Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

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?