Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Post-Post-Christian Germany?

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR reports that the Germans are no longer getting less religious. And they’re recovering some sense of their Christian identity, with the help of Pope Benedict XVI and secularist philosopher Jurgen Habermas.

Taking on Gas

Gas prices are falling fast. They might fall faster, or never have risen so high, in the absence of lots of stupid government regulations. Occasional NLT contributor Nathaniel Stewart reflects on this aspect of the issue in this splendid paper, co-authored with the always impressive Andrew Morriss.

Churchill Abused

My talk to the Churchill Centre’s annual dinner at the APSA on "The Use and Abuse of Churchill in History" is now available here.

Senate Intel Committee report revisited

Stephen F. Hayes, who knows a thing or two about Iraq and intelligence, chews up the Senate Committee’s report on Iraq/al Qaeda relations and spits it out. His conclusion:

Some day there will be an authoritative and richly detailed history of the nature of the relationship between the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups. This latest product of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is unlikely to merit even a footnote in this history.

Read the whole thing.

Artificial Happiness

the Neuhaus report of the conversation he had with Ronald Dworkin (not THAT Ronald Dworkin) on the theme of Dworkin’s new book--ARTIFICIAL HAPPINESS. The biotechnological or psychotropic promise is that we can feel good without being good. But the truth is that the secret of happiness is renouncing our right to be happy and living well or responsibly or virtuously as human beings with what we really know. Projects to socially or chemically engineer artificial happiness are always built on the foundation of real misery. Dworkin’s book, Neuhaus complains, could be better, because it’s not clear enough in affirming that we’re STUCK WITH VIRTUE.

Third Awakening again

GWB vindicates Knippenberg:

I was just speculating that the culture might be changing, and I was talking about when you’re involved with making decisions of historic nature, you won’t be around to see the effects of your decisions. And I said that when I work the ropelines, a lot of people come and say, Mr. President, I’m praying for you -- a lot. As a matter of fact, it seems like a lot more now than when I was working ropelines in 1994. And I asked them -- I was asking their opinion about whether or not there was a Third Awakening, I called it.

I’d just read a book on Abraham Lincoln, and his presidency was right around the time of what they called the Second Awakening, and I was curious to know whether or not these smart people felt like there was any historical parallels. I also said that I had run for office the first time to change a culture -- Herman and Hutch remember me saying, you know, the culture that said, if it feels good, do it, and, if you’ve got a problem, blame somebody else -- to helping to work change a culture in which each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life. In other words, ushering in a responsibility era. And I reminded people that responsibility means if you’re a father, love your child; if you’re corporate America, be honest with the taxpayers; if you’re a citizen of this country, love your neighbor.

I called attention to his previously stated intentions here.

Bob Casey on the common good

Here’s the text of Bob Casey’s big speech on faith and the common good. Barack Obama he isn’t.

Let me pick at a couple of the speech’s facets. First, the 900-pound gorilla, abortion. Here’s what BC, Jr. had to say:

As many of you know, I am a pro-life Democrat. I believe that life begins at conception and ends when we draw our last breath. And I believe that the role of government is to protect, enrich, and value life for everyone, at every moment, from beginning to end.

We must unite as a country, Democrats and Republicans, behind the understanding that the common good requires us to value all life. For 33 years, this issue has been used mostly as a way to divide people, even as the number of abortions continues to rise. We have to find a better way.

There have been times when members of my party have vigorously opposed me because of my position on abortion. And those of you with long memories can recall a dark night in 1992 when the national Democratic Party insulted the most courageous pro-life public official in our party who simply asked that those who believed in the right to life be accorded the right to speak. But things have changed over the ensuing 14 years. I have been encouraged to see Democrats in this new century becoming more open to people who are pro-life. The common good can be advanced by working towards common ground.

For example, pro-life Democrats in the House are on the verge of introducing legislation that would work toward real solutions to our abortion problem by targeting the underlying factors that often lead women to choose abortion. As a public official, I will continue to work within the party to ensure that Democrats are welcoming and open to such initiatives.

Abortion is clearly an important life issue, and as a Catholic, I understand that life extends beyond the womb. In my view, neither party has gotten it right when it comes to life issues. We can’t realistically expect to tackle the difficult question of abortion without embracing the "radical solidarity" with women who face a pregnancy that Pope John Paul II spoke of many years ago.

If we are going to be pro-life, we cannot say we are against abortion of unborn children and then let our children suffer in degraded inner-city schools and broken homes. We can’t claim to be pro-life at the same time as we are cutting support for Medicaid, Head Start, and the Women, Infants, and Children’s program. I believe we need policies that provide maximum feasible legal protection for the unborn and maximum feasible care and support for pregnant women, mothers, and children. The right to life must mean the right to a life with dignity.

Note how he wants to consign the hostility to pro-life Democrats to his Party’s past, and how quickly he moves from abortion to social welfare policy. There’s no talk whatsoever about reasonable restrictions on abortion (parental consent or partial-birth abortion, for example).

And then there’s his contestable analysis of the causes and cures of poverty:

The common good must first be based upon a solid foundation of justice. As Saint Augustine taught us: "Without justice, what are kingdoms but great bands of robbers?" Justice cannot abide 34 million people in poverty and 8.3 million children without health care. Justice cannot ignore the suffering of millions of parents in this country who have to face the soul-crushing thought that they might have to tell their child to go to bed hungry...or who realize that they simply cannot afford the medical treatment their child needs. Justice demands our understanding that the hungry, the impoverished, and the uninsured in this country are not statistics, they are children of God. They are our brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans.

We see poverty on the rise and middle-income families struggling to make ends meet not because they lack the drive to make a better life for themselves and their families. Rather, the problem stems from mistaken priorities and failed leadership. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated so wisely, "It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach." And that is exactly what we’ve seen. At a time when the number of working poor in this country keeps increasing year after year, tax cuts for the wealthy should not be the price we are asked to pay for an increase in the minimum wage.

There is, for example, no acknowledgement that there is any personal responsibility for one’s distressing circumstances; they’re the result of "mistaken priorities and failed leadership," not bad choices or flawed character. I don’t mean to say that every poor person is wholly and solely responsible for his or her plight, just that some of the problems might stem from the soul or the character, not the failures of government. Indeed, treating people with dignity requires that they be treated as responsible individuals. In addition, one thing that it is fair to say that Saint Augustine is not is an absolutist when it comes to the possibility of justice in this life. Justice is a feature of the City of God, not, strictly speaking, of the City of Man, which can at best achieve a simulacrum of justice. How in this fallen world we can achieve, within our limited means, this simulacrum is a question about which reasonable people of good will can disagree. But Bob Casey will have none of it: in his world, there’s no room for disagreement, no consideration of the notion that the water that comprises the tide that life all boats has to come from somewhere.

I don’t for a moment doubt Casey’s sincerity, but let’s not kid ourselves: this was a highly partisan speech in which religion was deployed to trump his opponents. Looks to me like a "faithful Democrat" is doing what Democrats constantly accuse Republicans of doing.

By the way, I can’t wait for E.J. Dionne. Jr. to gush all over this speech.

When GWB speaks, does anyone listen?

Peggy Noonan doesn’t think so:

People don’t say as often as they used to, "You watch Bush’s speech last night?" Or they don’t ask it with the same anticipation and interest.

I think that Americans have pretty much stopped listening to him. One reason is that you don’t have to listen to get a sense of what’s going on. He does not appear to rethink things based on new data. You don’t have to tune in to see how he’s shifting emphasis to address a trend, or tacking to accommodate new winds. For him there is no new data, only determination.

He repeats old arguments because he believes they are right, because he has no choice--in for a penny, in for a pound--and because his people believe in the dogma of the magic of repetition: Say it, say it, to break through the clutter.

There’s another reason people don’t listen to Mr. Bush as much as they did. It is that in some fundamental way they know they have already fully absorbed him. He’s burned his brand into the American hide.

I agree with some of this. What’s impressive about the President is often not what he says or the way he says it (no Churchill, he), but the conviction with which he says it. Of that conviction we’re already convinced. Some of us like it a lot, some a little, some not at all. (Rasmussen has lately pretty consistently had the "strongly disapproves" of the Bush presidency at 38%. There’s likely nothing other that "I’m resigning" that could win any plaudits from that group.)

Far be it from me to dissaude President Bush from speaking. I’m in love with, perhaps overly so, with words, which is an occupational hazard of the business I’m in. But I don’t think too many people will pay close attention until some big event makes them do so. Then words matter, as they did in the days immediately after 9/11.

I’d like to put two propositions out there for NLT’s master logicians to chop up into tiny bits. First, because events don’t speak for themselves but must be set in a coherent and meaningful framework, speeches are important. But speeches themselves rarely (not never, just rarely) set the events in motion. Speeches depend upon deeds (our’s, or the other guys’), which in turn demand both an active and verbal response. But without actions, speech degenerates into mere talk, to which we pretty quickly cease to pay attention. (Bill Clinton might have been entertaining, but we knew he wasn’t too serious.)

Second, despite their ultimate importance, the relative weakness of speeches tempts us to discount them and to rely on deeds alone. Presidents sometimes act without trying to explain themselves. Of this approach, Richard Nixon was the champion, but George Bush also falls prey to the temptation, which is especially powerful when so many people refuse to listen, or willfully misunderstand what they’re hearing.

In the end, you have to talk and act (d’oh!), but the actions have to be intended to provoke a rational response. Thus when GWB served the ball into Congress’ court last week, he was doing the right thing. Unfortunately, the response he seems to have elicited involves just plain talk.

The Euston Manifesto

There are a growing number of signatories to the Euston Manifesto, a document first drafted in Great Britain last year. It calls for a new political alignment of "democrats and progressives" committed to global democracy. While the manifesto’s sponsors and signers are certainly not uncritical Bush supporters, they praise the invasion of Iraq as "a liberation of the Iraqi people" by eliminating Saddam’s "reactionary, semi-fascist and murderous" regime. They reject the notion that we should "indulgently ’understand’ reactionary regimes and movements for whom democracy is a hated enemy," and they further denounce the "anti-Americanism now infecting so much left liberal (and some conservative) thinking." They identify themselves with Franklin Roosevent and Harry Truman, "who battled dictatorships of the
right as well as the left respectively."

Looking through the manifesto immediately brought to mind this 1949 book by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Might we be looking at the development of a new "vital center"?

Rat Choice Theory--Part 5

Here’s a remarkably perceptive analysis of the pope’s speech from TIME. Clearly, its focus is the rational pursuit of the truth human beings can share in common. Is it possible for people of different faiths really to talk about God and the good?

Rat Choice Theory--Part 4

The pope’s Tuesday speech is getting more controversial. And it is possible to wonder whether he made a diplomatic error. But also attend to the wisdom of the Archbishop of Canterbury quoted in this BBC link. I have to admit that I didn’t study the Rat words mainly with Muslim sensibilities in mind, but it’s still clear that his intention was to encourage rational dialogue among the world’s great religions.

Wild Voters?

Larry Sabato offers his analysis of the considerable place of anger in the 2006 elections. He goes on to give a race-by-race analysis that shows that both the House and the Senate could go either way. My own study of his study shows that there’s more hope for the House than some say, but the Senate appears more vulnerable than we’ve thought.

That’ll Show ’Em!

House Democrats unveiled a new slogan yesterday: "A New Direction for America." How very cool. How edgy. How very avant-garde. How . . . persuasive. It replaces their previous slogan, "Together, America Can Do Better," which had replaced "Together, We Can Do Better." Wow. Think they worked overtime on these? These are the hardest slogans to come up with since "Oklahoma is OK." Shrum must be on vacation or something.

Dana Milbank is not impressed. He thinks the implicit Republican slogan, "Vote Democrat and Die," is better.

The 1978 elections

Andy Busch writes on the elections of 1978, the ones that set the stage for the ascent of Ronald Reagan to the presidency. This is the ninth in his series on mid-term elections in America. You are making a mistake if you do not read them! Here are the other eight. I assume you have looked at his book on mid-term elections. Some of his related books aren’t bad either, see this and this.

Hayward on the elections

Is there really a tidal wave against Republicans? You already know something of my opinion on this matter (and I will have more, my opinions are plentiful like blackberries) but here is

Steve Hayward’s, on a Podacst I did with him today. It’s very good.

If Ponnuru wasn’t enough for you...

Read these pieces, which I don’t for a moment endorse, since I have to run to class and talk politics with my kids. For one response, go here.

I’ll probably have a few things to say later on. But in the meantime, have at it in the comments section.

Rat Choice Theory--Part 3

Mr. Crunchy Con Rod Dreher notes that for the NEW YORK TIMES and the French that the pope’s speech was mainly Islam bashing. That odd approach to content analysis may get more of you interested in it, for one reason or another.
In any case, going to the link will give you a refresher course in the strengths and weaknesses of Crunchies or even cause you to acquire a new worry--about the urbanization of the intelligent. We who live in Ashland or Floyd County Georgia aren’t that worried.

Rat Choice Theory--Part 2

Peter Robinson, at the Corner of NRO says that the pope’s deep and provocative speech on Tuesday echoes Leo Strauss on the interplay between reason and revelation. But that’s not qutite so. Strauss says that the tension between reason and revelation is the secret to the West’s vitality. But Ratzinger/Benedict writes, in the passage Peter quotes (and a great passage it is), of "the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek philosophy."

Making the Rounds. . .

. . . on the internet:

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats, and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940, when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

In addition, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

It’s not only the English and French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual, and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

Apologies to all Euroweenies Europeans who may find this offensive.

A Third Awakening?

This WaPo article picks up on the religious aspect of a conversation GWB had with conservative journalists, written up by NR’s Rich Lowry here. Get Religion’s David Pulliam offers some perspective here, while the WaPo’s Dan Froomkin tries to stoke the fires of reaction here.

I’ve always thought that GWB was some kind of culture warrior, but not in the most obvious sense. Here’s how I put it a couple of years ago:

Of course, freedom can be abused and must be used responsibly. Thus the Bush presidency’s major domestic theme, first articulated when Bush was Governor of Texas. As he put it, "My dream is to usher in what I call the ’responsibility era’—an era in which each and every Texan understands that we’re responsible for the decisions we make in life; that each of us is responsible for making sure our families come first; that we’re responsible for loving our neighbors as we’d like to be loved ourselves; and that we’re responsible for the communities in which we live." He used virtually identical language in a May 2004 interview, adding that while "[g]overnments cannot change culture, …I can be a voice of cultural change." This ambitious cultural agenda—often expressed in the language of "compassionate conservatism" —is at bottom an effort to roll back the 1960s....

The challenge that the President has faced is how to press his domestic cultural agenda--which he is perfectly capable of articulating in a "merely religious" (and indeed "merely moral"), rather than sectarian way--in the face of the civilizational struggle in which we’re engaged. For some time, it looked as if the focus on national security would put everything else on the back burner. But I think the President is correct in noting, at least implicitly, that understanding our international circumstances in existential terms (as rightly we should) makes us more serious about ourselves as individuals and as a people. The responsibility era (of which he has spoken domestically in some contexts as the "ownership society") can come as a consequence of our long-term struggle with the radical Islamists. That said, there are some things I wish he’d said and done more frequently to encourage us to think in these terms.

Republicans and evangelicals

This article offers a comprehensive and nuanced view of the relationship, said by some to be unraveling. It’s probably correct that the next Republican nominee won’t get 78% of the white evangelical vote, but it would take a series of unfortunate events for a Democrat to get out of the low 30s.

The Republican big tent

After a guest speaker I hosted yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with students today. My guest, a Republican state representative who on more than one occasion described himself as a "dinosaur," spoke rather forthrightly (and at the same time self-deprecatingly) about what he did and didn’t like about the actions of his colleagues. (I blogged about his talk here.)

I’d describe him as a classic suburban or business-oriented Republican, with little patience for some of the symbolic elements of the social conservative agenda.

Well, one of my students (a freshman) thought he sounded like a Democrat! Her tone wasn’t critical, as if she were a true believer criticizing someone she took to be a RINO. Instead, she seemed simply to think that the Republican Party consisted only of social conservatives, which is certainly the way it’s often portrayed in the media, and sometimes even by religious conservatives themselves. I think that it’s healthy for kids in reddish states like my own to see that there’s more than one kind of Republican, that the GOP can tolerate differences of opinion and even rather tart internal criticism, and that Republicans are capable even of reaching across party lines and forming friendships with their political opponents, all of which was out there for my students to see, courtesy of the dinosaur, who happens to be my state rep.

Fran Millar wouldn’t be mistaken for a Democrat by anyone who pays close attention to Georgia politics, and I’m glad he was there to disabuse some of my students of what they thought they knew about Republicans.

It’s academic: liberal education at West Point and the Citadel

Mark Bauerlein writes sympathetically about the education experiences of cadets at the USMA and at Pat Conroy’s alma mater. Here’s a snippet:

Lieutenant General Lennox at West Point believes that the humanities are necessitated in the curriculum by the current geopolitical situation. After cadets graduate, they soon depart for "the edge of our ethical world," he says, meaning not just life-or-death situations, but cultural, religious, and ethical traditions deeply foreign to our own. To "face those challenges with understanding," he insists, they need imagination and wisdom to comprehend the values and motives of uncertain friends and enemies. They need to defend themselves verbally as well as physically. Those skills and knowledge come from humanistic study and critical self- analysis: "You don’t want your army to be mindlessly patriotic."

It has always seemed to me that the best incentive to take one’s own education seriously and to invest oneself in it is the sense that something significant is at stake. Bauerlein seems to think the students he encountered have such a sense. Do students at our (other) elite institutions?

Losing the House in 2006?

Ramesh Ponnuru almost has me convinced. The risk lies in how Republicans would interpret such a defeat. Of course, it also lies in how Republicans would respond to a narrow victory.

Linker links

Rick Garnett calls our attention to these two reviews of Damon Linker’s The Theocons, one from the left, the other from the right. (The latter is only available in full to subscribers, so you’ll have to rely on the chunk Garnett provides.) Neither reviewer much likes the book.

I’ve just started it, and share some of Paul Baumann’s qualms about DL’s framework:

Linker sees inordinate peril in Neuhaus’s insistence that democracy be grounded in metaphysical, and ultimately religious, claims about the transcendent nature of the human person. The “liberal bargain” Linker extols, on the other hand, explicitly rejects the need for democratic societies to come to any comprehensive agreement about first principles. In the liberal bargain, we can disagree about the ultimate good, about “first things,” and still order our political life in a fair and peaceful way.

The theocons reject this conception of liberalism, insisting that only a political order based on absolute moral “truth” can protect human dignity and freedom. Such an insistence appears hard to square with our society’s inability to agree on the moral truth about such issues as abortion or same-sex marriage. Emphasizing such shortcomings, Linker is too quick to dismiss the appeal of the theocon position. (Neuhaus would argue, for example, that the law’s failure to protect unborn life is a far greater threat to democratic values than his protests against Roe v. Wade.) In a time when science presents excruciating dilemmas about when human life begins or ends—and about who should make such determinations—it is not just conservatives who balk at the idea that individual autonomy trumps all other moral values. Nor can Linker’s strictly secular “liberal bargain” account for the role religious convictions have played, for example, in the triumph of democracy in Poland’s Solidarity movement or America’s own abolitionist and civil-rights struggles.

Suffice it to say that while some on the religious right are anti-democratic, the arguments Neuhaus and company make about the religious origins of our ideas about human dignity and the intrinsic value of each life are hardly a recipe for theocratic tyranny. Liberal religious thinkers embrace similar premises yet come to very different political conclusions. As Galston and Edsall note, while Americans want a firm separation of church and state, they don’t want a purely secular public square, and there is no moral or constitutional reason why they should accept one. Yet Linker thinks the explicit disavowal of religious-based moral claims should be a prerequisite for entering into the political debate. He’s wrong, both philosophically and historically.

I wouldn’t endorse everything in these three paragraphs, but would certainly agree that DL’s account of the necessity of the liberal bargain is unpersuasively thin gruel.

I should note that our very own Peter Lawler has a bit part in the book, as a follower of the notorious theocon Leon Kass and associate of the other notorious theocon (?) Diana Schaub.

I’ll render a fuller (though perhaps still half-baked) judgment later, but my first reaction is that Linker ought to have been able to do better than this.

Greek Philosophy and Christian Faith: Rat Choice Theory

Here is Pope Benedict XVI’s (Joseph Ratzinger’s) account of the integral place of Greek philosophy in Christian faith, including an account of the disastrous effects "the process of dehellenization" has had on that faith. His conclusion: "The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur--this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time....It is to this great ’logos,’ to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university."

Blair vs. Clinton?

Alex Massie of The Scotsman reflects on the decline and delated fall of Tony Blair, concluding that "Blair’s political gifts, to be sure, allowed him to skate past his critics for years, but, after so much time in office and so many fewer achievements than he promised, there are few buyers for the proposition that Labour is throwing away a pearl richer than all its tribe."

Blair is thought to be Britain’s Clinton, but unlike Clinton, he never got any significant policy reforms out of Parliament. Of course, some of Clinton’s reforms (especially welfare reform and the balanced budget) are reflections of our different political system: the Republican opposition made it possible as well as necessary that Clinton sign off on welfare reform whereas Blair, in Massie’s words, "never convinced Labour to drink his own Kool-Aid--a failure that ensures his legacy is less than it could have been."  

What is Judicial Activism?

My view, as you know, is that we conservatives need to devote more energy to campaigning against judicial activism. But first we have to figure out what judicial activism is. Matt Franck--taking on the formidable NEW YORK TIMES--helps out a lot. If you want a refresher on my view, look at my article in the July/August SOCIETY, which can’t be found on-line yet. There I say, to make a long story short, that I’m more of a Scalia man than a Thomas man (although I great personal and theoretical admiration for them both). I’m opposed to both "social" and "economic" libertarian judicial activism, and so my position is in many ways the opposite of that of libertarian Randy Barnett. His thoughtful RESTORING THE LOST CONSTITUTION--which embraces Kennedy’s opinion in LAWRENCE v. TEXAS much more consistently than Kennedy himself does--can be found on amazon.

Can We Call Him "Mr. Y"?

Turns out a defense intelligence specialist predicted the rise of Islamic radicalism. In 1946. It was classified then. Perhaps we should regard its author as "Mr. Y" to go with Kennan’s "Mr. X."

Hat tip: Michael Rubin, who sensibly suggests we posthumously award this anonymous analyst a medal.   

Mansfield on 9/11

Harvey Mansfield offers his typically succinct but piercing reflections on the cluelessness of academic liberalism in the wake of 9/11. 

Defending Scooter Libby

Here is TNR’s Martin Peretz on the (now) Valeria Plame non-case:

"No one is interested in the case of the ’outed spook’ and her ’outer’ any longer. And that is because we now know who exposed the lady to Robert Novak, and he isn’t and never was part of the Cheney White House. He was part of the anti-Cheney State Department, liberal heroes, sort of. That man is Richard Armitage, latterly deputy secretary of state and multi-lateralist par excellence. He has now expressed his soulful contrition for the leak. One thing everybody in Washington knows about Armitage is that he doesn’t take another kind of a leak without asking Colin Powell first. So there is now added to this weird case the question of what were Armitage’s--and Powell’s--motives in this exposure. And they should also be asking about Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff at State, and his possible role in this affair. None of these men were especially taken with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. So they are, so to speak, off the hook with the anti-war folk with regard to the leak. The fact is that neither Armitage nor his associates ever told the president who was responsible for the leak. If I were George W. Bush, I’d be ripshit. And, since Armitage two weeks ago unambiguously admitted to being the culprit, should he not now face charges? Now, there is one person who has been indicted--not for violating the Intelligence Identification Protection Act, the law which Armitage has actually confessed to breaking--but for obstructing Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation. (Read Jeffrey Rosen’s TNR article "Overcharged," November 14, 2005, here.) The indicted man is Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and he has become MoveOn’s designated scapegoat for the entire war. Folk who wouldn’t have thought Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs or Philip Agee guilty of treason have been calling him a traitor. This is laughable."

"Let me concede: I am a friend of Scooter Libby. But I do not like his boss. And I do not like his boss’s wife. I know this gets me no credit with the all-or-nothing crowd. Still, I like Scooter, who is quite brilliant, very honest, and brave. Also funny. I’ve contributed to The Libby Legal Defense Fund and have joined the fund’s advisory committee, which is not large because in Washington old pals dessert when even their college roommate gets into trouble. In a time when self-styled civil libertarians are giving money to defend Muslim terrorists, I am happy to help defend an American patriot, some of whose politics I do not share and some of whose politics I do, from a cynical onslaught of the special prosecutor who put journalists into jail for not telling him what he already knew.

The campaign of wrath and virtue against Libby was mostly fueled by simulated outrage. Now that everybody knows who committed the offense, such as it was, the charges against Libby should go into the trash."

Here is the Libby Legal Defense Trust

More crunchy numbers on religion

This WaPo story describes this Baylor University study (long pdf alert). The authors include two very prominent sociologists of religion,they acknowledge other big guns in the field, and the Gallup Organization conducted the survey, so it has a good bit of professional credibility. In addition, the authors promise that this is merely the first of many future surveys. The Pew Forum/Pew Center folks have some major, high-powered competition.

There’s all sorts of interesting demographic data, such as these tidbits: a significantly higher proportion of females than males identify with black Protestant churches, while a higher proportion of men than women identify with Roman Catholicism; and young people (18-30) are most likely to declare no religious affiliation, largely at the expense of the Catholic church, which seems significantly underrepresented in that cohort (10.1%, as opposed to 20% or more in other cohorts).

The study also found that the attributes most closely connected with political conservatism are relative biblical literalism and church attendance: it turns out that relatively "biblically literalist" Catholics, evangelicals, and mainline Protestants are more or less indistinguishable in their political views.

There are all sorts of other interesting findings in the survey, but you’re going to have to see them for yourself.

Update: This article chews over the data reasonably well. Hat tip: Get Religion.

Going to hell in a shopping basket?

Tom Cerber calls our attention to this article describing this study. Turns out that the repeal of Sunday closing laws has a negative impact, not only on church attendance and giving, but on certain forms of destructive youth behavior.

And while I’m at it, one of the co-authors also has this paper, whose results are summarized here.

To be sure, these considerations should affect the behavior of public policy makers, not the attitudes of believers, who have other reasons for behaving as they ought.

No Democrat wave

I said to someone this morning (again) that I did not think the Democrats would take back the House. Once again, I was looked at as if I were a martian. This will continue for maybe another three or four weeks, and then the clouds will lift and people will begin to see that it is extremely unlikely that Nancy Pelosi will become speaker. This New York Times already points to the fog lifting in New York state. And note this bad news for Dems coming out of Georgia.

A Volunteer

Here’s an inspirational story for 9/11--a "professional" conservative who actually volunteered to defend his country. My opinion, all along, is that the president should have asked for more of this kind of real citizenship.


It’s been five years. We awoke as if from a deep dream. The post-Cold War petty issues of the Clinton years turned into dust, as did many human bones in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Life became serious again when we realized that there were people out there willing to attack and kill us because of who we are. Perhaps we should have realized that earlier, perhaps we should have even noted it after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Never mind that for now. We do know it now and we know it because of what happened on September 11, 2001. The horror, the blood and dust, and death. And then the heroism and then the calculated response. Do not let the current politics, the current disgareement over means in the war against terror, allow this massive fact to be made less clear. Let us dispute how we make war on our enemies tomorrow. Today let us remember the event, and let our proper anger be channelled into trying mightily to prevent its recurrence. Let us renew our faith that right makes might and rededicate ourselves to the great task before us, that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth. And may the honored dead rest in peace.

In Some Ways We Are Better Off...

On 9/11, let’s consider this reminder of all that’s gone right for our country over the last five years. Save your "yes, buts" until tomorrow.

Just Because You’re Paranoid. . .

Mickey Kaus on the silliness of the left-wing paranoia that the right is taking over Hollywood:

[A]re you worried about an "emerging network of right-wing people burrowing into the film industry with ulterior sectarian politican and religious agendas"? Maybe I’m complacent about the threat, but isn’t that a little like worrying about the growing anti-Zionist foothold at The New Republic? If you put Hollywoods’s entire network of right wing people in David Horowitz’s living room, you wouldn’t have much trouble getting to the hors d’oeuvre tray. If you tried to put Hollywood’s network of left wing people in the Los Angeles Convention Center, the fire marshal would close it down.

Thoughts on "Path to 9/11"

I watched the whole commercial-free broadcast last night, in part for general reasons, and in particular because I’m a big fan of it’s up-and-coming young director, David Cunningham, mostly because of his great work on this extraordinary movie. But I have to say I am getting tired of the jerky, tight-shot, hand-held camera technique that was used almost exclusively in "Path." Can we put this away now? Or at least tone it down a bit? I really don’t need to count the nose hairs on the various actors in the film.

Even with the edits, which were conspicuous (you can see the unedited scenes at Red State), the movie was still hard on the Clintonistas. I expect Night 2 will be hard on Bush. The asymmetry of outcry about the film between the two camps is therefore telling.

9/11 and teaching

I wrote this back in 2001, and will be thinking about it when I teach the same course tomorrow (though I’ll be on Herodotus, rather than Thucydides).

I continue to remind my students, both of the day and of the way in which reading old books can offer us some perspective on our current prospects.

For more along these lines, go here, here, and here (much more sophisticated than my halting efforts, and coming to a different conclusion).

Knippenblog exclusives, 2nd ed.

A longish piece on Democrats and religion, prompted by this Hayward post.

A quickie reference to Hunter Baker’s musings about the musings of William Underwood, past Baylor prez and current Mercer prez.

Some thoughts on issues of local governance here in the Atlanta metro area.

A brief rant about Randall Balmer’s post over at Faithful Democrats, to which our worthy Kate boldly responded on the site.

Lastly, I’ve got a post on a forthcoming book on conservative compassion (or, if you will, charity), which argues that conservatives are truly "liberal" in the Aristotelian sense or charitable in the Christian sense. It’s sure to provoke quite a discussion when it’s released.

Hunting dogs

Bill Clinton speaks in St. Louis--referencing Republicans’ use of national security--as he supports the Democrat running against Sen. Jim Talent:
"They’ve trotted that dog out for the last three elections - and it’s got mange all over it." Maybe.

Anxious Reading at B and N--But Maybe It’s Just the Caffeine

I just finished my Sunday morning, after church ritual of checking out, for free, the various magazines of opinion at the Starbucks section of our local Barnes and Noble. I perused THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, to find, once again, that it’s full of imprudent and otherwise self-indulgent culural or promiscuously anticapitalist literary politics. But the lead article, by the distinguished student of international relations James Kurth of Swarthmore, I found harder to dismiss. He seems to echo the right-wing populism of Buchanan about the growing gap between rich and poor both in our country and across the globe. But Kurth’s analysis was more pointed--focusing on the burgeoning class of rich homeowners who eschew manual labor as the faction most supportive of illegal immigration, Bush’s "regressive" tax reforms, and Islamic radicalism as most basically fueled by egalitarian resentment. I didn’t agree with most of the article, although it would be unfair to take time to refute it until it shows up on-line. But there was enough said well there that I walked away convinced that there’s something, at least, to worry about--either that some of Kurth’s facts and analysis are right or that an increasing number of smart conservatives with some political astuteness believe that they are.

I also read the symposium on Iraq by various hawkish and very astute authors in THE NATIONAL REVIEW (also not available right now on-line). I found some agreement with Mark Steyn’s conclusion that our present policy, considered as a powerful example of our aggressive resolve to deter our enemies, is "a flop." But then there was a disconcerting amount of disagreement about what we should do now. I stink at matters relating to military strategy, and so I’m not offering an opinion. But I’m still bothered that experts I respect are so divided themselves.

Finally, I read that Republicans should campaign on this issue: Democrats hate Wal-Mart. It’s true enough that they at least pretend to, and most Americans appreciate the savings and convenience of a superstore.
But it’s also true, as I suggested above, that more and more conservatives--Crunchy and otherwise--are becoming anti-Wal-Mart. I rarely go to Wal-Mart, but am always amazed when I do. There are costs and benefits when the store comes to town, but I differ from the Crunchies and the Buchananites in thinking that the benefits for most people outweigh the costs. (And so the anti-WM position really is elitist.) Here’s hoping that our country doesn’t really divide into Wal-Mart and anti-Wal-Mart parties (and I say that while thinking that we should unite against some of the more creepy features of the creeping libertarianism of our time--I’m pro-choice on WM but not on everything).