Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Is Huckabee gaining traction in Iowa?

This article suggests he is.

Clinton the youth candidate?

There’s a poll showing that Hillary Rodham Clinton leads Barack Obama among young people, which seems to contradict other polls, not to mention the impression I have from stories I’ve read and my own observations.

Here’s the poll report itself, which includes some other interesting results that might explain Clinton’s lead among Democratic youth. To wit:

On foreign policy, over half (58.3%) believed that the United States military should be used to stop genocide and ethnic killing in places such as Darfur and Iraq. And, two-thirds (66.8%) would support U.S. military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Just under half of all respondents, 49.3%, agreed that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq immediately while a similar percent (48.5%) agreed that the ¡§surge¡¨ of troops in Iraq seems to be helping the situation there.

And Steve Hayward might kinda like this one:

While 67.5% believe that global warming is a real and growing threat, 49.3% suggest it is more likely due to historical climate cycles than anything man causes. Under half, 43.5%, believe global warming can be reversed by man.

Kids today! Until I looked at the poll itself, I would have thought either that it was simply an outlier or that the apparent inevitability of Clinton’s nomination had driven those who were only casually interested in politics to "go with the herd." I’m now somewhat more tempted by the thought that the changing news from Iraq has taken a bit of the wind out of Obama’s sails, not necessarily with the most active and ideologically liberal youth voters, but with those closer to the "mainstream."

Romney on religion and politics at Bob Jones University

Here’s an mp3 file of a meeting between Mitt Romney and Christian conservatives in Greenville, S.C., home of Bob Jones University, whose leadership has endorsed him and seems to have hosted this meeting. And here’s the CNN story accompanying it.

I have no objection to Bob Jones University administrators supporting any candidate they choose, nor do I object to hosting a candidate at a campus or off-campus event. But this approaches an "institutional" endorsement, which troubles me.

Bad flicks

It seems that the anti-war movies (e.g., Rendition, In the Valley of Elah) have been disasters financially. Shame.

Ohio Charter Schools at risk

Noting Joe’s comment below on school choice in Utah, also note this article on Ohio Charter schools in the NY Times a few days ago. The Democratic governor and attorney general, each in his own way (read, double hard!), is going after charter schools. Strickland: "I think charter schools have been harmful, very harmful, to Ohio students." Strickland has just endorsed Clinton. You should know that there are rumors that Strickland might be named her running mate. If he brought Ohio with him, the thinking goes, that may be enough.

School choice in Utah

You’ve probably heard by now that the good people of Utah voted down a comprehensive education voucher proposal earlier this week. Despite the gleeful crowing from my hometown newspaper, I’m disappointed. Responding to this editorial, Rick Garnett gets it just about right:

The anti-choice argument is, in the end, the argument that parents who want to form their children in and through a religious education should have to pay twice, and that poor parents and children who cannot afford to escape government schools that are organized around principles determined primarily by teacher-union members’ self-interest should not be permitted to escape. Yuck.

And Richard John Neuhaus
calls our attention to this article, while also wondering whether it isn’t time to consider tax credits.

Wobbly A’s

I spent the better part of today at two separate "Awards Assemblies." One for my first grader and one for my third grader. For K-2, these things always have a certain insufferable quality to them--partly because the "awards" mean so little (it’s understood that every kid will "eventually" get one and one teacher doesn’t even bother with the pretense . . . she just gives them out in alphabetical order!) and partly because some parents persist in the belief that they mean everything. Still, one is expected to attend and, because the expectation is coming from those ones whose expectations matter most to me (i.e., my kids), I go.

For the third graders, however, things become a little more serious. In third grade they start to get real "grades" (i.e., A,B,C as opposed to "proficient" and "needs improvement") and the question of honor roll and the various gradations thereof start to hold some real meaning. At least the honors are not doled out to everyone because they are "special" and can fog up a mirror. My daughter, to her surprise (because she did not know that such a thing existed before today) made honor roll. But she did not make the "President’s Honor Roll" because she did not have straight A’s. (It appears that the child has inherited her mother’s math gene. I won’t even tell you what happened when I tried to correct her word problems one evening!)

Still, on the way home from school today, I was explaining to her that I was very proud of what she did accomplish and that straight A’s--though certainly a worthy goal--are not as important to me as she may imagine. I was more proud, I said, that she had been chosen from the whole class as one of handful who consistently demonstrate good behavior at school. She had done much more than fog up a mirror in school this quarter; she had done her best and that’s all a mother can ever ask. "Yeah . . ." piped up my son (the first grader), "Don’t worry about straight A’s. Wobbly A’s are still good!" And when they are bought at the price she paid for them, they certainly are. Good for you kiddo!

Statesboro blues

Earlier this week, I noted this article, which offers an account of a conflict between long-time residents of Statesboro, Georgia and the Georgia Southern University students who temporarily reside there.

Well, preliminary results are in, and it looks like the merchants who mobilized the students to promote their businesses didn’t do quite as well as they needed to, coming up just short of a city council majority.

I brought this up today in the context of a talk I gave to colleagues--"Tocquevillian Reflections on Teaching Civic Engagement" (copies of my notes available if you send me an email). Had I been on the Georgia Southern faculty, I would have regarded this as the proverbial teachable moment, raising a number of questions with my students about the quality and value of their civic engagement. Most of them are recent and relatively short-term residents of Statesboro, a community in southeast Georgia on that long stretch of I-16 between Macon and Savannah. Absent the modern Georgia Southern (created in the 1980s when the university rode extraordinary Division I-AA football success to statewide prominence, becoming a destination of choice for students who wanted relatively bigtime college football, but couldn’t get into or didn’t want to go to the state’s flagship university), Statesboro would be a fairly sleepy smallish south Georgia town. The University is, for the most part, its lifeblood. There are merchants who want to cater to the wishes of a party-oriented student body (largely, I’d bet from the Atlanta suburbs), building for them the sort of commercial scene relatively affluent suburban kids want--big box retailers, Abercrombie & Fitch (ugh!), and bars, bars, bars! These merchants would use the political support of a transient population to alter tremendously the character of a town whose permanent residents have something on their minds other than the weekly sequence of happy hour deals. As they’re protrayed in the press, and as the merchants hope they voted, the students seem to be thinking like consumers, not like homeowners and heads of households, i.e., not like responsible burghers. Student engagement in Statesboro politics, however justifiable by Georgia registration laws (which, like registration laws everywhere, make only the most minimal civic demands of potential voters), doesn’t necessarily promote citizenship and community, but rather runs the risk of being destructive of it.

I wonder what my students would have said to me, if I’d spoken like this to them, raising questions about the relationship between politics and community, about the conditions of responsible voting, about the role of different sorts of interests deployed in the electoral process, and about the deliberative nature of politics.

The Huck Finn Controversy Again

A junior at Richland High School in Fort Worth, Texas, who is described as being black and Muslim, was offended recently when a teacher, in an introductory unit on Huckleberry Finn, printed the N-word – the whole word - on the board (along with other words that were expected to evoke emotion). This led to the formation by several groups of “activists” of the “Coalition to Stop the N-Word”. Almost everything about the story is predictable - except for the main outcome. The “activists” made the usual demands, including eliminating the use of the book, but after a long meeting, which school superintendent Stephen Waddell described as “cordial and very productive,” there had been a dramatic turnabout. We don’t know much about what was said, but it would seem that the good Superintendent actually made arguments, and that they were effective. Writing in the Star-Telegram, Bob Ray Sanders reports that Waddell had been reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, another book taught in the school. “Waddell pointed out that Hurston’s book also was filled with usage of that word and asked whether banning Twain would naturally lead to banning Hurston’s and many other books by blacks and Hispanics that often end up on the list of most-protested works in the country.” After the meeting, the “activists” no longer demanded the removal of the book, “as they thought it was a book from which blacks and whites could learn.” Very productive, indeed; and congratulations to the folks in Fort Worth who reached this sensible conclusion.

Veteran’s Day

Rich Policz writes about his father and his fellow soldiers and the bloody battle on a hill in Vietnam. It is good to remember such men on any day.

Tomorrow is the birthday of the Marine Corps, by the way. So all honor to the warriors, which includes these few friends. God bless you all.

Tim Swartz, Peter Schramm, James Kresge, and Avi Zaffini

Trustworthiness in politics

Our friend Matt Franck neatly sums up the case against the trustworthiness of Rudy Giuliani on abortion issues.

Giuliani would have us believe that his "honest" refusal to pander on abortion is superior to the inconsistent flip-flopping of others. Matt effectively disassembles the honesty of Giuliani’s position, showing how slippery it really is. He also shows that, in politics, trustworthiness depends upon clearly articulating principles to which you can be held, a standard somewhat more readily met by candidates other than the former Mayor of New York.

Read the whole thing.    

Update: Our friend RC2 argues that Matt’s counterexample to RG is also problematical, according to his standard of assessment.

Breaking Blogging Silence

Sorry for the long absence from the blog, folks. I’ve been driving hard trying to finish Age of Reagan II by the end of the year--I have the remaining three chapters roughed out, but still have a long way to go and a lot of gaps to fill in--but I was also just out on the Hillsdale College cruise for 11 days (along with fellow speakers Paul Johnson, Andrew Roberts, Phyllis Schlafly, and Ed Meese), and have you ever tried internet on a cruise ship? It is unbelievably expensive, and excruciatingly slow. I think cruise ships must transmit data packets by carrier pigeon or smoke signals or something. So no blogging. Anyway, a fun time was had by all, and hey--when is the Ashbrook Center going to have a cruise? Or maybe a motorcycle trip with Peter?

I’m in southern California at the moment, having flown out yesterday to give yet another speech on global warming. My seatmate on the flight to Los Angeles was the very chatty and convivial Lanny Davis, whom cable viewers will remember for his nightly appearances defending Clinton during the impeachment unpleasantness. He regaled me for at least an hour with the case for Hillary’s brilliance and greatness (I was unpersuaded). He also told a number of off-the-record things about Clinton White House in the 1990s, and other things. Nothing earth-shaking that you can’t guess or suspect, but I shall want to honor his confidentiality; I’m not a journalist after all.

But the most interesting point was our discussion of an aspect of the current political season that I see is the hot topic of conversation this week; namely, the way in which the political fights of the 1990s, and Bush hatred today, are part of the saga of the baby boomers continuing their intra-generational fight that began in the 1960s. This is the one aspect of Obama that is interesting: he’s been trying to make "goodbye to all that" a key theme, just as Jimmy Carter tried to make trust and goody-goodyness his leading trait after the disaster of Watergate. Obama went to college in the late 1970s right after I did (I have close friends who knew him at both Occidental and at Harvard Law School), and I do recall that the whole 1960s cultural divide seemed alien and remote to most of our cohort.

But is Hillary the answer to this? Isn’t she a continuation of the problem, with her sixties background? (Just read her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky some time if you want to read something scary. I am sure she doesn’t believe much of that anymore, but that fact that a person from a top university could once have written such radical tripe is still unnerving.) Lanny Davis assured me that Hillary is supremely conscious of this and has learned her lesson from the 1990s--and from the failure of Hillarycare--and this morning Joe Scarnborough was saying the same thing on MSNBC.

I’m skeptical but it bears watching. Back in early 2004 I had a notion to write an article about how if John Kerry was nominated, we’d end up refighting the Vietnam War. I’m still kicking myself for not doing the piece, since the Swift Boaters swiftly confirmed this. Now I suspect the Hillary nomination is inevitably going to open up another, but hopefully the last, chapter in the Hatfield-McCoy aspect of the baby boom saga.

Meanwhile, enjoy the stupidest spell-check correction ever: a recent Reuters story about Pakistan’s Muttahida Quami Movement rendered it instead the "Muttonhead Quail Movement" in the text of a story. About what you expect from the puddin’ heads that run Reuters these days.

Gerson hearts Huckabee

This isn’t surprising. What I’m waiting for both Huckabee and Gerson to say is that the policies they favor for helping the least among us are ones that, above all else, energize the voluntary sector and promote general prosperity.

Is Hillary Invincible?

Not necessarily, according to Andy Busch.

Ashbrook Congressional Academy

As we continue to have an effect upon the quality of civic education, I bring your attention to our new Congressional Academy website, just up and running. Our new "Congressional Academy for American History and Civics" will begin next summer and continue through the following two summers. We will accept 100 high school juniors (the application is here).
Here is the syllabus and schedule, and a listing of the first class faculty. Jeffrey Sikkenga is in charge of the program. There is more to read about it here. I certainly hope you like it and that you commend it to an intelligent young person looking for a challenge.

The Path to Hell is Paved with . . .

. . . homeless "advocates." This is a must read piece from Heather MacDonald in the current City Journal. It explores the emergence, development, and changing face of "Skid Row" in downtown Los Angeles.

What Does Cosby Want to Show?

Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint write convincingly (if not originally) about the need for blacks to stop thinking about themselves as victims and to find it within themselves to overcome deep feelings of inferiority that become self-fulfilling prophesies. Cosby should be commended for lending his name and well-deserved reputation for decency and common sense to this effort. It is a good and noble thing he seeks to do.

Given that, I am troubled and--to put it mildly--deeply irritated by Cosby’s recent comments about Clarence Thomas on the Larry King show. Cosby was asked by King about the possibility of any affinity between his views and those of Thomas. Cosby denied him (more than three times) asserting that Thomas doesn’t "care about anybody" and that he is a "brother light." King emitted an insipid laugh in response to this comment.

This display does not square at all with Cosby’s own (?) words in the essay to which I link above:

Many people who are trying to make it find themselves struggling against fellow African Americans so lost in self-destructive behaviors that they bring down other people as well as themselves.

Precisely. And it also shows that he--like so many others--has never confronted Thomas in his own words. But I guess he thinks it’s o.k. to press on with some prejudices . . .

Just Because . . .

I am linking to this thoughtful and beautifully written reflection just because it is thoughtful and beautifully written. Perhaps it also points to something profound. How should we kill monsters? Note that there is never any questioning about whether they should be killed. Tony Woodlief writes lovely and sometimes amusing reflections about his adventures raising a family of young boys. He’s also written a small volume on the subject.

Number One, Baybee!

In D3 men’s golf.

Please excuse the crowing, but I’ve never before been associated with a college or university that has been #1 in any sport.

Rudy, Pat, and the socons

Byron York talks to Rudy Giuliani. And Pat Robertson says something with which I’m inclined in large part to agree:

“To me, the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the bloodlust of Islamic terrorism,” Robertson told reporters. The second-most important issue, Robertson said, is fiscal discipline. Only after that, he suggested, are the social issues, with the overriding priority being the makeup of the federal courts. “Uppermost in the mind of social conservatives is the selection of Supreme Court justices,” Robertson said, and Giuliani “has assured the American people that his choices for judicial appointments will be men and women who share the judicial philosophy of John Roberts and Antonin Scalia.”

This doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for Rudy G., but Robertson (for once?) makes some sense. Where I part company, and what gives me pause about RG, is that the President has some influence over the moral tone in the country. In terms of what’s possible in the states, judicial nominations matter a lot. But the way in which someone can speak for or against the proverbial "culture of life." I’m not confident that RG will consistently say what I’d like him to say. Judges are good, indeed very good. But the tone and example of the presidency matter too.

RG has some strengths here, not just weaknesses, and he should articulate the former in this context, talking about civility, responsibility, and opportunity. He does it reasonably well, and he can appeal to social conservatives on these grounds.

Robertson, I’ll say it again, is right: social conservatives can do complexity. But they can also recognize obfuscation and weaseling.

Update: Pomocon James Poulos disagrees. He’s right that, apart from the Supreme Court, most of the political action on social issues should be in the states. But Robertson seems in a way to concede that, by asserting that the biggest federal or presidential considerations are foreign policy and fiscal responsibility.


"Faith and Public Dialogue: A Conversation with John Kerry."

I don’t have time now to do amything other than observe the absolute windiness of it and to note that JFK is singing from the Democratic common ground hymnal, in which an obligation to help the least of us becomes an obligation to support government programs that purport to help the least of us. Plenty of folks I know give a lot of money and time to the poor, but, apparently, their failure to vote for Democrats indicates their mean-spiritedness.

Stated another way, the common ground in principle yields to a big disagreement about policy. But it’s not in the interest of Kerry and his allies to descend to that level of detail.

Update: Our friend Jon Schaff points to one of the many silly and/or vacuous statements Kerry makes, noting that, in effect, the "global warming" that "caused" the situation in Darfur has more to do with, er, hellfire (that is, human sinfulness) than climate change.

Religion, politics, and the campaign

Here’s an unsurprising summary of how various religious groups regard the leading Democratic and Republican contenders. We learn that evangelicals are the outliers on Giuliani, apparentlty narrowly favoring Fred Thompson (see this post).

Will Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Giuliani change this? If you agree with the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza that Pat Robertson is "one of the most influential figures in the social conservative movement," you might think so. That statement might have been true in 1988 (if you didn’t take into account that charismatics like Robinson don’t always generate warm fuzzy feelings from non-charismatic evangelicals).

Sam Brownback’s endorsement of John McCain might be a little more meaningful, if it helps in Iowa. But I was puzzled by this statement, not as a description of McCain, but as a reflection of Brownback’s opinion: "Brownback said McCain is the most fiscally conservative candidate, has the best foreign policy experience, was right on the strategy for Iraq and takes a tough anti-abortion stand." This must be the Brownback who was for the surge after he was against the surge. His only excuse is that it’s an evidence-driven flip-flop.

The present is prologue

The WaPo’s Ruth Marcus notes that George W. Bush, who allegedly is insulated from all contact with anyone who might say anything even the slightest bit unsettling, has been more available for unscripted exchanges with the press than Clinton and Obama have.

O.K., it’s the campaign and it’s easier to stay on message if there’s no informal give-and-take with reporters. But the only semi-plausible defense of our intolerably long campaign season that I’ve heard is that it’s an audition for governing (well, if governing is the same as campaigning...woe be unto us!). This doesn’t bode well for the availability of a President Clinton.

While I’m at it, will a future President Clinton be able to assert that men are ganging up on her at, say, a G-7 meeting or in something less than casual conversations with folks in Beijing, Moscow, or Tehran? How will Vladimir Putin react if Bill comes riding to her rescue? I’d expect more efforts to emulate or evoke Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir--even Benazir Bhutto--than I’ve seen from HRC. If she keeps it up, and manages to get herself elected, we run the risk of some serious efforts to push her around. While she may have it in her to push back, I wonder what sorts of awful things could happen before she does.

The Voegeli essay

Deserves some mugs:     

The GOP and the Image Problem

Patrick O’Connor at the Politico describes efforts on the part of GOP leaders in Congress to forge a new and improved image. To do this, GOP hot shots have turned to private sector marketing techniques and advisers. While there may be some limited merit to this approach, it appears to me to be a rather pathetic attempt to shove a sheep into sheep’s clothing. In other words, haven’t we had enough of this sort of thing in recent years? Our problem is not so much an inability to sell what we offer but an inability to offer anything coherent to sell. For example, see the description of the problems existing between the moderate, Mike Castle and the conservative, Mike Pence. (I tend to think that moderates like Castle are less concerned that the GOP agenda is too conservative than they are worried it may be too conservative to get them elected . . . but that’s another matter.) The point is, how do you market indecision and confusion?

At any rate, the GOP should be chastened by the example of what happened the last time a prominent Republican hearkened back too much to his training in business school.

"Limited Government" on OpinionJournal

OpinionJournal, the Wall Street Journal editorial page’s website, posts my essay on "The Trouble With Limited Government" from the current Claremont Review of Books today. I urge the minority of NLT readers who haven’t yet taken out a CRB subscription to treat yourselves to a first-rate publication. For the free riders, take a look at OpinionJournal.

I’ve been stingy with my NLT offerings in recent weeks, and will have to be so for a few more. I’m determined to complete the manuscript for a book by December 31st. The working title is, So . . . What Would Be Enough? Liberals, Conservatives and the Welfare State’s Limits.

Thoughts and prayers for a Marine

Nick Trippi, a young Marine from our neighborhood (his siblings play with my kids), was injured in an IED explosion in Iraq. Nothing life-threatening or, I think, permanently disabling, for which we’re all thankful. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Nick, by the way, joined the Marines after high school and turned down a post at the White House to join his basic training buddies in Iraq.

Focusing on Giuliani and Thompson

The other campaigns can’t be too happy that, in the end, a Peter Hart-run focus group, described here and here, and discussed here by Michael Barone, was offered a choice only between Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.

Actually, from their point of view, two pieces of good news seem to come out of the group. These Republicans seem to be moved relatively easily off their initial preferences for Giuliani, even toward someone who has made as little an impression as Thompson has. Giuliani’s front-runner status might be very tenuous. And second, everyone’s support seems to be soft. There could well be lots of movement between now and the elections.

The eventual nominess, whoever he is, can perhaps console himself with the thought that the one passion Republican voters have is directed against Hillary Clinton. In this respect, the 2008 Republican season resembles its 2004 Democratic counterpart. Is Rudy Giuliani Howard Dean or John Kerry, the early favorite or the eventual nominee, carried more by illusions of electability than by any real affection?

Populist God-talk from a plaintiff’s attorney

Is this an alternative future for socially-conservative evangelicals? Note that he’s campaigning against a classic business Republican.

Hat tip: Religion Clause.

Update: Incumbent Haley Barbour appears to be winning handily.

Civic education and citizenship

Patrick D. comments on a piece I also read this morning. I commend his thoughts to your attention.

This Friday, I’m giving a talk here on what we can learn from Tocqueville about teaching civic engagement. The habits and dispositions that we should cultivate, I’ll argue, can almost all be cultivated on campus. Encouraging students to be involved off campus is the last thing we should be doing--not last asin "never," but last as in "only after they know more or less what they’re doing" and "only after they have acquired the taste for self-government and responsibility through engagement with the matters that mean the most to them on campus." We’re not alone in my little piece of the academic universe in referring to it--self-deprecatingly--as "the bubble," but, doggone it, it’s our bubble, and there are ways we can exercise control over it and take responsibility for it that we can’t do elsewhere.

What’s more the tendency to look off campus for "engagement" often enlists students in others’ hidden or not-so-hidden agendas and emphasizes a kind of "practicality" thatis the great temptation of American higher education, not to say American life and American intellectual life altogether.

Calling all Middle Georgia friends of NLT

I’ll be participating in this shindig at Mercer University on Wednesday, November 28th. The main draw is Eduardo Velasquez.

Our paleo friend Red Phillips should also be around.

Update: By the way, I’ll probably be talking about Tolkien.

Harmless fun

NRO election predictions a year out.

My predictions? Get used to saying President Clinton again.

If the Republican nominee is Rudy Giuliani, he’ll have a Southern pro-life running mate not named Huckabee. Can Bobby Jindal run for Veep without giving up his governorship? Any plausible Florida people not named Bush?

If it’s Romney, he’ll also go for a southern evangelical not named Huckabee.

I heart Huckabee, at least a little, but if I were at the top of the ticket, I wouldn’t want my running mate spending all his time explaining why he’s not at least as soft on crime as was Michael Dukakis.

The issue that will help Republicans, and perhaps make it a tight race, is immigration, which is why I have a hard time imagining John McCain as the nominee.

Republicans will lose a few seats in the House and in the Senate. Let’s hope that those who remain have the stomach to constitute an effective opposition.

Last prediction: soon after the election, the real battle for the heart, soul, and mind of the Republican Party will begin. If libertarian leaners or business Republicans win, especially if they’re graceless victors, I have a hard time imagining Republican Congressional majorities in my lifetime. Well, Republicans could benefit from a Democratic overreach, but that would be a gift, rather than anything they earned.

HRC’s religion

Our friend Paul Kengor has a column about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s faith, and its political significance in today’s USA Today. Her inflexible support of abortion rights makes her (undeniably liberal) religious faith hard for some to credit. As Kengor notes, polls show that people (wrongly) regard as the least religious of the major candidates (with one noteworthy exception on the Republican side). Where do "orthodox" religious voters go in November, 2008, if the choices are Giuliani and Clinton? HRC probably hopes they’ll stay home.

Transcripts, transcripts, get yer red-hot transcripts

The Carnegie Council website is a veritable trove. You can find transcripts of recent events with Mark Lilla, D. Michael Lindsay, Robert D. Kaplan, and Walter Russell Mead.

A Visit to Antietam and Reflections on Civil Liberties During the Civil War

This past weekend, I took my two sons, ages 15 and 11, to Antietam, my favorite Civil War battlefield. There are not nearly as many visitors to this site as to Gettysburg, which is too bad. On the other hand, it makes for a nice, quiet visit.

The battlefield is also very compact, especially compared to Gettysburg, perhaps only about one fourth the size of the better-known site little more than an hour north in Pennsylvania. It is amazing to think that so many Americans perished on this small field in a single day—nearly 6000 dead and another 19,000 wounded or missing. September 17, 1862 remains the bloodiest day in American history.

My oldest son is taking a class in digital photography and I was amazed by his eye for framing shots. Of course, there are many possibilities on that hallowed ground. He came away with quite a sophisticated photographic record of the place.

I always get a strange sense when I stand on “Bloody Lane.” I can almost feel the presence of the hundreds of souls who perished when, after repulsing Union attacks for nearly four hours, the Confederate defenders were flanked by their attackers who raked them with enfilading fire. One of Matthew Brady’s photos shows the result: a sunken road piled high with Confederate dead. Standing on this site is quite eerie.

I wrote a couple of pieces about Antietam for the Ashbrook site. They are available here and here. Of course they deal more with the overall campaign than with the battle per se, but anyone who is interested can start here.

Before I left for DC and Maryland, I sent in another piece in my Civil War series, this one concerning civil liberties. It is here. I contend that the steps Lincoln took as commander in chief during the emergency were in fact constitutional. I believe the Bush administration ought to plagiarize Lincoln’s letter to Erastus Corning and the Democrats wherein he defended his actions. I also argue that, despite the Lost Cause narrative, the record of the Confederacy with regard to civil liberties was no better than that of the Union.

Fighting for the right to party

Is this an argument for or against collegiate civic engagement and/or democratic self-government, at least insofar as it’s extended to the young?

Gary Wills on abortion

I won’t repeat Ramesh Ponnuru’s criticisms of Gary Wills’s op-ed on abortion--you can read them for yourself--but I’ll add my own. Wills argues that the state should have no authority over abortion because "the people are divided on this," an argument that would seem to deprive the state of authority over almost every issue.

Perhaps Wills could respond that tis is true only when "science" or "reason" don’t speak authoritatively. There you have it: Wills could be said implicitly to favor some combination of scientific dictatorship and libertarian choice in matters in which science is allegedly silent. (I know I’m exaggerating, but his argument does seem to cede a great deal of authority to science and to deny the state to make any determinations when there is popular disagreement. By this argument, the only possible justification for our constitution could be either popular unanimity or science. There’s no room for just government by the consent of the governed, determined by majorities to supermajorities.)

Update: For more on Wills’s confusions from our friends, see Rick Garnett and, quite succinctly, RC2. Wills appears to have been blinded by his modernist anti-theological ire, in evidence at least since this 2004 op-ed.

Steyn on Allan Bloom--20 Years After Closing

Mark Steyn delivers wit, insight, and a scathing critique of where we stand 20 years out from the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. It is, he notes with much sadness, particularly closed vis a vis music. His last two lines are the most damning: And that’s the biggest difference between 2007 and 1987. What Allan Bloom observed in his students can now be found in the teachers.