006 will be in Georgia. On the other hand, the fact that she’s interested in running for something suggests that she hasn’t gotten politics out of her system. She also has presumably begun to raise money and put together a campaign organization, all of which could be redeployed relatively rapidly in a primary race against McKinney. While the Anybody But Cynthia people would presumably relish the prospect of such an ostensibly credible challenger, I think that this is one case in which McKinney might actually have the upper hand. Majette has "abandoned" the district once before, leaving behind some bitterly disappointed supporters. Her ambition--er, I mean, dedication to public service--can be said to be inconstant, whereas McKinney’s is constant.

I dunno. Majette and McKinney have reasonably similar voting records (though Majette is not reflexively anti-israel, as McKinney is). If I lived in the district, I’d be part of the ABC crowd. Indeed, when CM was my Congresswoman, I was part of the ABC crowd, voting twice for Majette. (Yes, I have voted for Democrats in the past, even when there was a Republican challenger.) But since the district lines were redrawn, I’m no longer stuck with McKinney, which sorely tempts me to want to see her continue to serve, albeit ineffectively, so that she continues to be an albatross around the necks of the Democrats. But in the end, I wouldn’t wish her on my friends and colleagues who live in the District, and I think that her polarizing presence isn’t good for politics, even if it is good for Republicans.

Update: See Steve Hayward’s comment below. On Georgia’s campaign finance laws, see here. For Majette’s current election filing status, see here.

John Fonte on immigration

I talked about illegal immigration with John Fonte of the Hudson Institute yesterday for a Podcast.

The Party of Death

I received my copy of Ramesh Ponnuru’s new book. It’s next in line for stationary bike and bedtime reading, right after I get through Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy, on which I’m wasting my time so that you won’t have to waste your’s. (I don’t expect a similar reaction to Ponnuru’s book, by the way.)

Steyn on Iran and Europe/Vets for Freedom

Hugh Hewitt has the best guests and the best interviews on the radio today. Yesterday, in the event you missed it, Hugh interviewed Mark Steyn regarding this article on Iran (posted earlier by Steve). You can read a transcript of the interview here. Steyn also talked brilliantly--if alarmingly--about the outcome of the recent Italian elections where the leftist party took control of the government. More indication, in his mind, that Europe is headed past the point of redemption and on toward complete capitulation.

While you’re there, you should also take a look at the interview with Lt. Wade Zirkle--the man responsible for this fine article (sorry registration is required--but it’s free) and this fine organization. Lt. Zirkle told of the things that inspired him to work toward providing a voice for the men and women serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan in the current political debate surrounding the war. One particularly moving (and, I might add, manly) story was about one Doc Worley. This guy was hit in an i.e.d. attack in 2004, and had his leg instantly blown off. He had the composure to apply his own tourniquet and then drag himself over to the humvee where his fellow soldiers lay injured and adminster aid to them! These are the kind of people working with his group, Vets for Freedom. I have no doubt they can and will influence the debate in a positive way.

Isabella and Measure

Yes, her name is from Measure for Measure. I thought a bit about it, had some conversations with friends about her character (even though I hadn’t met her, she already had a reputation), and was persuaded that it should be Isabella. Why? Well, the temptation to pontificate on this and all other private matters is almost overwhelming (why does having a blog seem like I am standing in the middle of the piazza naked?)...yet, I will not be absolute. It is a great play, a dark comedy, they call it. A city in trouble, it is dissolute, laws mean nothing, bad rule. No citizens. No families. No moderation, but plenty of illicit passion and extreme chastity; and justice is bitter, harsh and cruel. "Liberty plucks justice by the nose, / The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart / Goes all decorum". Even virtue in such a setting seems rabid. In what form should moderation and love and mercy come? There is much art and statesmanship, and a disposition of natures, and a Duke of dark corners, and a famous bed trick, and a resolution in which lust becomes ethical and caring love: "What’s mine is yours, and what is yours is mine." And around Isabella’s soul and mind and body the good thing revolves and resolves. And now is a just city possible, and not merely as a splendid vice.


The picture, worth more than my words, is below. Picked her up on the other side of Ft. Knox at about Noon yesterday (Roger took me down) and rode back home the long and slow way. Kentucky back-roads, horses and fences and farms and then the lilting accents of the locals when I was forced to stop. She growls and purrs and throbs and moves at an easy three-quarter speed. Even when I let her stretch her long legs (which I did just to see how it felt) she seems easy and slinky in her movements. Even at speed she is relaxed and informal. Four hundred miles later, home at midnight, the sun was still shining. The perfect ride. The perfect bike.

Is "Tough-Minded Progressive" an Oxymoron?

Maybe not. Check out the Euston Manifesto. I doubt we’ll ever hear this much sense from American "Progressives" (though note that Paul Berman is a signatory of this manifesto), but we’ll get a sense of this when we see the Left’s reaction to Peter Beinart’s forthcoming book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals--and Only Liberals--Can Win the War on Terrorism and Make America Great Again. Most people on the Left didn’t like the short version of this he published in The New Republic last year.


The great debate

I don’t yet have anything to add to this rather heated exchange, as I’m still plowing through this uncharitable piece, but it strikes me that those who want to understand the issues that animated Strauss are better served by turning to this book, reviewed here..

Argh, I can’t help myself! I have a preliminary thought, subject to much revision. Ryn makes much of incarnation and synthesis, and, apparently, of the Incarnation as an example of synthesis. Which comes first for him, synthesis or Incarnation? If the former, then he strikes me as, ultimately, a polytheist opposed both to Judaism and Christianity, on the one hand, and to philosophy as Strauss understood it, on the other.

More later, when I can catch a breath.

Update: Someone’s unhappy with me, apparently unaware that I am aware of the significance of the Incarnation, either as the example par excellence of "synthesis" or as the only real "synthesis." (I’ve read a little theology.) My point is a simple one, I think: yes, you can say that all particular histories acquire their significance as part of God’s providential plan and that each of us is significant because we’re created in God’s image. But all those particular histories (call them national histories, if you will) have to be understood in the light of the Incarnation, i.e., of the "synthesis." There is a tendency among traditionalist conservatives (and I don’t know Ryn’s work well enough to judge the extent to which he shares it) to "apotheosize" the local and the particular, which (to be sure) has its place, but pales in significance before the way in which we participate in the universal history of salvation. Stated in Augustinian terms, some traditionalists seem to be in the thrall of the City of Man and not to recognize how their participation in that City is qualified by their membership in the City of God.

But, once again, I have other things I need to be doing.

Extra, Extra, Get It While It’s Hot!

The 11th edition of my annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators was released yesterday. You can download it for free from this link.

Of special note in this year’s edition is an analysis of environmental trends in China. The media all say China is going to hell; the data say something different. China’s shockingly high pollution levels have started to fall, which is exactly what economists predict happens when you have rapid economic growth.

Student political opinions

These two articles summarize the findings of this survey of student attitudes.

A quick first response: I’m not much surprised by this snapshot of student opinion, both with respect to its general orientation and with respect to its slight move over time in a direction not heartening to Republicans. While student opinion and political behavior might make a difference on the margins in the upcoming elections (more in 2008 than in 2006--and you have to bear in mind that this survey is next to useless in offering any insight into an election more than two years away), the undergraduate years are typically a high water mark for liberalism and liberal attitudes. Students for the most part don’t own homes and have families, both of which tend to make them more conservative.

There is one noteworthy result, though I don’t quite know what to make of it yet. 51% of the respondents agreed that stem cell research is a question of morality; 62% agreed that abortion is a question of morality; and 50% agreed that gay marriage policy is a question of morality. This of course doesn’t mean that they’re taking "conservative" views of the subjects. They might be "morally" committed to a position of choice or autonomy. That 25% of the students are identified as "religious centrists," which apparently means (among other things) that they oppose gay marriage and abortion, while taking more "liberal" stances on other issues, suggests at least that a substantial portion of those who call these issues questions of morality really mean that they oppose stem cell reasearch, gay marriage, etc. How much that opposition will influence their voting behavior is another question altogether. (Many "religious centrists" are African-American and Hispanic. The social conservatism of the former group hasn’t led many of them into the Republican camp, though upcoming campaigns in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland might begin to attract them.)

The contest for control of Congress

Amazingly enough, this WaPo article suggests that the Democrats have fallen short in their effort to recruit first-tier challengers for the fall House races. For more on this subject, focusing on the special election in California, see Jay Cost’s analysis on RCP.

Beware of Google

So say the jihadists.

Political Disappointment in the Ukraine and the Limits of Democracy

I would never make the ridiculous suggestion that American politics are comparable to Ukrainian politics, but the trials and travails of Viktor Yushchenko following his triumph in the so-called "Orange Revolution" of 2004 (when, you may recall, he survived even poisoning) may offer a window into the souls of Bush’s leftist critics in America.

Anne Applebaum offers an interesting analysis of the source of Mr. Yushchenko’s post-triumphal woes.

The Ukrainian people--accustomed as they are to an omnipotent government and strong-arming government agencies--simply expect too much from their democratically elected leader. To be sure, there is more to Mr. Yushchenko’s relative weakness than the nature of democracy. He is, after all, governing the Ukraine. Enough said.

But Yushchenko’s critics remind me of Bush’s leftist critics in their almost quaint belief in the power and ability of government to "change things" or "get things done." Leftists persist in this mafioso mentality, even as they push to continue the creation of the massive bureaucracy that both frustrates and creates the demand for such slavish behavior. But Heaven forfend that a strong executive use his powers in the service of something truly executive--like conducting war! Shaking down some money out of Congress for my pet project on the other hand? You betcha! Read Applebaum’s piece and see if you don’t find yourself substituting Bush’s name for Yushchenko’s on occasion. The real problem with America’s leftists is not that they are too liberal. True liberalism values liberty and the courage it takes to defend it. These folks are ubsequious kisser-ups to tyranny in all its forms.


No one at NLT has yet linked to Mark Steyn’s indispensible article on Iran, which is well-timed to coincide with Iran’s latest incitement for war--the announcement yesterday that they have passed the uranium reprocessing stage. My guess is that Iran’s crack-brained president actually wants us and/or the Israelis to attack Iran, hoping to explode the entire Middle East while we are overextended.

BONUS for all you NLT trolls: I’ve been reading Ken Adelman’s oral history (part of the Ronald Reagan Oral History Project at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center), where he tells the story of accompanying Jimmy Carter to Wiesbaden, West Germany to meet the freed hostages from Iran. Adelman confirms that the hostages greeted Carter angrily. But the really amazing thing was Carter’s reaction to being told by the doctors of the torture the hostages had undergone. Carter asked the head doctor, "Didn’t they know that this was wrong to do?" The doctor asked, "What do you mean?" Carter repeated, "They know that this is wrong to do." The incredulous doctor could only reply, McCoy-like, "I’m just a doctor. . . I don’t know what the Iranians think."

Adelman thought Carter’s question was "profoundly imbecilic." Just like his presidency.

More immigration thoughts

This week’s TAE Online column affords everyone yet another opportunity to tell me how I’m wrong about immigration. Fire away!

John Lewis this evening

Rep. John Lewis spoke at my institution this evening. Much of the talk was autobiographical and is familiar to readers of his book.

A few points are worth noting, however. First, he stressed that things are much better than they once were. While this is a truism, it probably discomfits those who are only too eager to lament life in George W. Bush’s Amerikkka. Second, in response to a question about Cynthia McKinney, he cracked, "I told her she should take a course in non-violence." More seriously, he averred that there was never any justification for striking a police officer.

However admirable and courageous Rep. Lewis is, I part company with him on immigration. He wrapped the current marches in the mantle of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and asserted that we were, above all else, "citizens of the world" who should share. No national sovereignty, no consent of the governed, no principles of the Declaration of Independence, which justify the self-government of a particular community. I do not deny that I have a moral obligation to love my neighbor, but I do deny that that obligation requires me to extend citizenship to anyone and everyone who demands it. And lest you think that I would thereby justify denying civil rights, say, to African-Americans, I insist that there’s a morally and politically significant distinction between those who were brought to this country against their wills and those who came, or wish to come, here voluntarily.

When asked what the major current civil rights challenge is, Rep. Lewis said, universal access to health care as a matter of right. If you put that together with the aforementioned claim, there is, according to him, a universal human right to access to American health care. And we worried when the Clintons wanted to commandeer 14% of the U.S. economy!

I’m glad that John Lewis was influential in the past. But the future he envisions scares me more than a little.


I’m going to Kentucky tomorrow to meet Isabella and ride her home. "There is not a minute of our lives should stretch/Without some pleasure now."

On German Restaurants

Joe Knippenberg referred here to the imminent closing of Berghoff’s, a traditional German restaurant in Chicago. Looking back, I tried to arrange a dinner there in early December for a Liberty Fund conference, and found the sales staff strangely unwilling to accommodate our group’s needs. At the time I found it baffling, but now it makes perfect sense--a classic case of short timer’s attitude.

In my reference to the Jacob Wirth in Boston, I failed to mention one of its most striking characteristics--a gigantic old bar that occupies most of one wall. The workmanship is amazing, although it shows signs of wear; after all, it’s experienced over 125 years of heavy use. But what I found most interesting of all were the Latin words that appear near the top of the enormous structure: "Suum Cuique." Not having ever studied Latin, I asked the bartender (oddly, an Irish lass with a pronounced accent) what it meant. "To each his own," she replied. A damn fine thing to have on a bar, I think.

I also happened to notice one potential reason why the Jacob Wirth continues to do well--it serves a lot of American fare. Our table was close to the kitchen, and I think I saw more burgers than anything else going out to the diners.

Incidentally, I would steer Ohioans who enjoy German food to Zum Rathskeller, which for years was a private dining room for members of the Columbus Maennerchor. Today it’s open to the public, with a fine selection of authentic German foods. And when the Rathskeller has a sing-along, it’s real German beer-hall music. When we went to the Jacob Wirth for their sing-along, the piano player was banging out...The Eagles. And here I was, my lungs all set for a rousing chorus of "Du, du, liebst mir im Herzen," or, better yet, the "Schnitzelbank." I blame American cultural imperialism.

McKinney challenger

This guy says he’s going to challenge Cynthia McKinney. He’s a neo-Calvinist evangelical, attending one of what I regard as the "hippie" churches in my denomination. (As an old fart, I simply can’t rock and roll on Sunday mornings.)

I have no doubt but that he will run an interesting and high-minded campaign, if he succeeds in getting on the ballot. I hope he knows what he’s in for, if McKinney perceives him as a threat.

Update: I spoke with Will Hinton today. His head is screwed on straight, and he isn’t afraid of any of the attacks that McKinney is likely to mount, should he enter the race.

My own view is that the best and perhaps only possible chance to beat her is in the Democratic primary. Unfortunately for Hinton, his political past is almost exclusively Republican.

On the other hand, lots of people across the political spectrum would love to see McKinney go (among them colleagues of mine at Oglethorpe who are quite firmly on the left). A plausible challenger wouldn’t be wanting for contributions (locally and nationally) and volunteer support. Hinton himself notes rumors of a possible high-profile entrant. If so, it will have to happen soon, since the filing deadline is looming. I’ll keep you posted.

More Linker

Books & Culture editor John Wilson writes incisively and well, showing, for example, how Linker’s analysis tracks Franklin Foer’s, all the way down to using the same mistaken formulation. Here’s Wilson’s summary of Foer (whose explanation is adopted, almost verbatim, by Linker):

Evangelicals supply the political energy, Catholics the intellectual heft." And again: in the culture wars, "evangelicals didn’t just need Catholic bodies; they needed Catholic minds to supply them with rhetoric that relied more heavily on morality than biblical quotation."

Here’s Wilson’s riposte:

In general, the figures most readily identified with the Religious Right—Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, et al.— have been negligibly influenced by Catholic thought. Among evangelical intellectuals, Catholicism is much more influential than it was a generation ago, but it is only one stream among many shaping public discourse among evangelical élites, and certainly not on a par with the Reformed tradition represented by thinkers such as Nicholas Wolterstorff, Richard Mouw, and many others. Hard as it may be for Foer and Linker to grasp, evangelicals are not entirely dependent on crumbs from the Catholic table.

Fair enough, but many of Wolterstorff’s practical political stances aren’t going to endear him to religious conservatives, while Mouw himself had this to say:

We might even ask some help from our Catholic friends, who agree with us on some of our social concerns, and who also have a long tradition of reflection on political involvement. We
evangelicals might be well served by an opportunity to do some homework, so that we can find ways to make our case on abortion and sexual behavior to our fellow citizens without simply quoting Bible verses.

Mouw and Wolterstorff both stand (with Neuhaus) for the proposition that religious language and witness can and ought to be admitted into the public square, and that speaking in biblical cadences isn’t tantamount to theocracy. Both mine traditions other than the Roman Catholic (in their case, above all the Reformed tradition) for arguments, insights, and foundational perspectives. In this respect, Wilson is right, though I’d put his argument a little differently. I’d venture that there are more readers of Books & Culture who also read First Things than there are readers of FT who also read B&C. I’d also venture that the way that most readers of B&C are exposed to ideas associated with FT is through the mediation of authors associated primarily with the former.

Ramirez Cartoon

Back from Boston

My wife and I spent a fine weekend in Boston, indulging in some mutual interests--history, eating, and drinking. When we can combine all three in one place we’re particularly happy.

Friday night we visited the Jacob Wirth Restaurant in the Theater District. This was one of those old-style German saloon/restaurants (it was established in 1868) that were once a fixture in any American city. It seems to me that good German food is getting hard to find these days--too fatty, perhaps? But I had a plate of sauerbraten, and Monica a jaegerschnitzel, that would have brought a smile to the kaiser’s face. Harpoon, a local brewery of some renown, brews a Kellerbier specially for Jacob Wirth, and it was a perfect complement to the meal.

Saturday we visited Boston’s famous North End, an old Italian neighborhood full of bakeries, delis, and restaurants, and where the Italian language is still regularly spoken. I think I can safely say that we had there for lunch the best pizza we’ve ever eaten--at Pizzeria Regina, a Boston institution since 1926. They were making pizza in brick ovens there before anyone here in Ashland even knew what pizza was.

After lunch we strolled back downtown for a drink at the Green Dragon Tavern, known as the headquarters of the American Revolution. It seems the Sons of Liberty used to meet at this place, and it was a favorite hangout for Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. Moreover, it was in the Green Dragon that a boy (I guess they weren’t checking IDs that night) overheard two British officers talking about a plan to march on nearby Lexington to arrest Adams and other patriot leaders, and to seize a store of gunpowder and supplies that the locals had socked away. As you may know, word of this impending march ultimately reached Paul Revere, who made sure the good patriots of Lexington and Concord knew about it, too.

As we left the Green Dragon, I couldn’t help wondering how many other pivotal moments in early American history began in bars. Just try to tell me that the Boston Tea Party, for example, was the work of sober, clear-headed individuals. "Hey, fellas, let’s dress up like Indians and throw some British tea in the harbor!" "Okay, but let me finish my Sam Adams."

Not Tocqueville

Martha Bayles makes clear, with style, that Bernard-Henri Levy is no Tocqueville. His book may be "the intellectual equivalent of a soufflé (a thin batter of ideas puffed up to unnatural size)." It only tastes good be when "compared with the anti-American junk food recently topping the French bestseller list." Only the review is worth reading, not the book.

Niger and Iraq and maybe some uranium

So Iraq did go uranium hunting in Niger, according to Christopher Hitchens. Well, if that don’t beat all!

SOB Alliance

No, it doesn’t stand for what you think it does. It stands for State of Ohio Bloggers Alliance. Should be a good place to visit as the election season heats up.

Environmental Politics Update

In this post a few days ago, I argued that Gore didn’t talk about the environment much in the 2000 campaign because it was a loser of an issue for him.

Now Joe Klein offers this little tidbit in his Time magazine column attacking political consultants:

In early 2003, I had dinner with several of the consultants who advised Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign. I asked them why Gore, a passionate environmentalist, had spent so little time and energy talking about the environment during the campaign. Because we told him not to, the consultants said. Why? I asked. Because it wasn’t going to help him win. "He wanted to talk about the environment," said Tad Devine, a partner in the firm of Shrum, Devine & Donilon, "and I said to him, ’Look, you can do that, but you’re not going to win a single electoral vote more than you now have. If you want to win Michigan and western Pennsylvania, here are the issues that really matter—this is what you should talk about.’"

France Surrenders Again

Well, that was fast: Chirac has caved to protesters and revoked the new youth labor law.

Fukuyama again

Courtesy of RCP, here’s Francis Fukuyama’s attempt to defend himself from his critics. He points out that he raised some cautious caution flags before the invasion. I note that, had things turned out differently (had the Iraq invasion been widely acknowledged as successful, as opposed to still a work in progress), his statements weren’t of such quality and vehemence as to have been held against him.

I note also that he’s no clearer on what he means by legitimacy than he was in the book, for which I have already criticized him. His undefined concerns about legitimacy are sounding more and more like those advanced by a certain haughty Massachusetts Democrat.

Here’s the core of FF’s current position:

It was perfectly honorable to agonize over the wisdom of the war, and in many ways admirable that people on the left, such as Christopher Hitchens, George Packer, Michael Ignatieff and Jacob Weisberg, supported intervention. That position was much easier to defend in early 2003, however, before we found absolutely no stocks of chemical or biological weapons and no evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program. (I know that many on the left believe that the prewar estimates about Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were all a deliberate fraud by the Bush administration, but if so, it was one in which the U.N. weapons inspectors and French intelligence were also complicit.) It was also easier to support the war before we knew the full dimensions of the vicious insurgency that would emerge and the ease with which the insurgents could disrupt the building of a democratic state.

If I were inclined to be uncharitable, I’d say that Fukuyama simply wants to take the easy way out: "See, I was lukewarm at best about the invasion. And without actual stockpiles of weapons to which to point, I don’t want to make the hard argument about Iraq’s easily reconstituted program. And gee, those, er, ’insurgents’ make things really, really tough."

He’s right about being entitled to change his mind. And he’s right to wish for a less polarized debate. But his position in the "embattled middle" would be more impressive if he were willing to challenge some of the conventional wisdom on which he has taken his "bold" stand.

Immigration policy query

As I noted below, many religious folks have taken a "compassionate" position in the immigration debate, a position (by the way) that tracks very well that taken by the Chamber of Commerce (somewhere--is it heaven or is it hell?--Adam Smith is smiling). I can’t quarrel with the religious principles involved--above all, hospitality toward the stranger--but a substantial portion of the overall policy direction depends less upon this principle than upon the prudential judgment that border enforcement can’t work. With that position, I’m more willing to quarrel.

What’s more, it seems to me that many who are prepared to be compassionate to immigrants (folks like my dad and mom, both immigrants themselves, albeit through legal channels) also want, first and foremost, border security. Might it not be a wise political move, perfectly consistent with the high principles involved, to support the kinds of border security reassurances that that the high walls folks say they want? What’s objectionable about (so far as is practicable) sealing the borders while also providing a path to citizenship and/or a guest worker program for those who are among us? If the religious principle is, as has been claimed, consistent with a concern for national security (not to mention national identity, to which, by the way, I find no objection, at least as a matter of temporal concern, in someone like St. Augustine), then why can’t the religious folks reach out to the border security folks and cut a deal--fences, on the one side, for legitimacy, on the other?

I’m sure that there are extremists on both sides--hypernativist Know-Nothings, as well as rootless cosmopolitans (to put it nicely)--who would object to one or the other term of the deal, but sound public policy would benefit from marginalizing them, showing them how small their real constituencies are.

What say you. gentle readers?

Raise Shields Mr. Sulu!

Check out this video, which describes a Star-Trek-like "shield" technology the Israelis have developed that is effective against RPGs.

[Warning to NLT trolls: It’s a Fox News video. You might not be able to handle it.]

Hat tip: Roger Simon.

Peretz v. Kerry Smackdown!

In which New Republic publisher Martin Peretz mops up the ring with the silly entrails of one Jean Francois Kerry.

Hat Tip: Glenn and Jonah.


While the media is sharpening its axe for McCain, Jonathan Alter gives MItt Romney a good review in Newsweek. Think maybe the media wants a GOP horserace in 2008?


Today is the anniversary of Iraq Liberation Day. Michelle Maklin offers a good roundup of commentary and observations.

Helen Thomas Endorses McCain

Helen Thomas, the joke of the White House press corps, endorses John McCain in this column.

Well, not really. What she says is this: "If [McCain] wins the presidency, the country can expect a continuation of Bush’s aggressive foreign policy and ultra-right domestic programs."

Say, McCain is sounding better and better all the time.

(Note to NLT commenters: I’m being ironic. It’s an update to this McCain postfrom 10 days ago, commenting on the growing media onslaught against McCain. Right on cue, here comes the reliable Helen Thomas.)