Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Most ungracious ex-president ever

Does Jimmy Carter have any competition for this title?

Georgia Republicans and the presidential race

I know that straw polls are virtually meaningless, but this one, from Georgia’s GOP convention is interesting, as the top two vote-getters aren’t officially in the race. John McCain is at 2% (same as Ron Paul), which says something about the unpopularity of the great immigration compromise among Georgia GOP activists, despite the fact that both of Georgia’s Republican Senators tentatively support the bill, for what I regard as sound (if not necessarily airtight) political reasons. In this connection, see also this Corner post.

Senators Chambliss and Isakson say they’re making the most of their minority position, but that assumes that something worse would otherwise be inevitable. The two worse alternatives I can think of are the status quo and a bill without any real border security provisions. Of course, the status quo is only worse if you think you can’t effectively take advantage of the politics of the immigration issue in 2008. I’ve seen the polls (thanks, John and the non-vituperative commenters), but I haven’t yet seen a poll that suggests that, push comes to shove, immigration is one of the most salient issues. Consider, for example, these results, from a poll conducted about two weeks ago: illegal immigration comes in tenth in a list of seventeen issues that people might consider "extremely important" to their vote in 2008; if you add "very important" to that, it falls to twelfth. Perhaps the current brouhaha will change that and raise the salience of immigration, but I don’t at the moment think you can wage a successful presidential/national congressional campaign on that issue in 2008. (The Georgia GOP activists know that too: only 1% supported Tancredo.)

Returning for a moment to my reconstruction of the Chambliss/Isakson calculations: they clearly think that this is the best bill they can get in the foreseeable future, presumably because, right now, they have a hard time imagining that 2008 will be a good year for Republicans. A bill passed in 2009 and signed into law by President Clinton, Obama, or Edwards would likely be much worse. They’ve got that right, I’m sure. But how can they be certain that a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President would pay any signficant attention to the triggers in this legislation (assuming it passes, which I still regard as highly unlikely)? They’d have to bet that a lot of effective border enforcement could be accomplished before the end of the Bush Administration, which is a pretty shaky proposition.

In a nutshell, 2006 made it next to impossible that anything the Republican base could be happy about, or even really live with, would become law. The questions folks should be asking have to do with why nothing could be accomplished in the 2005/6 legislative cycle. And there’s plenty of room for finger-pointing there.

Russians attack?

This Computer war between Russia and Estonia (or, rather, attack by Russia) started over the dismantling of a Soviet statue. NATO has been notified. "Events of this nature make a lot of people sit up," a NATO spokesman, Robert Pszczel, said in a telephone interview. "Today Estonia, tomorrow it could be somebody else."

Barnard Kouchner

This New York Times note on Sarkozy’s choice to be France’s new foreign minister is worth a read. Kouchner is a man of the left, but thrown out of the Socialist Party on Friday when he accepted Sarkozy’s appointment. A founder of Doctors Without Borders, he is also pro-American is some essential respects (I think). I will let John Zvesper say more about Kouchner and explain the intricacies of Sarkozy’s other cabinet appointments (and what they may have to do with the upcoming legislative elections).

Lincoln and today’s medicine

Could Lincoln have survived if today’s medical technology existed in 1865? The question was posed by
University of Maryland conference. Unsurprising conclusion.

Some comments on the Boot article

“Philippines and South Africa in the early 1900s to Malaya in the 1950s, El Salvador in the 1980s, and Northern Ireland in the 1990s.”

Boot mentions five cases. In four of them, the outside power was also the government. This meant that the outside, European or western power ran the politics. This is not the case in Iraq. The fundamental problem in Iraq is political.

“Sectarian murders are down two-thirds since January, though deaths from spectacular suicide bombings remain high.”

This is likely the result not of the surge but of a political decision by Shia leaders to curtail killing. Did the surge affect this political decision? If so, how? Can we sustain that effect?

“The army is the most effective and nonsectarian institution in Iraq. Although it has its share of woes, its combat performance has been improving, and it is less corrupt than the police.”

The historical evidence suggests that an Army can be good at dealing either with external enemies or internal enemies but not both. If the Army in fact substitutes for the police, then it will cease to be an Army. Is there any evidence that the U.S. military can train an effective police force?

“American advisers may unwittingly hold back the Iraqis in some instances by insisting they conform to the extraordinarily stringent standards of the U.S. armed forces--rules that, in terms of ethical conduct, are probably a good deal stricter than those previously employed by any army sent to quell any major insurgency in the long history of warfare.”

The abused prisoner in the case that Boot mentions apparently was a terrorist. How did the Iraqis know that before they abused him? Will they know that in all cases? If not, then abusing people to discover who the terrorists are is unlikely to build support for the new government. Will the abuse be handed out fairly or on a sectarian basis?

More Assessment of Assessment

Pardon me for being completely unmoved by the studies that constitute the alleged "National Assessment of Educational Progress" described below by Joe. I’m just too prejudiced against national assessment and national reports cards and tests of this sort proving anything at all. If the immigration civic education trigger has any kind of bureaucratic component, I’m completely against it. Consider what will happen to nationalized assessment when Hillary becomes president; it’ll be civic engagement run amok. (As soon as I develop a stable opinion on what to do about illegal immigration, I will be sure to express it. But back in the good old days of assimilation through hard work without a safety net, insensitive public education, and intrusive political parties the federal educational/assessment bureaucracy was inconspicuous by its absence.) (I’m posting this as a new entry rather than as a comment because I can’t get the site to accept a comment right now.)

What I’ll be doing next week

Co-leading a faculty seminar on liberal education. The point is to find a ground for collegiality and universality in something other than our contingent solidarity (as Rorty would put it).

History and civics testing

In 2006, students did marginally better in history and civics on the tests administered as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Here are the history and civics results, which are both rather unimpressive, to say the least. Consider, for example, this sequence of results in American history, in which no more than 2% of the students ever score at the advanced level and, by 12th grade, more than half score below basic. The results in civics are a little less disheartening, but, still, almost 30% or more of the students fall below basic.

Commentators in the NYT article want to talk about the emphasis in NCLB on reading and math. I’d love to have a conversation about the ability of public schools, relative to private and parental alternatives, to fulfill the civic mission that is offered as one of the principal arguments against school choice and vouchers.

Another conversation worth having would be based on the capacity of the schools to serve that civic mission for our legal, illegal, and legalized immigrant populations. Let’s talk about putting a civic education trigger in any "comprehensive" immigration reform.

What We Need to Do in Iraq

I’m posting this article by Max Boot, because my best source in Bagdad says it’s accurate in every important way. You’ve probably already seen it, but it’s still worth discussing.

The Darwinian Conservative Romney

Our friend Larry praises Mitt for his Arnhart-influenced embrace of "theistic evolution." (Ivan the K--who sent me this link--wonders whether theistic evolution can be understood as the natural scientific component of American Thomism. That’s certainly worth discussing. I’d certainly agree that the evolutionary facts that we actually know don’t rule out God, even the personal Creator described in the Bible. But Larry himself needs to be clearer on whether he thinks evolution is compatible with what the theologians call "particular providence.") Larry adds that sociobiological studies show that Romney--as the tallest and best-looking candidate--should be regarded as the favorite for the nomination.

Christian libertarianism?

W. James Antle III reviews Andy Olree’s The Choice Principle, which purports to make the Biblical case for the night watchman state. The thrust of Olree’s argument, as presented by Antle, seems to be that not only that we can’t eliminate all the stumbling blocks to decency, but that we shouldn’t, else our faith wouldn’t be a choice. It seems to me, stated this way, the argument proves too much. Does it mean, for example, that I should let my kids have unlimited access to the internet and cable tv, else their victory over temptation not be their own? Must everyone’s faith and character be tested in a literal charnel house?

I would certainly agree that not every vice can effectively be prohibited and punished by government, but cannot some virtues be encouraged and cultivated?

In general, it seems to me that Antle’s Olree (I’m going to order the book, and so can’t yet speak of without the qualifier) relies on an anthropology that is extremely voluntaristic, which is congenial to some evangelicals (especially those who folks in the Reformed tradition would characterize as Arminian), but not necessarily to Catholics or Calvinists.

Hat tip: The Corner.

Happy Birthday Karl Jozef Wojtyla

...or Pope John Paul II and one of the very, very few great men of our time.

What the polls say about immigration

Will immigration be the hot issue of 2008? Joe questioned whether that’s actually the case, and encountered the predictable maelstrom of the anti-immigration forces (including the equally predictable nastiness). But what does the public really think about the subject? Of course, most everyone likes buzzwords like "securing the border," and they generally don’t like terms like "amnesty," but what specific policies do Americans favor? Some useful figures are available here. A few highlights from the latest CNN poll:

Only 45 percent of Americans surveyed favor constructing a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border; 53 percent oppose it.

Forty-eight percent of those polled support some sort of "guest worker" program, while 50 percent oppose it.

A whopping 80 percent of those polled favor a program "that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay in this country and apply for U.S. citizenship if they had a job and paid back taxes"--which sounds a lot like amnesty to me. Only 19 percent oppose such a measure.

Now, none of this is to say that stronger enforcement measures aren’t needed, or that amnesty is necessarily sound policy. It’s just hard to argue that this is any sort of slam-dunk issue for the Republicans in 2008.

Social conservatives and Republicans

This dust-up between Ramesh Ponnuru and Thomas B. Edsall, prompted by the latter’s article on Giuliani, is illuminating. Needless to say, I agree more with Ponnuru. At the moment, national security ought to overshadow social issues. In addition, electability during an unpopular war ought to be a consideration, even for social conservatives. I’m not sold on anyone yet, but I am convinced that a Clinton or an Obama Administration would be bad for all the causes I hold dear.

Update: E.J. Dionne, Jr. calls a big tent and some creativity a crack-up, repeating his earlier insistence that only purity on abortion can define the Republican Party.

Abortion and mental health

This WaTi op-ed argues that there ought to be questions about any statement made by the American Psychological Association about the mental health consequences of abortion (or of carrying the child to term). Among other things, he offers these two tidbits:

Rewinding to 1969, the APA became an early player in the public debate with the following resolution:

WHEREAS, termination of unwanted pregnancies is clearly a mental health and child welfare issue, and a legitimate concern of APA; be it resolved, that termination of pregnancy be considered a civil right of the pregnant woman, to be handled as other medical and surgical procedures in consultation with her physician...


just over a year ago, a New Zealand based pro-choice researcher, David Fergusson, released a study that re-ignited the debate over the mental-health effects of abortion.

In a well-designed longitudinal study, Dr. Fergusson found abortion was associated with depression and other negative mental-health outcomes. Dr. Fergusson’s team criticized the APA’s position statement on abortion consequences, which stated, "Well-designed studies of psychological responses following abortion have consistently shown that risk of psychological harm is low. Some women experience psychological dysfunction following abortion, but post-abortion rates of distress and dysfunction are lower than pre-abortion rates."

Dr. Fergusson believed the APA position ignored results of studies such as his which found contradictory results.

For a 2006 article, I interviewed Dr. Nancy Russo, long-time APA luminary and defender of abortion rights, about Dr. Fergusson’s criticism of the APA position. Dr. Russo first asserted the evidence on mental-health outcomes was of clinical interest but had no bearing on abortion as a civil right. In other words, no matter what the consequences, abortion should be legal.

You might also consider these pieces by the same author.

Spirited liberal internationalism

Michael Gerson likes Tony Blair, in part because he says things like this:

"They [the terrorists] are prepared to play a long game," he told me, "and they believe that we are not."


"The reason why the stance of a lot of public opinion is quite defeatist in my view is because we are still saying, ’Well, they’ve got a point, we understand their grievance, maybe it is our fault.’ . . . We get rid of two of the most brutal and terrible dictatorships, who’ve killed hundreds of thousands of their people, we then say you can have a United Nations-backed process of democracy -- and you say that provoked them to terrorism. I mean, explain that one for me."


"If those two external elements [al Qaeda and Iran] were not there, this thing [Iraq] would be very nearly manageable," Blair told me. "Sometimes you have to come to a very simple conclusion, which is that your enemies decided to fight you."

Gerson closes by citing something that probably comes from Harvey C. Mansfield’s The Spirit of Liberalism:

Thirty years ago, Harvard political theorist Harvey Mansfield mockingly asked, "Who today is called a liberal for strength and confidence in defense of liberty?" By this high standard, Tony Blair is a liberal.

Gerson’s evident admiration for this side of Blair says a lot about him, and about his former employer as well. If my other choices are crabbed isolationism, heartless realism, and internationalist pacifism, then I choose this.

Immigration reform?

Some people are deeply unhappy with the bipartisan immigration deal announced yesterday.

Given its complexity, and the multiple issues about which one constituency or another is unhappy, I would be very surprised if anything like it made its way through the legislative labyrinth. It’s perhaps likelier that Democrats will use their power in Congress to make changes that, I expect (or is it hope?), will make the bill unpalatable to its current Republican supporters. Consider, in that connection, this apparently representative Democratic sentiment:

"We need to find a system that values and honors the work of all," said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (Ill.), who is one of the Democrats entrusted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with developing a House bill. "The landscaper is just as important as the computer scientist."

I honor and respect the landscaper, as a human being, as much as I do the computer scientist, but to the degree that immigration reform is about economics, I value the work of the computer scientist more than that of the landscaper. I would expect (hope?) that Republicans would walk away from a reform bill that isn’t hard-nosed at its core (with hospitable and humanitarian provisions, to be sure, but at the margins, else we adopt a measure that in principle swallows our national identity).

One last point and, for the moment, I’m done. In 2006, immigration activists didn’t do well at the polls (see, for example, J.D. Hayworth). Is there any evidence that a hard line has more political traction in 2007 and 2008 than it did a year ago? Yes, I know there are people who say they’ll never vote for anyone who supports this bill. How many of them are there? We’ll know, I suppose, if John McCain’s poll numbers drop appreciably, though I can’t imagine that many people who cared deeply about this issue supported him in first place.

Update: Can the Bush Administration round up 70 Republican votes in the House to hand the Democrats a victory? I doubt it.

A New Study Shows That 2006 Was All About Bush, Coruption, and Iraq

Of course, I already knew and said that. But now lots of evidence is in on what really mobilized voters last time. The good news is that Bush and Republican corruption shouldn’t be issues next time; the president is leaving office and the Democrats now control Congress. And it’s pretty good news that there’s precious little evidence of any ideological shift in the Democratic direction. But voters may still want to repudiate presidential incompetence and choose someone who promises to get Iraq behind us. All in all the news is not that good, although no one at this point should predict with confidence how the war will affect the election. (If you think about it, 2008 seems something like 1952. Although the Democrats don’t have an Eishenhower, the Republicans seem stuck with what appears to be an unwinnable and badly run war.)

Barone on the Young

They’re contented, optimistic about the future, revel in their unprecedented freedom, not that irresponsible, not worried about Social Security, and think that our foreign policy problems will be solved if we get rid of Bush and get out of Iraq. If Michael is right, it’s hard to see why they’d vote Republican. He’s employing his journalistic license to exaggerate, but there is something to his description.

Brown v. Board of Education

The unanimous ruling was announced on May 17, 1954.

Random Observations

On Falwell: I enjoyed all the comments in his support. Not only that, I take credit for them. I returned to my computer after being away for a couple of days shocked that his death had produced no posts. So I started things off by just saying what I really think about Jerry, which is basically he wasn’t to my taste but he had told some truth and done some good. I should add--against Christopher Hitchens and others--that there is no doubt in my mind about the authenticity and responsibility of his Christian faith. I will perversely disagree with Steve Hayward by saying I found Jimmy Swaggart’s show more interesting than Jerry’s, precisely because it was just about impossible to tell whether or not that master showman was a fraud. Despite his big-time sinning, I tend to think not. I could ramble on about the part of Christian truth that the Pentecostals highlight in neon letters, but I will spare you (see the Robert Duvall’s THE APOSTLE).

On Huckabee: He’s done well enough in the debates to merit our attention. If he were in Europe, he’d probably be a Christian Democrat (except on guns)--more in favor of government-sponsored charity than most of our conservatives. On abortion, he’s clear that life begins at conception and all that. But he still needs to articulate clearly a judicial doctrine, one that leaves abortion policy to our legislatures. Life begins at conception can’t be the foundation of judicial review, although it can inform the policy choices of voters and legislators.

On Giuliani, it’s clearer than ever that he regards abortion as a right to protected by courts as they think best.

On Romney, I’m too lazy to find the link, but according to Zogby he’s surging in Iowa.
Does anyone know why?

On Law-and-Order Fred, his op-eds continue to be excellent. (See Joe’s post below.)

Teach and study military history

Fred Thompson has a sensible suggestion for colleges and universities. It works both as a contribution to civic education and as part of a business plan.

Catholic lawmakers and abortion

The invaluable Professor Friedman calls our attention to this story about this statement from a group of Catholic Democrats, led by Rosa DeLauro, about whom more here. It seems to me that the Catholic Democrats want their church to be functionally Protestant, and then of the looser sort. It seems to me that part of a church’s witness consists in holding its members to account, in ways that serve to instruct and correct them. Anything wrong with that?

Update: RC2 has more.

Alt on Giuliani

Someone in the comments asked about our friend Robert Alt’s NRO piece on Giuliani. Here it is. I’m not ready to make the leap from his performance as a U.S. attorney in New York to an assessment of the kinds of judges he’d appoint, though I have to confess that, like Alt, I’m not impressed when I hear him talk about things constitutional.

High Energy

George Will gets it right on "energy independence," as usual, but in this case he’s especially on the right track because he cites . . ., well, me.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for April

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

Martha Keates

Lynn Sadler

Janet Ledford

Jason Mart

Andrea Kushner

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 May’s drawing.

Giuliani and birthright citizenship

There were a lot of immigration questions today, and Giuliani didn’t satisfy the hardcore border security first people with his answers. He did try--rather cleverly, I thought--to turn their concern with security against them, arguing that encouraging people to come forward would make it easier to go after those who wanted to remain in the shadows.

Someone asked him about "anchor babies" and he offered the conventional "birthright citizenship" answer, based on something other than a simply "strict construction" of the 14th Amendment. For a stricter construction, you can go here and here.

I would say that his deferral here to a simplistic reading of the Constitution also does him no credit.

Giuliani and abortion

There is, he says, no litmus test, which is reassuring, though his people need to get him to say it on something other than Fox Sunday Morning, when the people who most need to be reassured are likely to be in church.

But there is at least one other problem with his position, noted in part by Ed Whelan this morning. Giuliani seems to regard abortion as largely a judicial problem, with political qualifications and limitations only as permitted by the courts. I agree with this simply as a characterization of the current judicially-imposed status quo, not as a "natural" or necessary state of affairs. To the extent that Giuliani has nothing more to say, he’s dodging and hiding behind the robes, which is not a becoming position for someone of his stature to take.

But I wonder also about the relationship in his mind between choice and strict construction. Does he think that there’s a right to choose? Has he used precisely that language? If so, where does that right come from? I take it as given that no one thinks that such a right can be strictly construed from the Constitution. Is he then speaking of a "natural right" (or something like Ginsburg’s autonomy), or of a positive right that can be identified and enshrined in the law or the constitution by normal political processes (something like Scalia’s position). I could live with the latter position (which is a version of strict constructionism), but not the former (which is not).

Here’s then what I would have Rudy Giuliani say. First, he recognizes that, at the moment, only the courts can get us out of the mess that the courts have created. Second, he’s committed to appointing judges who are modest about their roles and strict constructionist (meaning faithful to the Constitution) in their methods, so that in due course, the courts will help us out of the mess that they’ve created. And third, that once we’re out of this mess, regardless of his personal preferences or his respect for the preferences of others, any "right" to choose would have to be the result of a legislative process, either in the states or at the federal level. He and I might not fully agree on what such a law would say, but we could well agree on almost everything up to that point.

That’s how, I submit, Giuliani could reconcile his respect for choice and his affinity for strict constructionism.

More Giuliani at Oglethorpe

The formal newspaper reports aren’t yet available on the web, but two veteran AJC reporters blogged on the visit here, here, here, and here. There’s video from local TV here (featuring a distinguished local political analyst) and stills on the Oglethorpe website.

As the AJC reporters note, nothing was said about abortion. But my takeaway from the event wouldn’t be that people don’t care; lots of questions, including mine, remained unasked. But, as I’ve said before, I’m not a single-issue voter and I recognize that our political choices are never optimal. Giuliani is a strong campaigner, comfortable thinking on his feet, and with a visceral appeal to people that goes back to 9/11. That last asset shouldn’t be underestimated in a general election campaign. If we need to recover the spirit and passion of those days (and there’s a case to be made that we should), he’s our man, because that’s his strong suit.

Later in the day, I had a talk with my favorite crusty Oglethorpe staffer, a New Yorker who worked for John Brademas at NYU before relocating to Atlanta. Her story goes something like this: she gave up a scholarship at Columbia in the early 60s because Morningside Heights was unliveable. When she lived in NYC before and during the Giuliani years, the city was transformed. And she has absolutely compelling and vivid memories of his performance on 9/11. And although she concedes that life in Atlanta the past five years has made her a little less liberal (she claims that her car radio only gets the local Salem affiliate), she’s not exactly the typical Republican voter, in Georgia or elsewhere. But I’d bet she’d vote for Giuliani in a heartbeat, as would a lot of folks in New York, as well as ex-New Yorkers across the country.

This tempts me sorely, but I’ve got to think through RG’s position on abortion first (which will require another post).

A Death in Iraq

The Washington Post regularly publishes a list of American soldiers killed in Iraq. As I scanned the list yesterday I was startled to see the following notice: “1st Lt. Andrew J. Bacevich, 27, of Walpole, Mass., died May 13 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat patrol operations in Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq.”

I was startled because Professor Andy Bacevich, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War vet, was a colleague of mine for a time at Johns Hopkins SAIS. He has since moved on to Boston University. Given the name, I assumed this must have been his son, which a quick search confirmed. The story is particularly notable because Andy has been a sharp and influential critic of the Iraq War – and of the direction of American foreign policy since at least World War II, which Andy sees (in a conservative neo-Beardian analysis) as aggressively imperialistic. He and I did not agree on the latter point but I found him to be a gentleman, a serious scholar, and a sincere patriot. A Professor at BU is quoted in the story: “I think young Bacevich joined because of what he saw in his father. I think he felt as his father did, that regardless of what you think of the particular politics of the administration, that service to the country is a pretty high value.”

I would also note that the son of another former colleague at SAIS, Eliot Cohen (now Counsellor to the Secretary of State) is likewise serving in Iraq. Eliot is on the other side of the issue from Andy. He was an advocate of Operation Iraqi Freedom (although he developed serious reservations about the way in which the war has been conducted). But the same ethic is at work.

Something to think about as you enjoy tonight’s San Antonio-Phoenix game and grouse about the injustice of the player suspensions.

Giuliani in Atlanta: a quick first take

I’ll have more tonight, once I’ve had a little time to gather my wits and my links, but for now, I’ll say a few things.

Giuliani spoke to a packed room of 250, most of whom responded well to what he had to say, both in his stock remarks and in his off-the-cuff responses to questions. He led with (what he and I regard as) his strengths--national security and domestic economic policy--and avoided (what I at least regard as) his weaknesses--social policy, like abortion. (The closest he came to that was in response to an off-the-wall question about killing unwanted animals: he’s against it, would promote adoption, and doesn’t regard it as a federal issue. Should we read something into this?)

I’ll basically stand and cheer his general approach to foreign policy any day: if we stand up to "bullies, tyrants, and terrorists" (more or less a direct quote), they’ll back off. If we show weakness, we’ll be attacked again and again. He buttressed this with discussions of Hitler, communism (with favorable references to Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II), the treatment of the Palestinian terrorists apprehended after the Munich Olympics attack on the Israeli atheletes, the treatment of those responsible for the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, and, finally, the response to the first WTC attack.

On domestic policy, he understands and can articulate well the difference between Republicans who believe that markets promote the common good and Democrats who appear not to (my weasel words, not his).

If I were a single-issue voter, he would have won me with his opening remarks--a favorable reference to liberal arts colleges that betrayed a certain understanding of what goes on (or can go on) in them. Surely a DoE in the Giuliani Administration wouldn’t be engaging in the regulatory overreach that the Bush DoE is.

But I’m not a single-issue voter....

As I said, more later (with a few words on the topic that wasn’t mentioned on my fair campus).

Jerry Falwell, RIP

I have to disagree a bit with Peter’s contention below that Falwell was not a master of nuance or theology. I have a soft spot for Falwell for a couple of particular reasons. True, he said some stupid things from time to time (and I rap him for it in my forthcoming book on the Reagan preidential years), but it is also true that he never got a fair shake from the media. On one point he was quite sound: He usually insisted that the Moral Majority was a political and not a religious movement. This distinction was lost on the media, and also on too many of his comrades in arms such as Pat Robertson, and I think Falwell’s deciding to fold up the Moral Majority in the late 1980s was shrwed and points to a substantive difference between him and Robertson--a nuance, if you like.

There was one of other thing about Falwell I liked. In LA in the 1980s, Falwell’s Old Time Gospel Hour was broadcast at the same time as Jimmy Swaggert. I would tell people to toggle back and forth between Swaggert, who was leaping around the stage, crying, singing (after the style of his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis), and making absolutely no sense at all, and Falwell, who would be fixed behind the pulpit, usually saying something like "This week’s Bible verse comes from Ephesians, chapter 2, where Paul instructs us on. . ." Then there would follow a typical, calmly presented Baptist exegesis on the text. The contrast between Falwell and Swaggert couldn’t have been more dramatic and, I think, meaningful. To the contrary of Peter, Falwell was the only one of the TV preachers I could stand to watch.

Remembering Jerry Falwell

I have to admit that I couldn’t bear watching Jerry on TV, and there’s probably too little liberty at Liberty University. He was not a master of nuance and no theologian. But he was an important political figure, with plenty of successes and failures. It’s appropriate today to remember when he told the truth and the good he did, as well as to praise a country that gave him liberty to speak his mind and his faith and to achieve what influence he could. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Feminist triumphalism

This WaTi article, the last of a series noted here, discusses the "gender gap" in 2006 and beyond. Feminists like to think that they’re on the cutting edge of history; I’d say it looks a whole lot more like the Iraq War widened the gap a bit.

As for family friendliness--an issue about which we’re likely to see a lot--note that married women still narrowly preferred Republicans. Note also that the Democratic family agenda is heavily statist, compelling all employers--except for public schools, where unions don’t want to hear about family preferences--to subsidize and support family choices.

This "pro-family" agenda is problematical for Democrats, at least to the extent that it’s articulated in a family-oriented way, and to the extent that its benefits aren’t extended to everyone, including single people as well as those in relationships not recognized by the state. My guess is that it’s really a pro-labor policy, not a pro-family policy, and its cost in terms of competitiveness, if enacted, would be substantial.

Bernard Lewis on the lesson of history

Ron Paul needs to read this. Here’s a snippet:

the Muslim perception there has been, since the time of the Prophet, an ongoing struggle between the two world religions, Christendom and Islam, for the privilege and opportunity to bring salvation to the rest of humankind, removing whatever obstacles there might be in their path. For a long time, the main enemy was seen, with some plausibility, as being the West, and some Muslims were, naturally enough, willing to accept what help they could get against that enemy. This explains the widespread support in the Arab countries and in some other places first for the Third Reich and, after its collapse, for the Soviet Union. These were the main enemies of the West, and therefore natural allies.

Now the situation had changed. The more immediate, more dangerous enemy was the Soviet Union, already ruling a number of Muslim countries, and daily increasing its influence and presence in others. It was therefore natural to seek and accept American help. As Osama bin Laden explained, in this final phase of the millennial struggle, the world of the unbelievers was divided between two superpowers. The first task was to deal with the more deadly and more dangerous of the two, the Soviet Union. After that, dealing with the pampered and degenerate Americans would be easy.


From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American response to a whole series of attacks--on the World Trade Center in New York and on U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, on the U.S. military office in Riyadh in 1995, on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000--all of which evoked only angry words, sometimes accompanied by the dispatch of expensive missiles to remote and uninhabited places.

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view.

Read the whole thing.

Debate #2

Here are pieces from the NYT, the WaTi, the WaPo, the LAT, The State (the Columbia, S.C. paper, which offers a transcript of the debate here), and, finally, NRO. The Fox News story is also worth reading.

It sounds like Rudy Giuliani seized the moment in his rebuke of Ron Paul’s claim that our Middle East policies produced 9/11, but the position he took really distinguishes him only from Paul, and not from the others. His abortion answer does distinguish him from the Republican field (and brings him very close to the modal Democratic answer--"safe, legal, and rare"). I’m still waiting for an explanation of how that position squares with "strict constructionism."

Update: NRO panelists grade the debate. Giuliani is the consensus winner. Huckabee helped himself, both with the crack about John Edwards (vice presciential, perhaps?) and with his rejoinder to Giuliani on abortion:

GOLER: You have said that you personally hate abortion but support a woman’s right to choose. Governor Huckabee says that’s like saying,
"I hate slavery, but people can go ahead and practice it."

Tell me why he’s wrong.

GIULIANI: There is no circumstances under which I could possibly imagine anyone choosing slavery or supporting slavery. There are people, millions and millions of Americans, who are of as good conscience as we are, who make a different choice about abortion.

And I think in a country where you want to keep government out of
people’s lives, or government out of people’s lives from the point of view of coercion, you have to respect that.

There are things that you can oppose, things you can be against, and then you can come to the conclusion, in the kind of democracy we have, the kind of society that we have, and the kind of society we have
where we want to keep government out of people’s personal lives, that you can respect other people’s view on this.

And I think everyone on this stage, including most Democrats, could probably very, very usefully spend a lot of time figuring out how we can reduce abortion.

GIULIANI: It’s going to take a while for the courts to figure out what to do about this. And while we’re looking at that, we should do what I did in New York, which is to try and reduce abortions as much as
you can, try to increase adoptions.

GOLER: Governor, has the mayor persuaded you?

HUCKABEE: He has not. I have great respect for the mayor, and let me tell you why I have great respect. He’s been honest about his opinion. He’s been honest about his position. And I think that’s a healthy thing for our party and for this debate.

But I’m pro-life because I believe life begins at conception. And I believe that we should do everything possible to protect that life, because it is the centerpiece of what makes us unique as an American people. We value the life of one as if it’s the life of all.

And that’s why we go out for the 12-year-old Boy Scout in North Carolina when he’s lost. That’s why we look for the 13 miners in Sago, West Virginia, when the mine explodes. That’s why we go looking for the
hikers on Mount Hood. Because we value life.

And it’s what separates us from the Islamic jihadists who are out to kill us.

HUCAKBEE: They celebrate death. They have a culture of death. Ours is a culture of life.

Now, if something is morally wrong, let’s oppose it. The honest argument is, I don’t think it’s morally wrong, and someone could take that position and then justify abortion. But if it’s wrong, then we ought to be opposed to it, and we ought to find ways to find better ways to deal with our respect for human life.

If you’re within driving distance of Atlanta

Rudy Giuliani will be speaking at Oglethorpe University tomorrow (Wednesday, May 16th). What questions would you like to hear him answer? (I know what I’ll ask, given the opportunity.)

Rule of law vs. rule by law

Here’s a too-clever-by-half lawyerly attempt to criticize the Bush Administration’s DoJ. The author leaves out both politics (elections) and constitutionalism (with the tensions noted so well here). Stated another way, he assumes (either simplistically or politically) that the rule of law is merely mechanical, not also human and prudential (as both Hobbes and Aquinas, cited by the author, recognized). The example I give my students, and one that they immediately understand, is that even police officers make judgments about how to enforce the posted speed limit, subject as well to directives from their higher-ups, who occasionally call for stricter or looser enforcement.

Hat tip: MOJ’s Rob Vischer.

Why the GOP Field Is Like Star Trek: TNG

Last night over martinis someone asked me who I liked in the GOP presidential field. Like most conservatives I’m not very enthusiastic about any of the three front-runners. Maybe it was the martinis, but the thought popped into my head: “The problem with this field is that it is too much like the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

You’ll have to bear with me here, and follow the story line. The major premise is that Ronald Reagan was Captain Kirk. I know, I know, Kirk’s character was said to have been loosely modeled on JFK, but don’t forget that Reagan inherited the mantle of JFK’s Cold Warriorism (as well as JFK’s income tax cuts). Having grown up with Kirk (and Governor Reagan), I hated—hatedStar Trek: TNG when it came on in the 1980s. The first of many reasons for hating TNG was that they actually obeyed the stupid Prime Directive, which is the epitome of cultural relativism. Half the plot lines of the original Star Trek involved Kirk wantonly violating the Prime Directive in what constituted acts of democratic statesmanship. Let’s recall, for example, the episode called “The Apple,” where Kirk revels in destroying the planet’s oppressive false god Vaal, and then explains to the stupefied inhabitants that their lives are going to change: “That’s what we call freedom. You’ll like it a lot. . . You’ll learn something about men and women—the way they’re supposed to be.” (The best analysis of this topic remains Paul Cantor’s wonderful book Gilligan Unbound, especially chapter 2, “Shakespeare in the Original Klingon.”)

TNG, on the other hand, was wholly bureaucratic—Star Trek as imagined by the UN General Assembly—and Captain Jean-Luc Piccard seemed more like the UN Secretary General than a commander. More to the point—and here we get back to the main thread—the problem with TNG was that it split Kirk’s character into three people: Piccard the authoritative but rule-abiding commander; First Officer Will Riker as the impetuous and womanizing swashbuckler, and Counselor Deanna Troi representing analytical reason and intuition. No one of them alone could effectively lead the Enterprise. The result was unwatchable. (How many times did Piccard surrender the Enterprise in that first season? Kirk would never have done that.)

Well, this describes the GOP front-runners. The parallels are not exact, of course, but generally break out something like this: Giuliani is Piccard, with his brusque, “make-it-so” personality; McCain is the impetuous and volatile Riker; and Romney is clearly an analytical Betazoid. Each by themselves has obvious limitations and defects. Combine them and you’d have something about right.

So forget this Fred Thompson boomlet. I have a better idea: William Shatner for President.

Dionne on the Giuliani problem

E.J. Dionne, Jr. wants abortion opponents to be utterly unpolitical in their inveterate opposition to Giuliani, whose position, he says, is practically indistinguishable from that of John Kerry.

Well, aside from Giuliani’s noises about strict constructionism, his administrative experience, his record in New York, and his general solidity on national security matters.... Opposition to Kerry wasn’t based on a single issue; opposition to or support for Giuliani won’t be either. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the small matter of the Democratic nominee, whose Supreme Court nominations will surely be less acceptable than those of any nominee the Republican could conceivably put up.

I’m not yet saying that I can or can’t vote for Giuliani in either the primary or general election, but my vote will be "political" in that electability will matter.

Update: Our friends at South Dakota Politics and Power Line have some smart thoughts.

EPPC abortion poll

Some might call this a push poll, but the results suggest that a sustained campaign of public education could move public opinion in a direction of which pro-life folks would approve. The question is how you get people’s attention focused on what "choice" means to pro-choice folks. In that connection, it’s worth reconsidering this NYT article.

Ted Olsen on Gonzales v. Carhart

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Taking Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent as an indication that Griswoldian privacy doesn’t satisfy anyone, he concludes:

Ginsburg’s dissent shows that Roe has few supporters left. The question is: What will replace it? Absolute personal autonomy? Or justice and mercy?

Read the whole thing.

And I had to settle for wearing a monocle at my wedding

Apparently at this site you can arrange for a platoon of Imperial Stormtroopers to show up at a wedding, birthday party, bar mitzvah, or other event.

This OSU student (Facebook registration required) made a deal with his bride-to-be--if he could get 10,000 members to join his Facebook group he could have stormtroopers at his wedding. He made that goal within two weeks. Now he’s shooting for another 20,000; if he gets there he’s allowed to have the Imperial March played at the wedding as well.

Is it just me, or is it a heck of a lot easier to be a geek these days than it was when I was in college?

Another Sign of Cultural Conservative Trends

Nudist colonies are having trouble recruiting younger members. I can’t get out of my head the image of the median age of one nudist colony at 55.

Hat tip: Skeptic’s Eye.

Manliness in Iraq

Michael Yon calls it professionalism, but this is how General Petraeus articulates it in a letter to those under his command:

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect.

The electoral future of social conservatives

This article, which inaugurates a three-part series, goes over a lot of ground quite well. The big question is whether social conservatives can handle the generational change, in its leadership and in the electorate. For social conservatives, that means seriously considering whether and how to broaden their agenda. For Republicans, it means remembering that social conservatives aren’t necessarily economic conservatives or (this isn’t the same thing) business conservatives.

Update: A number of social conservatives (anonymously) say they’re just waiting for Fred Thompson to announce. The stakes, they think, are high:

"It’s the moment of truth for conservatives," says one of the Christian conservative activists. "Either social conservatives rally to stop a Giuliani nomination and victory for him in November 2008 or our issues -- abortion, same-sex marriage, the preservation of the family -- are permanently off the Republican Party agenda."

I’m not sure I’d be quite that apocalyptic, though I think there is a case to be made for that position, if one assumes that generational changes are diminishing the prospect that, even in the not too distant future, it wlll be much harder to assemble electoral and legislative majorities in support of "traditional family values." There is, of course, also the propensity of politicians and their consultants to be tempted by the strategy and stances that won the last time, so that a Giuliani victory in the primaries and (most importantly) the general election would spawn all sorts of sincere flatterers.

Update #2: The WaTi article I just cited may have been the fallout from
this event.

Update #3: Here’s the second part of the series.

Buckley on Romney’s and His Own Conscientious Thought About Abortion

Bill asks us not to be quick to dismiss those who confess that they have doubts and even changes of mind on great moral questions. The truly damning charge against the Democrats is that they want to stifle moral deliberation on issues over which the country is, quite understandably, divided. And that’s the same charge that was rightly brought against the Democrats in the years prior to the Civil War.