Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A very minimalist definition of conservatism


Which hasn’t been displayed by some of the self-professed "conservatives" who have been calling folks names and accusing them of treason in the comments section here in recent days.

Discussions - 8 Comments

Bravo, that. But good-luck!

I wonder why this has intensified. The anger, the grandiose doom, the neglect of prudence, discretion, and moderation have been remarkable.

I like the blog and the open commenting, especially when there are points of disagreement. But discussion does presuppose good manners and minds open to rational challenge. We’ve had a spate of a kind of exhibitionism that also occurs on blogs that might be called No Right Turns.

I have no idea what can be done. In the short run, you will probably be dismissed as just another "neocon" snakeoil salesman, a lefty in disguise.

"Civility" properly defined -- which is to say, very broadly, encompassing an attachment to civilizational norms and traditions, and not merely de facto interpersonal restraint -- is indeed a fair one-word definition of conservatism.

More precisely, I would say that the nut jobs on this and other threads who describe Lincoln, and Jaffa, and Mansfield, in these utterly hyperbolic terms are indeed outside the boundaries of conservatism. The reason is that no good conservative hates his fellow conservatives over secondary differences, because he recognizes in them defenders of liberty and civilization, even if misguided in some respects. Jaffa, Mansfield and even Lincoln are indeed conservatives, because they are partisans of liberty and civilization. Therefore, they should have been exempt from these people’s hatred, though not of course from more restrained opposition. In effect, the wackos are non-conservatives because they have shown themselves to be traitors to conservatism. Also, no desirable or effective conservative throws extremely overstated epithets against anyone, conservative or not.

But "civility" does not consist in willful self-delusion. That’s a Bush family delusion: To constantly assume that your political opponents are all above board, and only motivated by the loftiest and most patriotic of ideals. If you’re dealing with bad faith, then declining to identify it as bad faith isn’t an exercise in civility. It MAY be prudential, depending upon the circumstances, but it isn’t civility.

On another thread, there seem to be some Josey Wales wannabes, who want to dress in gray and butternut, wear a campaigning hat and pack iron on their hip. Moreover, some are ripping an American legend, the first and perhaps the greatest of the Republican Presidents.

It’s like they’re James Webb, ostensibly "conservative," but so far round the bend that they finds themselves in with Moore, Sheehan, Murtha, Pelosi and Barney Frank.

There’s loads of political bad faith out there, and I’m not sure that it’s wise and prudent to allow that bad faith to continue to remain unbranded. Roosevelt finally came out and branded Lindbergh a "defeatist." And that was important. Roosevelt took on someone who was out there doing all he could to prevent the United States entering a war that it was of great import that she enter. People like Lindbergh were doing enormous damage to the United States then, to the cause of freedom then, and creatures like Webb, creatures like Murtha are doing even more damage today. And that tale should be told, loud and clear, across the fruited plain.

If anything, after 6 years of this administration, the claims of "civility" fall a little thin, don’t ya think?

Civility seems to be understood by some as not answering criticisms, because it might be unseemly to do so.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If the Bush clan wouldn’t do it, seriously consider doing it, and if the Bush clan would do it, seriously give a thought to foregoing it. I’m taking it as a given right now, that the political instincts of the Bush clan are uniformly wrong. I don’t think you’ll go wrong with that.

THEY would be extolling civility right now, as they’ve extolled it while the Republican Party got railroaded into minority status in BOTH Houses of Congress. All because of one irresponsible accusation after another, that they were too "civil" to respond to. Or to take seriously.

Robert Bork was too gentlemanly, too proper, too upright to respond. He too, relied upon a supposed "civility" that would ultimately reign over the Judiciary Committee and the Senate. We all know where that got him.

For the foreseeable future, the GOP should "REMEMBER ROBERT BORK." just like earlier generations were urged to "Remember the Alamo," "Remember the Maine" and "Remember Pearl Harbour."

It’s quite true that civility can be overrated, and quite true that the entire Bush family overrates it. Civility can also be a very convenient excuse for inaction, minimal action, or intellectual disengagement. It is best, when praising or demanding "civility," to be clear on what it means. And enforcing civility requires a willingness to be "uncivil" to the uncivil. One must be willing to determine, in many cases, "who started it."

Here’s a perfect example of misplaced civility.

Now Kofi Annan is up to his neck in the greatest financial scandal in history.

He’s used his office to blast the foreign policy of the United States, something expressly beyond the scope of his office. He’s tried to gin up opposition within the UN to American efforts to reform the UN, investigate corruption in the UN, he’s opposed our efforts to make the IAEA genuinely effective, and he stood in our way when we tried to maneuver Saddam out of power without bloodshed. Part of the reason Saddam stayed in power was because we funnelled our efforts through the UN, BUT ALSO because of the support he was receiving in the UN.

And of course my brief rendition of his dear and many offensives is but cursory.

Yet, this very same creature, this Anann, who is corrupt, who is corrupting, whose son is in on the corruption, whose brother is in on the corruption, what does our President Bush do about such a creature?

Anyone care to guess?

Our President, a member of the Bush family, our President, who promised us REPEATEDLY that he would "restore honour and dignity to the White House," our President throws this creature a farewell dinner at the White House no less.

That creature should be behind bars. But our President, doing his utmost to be civil, to be cordial, doing his utmost to ingratiate himself with our domestic elite as well as the international elite, our President throws him a dinner gala.

Throwing Kofi a dinner at the White House should be the textbook example of misplaced civility. And should remain so a millennium hence. It should never be forgotten. It was a disgrace; it was an offensive, dishonourable disgrace. And I feel like throwing up just thinking about it. And the fact that George Bush doesn’t get it, doesn’t feel how he has dishonoured his office by granting Kofi that dinner, is a sad, sad, sad commentary on our age.

Kofi gets a dinner.

Our Secretary of State is running hither and yon all across the Middle East, all at the beck and call of Mideastern monsters who are our unfriends, who are unfriends to freedom, to liberty, to Western Civilization and to Christendom.

Members of the Royal Navy, an institution that has lasted centuries, and has done enormous good for the cause of humanity in its long and glorious history, members of that very same Royal Navy are hauled off for humiliation by devotees of a morbid religious ruling council, sitting in Tehran, and yet there’s no outrage. No demand for action.

It’s a sign of the times my friends. Loss of a sense of honour, loss of a sense of pride, proper and appropriate pride in our institutions.

And where will it all lead, and where will it all end....................

If the purpose of the comment secton is to try to mimic the conversation found in the classroom, then it is failing at present. I have seen comment sections at other places and times which have attained that level of quality, so it can be done. It generally requires a willingness to police the discussion and keep it within some bounds.

As a member of what Irving Kristol called the Old Right I’m actually sympathetic to the content of what some of these people are trying to say, and dismayed at their inability to communicate.

For some reason the meaning of the word conservative seems to be a major point of contention. Many of the people in the GOP would be considered to be liberals in Europe, and are heirs to the classical liberal tradition. It is an oddity of the binary American political system that everyone in the GOP is called "conservative" and everyone in the Democratic party "liberal".

I understand the term "neocon" as an effort to get around that problem and distinguish between elements within the GOP.

Mel always remarked to Mel that the problem many traditional conservatives had with the neocons were not so much with Irving or even Gertude, but with the younger generations tendency to be much less gentile and much more bellicose and nasty to people a we elder and senior.. who should be owed some little modicum of respect.

I echo one who would ask we would return to the character of the style of debate between Mel and Harry. But I must remark that although Harry some played rough with Mel, but he could return the volley.. but Harry never played Dirty as some of Harry’s children have. I got kicked off the Strauss list once after taking issue with a certain fellow collegue of Mel at Dallas.. a student of Harry.. five years after after Mel left us, that his position on the Constitution was akin to the nazis. I have a tape recording of that speach provided by a friend from Dallas.... I was so outraged at an offense made against my mentor and friend who could not defend himself anylonger that I felt a defence of his honor and a decent respect of the truth of Mel’s record demanded a passionate responce.

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