Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Essay contest for those interested


More Civil War Stuff

My last Civil War piece started something of a food fight on NLT. Most of the comments had very little to do with the topic of Lincoln’s performance as military commander during the war.

I have another piece up now. It is here.

But given the comments about my last post, I thought it might be fun to post this old piece The Case Against Secession. Let the next food fight begin.

Next Year’s Smoking Gun

The iconoclastic Mickey Kaus offers this splendid satire on the potential bathroom antics of Democrats. Sample:

At 1216 hours suspect tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal often used by persons wishing to criticize teachers’ unions. Suspect tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly.

At 1217 hours, I saw suspect swipe his hand under the divider for a few seconds, a possible sign of support for charter schools. Suspect repeated this motion again, from the front towards the back, and I could see more of his hand. Suspect then swiped his hand in the same motion for a third time. My experience has shown that this suggests an openness to publicly funded private school vouchers.

. . . Suspect denied all charges and claimed he was really soliciting homosexual sex. He was immediately released.

Heh. Now I’m off to APSA. See you there Peter.

The APSA Convention in Chicago

...I’ll be there tomrrow afternoon through Saturday night. On the shameless self-promotion front: I’ll be part of a roundtable on social conservatism Friday morning at 10:15 sponsored by Claremont. And I’ll give a paper on "Building Better Than They Knew Studies" at a panel on John Courtney Murray sponsored by the Catholic Social Scientists at 4:!5 Saturday afternoon. Copies of my new HOMELESS AND AT HOME IN AMERICA will be available the St. Augustine’s Press booth. And my STUCK WITH VIRTUE, ALIENS IN AMERICA, as well as the edition of Brownson with my book-length introduction, will be available at the ISI booth. ISI will also feature the new POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEWER with the classic articles on post-Straussian studies by our friendly threaders Ralph Hancock and Paul Seaton, as well as an authoritative overview of Strauss’s theologico-political project by Florida’s theologian laureate, Marc Guerra.

If that weren’t enough, the new edition of my PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE just appeared in print. It has lots of good articles, including the penetrating comments Michael Zuckert gave on Tom Pangle’s Bible book at last year’s APSA and a fine article on Strauss’s utopianism by our own Ivan the K.

A few thoughts about Larry Craig and social conservatism

Leaving aside what actually happened in the Minneapolis restroom (and other times in the past), Craig’s handling of the aftermath has been incredibly inept. It’s hard to imagine him winning reelection, and he shouldn’t try. For the good of his family, his state, and his party, he should announce that he won’t be seeking reelection.

What I want to dwell on is the claim--made here, for example--that one can’t without hypocrisy be a social conservative (favoring traditional marriage) and have a questionable private life. Why not? Can’t I be a sinner and still condemn sin? Must I, because I’m a sinner, be easy on myself and others? Must I, because I’m a sinner, refuse to recognize sin for what it is?

Of course, one could respond that the issue isn’t the condemnation of sin, it’s the refusal to admit one’s own guilt. A confessed philanderer could urge fidelity in marriage and chastity outside it (leaving the positions to stand on their own legs), without holding himself up as a paragon of virtue or an example to be imitated. The sin, then, is the hypocrisy, portraying oneself as an upholder of "family values," all the while--or at least episodically, lapses of judgment or self-control--violating the values one upholds in public. There is, it seems to me, a fine line here. Can’t I advocate a position without holding myself up as an examplary representative of it? Did Larry Craig ever explicitly say (I don’t know the answer to this question): "I’m the model everyone should be imitating; everyone should be like me"? Or did he just, in his public self-presentation, put his best foot forward? Don’t we all do that? Or should or must we begin every interaction with a comprehensive public confession of sin?

Perhaps in our relentlessly confessional age, where no one’s privacy is respected, such a preliminary admission--full disclosure, as opposed to the "limited hang-out"--might be good policy. Perhaps the model should be the repentant and penitent sinner, the one who recognizes and acknowledges how far short he’s fallen. But must this always be done in public, not to mention in all its technicolor gory details? It’s one thing to do this before one’s friends and family, or before one’s church, quite another to do it in public, where it borders on the unseemly, not to say prurient. And, of course, however free one might then be to advocate for a position, it’s not clear that one can hold and win office after such a confession. It may in the end be easier to keep one’s mouth shut about social issues--the fervent hope of libertartians and other advocates of sexual freedom--in an effort (perhaps vain) to keep one’s reputation and life intact.

I don’t mean in any of this to let "sinners" off the hook. And I think that people whose private lives can’t withstand close scrutiny ought to think twice before they become involved in public life. No one’s perfect. But it is in the end impossible to separate the message from the messenger. Those who take the former seriously ought to attend seriously to their own character as witnesses. Larry Craig shouldn’t have shut up. But he should have sought to be as beyond reproach as it’s possible for a fallible human being to be.

Thoughts on Europe

Joe Knippenberg, as we know, has been travelling around Europe, old and new, united and not. This is a very fine article, with many fine insights and good thoughts. I’ll let it speak for itself, so y’all should read it (and Joe should write more!) and we can have some conversations about its fine points, at your will. I am willing to participate in such a conversation because I like talking about museums.

Electoral College Reform

Our friend Matt Franck examines, much more intelligently than his foil, the NYT (I don’t thereby mean to damn him with faint praise), the potential (and unintended) consequences of a proposal to allocate state electoral college votes by something other than a winner-take-all system.

In so doing, he reminds us that most efforts to monkey with our political processes are short-sighted.

This just in....

Studies show (to borrow a line from a colleague) professional theologians like Barack Obama.

Why, one might ask, don’t they heart Huckabee, who seems to be the candidate of moralistic abstemiousness?

Minor celebrities in Austria

The elder Knippenbergs, who know what to do with things they purchase on eBay.

There were, by the way, two print stories, and I came away with an Austrian Bundesheer baseball cap.

Educational (?) video

Boston College won’t post the video of a debate between Dinesh D’Souza and Alan Wolfe.

“It was uncivil, they talked over each other, they ... cast aspersions on each other’s character, they made jokes at each other’s expense, it was a snipe job, it was a street fight, it was a brawl. And frankly it doesn’t meet Boston College’s intellectual standards,” said Ben Birnbaum, the executive producer of Front Row.

D’Souza and Wolfe probably deserve one another. Wouldn’t it be "enlightening" for two such "public intellectuals" to be shown for who they are?

Embrace the Chaos

,,,that is our increasingly unstable primary/caucus system of delegation selection. That’s John Pitney’s advice. Pitney is probably wrong that what it takes to prevail in that process has much to do with the qualities associated with governinig well. But we don’t much choice for now. Florida is going to do what Florida is going to do, and candidates will just have to adjust.

Kennedy on the Rule of Law

Commenting on AG Gonzales’s resignation, Senator Ted Kennedy opined: "I strongly urge President Bush to nominate a new attorney general who will respect our laws . . . ."

Here’s to hoping that some day Massachusetts voters will elect a Senator who respects their state’s laws.

Back from the Beach

Okay, I’m finally back from the beach, back in the saddle, and ready to go. . . at something. I got about 30,000 words in the can on Age of Reagan II over the last two months and may actually finish by the end of the year, but it meant I had to set aside both video-blogging and the old-fashioned kind. I’ll try to get back to video-blogging soon enough, but in the meantime, there are two videos that I recommend enjoying. First, this Miss Teen USA contestant from South Carolina shows why she desperately needs to become an Ashbrook Scholar.

Then, if that isn’t enough, try out this Finnish cover of the Village People’s "YMCA."

Chris Wallace Takes Bill Moyers to School for a Lesson in Journalism 101

Watch and enjoy.  

Gonzales Says Goodbye

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned today. I have never been much of a fan of Gonzales, and tend to think that he was in over his head. Particularly frustrating was his handling of the U.S. Attorney firing "scandal," which he made into a scandal by giving the appearance of covering up legal activity. Had he simply said that the attorneys were terminated because they served at the pleasure of the President, who could fire them for any reason whatsoever and left it at that, then the apparent "scandal" could have been avoided.

NRO has covered Gonzales’s resignation and its consequences extensively. I participated in their symposium this morning, in which I offered my thoughts on what would happen if the current speculation is correct, and Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff is nominated to the post. And over in The Corner, I offer some thoughts on whether Ted Olson would accept the nomination.

Tocqueville for Joggers

For all you nerdy health nuts who enjoy listening to lectures on your ipods while excercising feverishly, here are the talks from our NEH Summer Seminar at Bethel College. You can hear, for example, Michael Zuckert, Ty Tessitore, Leslie Goldstein, Alan Ehrenhalt, and me.


That’s what the often sensible David Broder is pushing today.