Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Boxers or briefs?

Here’s a rosy Huckabee scenario, authored by one of Michael Barone’s colleagues at The Almanac of American Politics.

Are the Democrats Winning on Health Care?

They may well be so far. And here’s why: In an increasingly dynamic, individualistic society, people are changing and losing jobs more than ever. Employer and employee loyalty are on the decline. So they’re increasingly anxious about a system that connects coverage with employment. But people also are suspicious of becoming dependent on a national bureaucracy and about the affordability of universal coverage. Is it possible to come up with a way of alleviating anxiety through a largely market-driven system? Please don’t tell me that security-driven herd animals are craving a softer and wider safety net. The concern here arises with the steady erosion of protections to which we’ve become accustomed. And I still say the Republicans can win on this issue if they’re smart (see the wisdom of Yuval Levin).

Cats and genes

A cat
"called Cinnamon has made scientific history by becoming the first feline to have its DNA decoded.

The domestic cat now joins the select club of mammals whose genome has been deciphered - including dogs, chimps, rats, mice, cows and people.

The genome map is expected to shed light on both feline and human disease."

"Analysis of the cat genome sequence could also shed light on everything from evolution to the origins of feline domestication, they say.

"We can start to interpret them in terms of one of evolution’s special creations, which is also probably one of the greatest predators that ever lived," said Dr Stephen O’Brien of the US National Cancer Institute, who spearheaded the project.

Like other mammals, the cat has around 20,000 genes. By comparing its genome - the genes that build and maintain the body - to those of other mammals, researchers can study differences in biology, evolution and behaviour.

"One thing I’d like to discover is the genes for good behaviour in the cats - the genes for domestication, the things that make them not want to kill our children but play with them," he added."

Interesting, but what will explain the fact that all places are alike to cats? See this Kipling story (from Just So Stories).

Bill Clinton defending his woman

There is a conversation at the The Corner about Bill’s recent defense of Hillary regarding the "breathtakingly misleading" question asked by Tim Russert. More here, including the video of Bill wagging his finger at Russert. I think this is very interesting, and very much to Hillary’s disadvantage. This is one of those rare things that gets people riled up in the taverns. The good old days are here again, as it were.

The Petraeus Curve

This London Times editorial points out that "on every relevant measure, the shape of the Petraeus curve is profoundly encouraging." That this is not yet being fully and publicly recognized by the media (and by Democratic candidates for President) is another matter. But it is now true that "Iraq is no longer, as they [politicians] thought, an exercise in damage limitation but one of making the most of an opportunity." Hillary, in my opinion, is the Democrat least disadvantaged by the success of the new more sophisticated strategy (aka the surge) in Iraq.


Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has declared emergency rule, suspends the constitution. This is the

Washington Post story and this is from the BBC.

Studies Show That Beer Is Better

...for you than water, especially after working out or playing rugby. And replacing water with imported beer would be quite the socially responsible gesture for those of us in areas suffering from drought.

Are the Complacently Darwinian Smart Loners Rising?

They are, says Michael Kinsley. A simple libertarian-communitarian realignment is unlikely, but the more libertarian of the two parties will increasingly have the advantages. And that’s the Democrats.

Hillary’s Female Problem

I knew it was going to be a hard week when I found myself agreeing with Hillary Clinton about something . . .

In the last two days I’ve heard and read a lot of talk about Hillary’s "disastrous" appearance in the Democratic debate this week. The standard interpretation is that she misstepped and then--after the fact--she played the gender card to complain about everyone ganging up on poor little her. Well . . . yes, that’s one way to view the thing. But conservatives should be careful about laughing at Hillary.

I’ve been watching the way the Clinton’s play this game for too long to really believe that they have room in their well-rehearsed program for many missteps. This is what I think happened: Hillary does not want to take a position on drivers licenses for illegals. She did say that she thought Governor Spitzer’s plan "made sense"--but she is right to point out that saying something makes sense is not the same thing as saying that it is sensible. Though an apparent contradiction is evident and though it was certainly slippery, Hillary’s right about the technical use of her words. She’s right because she chose those words carefully so as to be able to sit back and wax philosophic to either side in this debate. It’s not considered appropriate to say such things in public . . . but Hillary Clinton did what is typically female in this instance. She is straddling the line on a controversial issue and deflecting attention away from her inability (or unwillingness) to take a stand by pointing to the failures of someone else (Bush) in bringing things to such a convoluted point. She shouldn’t have to think about such exasperating things and, she wouldn’t, if it weren’t for that bungling Mr. Bush. Husbands, does this sound familiar? It’s all your fault! You go figure out what to do about it and don’t come to me with your messes.

This line of argument is intended to do exactly what it did. It made those men angry and confused. "But you said it ’made sense’!" they cried. "But you’re not smart enough to understand my words," she replied. It provoked a spirited piling on of the boys from all sides. And that always makes me suspicious. It may have been a calculated risk on her part. She knew she couldn’t stick her neck out and take a firm position on this issue so perhaps she’s taken the danger this presented and turned it into an opportunity. Perhaps she’s betting that the sympathy she’ll get from women watching her fellow Dems (and most conservatives) beat up on her will bode well for her female numbers. She was never so liked and admired by American women as when she was the victim of that bully husband of hers, after all.

There is a risk that this could backfire. It is fair for people to point to her duplicity on this as well as many other controversial issues. She can be seen as indecisive or non-committal. She may be criticized for playing the gender card and crying "poor me!" in the face of tough questioning. Some people will likely come to the conclusion that she is too slick and not tough enough to handle the job of Commander in Chief. But those people probably already had that opinion--don’t you think? How many more of those folks is she likely to lose? And what are the potential gains? Hillary’s negative numbers (some 48%) are very high indeed. To overcome them she needs to do something drastic. I think she’s banking on this appearance of vulnerability making her more likable with the group she considers her natural constituency: women. Of course it is insulting to women--not only for her to harbor this opinion of them--but for her to act on it so. But history has never given a Democrat an opportunity to pander to an identity group--no matter how low the level of pandering--that the Democrat wasn’t happy to take. I guess Hillary’s just one of the boys after all.

David Brooks writes an amusing parody of this episode here. The best line (attributed to Clinton) is this one: To be clear, I said that licenses for illegals was a smart idea that I oppose. There are also many dumb ideas I support and mediocre ideas I’m lukewarm about. I keep track on my iPhone.

UPDATE: Also see Kathleen Parker’s interesting take on the event.

Faith-based inside baseball

Professor Friedman calls our attention to this op-ed by Carl Esbeck, one of the authors of the original charitable choice language in the mid-90s (when he worked with then-Senator John Ashcroft) and to a policy statement by the Department of Justice that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the co-religionist hiring rights of any faith-based government contractor that wishes to assert them.

Interestingly, in his new book, original Bush Administration faith czar John DiIulio seems to regard this exemption as basically unconstitutional, despite the fact that the laws that served as the foundation and inspiration of his White House office, all signed into law by (the first) President Clinton, all contained language that extended the co-religionist hiring exemption found in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to faith-based government contractors. I can’t shake the feeling that DiIulio is doing a little rewriting of history in his otherwise generally admirable book.

Why Does Rudy Heart Huck?

The various media outlets have reported that Giuliani really likes Huckabee, saying that he’s the only candidate who makes me laugh. Ross may explain why. Without Huck in the race, Romney would be poised to win the "hat trick" of early contests--Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan. And it’s not so clear Giuliani could survive all that momentum. But with Huck surging, Iowa, at least, is no longer a sure thing for Mitt, and at least the new man from Hope is likely to reduce the big national bump he would get from a solid victory. So Ross calls Huck Rudy’s "secret weapon." (Have you noticed that the "social conservatives" are trying to run Giuliani out of the party, while the "economic conservatives" are doing the same to Huckabee? Both efforts are quite misguided.)

Jay Nordlinger

Jay Nordlinger, the managing editor of National review, spoke at an Ashbrook lunch on the 26th last. He is thoughtful, learned and well spoken. It was good to have him here. The students especially liked him. It’s about an hour long, with the question period.

Mr. Evangelical Outpost Defend Huck

...from the Pat Toomey/Club for Growth allegations concerning his economic evildoing as governor.

Conference alert

Our D.C.-area friends might be interested in this AEI shindig on "reforming the politically correct university."

Is the Islamist threat the new abortion?

Beliefnet’s Steve Waldman wonders whether Rudy Giuliani’s steadfastness on the threat from the Islamofascists is the key to his continuing relatively strong support from rank-and-file conservative Christians. Rod Dreher agrees.

I kinda do, too, but not precisely for the reasons they suggest. First of all, I don’t think abortion and other life issues have gone away, supplanted by the challenges coming out of caves in Waziristan. To say that presumes an incapacity on the part of some people (those simple-minded evangelicals, I guess) to care about more than one issue or challenge at a time, and to weigh a variety of competing considerations.

Second, I don’t think that all people who identify themselves as conservative Christians have only one identity or view the world only through one lens. (That’s largely the preserve of fanatics and theory-besotted intellectuals.) Most folks I know wear crosses and wave flags, so to speak, and many of them can tell the difference between the two. Many of them also know that politics and poltiical considerations are not identical with religious concerns, that we’re in the process of electing a commander-in-chief, not a preacher or pastor. And they know that politics offers a range of flawed human choices, which, come to think of it, makes it no different from every other arena of life in this world.

The Republicans

Andy Busch’s take on the GOP candidates, in NCAA basketball torunament terms:

"The Republican race should be seen as a multiple-round elimination tournament that started with three brackets, each of which has pitted two contenders vying with each other for the right to be the one Republican who can plausibly represent a particular niche in the field."

Fine piece.

School choice in Utah

In the context of the looming vote on school choice in Utah, George F. Will offers a primer on the standard arguments for and against vouchers. Guess which side has the better argument?

Gerson’s heroic conservatism

Just a quick post to note that this Michael Gerson column (making an argument that I’ve seen before from him) appears to be a preview of his new book. If he’s right about the two predominant strands of American conservatism, then it’s an amalgam of tho ways of thinking that aren’t, strictly speaking, "conservative." I suppose that I don’t have to argue for the essential unconservatism of libertarianism, which subjects every relationship to the acid bath of interest.

But Roman Catholic social thought isn’t quite conservative either, especially in its "catholicity." (Just ask the ancient Romans.) At the same time, I do think that its emphasis on natural law (implying a created and rationally apprehensible order) and on subsidiarity (which offers a great deal to "civil society") make it the best candidate for a conservatizing foil to the promethean individualism expressed by libertarians and the promethean collectivism (a little too strong, but I can’t think of a better expression at the spur of the moment) of contemporary liberals.

By contrast, "genuine" conservatism must be local and--I know this will provoke--polytheistic. (The Romans had that right.)

Update: Mark Krikorian reads Gerson out of the conservative movement, set off in part by this WaPo story, which, I’m betting, is at least a little misleading.

Update #2: Answering Jonah G. requires more time than I have right now (as I’m between classes--moving from Aristotle to Livy--and then have a meeting and another class--Plato’s Republic; this semster is brutal). I’ll say only this for the moment: it’s the tension between classical liberalism and Christian (especially Catholic) social thought that gives contemporary American "conservatism" its peculiar flavor. Yes, liberals can also borrow from Catholic social thought, especially regarding the social welfare-style ends, but their unlimited secular statism can’t be justified on Christian/Catholic grounds.

Update #3: There’s more piling on over at The Corner, but I think Gerson would agree with David Freddoso’s point about CST, which lines up well with the Gerson/Bush "ownership society." Our friend RC2 weighs in, using one word--"subsidiarity"--that Gerson knows but doesn’t mention and another--"federalism"--that also seems to get short shrift from MG.

One interesting effort to deal with the tensions between (classical) liberalism and "Christendom" can be found in this initiative undertaken by our friends at ISI; this book, in particular, ought to be of interest.

Stated another way, Catholic and Christian social thinking can learn a thing or two from classical liberalism, especially about the (limited) roles of choice and markets, but everyone has to remember that what we’re talking about is a political economy that is in the service of households that ought to have ends other than wealth maximization.

Georgia Republican big tent

This is just an anecdote, so make of it what you will.

Today I hosted Mike Jacobs, a Republican state legislator who recently left the Democratic Party. I’ve always found him (even in his previous political life) to be a thoughtful and animated public servant, trying faithfully to serve his district, which, Wikipedia to the contrary notwithstanding, probably leans a little Republican, albeit (like the districts surrounding it) more on fiscal and economic than on social grounds.

Jacobs’s public explanation of his party switch is interesting: as he thought about the ballot he cast on Election Day in 2006, he found himself voting more for Republican candidates statewide than Democrats. (When he last spoke at Oglethorpe as a Democrat, he remarked that he thought that the Party had a long way to go to become competitive again statewide.)

As he negotiated his party switch, he made it clear to the Republican legislative leadership that he couldn’t and wouldn’t conform his views on social issues to those of the majority of the caucus. Fair enough; I don’t agree with him, but I don’t live in his district and, if I did, my voting options wouldn’t be extensive. (He says that the Democrats are going to run someone to his left, ceding him the center and the right.)

He also noted that he’s found more tolerance of his social issue heterodoxy in the legislative Republican caucus than he found of his fiscal and economic heterodoxy among his former Democratic colleagues. If one wished to snark at Republicans, I suppose one could say that that goes to show that they, in their heart of hearts, don’t really care about the social issues, but I’d prefer to think of them as grown-ups, recognizing that political effectiveness requires all sorts of imperfect alliances.

On the other side of the aisle, I think it’s fair to say that the Georgia Democratic Party, with perhaps a couple of noteworthy exceptions (the former more so than the latter), has pretty much become a mirror image of its national counterpart. It won’t in the foreseeable future spawn many genuine blue dogs, especially to the extent that they have to be cultivated in the state legislature.

Fund on Huckabee, part 2

Hugh Hewitt links to a video of John Fund talking with Tucker Carlson about Mike Huckabee’s record in Arkansas. Their conclusion is as coastally patronizing of flyover evangelicals as anything I’ve seen: those evangelicals are socially conservative--they’re pro-life (and good for them, adds the oh-so-superior Carlson)--but not so conservative on other issues, like free trade (adds Fund), though they shop at Walmart. Yup, us’ns does shop at Walmart. (I guess Fund hasn’t met any affluent, relatively well-educated suburban evangelicals. The folks at my church are as likely to be found in Target as in Walmart.)

Here, for what it’s worth, is Huckabee’s response to Fund’s column. I’d add that what tends to distinguish governors from legislators, at least in some cases, is a certain pragmatism. You work with the legislature you have and you try to solve problems. That may well militate against conservative purism (and, by the way, also liberal purism, if you think about relatively successful red state Democratic governors).

Byron York offers a more balanced assessment of Huckabee’s gubernatorial record in a piece published last month in the print edition of National Review.

Jonah’s Buzz Kill

Jonah Goldberg (God bless him) writes about what he calls the "Conservative Buzz Kill" in today’s LA Times. Citing our own William Voegeli’s terrific essay in the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books, Jonah writes that conservatives need to understand that public opinion--though buoyed by conservative rhetoric--is not on board with real deal conservatism in the sense of strictly limited constitutional government. Well, yea . . . (should I say, duh?) The good news is that Americans don’t like an honest accounting of what the libs are all about either. Except (more bad news . . .) the libs know this, so (brace yourself . . .) they lie. It’s not really socialized medicine--it’s expanded coverage, and so on. It’s shocking, I know, but it is the reality of the situation.

Jonah explains the variety of ways conservatives have taken to reacting to the built-in advantage of liberals with their ever-increasing dependent constituency: "compassionate conservatism" and libertarian/conservative purist retreat. Surprise! None of these genius ideas are any good. Jonah’s buzz kill is that there is only one thing that will do any good--and it’s not sexy. It’s the plodding, patient work of tearing out liberal bricks one by one where they show evidence of being loose. While this is probably all very true it seems like there should be a more inspirational way of saying it . . . maybe not.

Existentialism and the American Voter

The always thoughtful and thought-provoking, David Brooks describes what he sees as a kind of "happiness gap"--not between but within American voters. He argues that the successful candidate will address this with what he calls, "a gimlet-eyed federalism — strong government with sharply defined tasks." While I agree with his perception of cynicism in many voters, I think I still disagree with his assessment that "voters are not interested in uplift" or inspiration. People are always interested in that--even when they say they’re not. In fact, their omnipresent interest in inspiration is probably what causes them to say that they’re not interested in it. To use a psycho-babble (but I think true) term--it is a "defensive mechanism." They’ve been so disappointed in the past that they simply can’t believe they’ll get real inspiration, so they pretend they don’t really want it so as to avoid the disappointment. But Brooks is probably right to suggest that the current crop of candidates avoid playing that card as it doesn’t seem that any of them is good enough to quite pull it off. See what you think.

A Constitutional People

In recognition of Constitution Day (September 17) and in response to a challenge from a foreign student attending the Constitution Day lectures at Ashland University Peter Schramm takes us to school with a concise defense of our constitutional origins. It is a very good discussion of the difference between a democratic and a self-governing people. Perhaps it might be of use, also, in helping to form our thinking about the situation in Iraq.  

Neuhaus on the crack-up

It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: "Mr. Kirkpatrick talks with three, or maybe four, disillusioned pastors in Wichita and Mr. Rich’s political hopes are buoyed."

In the same column, RJH promises discussions of Mark Lilla’s book and of the prospects of a Giuliani nomination (by Hadley Arkes) in future issues of FT.

Huntington’s The Soldier and the State at Fifty

As some of you may know, I am at work on a history of US civil-military relations. In that regard I would note that this is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Sam Huntington’s seminal book, The Soldier and the State, which is one of the most important books written on the topic. Huntington was the first to attempt a systematic theoretical analysis of what Peter Feaver has called the civil-military problématique: the paradox arising from the fact that, out of fear of others, a society creates "an institution of violence" intended to protect it, but then fears that the institution will turn on society itself. That was very much on the minds of the Founding generation, which had to strike a balance between vigilance and responsibility.

The Soldier and the State is an important but flawed book. I am a "two cheers for Huntington" guy as my retrospective look at the book here illustrates.

As I see it, there are three problems with the book. First, elegant as it may be, his theory doesn’t fit the evidence of the Cold War. Second, Huntington’s historical generalizations concerning the alleged isolation of the military during the late 19th century are at odds with the evidence. And third, the line of demarcation mandated by Huntington’s theory is not as clear as some would have it.

This last point is the subject of Mike Desch’s article in Foreign Affairs and some rejoinders, including my own in a subsequent issue.

The Soldier and the State is very popular with the uniformed military. Unfortunately, many officers have concluded, based on their reading of the book, that military autonomy means that officers should be advocates of particular policies rather than simply serving in their traditional advisory role—indeed, that they have the right to insist that their advice be heeded by civilian authorities. Such an attitude among uniformed officers is hardly a recipe for healthy, balanced civil-military relations.

Despite its flaws, The Soldier and the State continues to provide useful insights into the nature of civil-military relations, especially our own. It addresses the central problem of civil-military relations: the relation of the military as an institution to civilian society. And its best empirical insights—the civilian-military distinction, the idea of military subordination, essential to democratic theory, the importance of military professionalism—do not depend on the problematic parts of Huntington’s model.

Huck thin

Well, this post isn’t really about his weight loss; the title just popped into my head. It is about this story, which notes that Huckabee has beaten the Clintons, if not in their back yard, then at their country place.

Obama’s youthfulness

Rich Lowry, I think, nails what ails Obama. And Lowry doesn’t say so, but the incredible lightness of his being self-absorbed might also be why Obama seems to connect so well with young people. (It seems that all the politically active liberal students at Oglethorpe support Obama.) He and they are on the same wavelength.

Lessons from Blackwater USA

Think that the allegations of misconduct by employees of Blackwater USA are a classic illustration of market failure? Tyler Cowen doesn’t agree. He argues that the behavior of any contractor--even a provider of military services--is bound to reflect the priorities of those who hire him.

If Blackwater is assigned to protect a top American official, who is later assassinated, Blackwater may lose future business. A private contractor doesn’t have a financial incentive to protect Iraqi citizens, who are not paying customers. Ultimately, this reflects the priorities of the United States military itself. American casualties are carefully recorded and memorialized, but there is no count of Iraqi civilian deaths.

What is old is new again

Here’s an argument that ought to warm the cockles of Patrick D’s heart.

But seriously, if business Republicans prefer a big government Democrat (doubtless supported by trade unions) over Huckabee, then we have to wonder if their "conservatism" consists in anything more than profit-maximization by hook or by crook, from consumers or taxpayers.

I say this not to argue that Huckabee is the logical or the only choice for Republicans, but only to insist that his presence on the ticket ought not to be a deal-breaker for Republican constituencies.

How to begin to think about the alternatives

Our friend RC2 tosses off a brief exercise in thinking through the Republican options. An admirable example of the faculty of judgment, offered by someone who also recommends a movie favorably reviewed here.

This is rich

Or is it Frank? Leave it to a NYT columnist to be snide and simplistic.

Judis on Giuliani

John thinks he’s outing Rudy as an authoritarian loyalist with Catholic roots. Sometimes a hit job with numerous factual distortions can still make a candidate look pretty good. What’s wrong with a strong executive who knows that liberty depends upon authority and virtue?

Learning to Know and Love the Noble

Last spring, Professor Jeff Sikkenga offered an eloquent and thoroughly moving speech at the baccalaureate ceremony to the graduating seniors of Ashland University. It is available to read in the current issue of the Ashbrook Center’s newsletter, On Principle and on-line here. Do go read it. You won’t be sorry. It is one of the best essays of its kind that I have read and one that should be standard issue to all incoming freshmen--at Ashland or anywhere else. Sikkenga addresses it to graduating seniors--but for reasons that become apparent as you read it--it is tragic if this speech was the first acquaintance any of them had with him at Ashland. If you know a young person just starting college or getting ready to go next fall, and you have just enough influence to get that person to read only one thing . . . this essay should be that one thing.

Peripatetic Blogging . . .

. . . could soon be coming your way.

Huckabee and Republican constituencies

Mike Huckabee clearly rubs some members of the republican coalition the wrong way. Socially conservative evangelicals like him. Immigration hawks seem to loathe him. Tax crusaders are suspicious of his record in Arkansas. But in both these cases he seems to be making gestures in the direction of his critics.

But life in the Republican Party is complicated. Some business Republicans (who have allies on the editorial board of the WSJ) are "wet" on immigration. Some evangelicals are not. Most Republicans favor lower taxes, albeit for somewhat different reasons. The question is whether the lower taxes/less government foundation is sufficiently sturdy for a new house. And how many rooms will the new Republican mansion have?

Hat tip: Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly, who alos has interesting things to say about the big NYT piece I discussed here.

Bill Kristol: It’s a Five-Man Race

Bill certainly is persuasive enough to hearten the supporters of Thompson, Huckabee, and even McCain against the efforts of his colleague Mr. Barnes to count them out. Bill’s McCain scenario is probably the most fanciful or at least nostalgic, but things could break Fred’s way if Giuliani falters in the right way (and Fred gets into the full campaign swing). And of course he’s takes Huck seriously as a contender.

New Orleans

This is The Economist’s short take on the Boby Jindal victory in Louisiana; this is last paragraph or so:

"Mr Jindal’s victory is only the icing on the cake. The Republicans are expected to take five of the six elected state offices in Louisiana when the run-off votes are counted next month.

And next year the Democrats’ top officeholder, Ms Landrieu, looks like facing an uphill battle. When she was last elected, in 2002, she won in large part thanks to a landslide in her home city, heavily Democratic New Orleans. Whereas the city’s predilections haven’t changed dramatically, its size has, and its electoral significance along with it. In 2002 almost 133,000 New Orleanians voted in the Senate race. On October 20th less than 60% of that number turned up at the polls, a sign of the city’s post-Katrina shrinkage. Ms Landrieu won New Orleans by almost 80,000 votes in 2002, twice her overall margin of victory. This time, that was more votes than all the candidates got combined in the city that was once the alpha and the omega of Louisiana politics."

I was in New Orleans for a few days, left the afternoon Jindal got elected. A quick glance and a few conversations revealed that the place has changed a bit. Musicians (the old-fashioned kind) have not yet returned from gigs away, and those that stayed are making small bucks. It doesn’t seem that New Orleans is the city where there is "music all the time" as the song said. But we did eat well, did hear a few good sounds, the best came up as surprises. Heard and got a glimpse of a wedding with music marching down the street (at first hearing it seemed no different from the funeral marches I have heard, but never mind that) with the happy musicians followed by a bunch of stiff white people. The next day, an old man, with a trumpet in hand, would converse with folks standing in line to get something to eat and then take his horn--attached to hand as were his fingers--and blow sweet sounds as naturally as he talked. The music seemed part of the conversation. Lovely. And occasionally you could make out a lilting clarinet or horn, that is, when the uber-noise of the tasteless Bourbon Street died down for a moment. And, perhaps most important, Roger and I did have a nice smoke at this shop on Decatur St. And we learned something about rolling good cigars. We bought many boxes.

Fred Barnes: It’s a Two-Man Race

...for the Republican nomination. If Giuliani doesn’t put Romney away early, then Mitt will emerge as the consensus alternative. Voters don’t like the new, restrained McCain as much as the old, feisty one. I would underline "old." Fred in the flesh has been a disappointment so far. Huckabee doesn’t have the money or the plan required for what would have to be a mighty quick exploitation of a victory in Iowa. I think Barnes is PROBABLY right on McCain and Thompson. I’m not as sure about Huck. My prediction based, of course, on no real facts: Huck or Mitt will quickly emerge as the alternative to Rudy, based largely on the outcome in Iowa. If Rudy doesn’t put his rival away on Feb. 5 (this year’s super-Tuesday), then he’s in big trouble. I will also glibly speculate that Romney will prove to be a formidable adversary if he gets to focus on Giuliani alone. (If I were a betting man, I’d say it’s even-money--Rudy vs. the rest of the field.)

Designated Weirdness

As reliably as Columbus Day or Halloween, every October guarantees a bunch of sportswriters filing stories about the awful dilemma facing the manager of the American League’s World Series team: What do we do with our designated hitter in the road games, when the game is played by National League, DH-free rules? Do we sacrifice offense and put our DH on the bench? Or jeopardize our defense by letting him play in the field?

As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci points out, however, it’s hard to doubt that playing the World Series with alternating sets of rules is a serious disadvantage to the National League: “Colorado’s curious use of Ryan Spilborghs as DH in Boston (0-for-5) continued the trend in recent years of NL teams getting next to nothing out of the extra hitter. NL DHs since 1998 are hitting .149 (13-for-87) with one home run (Shawon Dunston of the 2002 Giants). Not entirely by coincidence, the NL is 4-20 in AL parks in these 10 years. What happened?”

Here’s a guess: When you play one sport under two different sets of rules, Darwinian natural selection comes to play a role in roster management. Before the American League began using the designated hitter, in 1973, there were a few good field-no hit players in the sport. In some cases their teams would put them at first base, and hope that the damage caused by their lack of mobility and general defensive skills would be tolerable and outweighed by their offensive production. Maybe they were better fielders than I remember, but I think of Frank Howard and Ted Kluszewski as this sort of player, kind of de facto designated hitters. Smokey Burgess was the alternative, a player who stayed in the league for several years solely as a pinch hitter, rarely playing in the field.

After 1973, those kinds of players became increasingly uncommon in the National League. The 14 AL teams have an obvious use for players like David Ortiz, Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas. NL teams don’t, and even if they did would be hard-pressed to keep them. The free-agency era started three years after the DH became a part of major league baseball, which means that players like Ortiz, Piazza and Thomas have no obvious use for the National League.

Thus, when a National League team plays a World Series game in an American League ballpark, it’s virtually certain that they won’t have a good hitter to add to their lineup as the DH. It’s very likely that the DH-for-a-day will be the ninth best hitter on the club. If he were a better hitter than that he would either be playing every day in the National League or, if his fielding is an intolerable liability despite his hitting, he would have moved his career to the American League and become a regular DH.

Although the DH came to the majors in 1973, it didn’t come to the World Series until 1976. That year the first National League DH was Dan Driessen for the Cincinnati Reds . . . but the 1976 Reds had one of the best lineups in baseball history: Pete Rose, Ken Griffey, Sr., Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster, Johnny Bench, Cesar Geronimo and Dave Concepcion. It’s no disgrace to be the ninth-best hitter on that team. Driessen was good enough to play 15 years in the majors, and retire with a career batting average of .267.

Lineups like the Big Red Machine’s are rare, however. Now that the two league’s teams have each adapted to their different environments, we can expect that future National League DH’s in the World Series are going to be a lot more like Ryan Spilborghs than Dan Driessen.

No one has had a fresh thing to say about the designated hitter for 20 years. At this point, I don’t care whether baseball keeps it or junks it. But a house divided against itself cannot stand. Baseball should be all one thing or all the other. They should flip a coin if they need to, but the entire sport needs to play by one rulebook.

Only Huck Is Surging

In the latest studies, Huck has passed Romney in the national poll and moved into a tie for second in Iowa. The other candidates, including or especially Giuliani, are stagnating. Listen, I’m not endorsing Huckabee and have, in fact, questioned the very plausibility of his candidacy. But he is smart and eloquent, and I really do think any credible outsider deserves a very close and sympathetic look in a time when the Republican establishment seems so tired and unpopular. Here’s a pretty convincing refutation of John Fund’s hit-job allegation that Huckabee was a fiscally irresponsible governor. (Of course, fiscal conservatism is still not his strength. His strength, in fact, would be his ability to reunite the Wall Street and Main
Street wings of the party.) At this point, a Huck win in Iowa must be regarded as possible, one that might knock Romney out of the race. If he were to absorb Mitt’s supporters, then... If I weren’t so lazy, I could also post articles about his fundraising picking up, largely because of his endorsement by Chuck Norris.

You gotta love NCAA D3

Oglethorpe doesn’t play football, but most of our conference mates play a crowd-pleasing version of it, as you can see here, thanks to NRO’s Rich Lowry. Me? I’m paying attention to golf, and waiting impatiently for the beginning of the basketball season.

Catholics and 2008

The NYT’s Peter Steinfels adds a bit more to the story of the Catholic bishops’ election year guidance document, which I first noted here. Those who want more might consider sending an email to the address offered in this press release.