Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Iowa Strategery

Huckabee’s surge might be good news for Romney: It diminishes the unrealistic expectations for a blowout and might allow Romney to claim coming in first as a real victory. Huck’s surge might be good news for Giuliani: If Huck evenly splits the "social conservative" vote with Mitt, Rudy might, if his new commercials catch on, be perceived as finishing a very strong third and actually pick up some unexpected momentum himself. Huck’s surge might be bad news for the new man from Hope: He might be catching Dean-disease, by peaking before anyone actually votes and creating the expectation that anything less than coming in first would be a defeat.

It’s Going to Be a Long Campaign

First, we have the dustup over McCain failing to upbraid a questioner in South Carolina who called Hillary something that rhymes with "rich," and now we have this, the perfect Christmas gift for the low-brow right wing populist.

Giuliani Still Silent on ROE

I know this is getting boring. But Rudy managed to give another whole speech against judicial activism and such without criticizing ROE. So he’s far from clear on why he’d appoint judges like Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts.

A conservative (?) politics of hope?

The much maligned Michael Gerson sympathetically restates the claims of this article. Here’s Gerson:

On cultural issues, conservatives have been ambushed by hope. And Wehner and Levin provide two main explanations.

First, societies can, over time, recognize their own self-destructive tendencies and reassert old norms -- not just arresting decline but even reversing it. Many Americans, for example, have seen the damaging effects of divorce on children -- sometimes from the firsthand perspective of their own childhoods -- and divorce rates, especially among upper-income couples, have fallen. Over the decades the social wreckage of drug use has become undeniable -- and the social judgment on this practice has shifted from "stylish rebellion" to "suicidal idiocy." In many cases, our culture has benefited from the natural healing mechanism of simple sanity.

The second reason for this cultural renewal is bold, effective public policy -- welfare reform with time limits and work requirements; zero-tolerance approaches to crime; education reform that tests and requires basic skills; and comprehensive anti-drug efforts, including enforcement, treatment and education. In all these cases, good government and rational incentives have made a tremendous difference.

Are the public policies he praises "unconservative" or therapeutically liberal?

Update: Pomocon James Poulos calls me out. "Gersonism" is by definition therapeutic:

The key as far as Gersonism is concerned is that we the people learn how to therapeutically manage our practical morality by the experience of everyday life -- whereas government can help by providing the scientific expertise that we anxious, hectic citizens of a democratic age don’t have time to accumulate. They can set national standards, mobilize national resources, apply uniform regulations, and deploy centralized management techniques.

So Teen Challenge and Prison Fellowship Ministries are, above all else, therapeutic? Or do they just become therapeutic when they take federal money? Would it be different if they only took state money?

I grant that "secular" social work is shot through with a therapeutic approach, but I’d always understood religious approaches to be more than a little different (which is why they tend to give "therapeutic professionals" the willies).

So I’m not altogether clear on the argument. If, say, I’m an addict, is any assistance I’m offered by anyone by definition therapeutic? Is all pastoral counseling therapeutic? Is all prayer therapeutic? Is all Bible study therapeutic? Or is it only therapeutic when, for example, the prayer and Bible study are done in groups, rather than by individuals? Would that make communal worship therapeutic (on the assumption that all of us are somehow wounded or broken and turn to prayer and worship out of a recognition of our neediness)? Is the opposite of "therapeutic" "self-reliant"?

Evangelical evolution?

Not that kind. The political kind, from anecdote to wish.

But if we’re called to love, are we also called to regulate, to tax, and to administer?

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

We are approaching the central holiday in our civil religion. You can read President Bush’s proclamation here, an dmy reflections on the significance of such proclamations here, here, and here (the original having disappeared with the lamentable demise of The American Enterprise Online.

Obama’s Obliviousness v. Hillary’s Intractablity

In this post, Steve Hayward noted Daniel Henniger’s recent piece on the eternal return of 1968. Hayward rightly noted Henninger’s conclusion that this return, though tiresome, is inevitable and necessary. We haven’t yet sorted out all of those battles. In response, I posted some thoughts about another key part of Henninger’s piece. Steve has asked me to re-post them here, and so I am.

The key point in Henninger’s piece, Steve, is this:

Barack Obama says these endlessly booming babies have been at it for 40 years. He’s right, though let’s note that like the War of the Roses (1455-1485), this one is waged today with the tireless recruitment of new fighters not born when the fires started in 1968.

It’s funny to reflect on how that recruitment has played itself out and important to remember that--as it continues--it both clarifies and obscures.

When Abbie Hoffman offed himself with an overdose in 1989, I was just a freshman in college. I remember our professor coming into the classroom to announce the news. We all looked at him with blank expressions. Abbie who? He explained. We just blinked. We had no idea what he was talking about. We’d never heard of this guy. Did he have any old hit records? Had he been in a movie? No? Oh. Well, so what? It all seemed very removed from our world . . . ancient history. It was stuff our parents might care about but nothing that had anything to do with us. The only reason I walked away with a mental note to find out more was because this particular professor had argued that Hoffman died like a coward. If Hoffman had really been true to his principles, the professor insisted, he would have taken a dozen or so out with him to prove his point. I found that to be a shocking statement, and one that I did not immediately understand. So the point stuck with me until I could find out more and thus understand what the professor meant. But that was the only reason I wanted to know more. Still, for a few days after the news (until I could get my hands on the relevant newspapers--we didn’t have the internet in those days!), I persisted in the mistaken belief that "Abbie" was a woman. My point is, if the events and the people of the 1960s shaped the world in which we--the generation born after the 60s--lived, we were certainly unconscious of it.

But as I began to become more engaged in politics and to follow events more closely, it became clear to me that whatever I thought of the people and the events of the 1960s, those people and those events were demanding to be important to me. They weren’t going to stop darkening my doorstep. The coming fall of communism was steeped in them. It seemed to me an obvious thing that the Soviet Union was a menacing and dangerous and oppressive place. Why would this be controversial? But I did not know anything about Vietnam. I could not understand why some people hated Ronald Reagan. But I didn’t know anything about Barry Goldwater--and very little about Richard Nixon. The policies on campus regarding race, male/female relations, and academic excellence were all formed in and informed by an era that had passed before I had been born. As my fellow students and I tried to examine them apart from any knowledge of that era, we were stumped. The more we argued from abstract principles of right and wrong, the more we were encountered with patronizing voices who insisted that we "did not understand" because we had not lived through the difficult days that had shaped these policies. I began to see that the core issues of my time were not going to be shaped in my time. They were going to be the unresolved issues of the generation that preceded mine. I would have to come to grips with it. But how?

This nagging thought crystallized in my mind during the the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. In those hearings, all of the sacred cows and sanctimonious rhetoric that had shaped my mainstream political instruction from birth (i.e., the mantras of the 60s that were like air and water to me) were engaged in a great battle to the death--not against some obvious tower of injustice like the KKK or forced segregation--but against each other. I could see that those who protested the loudest for racial and gender equality were running out of real enemies. They were left grasping for their own power and, thus, turned on their so-called "allies." I saw people being used and ill-used to advance hollow agendas. It did not seem to have anything to do with the truth and the subtleties of human existence. It was a narcissistic parade . . . a pagan race to sacrifice to the strongest god. And it was repulsive. I lost my innocent unthinking respect for my elders that year. Now those who got it would have to earn my respect. I saw that I would have to understand the events that shaped their thinking, but I did not have to accept their understanding of those events. Now I was suspicious of it. The more abstract and innocent ideas I had held about justice and injustice were not as irrelevant as I had been tempted to believe in the wake of all the information I lacked. Getting caught up in events could be dangerous and stultifying. We need to understand our history to understand our politics. But we need to understand justice in order to judge it.

All of this is a long way to a short point--but perhaps it is illustrative to those who pre-date my generation a bit. It may explain why those in my generation are, like Obama, reluctant warriors in these old fights. We are a bit tired of the patronizing exasperation of our elders who insist that we "do not understand" because "you weren’t there" . . . (thank God, at least, for that!) I disagree with almost all of Obama’s conclusions about politics--but the reason I understand his appeal is that, like him, I am weary of re-treading the tired old battles of my parents’ generation (though I concede that Henninger is right to point out that many over 50 are sick of it too). There are many days when I’d like the accumulated weight of their history and their politics to just "go away" so we could get down to brass tacks and start anew. Unlike Obama, however, I am resigned to the fact that this cannot be. Obama may think he is new and fresh and all about transcending those old battles but--in truth, whether he accepts it or not--he’s really just working to reignite and convolute them. (Just as those youthful warriors of 1968 reignited and convoluted the battles of their parents and grandparents.) He is the youth candidate. He is the naive candidate who--like me in 1989--thinks that nothing preceding and pre-dating his consciousness ought to have any bearing on his life or his politics. There is a certain sense in which this is right--but it is not (and should not be believed to be) simply so. Hillary may be a tired old sack--utterly wrapped up in the prejudices and history of her glory days--but Obama is a fool who thinks pretending it isn’t relevant makes it irrelevant. And the irony is that he nothing so much as the reincarnation of that generation’s rebellion. He is their most perfect son--or their Frankenstein. The 50+ crowd that created him now feels a kind of obligation to "kill" him, as he has been obliged to try and "kill" them. The enthusiastic boomers have become the thing they once they claimed most to deplore--the "establishment." I suppose it was inevitable . . . they are all now well over 30.

Darfur: "We need to show them what Matt Damon is doing!"

Why I love The Onion, and should link to it more often. Especially now that the Hollywood writer’s strike--otherwise a happy thing--has shut down The Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

Victory in Iraq?

Our friend Jim Ceaser asks: can the Democrats move on?

Taking the "’Ho" Out of "Ho, ho, ho!"

The perennial story that chronicles some new and inventive way to ruin Christmas is now in full bloom. The good news is that they seem to get more absurd every year. At some point this has to become obvious, right?

Y’all come

The fair and balanced Knippenberg lecture series continues Tuesday next with GeorgiaDemocratic Congressman Hank Johnson. He’ll be speaking at noon on Tuesday, November 20th in the Grenwald Room of the Emerson Student Center. All relevant directions can be found here.

Next semester, perhaps in February, I’ll be hosting a prominent conservative pundit, and may organize a couple of panels to make a day (at least an afternoon and evening) of it. More details once the date’s nailed down.

The "Energy Independence" Chimera

As he always does, columnist Steve Chapman demolishes the favorite bipartisan slogan of "energy independence," which is always represented as easily within our grasp through pixie dust and duct tape.

Quoth Chapman: "The end of President Bush’s time in office is still 14 months away, but already, I can guarantee two things. First, the next president will be elected on a promise to lead the nation to energy independence. Second, the promise won’t be kept."

Meanwhile, if you want more background, see my twenty-question primer on "energy independence" here.

Splintering revisited

Our friend Jonah responds to this post, especially the end. Here’s JG:

[JK’s concluding point] misses what’s disturbing about the potential rebirth of Social Gospelism on the right, particularly in the form of Mike Huckabee’s compassionate conservatism with better bible quotes. If the Christian right — diverse though it may be — starts to become more sympathetic to using activist government as a instrument to impose God’s teachings — or one interpretation of them — then the largest and most reliable voting bloc in the Republican Party will become merely rightwing progressives, using government at all levels to do what they think is good, regardless of whether it’s constitutional or federalist or liberal in the classical sense. Huckabee’s support for a national federal ban on workplace and/or public smoking should be very scary to believers in limited government. Huckabee’s economic populism, likewise, is not a good omen. And the fact that Huckabee is popular in this "everybody’s doing it" climate is not reassuring in the least.

Let me try to make, inadequately, the more complicated point I didn’t have time to make yesterday. I take it as given that, in practical political terms, we can’t--or should want to--zero out all the government programs put into place since the New Deal. I agree with this argument and this argument, in other words. (Thanks, Julie.)

But the dismantling of "superfluous" government doesn’t take place in a political, moral, or cultural vacuum. The question is how to cultivate the characters who are willing to stand on their own and the civil society that can foster and support them. Cultivating the conditions of self-reliance and voluntary engagement with widows and orphans was--is?--the overarching purpose of "compassionate conservatism, properly understood."

Jonah’s right that this position can easily morph into something else--morally conservative Social Gospelism or (what we saw from all too many Congressional Republicans in the past few years) a license for politically motivated porkbarreling (for which Tom DeLay is the poster child).

Can such degeneration be avoided? I’m not sure, though if the alternative is an also easily vulgarized libertarianism that is indifferent to the social, cultural, and moral conditions of responsible liberty, I think I know which poison I’ll pick.

In the meantime, I’ll muddle through, encouraging respect for the Constitution and its limits and reminding everyone that "[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being," which I regard as shorthand for the argument that our constitution can function well only on certain moral, social, and cultural presuppositions, which need shoring up after having been under assault for the past few decades.


Here’s a hit job on a straw man constructed out of a few Michael Gerson columns. Its author defends his boss, Dick Armey, from Gerson’s own alleged strawmanning. But if we’re seriously to consider how to manage the tensions in the conservative fusion--especially in the face of the rise of what some NLTers have called soft libertarianism--let’s get some light instead of heat.

Update: Pomocon James Poulos seems to agree that Gerson is at best a feelycon, and offers a long Tocquevillian explanation of why there’s pressure toward administration centralization under equality of conditions, a centralization that allegedly suits feelicons just fine.

My response: can’t compassionate conservatism properly understood base itself upon a properly Tocquevillian (and "Catholic," a la Gerson and John DiIulio, with whom I’ll soon have a few bones to pick) understanding of subsidiarity? Must the path to independence be as he describes it here?

One cannot cancel all our federal support programs without understanding that a lot of people on the dole are going to be stuck sucking wind day...the old aristocratic habits of local charity, church solidarity, and family integrity come back to the fore in places where they have administratively been substituted under the delinking pressures of the democratic age. That day may be a long time coming, or at least an uncomfortable time coming, or at a minimum far enough away so that we feel true guilt in standing around as if we were making things better for people and not worse.

Will these "old aristocratic habits" come back without a nudge or two? Are they that natural?

Update #2:
Andrew Sullivan reads Gerson out of the conservative movement. Which makes me feel good (oops, I shouldn’t have said "feel"!) about my anti-anti-Gersonism. And which ought to give the Gerson’s critics cause for pause. How conservative could their position be if Andrew Sullivan embraces it?

But I jest!

1968 Again

Dan Henninger’s Wonderland column in today’s Wall Street Journal takes up the point I made the other day about the Hatfield-McCoy aspect of baby boomer politics, and how this will inevitably play out in this election, hopefully for the last time? (I note that Andrew Sullivan takes this up in the cover story of the current issue of The Atlantic, but really, can anyone stand to read him any more?)

Sample from Henninger:

It’s hard not to share Sen. Obama’s weariness with these people, even if one is over 50. But is he right to imply that their long fight has lost its point? I don’t think so. . .

What fell out of 1968 was a profound division over what I would call civic vision.

One side, which took to the streets in Chicago or occupied Columbia University, concluded from Vietnam and the race riots that America, in its relations with the world and its own citizens, was flawed and required big changes. Their defining document was the March 1968 Kerner Commission report, announcing "two societies," separate and unequal. The press, incidentally, emerged from Vietnam and the riots joined to this new, permanent template. That, too, has never stopped.

The other side was, well, insulted. It thought America was fundamentally good, though always able to improve. . .

If it’s Hillary versus Rudy, McCain or even the placid Mitt Romney, we will be in those streets again. Besides, her candidacy comes with Jumpin’ Jack Flash himself, Bill Clinton. Would it be a good thing if the country’s politics said bye-bye baby to the children of 1968? Probably. But it won’t happen this time.

As the saying (acronym) goes, RTWT.

Howard Dean does it again

In a purely partisan mood, I’m tempted to thank Howard Dean for reinforcing the impression that Democrats are hostile to religion. Well, that’s not precisely what he said. He said that the "Democratic Party believes... that there are no bars to heaven for anybody," which is in fact a religious statement, albeit one that theologically conservative people (including, I presume, some in his own party) might have trouble with. As Eugene Volokh and Rob Vischer note, political parties usually don’t take such explicitly theological positions, at least not in countries that aren’t theocracies (another word Dean used, presumably to characterize Christians who kinda like public prayer). I eagerly await criticism of Dean’s remarks from the various Democratic presidential campaigns, from Jim Wallis, or from the various "faithful Democrats" who blog here.

New book for teachers

Oglethorpe alumnus Patrick Gray (married to one of my all-time favorite advisees) has a new book out, which he and his co-editor hope will be of interest to classroom teachers who teach the Bible. And here’s another collection from the same editors, also focused on pedagogy.

I’ll praise Patrick--whose virtues and excellences extend far beyond his choice of wife and their decision to homeschool--no more, for fear of ruining his burgeoning career.

Civic literacy...again

I wrote this about six weeks ago, but, as the editorial page editor said to me today, "it has a certain ’timeless’ appeal." Which is to say: he finally had nothing else to fill the space.

Dividing (and conquering?) religious conservatives?

Near the beginning of his busy, busy day over at The Corner, our friend Jonah Goldberg wondered whether the splintering of religious conservatives would be a good or bad thing politically. He received some responses.

Let me offer mine here, taking as a point of departure this most excellent RC2 post (which I urge you to read so that I don’t have to repeat her points). I’d like to begin by stressing two things in particular. First, "Christian conservative" is a vast oversimplification, covering up the complexities of both terms ("Christian" and "conservative"), not to mention the varieties of the ways in which they interact. The former term includes everything from charismatic Pentecostals to the Eastern Orthodox, and from traditionalists to modernists. (Permit me for the moment to be "catholic" and not "fundamentalist" in the use of the adjective.) "Conservative" also admits an array of meanings (once again: "catholic," not "fundamentalist").

Second, even if one speaks of "mere Christianity" and "mere conservatism," there remains questions of prudence or political judgment. How do we weigh various considerations of policy, politics, and personality? God knows the right answer, but, as a fallible human being, I have to admit that there’s a range of possibilities available to "reasonable people."

In other words, there’s nothing about the term "Christian conservative" that even implies a political monolith, even if you leave out the following consideration: there are in fact lots of morally and theologically conservative Christians who rather consistently support Democratic/liberal candidates. Most of them are African-American, and they make a "prudential" judgment about how they can protect and project their genuinely conservative moral and theological concerns in the political arena. But I guess you’d call them "conservative Christians," not "Christian conservatives."

In the end, I’d be surprised if "Christian conservatives" ever and early coalesced around one candidate, even if they might occasionally be unified in their opposition to someone.

Two more points and I’m done. First, Jonah wonders if it wouldn’t be better for conservatism if there were some conservatives who were Democrats. Some moral and theological conservatives already are (see above). And in the past, some conservatives were--when there was still such a thing as a Southern "yellow dog" Democrat. In Georgia at least, they’re pretty much gone, and the Democratic Party that remains in my state is awfully hard to distinguish from its national counterpart.

Second, Jonah excerpts an email wondering whether some Christians are drifting toward Christian Democracy and away from "American constitutionalism." If "American constitutionalism" is short-hand for a small national government with limited responsibilities and a heavy emphasis on federalism, it seems to me that Christian conservatives are not the only ones drifting.

The Blogging is Like Jogging Metaphor

. . . in two parts from Mark D. Roberts here and here. Noted via Hugh Hewitt. Roberts is always thoughtful and fun to read and I find what he says here to be quite true.

Worthy Advice for Men Against Hillary

. . . from Kathleen Parker. Though I may take some exception with her thoughts on men commenting on the shrillness of Hillary’s voice. I think the sort of shrillness Hillary often exudes (see the video linked in the Paglia column below) can be just as grating to most women as it is to most men. There is something so . . . I don’t know . . . pompous and "school dance committee chairman" about it. It rings like the clanking of a tin soldier in a toy box. No sane woman wants to be "that woman" or to defend her. This kind of voice is not commanding but laughable. It does not inspire confidence; it betrays a lack of it. And, frankly, serious women feel betrayed by it. What is worse than a man voicing approval of negative female stereotypes? A woman who affirms them.

Left-leaning lecterns?

I previously noted this conference, described (somewhat) in this article. I can’t find the papers that allegedly have been released, but I’m familiar with Dan Klein’s previous work, some of which was criticized in this study, described here. I have no doubt that, if you cast the net widely enough, and include disciplines that aren’t directly involved in "forming the culture," so to speak, and institutions that may enroll lots of students (but typically don’t train our future leaders or generate--directly or indirectly--lots of Ph.D.s), you can paint a picture of the academy in which the ideological tilt of the professoriate is less pronounced than if you focus on elite institutions and on the humanities and social sciences. I’m also willing to concede that there are lots of folks--among them, many of my colleagues--whose voting behavior doesn’t affect their teaching. (I count such people as some of my best friends and closest colleagues at my institution.)

To the degree that there can be and, indeed, is a separation between professorial political predilections (say that quickly three times) and classroom behavior, it behooves the honest brokers out there to join the chorus in criticizing those who do abuse their positions to promote their political positions. Let’s not simply dismiss accounts of bias; rather, let’s uphold the independence of the academy by focusing our critical attention on the "anecdotes" and offering "bipartisan" criticism from both ends of the spectrum. That way, we can isolate the anecdotes.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to book the AEI press release promises.

Update: Papers are posted here.

Camille Paglia on Hillary, Norman Mailer, Global Warming and Ellen

The always interesting Camille Paglia offers her own unique brand of criticism for all of these liberal icons and calls for a more authentic sort of liberalism in the process. Worth a look.

Reason and passion in politics

Peter Berkowitz writes compellingly about intellectual Bush-hatred.

Where Are Abbott and Costello When You Need Them?

Today’s Washington Post has an account of the court battle under way in Virginia between the conservative breakaway churches from the evil empire national Episcopal Church over who owns and controls the valuable property involved. I’m not not so much interested in the legal dispute, which is complicated by the overlay of property law and church law, as I am in the name of an evil empire national church spokeswoman.

Quoth the Post: "’At this point they’re squatters,’ Susan Bartensteinnohits, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said yesterday."

Bartensteinnohits? Is this for real, or a typo that crept over somehow from the sports page? This calls to mind how Abbott and Costello might record an Episcopal diocesan general convention:

Bartensteinnohits: They’re squatters and renegades! Off with their heads parking privileges!

Fleckensteinnoruns: It’s the gay bishop what did this!

Bartlebybuntsingle: Does the gay bishop have a curveball?

Twistletonnoerrors: No, but he sure can swing away at the plate!

And so on. But enough of this, I gotta get back to work.

Did Ancient Feminists Kill Off the Cave Man?

Apparently so, according to this Boston Globe article.

Supply your own punch line.

Sarkozy Again

In the comments below my post on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech before a Joint Session of Congress, Paul Seaton calls for a link to Sarkozy’s acceptance speech and notes that it compares nicely with De Gaulle (while noting that De Gaulle was not above reproach). So here is the link. And let me add my two cents (since we’ve also been on the theme of Jefferson) that his opening conciliatory lines remind me of TJ’s First Inaugural Address where he says: "We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists."

Leisure, busyness, and the aims of liberal education

That’s the title of a little essay I wrote based on the Tocqueville talk I gave last week.

In the spirit of liberally educated contrarianism, I urge us to think more about genuine leisure than about busyness as the core of the undergraduate experience.

Emancipation as a Political-military strategy

Ben has posted my latest piece in my series on the Civil War for Ashbrook. The topic is emancipation as a part of Lincoln’s strategy.

I find Allan Guelzo’s argument very persuasive. Lincoln’s preferred approach to emancipation, which he hoped to implement at the beginning of his presidency, called for convincing the legislatures of the slave states to agree to gradual, compensated emancipation, and simultaneously convincing the Congress to provide the funds for compensation. After all, the states, not the federal government, had the consitutional authority to pass laws with regard to slavery.

For Lincoln’s scheme to work, slavery had to be excluded from the federal territories. That’s why he refused to compromise on the issue of slavery’s expansion.

Secession threw a wrench into Lincoln’s origional plan, so he modified his approach. Now success depended on a combination of military success on the one hand and acceptance of the plan by the loyal slave states on the other. Neither was forthcoming by the end of 1862.

Emancipation as a military measure, under Lincoln’s executive war power, was the best of the remaining alternatives--contraband, confiscation, and martial law emancipation. The Republicans paid a heavy political price in the elections of 1862, but the decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation was a critical element in saving the Union.

Let the food fight begin.

Campaign potpourri

Terry Eastland calls attention to this Jay Cost post on the Romney campaign’s decision not--at least for the moment--to have him give a speech about his Mormonism. So long as there’s a trickle of evangelicals in his direction, why take the risk? So the thinking goes. I’d add: unless he can give a speech significantly more interesting than the oft-celebrated JFK speech to the Houston ministers, why bother?

This article and this post raise the question of whether HRC is the inevitable Democratic nominee. She’s still ahead, but Obama is closing the gap, more, I think, thanks to her missteps than to his efforts. What happens if she falls behind? Will her charmlessness as a campaigner cause her support to evaporate? Will the HRC campaign pull out all the stops and deploy Bill as a weapon of mass distraction (perhaps helpful in the primaries, but any Republican worth his salt would make it a big issue in the general election)? Will Obama know what hit him? This could get to be a lot of fun.

Prophet without honor

Peter Wehner dismantles a Jim Wallis screed. The two most biting paragraphs:

There is an immense double standard that exists in American life, and especially in the American media. The “Religious Right” is often accused — and sometimes fairly accused — of being intemperate, uncivil, staggeringly simplistic, and uninformed when they speak out on matters of public policy. Yet this is precisely what Jim Wallis — whose rantings will garner far less attention than those of Pat Robertson or, when he was alive, Jerry Falwell — is doing. Wallis’s words could easily emerge from the fever swamps of the Left.


For what it’s worth, I don’t believe Jim Wallis is lying in writing what he did. I simply believe he is deeply uninformed and politically tendentious, animated, and blinded by his political biases. And while he claims to be public theologian and a prophet, he’s a good deal closer to being a James Carville or a Paul Begala — though at least the latter don’t pretend to be “prophets” who are hovering above politics in a disinterested and morally serious fashion. Nor do they wrap their screeds in the garb of religious faith, pretending to be agents of reconciliation and civility when in fact they are simply undermining any possible claim to moral or intellectual seriousness.

Read the whole thing, especially if you want to see a former White House aide concede our intelligence failures in the run-up to the Iraq war and you want to review some of the best evidence for why Iraq was nonetheless dangerous.

I wish there had been more intelligence skeptics in the White House in 2003, but I also appreciate the burdens of political judgment in a very dangerous world.

The Last

I’m a bit late getting to this today, but apparently there is only one living American World War I veteran left.

Jefferson, Monticello, and American Identity

Myron Magnet writes a thoughtful, rigorous and lovely reflection upon Jefferson--considering the man alongside his castle. Do go read it.  

Veterans’ Day, 2007

Today is, of course, Veterans Day. I have a piece on the topic in today’s National Review Online. In it, I make the point that the recent Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair at The New Republic is only the latest illustration of the undeniable predisposition on the part of the press to believe the worst about American troops. This is something that began with Vietnam.

Thanks to Peter for reminding everyone that Saturday was the 232nd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. I always receive a birthday greeting from one of my old colleagues, Jack Higgins. When I do, I am reminded that Jack and the other Marines with whom I served in Vietnam were the best men I have ever known. I will never forget them, or the ones who didn’t make it back.

Our Marine birthday ball on Saturday in Newport was spectacular. BTW, so was my date. What can I say? The heavenly Doreen always makes me look awfully good. Semper Fi, Marines.

Friendship, Gratitude, and the Audacity of Freedom

I have heard bits and pieces of Nicolas Sarkozy’s amazing speech before a joint-session of Congress last week, but I had not seen the whole thing until today. The link above will take you to the full text. Reading the whole, I discover that it is even more remarkable than my initial impressions conceived.

First, it is infused with deep, thoughtful and overwhelming gratitude for the United States and our struggles on behalf of liberty--not only, but especially, in and for France. No matter your level of skepticism toward France in recent years, it is impossible to read these words and not be moved to some level of forgiveness. Of course, this was the intended effect and it succeeds in spades. But there are less obvious--though equally meaningful--bits to ponder.

Note this bit:

America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who--with their hands, their intelligence and their heart--built the greatest nation in the world[emphasis added]: "Come, and everything will be given to you." She said: "Come, and the only limits to what you’ll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent."

This recognition of America’s greatness is extraordinary--even if the cynic in you is tempted to suggest that it is mere flattery. It cannot be easy for Sarkozy to say such things and thus we must conclude either that he deeply believes it or that he feels compelled to say it for the purpose of forging a meaningful union between us to protect France. Perhaps it is both. But throughout the speech Sarkozy meaningfully rejects the notion that France will or must be a mere recipient of the fruits of American strength and bounty. He wants Europe to rebuild its forces and he wants France to take the lion’s share of its own defense. In short, he wants the "only limits to [what France] will be able to achieve [to] be [her] own courage and [her] own talent." He notes that his generation admires America’s audacity. It appears that he is calling on them to imitate it in the defense of their own freedom.

This is all to the good but there is one key to friendship he leaves on our doorstep: trust. He calls on America not only to remain true to her own ideals, but to trust Europe and her ability to learn from the New World. As the older Washington in the service of a young Republic instructed (and yet often relied upon) the younger Lafayette who represented an old (but also then re-emerging) power, so too, must America trust Europe to transform itself and come to her senses. We must instruct but we must also trust . . . I say we trust, but verify.

Much more could be said (and certainly is being said)about this speech. Clearly, it is an important moment in our common history with France and may represent a turning point. Read the whole thing and see what you think.

Locke note

Lawler’s post on Locke (libertarian or conservative) leads me to suggest for those more interested in Locke (and perhaps less in categorizing him) to look at Peter C. Myers’ book, Our Only Star and Compass: Locke and the Struggle for Political Rationality. Also see his talk here, about ten down.

Great Moments in Social Science, Part 10,976

This squib, which I ran across quite by accident in a book on substance abuse, hardly requires comment:

A recent study at the University of Glasgow found that alcohol makes the opposite sex appear more facially attractive, at least in the eyes of the drinker. Compared to abstainers, drinkers were more likely to rate someone of the opposite sex as attractive. Alcohol had no effect on the rating of same-sex attractiveness. This may explain why drinking in bars and at parties often leads to sex.

What would we do without social science?

Dr. Pat on Consumers vs. Citizens

This stark division of labor becomes more and more real when we meritocrats stop thinking of military service as a form of human excellence worthy of our best and our brightest.

Huck Hanging Tough Against Hillary

According to Rasmussen, he’s within the margin of error. (Thanks to Lucas Morel.)

Is Locke a Conservative or a Libertarian?

Well, he is, quite incoherently, both. His epistemology and metaphysics undermined radically the traditional views of Aristotle, Christianity, and Scholasticism. But he also reassures us with his God-talk and such. Are today’s libertarians right to reject Locke’s conservatism in the name of coherence? Are they improving upon Locke? Or just privileging what he really thought over his rhetorical window-dressing? Has the history of America been the outing of Locke, our inability to keep Locke in a Locke box? Can conservatives save Locke from the reductionism of our libertarians? Or do they have to go somewhere else to curb our creeping libertarianism? Are we all Lockeans now?

McCain vs. Giuliani

Part of McCain’s surge is his dawning awareness that he must take Rudy out early if he’s to have any chance at all for the nomination. The truth may be that if both he and Rudy poll fairly well in New Hampshire the real winner will be Romney.

So: Maybe the main threat to Rudy hanging on until Febrary 5 against the early Romney victories is a resurgent McCain. A "secret weapon" Rudy may have against being blown out early by Romney is Huck doing well in or winning Iowa. Both Huck and Obama threaten Rudy’s Iowa’s momentum. An Obama victory there would take most of the attention away from the Republican result. But an Obama Iowa victory would also make the Democratic contest in New Hampshire irresistable for independents--most of whom would otherwise vote for Giuliani and McCain. So, on balance, an Obama victory in Iowa might well be fatal for both Rudy and John.

Maybe the worst thing that could happen for "national security" voters is the persistence of the McCain surge; its effect would mainly be to undermine Giuliani. The worse thing that could happen for "social conservatives" is the persistence of the Huckabee surge; its effect would mainly be to undermine Romney. This analysis, of coruse, makes no sense to anyone who really believes that John and/or Huck have decent chances of actually being nominated. But it’s still hard to deny at this point that Rudy and Mitt are better bets.