Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Free Frank Warner

This blog, by the self-proclaimed last of the liberals, surely presents some of the most intelligent and witty support of our efforts in Iraq around. It’s also pretty darn witty in general. Consider Frank’s comment on the news that Kurt Cobain has passed Elvis as the biggest earner among the dead celebrities: "I guess it’s his message of hope."

The Catholic and French Origins of Halloween

And the witches are only a recent American addition. Trick or treat, though, began as anti-Catholic intimidation by English Protestants. Note to evangelicals: It’s not a pagan thing. Happy Halloween!

Studies Show That Modernity Killed the Nap: The Emerging Science of Chronobiology

The evidence is that naps are good for us. And they have deeper meaning as a remnant of ancient "polyphasic sleep." Our most ancestral ancestors had more periods of sleep each day than meals. But modernity and industrialization have rendered sleep monophasic for most of us. Nobody is going to pay you for sleeping. I would become more of a crunchy con if this sleep deprival issue were taken more seriously than how dinner was raised.

CHRONOBIOLOGY UPDATE: Sleep deficits make you fat and lead to diabetes and hypertension. Parents: Make your kids turn off those TVs and computers, and let them sleep longer on weekends. And of course do the same yourselves. But if we all could take polyphasic naps, we could all stay up without worrying about the health consequences.


I did another podcast with Tom Suddes from the Plain Dealer this afternoon. We discussed the overall picture in Congress and some specific Congressional races in Ohio.

Kerry, the New Wellstone?

Was Kerry’s bone-headed comment the Wellstone Funeral moment of the 2006 campaign? One NLT commenter thinks so.. Already lots of bloggers are mentioning that it must be another Karl Rove Jedi mind trick. Mark who??


Election issues

Our friend The Friar calls attention to this piece by his friend Robert Stacey, which has elicited a response from RCP’s Tom Bevan. I must confess that I’m closer to Bevan than to Stacey on this one. The Foley affair dominated a few too many news cycles, helped give traction to a claim that hadn’t gotten much before then, and got the Republicans off message. At a time when a flawless campaign might have saved Republican majorities in both chambers, the Foley affair knocked everyone off their strides for much too long. But the fundamental national issue is national security.

And we can thank the self-important John Kerry for reminding us how unreliable a steward he would have been and, by extension, how unreliable his colleagues are.

The Republicans couldn’t ask for better opponents!

A little Georgia politics

This column helps explain why we Georgians are seeing more of the President now than we did in 2004. Several of my students are going down to Perry, Georgia, home of the Georgia National Fairgrounds and pretty darn close to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s hometown of Bonaire, to see President Bush at a rally for Mac Collins.

For what it’s worth, I think that Max Burns is likelier to retake his old seat than Mac Collins is to take Jim Marshall’s.

Love letters

David Kuo and Andrew Sullivan take turns gushing at one another, a spectacle that will continue for a few days at least. If his first post is any indication, Kuo is out of his depth.

Divorce and Health

It has long been known that unmarried men (divorced or never married) suffer more illness than married men. Now comes a study that shows divorced women fare worse than their married counterparts. It didn’t say anything about single women . . . but I do think I once read somewhere that single (i.e., never married) women have better health than married women. All of these studies are interesting but they do rather seem to confirm the common sense of the matter, don’t they?

Run John, Run!

Help the Effort! Steve thinks his chances for the nomination are finished . . . but I hope he’s wrong!

And here’s a link to a local story reporting the news before the denials.


Kerry makes my day. I’m actually starting to feel optimistic about the election next week for the first time in a while. Maybe the Republican National Committee should cancel all its ad buuys and simply buy time for Kerry to keep talking as long as he wants. A few days of Kerry will guarantee a landslide. I hear he was actually against his comment before he was for it.

Crystal Clear . . .

Kerry says he apologizes to no one for his criticism of "the President." The White House is attempting to distort his statement, or his "botched joke." Yeah, Kerry, you botched it. He says he’s "not going to be quiet now." God, please, someone make him be quiet. Republicans, he says, are afraid to "debate real men." Hey John, you arrogant fool: when you’re in a whole . . . stop digging. Or, alternatively, keep it up. You’re a gift to our side of the fence!

Happy Halloween!

We already knew that chocolate had some side benefits besides its delicious taste. But more good news comes our way today regarding the food of the gods. Apparently, the tannins in chocolate kill bacteria that can cause cavities. So, if you’re going to eat candy, chocolate is better than the gooey pure sugar variety. Also, dark chocolate (the best kind) is rich in anti-oxidants. So enjoy the trick-or-treating and admit that you steal your kids’ chocolate candy. Laura Ingraham, by the way, said that taking kids’ candy is a good way to teach them not to be Democrats. Take 30% and tell them it’s a tax!

Steve Hayward

Are you blushing?

Blackwell Closing the Gap?

It’s very interesting that the polls are showing these kind of developments now. A 7 point difference?! I guess the pollsters don’t want to look as ridiculous as they would certainly look predicting a 24% gap between Blackwell and Strickland (as was the average gap shown on RCP as late as yesterday). Now we see something more like the real numbers--the real numbers that have probably been there all along. Either that, or Blackwell has had a MAJOR jump in the last couple days. Which is explained by what? Blackwell certainly should get a boost as undecideds begin to decide. But that doesn’t account for 17 points! So my guess is that the race is even tighter than this poll shows. Michael Barone is right about the polls this election season . . . they have probably never been so utterly useless.

Kerry On Dude

John Kerry demonstrates in this video the typical liberal contempt for the military, and why he will never be president.

NLY Oenophiles Unite

What the heck--if Garrity is going to be NLT’s sports editor, than I think NLT needs a wine and barbecue editor, and I volunteer for the tough duty. Besides, if the election goes as badly as some are saying, we’ll need to up our intake of fine consumables. As I’ve often said, a balanced diet should have equal intake of the four major booze groups (beer, spirits, red wine, and white wine), to go along with the four major meat groups (beef, lamb, chicken, and pork).

This week’s highlight so far as been the new release of Alexander Valley Vineyard’s 2005 Sin Zin. You can never go wrong with Alexander Valley Wines, which are very reasonably priced.

I am rather partial to Paso Robles area wines, since I spent my summers near there, especially Justin (it’s worth the wait to get on the mailing list for Isosceles reserve), but above all don’t miss Adelaida Cellars, which is owned by one of my oldest (since first grade) friends.

Next week: how to barbecue a turkey upside-down (my Thanksgiving technique).

Winston Santorum

Here’s a much more positive view of the "gathering storm" theme in Santorum’s campaign. It may or may not be prudent, but it is certainly noble and defies conventional wisdom about what works this year.

Kuo reviews

Wheaton College’s Amy Black, whose expertise in these matters can’t be overestimated, reviews David Kuo’s book and finds it wanting. A sample:

While many elements of Kuo’s tale resonate with what my colleagues and I learned in our research, the narratives diverge significantly on two central points. The first is over the separation of powers, or, more specifically, the nature of presidential power. From Kuo’s vantage point, if the president really wants something, he has enough power to make it happen. Yet, according to traditional political science, the president’s powers are limited, and they are most limited on issues that involve the federal budget. In foreign policy and diplomacy, the president has almost unilateral power, but when it comes to spending government dollars, Congress effectively holds the purse strings. In Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership, a book that remains central to presidential studies more than four decades later, Richard Neustadt describes presidential power as the power to persuade and as the power to bargain. Presidents do not necessarily have command and control, especially over domestic policy.


Second, contrary to Kuo’s account, the faith-based initiative was never a high-impact issue for most evangelicals. In fact, Christian Right organizations were more likely to oppose the program than to support it. Kuo is correct that the president hoped the issue would draw support from minority voters, especially in the African American community, but Bush and some (though clearly not all) of his advisers were well aware that the issue faced potentially serious opposition from the political Right. Yet Kuo acts as if the failure to achieve charity tax cuts sold-out the Christian Right. In making this false claim, Kuo ironically misses a much larger point. Republican leaders have indeed failed Christian conservatives by offering more lip service than action on the issues their leaders care about the most. But those issues are abortion and gay marriage, not government contracts with faith-based groups.

Alan Wolfe’s TNR review is nastier and less measured, using Kuo as an example of what’s wrong with evangelicals in general.

If theocracy is not a looming danger to our democracy, bathos might be. For every evangelical leader spewing hate, there are ten evangelical followers who believe that all you need is love. David Kuo is one of them. He brought to the White House neither money nor mission, but only mush. No matter how much he came to disagree with the ruthless operatives with whom he was working, he writes, "I couldn’t dislike them." After all, Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, had responded to his hospitalization by writing him a note offering love and prayers; and this, for him, counted far more than her--or anyone else’s--position on anything involving actual policy. "From the moment I found Jesus--or Jesus found me--in high school, it was his peace I longed for. I didn’t know what it meant or what it felt like. But wanting Jesus’ peace made me ache." Most people seeking peace would not march willingly into the middle of a culture war. But Kuo, the kind of person who could actually be moved by one of Harriet Miers’s treacly notes, did. His intentions were not malevolent. They were oblivious, which may be worse.

The last thing America needs now is more innocence. Most Americans have wildly unrealistic expectations of what politics can do, and, expecting too much, they settle for too little. We need leaders who can level with voters, offering good news when there is good news, but not afraid to share bad news when necessary. Religion may or may not help in cultivating such leaders, but evangelical religion offers precisely the wrong ingredients to make such leadership possible. Testimonialism simply does not make for serious politics (or serious religion). It is not enough for us to absolve presidents for today’s mistakes because they have confessed to yesterday’s sins. The one skill that policy-makers ought to possess is the willingness to look beyond personal feelings in order to enact sensible programs. David Kuo’s religious sensibility never allowed him to do that. His book offers an acute warning of the dangers that evangelicals pose to democracy, not because they are too Machiavellian, but because they are not Machiavellian enough.

Wolfe is right, at least about Kuo’s pose, but he’s meanspiritedly wrong when he posits as the only alternatives evangelical hatemongers and starry-eyed lovers. And the solution is not more Machiavellianism, but a recognition of the power of sin and of human finitude and fallibility (which also strike me as evangelical themes).

Update: Peter Steinfels offeers a nicer, less Machiavellian version of Wolfe’s criticism.

Simply Red

The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) regular season opens tonight. For some years now – since Michael Jordan’s second retirement, anyway – all but hard-core basketball fans or those with a particular rooting intrest have generally taken the attitude, "wake me up in April, when the real season begins." That is, the playoffs. Others didn’t bother to pay attention until the Finals.

Things seemed to change last year. One could actually sit down and watch a NBA game from beginning to end, although the college game was still better. Rule changes – cutting down on physical contact – have helped. Foreign players continue to bring strong fundamentals and shooting skills. Teams like Phoenix and Dallas actually like to pass and are very good at it, even if Steve Nash does handle the ball too much sometimes (sorry, that’s not just my opinion – friends in the coaching profession tell me that). Some of the incoming American talent, including Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, seem to get it or are getting there. I thought that NBA Commissioner David Stern was whistling in the dark when he insisted that the game was cyclical, that the retirement of Larry and Magic and Michael did not mark the end of basketball as we know it. He may have been right. I hope so. In any case I will watch tonight. The Phoenix Suns (assuming Amare Stoudemire is healthy) and the Cleveland Cavaliers are trendy expert picks to break through and meet in the Finals. The general managers like the Spurs and Heat. We’ll see. It is a long way until June, after all.

One general issue to follow – besides the controversial new basketball (slippery when wet) – is the health of key players on Team USA, which again failed to bring home the gold medal in this summer’s World Championship. The plans of USA basketball managing director Jerry Colengalo and Coach K to keep a core group together through the 2008 Olympic Games could come into question if Wade and others – who are already complaining of fatigue from playing year around – begin to back out.

The start of the season is overshadowed by the death of Arnold (Red) Auerbach, who was associated with the Boston Celtics for over fifty years as coach (1949-1966), general manager and team president. Red was not to everyone’s taste, especially if you lived in Los Angeles or Philadelphia and had to endure that obnoxious victory cigar. Red was flamboyant, arrogant, abrasive and old-school petty. Hot water in the visitor’s locker room in the old Boston Garden ran cold, while the furnace stuck on high in June. He chased referees into the dressing room. He was undoubtedly kicked out of more games than anyone in the history of professional basketball. He was even kicked out of an All Star game.

Set all that aside. He and Vince Lombardi were the dominant professional coaches of their generation – in style as well as substance – and Auerbach was arguably the best front office executive in sports history. He won nine NBA championships as a coach and seven thereafter. He was one of the true Founding Fathers of the NBA and he remained very much part of the basketball scene until the very end. He was a disciplinarian but also a players’ coach and an unparalleled motivator. As with Lombardi, his oversized personality sometimes obscured the fact that the man was a great coach and teacher. He stressed physical conditioning that allowed the Celtics to play an up-tempo style and pressure defense, anchored by a shot-blocker in the back line. He used the sixth man as a strategic tool rather than as a mere substitute. He was a pioneer of the modern fast break and yet incorporated a disciplined half-court offense with set plays that endured in the league long after his tenure.

Auerbach was a pioneer in more ways than one. He drafted the first black player. He used the first all-black starting five, at a time when coaches were told informally to play "two at home, three on the road, and four when you are behind." He hired the first black coach in major American professional sports. All this in a city that was, how shall we say, often less than enlightened about racial matters (not to pick on Boston). But in Boston, Red was more important than black and white.

Dueling Democrats

Win, lose, or draw next week, it will be useful to follow the more intelligent left-leaning press for insights into the inevitable divisions among Democrats. Start with this article out today from David Sirota of In These Times. Sirota warns that "Divisions in the Democratic Party are sure to grow larger, whether the party wins or loses the mid-term elections."


For the better part of 20 years, Democratic divisions have seethed under America’s political surface. . . Whether the Democrats win or lose on November 7, the party is in for a wild ride.

When the hangover from election night clears, a Democratic-controlled Congress will face a giant faultline between its senior members and its rank-and-file. . . In this fluid majority scenario, the progressive movement that exists outside the Democratic Party will be more important than it is now—but only if it serves as a progressive ideological force. . . Say goodbye to the era of Democratic lawmakers laughing off the grassroots like they did after the Lamont primary victory, and say hello to Democratic lawmakers pleading for grassroots support. But, again, getting to that point will require the progressive movement to be comfortable not just going up against Republicans, but going up against lawmakers of both parties who cross its agenda.

I especially relished this flourish: "If circular firing squad competitions were an Olympic sport, Democrats’ typical post-election behavior would make them gold medal contenders." Here’s to hoping they get to practice their marksmanship one more time. Sounds like they’re going to circle up and start shooting each other even if--or especially if--they win next week. Happy Tuesday!  

Competing Podcast!

Peter will be annoyed, but Ed Driscoll of TCS Daily conducted an election podcast with me and Jonah Goldberg.  

Steele’s new-found support

As Peter noted, Michael Steele has won the endorsement of prominent African-American Democrats in Prince Georges County. A few snippets from the articles:

Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, said the endorsements could be significant. "This is going to go through the black community like a rocket," he said. "It’s going to be the talk of the county, the state, maybe even the nation."


"The party acts as though when they want our opinion they’ll give it to us," said [Wayne K.] Curry, Prince George’s first black county executive. "It will not be like that anymore."


Other Maryland Democratic leaders -- such as U.S. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson and Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County, who is running for lieutenant governor -- declined to comment.

A Cardin campaign spokesman did not return calls.

Memo to Republicans (channeling Warren Zevon): Send lawyers and money; hold the guns.

Michael Says. . .

Michael Barone writes in today’s Wall Street Journal what Peter and I have been saying on our various podcasts about the election, namely that long-term fundamentals still don’t look very good for Democrats, and that a Dem election victory won’t likely mean very much.


All of which leaves me with the conclusion that ideas are more important than partisan vote counts. . . If the Democrats are justified in preparing to change the drapes today, the questions to ask are: How enduring will be such a partisan switch? How much change in public policy will it accomplish? . . . Well, the lead item on the Democrats’ wish list is to raise the minimum wage, a law first passed in 1938. Not exactly a new idea.

Manly GodMen?

Newsweek reports on an interesting, though perhaps overdone (?), development in Christianity: a movement called GodMen. The premise of the group is similar to that of the Promise Keepers, but with a twist. They want more respect for masculine/male nature. They view the Promise Keepers as a bit too feminized--i.e., part and parcel of the thing that is driving men away from Christianity. It could be a useful development . . . but it seems to me that it will be difficult to keep it in check. Perhaps, however, it will be more worthy of the effort.


This very well written movie review over at Slate is a month old, but I just came across it today. Idiocracy is the latest from Beavis and Butthead and Office Space creator, Mike Judge. The premise is interesting: the selfishness of Suburbanites leads them to create fewer and fewer children and they are gradually out-produced by those of lesser intellects. An experiment causes an average Joe (a GI Joe, at that) to be cryogenically frozen and to wake up in the year 2505. He finds a very stupid America when he awakens. Read the review to get a better sense of it.

Apparently the movie is not getting much play or making much money--but it sounds interesting to me. Perhaps it will do better when it comes out on DVD.

Homeownership and the responsibility society

President Bush doesn’t get much credit from anyone for his "compassionate conservative" agenda. Compassion mavens like David Kuo and Lew Daly find it insufficiently compassionate. Others find it insufficiently conservative. But what I’ve always found appealing about it is the emphasis on the preparation for personal responsibility and self-sufficiency, which is clearest in the President’s homeownership initiative, which, as John Weicher notes, doesn’t get the attention its success deserves.

Well Now, Isn’t This Interesting?

A CNN poll says that "A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, ’government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem.’"

Yes, you red that right: A CNN Poll!!!

Advantage Republicans? Well, as the CNN story continues: "The poll released Friday also showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans perceive, correctly, that the size and cost of government have gone up in the past four years, when Republicans have had a grip on the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House."

So, does this mean that absent Iraq and the six-year itch, Republican fortunes for the long term still look pretty good? Only if they return to the principles that got them a majority in the first place.

Memo to Ted Stevens: No more bridges to nowhere.

From Gary Wills’s keyboard to your eyes

State of the art thinking from the New York Review of Books. Rick Garnett comments on one section, calling it "particularly unfounded" and summarizes in this way:

In the end, I do not think it is a stretch to say that, in Wills’s view, any argument or position that is (a) held by the Bush Administration and some Christians (b) with which Wills disagrees is a "faith based" position.

I’ll pile on by considering this passage:

The religious position on health was foremost in the first major domestic issue George W. Bush faced as president. The great promise of using embryonic stem cell research had to be beaten back by the evangelicals, who think that embryos are human persons. Bush spent much of his time working out a way to cut off research without seeming to.

So exactly how many evangelicals are there on the Bioethics Council? Are Catholics now evangelicals? If the affirmation of the human personhood of the embryo is a faith-based position, what is the denial? Can science deny the humanity of the embryo? Does "science" have anything to say about "personhood," one way or another? Are all affirmations (and denials) of personhood dependent upon faith? Gee, I guess the country is, as the NYRB’s headline writer says, "ruled by faith."

Santorum Ain’t Perfect?

The intelligent Ross Douthot criticizes Santorum for promiscuously using Churchillian "gathering storm" rhetoric to divert his own mind and the attention of others from the real complexity of the foreign policy problems facing us. He is surely repulsing some voters by sounding more principled than credible. Thanks to Ryan Rakness for calling this provocative post to may attention. You will have to scroll down a little to the comments on the senator.

Steele is gaining?

I do a number of interviews each week on the election (stop laughing!). Sometimes you learn more from a reporter than he learns from you. This reporter (no Republican) claimed that Steele may end up winning in Maryland. He thinks that Cardin has started to bore people and their lack of enthusiasm for him has become palpable. And note who just endorsed Steele.

CNN poll

"A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, ’government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem.’" This may explain why Republicans aren’t doing so well. Note the McCain (!) comment at the end of the piece.

Santorum again

Christianity Today has a short article on the Santorum/Casey race and an interview with Rick Santorum. Casey apparently declined to be interviewed. Does this mean he doesn’t think he needs evangelical votes in Pennsylvania? Or that he already has them sewn up, so that the less said, the better? Or is Santorum right about his opponent?

What about your opponent Casey’s perspective on the Iraq war?

I think it would be very difficult for anyone, including Al Qaeda, to figure out what my opponent has to say on virtually any issue. He’s been about as cryptic on the issue of the war as he is on what he wants to do with Social Security or with solving the deficit or a whole host of other issues. He’s been on both sides of almost every question with respect to the war.

I doubt that there’s anything new here for folks who have been following the Pennsylvania race, but we sure are reminded of how smart and articulate an advocate of his positions Santorum is.

Germans leaving

Germans are in bad shape. In 2004 the number of Germans leaving their country was greater than the number of immigrants moving in. There were 145,000 German emigrants and 128,000 immigrants. Most went to the U.S. Some encourage emigration from the continent altogether. A bit depressing.

The Senate Races

NRO’s Miller has an informative overview of the close senate races. He’s right that it’s worrisome that Kyl, the incumbent, isn’t over 50%. But he also gives a plausible spin on why the polls underrate Allen’s real support.


Interesting nugget on exit polling from Michael Barone’s latest column:

The late Warren Mitofsky, who conducted the 2004 NEP exit poll, went back and found that the greatest difference between actual results in exit poll precincts and the reports phoned in to NEP came where the interviewers were female graduate students -- and almost all the discrepancies favored the Democrats.

Not sure whether this says something about polling, or about female graduate students.

Legislating Civil Unions?

Here’s a sensible article on why libertarians should settle for now for the New Jersey court’s declaration of the right to civil unions, because it doesn’t preclude the judiciary declaring a right to same-sex marriage later. The only problem is that the article’s conclusion that it was all about "legislating civil unions" in New Jersey. The legislature of New Jersey didn’t do any legislating! Instead, the court actually ordered it to do some; court-ordered legislation is not legislation in the normal sense of the term. Our increasingly libertarian country may be creeping toward the acceptance of civil unions and perhaps even same-sex marriage, but we opponents of judicial activism should at least insist that the creep be regulated by the people through their elected representives, and not through an elitist, evolutionary, judicial proclamation of new rights.

Party Identification

Michael Barone considers that most recent national polls show Democrats with an advantage in party identification "in the vicinity of 5 percent to 12 percent." In 2004 party identification was 37 percent Democratic and 37 percent Republican. Is this true? If it is, then that quick change is a first.

The Trojan War, No More (Or, Coming to a Horseshoe Near You)

The new college football Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings are out. With USC’s loss to Oregon State, we are closer to the train wreck that many have predicted since the BCS system was first implemented. That is, a situation in which multiple undefeated and one-loss teams (not just one, as was the case with Auburn a few seasons ago) can legitimately claim that they were unfairly excluded from the official national championship game. This will be true especially if undefeated West Virginia, now ranked #3, loses Thursday night’s game against undefeated #5 Louisville. Even then, West Virginia will face tough games against Pittsburgh and Rutgers. And the computers, unlike the human voters, do not like the Mountaineers –- the machines have them #13.

College presidents, athletic directors, coaches, prominent alumni, the media and blogs like this one from Florida to Idaho –-well, maybe not Idaho –- will scream again about how unfair the system is, and how we need a playoff system to determine a true national champion. But that is a story for another day. The truth, of course, is the forces behind college football love the BCS precisely when it creates controversy. Controversy during the season means publicity –- and money. More than a playoff system, apparently.

That said, week in and week out, it’s hard to beat college football. Especially great rivalry games. Unless there is a major upset in the next two weeks –- and the USC loss is a reminder not to take things for granted – we do know one of the teams that will play for the national title. That will be the winner of the greatest rivalry game of them all. Even better than Duke-North Carolina in basketball. November 18, #2 Michigan at #1 Ohio State.

For you Boise State fans, keepers of this year’s flame for the smaller schools, you are still two spots (#14) away from an automatic bid to another BCS bowl game – with no shot at the national championship game, of course. I am afraid however that your final game at Nevada might end the dream.

A note on pro football: Mike Vick has been scary good the past two weeks. If this is a trend and not more fool’s gold; if he can stay healthy (a very big if); and if Atlanta can continue to use him creatively – the promised revolution in quarterbacking may finally be upon us.

Studies Show That Prosperity Brings Health But Not Happiness

According to Robert Frank increases in prosperity improve how the poor are treated, are good for the environment, contribute to workplace safety, and free people for additional time (if they want it!) with their families. But most of all, it makes "premature" death more rare. Prosperous people may not experience themselves as more happy, but that fact is deceptive. Happiness can be found among paraplegics and prisoners in concentration camps, but that doesn’t mean that those people wouldn’t choose better circumstances for themselves if they could. Happiness doesn’t correlate well with prosperity or its absence, in my view, but it may correlate negatively with the opinion that you some right to it.


Christopher Caldwell is a writer. I enjoy reading him even when he is unkind to my hobby and my friends. Do I have to defend something that is fun? Do I have to explain (a la Churchill) that the difference between a small boy and and me is about sixty years? Doesn’t he know that young men don’t ride Harleys (and Isabellas) because they are not fast enough? Doesn’t he know that old men like bikes because they are beautiful? I should be riding.

The Unlibertarian Santorum

I’m sure you all have noticed that David Brooks wrote a column on Senator Santorum as THE compassionate conservative--a man most of all animated by alleviating poverty in any effective way. Santorum doesn’t shy away from sponsoring expensive government initiatives with leading Democrats, but his most fundamental conclusion is the best way to improve people’s condition is to think of them, first of all, not as individuals but as members of families. More of an individualist, Brooks disagrees with Santorum on same-sex marriage and abortion, but he still strongly admires the senator’s thoughtful, unlibertarian, and often unfashionable activism. Santorum’s book, complete with reflections on Alasdair MacIntrye, is, Brooks tells us, at least as good as Obama’s.

Brooks lets us see Santorum as a sort of a early 1960s northern, Catholic Democrat, or something like his opponent’s (Casey’s) pro-life father. And if his article gets around, it may well help the senator with Catholic moderates, union members, people devoted to the "helping professions," and soccer moms or just moms in general. But will it hurt him with Republicans? In any case, Brooks reminds us that Santorum is the genuine article, serious almost to a fault and willing to lose rather than compromise his principles.

This article is being discussed on NRO. Among the fine points made is that Santorum and Ford share the same position on same-sex marriage, although Ford is making a much bigger campaign deal about his opposition. Ford’s strong stand is often praised as shrewd tactics, Santorum’s often dismissed as homophobia.

Karl Rove, still the maestro?

This Los Angeles Times story on Karl Rove (by Hamburger and Wallsten) tries to explain why he is not discouraged: "Instead, Rove is giving a virtuoso performance designed to prevent the Democrats from taking control of the House and Senate or, if that is no longer possible, to hold down the size of the Democratic victory to make it easier for the GOP to come back in 2008. His plan is three-pronged: to reenergize any conservatives who may be flagging; to make sure the GOP’s carefully constructed campaign apparatus is functioning at peak efficiency; and to put the resources of the federal government to use for political gain." There is nothing really dramatic in the article, mostly predictable tactical stuff, but worth reading anyway.

Hear, Hear, Hearings

Michael Crowley writes in The New Republic that potentially victorious House Democrats say they have learned the lessons from Republican overreach and won’t go totally berserk with hostile hearings. Yeah, right. Crowley admits, "All this prudence may disappoint the party’s frothing liberal base, which might like to see, say, Steven Hadley in stocks--preferably with his pants down."

More likely we’ll be back to the 1980s, when Democrats used hearings to bash the popular Reagan, and produced gems such as this one which I have in my files:

REP. BRODHEAD: Mr. Chairman, in my view the performance by these witnesses today is without question the shabbiest performance that I have ever witnessed before any congressional committee. It is absolutely unbelievable, the things that have been said here today. . . I am appalled.

Who can resist such a temptation? There is also a Rip Van Winkle character to the prospect of a Dem House majority: Most of the key committee chairs will be octogenarians such as John Dingell, John Conyers, Charlie Rangel, Henry Waxman--heck, they ought to bring back Rostenkowski just for kicks. At least the 1994 election brought new faces to town. The Dems are going to give us very old faces, and it’s going to remind many voters of why they ushered these folks out of power in the first place. Have fun Nancy.

Graduate classes, Summer 2007

The graduate classes are now set for next summer. There are seventeen of them, in five different sessions. Note the fine profs from both here (Foster, Sikkenga, Moser, Burkett) and abroad, i.e., outside of Ashland, (Tucker, Lloyd, Milkis, Smith, Suri, Moreno, Pestritto, Carrese, Schaub, Morel, Krannawitter, Owens, Krugler, Monroe, Marlowe, Raney, Bailey, Landy, Flannery, McDonald, Atto, Busch, Miller). More on the Master’s of American History and Government here.

Glenn Beck at Ashbrook

By the way, Glenn Beck will be our featured speaker at the 22nd Annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner on December 1st. It’s a fund-raiser, so you have to pay up if you want to attend. Hope you do.

Shotguns and rifles

This otherwise middling article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on how both parties are trying to lock up support reveals (perhaps unintentionally) the the anxiety felt by Democrats despite their lead in polls for the senate and the governorship. One party activist wishes that the election were held today, and notes how much friendlier the electorate is today compared to 2004: "The people who slammed their doors on me are now keeping them open, willing to listen and take literature." Also note this rather subdued account of the Dems’ get out the vote operations from Adam Naguerney of the NYT.

Tangled Webb (and Dems) in Virginia

Andrew Ferguson on the Senate race in Virginia: "Here George Allen--former governor, favorite of the conservative movement, and one-term Republican senator of no particular distinction--is being challenged by the most sophisticated right-wing reactionary to run on a Democratic ticket since Grover Cleveland." A good read that, among other things, points out the very large problems the Democratic Party has in supporting Webb. I love the finger-food meeting in the suburbs dotted with bumper stickers "Visualize World Peace."  

Why retaining control of the Senate is important

In case you’d forgotten.

Maryland Senate race

Powerline brings to our attention Charlie Cook’s change of the Maryland race to "toss-up" from "leans Democratic." Cook’s reasons for the change is quoted extensively. Note also that there is (again) talk of the year of the woman, but the MSM doesn’t like to talk about, say, the year of the black Republican (note Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylavnia), unless it is to talk about Republican racism. True to form.

Andy Busch on the elections

About an hour ago I talked with Andy Busch about the elections. He seems to have found some movement among toward the GOP in the Senate races, but still thinks that Ohio (where the GOP seems without hope, according to polls) looks bad for the GOP. The conversation is about 15 minutes long.  

A successful red state Republican

I had the pleasure yesterday of hosting Georgia Republican Congressman Tom Price on campus. (He happens to be my Congressman, now that my neighborhood has been drawn out of Georgia’s 4th District, which for many years returned Cynthia McKinney to Congress.)

Price, in case you don’t know, is one of five prominent medical professionals in Georgia politics (he’s an orthopedic surgeon; Phil Gingrey is an OB-GYN; John Linder and Charlie Norwood are dentists; and Sonny Perdue is a veterinarian). I’m almost ready to tell my students interested in politics to major in biology.

But seriously folks....

What I found most interesting about his presentation was a subtle distancing from the Bush Administration. There was no overt criticism: the closest he came was in referring briefly to a smarter way of waging the war on terror. His three big domestic issues were energy independence, immigration reform, and health care.

On immigration, he’s a "secure border first" guy, but he couches his position in a way I hadn’t heard before. Of course, he’s realistic about the needs of our economy, but he’s also realistic about the needs of our polity. We must, he argued, engage and enfranchise those within our borders to make certain that they understand what it means to be an American. Our current arrangements might be economically tolerable (my words, not his), but they’re not civically tolerable (my interpretation of his words). "Hear, hear!" I say (if I heard and understood him correctly).

He also spoke at some length about partisanship in Washington, D.C., which he contrasted unfavorably to his experience in the Georgia state legislature (where he served eight years, the last two as the first Republican majority leader in the state senate since Reconstruction). The best day in D.C. is like the worst day in Atlanta, from the standpoint of partisanship.

He offered two explanations for this phenomenon: the way districts are drawn facilitates partisan extremism; and the fact that Congress has essentially a Tuesday - Thursday workweek, which keeps informal social contact among members to an absolute minimum. I’m only somewhat persuaded by the first explanation. He’s surely right that safe districts reduce the need to reach across party lines to find votes, but there is the question of character. He strikes me as a sensible guy, hardly a fire-breathing partisan, yet he represents an exceedingly safe Republican district. The other point deserves more consideration than I have time for right now, but it also gets to the issue of character and civility.

Don’t we, in the end, get the representatives we deserve? (If so, I must be doing something right.)

Play Ball

Peter Schramm has kindly invited me to contribute occasional essays and reflections on sports. He knows that I have been looking for an excuse to justify the many hours I waste watching games on TV and reading something other than Plato or Churchill. Even so, I think this activity requires a somewhat more formal justification, at least for the record.

Whether you like them or not, whether you watch them or not, sports and the culture of sport are deeply embedded in American society. The way we play, act, and think about sports says a good deal about us. We are a highly competitive people. We care about our favorite teams. We love or hate the Yankees or Cowboys; neutrals need not apply. We create sports where none existed before (where did the X-Games come from?). We form fantasy leagues. To be sure, millions care not a whit. But millions who cannot tell a double dribble from a double play also cheerfully pony up money for their NCAA March Madness office pool.

That said, sports are often taken far too seriously. We are awash in commentary. The 24 hour sports channels and internet sites create a need for instant opinion and argument, the stronger the better. Significant stories are few and are circulated and dissected ad nauseam. The same videos of T.O.’s latest outrageous actions, or Bob Knight’s chair toss twenty years ago, are replayed over and over. We jump easily to conclusions and make profound connections about athletes and society. Those who do remarkable things on the court must be remarkable men or women. If they fail, they must be despicable human beings. The fact that our international teams have fared poorly in recent years (the Ryder and Walker Cups, Davis Cup, Olympic basketball and baseball) is taken as a sign of the end of American civilization. Their coaches should be fired and the teams decimated. Kenny Rogers should have his pitching arm amputated.

Or so one is led to believe after watching the latest ESPN Sports Center.

I think not. I do not wish to add to the clutter. The fierce passion of playing or watching sports should be left on the field or the couch, and among friends. There are some remarkable and many ordinary things in sports worthy of comment, but only after reflection and with a certain degree of humility, especially from those who are not in the arena. Comment generally much briefer than this, I might add.

Schramm alert

I don’t think Peter has mentioned it, but Washingtonians will have the opportunity to experience his charm, wit, good looks, and penetrating analysis at this event next week. Wish I could be there!

Politics, loyalty and unease

If you exclude the bumcombe, this NY Times story on how black voters may not vote in the numbers that Democrats need is interesting. In the meantime, Larry Sabato says it is all over but the shouting, and the only question is how big the Democratic victory will be; but also note that he admits that the New Jersey Supreme Court decision to mandate the legislature to pass full legal rights to New Jersey’s same-sex couples "could not have come at a worse time for Democrats all across the country." And Forbes calls Blackwell a "reincarnated Ronald Reagan" and explain why he is not doing well and why he ought to be doing better. Personal loyalty vs. intellectual unease among the GOP ranks is the way Peggy Noonan puts the problem as she elegantly carves up Bush for dinner and asserts that the loss may turn out to be a good thing (for the cause). In passing, I note that former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix described the invasion of Iraq as a "pure failure" that had left the country worse off than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. And a new CNN Poll finds that most Americans do not believe the Bush administration has gone too far in restricting civil liberties as part of the war on terror.

New Jersey gay marriage

Eugene Volokh has interesting thoughts the slippery slope in this case. A sample:

[I]f we take the New Jersey Supreme Court at its word, it sounds like in New Jersey antidiscrimination laws, domestic partnership laws, and hate crime laws did indeed help bring about same-sex civil unions, just as they did in Vermont ...and, as to same-sex marriage, in Massachusetts.

One can condemn this slippery-slope effect, or praise it. (I support same-sex marriages and civil unions as a policy matter..., but I don’t think that state courts should mandate them as a constitutional matter.) But I think that one can’t dismiss the possibility that slippery slope effects, good or bad, are indeed present here, and can be present in similar contexts. And this is so even when, as a purely logical matter, the initial steps (employment discrimination bans, domestic partnership laws, hate crimes laws, and the like) are eminently distinguishable from the final step (same-sex civil unions).

Read the whole thing. Hat tip:Stanley Kurtz.

My mother

My other arrived two nights ago. She has moved to Ashland from Southern California, where she has been living for fifty years. I spent the morning running some errands with her. She notices the small scale of things, how everyone is pleasant and knows your name. She’s delighted by everything so far, although was not amused when I told her that it snowed for two days just before she arrived. She also noticed the many American flags flying in front of houses (even in the drizzle), a lot more than she was used to seeing in Van Nuys. She also thought there were too many Democratic yard signs, I thought you said this was mainly a Republican town, she said. It still is Mom, I think.

Losing the Hollywood Vote

The check-in and security lines at JFK airport are amazingly short this morning (meanwhile--avoid Dulles airport; for some reason their security lines are running over an hour long these days, and they can’t seem to figure out how to fix it), so I have more time to blog.

So I can’t help but note the story buried deep in the paper this morning that Nicaragua’s national legislature has voted overwhelmingly to outlaw all abortion. The measure was supported by Sandinista thug-in-chief Daniel Ortega. I doubt he’ll be getting invited back to Hollywood any time soon, as he was in the 1980s.

Camille Paglia

An interview with the always interesting, strange, and amusing, Camille Paglia. Good morning.


John Fund notes the gathering in Cleveland last week to remember the Hungarian Revolution. I chaired a panel on the revolution’s consequences.

Tick, tick, tick. . .

The New York Times reports this morning that black voters are disillusioned and may not turn out. This nugget from Donna Brazile caught my eye:

"This notion that elections are stolen and that elections are rigged is so common in the public sphere that we’re having to go out of our way to counter them this year."

Now off to catch a plane to Los Angeles.

Zogby Poll

Just about the only good news in this Reuters/Zogby Poll is this finding: "The poll found more than 19 percent of voters are still undecided about their congressional vote."

Hungarian Revolution

Here is another piece on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 from John O’Sullivan. And some photos.

Tocqueville Forum

Those who attended Patrick Deneen’s conference at Georgetown might be interested in what he has on tap for the rest of the year, which will surely give Princeton’s Madison Program some competition in the middle Atlantic states.

Barone on the House and Waves

Michael Barone goes through House races (about 50) and predicts (his analysis equals the best in "scientific" polling) an almost evenly divided House: 219 Democrats, a net gain of 16, and 216 Republicans. Also this: "My predictions also suggest, correctly, that I do not see this, at least yet, as a ’wave’ election. In a ’wave’ election, the winning party—Democrats in 1974, Republicans in 1994—win about half the districts they seriously contest, while the losing party wins about 10 percent of those they seriously contest (since the Republicans seem to be seriously contesting only five seats, this would give them at best one offsetting gain). If you count all these 45 Republican seats as seriously contested, this would mean that Democrats would gain only 36 percent of them. A ’wave’ result, which some are forecasting, would give Democrats a net gain of 22 or 23 seats, enough for a 225-210 or 226-209 majority."

Funniest Radio I’ve Ever Heard

Hugh Hewitt did a revealing interview today with Andrew Sullivan whose book, The Conservative Soul, is making the review/promotion rounds this week. It was a good (and lengthy) interview and you can hear it here. But I mention that only in passing. The best reason to listen to the interview is to give yourself some context for listening to the parody of the interview that came from James Lileks. (The parody is available at the same link as the one above for Sullivan’s interview.) It was beautifully brilliant and hilarious in every way. You simply must do yourself this favor and give yourself this gift of laughter! I am still laughing and I will laugh every time anyone ever mentions a tornado to me again! (I’m being deliberately cryptic here . . . go listen and you’ll get it!) It hits the spot about now, doesn’t it?

This Is Curious

The Human Rights Campaign Fund, devoted to promoting gay rights, has reportedly fired a staffer who was involved in revealing the Foley e-mails, and GayPatriot suggests the HRC’s fingerprints are all over the whole thing. Hmm. This would be a delicious irony if it proves true.

Latest Podcast

I just finished another podcast with Thomas Suddes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. For those of you who have listened to other podcasts that I have done with Tom, you already know he is one of the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to Ohio politics. Today we discussed, primarily, the Blackwell-Strickland race. We will do another podcast early next week to discuss the various Ohio Congressional races.

Garrity on Baseball

Pat Garrity wrote an excellent essay for the main Ashbrook site on the virtues of baseball and Roberto Clemente. Pat will continue to write more sports-related pieces for us over time. I look forward to them.        

A Fascist by Any Other Name Still Stinks

Kathleen Parker has a thoughtful essay on the similarities between the fascists of the 40s, the 60s, and today. There is one really important similarity between them that she notes: they will only stand down when the good guys all stand up. Are you standing? 

The Novaks on Will on Allen

Michael and Jana Novak respond to George F. Will’s review of Brooke Allen’s book, which I discussed here. They say everything I’d want them to say. Here are a couple of snippets:

Among the 89 signers of the Declaration and/or the Constitution, nearly a dozen had studied theology, were ordained ministers, were preachers though not ordained, were chaplains to a militia unit, or were officers of national Bible societies and the like. Historians of the last hundred years have been remiss in their study of the religion of the Founders. We urgently need good studies of all of them, if we wish to have a fairer idea of “the faith of the Founders.” Let us suggest, for starters, studies about the depth of the Christian faith of Roger Sherman; Samuel Huntington; William Williams; the Carroll cousins Charles, Daniel, and John; Hugh Williamson; Robert Treat Paine; William Paca; John Dickinson; Rufus King; William Livingston; John Hancock; Benjamin Rush; Patrick Henry; James Wilson; and George Mason.


[O]ne must recognize that it is not the “top” six who ratified the Constitution of the United States, but rather “We the people of the United States.” We the people who fought and died in the War of Independence. We the people who count ourselves a religious people, with the manifest and self-evident duties that any conscious creature owes to its Creator. To understand the religion of the Founding, one must also understand the faiths of the American people.

Read the whole thing. Hat tip: Matt Franck.

Another October surprise?

A gay marriage (?) decision in New Jersey.

There’s some discussion at The Corner. I doubt that it will make a huge difference in New Jersey, but it might provide fodder for someone like African-American social conservative Harry Jackson, who has expressed doubts about Republicans, discussed here and here. In fact, I wonder if the New Jersey decision might not have more of an impact in Jackon’s home state of Maryland, where Michael Steele is likelier to take a stand than is Tom Kean, Jr., especially since Maryland has its own judicial gay marriage controversy. (You can read one of the amicus briefs filed in the appeal here). Any Marylanders out there agree or disagree with me?

Update: Another hotly contested state where this might matter is Virginia. And while I’m at it, Ed Whelan walks us through the decision at Bench Memos.

Update #2: There’s speculation about the political impact of the decision here.

Should the Republicans Have a Libertarian Litmus Test?

Well, the libertarians think so. Concerns concerning terrorism have masked the extent to which Republicans have been losing support among voters who see themselves as both economic conservatives and social liberals. Clearly the libertarian vote is in play now. It is arguably THE "swing vote." Should Republicans now look for candidates who combine "the fiscal conservatism of Reagan and the social tolerance of Goldwater?" Or should they think, instead, that the sophisticated combination of the Sixties’ "Do you own thing" (personal and cultural) and the Eighties’ "Do you own thing" (economic) is really a recipe for bourgeois bohemian self-indulgence that stands in ugly opposition to what we really know about our common responsibilities? Because the Democrats really have become more libertarian in the sense defined in the article, it’s true enough that today’s libertarians are less marginalized than blessed with an expanded political menu of choice.

Invitation to participate in a roundtable

I’m putting together a roundtable proposal for the upcoming American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, to be held in Chicago on Labor Day Weekend in 2007.

The subject? Why, blogging, of course!

Here’s the particular cfp to which I’ll be responding:

The section continues to invite papers that demonstrate the continuing relevance of literature in an increasingly technological age. In keeping with the current theme, members should also consider the ways in which literature itself should be understood in the 21st century, and who should speak for it. What are we to make, for instance, of the emergence of political documentaries, films and political commentary programs and their ability to shape current debates? What of the enormous popularity of political (auto) biographies and works that explore political issues from the inside as well as from without? Does the "blogosphere" constitute a literary forum of sorts?

I want to put together a fair and balanced, so to speak, slate of participants. If you’re interested, send me an email sooner rather than later, as the proposal deadline is November 15th.

The Election

There’s some sense things are getting a bit better for the Republicans, and the latest studies suggest that the Senate has moved from a likely Democratic takeover to a likely Republican hold, if barely. Here are the latest Bloomberg poll results. They are encouraging for MO and TN, with the Republicans not only leading but approaching 50%, and my general sense from my Tennessee friends is that Ford is fading a little. The results from VA are not so good, as Allen has apparently fallen behind. Most disturbing, from my view, is that Kyl’s lead in Arizona is shrinking; he really is a fine senator who richly deserves to be reelected. And he still likely will be.


The inimitable Scott Ott skewers the Michael J. Fox ad.

Paintball Tanks??

Now I’ve seen everything.

Life Imitates Art

There’s a line somewhere in Mel Brooks’ second-best movie, Blazing Saddles, about "horn-swoggling cracker-croakers."

Yesterday in Tennessee Harold Ford, Sr., was caught on tape complaining about "crackers" from the Corker campaign. "Horn-swoggling Corker-crackers" anyone?

Obama’s Threat to Hillary

And the the GOP in the South. This sounds plausible.

Tick, tick, tick. . .

This WaPo story tells of "voting problems" in 10 states: "The report by says those states, and possibly others, could encounter trouble on Election Day because they have a combustible mix of fledgling voting-machine technology, confusion over voting procedures or recent litigation over election rules."

"Combustible" indeed. Get ready: If Dems lose some close races, watch for screams that "we were cheated!"

Alexander Hamilton in the news

This Inside Higher Ed story reports the founding of the Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization at Hamilton College, already noted approvingly here. Good for Hamilton, and good for the board structure that prevents the Center from departing from its founding intent.

Democrats and abortion

In a post whose title tracks Steve’s (with a somewhat different intent, however), MOJ’s Rob Vischer points to an interview with Nancy Pelosi. Says she:

Q: I think the issues that brought you into politics were the environment and also choice. [You had] five children in six years, a Catholic background. . . Was embracing choice an issue with your family?

Pelosi: To me it isn’t even a question. God has given us a free will. We’re all responsible for our actions. If you don’t want an abortion, you don’t believe in it, [then] don’t have one. But don’t tell somebody else what they can do in terms of honoring their responsibilities.

Says Vischer:

I’m not even sure where to begin. In the world according to Pelosi, whether abortion should be legal "is not even a question." We should not outlaw abortion because God gave us free will. (Under that logic, could anything be prohibited by law?) We can effectively register our moral opposition to abortion by not having one. And honoring responsibilities is an inescapably self-defined endeavor.

Safe and legal? For sure! Rare? Only for those who don’t want to have abortions. And proposing legislation that would reduce the incidence would be a way of registering one’s opposition, which NP says we can do only by choosing privately not to have an abortion.

Same as the Old Boss?

Financial columnist Jim Jubak notes that prospective Democratic replacements for key House Republican committee chairman might not make environmentalists’ hearts go aflutter:

But Barton’s likely replacement [as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee] would be John Dingell, D-Mich., a fierce advocate for the U.S. automobile industry. In other cases, the effect of the change is easier to extrapolate. Pombo’s likely replacement as chairman of the House Resources Committee would be Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. Can you say "coal," boys and girls?

P.S. Jubak’s stock picks are pretty good, too.

Political thoughts of the day

E.J. Dionne, Jr. writes about the "radical center," which he thinks may comprise a portion of a new Democratic majority. As he describes it, those who are part of sound to me a lot like the Perotistas of the early 90s. I can’t imagine that they’d coexist comfortably with the netroots.

Then there’s the WaPo/ABC News poll, which shows independents favoring Democrats. But look at the actual results, not what the reporters wrote about. Note, first of all, that it’s a "registered voter," not a "likely voter," poll. Note, second, that trends in voter enthusiasm favor Republicans, not Democrats, and that those who favor Republicans are actually favoring Republicans, whereas a substantial portion of those who favor Democrats say that they’re voting against Republicans. Sounds kinda Perotista to me.

Third, the numbers on Congressional disapproval and on approving of one’s member of Congress are, predictably, reversed. What’s more, the levels of approval of one’s member of Congress are significantly higher than in 1994 (51-38 in the final ’94 poll, as opposed to 62-32 among registered voters now).

There is, of course, some not so good news for Republicans in the poll, but many of the trend lines seem to be marginally favoring them. It looks like they hit bottom in the week after the Foley revelations.

Oh Happy Day!

The paperback edition of Greatness goes on sale today! Order early and often!

Tuesday Thoughts

Here and there one can see Democratic paranoia that somehow, either Karl Rove will pull a rabbit out of a hat, or, more likely, Democrats will find some way to blow it themselves. Harold Ford crashing Bob Corker’s press conference in Tennessee last week looks like an unforced error.

And then there’s this ad in Missouri, with Michael J. Fox trying to lay a partisan guilt-trip on voters. Was this focus-grouped? Seems likely to backfire to me. I wonder what the NLT focus group thinks?

Meanwhile, Castro is still dead, or what?

A note on statistical errors, ecological fallacies and biased sampling. or, a meltdown

Jay Cost calls himself a "methods hound" and on that basis has a "methodological critique" of some who talk of a GOP "meltdown." Almost Greek to me, but not quite.

The Washington Post reports on its own poll showing "Republicans are losing the battle for independent voters, who now strongly favor Democrats on the major issues facing the country and overwhelmingly prefer to see them take over the House in November." And the New York Times asserts that Bush now has a new title: "optimist in chief:" "President Bush and his political strategists may be the most outwardly optimistic Republicans in Washington these days, and perhaps the only ones." And Tom Daschle predicts that the Democrats will pick up 25 House seats and 7 Senate seats. Mr. Daschle, a former senator, said he has not yet decided on whether or not to run for president, but it looks like Barak Obama has.

Heather Mac Donald beats her dead horse

USA Today provides Heather MacDonald with yet another venue for her critique of religious conservatism, which I’ve discussed here, here, here, and here.

A couple of new thoughts from Mac Donald with Knippenberg responses:

President Bush says his belief that "God wants everybody to be free" informs his foreign policy. This declaration is disquieting, for it means that the president’s war-making decisions are not wholly amenable to worldly evidence. Even if the Iraq adventure were to appear to human minds as patently counterproductive, reversing course would violate a higher mandate.

That "God wants everyone to be free" clearly doesn’t imply that it is always and everywhere my duty to bring freedom to everyone. There is room for prudence, informed by reason and evidence, to respond to this sort of demand. And of course, what GWB has repeatedly said is that freedom is God’s gift to humanity, which at most affords us a principle for evaluating regimes and for informing our action, rather than supplying an imperative that we must fulfill, posthaste, here and now.

And there’s this:

Conservative atheists and agnostics vigorously support the two-parent family because the life chances of children raised by both their biological parents are demonstrably superior to children raised by single mothers. Moreover, when marriage disappears as a community norm, so do civilizing constraints on male behavior. It doesn’t take Bible study to see this. Conservatives do not need God to prove the value of marriage; the sad state of the inner city is testament enough.

As a matter of public policy judgment, she’s right, but people don’t choose to get married (or not), or divorced (or not) in response to public policy judgments. Those judgments might lead us to create some incentives and disincentives to inform these choices, but lots of people take their vows seriously because of the setting in which they made them (and I’m not thinking of city hall or the Elvis wedding chapel on the Strip in Vegas).

Mac Donald concludes (following Richard Rorty, that exemplary conservative): "Invoking God in the political realm is a conversation stopper, not an invitation to robust debate." In some circumstances, I agree, but so is denying the relevance of faith (and religious duty) in some circumstances. Religious folk should be humble, and they should offer reasons as well as religious witness. Secular rationalists, too, should be humble, though whether and how they’re open to being humbled remains to be seen.

The Surgical Science of Age Management

Cosmetic surgery is booming among "boomers." They really, really don’t want to look old; they often believe they can’t afford even a hint of graying in our meritocratic youth culture. And surgeons often prefer to perform really big-bucks operations that don’t even claim to improve the patient’s health.

Ahmadinejad Wants More Iranian Babies

In case you wonder why Mark Steyn and others think that the birth of the 300 millionth American is a good thing, take a look at this. You can’t be a great nation if your numbers are dwindling. Ours aren’t . . . yet. And God willing, they won’t begin to dwindle any time soon. But we should take great care to greet those who are willing to take on the challenge of parenthood with more respect than we tend to offer them. We should think seriously about a culture that glorifies the excesses of the single life over and against the rewards of family life.

Hungarian Revolution

Peter Nadas writes on the 1956 Revolution for the Wall Street Journal.

A quirky picture of conservative evangelicals

E.J. Dionne, Jr. reviews this book by Andrew M. Greeley and Michael Hout, which purports to complicate our view of conservative Christians.

One example of how the complications work: did you know that lots of African-Americans are conservative Christians, yet they hardly vote in overwhelming numbers of Republicans? If the authors and reviewer mean to say that thee’s no straight line between theological affirmation and political position, I agree wholeheartedly. But let’s at least look for what might the factors are that might be complicating the relationship. And let’s not lose sight of how those factors are present or absent in other conservative Christian communities.

And how about this?

[C]onservative Protestants were marginally more likely to watch PBS news programs daily than other Americans-with the exception of those who say they have no religion, who watched at about the same rate. “If one finds the temptation irresistible to picture all ‘Jesus people’ as religious fanatics,” Greeley and Hout write, “one should picture a fifth of them glued to PBS stations every evening.”

Without knowing more, this doesn’t tell me anything. How are they watching? What else are they watching? Is this a rejection of network news, or is it just preparation for the nature and cultural programming that follows?

And, finally, there’s this:

Interestingly, the authors report that conservatives were “more likely to admit infidelity in the course of a marriage than were Mainline Protestants.” On this point, they choose to depart from the data to make a moral point. “We wondered in passing why the leaders of the conservative denominations, so eager to denounce threats to the institution of the family, seem disinclined to criticize these relations (about which they claim to be ignorant), which are either fornication or adultery by their own moral standards,” they write. “Homosexuals, it would seem, threaten the family but not infidelity or living in sin.” Greeley and Hout are right to call our attention to this moral inconsistency.

No conservative Christian I know winks at infidelity, but there’s no explicit pro-adultery position in the public arena against which to react (unless, of course, you regard those who would in various ways weaken the bonds of marriage to be pro-adultery).

Another review of Sullivan

Jean Bethke Elshtain takes on AS, skewering him even more elegantly than David Brooks, to whose review I linked here. Finding AS full of simplifications and distortions, she observes:

These distortions and simplifications occur because Sullivan cannot hold doubt and truth together within a single frame. Those who can are not, perforce, fundamentalists. The fundamentalist mindset is quite different, emphasizing rigid moralisms rather than claims to moral truths and norms.

Read the whole thing.  

Schroeder on Bush

John von Heyking called my attention to this, from former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s memoirs. Bush, according to Schroeder, is a religious fundamentalist, with whom there can be no conversation, just like the fundamentalist elements in the Muslim world.

But, he assures us elsewhere, his criticism of the Bush Administration doesn’t make him anti-American, "[o]therwise, half of US society would be as well." Do you think that the no-holds-barred domestic criticism of the President has licensed these sorts of public statements from foreign figures? And the interviewer from Der Spiegel points out, Schroeder is more tactful regarding Putin (effectively his employer) than he is regarding GWB.

For more on Schroeder’s memoirs (in English), go here. If you read German, there’s more here and here.

Hungary 1956

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. Worth remembering because it was a turning point in the life of communism. The BBC has some stories and pictures, and notes the demonstrations going on today.

Scare ’Em Silly

That, says Dick Morris, is the only strategy that offers the Republican hope. But I say it won’t work; they just aren’t that scared. The Republicans have to show themselves as the party with a responsible and effective foreign policy, as well as the party of democracy (or for the people’s legitimate moral concerns and against judicial activism and bureaucratic political correctness) and prosperity (through low taxes). If I knew exactly HOW they can do this at this point, I would get into the consulting business. Morris is correct to suggest that the result he describes can’t be avoided just through the organizational efforts to turn out the base.
The base needs to be reminded why it’s a base.

Monday Musings

This is starting to sound like the inverse of the old Saturday Night Live routine on Franco, but this morning brings fresh rumors that Castro is dead or near death.

Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus reports that Nancy Pelosi actually said this: "The gavel of the speaker of the House is in the hands of special interests, and now it will be in the hands of America’s children."

You can’t make up stuff that good.

Religion and the Founding

George F. Will kinda likes Brooke Allen’s new book on religion and the Founding. It’s hard to dispute her judgments about the figures she chooses, though Michael Novak might at some point give it a try.

I wish that Will had made a couple of relatively simple points in his review. He should have reminded us, first, that the First Amendment originally applied to the federal government and not to the states. Politically, the concern was with a national religion, not with state establishments. The Constitution is silent about religion, not because the Founders thought religion was unimportant, but because they thought that national uniformity was unattainable and undesirable.

The other thing I wish Will had said is that focusing on any small group of leaders is misleading, both about the tenor of the country, and about the meaning of the Constitution. Shouldn’t we be concerned with the thoughts and understandings of those who voted to adopt the Constitution? Were they more "orthodox" in their views?

If the point is to distinguish American religiosity of the Founding Era from its contemporary counterpart, I have little or no quarrel, so long as one also recognizes that the self-presentation of rationalism has also changed a good bit.

I deal with these matters here.

Barack Obama

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that he’s considering a run at the Presidency in 2008. Or is this all just about selling his new book?

If the former, how long until the gloves come off in the press and among his fellow presidential aspirants?


are making a comeback. We cranky professors are thrilled.

300 Million Americans and Counting . . .

Mark Steyn says it’s great! Here’s to out-producing them!

Actually, I think we ought to add one more to those 300 Million Americans via adoption. Automatic citizenship for Mark Steyn if he wants it! Anyone who can write like that and with that much sense ought to get some bonus.

Perspective for Youngsters Like Me

O.k., I exaggerate (just a bit). But seriously, this Michael Barone piece is worth a read, or two. It serves as a good reminder of the things about which we should not worry and, indeed, for which we should be grateful. More important, it serves as a great reminder of the things that should concern us and about which we should be vigilant. Why do we always seem to get the two backward?

Welfare reform not working

Here, courtesy of RCP, is an op-ed contending that the 1996 welfare reform hasn’t succeeded in breaking the cycle of impoverishing behavior. The problem, Penn law professor Amy Wax contends, is that the cultural norms that would encourage responsibility are missing. Here’s her conclusion:

Congress’ hope that reforming welfare to demand work would reverse family decline was a fantasy because mandated work is a half-measure. Economic outcomes depend critically on interpersonal behavior. Enforcing demands in one realm but not the other has yielded a social universe divided in two.

There’s no question that marriage still protects, as social scientists such as Robert Lerman have shown. Those who live by the old values largely avoid poverty and enhance their children’s chances of success.

In contrast, those who accept our invitation to abandon those values make up an ever-larger presence. Deprived of what money can’t buy — attentive residential fathers, stable homes and orderly lives — their children have a harder time competing with the rest of us. Welfare reform does not change that and never will.

Read the whole thing.

Stem cell compromise?

What do people think of this?

Big-time comebacks are possible

And the Republicans don’t even have to do this.

Huzzahs for my alma mater.

Sunday Straws

Barron’s, my favorite financial publication, says Republicans are going to hang on to control of Congress: "Jubilant Democrats should reconsider their order for confetti and noisemakers. The Democrats, as widely reported, are expecting GOP-weary voters to flock to the polls in two weeks and hand them control of the House for the first time in 12 years -- and perhaps the Senate, as well. Even some Republicans privately confess that they are anticipating the election-day equivalent of Little Big Horn. Pardon our hubris, but we just don’t see it." I think their analysis (based on the one-dimensional metric of canpaign cash on hand) is a bit shaky, like most of the quantitative political science election models. But their predictions have been fairly good in the last two election cycles, while mine were too pessimistic about GOP prospects.

Michael Barone argues, as I did in my recent podcast here, that even if Democrats win the House, it won’t be a harbinger of realignment. He’s already looking ahead to 2008: "If a Democratic victory presages realignment, we should see some evidence of that in the polling for 2008. But we don’t. Which party has candidates that can poll above their party’s 1996-2004 ceilings -- 49 percent for Democrats (Clinton 1996), 51 percent for Republicans (Bush 2004)?" Answer: Republicans. Barone’s conclusion: "Competence may defeat Republicans in 2006, but that doesn’t mean that ideology can win for Democrats in 2008."

Now, off to TV land to watch the Redskins get skinned by the paleface Indianapolis Colts.

George Will on Why Americans Aren’t Happy About Their Prosperity

People are better off than they were four years ago. And all the economic indicators should inspire confidence and gratitude. But Will explains that security-conscious Americans are suffering from "economic hypocondria." So they’re may be to embrace completely unncessary and probably counterproductive Democratic economic remedies. Our economy, contrary to Pelosi, has no need at all of being "jump started."
The Republican challenge: How do you tell self-described egalitarian meritocrats that your tolerance for risk is unreasonably low?
The Republicans’ (reasonable) whine: Why don’t people see that, despite the lack of fiscal restraint and an expensive war, Bush’s adminstration has been, on balance, good for American prosperity?

Reviews of Sullivan

The WaPo review of Andrew Sullivan’s The Conservative Soul is an embarrassment. The less said about it, the better.

The NYT, to its credit, commissioned David Brooks to write the review, and it’s a good one. A snippet or two:

The Conservative Soul” is imbued with Sullivan’s characteristic passion and clarity. And yet I must confess, if I hadn’t been reviewing this book, I wouldn’t have finished it. I have a rule, which has never failed me, that when a writer uses quotations from Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and the Left Behind series to capture the religious and political currents in modern America, then I know I can put that piece of writing down because the author either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is arguing in bad faith.


As for Sullivan’s conservatism of doubt, I’m sympathetic. I know only two self-confessed Oakeshottians in Washington — Sullivan and me. And yet Oakeshott’s modesty can never be the main strain in one’s thinking, though it should always be the warning voice in the back of your mind.

Sullivan notes that Oakeshott “couldn’t care less about politics as such, who wins and loses, what is now vulgarly called ‘the battle of ideas.’ ” His thought was poetic, not programmatic.

Well, if you want to sit in a cottage and bet on horses, fine. But if you actually want to govern, such thinking is of limited use. It doesn’t make sense to ask how an Oakeshottian would govern because an Oakeshottian could never get elected in a democracy and could never use the levers of power if somehow he did. Doubt is not a political platform. Hope is.

Oakeshott was wise, but Oakeshottian conservatism can never prevail in America because the United States was not founded on the basis of custom, but by the assertion of a universal truth — that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain rights. The United States is a creedal nation, and almost every significant movement in American history has been led by people calling upon us to live up to our creed. In many cases, the people making those calls were religious leaders. From Jonathan Edwards to the abolitionists to the civil rights leaders to the people fighting AIDS and genocide in Africa today, religiously motivated people have been active in public life. They have been, in their certainty and their willingness to apply divine truths, fundamentalists — if we want to use Sullivan’s categories. You take those people out of American politics and you don’t have a country left.

Read Brooks and ignore the WaPo review. And try to finish Sullivan’s book. It’s on my nightstand.

Update: As Steve Thomas helpfully notes in the comments, Sullivan has responded to Brooks here and here. On the basis of what he says here, I’m not convinced that the Constitution is a "Burkean" document, or that his version of conservatism is genuinely conservative. Let me cite one statement as an illustration: "To paraphrase Oakeshott, I am a conservative in politics so I - and anyone else - can be a radical in every other activity, if we so choose." This might explain a certain kind of Straussian, but even most (or at least many) Straussians would profess a greater respect for traditional (gentlemanly) morality than this statement implies, not to mention be more attentive to the interactions between regime and morality than Sullivan seems to be. In this mode, Sullivan seems to be more a product of a certain kind of Enlightenment than of any sort of conservatism, more of a libertarian/Hayekian than a pure Burkean. I’ll grant him some Oakeshottian tendencies, but Oakeshott was not the relentless popularizer, polemicist, and propagandist that he is.

Gerson on conservatism

The WSJ’s Naomi Schaefer Riley chats with Michael Gerson, who is apparently writing a book on the future of conservatism. What he has to say won’t please our libertarian readers.

Studies Show More: The Emerging Science of Evolutionary Species Futurology

The good news, in a way, is that, over the next thousand years, we will become uniformly better looking, with prominent body parts improving in both size and shape. But around 3000 overdependence on technology will cause our species to peak out. Then we may lose all our social skills and emotions, not to mention our chins. Eventually we may well divide into two sub-species.

Jim Ceaser’s Neo-Neo-Neoconservatism

The Georgetown Tocqueville Forum conference (hosted by the dyanmic Pat Deneen) was very classy in every way. A sell-out crowd of about 1000 heard Scalia. Here was asked plenty of moderately hostile (bu always polite) questions, and Scalia handled them all with killer expertise, wit, and spirit. It’s hard to figure out why people that good at explaining what our Constitution means in a partisan setting aren’t recruited to run for high office.

A good reporter would go over some of the other many conference highlights, but I’m going to limit myself to one. Jim Ceaser seems to have at least tweaked his view of the basic American political division today. It’s still the foundationalists vs. the non-foundationalists. Both factions are all for civic education, but of different kinds.

The non-foundationalists claim they want to purge our political life of foundational concerns (everything from the Bible to Marxism to natural right) in the name of peace and freedom. But their true goal is utterly secularize or trivialize all of American life.

The truth is, Jim explained, that liberal democracy is the incomplete regime. Our written Constitution that protects our natural rights points beyond itself to an "unwritten constitution" that is essentially religious in some sense or another. And the nonfoundationalists’ main concern is to transform our unwritten constitution to conform with their view that human life would be better off if deep thoughts about common responsibilities were replaced by Rortian private fantasies.

Reflections on the incompleteness of liberal democracy and the unwritten constitution are characteristic of a neoconservatism that eludes the criticism I gave below. They may reflect Jim’s study of either Pierre Manent or Orestes Brownson or both, although I’m not sure.

Ninth Inning Rally?

Dan Riehl thinks Democrats are slipping. Interesting take.

Hat tip: The Inimitable Glenn.

Another Podcast

Steven Hayward wanted to do another podcast because he thinks there is, dare I say, good news for Republicans. We had a brief but useful conversation about the rays of hope that are emerging for the GOP. Numbers are improving in the Senate races and the candidates that the Democrats have recruited in many of the key House races look an awful lot like Republicans. Interesting stuff.

Japanese Nukes?

Charles Krauthammer thinks it is not an unreasonable suggestion. I don’t know if he is right but, it does seem to me that the objections to it--if they are as he describes in this article--are pretty silly and outdated. It probably is a good time to take stock of who, exactly, our friends are in this world. It is also a good time to make a mental note of those in whom our trust is misplaced. The old alliances of post-WWII America may need some re-sorting, dusting off, additions and subtractions. This piece is a good device for starting that discussion.

Thoughts on Peter’s Post Below

It comes down to this: There are people who regularly lie to themselves about bad news in order to make themselves feel better and call themselves "optimists." These people are not very useful and ought to be taken as lightly as they think.

On the flip side, there are people who are constitutionally dyspeptic and can’t help but always see the only the negative. These people occasionally get it right--a broken clock is right twice a day, right? So they serve as a check to genuine optimism and can be helpful on occasion. But generally speaking, they are not to be trusted.

A third type are the people who are just poison--the kind like the pollster Hewitt interviewed. These folks delight in drumming up bad news in order to advance their own interests. For them, the perfect will ever be the enemy of the good. The sky will always be falling and, of course, only they have the answers and (therefore deserve the funding and the fame) to save us. They are always too clever by half. And you should be able to smell them from a mile away. These people should not only be disregarded; they should be exposed as frauds. And I think Hewitt did a huge service by exposing that man as he did yesterday. (One frequent guest of Hewitt wrote in to tell him that this was the first time he’d heard of someone having his pants pulled down on radio! But he also admonished Hewitt for not learning anything from fishing--in other words, Hewitt winched the pollster in too quick! Hewitt shot back that the guy wasn’t a keeper.)

Finally, there are people who take bad news as a challenge. They see danger as opportunity. These people have a bounce in their step and a gleam in their eye. They are not easily moved by the winds of politics. Politics is a rough game and its not meant for the feint of heart. There’s no crying in baseball (although I’m very unhappy about my Mets losing!) or politics. These people know that if you have to go down, you don’t go down with dishonor! You must keep fighting and, at a minimum, deserve victory.

Which one of these types will you be today?

What should Republicans do?

Because the Democrats have tried to "nationalize" the campaign Andy Busch suggests that Republicans "counter-nationalize" it. This may be their only chance. NRO’s Scorecard (mostly based on Zogby) has the GOP losing three Senate seats, by the way. In the meantime Hugh Hewitt (he’s been visiting battleground states) claims this about conservative voter turnout:

"There is simply no data to support the idea of significant if any turnout diminishment. There is grousing. There is posing. There is much struggle to claim Spenglerian cred." No data. Nada.

Grown-ups wanted/needed

How would grown-ups deal with this? Hat tip: Get Religion.

Touchy, touchy

I’ll follow Steve Dillard’s example and post this without further comment.

The Highest and Best Use of Tony Blair?

Another out of control YouTube production. (With apologies to The Clash.)

Impeachment on the table?

The Nation is beating the bushes (so to speak) for impeachment referenda around the country.

MacIntyre on liberal education

Our friend John von Heyking sent me this essay by Alasdair MacIntyre, which offers an excellent critique of contemporary higher education and a well-articulated proposal for reform. Here’s a snippet:

First, what students learn in their major, whatever the discipline, has more and more become what they need to learn, if they are to become specialists in that particular discipline. The major has too often become a prologue to graduate school and the undergraduates most praised are those most open to being transformed into the likeness of their professors, an outcome that would be comic, if it were not tragic. Second, students are compelled to make more or less irrevocable choices at a stage when, even if they already know what they want to learn-and many do not-they do not as yet know what they need to learn. What they do know is that their career prospects will be harmed if their grade point average is not high and therefore they have a strong motive not to take courses in which, at least at first, they may not do well. As a result, risk taking is out, for them as for their teachers, and those who most need, for example, to learn certain parts of mathematics and science, are likely to avoid taking just the courses that they most need. Moreover, their teachers depend on them for their teaching evaluations, and teachers who insist on giving students what they need rather than what they want are apt to be penalized in those evaluations. So it becomes inevitable that many students’ needs go unmet, even while their desire for As is gratified.

Third, whatever pattern of courses is taken by an individual, it is unlikely to be more than a collection of bits and pieces, a specialist’s grasp of this, a semispecialist’s partial understanding of that, an introductory survey of something else. The question of how these bits and pieces might be related to one another, of whether they are or are not parts that contribute to some whole, of what, if anything, it all adds up to, not merely commonly goes unanswered, it almost always goes unasked. And how indeed could it be otherwise when every course, even when introductory, is a course in a specialized discipline taught by a teacher who may be vastly ignorant of everything outside her or his own discipline? Each part of the curriculum is someone’s responsibility, but no one has a responsibility for making the connections between the parts. To whom should this matter?

It should matter to anyone who thinks it important what conception of human nature and the human condition students have arrived at by the time they enter the adult workplace....

Read the whole thing.    

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve written a very long piece, entitled "The Fate of the Earth in the Balance: The Metaphysics of Climate Change," discussing the startling similarities between Al Gore and Martin Heidegger. You can read or download it here.

Bull Market for Donkey Shares Indeed

Shortly after the 2004 election I wrote A Bull Market for Donkey Shares? for TechCentralStation, in which I argue "if the Democratic Party were a publicly-listed company, I think I might be tempted to buy a few shares. It is great fun watching the torment and back-biting going inside the Democratic Party right now. But as Benjamin Graham and John Templeton taught, the best time to buy a stock is at the moment of maximum pessimism, and that moment is right now for the Democratic Party."

The piece re-reads pretty good right now: "Like a depressed blue-chip stock, the Democratic Party still has a high ’book value,’ or tangible political assets such as labor union and other interest group organizations, a historic brand name, Hollywood money, and media sympathy. The political equivalent of the business cycle -- the problems and stumbles of the incumbent majority party -- will usually create opportunities for a comeback."

It’s not all rosy for the Dems. I caution that

A few Dems understand that it is their product line that stinks. If the two parties were burger franchises locked in mortal competition like Burger King and McDonald’s, one might suggest the Dems have decided to compete while staying closed for lunch, and refusing to offer hamburgers for dinner. Democrats are not seriously competitive on national security ("closed for lunch") in the way they were under Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy. (Or if they are open at all, they only offer chicken strips.) And their disdain for religion would be like McDonald’s refusing to offer hamburgers to customers at dinner. Among Franklin Roosevelt’s many religious utterances was, "Freedom of religion has no meaning to a man who has lost his God." A prominent Democrat who talks this way today risks being shunned; verily, we are seeing that freedom of religion has no meaning to a party that has lost its God.

Despite some refinements in the "values" area, it is not clear the Dems have really changed deep down.

P.S. My stock picks in that piece look pretty good, too. Maybe I should start doing more of that.

A Useful Top Ten List

The ten dumbest members of Congress. I’m sure we’ll have some new contenders for this honor after the election. That’s the great thing about elections. . .

Bill Clinton on the common good

Contributing to an incipient Democratic effort to articulate a politics of the common good, Bill Clinton spoke at Georgetown University yesterday. I was reading along, remembering why I liked a good bit of what he had to say (but never believing he actually meant it) when I came to this howler:

You have to oppose people who do things that are wrong, but it is very hard to say there’s going to be one set of rules for me and another set for everyone else.

I think the "common good" approach on national security worked. It was a combination of carrots and sticks. We did have military encounters. We didn’t succeed at everything we tried to do, but I think on balance, the world was safer when we stopped than when we started.

Read that last sentence again. The world in which al Qaeda, checked only symbolically by the Clinton Administration and emboldened by its feeble efforts, was well into preparations for 9-11 was safer than the world in 1992. What’s more, the context of this comment is suggestive: he’s talking about nuclear proliferation. If we have nuclear weapons, we can’t really tell the Iranians and North Koreans that they can’t have them too.

Much of the speech is a defense of the Clinton Administration’s record and an attack on what Republicans have done the past six years, framed by a wish that we can have deep and respectful philosophical arguments about politics and policy. That last part is the Clinton I remember liking, but not believing. The rest is the real Clinton, so to speak. In the course of this extremely long (is there ever any other description of a Clinton speech?) attack on the Bush Administration, he blames Republicans for the hyperpartisanship and name-calling that now marks Washington. Not a good way to open up a respectful airing of our philosophical differences.

Or as he put it at one point in the speech, "it is very hard to succeed in politics when you’re telling people they’re ugly all the time." In Bill Clinton’s world, it’s a bad idea to criticize the North Koreans but O.K. to heap opprobrium upon Republicans. But wait, the Republicans have nukes....

What’s the matter with Kansas?

According to this WaPo article, a number of prominent (ex-)Republicans think they have something to gain politically by running as Democrats. Rarely a good sign for the party they left.

Crunchy Kuo

That’s the title of my TAS Online piece on David Kuo’s book promotion campaign.

He says that his principal motive is to get Christians to rethink their priorities, which is probably good advice for those who think that they can find "salvation" in politics. But he can’t be so naive as to think that the timing of his book launch--and his ubiquity in the media--is occasioned by anything other than politics and his publisher’s (and his) interest in making money.

Update: In his blog, David Kuo points to this TNR piece by Amy Sullivan and says that she "gets it right." Sullivan spends most of her piece urging liberals to exploit Kuo’s book for political gain. Is that what she gets right, according to Kuo?

Blackwell: On Point, Right Principles, Too Late?

Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager are on a whilwind tour of crucial election battlegrounds this week and today that had them in Ohio. Ken Blackwell, of course, was featured prominently and--though I’ve been following this from some distance--it was striking to me how clear and powerful his points were and, yet, how deflated he is sounding.

Strickland recently made something of a minor gaffe (minor only because it was conspicuously under-reported) when he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that business is suffering in Ohio because people don’t want to come to a state that is "backwards" in its thinking. Ohio is backwards, in his judgment, because it is unfriendly to the notions of unlimited abortion and government funding for stem cell research. In that same forum (before Strickland’s gaffe) Blackwell argued that businesses weren’t flocking to Ohio because of over-regulation and high taxes. Today on Hewitt’s show, Ken made the cogent point that the difference between him and Ted Strickland is rather simple: Strickland thinks your taxes are fine and your values are wrong. Blackwell thinks your taxes are wrong and your values are right.

That is very clear, and very good. I think Blackwell should say that at every opportunity between now and November 7 but, he needs to say it with greater energy if he wants it to get through. It is time for Blackwell to take off the gloves with Strickland. This guy may not be Sherrod Brown--but he is every bit as dangerous for the future of Ohio. And I, for one, cannot get over how insulting it is for a candidate for governor to say the kind of things Strickland said about the citizens he expects to govern! He thinks you’re backwards?! Really!! Isn’t that interesting? A little anger and indignation would be appropriate here--no matter what the polls say. In fact, in my opinion, the polls would read alot differently if we were seeing more indignation from the real, raw, and un-groomed Ken Blackwell.

Speaking of Ohio’s values . . . it is at least interesting, is it not, that Mr. Strickland (who calls Ohioans backwards for their non-scientific approach to values) has provided us with a taste of exactly where his scientific approach to values might lead. In a July 27, 1999 speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Strickland refused to condemn a study of the American Psychological Association that suggested adult-child sex might not be very harmful to the child if the sex were "consentual." The APA later withdrew this study. But Strickland (who is also under scrutiny for refusing to investigate a staffer accused of exposing himself to children) did not withdraw his comments. Is this the kind of scientific research that should inform the moral judgment of Ohioans?

It is late--but not too late--for Blackwell to make significant gains in this race. I think the polls over-estimate the lead Strickland has, but Blackwell, clearly, is not in a good place right now. Still, there is enough time to come out swinging and sway enough undecideds (and perhaps some decideds) to support the only serious candidate in this crucial election.

Shameless Self-Promotion

I will be speaking this Friday morning at Georegtown at the conference Joe mentioned below on Civil Theology and Liberal Education. Here’s my projected last sentence: "That’s why our civic education has nothing to do with civil theology, and everything to do with liberal in the sense of liberating education, which includes, of course, theological education."

I will be speaking on Thursday the 26th at Kent State University at 4 pm on "Stuck-with-Virtue Conservatism." The lecture will be in Room 317 of the Student Center (thanks, Kate) and is sponsored by the Library. I hear Kent St. is near Cleveland, and Cleveland, I also hear, is near Ashland in some way.

And I will speaking on Saturday the 29th as part of a public program on Tocqueville at Rochester Institute of Technology. Mark Lilla and Bruce Frohnen will also be part of this program.

If I weren’t both shameless and lazy, I’d be posting links to these fine events.

Is Neoconservatism Dead?

Not according to Peter Berkowitz. It will live on as the position between traditional conservatism and progressivism that best reflects the tensions that must be managed or minimized to perpetuate our liberal democracy, with its dedication to individual liberty. But don’t the neos err insofar as they tend to reduce the purpose of political life to the protection of individual liberty, and so by regarding tradition, virtue, religion, and perhaps even the family and political participation as merely instrumental for the individual and not as goods in themselves? I don’t see myself as either a traditional conservative or a neoconservative or even a faith-bsed conservative.

Latest Podcast

My podcast this week is with the always knowledgeable Andy Busch. Anyd and I discuss the midterms again and the fading hopes for the GOP, yet some hope remains and it may be that the media is writing what it hopes to be true.

Hopeless in Ohio

This page A16 article in the New York Times on Ohio brings nothing but bad news for the GOP (the NYTimes/CBS Poll finds Ohioans "overwhelmingly favoring Democrats"). If the elections were held today, the GOP would lose. The only note contrary to this opinion is this paragraph that may indicate that the GOP voters are not yet fully engaged.

"One bright spot for the president and Republicans was that while about 60 percent said they had made up their minds about this year’s elections, 4 in 10 said it was too early to say how they would vote." If three out of those four would end up voting Republican, we would end having an interesting election.

A corporate faith-based initiative?

Acton’s Jordan Ballor reminds us that the arguments for encouraging faith-based social services apply regardless of who’s funding them. Whatever political or constitutional objections there are to government funding, they shouldn’t apply to corporate giving, yet many corporations also have policies that forbid contributions to fbos.

Find out if your employer has such restrictive policies, and encourage it to focus on the good that these groups do. One of the benefits of the faith-based initiative is that it has encouraged greater organization and accounting sophistication in fbos, which makes it easier for contributors to direct their money to the elements of the program not directly connected with proselytizing (if that’s the issue).

Poli sci election prediction models

A couple from this year. I can’t recall a time when they’ve ever been right. Perhaps others can correct that impression, if they’ve paid closer attention.

Be there or be square

Pomocon James Poulos hypes the conference we promoted here. We’ll expect full reports from presenters and attendees afterward.

Poulos also throws a little love our way.

Fresh Pew transcript

Featuring John C. Green, Amy Sullivan, and Ross Douthat talking about religion, politics, and the 2006/2008 elections. It’s a relatively quick read and offers some interesting, though not profound, analyses. Near the end, Sullivan and Douthat offer examples of Democratic and Republican politicians who "get it" regarding religion.

Christianity for and against the culture

Jea Bethke Elshtain offers a wonderfully nuanced model of Christian social/political engagement "for the children." Here’s a chunk:

our cultural milieu is one in which the norm is both parents working outside the home, exhausted and busy. It values success and drivenness, measuring success through monetary reward. It glamorizes celebrity and ignores the hard work people do every day to raise children and sustain neighborhoods, to make life less brutal and more decent and kind. It is a milieu of pervasive family fragmentation if not outright breakdown, to which many children respond with anger and "acting out." In this milieu every personal question, and many public questions, are medicalized and psychologized; new drugs are touted not only to the public but to the medical profession via lavish marketing stratagems and budgets.

Christians begin their reflections on this cultural setting with the gift and integrity of the bodies and beings of children. They go on to consider the gift of time and how precious it is. They consider the concreteness of the Christian message—do unto others here and now, not in the distant future, not in an abstract way. Do not ignore the person before you. This, in turn, invites critical reflection on whether we are rushing to diagnose children as "troubled" or "hyperactive" in part because parents no longer spend concentrated time with their children and prefer them to be pacified when they are with them. Such reflection suggests that radical and uncontrolled experimentation on America’s children, by way of powerful drugs, many with known, deleterious side-effects, absent knowledge of long-range effects, may be undertaken at least as much for the convenience of adults as it is for the benefit of children.

Any assault on the integrity of the human body should be of heightened concern to the Christian because Christianity is an exquisitely embodied religion. We recall sobering moments from the past when children—and adults—were quickly labeled "antisocial" or "incorrigible," institutionalized and forgotten. Now we think we are humane in rushing to medicalize, often against the advice of cautious voices within the medical community as to the alleged benefits and the many known dangers of massive drug use. One doctor cited in the Times spoke of children put on "three or four different drugs," each of which created new symptoms and side effects, before going on to ask: "How do you even know who the kid is anymore?"

That is a frightening sentence: how do you even know who this child is? If we believe every child is claimed by his or her Creator, we should be alarmed by a social milieu where children are treated instrumentally, where pacification of children rather than care and attention to each child in his and her particularity becomes a social norm. We are against this. What are we for? Minimally, we are for taking a hard look at how children are faring in our society. That, in turn, can spur transformation, especially in what I have called "the politics of time." Good, old-fashioned time is what so many children need. How can a society that pretends to be child-centered justify culturally approved neglect? It goes without saying that neglect comes in many forms: tens of thousands of privileged children are neglected in the way I am noting here.

What’s a child- or family-friendly policy in this context?

Democrats and religion for the umpteenth time

Here’s a softball story from Religion News Service that affords a kind of who’s who of folks helping Democrats "get religion," so to speak. They all deserve closer, more critical scrutiny, but not simple hit jobs.

Be Not Afraid!

Lest anyone suppose from my previous post that I am defeatest about the election, check out Jeffery Lord at The American Prowler on the serenity of Ronald Reagan after the drubbing in the 1986 election. Politics has deeper tides than single elections, as Reagan understood. Who looks more prescient now: Reagan and his understudies such as Gingrich, or Anthony Lewis, who wrote that the 1986 election proved that the "The End Begins: Radical Right Movement Has Crested"?

As the previous Pope liked to say, "Be not afraid!"

Tuesday Thoughts

As news arrives of yet another potential Republican disgrace in the House (Homes Raided in Rep. Weldon Influence Probe, at least we can find some solace from P.J. O’Rourke in What’s That Smell? GOP Stinking Up the Joint.

Meanwhile, the often surprising Post columnist Richard Cohen notes the oddity of the Foley scandal: "To change anything at all about the Foley matter would be to trifle with its essential vacuity, its reliance on bigotry and ignorance, its resplendent Beaver Cleaver qualities (congressional pages, for crying out loud!) and, not the least, the fact that so far this is the ultimate Washington sex scandal: There is no sex."

The other interesting news concerns the Norks. Did you see the squib yesterday that China is building a hefty fence along its border with the Norks (Memo to Bush and Frist: At least someone believes in border fencing!). Perhaps China knows something big may be about to happen.

More Conservative Praise for FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

This most thoughtful and very entertaining show portrays the languid hedonism of today’s high-school life (even or especially in small football-crazed Texas towns) with unflinching realism but without overt moralizing. That means, of course, that the life of the winning coach is portrayed as the very opposite of languid and hedonistic. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is on tonight at 8 on NBC. Be watching or at least say that you are when the ratings people call.

An English Study Shows Who Watches Frat-Boy Gross-Out Movies

Here’s the demographic: American males under 25! We also learn, of course, that most of these movies are disgusting and not really very funny. But the top five, to tell the truth, are at least pretty funny and have moments of classic psychological insight and astute social commentary, while still not morally sound works of art. So they are guilty pleasures of us sinners: NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, DAZED AND CONFUSED, AMERICAN PIE, and HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE. (The last title is mangled in the article.) Actually, REVENGE OF THE NERDS is rather eddifying. And don’t forget the Platonic motto of ANIMAL HOUSE’s Faber College: "Knowledge is good." So it is. Fat, drunk, and stupid really is no way to go through life. (It’s the combination that’s deadly, not the qualities considered in isolation.)

Conservatism and the Rhetoric of Democracy

Here is Dan Mahoney’s friendly criticism of the more innovative features of neoconservatism and the president’s rhetoric as political reflection. One sample sentence: "President Bush is not wrong when he argues that despotism violates the moral law and mutilates the wellsprings of the human spirit. But he is too quick to identify human nature with a single overarching impulse or desire, and he goes too far in conflating the ways of Providence with the empire of human liberty." Notice Dan’s use of Manent’s thought to question the prudence of the idea of UNMEDIATED rights or liberty.

Democrats and the common good

Here’s an AP story about "the common good" as a Democratic campaign theme. A couple of snippets:

"We really feel that it speaks to the central moral challenge of our time," said Alexia Kelly, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, an advocacy group that formed two years ago.

"Our religious traditions call us to that deeper vision of caring for all, being in it together, not a go-it-alone culture," said Kelly, who has worked for the U.S. bishops and served briefly as a religious adviser to 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. "I think it’s important that it crosses faith traditions."

Tom Perriello, a co-founder of the Catholic Alliance, said the approach would help end what he sees as a self-defeating practice among liberals -- treating religious Americans as a constituency that needs special handling, instead of crafting a message meaningful to all voters.

But he acknowledged that the strength of the "common good" as a unifying theme also is a weakness. The term is so broad it’s hard to define and can be misinterpreted as a call for "big government," Perriello said. "The question right now is who is going to define it."


Under Roman Catholic teaching, promoting the "common good" would include opposing abortion -- a position both Santorum and Casey embrace -- and opposing gay marriage to protect human dignity and the family. "Common good" Democrats are generally changing how they talk about abortion, calling it a tragedy to avoid -- rather than a private issue. But most have not come out against the procedure.

"I would argue that the conservative evangelical and traditional Catholic stands on same-sex marriage and abortion are stances in favor of the common good," said Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and a supporter of President Bush.

We learn in passing that Mara Vanderslice, who worked ever so briefly for the Kerry campaign on religious issues, has a consulting firm, whose mission is to:

[provide] Democratic elected officials, candidates and state parties with the expertise, understanding, and resources that will allow them to authentically engage and connect with America’s diverse religious communities. We strive to help candidates better understand the complex American religious landscape and create opportunities to build relationships on the local and national level. By rediscovering how to communicate Democratic values, CGS is working to help Democrats reframe the national religious debate and focus attention back on the common good and social justice issues that are central to American faith traditions and Democratic strengths.

Bob Casey is one of her clients.

Perpetuating the Ford Political Machine

Control of the Senate, at this point, is centering on Tennessee. And that’s because the Democrats have an unusually attractive candidate who has, with considerable media success, reinvented himself as a moderate. HAROLD FORD certainly is iintelligent, rather charismatic, and all that. But, people of Tennessee, check him out more closely. These’s a controversy over his claim that he’s a lawyer. He did graduate from the University of Michigan Law School, but he also flunked the bar the one time he took it. He probably didn’t bother to study because he didn’t need to pass it. He didn’t need to work! Immediately afer graduation, at the age of 26, he assumed, almost by hereditary right, his dad’s seat in Congress, perpetuating the Ford political machine in Memphis.

The best case against Ford is that he’s never held a real job! He’s a political hack! His oppponent, by contrast, has achieved great success as a very entrepreneurial contractor and volunteer civic leader. Check out the BOB CORKER story. In this key case, Republicans need to shout that our candidate is the one with the admirable record of real accomplishment.

Kuo and the faith-based initiative revisited

Stanley Carlson-Thies, about whom I’ve written here and here, has written a response to David Kuo’s allegations. It’s a thoughtful attempt to put Kuo’s claims in perspective. Here’s the conclusion:

Kuo is right to question whether everyone in the White House fully shared the President’s commitment to the faith-based initiative and to point to some abandoned goals, poor implementation, and insufficient spending on some programs. Still, groups that oppose the faith-based initiative for alleged violations of the Constitution, as well as constitutional law scholars busy assessing how the regulatory reforms fit with Supreme Court developments, surely aren’t merely chasing political phantoms. Nonprofits scholars and doctoral students who have dedicated years of analysis to understanding how the array of the government’s social-service partners is changing and how to measure the relative effectiveness of secular and religious providers surely aren’t mere dupes taken in by empty speeches. Democratic governors who have joined Republican governors in establishing their own state-level faith-based offices probably aren’t dancing to Ken Mehlman’s or Karl Rove’s tune, and neither is the US Conference of Mayors, with its Mayors Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. And all those faith-based and grassroots organizations that are finally finding a welcome when they approach government won’t be persuaded by Kuo that nothing really has happened. If David Kuo saw political shenanigans from his perch in the faith-based office, they were just a small, and by far the least important, part of the faith-based initiative. The effort to improve government collaboration with faith-based and small organizations began before the Bush years and will continue after it. It has congressional supporters on both sides of the aisle and it has been endorsed by presidential candidates of both parties. It is integral to America’s long experiment to ensure freedom both to organizations shaped by faith and to people seeking help. Kuo’s glimpse into the politics that is part of governmental action should tempt no one to ignore the vital and hopeful changes that are taking place through the faith-based initiative.

As Carlson-Thies says at another point, "I’m not surprised that politicians think politically about policy change and eagerly seek to win new supporters." Neither am I. And if Kuo were a "policy purist" (which is hard to imagine, given the career sketched here), he might be entitled to his dismay, as well as to a benefit of a doubt about the timing of his revelations.

But I’ll leave it at this: I’m not surprised that someone who wants to sell some books (and has done so in the past by "telling all" about former associates) would calculate when he could make the biggest splash.

Update: My thoughts on Kuo’s Sixty Minutes interview are here.

Update #2: Jonah Goldberg has more.

My Day as JFK

Yesterday Ashland University hosted a session of the National Security Decision Making Game, a simulation of international politics and warfare. I first learned of NSDM last summer at Origins, a game convention held annually in Columbus. After seeing it played there, my colleague Chris Burkett and I decided that it would be a great experience for students, and with financial support from the Ashbrook Center we made it happen.

The scenario we played was called "Cold War-1960s," beginning in 1960 and continuing until the players triggered a nuclear holocaust, or time ran out--whichever came first. I am glad to say that we managed to avoid the former (although there were some tactical nukes thrown around in Korea toward the end of the day).

The participants (mostly students, but with a few faculty as well) were divided into three teams, or "cells": the United States, the Soviet Union, and the People’s Republic of China. In addition, each player was assigned a particular role to play, and with each role came a specific set of objectives (which, by the way, were kept secret from the other players). Ultimately each participant was judged on the basis of his or her ability to meet those objectives.

I was assigned the role of John F. Kennedy--perhaps based on my ability to imitate his voice, although I think I sounded more like Mayor Joe Quimby from The Simpsons. The game began in the midst of the 1960 election campaign, which I won handily--again probably due to the fact that my teammates were amused by my Kennedy/Quimby impersonation. Immediately we encountered a host of crises--Che Guevara sponsored a coup in Belize, the president of the NAACP was assassinated (followed by urban riots in which the rioters were oddly armed with AK-47s--which, it turned out later, the Chinese had smuggled into the country), and my feeble attempt at a space program fizzled when a Mercury rocket blew up on the launchpad, killing John Glenn. When it came time for the next presidential election, I found myself challenged by, of all people, my own Secretary of State (damn that Dean Rusk). I lost, thanks (as the Russians tried to warn me about, but I only later learned it was true) to Rusk’s having arranged for the PRC to endorse my election to a second term.

It was probably good that I got out when I did. The Chinese sponsored a North Korean invasion of the South, and before we knew it the peninsula was overrun with a million screaming ChiComs. The world came within a whisper of nuclear war until a last-minute deal between the United States and the Soviet Union led to a solution to the crisis.

All in all, it was a memorable experience for everyone involved, and one I hope we can repeat. However, I’ll try to avoid being JFK in the future. I’ll pass on having to cope with all of the pressures of presidential leadership without the historical benefit of muscle relaxants, pain killers, and Marilyn Monroe.

More Studies Show: The Emerging Neuro-Anthropological Science of Love

There’s mounting evidence that we’re far from the only species to "love." And, ladies, don’t believe him when he says he loves (or doesn’t love) you. Make him get a fMRI. (The same, of course, goes for you gentlemen.)

The Prediction Map

Here’s evidence that if the election were tomorrow control of the Senate would depend on the Tennessee result. It’s also evidence the Republican House situation has deteriorated significantly.

Does the GOP Deserve to Lose?

Instapundit has a very thorough "pre-mortem" explanation of why, although the Democrats don’t deserve to win, the Republicans deserve to lose. It’s easy to disagree with many, many of the particular details of Reynolds’ analysis (beginning with his view that the Terri Schiavo case was "the beginning of the end"), but only those in extreme denial can ignore the evidence that lots of voters seem to agree with his general conclusion. Reynolds’ presentation includes a link to the most recent polling data found at RealClearPolitics, which really is a sea of blue. I’m against political pre-mortems on principle, but there’s not much time left to explain effectively why we deserve to win. The most hopeful way to view Reynolds’ message is to take his corny football imagery seriously: Teams that fumble nine times and still are only down a touchtown in the fourth quarter sometimes end up winning.

UPDATE: Fred Barnes’ strong case against hoping for the fourth quarter rally It’s the enthusiasm, stupid!

Jimmy Carter Action Figure??

Isn’t this false advertising? Shouldn’t it be called the "Jimmy Carter In

DiIulio on religion and government regulation

While I’m on a faith-based roll, here’s John DiIulio on the NYT series I discussed here, here, and here. A snippet:

Times readers might be invited to imagine an America in which all of those ostensibly favored faith groups disappeared tomorrow. Who would suffer the most, and who would have to pay to replace the social services that they now provide? For instance, pick ten big cities, and ask how many low-income non-Catholics (Title I students, Medicaid-eligible patients, etc.) are served by Catholic elementary schools, high schools, colleges or universities, and hospitals? Next, try to figure out who is subsidizing or "accommodating" whom: How much would it cost to provide the same services without religiously mobilized volunteers and institutions in the mix? Studies being conducted by me and others at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University aim to estimate the "replacement value" of such Catholic "civic assets." Stay tuned.


Despite survey evidence, case studies aplenty, and personal experiences suggesting that most elite national media outlets are home to people far less religious than most Americans, I have always resisted the conclusion that their reporting is systematically biased against religiously observant people and institutions.

The Times, however, has very nearly converted me to that cynical view. By no objective measure is there any reality that could justify its "Religion Trumps Regulation" page-one headline.

Read the whole thing. 

Faith-based kerfuffle

Former Bush Administration official David Kuo is attracting some attention about his forthcoming book, in which he alleges that folks in the White House expressed contempt for the people they were politically manipulating.

Some of this we’ve heard before, though when Kuo first went public the explicitly political criticism he’s now making wasn’t part of the package. Here are some excepts from his original column:

I served in the White House for two-and-a-half years as a Special Assistant to the president and eventually as Deputy Director of the Faith-Based Initiative. I have deep respect, appreciation, and affection for the president. No one who knows him even a tiny bit doubts the sincerity and compassion of his heart. Likewise, the people around the president are good and caring people. I know this firsthand because I experienced it during a health crisis in my own life when their kindness was evident.


Between 2002 and 2004 more than 15,000 white, Hispanic, and African-American religious and social service leaders attended free White House conferences on how to interact with the federal government. The meetings, held regularly in battleground states, were chock-full of vital information and gave thousands of groups invaluable information about government grants. They were hardly pep rallies for the President. But the conferences sent a resounding political message to all faith-oriented constituencies: President Bush cares about you.

Some liberal leaders have been quoted as saying the administration was looking to "buy minority votes." Nothing could be further from the truth. There wasn’t enough money around to buy anyone. The conferences actually underscored how difficult it was to even get a grant. But by traveling across the country, giving useful information, and extending faith-based groups an open hand, powerful inroads were made to "non-traditional" supporters. One senior Republican leader walked into an early conference, stared wide-eyed at the room full of people of diverse ethnicities and said to me, "This is what Republicans have been dreaming about for 30 years."

Back then (February, 2005, to be precise), Kuo argued that the faith-based initiative was good politics as well as good policy, and that the Republicans didn’t sufficiently embrace it. And there’s not a whisper of the contempt he now ballyhoos.

The White House response can be found here and is described here and here.

I’ll note three things in all this. First, there’s Tony Snow’s response:

When David Kuo left the White House, he sent the President a very warm letter, talking about how wonderful it was. He said, "two-and-a-half years later," after joining the White House, "I’m proud of all the initiative has accomplished. Building on the extraordinary work that John," -- John DiIulio -- "started in 2001, we have advanced the cause of the faith-based groups, ensuring that they are treated fairly by the federal government and have the tools necessary to make their efforts successful. He said, "Ultimately, however, it’s your staff’s keen awareness of your unwavering support for this initiative that’s made the difference."


I’m a little bit perplexed, because it does seem at odds with what he was saying inside the building at the time he departed.

Then here’s Jim Towey:

H. James Towey, who directed the faith-based office during Kuo’s time there, said yesterday that "it sounds like he worked at a different White House than the one I worked for."

Towey added that he, not Mehlman, decided where to hold conferences. "If a congressman in a tight race invited me, I went," he said. "But that was true of Democrats as well as Republicans."

Finally, here’s FRC President Tony Perkins:

Perkins of the Family Research Council said he would not be surprised if derisive comments were made behind Christian leaders’ backs.

"I have no misconceptions about how people in the Republican Party and the establishment view social conservatives. They are dismissive. I see how they prefer to work with fiscal conservatives," he said. "Having said that, I see it really as a marriage of convenience. We are not without significant gains by working with this administration."

I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some people in the White House who weren’t singing from the faith-based hymnbook, or were only mouthing the words. But social and religious conservatives are, at least in this case, grown-ups.

And this kerfuffle, whatever the substance behind it (and I don’t think there’s really all that much), takes a good bit of the steam out of another critique of the Bush Administration--that they’re all a bunch of theoc---s.

I don’t blame Kuo or his publisher for the timing of this hit. Both want to sell books, and now’s the time that they’ll get the maximum attention for this supposed expose. But you have to wonder about someone who seems to have kept his powder dry for this long, and to have changed his tune so substantially in the last couple of years. Has the intelligence been "sexed up"?

Update: Here’s another story with more from Towey and Michael Gerson. Melissa Rogers, a stalwart of the separationist religious left, has lots on the book; just keep scrolling.

Update #2: Here’s a Focus on the Family press release responding to Kuo’s allegations. Let me repeat: I have no doubt but that, in any political undertaking, tempers will on occasion flare and people will say things that they wish they hadn’t. I also have no doubt but that all the parties involved are "sinful"; they’re human, after all. I’m thus inclined to regard Kuo’s examples as at best only a part of the story. Perhaps they’re put in perspective in the book, though, given the way in which it’s billed, I doubt it.

Terror supporter

In Lawler’s back yard.

Are Chimps People Too?

It’s a close call. Unlike the new-born babies of our species, they can brush their teeth. And women of our species may actually prefer the scent of their sweat. Somebody might ask: Where are the chimp philosophers, poets, physicists, presidents, physicians, priests, popes, and so on? But maybe they haven’t had the right opportunities. My serious view, of course, is tha chimps aren’t people, although they are fascinating, very social animals deserving of our protection and affection.
And we’re still stuck with reflecting on Walker Percy’s question: Is it better to be a dislocated human or a contented chimp? Not that we have the right to choose between the two options.

Tennessee’s Ford

Rich Lowry of NRO admires Ford’s inventive or reinventive electoral strategy. Certainly Lowry’s right that most southern Democrats and maybe most Democrats would gain from following Ford’s example. The question Lowry doesn’t answer: Is Ford really a "born again" moderate on both social and defense issues or is his evolution mostly astute calculation of what sells in Tennessee these days? Either way, the truth is that he’s a very intelligent and impressive candidate, and his victory (if the election were tomorrow) would likely tip the Senate.

Bully Pulpits and Flyswatters

Peggy Noonan’s latest examines four recent episodes of "free speech" that demonstrate the madness prevailing on the left--despite their apparent approach to electoral victory. She looks at a shouting down of Minuteman leader, Jim Gilchrist, at Columbia University; the outrage following a suggestion from a man whose daughter was killed at Columbine, that recent school shootings might be related to an overall lack of respect for God; Barbra Streisand’s cussing out a fan at a recent concert because he apparently did not wish to pay for her political posturing; and the latest of a series of verbal intimidations coming from Rosie O’Donnell on "The View" (which, in my never to be humble opinion is the most brain-dead talk show ever created). Noonan concludes that these outbursts of intolerance from the left are, in a certain sense, inexplicable . . . coming, as they are, on the eve of an apparent liberal electoral victory. Why are they so angry and so crazed and so intolerant unless, as she suspects, they can’t afford to be tolerant or calm. Noonan correctly notes that a liberal victory, should it come, will come in spite not because of folks like Steisand, O’Donnell and student activists at Columbia.

To be sure, there are some conservative nutters out there. But they never have garnered much respect, even in conservative nutter circles! If anything, conservatives and Republicans are too polite, too acommodating, and too civil. Genuine respect for debate and civility is fine, but why cede ground to loons? The loonier the liberal, it seems the more he is lauded by liberal partisans and the more he is feared by Republican lawmakers. Like Elizabeth Hasselbeck on "The View" conservatives often seem like token opposition--there but not with much there there. "Here’s my opinion . . . now please don’t beat me!"

On the other hand, there is no evidence that this openess to liberal lunacy advances the cause of either liberals or of conservatives. In California, for example, Phil Angelides is actually running ads where an actor portrays a "young Phil" with love and butterflies 60s music playing in the background. Young Phil, a clean-cut little hippie in college, is learning more about a rally to oust Nixon. In another scene, he’s involved in actions against the (Vietnam) war. He continues in that tradition, even today as a neo-hippie pastes an Angelides sign on a college bulletin board. Yeah, he’s a real fighter. He’s sewn up that college protester vote. And . . . he’s way down in the polls! Now, true to his student protester form, he’s whining about not getting his 15 minutes on Jay Leno like Arnie did. Arnie laughs at him and, adding insult to injury, pointed out in a recent debate, that debating Angelides was like having dinner at Uncle Teddy’s house.

The desperation of the Angelides campaign is almost painful to watch. But Arnie has made it entertaining. Republicans can learn something from him. The desperation of other liberals--who seem to be losing despite winning--is even more painful to watch because conservatives--or, to be more specific--Republicans, seem incapable of exploiting it. Granted, all Arnie has to do is smile for the camera and throw out a joke or two about Uncle Teddy. Angelides is just a fly to be swatted for him. But the difference is that he swats! The lack of traction Angelides has in CALIFORNIA must show Republicans that if they lose this thing in November it will not be because of anything Democrats have done (the good news), but because of what they have not done (as usual, and the bad news). It’s time to get out the flyswatters!

Florida Again?

Last week a long-time Washington hand (former White House guy from years ago, etc.) told me that he fears that if Democrats unaccountably fall short in this election, they might launch a full scale attack on the integrity of the democratic process itself, with potentially disastrous effects for our politics. We’ve already seen the set up for this, with the ridiculous charges from RFK Jr. in Rolling Stone that Bush (with Ken Blackwell’s help) stole Ohio in the 2004 election.

Over on today there is this little nugget from Bruce Reed:

Ask paranoid Democrats their innermost fears going into the midterm elections, and you’ll hear two answers. First, that the Foley scandal will force another October surprise to come out of the Republicans’ closet: Osama Bin Laden. Second, that on Election Night, Diebold electronic voting machines nationwide are secretly programmed to stop counting Democratic votes as soon as Democrats pull within one seat of taking back the House or the Senate. . . Since 2004, many Democrats have become convinced that rigged voting machines in Ohio cheated John Kerry out of his chance to lose the popular vote and still win the Electoral College.

And they call themselves "the reality-based community."


Ryan Sager posts in its entirety a letter from former House Majority Leader Dick Armey telling off James Dobson.

Read the whole thing. Holey-moley indeed!  

Friday Fulminations

Back in the 1980s, BusinessWeek used to be known as the only anti-business business magazine, in part for its Keynesianism and parroting of the Democrats’ talking points about Reagan’s tax cuts. Vindication! The current issue of The New Republic offers lefty John Judis talking about how BusinessWeek was his favorite business magazine. Part of his explanation really gives the game away:

I have read BusinessWeek regularly for 30 years. I began reading it on the advice of the late Michael Harrington, the socialist agitator and author of The Other America. Mike used to pepper his speeches calling for capitalist reform with supporting evidence from this eminently capitalist journal, which he regarded as the best of the news magazine.

Meanwhile, head over to Michael Barone’s blog, where you will find the unexpected headline "Hurray for Hillary." Excerpt:

That’s a headline you haven’t seen before in this blog. But I mean it. It’s inspired by these excerpts from an interview she held with the editorial board of the Daily News in New York. What do I like about the interview?

No. 1, she avoids the "Bush lied, people died" mantra, which tends to delegitimize our effort in Iraq. Instead, she says, not unreasonably, "We have to deal with the Iraq we have, not the Iraq we wish we had." That sounds to me like someone who is thinking realistically about a responsibility that might be hers starting Jan. 20, 2009.

Happy Friday.

Studies Show Even More: The Emerging Science of Evolutionary Neuro-Musicology

"Mounting evidence suggests that human beings are hardwired to appreciate music." And it may be that the harmonization required for communal music-making "works as a sort of rehearsal for the teamwork required for high stakes endeavors such as hunting and common defense." Jimi Hendrix, it appears, exploited his musical status to relentlessly spread his genes, although he was thwarted to some extent by the unnatural barrier of birth control. But Pinker throws cold water on all such speculation with his suggestion that it’s very possible that our species’ musical capabilities are just a "useless byproduct" of the evolutionary process through which we acquired language.

Sabato’s Update: More Republican Seats in Play

Here’s our friend Larry’s update on the election. It includes nothing we didn’t already know. Republican momentum has been reversed by Foley and and the perception of drift in and denial about the situation in Iraq. (Let me add again that the mainstream media is relentless and really good at highlighting these concerns.) Amazingly, the House still isn’t lost for sure, although the potential for a Democratic version of 1994 is growing. And though I tend to think that this is a bad year for Repubicans in OH and RI, the news from TN and MO may just be good enough for the Republicans to hold on to the Senate. All this speculation about Rove’s magic-to-come is silly. I don’t see the Republicans having a turnout advantage this year. Reasons for hope: Republicans will use their money efffectively to focus voters on the real issues in the key races. A minor Foley backlash might come from the shameless effort to turn a minor scandal into a national crisis.

Linker/Douthat revisited

TNR gives Damon Linker the last word (and I’m grateful, since I don’t think the exchange of letters was ultimately very productive). You’re probably not surprised to learn that I don’t find the ground of DL’s criticism of his former associates very compelling: as a "theorist of liberalism," DL is basically a slightly more readable John Rawls. There’s nothing there that I haven’t seen before, and nothing DL offers that leads me to abandon my judgment that the claims of non-comprehensiveness are any less mistaken.

Purportedly non-comprehensive (call them "political," if you must) liberalisms rest on the denial that a comprehensive view is necessary to guide us. Rawls’s liberal predecessors (John Locke and Immanuel Kant, for example) recognized a comprehensive religious view required a comprehensive theoretical response: they engaged, rather than simply evaded, religion, attempting to reconstruct it so as to make it "safe for liberalism." As such, they made claims about religious truths that can be examined and criticized. The claim about the possibility of a (merely?) "political liberalism" either acknowledges or fails to acknowledge these essentially comprehensive efforts, which are, in effect, a denial of the comprehensive truth of any religious view, a denial that is itself obviously contestable.

Truman revival

Let me piggyback on the early-rising (or was he just getting to bed?) Steve Hayward’s post. I just finished writing a review of Elizabeth Edwards Spalding’s new book on Truman for the Claremont Review. (Review preview: good book; read it and wish that more political leaders had HST’s religiously-grounded moral fortitude.)

Spalding visited Ashbrook recently; you can listen to her talk here. Other useful glimpses into her analysis can be found here and here (where she shares the stage with, but does not directly confront, Peter Beinart). A snippet from the NRO interview:

Lopez: What can the Democratic party, in particular, learn from Harry Truman in the early days of the Cold War, as they approach the war on terror?

Spalding: Truman acted from permanent principles, and he understood the character of the regime — its government, constitution, and principles — as central to foreign policy. He was no relativist (like realists, whether liberal or conservative), nor was he a wishful idealist (aiming to replay Wilsonianism after World War II). Truman was a liberal internationalist — not an inflexible multilateralist. Like Bush, Truman was pro-international institutions when it came to trade. He was focused on key bilateral and regional relationships and created perhaps the most successful regional alliance: NATO, which was grounded, in a revolutionary way, in collective defense, rather than collective security. This sets Truman apart from Wilson, and it’s what many Democrats today fail to see.

Beinart appears to me too busy trying to score partisan (inter- and intra-) to get this. By Steve’a account (I haven’t had a chance to read the article, which isn’t readily available on-line), Gaddis is a surer non-Ashbrookian guide.

Thursday Thoughts

Over at The Corner, the NRO gang is rightly celebrating its magnificent 10th anniversary bash at Charlie Palmer steak house in DC last night. Huge crowd, good food (especially the mini-hamburgers, of which I ate a half dozen I think). The raucous crowd kept on buzzing and talking through the formal program, until Gov. Mitt Romney was invited to the microphone, where he performed an impressive feat: he managed to quiet the crowd so that he could be heard, and then he talked for about 45 seconds--exceedingly rare, but welcome, in a politician. He understands the principle that less is more, or, as Reagan used to say, always leave the audience wanting more. This man looks, and sounds, like a potential president. Keep your eye on him; I’m sure McCain is.

Not to be missed this week is John Lewis Gaddis in The New Republic, reviewing a new biography of Dean Acheson, but really looking at Bush and the present moment. Sample:

It’s strange, then, that so many Democrats today are outside this [Truman-Acheson] tradition. They have responded to the first Republican president to have become a liberal interventionist by quivering--and blogging--with rage. They have offered no plan for building on the Bush Doctrine and moving on. It’s as if they’re imitating the Republicans of the 1930s, who quivered with rage at Roosevelt (blogging had not been invented yet) while neglecting his warnings about tyrants, as well as his vision of what a world without them might be.

He concludes, "If Reagan and Bush could borrow from Truman and Acheson, then it’s hard to see why Democrats today should not borrow from Reagan and Bush." OMG--most liberals would catch the vapors at the very thought.   

True Theocons Found at NASCAR Races, Not in New York City

From THE NEW YORK SUN via Paul Seaton:

TOM Wolfe says a jarring scene he recently witnessed in Tennessee convinced him that writers who live in New York and on the Left Coast are out of touch with the rest of the country. In the upcoming book, "Telling True Stories," the "Bonfire of the Vanities" novelist says he watched in amazement at a NASCAR race last month as a National Rifle Association honcho got a rousing standing ovation, and was followed by a minister who "asked the Lord to look out for these brave drivers and these loyal fans . . . in the name of Thy Only Son, Christ Jesus." Writes Wolfe: "Anyone who introduced an event that way in San Francisco or New York would risk arrest for a hate crime. New York writers really must cross the Hudson River, and writers in Los Angeles really must go as far as the San Joaquin Valley. Most of the meaning of America lies in between the coasts, I’m afraid."

Nork Music

This post from Tim Blair on North Korean musical offerings is even better than my previous post about Kim Jong Il’s golf prowess. I’m starting to think the n-bomb test probably was a hoax.

Muslim Brotherhood in Minneapolis

USA Today reports: "Scores of Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis who say their faith prohibits them from driving passengers with alcohol have sparked a debate over how far a government must go to accommodate Islamic law.

Muslim cabdrivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have been refusing to take passengers who carry wine or spirits from duty-free stores or who are loaded down with bottles after visiting wine country.

They’ve also asked dispatchers not to call them to pick up passengers heading to liquor stores and bars."

And then note this: "One driving force behind the move to accommodate the drivers’ beliefs is the Minnesota Chapter of the Muslim American Society.

MAS was founded by U.S. members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which promotes the spread of Islamic influence through political parties and militant groups in the Middle East. MAS members say they do not promote violence."

Save Friday Night Lights

Here’s a case where a very good book about Texas high school football was made into a better movie (starring Billy Bob Thornton) and into an even better TV show. But so far the show’s rating are terrible. If you want a sympathetic, extremely well acted and directed, psychologically subtle portrayal of one of the most fascinating and, yes, manly aspects of small-town American life, tune in Tuesday at 8 on NBC. Following my wife’s good advice, I watched last night and was immediately hooked.

Blackwell’s two problems

A front-page Washington Post story on the Blackwell-Strickland race claims that Strickland has made serious inroads with the "values voters", hence his lead in the polls. Or, maybe the article claims that the economy is the major issue and Ohio seems to be in worse shape than the nation at large. The only clear thing about the article is that it is not pro-Blackwell. My view is that Strickland is the Dems version of Taft: pleasant, inoffensive, harmless; his opponents might say boring, but there is no theme to this pudding. No one denies that Blackwell has a theme, and is a smart, outgoing, and rhetorically very effective candidate. Yet, he has two problems: One, he hasn’t yet found his stride in the campaign, seems bored with himself even; perhaps his handlers are not letting him be himself (remember the problem with Reagan?), perhaps they are afraid that Ken will raise his voice every now and then. Two, the party establishment--a bit more moderate than Ken--has not yet seen fit to support him with any enthusiasm. Blackwell can have an effect on the first problem, but he has to act now. He should raise his voice and let people know he really wants to be governor. Show some ambition, growl a bit and let folks see the lion in him. Let Blackwell be Blackwell and his staff should step aside!

There He Goes Again. . .

Jimmy Carter turns up in the pages of the New York Times this morning to pat himself on the back for having "solved" the NorKo nuclear crisis back in 1994. Of course, Carter implies that the whole thing is George W. Bush’s fault for having called the Norks bad names ("axis of evil"). It is a classic example of Carter’s delusional state of mind.

Just deconstruct this graph, for example:

Responding to an invitation from President Kim Il-sung of North Korea, and with the approval of President Bill Clinton, I went to Pyongyang and negotiated an agreement under which North Korea would cease its nuclear program at Yongbyon and permit inspectors from the atomic agency to return to the site to assure that the spent fuel was not reprocessed. It was also agreed that direct talks would be held between the two Koreas

Where to start. "an invitation from Kim Il Sung." Yes, and why do you suppose he wanted Carter so badly? ". . . with the approval of Bill Clinton. . ." Accuracy demands that it read "with the reluctant approval of Bill Clinton." Carter actually presented Clinton with a fait accompli--Carter told the White House was going to go hold hands with the Norks whether Clinton approved or not. Clinton, by the way, was furious with the outcome, which Carter announced on CNN before he told the White House. Clinton told Warren Christopher that Carter was to be stopped from making any further freelance trips of this kind. "It was also agreed that direct talks be held between the two Koreas." The Norks demanded a multi-million dollar payment from the South Koreans just to show up for the talks. In other words, the Norks turned it into a Jesse Jackson-style shakedown operation.

But remember--Jimmy is our best ex-president ever.

Wednesday Wonders

Sometimes little things become fittingly symbolic of the state of play in politics. So yesterday House Speaker Denny Hastert had a televised press availability . . . in front of a cemetery.

Democratic Libertarians

Here’s the most thoughtful of the Democratic libertarian articles so far. The collapse of the corporate safety net--reflected, for example, in the replacement of reliable pensions with chancy 401Ks--will cause people to demand that government do more to provide for their security. Our sophisticates--our nouveau libertarian Democrats--favor increased personal permissiveness and the enjoyment of all the benefits of a meritocracy that lavishly rewards the smart and the pretty combined with government protection from all the downsides of individualistic erosion of all our social safety nets. Not to mention government protection from second-hand smoke and trans-fatty foods.

Podcast with Hayward

I did another podcast with Hayward yesterday afternoon. We discussed the Foley scandal, the danger to Democrats that they may get too carried away in it, and the fact that, unlike Congressional races, the GOP seems to be doing fairly well in several key gubernatorial races.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for September

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

Linda McCulloch

Susan Benedict

Ed Doster

Betsey Kelly

Linda Breckinridge

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 October’s drawing.

Manent: theocon or not?

I report. You decide.

More Schall on Benedict at Regensburg

This, via the Pomo Con.

A Canticle for Leibowitz

Hidden on the NRO page among the discouraging and apocalyptic messages is Thomas Hibbs’ fine appreciation of a neglected gem of a novel, Walter Miller’s A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ. The genuine end of the world won’t be some nuclear catastrophe but the total forgetfulness of the wisdom embedded in a cultural tradition. And one sign that our tradition is already fragmented, if not forgotten, is our misguided view that, in the name of the truth, we must choose either science or religion. Miller’s novel inspired in several obvious and deep ways the two-part space odyssey that concludes Walker Percy’s LOST IN THE COSMOS.

Look out, Tiger!

Kim Jong Il is going to take you out at the next Master’s. To wit:

Pyongyang media say North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il enjoys golf, having shot multiple holes-in-one during his first try at the game. He reportedly aced five holes and finished 38 under par on the golf course. The "Great Leader" routinely shoots three or four holes-in-one per round, the government-controlled media reported.

Who knew?


Waller R. Newell (I never called him that) conclusively and chillingly demonstrates the debt Ahmadinejad indirectly owes to Sartre and Fanon, in which he resembles no one more than Pol Pot. Read the whole thing.    

Hat tip: Tom Cerber.

Studies Show: The Emerging Science of Neuro-Economics

Reason, emotion, and self-interest are sometimes in conflict, despite the efforts of the brain to balance them. And not only that: Our sense of injustice sometimes trumps our rational self- interest. The old-fashioned economists are not always right; they have a hard time explaining suicide bombers.

More Studies: Why We Wear Skirts

This new study seems to prove something I’ve long believed about women--when we dress up for "no reason" there is a reason. And, as you may recall, a couple weeks ago there was a study about how too much testosterone could kill brain cells. Now comes the flip side: a female hormone seems to repair brain injury! The mysteries of the universe unfold before our eyes!

Supremes and partial-birth abortion

Rick Garnett and Michael Stokes Paulsen urge the Supreme Court to follow Abraham Lincoln’s lead in deciding Gonzales v. Carhart (the appellate decision is here) and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood (appellate opinion here).

"I have in my hand a list of 57 names. . ."

Byron York is out with a new piece on how liberal activists are trying to start a "civil war" on the right by circulating a list a gay Republicans. Certainly this tactic may have an effect in suppressing the social conservativ vote in the election next month, but is this really serving liberal interests in the long haul? Andrew Sullivan in puzzled. . .

Diversity Update

Harvard’s Robert Putnam, of Bowling Alone fame, has a new study out on the downside of diversity. This should cause some consternation in the faculty lounge.

Berkowitz on Lakoff

Power Line calls our attention to Peter Berkowitz’s review of George Lakoff’s latest effort to advise Democrats. Some NLT readers will hope that Democrats continue to listen to Lakoff. I’m not one of them.

Catholicism and America

Ross Douthat and Damon Linker are midway through an exchange of views at TNR. Toward the end of his first contribution Linker articulates his view of the "liberal bargain" and the "theocons’" rejection of it:

In my book, I describe this bargain as the act of believers giving up their "ambition to political rule in the name of their faith" in exchange for the freedom to worship God however they wish, without state interference. What does this mean, in practical terms? It means that your belief in what the Roman Catholic Church believes and teaches is irrelevant, politically speaking. It simply shouldn’t matter whether or not you think that justice has a divine underpinning, anymore than it should matter whether you prefer Jane Austen to Dostoevsky. In a word, liberal politics presumes that it’s possible and desirable for political life to be decoupled from theological questions and disputes.

But there is a complication: What if a faith forbids its adherents to accept the liberal bargain? What if it explicitly refuses to permit believers to decouple their political and religious convictions? What if it demands unity--unity in the name of one set of non-negotiable theological truths? Such a religion may be incompatible with liberalism. Whether Islam is inherently illiberal in precisely this way is one of the most pressing questions confronting the Western world today.

And Catholicism? Since Vatican II--and especially since the start of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate--the Catholic Church has staked out a novel position on these matters. Like most anti-liberal faiths, it has demanded a unity between politics and religion. But it has also maintained that Catholic moral teaching is perfectly compatible with liberalism--indeed, that it is the only solid and sure foundation for liberalism. By contrast, liberalism without Catholicism is, in John Paul’s arresting phrase, "thinly disguised totalitarianism."

Catholicism does not so much reject what liberalism affirms as it denies the validity of the distinctions liberalism typically assumes--distinctions between private and public, secular and sacred, reason and revelation. In place of these distinctions, the Church proposes a higher synthesis, all the while claiming that such a synthesis produces a purified liberal politics. This is pretty much what the theocons propose for the United States.

There’s a lot on which to comment here, but I’ll restrict myself to two points. First, Linker seems to concede that genuinely faithful Catholics (and I would add, any believer whose faith doesn’t permit the compartmentalization that DL says liberalism demands, which at least includes many adherents of the Reformed tradition) can’t be good American citizens, by his lights. So much for toleration and pluralism. (I can be as brief and oversimplified as he is. If you want my longer view, read my contribution to this book and/or this review essay.)

(I assume that Peter L. won’t disapprove of my discussion of DL if I refer readers to books and journals with which he is associated.)

My second observation is actually a question: does DL really believe that Roman Catholicism doesn’t accept the validity of the distinction, for example, between reason and revelation? Nominalists might come close to that position, but surely not the "orthodox" Roman Catholics (and others) associated with First Things.

I still haven’t finished the book, but I am on my way to forming a considered opinion, which I’ll inflict upon readers somewhere somehow.

Update: MOJ’s Rick Garnett has comments here and here.

Religious exemptions

I was going to blog about this NYT series over at my personal site, but it was being balky, so I’ll inflict my thoughts directly on NLT readers. (My comments on the first installment are here.)

The series, whose intent seems to be to raise questions about the "special favors" religious organizations are getting from government, purports to look at both sides of the issue, but Rick Garnett is, I think, right when he observes:

It strikes me that, in these first two pieces, there is inadequate attention paid to the distinction between accommodations and exemptions that are thought to be, or that could plausibly be said to be, required by the relevant constitutional text, structure, and history, on the one hand, and -- on the other -- those exemptions that are the permissible, but not required, result of legislative decisions to accommodate.


The first two installments, though, leave me with a sense of "they just don’t get it" unease. The storyline owes too much, so far, to the "religion is getting special treatment and is treating people unfairly" narrative, and not enough to the "religious organizations are not the state, and -- if we take religious liberty and limited government seriously -- must have the freedom to organize themselves, select ministers, etc., without being second-guessed by government" account.

The NYT reporter notes in today’s story that religious groups are expanding their missions to include retirement communities, gymnasia, bookstores, and even theme parks, raising the question if these activities are authentically religious. Interesting: she wouldn’t be likely to raise an analogous question if the state were undertaking them. We don’t worry about the limits of the state. But the more religious organizations (and other non-profits, which often also receive the benefits she describes) do, the less the state "has to do." A good thing, no?

Tuesday Thoughts

Some people are saying the Nork’s nuke test was a dud, while others wonder whether the Norks were testing a suitcase nuke. Whatever it was, Karl Rove’s October surprise sure comes at a good time for the GOP. Mastermind Karl must have slipped some mind-rays in the Diebold machines we sold to Kim Jong Il.

Before we get back to the 24/7 Foley scandal, don’t miss Robert Kaplan’s great piece on what might go down if and when NorKo collapses. Could be ugly. See also Fred Kaplan in (no relation to Robert? I don’t know), who is also pessimistic.

While we await further developments, time to go back and watch this movie.

Kristol on Foley vs. The Real Issues

Bill Kristol puts the Foley matter in its proper place for voters. At the end of the day, it’s unreasonable to allow it to determine how you vote, one way or the other.

Foley? Who’s Foley?

In the wake of the news that North Korea became the 8th member of the world’s nuclear club yesterday, Chris Cuomo’s desperate reporting on Mark Foley fell on some deaf ears in my household this morning. Of course, I grant that my house is a bit atypical in some ways. But c’mon!

Do people really care deeply about this stuff except in a freak-show, snickering, train-wreck kind of way? The latest is that a gay congressman may have had a rendevous with a gay 21 year-old former page. Shocking! Just shocking! But so what? The creep is gone. The grown ups have more important matters to concern themselves with now.

If today’s news isn’t news enough to make the "security moms" insecure again then I know not what to say. Bush needs to be sober and hard about this threat and, of course, to connect the dots between this and the other threats we face around the globe.

The party that is suddenly consumed with worry over the sex lives of Congressional pages and one wierdo Congressman from Florida who happens to be a Republican (but conveniently shuts its eyes when gazing upon its own collection of perverts) cannot be trusted to grapple with issues of this magnitude. Perhaps their massive powers of investigation can expose who it is that Kim Jong Il is bedding this week--but if you think they can prevent nuclear proliferation and disaster with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Charlie Rangel and (God forbid) Hillary Clinton . . . well, goodnight and goodluck.

Monday Musings

The economy continues to hum along with numbers that are arguably better than the peak of the Clinton years (i.e., more sustainable, not linked primarily to a sector-specific boom in high tech, etc), but the polls show a Republican defeat or rout in the works, which shows, if further evidence is necessary, that the economy is not the primary factor for many voters. (This was also true in 1994, when the economy, though a bit sluggish, was decent and trending upward.)

More straws in the wind

The WaTi’s Donald Lambro talks to a couple of analysts who think that the public is in a rotten mood: as the party in control, so to speak, Republicans suffer more, but Democrats don’t look like they’re regarded as a refreshing change of pace.

And the NYT’s David Kirkpatrick visits Pat Robertson’s backyard and discovers that conservative evangelicals are keeping their eyes on the ball:

Most of the evangelical Christians interviewed said that so far they saw Mr. Foley’s behavior as a matter of personal morality, not institutional dysfunction.

All said the question of broader responsibility had quickly devolved into a storm of partisan charges and countercharges. And all insisted the episode would have little impact on their intentions to vote.

I think that there’s some institutional dysfunction there, but, given this story, perhaps a little collegial self-discipline (or attempts at it). In Foley’s case, it proved ineffective, and those who knew seem not to have taken their concerns to the hierarchy.

I am however, waiting for stories about "inappropriate" Congressional heterosexual behavior regarding the pages. Is there none? Or would exposing that element of it point to bipartisan malfeasance?

A Democratic House?

Michael Barone thinks about what it might mean. For conservatives, the immediate prospect is mixed.

The Facts on the Ground

The polls this morning look terrible for the Republicans. If the election were tomorrow, they’d lose both Houses of Congress with room to spare. Two perceptions are crowding out all the others:
1. The Republicans covered up what they knew about the predator Foley to keep power.
2. We’re not making progress--in fact, we’re losing ground--in Iraq and not facing up to that fact. The MSM is reinforcing both security concerns relentlessly. The election is not tomorrow. What can be done to make, for example, the "Security Moms" that Joe discusses below once again connect their children’s safety at home and in the world with voting Republican? And we have to be thinking both of short-term electoral strategy and long-term policy.

The professoriate

These two papers, summarized here and here, offer a picture of the professoriate and of public impressions of the professoriate.

Both are intended to increase the public comfort level with professors and to indentify and counter "conservative" pictures of a godless and biased academy.

I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised by the findings on religion (which show, among other things, that faculty at elite institutions are significantly less likely to be religious than those elsewhere), and I haven’t had a chance to look too closely at the other paper. (It does note, chillingly but not surprisingly, that a very small proportion of the population thinks of universities as mechanisms for transmitting a cultural tradition: most people view higher education in largely instrumental terms, with a significant minority adopting an apparently content-free "critical thinking" view.)

More on evangelicals and politics

Given the size, complexity, and sometime intellectual/theological incoherency of American evangelicalism, it’s probably possible to find evidence for virtually any thesis regarding the political future of American evangelicalism. Howard Fineman finds some who are dissatisfied with the GOP, not for the reasons cited most frequently in recent days (a leftward drift among some evangelicals--see, for example, this piece featuring a triumphalistic Jim Wallis), but because Republicans are insufficiently morally and theologically pure, or perhaps insufficiently conservative across a range of issues.

My bottom line: a religious tendency as capaciously defined as evangelicalism is will inevitably come to be understood as less of a single-minded force in American politics, except with respect to the occasional galvanizing issue. A religion-friendly Democratic Party that accommodated itself to some restrictions on abortion (they’re not there yet) could eat substantially into the Republican advantage, especially if Republican miscues "demobilized" some portion of its religious constituency. In other words, politically evangelicals could come to resemble Roman Catholics--a narrowly divided swing constituency.

Insecurity moms

If this AP story is to be believed, the GOP has lost its substantial advantage among married women with children. The problems? Iraq and economic insecurity, both of which are reversible, if not in the short run. And then there’s the party’s handling of the Foley mess, which isn’t even mentioned in the article.

Speaker Hastert Ain’t Cardinal Law

Mark Steyn offers us some perspective, probably more than we can really handle, on our current crisis.

Peggy Noonan on Woodward

Several people have emailed me about Peggy Noonan’s unexpected conclusion that Woodward’s denial book is both better and less damning than its critics have said. "History is human" is the main lesson. Another is that, contrary to its critics, the administration can probably be faulted for not having been Machiavellian enough. Ryan Rakness especially is of the opinion that we can’t help but benefit from discussing her seductively written piece.

Polls and such

This Pew poll suggests that the Foley mess hasn’t made a huge difference in voter attitudes, which were already unfavorable to Republicans. Does this mean that things can only get better?

Well, no, says the WaPo’s Alan Cooperman, who’s looking at Pew data I can’t find anywhere. His data, which may find its way to one of the Pew sites in the next few days, suggest that evangelicals are cooling a bit on Republicans (Foley hurts here, but so do a lot of other things), but not warming to Democrats:

"The allegiance of evangelicals has been more in flux over the past 12 months, suggesting that the considerations going into their votes are changing," said Scott Keeter, Pew’s director of survey research.

In addition to the war and congressional scandals, those considerations may include a broader definition of religious issues. Some influential ministers, such as the Rev. Rick Warren, author of the bestselling "The Purpose-Driven Life," are urging evangelicals to fight poverty, safeguard the environment and oppose torture on biblical grounds.

To the extent that evangelicals now view these issues as "matters of conscience" alongside abortion and same-sex marriage, they could shift some votes into the Democratic column, said Ron Sider, head of the group Evangelicals for Social Action.

Another factor in evangelicals’ changing loyalties may be the efforts of Democrats to reach out to them. In Michigan, evangelical pastors helped write the preamble to the state party’s new platform. "Democrats in this state are seeking the Common Good -- the best life for each person of this state. The orphan. The family. The sick. The healthy. The wealthy. The poor. The citizen. The stranger. The first. The last," it says.

But before Democrats take credit for the shift, they might ponder one of the findings in a recent survey of 2,500 voters by the Center for American Values, a project of the left-leaning People for the American Way Foundation: Republicans have lost more support (14 percentage points) than Democrats have picked up (4 points) among frequent churchgoers.

That rings true to Michael Cromartie, an expert on evangelicals at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank. "Erosion for evangelicals doesn’t necessarily lead to Democratic voting. It leads to nonvoting," he said.

Here is the other survey that Cooperman cites.

The Pew site also has this commentary on state-level partisan allegiances. If you look at the regional trends, things continue to look pretty good for Republicans over the past six years, except on the coasts (shocking!). A closer look at particular states suggests that the Power Line guys would have to be unhappy with Minnesota, which looked better a couple of years ago than it does now, and everyone (well, every Republican) should be worried about Virginia, which seems to be trending Democratic. You couldn’t tell it by the horserace polls, but Ohio looks better for Republicans now than it did a few years ago. So if you step back and look at the proverbial big picture, the Bush years have been relatively good for Republicans. But that doesn’t mean that November 7th, 2006 will be good for them, only that politically the underlying trends look mildly favorable.

Madame Speaker’s agenda

Is here. Wonder what Chairman Conyers would do?

Civic education revisited

Claremont’s Larry Peterman takes a closer look at why may prestigious institutions don’t serve their students well when it comes to imparting crucial civic knowledge and understanding. You won’t be surprised by what he finds.

Foley politics

I can’t at the moment improve upon John Podhoretz’s summary of the political fallout.

Fighting the Good Fight at the AHA

My friend David Beito at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa has for some years been waging a lonely battle in the American Historical Association against university speech codes. He has repeatedly raised the incongruity between the AHA’s denunciation of the Patriot Act and its tolerance for the stifling of unpopular speech at colleges and universities. Anyway, he is looking for AHA members to sign on to the following resolution, so that it might be voted on at the organization’s national meeting in January. I don’t know how many historians read this blog, but if you’re out there your support would be much appreciated.


Whereas, The American Historical Association has already gone on record against the threat to academic freedom posed by the Academic Bill of Rights; and

Whereas, Free and open discourse is essential to the success of research and learning on campus; and

Whereas, Administrators and others have used campus speech codes and associated non-academic criteria to improperly restrict faculty choices on curriculum, course content, and personnel decisions; and

Whereas, Administrators and others have also used speech codes to restrict free and open discourse for students and faculty alike through such methods as "free speech zones" and censorship of campus publications; therefore be it

Resolved, The American Historical Association opposes the use of speech codes to restrict academic freedom.

To give your support, e-mail David Beito, cc’ing your message to Sharon Tune at the AHA, indicating your intent to sign, affirming that you are a paid-up member of the organization, and indicating your institutional affiliation.

A Crisis in Musical Literacy?

The following is from Terry Teachout’s webpage:

How many of these songs do you know well enough to whistle?
• “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”
• “Back in Black”
• “Blowin’ in the Wind”
• “China Girl”
• “Hot Fun in the Summertime”
• “Hotel California”
• “Instant Karma”
• “Jailhouse Rock”
• “Jolene”
• “Light My Fire”
• “Maria”
• “Money”
• “My Favorite Things”
• “Over the Rainbow”
• “Roxanne”
• “Satisfaction”
• “Sheep”
• “Superstition”
• “That’ll Be the Day”
• “We Will Rock You”

No, this isn’t a test. Here’s why I’m asking: Daniel J. Levitin uses these songs as illustrations in the opening chapters of his new book THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC: The Science of a Human Obsession (“For example, the main accompaniment to ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder is played on only the black keys of the keyboard”). Obviously, he’s assuming that most of his readers will know most of the songs he cites. Is he right to do so?
As I read THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC, I remembered the ear-training class I took thirty-one years ago as a freshman music major, in which we learned to recognize the various musical intervals by associating them with well-known pop tunes in which they figure prominently. That list of songs, like the ones found in Daniel Levetin’s book, assumed the existence of a common stock of musical reference—the musical equivalent of what E.J. Hirsch has dubbed “cultural literacy.”

I’m old enough to be musically literate enough, despite the fact that none of you would recognize any of them from what is, in effect, my tonedeaf whistling. I did draw a blank on "Sheep," though. It may be a sign of how aesthetically challenged I am that the only ones I would WANT to whistle are BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND, JAILHOUSE ROCK, LIGHT MY FIRE (despite the fact that it’s a genuinely stupid song). OVER THE RAINBOW, THAT’LL BE THE DAY, and (God knows why) WE WILL ROCK YOU.

But I’m certain that most of our students, even those at the most elite colleges, lack the basic musical literacy required to benefit from Levitin’s most informative cultural study.

How Low?

In answer to Joe’s question, let me quote the last sentence from David Brooks’ column today: "In the long run, the party that benefits from events like the Foley scandal will be the party that defines the core threats to the social fabric, and emerges as the most ardent champion of moral authority." And obviously, if Republican statesman act today with "the long run" in mind, they’re most likely to salvage a victory in the short run too.

How low can they go?

I just told my students that I think that the House Republican leadership has perhaps one more chance to get its response to this scandal right, with a full accounting of who knew what when and who did what when, with no attempts at deflecting responsibility. On the basis of what I’ve seen so far, I’m not confident that this opportunity will be taken.

I also wondered whether some might not be tempted to take the low road here, opening the sludge gates to inundate Congress with the raw sewage of scandal. I fear that there’s lots of bad behavior out there, much of it of the "open secret" variety. And I have no doubt but that both parties have been remiss in the self-discipline department. And I know that negative campaigning works. And I know that the existence of the blogosphere makes emptying the septic tank relatively easy.

I don’t know whether this strategy would "save" the Republicans, but I do know that the institutional price to be paid for such a victory would be very high.

Am I right about any of this?

October Surprise! Leadership Demise? Larry Sabato on Fall Foley-age

Here’s Larry Sabato’s rather discouraging list of parallels between 2006 and 1994, including one involving the name Foley. His question: Are the Republicans just giving it away? We need to take it seriously. The news this morning--after the Foley stuff--was mostly excellent for Americans: Stock Market up, inflation down, record profits, gas prices quite reasonable, etc. But the Republicans seem incapable of taking credit, even when credit is due. There’s still time to turn this around, but statesmanship is required.

Politics and moral capital

Rich Lowry has a thought. George Will and Howard Fineman agree that if the Democrats can’t take the House now (given the indignation caused by the Foley affair) then they ought to get out of politics (i.e., go the way of the Whigs). 

Harvard’s new new gen ed plan

Harvard University has yet another general education plan, this one not (yet?) available on the web, because many of us took potshots at last year’s version.

Bad news: it’s still a cafeteria plan, in which faculty pander to students’ desire for lots of choices.

Good news (well, perhaps): students have to study the U.S. and take courses on reason and faith, as well as on "the ethical life."

Of course, as long as a wide variety of relatively specialized courses fit into these capacious categories, it’s hard to claim that students are thereby prepared to be, among other things, "citizens of a democracy within a global society.”

Update: Any minuscule hope I might have had about Harvard’s proposed reform (and, trust me, it was minuscule) has been further diminished by this story, containing this, from Louis Menand:

``No general education should be timeless," he said. "There’s no question it’s a response to the world we live in now."

Now, all of what he said may have been more nuanced than that, but taken by itself this is a full embrace of trendiness. Hat tip: Stanley Kurtz.

Partisanship and collegiality in the Foley affair

This WaPo article, mostly about House Speaker Denny Hastert’s travails, contains this nugget from Thomas Mann, one of the deans of Congressional studies:

"I think what has been revealed about the way in which the Republican leadership, and Hastert in particular, has handled this matter is fully consistent with his prior behavior as speaker," said Thomas E. Mann, a scholar on Congress at the Brookings Institution and author of a critical new book on the decline of Congress’s role in governance." This is a man who has never taken seriously his institutional roll [sic] as a constitutional officer of the United States and the head of the whole House, not just the head of the Republican Party."

I agree that Hastert needs to take his institutional role seriously. Whether he and his subordinates were as aggressive in this investigation as they should have been is question
reasonably raised by Majority Whip Roy Blunt, who thinks that his experience as a university president is apposite here. (I’ve been thinking about the higher ed parallels all along! We professors are almost as drunk, if not more so, on the elixir of power than are those guys on Capitol Hill, though we’re much cheaper drunks. O.K., I speak loosely and humorously, but it’s not as if colleges and universities don’t have their share of, shall we say, indiscreet faculty.)

But back to my main topic: in addition to a leader who takes his institutional responsibility seriously--who is, for example, concerned about the integrity of the whole House, not just about the reputation of his party--we need a membership that takes these responsibilities seriously as well. Foley clearly didn’t or, perhaps more charitably, was unable to. But there are others who were culpable as well. If you’re serious about holding Hastert accountable for the integrity of the House (and you should be), then you should offer him the support he needs to be its chief steward. What that means in this case is taking the egregious IMs to Hastert, not to the press. Once he knew about them, he acted quite decisively and rightly.

So yes, Hastert and his staffers can perhaps be faulted for their lack of vigor in looking for the fire where there was allegedly some smoke. But those who sat on the incendiary evidence for Lord knows how long are even more culpable: they had clear evidence of moral wrongdoing--the legal issues, as Steve Hayward notes, aren’t clear-cut--and simply exploited them for partisan advantage. If it was Hastert’s duty to investigate allegations aggressively, he needs the evidence on which to act. Withholding this evidence prevents him from doing his (non-partisan) job.

Heads should indeed roll. Some already have on the Republican side of the aisle. When will the Democrats demonstrate that they take institutional integrity seriously as something other than a campaign talking point?

Update: An apparent attempt by some of Hastert’s aides to deflect some blame has produced some blowback, which, if corroborated, is quite serious. And, in general, passing the buck here does not serve the interests either of institutional integrity or the GOP’s November fortunes.

In addition, if former Foley aide Kirk Fordham is telling the truth, then his subsequent silence is problematical. Why did he seem to let this very serious matter drop after people in Hastert’s office, as he said, wouldn’t intervene at his request? As Byron York notes, Fordham needs to get his story straight.

Andrew Sullivan’s Conservative Soul? Or Rat Choice Theory--Part 11

Here’s Mark Gauvreau’s very fine criticism of Andrew Sullivan’s identification of true conservatism with conscientious relativism. Gauvreau sets us straight on the true connection between conscience and the person’s openness to the truth, with the help of Benedict/Ratzinger. Facing up to and acting responsibly in light of what we really can know is, in fact, the very opposite of succumbing to some dogmatic absolutism that stifles conscientious self-reflection (as opposed to subjective affirmation of some personal experience). Among the most superficial, conscience-denying forms of absolutism is the identification of the truth with emerging fashion, popular or intellectual. Nonetheless, it’s always seemed to me that Sullivan’s writing has characteristically been conscientious in the weak sense of relatively sincere and sometimes genuinely searching. (He can also be mighty self-righteous with little real justification and, like us all, produce convenient rationalizations.) His book deserves our attentive consideration, unlike some other more opportunistic books we’ve discussed on this blog.

Oh Gawd

This next step in the story was sadly predictable. Can the Oprah appearance be very far off? How about a joint book tour with former NJ Governor McGreevey?

No Hope for the Tories

This video, comparing Tony Blair and his esrtwhile replacement, David Cameron, is laugh-out-loud hilarious. But a sign that British politics has become fully Clintonized.

Tough Words from Maggie Gallagher

The Republicans still need to take responsibility. The Speaker should resign. AND the Democrats have behaved despicably.

A reminder

I had lunch yesterday with a good old man. He is in his mid-eighties. He was born in Romania and lived in the corner of it that touches Serbia and Hungary. A rough part of the world, made rougher by the rise of modern tyrannies and modern wars. It was a place where might made right. But he lived and made it through the war, just barely, he was just lucky, he said. Walked through Hungary to get to allied lines, finally came here, became an electrician. He worked, and this place let him keep the fruits of his labor. He prospered. He now thinks of his children (my age) and his grandchildren, plays some golf, talks with friends, and sometimes--as he did with me--talks with folks about the old days in the old place where where necessity ruled, and all men had reaching hands, and the only stories you could remember have to do with which marauding and creedless men raped and pillaged most. He is happy to be in a place that tries to reverse the maxim of the other place, happy to be in a place that says right makes might.

I then spent an hour or two reading Cormac McCarthy’s latest, The Road. It is about a man and his son walking in an America that has been burned to the ground--the country is a waste--where there is nothing else, just the two of them "each the other’s world entire." No other sign of life, but the lawless. "The frailty of everything revealed at last." This bleak painting forced me into another coffee and another stogie and I finally turned away from the horror to my love and hope and the upcoming seminar. The political crisis of the 1850’s, giving up the philosophical cause, the apparent hopelessness of it all, the march of logic toward war. But even my moist eyes finally saw Abe’s words rise up from the sorrow and the fear and they began to heal my cracking heart. Wise and firm words, clear and full of right, and always touched by charity. I was reminded that the agony had meaning and he understood it. A remarkable country this, even good for old men with memories. The seminar was good, although I forced myself to use only words that move and heal and lift. Not that hard to do in such a country, with such a man.

Wednesday Wonders

The continuing ex-Foley-ation saga (thanks Joe for that tag!) offers a glimpse of what a Democratic House majority might be like--supercharged indignation and lots of investigative hearings. John Dickinson on worries that Democrats may be overreacting, in part because "Democrats may have to use homophobia in a way usually associated with the Republican Party." More:

But what if the inappropriate relationship were between a congressman and a 16-year-old female page? Would GOP leaders face the same outrage for missing the warning signs? What if we were judging their actions toward a congresswoman who asked for a picture of a 16-year-old female page? For GOP leaders to pay a heavy political price requires either more evidence that they really knew what Foley was doing or for Democrats to form an alliance, at some level, with people who find homosexuality outrageous no matter what the age.

And with is usual contrarianism, Mickey Kaus raises "the Densepack Theory--the anti-GOP media have launched so many damaging GOP stories that they are all arriving at once and, like fratricidal incoming ICBMs, are knocking each other out of the news rather than destroying their target!"

Meanwhile, the U.S. population is about to pass the 300 million mark. The indispensible Robert Samuelson ponders the matter in this morning’s Washington Compost Happy Wednesday.  

Latest Podcast

I just finished a podcast with Tom Suddes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on the upcoming elections in Ohio. Tom is an expert in these matters and the conversation was very good. Well worth a listen, I think.

An Almost Perfect Tie?

The notorious Abbie Hoffman has called our attention to this cool, user-friendly, yet quite expert electoral map for 2006. It shows the Republicans holding both Houses by the narrowest of margins (assuming the polls are accurate and the election is today). MT and PA are, quite correctly, showed leaning Democratic. The fate of the Senate, right now, resides in the toss-up or virtually toss-up races in NJ, VA, TN, MO, RI, and OH. Right now, the Republicans would only have to win two to organize the Senate. But there’s historical evidence that suggests that one party or the other will win them all.

For those who want to change the subject....

Damon Linker seems to have abandoned the blogging business. At the very least, his site has been down for the past 24 hours or so.

And here’s a review of Andrew Sullivan’s new book.

Finally, this group has issued a voters’ guide. Here’s the section on abortion:

Is it okay to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate?

When confronted with this question in 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger
(now Pope Benedict XVI) responded that it could be acceptable
for a Catholic to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate if
“proportionate reasons” exist, and if the voter is voting based
on those reasons and not the candidate’s “pro-choice” beliefs. It
is never acceptable to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate merely because of that candidate’s position in favor of legal abortion (CRM).

Here Cardinal Ratzinger is speaking about prudence. Many “prolife” candidates talk a good talk on ending abortion but don’t
produce results. On the other hand, there are candidates who don’t believe in making abortion illegal, but who support effective
measures to promote healthy families and reduce abortions by providing help to pregnant women and young children.

Catholics must look at a candidate’s position on other life issues. Can one really claim to be “pro-life” and yet support the death penalty, turn a blind eye to poverty, and not take steps to avoid war? Our Church teaches that the answer to this question is “no.”

Several critics have noted the problematical character of this approach, which operates above to provide for cover for those who won’t take opportunities to put even the most modest limits on access to abortion.


This NRO editorial is worth reading, as are the posts over at The Corner.

I spent most of my parties and elections class discussing the Foley case. There were, in our collective wisdom, three issues that came to the fore. First, and most obviously, Foley’s bad behavior, and its true, likely as yet unrevealed, extent. Second, how Foley’s colleagues on both sides of the aisle ought to have dealt with what people are claiming was an "open secret." This is of course a Republican problem, but it’s also a Congressional problem. I don’t stand aside and watch a colleague engage in questionable behavior, regardless of which side he’s on. If I don’t approach him directly, I go to someone in the other party with whom I have a reasonably good personal relationship and share my concerns. Congress ought, in the first instance, actually to police itself. It shouldn’t be a partisan matter, either in terms of discipline or, also, in terms of exploitation.

Which leads me to the third point: if the partisan context for dealing with this bad behavior is unavoidable, if each side is happy to leave it to the other to deal with its own, er, transgressors, then both sides are culpable for the resulting missteps. If you think that your opponents will jump on any evidence of misbehavior, then your temptation is to keep things as quiet as possible, to cover up or sweep under the rug, rather than fully investigate. Of course, this is a Republican problem, but it’s also a problem of Congressional hyperpartisanship. If either party didn’t have to pay for policing its own members, or if policing individual misbehavior were undertstood to be a collective (non-partisan) responsibility, we wouldn’t have this problem, or at least we’d have less of it.

Update: Here’s an article offering evidence for the "open secret" thesis. Hard evidence of "inappropriate" contact with pages, in this context, should have been pursued vigorously.

The Irresponsible WASHINGTON TIMES?

Mark Levin explains both that scandals don’t just happen and that THE WASINGTON TIMES acted irresponsibly in calling for the Speaker’s resignation. It’s certainly true that the "other TIMES" is reveling in "strange, new respect" from the MSM this morning. For myself, I’m reserving judgment on who knew what and when and who’s responsible and all that until I have a firmer command of the relevant facts. But the danger, as Joe said, is that ordinarily Republican voters will be creeped out by a party that allegedly condoned perversion to remain in power.

And here’s an article from THE WASHINGTON POST that conveys some sense of the beating the Republicans are now taking in the media. The combination of Foley and Woodward has produced the impression that the Republicans are generally in denial and unfit to govern. The social conservatives are understandably outraged, and much does depend on how effective the Republicans are in taking responsibility--which includes taking charge--over the next few days. No evasions, no denials of what’s true, and no asking for forgiveness!


This study from the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that Fox News had a small but statistically significant effect of voting preferences in the 2000 election. The summary says, for example, "The researchers find that Fox News significantly increased the Republican vote share for Senate, by 0.8 percentage points."

Of course, as everyone in the MSM is trumpeting right now, Fox News’ ratings are down sharply--perhaps a harbinger of the election? (Interesting that we hear a lot when Fox News’ ratings are falling, but no so much when they were blowing by CNN and MSNBC.)

Tuesday Tidbits

I missed this article in the Washington Compost yesterday by Shankar Vedantam (sounds like a lead guitar in a fusion jazz band) on the mistaken clarity of hindsight thinking in the now famous NIE about Iraq.

The lede:

Antiwar liberals last week got to savor the four most satisfying words in the English language: "I told you so."

This was after a declassified National Intelligence Estimate asserted that the war in Iraq was creating more terrorists than it was eliminating. For millions of people who opposed President Bush’s mission in Iraq from the start, this was proof positive that they had been right all along. Yes, they told themselves, we saw this disaster coming.

Only . . . that isn’t quite true.

Read on.  

Meanwhile, there are rumors this morning that the Foley page scandal may widen to implicate other members of Congress in inappropriate behavior toward pages. These things tend to go in waves: remember Bob Livingston having to retire rather than become Speaker in 1998 in the midst of the Clinton-Lewinski affair? And then Henry Hyde confessed to an ancient affair? I do know that during the Packwood sex scandal ten years ago, another Senator (since retired, so I won’t name him) told Packwood, "Bob--I’m glad it’s you and not me in the dock. If they investigated me, they could fill up RFK stadium and just say, "Section A, please stand up.’"

October surprise

The point of holding the vile and disgusting Foley instant messages until last Friday was to alienate religious conservatives. While there are some who argue that no particular candidate (other than Foley’s hapless replacement) will be hurt, I’d argue that these revelations, together with evidence of apparent long-time Republican tolerance of behavior that was at least creepy, and ought to have been worrisome, has the potential to keep lots of otherwise Republican voters at home next month.

On a slightly different note, this article reminds us of how past scandals have been handled.

Libertarian Democrats?

Well, it depends what you mean by a libertarian. Arguably Bill Clinton moved his party in a libertarian direction in the following ways: He largely reconciled it to the free market. He strengthened its adherence to the pro-choice positions on matters of morality and culture. He embraced the libertarian or "designer" position on the goodness of the unlimited progress of technology and biotechnology. He kept his party on the side of activist Court that would strike down state laws on the basis of an evolving conception of the "liberty" protected by the 14th Amendment. Of course, of course Clinton is no perfect libertarian, and I would add that an excessively liberationist Court or conception of designer biotechnology would surely end up bringing us unprecedented "statism" or tyranny. Still, if I were a libertarian, I might conclude that President Bush is further from my key principles than President Clinton.

The Senate Races

Here’s an informative overview of how the Senate races stand today. But I must say it’s a little optimistic to view MT and especially PA as even. And nobody in TN thinks that Ford is behind right now.

Fr. Schall on Benedict’s Regensburg Lecture

Ken Masugi does us a great service by interviewing Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. on the Pope’s Regensburg lecture. The conversation defies easy summary, so I’ll just give you a chunk from the conclusion:

Briefly, reason itself must be protected from the voluntarist position that no logos beyond "scientific verification" is ever possible. Once we grasp what reason is, it itself must be intellectually protected from positions that logically make it impossible. Moreover, the people against whom reason must be protected, are those in Islam, in the West, and wherever, who hold, in whatever form, that "violence is reasonable" in the pursuit of religious or ideological goals.

Implicit within this position, I would finally add, are the principles of just war and self-defense and the defense of the innocent. It is reasonable to defend oneself against those who, by the use of violence, deny any possibility of reason’s own ability to know the truth of things. The use of force against theoretic violence, when it manifests itself in practice, is not itself "unreasonable violence." The use of logos includes the proper use of distinctions whereby we may understand both what is and what is at stake both in theory and in practice.

Read the whole thing.

Libertarian Democrats?

Over at The Remedy, Josh Trevino (sorry I can’t do the ~ over the n) notes Markos Moulitsas’ paean to "libertarian Democrats", which is, of course, so full of qualifications as to be incoherent. Trevino notes this response and adds:

If the libertarian feels that he must become a Democrat, then one is hard-pressed to make a heartfelt plea on ideological or philosophical grounds for him to stay. In any case, he will experience the true regard that the Democratic party has for him soon enough. He will find himself in the company of people who do not grasp the connection between capitalism and freedom; he will find himself attending party meetings with neighbors who wish nothing more than to seize his household income for their own civic purposes; he will realize that his new fellow-travelers have not the slightest intention of allowing him to raise his children as he sees fit; and he will see Markos Moulitsas, having concluded that beekeepers are the next swing demographic, earnestly explain how he learned to be a Democrat by watching bees.

Here, I think, is the bottom line, intended to offend any libertarian reader: what Moulitsas’ essay shows is that strict libertarianism is probably impossible. If you worry about corporate power, you can’t really be a libertarian. If you care about individual empowerment, to the extent that it depends upon the extension of science and technology, you can’t be a strict libertarian: the extension of science and technology depends upon big science, which depends upon either big corporations, big government, or both. Genuine libertarianism would seem to require a measure of crunchiness.

Prison Fellowship Ministries case

The appeal in this decision, about which I blogged here and wrote more formally here, is moving forward. You can read the Becket Fund’s appellate brief here. I’ll provide a link to the AU reply brief when it becomes available.

Interesting Atlanta event

I’m going to be here on Thursday, October 12th. The price is right and the conversation should be stimulating.

Monday Musings

Ann Althouse, among others, makes the valuable point that now, at last, we’re finally getting around to what’s important in the election campaign: a sex scandal! Meanwhile, Foley has taken the predictable step: entering "rehab." What took him so long? The Kennedys have rehab facilities on speed-dial; it took Foley 48 hours. To paraphrase the inimitable character actor Paul Dooley in one of my all time favorite movies, we should start indignantly saying, "Rehab! Rehab!!

Meanwhile, don’t miss Sebastian Mallaby smack down the Democrats in today’s Compost column "A Party Without Principles."


After years of single-party government, the prospect of a Democratic majority in the House ought to feel refreshing. But even with Republicans collapsing in a pile of sexual sleaze, I just can’t get excited. Most Democrats in Congress seem bereft of ideas or the courage to stand up for them. They clearly want power, but they have no principles to guide their use of it. . . If the Democrats win a measure of power next month, it’s hard to see what they will do with it.

Read the whole thing, especially for Mallaby’s interesting comments on Social Security reform. Happy Monday!   

Civic education revisited

Newsweek noticed the ISI study which I discussed here. This, it seems to me, increases the likelihood that college administrators will respond to pressure to "do something about it."


It really does appear as though House Republican leadership hoped Foley’s indiscretions could be covered up until after the election, though they may not have known the worst of the matter and believed Foley’s explanation that his merely "creepy" e-mails were the worst of it. Even so, John Miller over at The Corner rightly argues that the Foley affair is political "dynamite," adding that "Foley could become the new Jack Abramoff. Except that whereas the details of Abramoff’s were always a bit complicated for the public to follow closely, the accusations now leveled at Foley are much simpler and more appalling. Foley is on the verge of becoming the poster child of a party that is concerned about little more than preserving its power."

One, Two, Many Floridas

Greybeards around Washington will tell you that one of the key turning points in the plunge toward extreme partisan bitterness in the House of Representatives came over the "Fighting Eighth" (I think that is the right district) in Indiana in the 1984 or 1986 election (I forget which exactly). If memory serves, the Democratic candidate won on election day by something like 20 votes. Then, after a recount found the Republican had won by an equally slim margin and was certified as the winner by the Indiana Secretary of State, House Democrats in Washington voted to refuse to seat the Republican, and seated the Democrat instead. House Republicans, especially Newt Gingrich, cried foul, and ratcheted up their guerrilla tactics in the House. (I probably have a number of details a bit off--I am going from memory.)

Before the 2004 election there were lots of stories in the media about whether there might be repeat of Florida 2000, and there were lots of preparations by both sides to litigate the matter, especially in Ohio. But so far there has been little or no talk about the prospects for this kind of disaster in this election. With control of the House and Senate possibly to be decided by just a seat or two, and with several House and Senate elections looking to be razor-close, there is a non-trivial probability that we could have several Florida-style post-election recount contests to decide control of the House or Senate or both.

This would not be a good thing.

Shared Values?--Rat Choice Theory--Part 10

Paul Seaton directed my attention to this clear and deep analysis of the pope’s new strategy for engaging Islam by John F. Cullinan. Is it possible to make progress based on shared religious values in the absences of a shared understanding of the truth about God? Is it possibile to agree that any shared claim for religious freedom is based on reciprocity? The value or principle that welcomes the building of mosques in Rome would do the same for churches in Mecca. There’s lot more. Here’s my first use of mugs:    

Sunday Signposts

In a review of one the first Bob Woodward books on Bush post-9/11, I noted Woodward’s "frustratingly iterative quality," adding that "Aside from doubts about the completeness and accuracy of Woodward’s narrative, there is ample reason to doubt whether Woodward is an adequate analyst of the unfolding scene." Once you look past the reconstructed conversations and mental states he alleges to have divined, is is clear the man is a lightweight.

Now with his new book that is sure to dominate the news cycles for the next week (that is, when we aren’t pondering the seemingly hapless quality of Republican House leaders who tolerated Mark Foley in their ranks), all the same problems of Woodward’s transcript-by-clarivoyance method come heavily into play. It is a well-known rule in Washington that if you don’t cooperate with Woodward on one of his books, you will get pounded in its pages. Bush cooperated with the first two, but not this once. Funny how Woodward’s views of the war and Bush track public opinion polls on the matter so closely. A real independent mind--yeah, right.

Over 800,000 copes of Woodward’s book are already in print, with more likely to follow. But ask yourself this: It is still possible today, 40 years later, to read David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest for valuable insights into the Vietnam War. Even though Halbertsam and his book have serious flaws, it is a masterpiece of contemporary history and analysis. Will anyone, 40 years from now, read any of Woodward’s three books on Bush? Doubtful.