Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The illiberalism of the "new"atheism

Damon Linker goes after Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, et al. He’s generally right about their position, but wrong that the only "liberal" alternative to various forms of theocracy is something like unitarianism, deism, or Ethical Culture.

This Seems a Bit Farfetched

I know being counterintuitive is all the rage these days, but this Time magazine article suggesting Bush was behind the NIE on Iran’s nuclear program seems a bit too counterintuitive.

Hippies or Bigots? What Did Unravel the New Deal Coalition in 1968?

Eric Rauchway is angry with Tom Brokaw. Rauchway, a historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that Brokaw’s History Channel documentary on “1968” completely misinterprets why that year – halfway between Barry Goldwater’s landslide defeat in 1968 and George McGovern’s in 1972 – was a watershed in American political history.

The “secret subtitle” of Brokaw’s show, according to Rauchway, should be, “How Hippies Ruined America.” “My working-class dad, a longtime FDR Democrat who was opposed to the war in Vietnam,” Brokaw narrates, “was enraged by what he had seen on television [at the Democrats’ 1968 Chicago convention], enraged by the behavior of the antiwar demonstrators, the way they had flown the Vietcong flag, and taunted the police. I knew then, the Democratic Party was in real trouble.”

Brokaw is so committed to this simple, one-cause-one-effect explanation for Democrats’ descent that he misses a much bigger, more important explanation, according to Rauchway: “[It] is a moral certainty that race, and not the hippies, broke up the New Deal coalition. And not old, Jim Crow racism like keeping blacks from whites in public and private places alike, segregating buses, and banning interracial marriages – but new racial attitudes, like blaming African Americans for the growth of government and for the increase of lawlessness in America’s streets. On best estimates, a bit over thirty percent of the wealth transferred to poverty-struck Americans in the 1960s went to blacks – a sum that, if poor and middling whites kept it, might have increased their disposable income by under half of one percent. But the numbers didn’t matter – the symbols did, and the nonwhite poor were a startlingly effective target of white resentment.”

From a historian accusing a journalist of over-simplifying, this alternative underwhelms thoroughly. Why should we reject Brokaw’s reductionist explanation for the end of the New Deal coalition in favor of Rauchway’s reductionist explanation? Brokaw’s argument puts the blame on people who returned to and stayed inside the Democratic tent over the past 40 years, while Rauchway’s blames people who left and stayed outside. The exiles from the Democratic party weren’t racists, exactly, says Rauchway, but their resentment did target the nonwhite poor, blaming them for crime and high taxes despite all evidence to the contrary.

We need a more comprehensive explanation. “Middle America’s” disaffection from the Democrats is not an either-or question of hippies or bigotry. Rather, Americans in the middle felt besieged from below and above: by an underclass that made welfare dependency and criminality a way of life, and an overclass that excused or even celebrated it. For example, New Yorkers who had ample reason to fear walking the streets in 1975 received this helpful and sympathetic response from the sociologist Andrew Hacker in a report by the Twentieth Century Fund: “[The] upsurge in crime expresses a new sense of freedom on the part of classes which were once kept sternly in their place. . . . The city should count itself fortunate that so small a part of its population has taken to theft. That so many individuals remain honest while being treated so stingily by society should be a source of both amazement and confidence.” The report did not address the question of whether the city should count itself fortunate that so small a part of its population had taken to rape and murder, or whether being treated less stingily by society would steer the poor, whose new sense of freedom manifested itself in these possibly regrettable ways, in less problematic directions.

According to Jonathan Reider, the author of Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism, intellectuals who assured citizens that they should celebrate not being mugged more often by people who had every reason to do so provided the real reason for the collapse of the New Deal: “the perception by the middle-income classes of a growing chasm between themselves and the regnant version of liberalism.” Reider explains how those voters understood the Democrats’ ideology: “Liberalism meant taking the side of blacks, no matter what; dismissing middle-class plaints as racism; handcuffing the police; transferring resources and sympathy from a vulnerable middle class to minorities; rationalizing rioting and dependency and other moral afflictions as ‘caused’ by the environment or as justifiable response to oppression. Liberalism appeared to them as a force inimical to the working and lower-middle classes, assaulting their communities, their sense of fairness, their livelihood, their children, their physical safety, their values.”

Rauchway’s argument against Brokaw is more about 2008 and beyond than 1968 and since. If the Democratic party declined because of its noble refusal to pander to bigots, then Democrats have nothing to apologize for and much to be proud of. Rauchway’s interpretation of the past, which extrapolates and justifies Hacker’s argument, ascribes all the unhappiness over crime, welfare, riots and busing to bigotry, thereby delegitimating it. At a time when Republicans have few reasons for cheer, this evidence that the other party would rather repeat than learn from its mistakes is a cause for optimism.

More Huckabee

Today’s WaPo has a package of Huckabee articles. Here’s the big one, which is mostly a stroll through his past, less aimed at gotcha journalism than the NYT Mag piece.

Ramesh Ponnuru offers a kinder, gentler version of the case against Huckabee, acknowledging his strengths while arguing that his ascendancy (at the expense, presumably, of Romney) would hand the GOP to Giuliani.

I suppose that it’s possible to respond that a series of Romney attacks on Huckabee could accomplish much the same result. It all depends on what happens in Florida, where Rasmussen has Huckabee in the lead, with Romney second and Giuliani third. (To be sure, the RCP average has Giuliani first, with Huckabee and Romney trailing.) Can Romney drive Huckabee’s numbers down without suffering himself (engaging in the kind of fratricide that handed Kerry Iowa in 2004)? And will Romney lend credence to Huckabite Joe Carter’s charge that "Romney has surrounded himself with dirt-peddling, rumor-whispering, truth-twisting, Machiavelli-wannabes. They are the absolute dirtiest group of campaigners on the GOP side of the race"? MR has, after all, made the following remark:

“I’m not going to rule out any possibilities,” Romney said with a knowing laugh, when asked about his media plans. “We keep our possibilities open at this stage. It is politics, it isn’t tiddlywinks.”

Fair enough. But the more Romney seems like just another politician--just another flip-flopper from Massachusetts who sells himself on his electability--the less distinct he seems from Giuliani, who surely beats him in any measure of "authenticity."

Huckabee’s rise and...?

Our paleo friend Red Phillips sends along this post by Erick Erickson. It may be that attacks on Huckabee by folks housed in D.C. or New York help him more than they hurt him, at least with his biggest supporters.

Rich Lowry may be right that, if Huckabee were running right now against a well-prepared and well-staffed Democratic opponent, said opponent would run circles around him in a policy debate. Thereby confirming the suspicions of many of Huckabee’s supporters, who don’t cotton well to disdain coming from East Coast sophisticates.

In other words, it’s at the moment counterproductive simply to heap scorn on Huckabee or to assume that he can’t be brought up to speed, should he somehow win the nomination. My friends in the Bos-Wash corridor do themselves and their cause no service by burning bridges. All that might accomplish is encouraging a third party socon insurgency or discouraging the kind of turnout needed to win a general election.

More about bias in higher ed

Today I read this response to this op-ed on the ideological skew of elite research universities, which I already noted here.

Wow! It’s as if we weren’t reading the same essay! "Maranto’s piece," we’re told, "is part of a national propaganda endeavor to establish an ultra-rightist orthodoxy over thought in America." This despite the fact that, as Maranto points out, he worked at the Brookings Institution and in the Clinton Administration, which can only look "ultra-rightist" to someone in the academy. This is all part and parcel of an effort to saddle Maranto with the Academic Bill of Rights, which he explicitly denies supporting. Maranto is interested in the quality of debate and research on campus (and its relationship to the larger world of policy). His Atlanta-based critic, who is General Secretary (where have I seen that title before?) of the Georgia chapter of the AAUP, writes as if Maranto were simply channeling David Horowitz.

All in all, I’d call this AJC op-ed a case study in what Maranto says is wrong with higher education, recognizing, of course, that the plural of anecdote isn’t data. But oh what an anecdote!

Obama rising, Hillary falling

This Wall Street Journal article reports this, with some detail:

"Barack Obama’s rising poll numbers among white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are having an unexpected ripple effect: Some black voters are switching their allegiance from Hillary Clinton and lining up behind him too. That could mean a further tightening of the Democratic presidential race, especially in southern states where blacks make up as many as half of Democratic primary voters. The evidence of movement is most clear in South Carolina, site of the first primary where black votes figure to make a significant impact. There, four polls now show Illinois Sen. Obama with a lead among African-American voters for the Jan. 26 vote. As a result, the race in South Carolina has tightened, with some polls calling it a dead heat."

On Hillary’s decline (and panic?) and the mention, for the first time, that she may lose all four of the first contests, see Howard Finemann and this on how Obama is doing in New Hampshire.

Political neuroscience

This WJ article catches us up with what those who would reduce political animals to mere animals are doing. I’ve touched upon this subject before here and here. That the Romney campaign is dabbling in this isn’t a mark in their favor, as far as I’m concerned.

Bed and Breakfast in the Black Hills

Here is an interesting and attractive Bed and Breakfast in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Those of you riding your Hogs to the Sturgis rally in ’08 should take note, by the way. I just discovered that the owners are old friends I haven’t seen in many years, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Van Patten (he teaches at the law school, therefore I presume she does the real work). He is a regular reader of NLT and just won an NLT mug. Nice place John!

If you’re worried about Mike and Mitt

Have a look at Barack and Oprah. David Innes calls attention to this Rich Lowry column and works out some of the theological implications.

Would that Oprah were only playing Samuel to Obama’s David (though perhaps he’s just Saul).

Friday opinion rundown

Charles Krauthammer thinks that the candidates don’t know the difference between free exercise and establishment. I’m not sure that’s the problem. And if it’s O.K. for people to be motivated by religion in their support of public policies, why isn’t it O.K. for candidates to indicate that they too are moved by faith?

Michael Gerson worries that Mike Huckabee is acting too much like an ordinary politician, especially on immigration. While I might hesitate about Huckabee’s choice of bedfellows here, and I might quibble with his plan, I’m also not about to drink Gerson’s kool-aid, which would seem to require that we don’t care for the rule of law or control of our borders.

Eugene Robinson doesn’t like Mike, though his invocation of Jefferson indicates that he hasn’t read a word that the Sage of Monticello has written on the subject on which he cites him.

Paul Greenberg thinks we shouldn’t pay much attention to what the Club for Growth says about Mike Huckabee’s Arkansas record, which he thinks was, on the whole, good for the state. Greenberg, in case you don’t know, writes editorials for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Update: Stuart Rothenberg thinks that Mike Huckabee is filling the space in the Republican field that might have been filled by Fred Thompson, though I’m betting he thinks that Thompson would do better in a general election than would MH. Here’s the conclusion:

[I]f electability truly is an important issue for the GOP, Huckabee could be a disaster. While some have argued that he could hold conservatives on abortion and civil unions and appeal to swing voters and even Democrats on immigration, spending and domestic priorities, it is more likely that he would lose conservatives on taxes, spending and immigration and alienate moderates and Democrats on social issues.

I don’t think fiscal conservatives would sit out a race where the opposition was provided by any of the leading Democrats, and I think Rothenberg doesn’t understand (or take seriously) the "evolution" (if I might use that term) of evangelical political opinion.

Peggy Noonan’s miscellaneous reflections include remarks on the unworthiness of Mike Huckabee’s attempts to play the religion card, and the willingness of some voters to play with him. I too can’t help feeling that there’s something a little smarmy about Huckabee’s behavior. He ought to be able to talk about his experience and his faith without so transparently calling our attention to the contrast with others. But I don’t agree with PN when she says this:

[T]there is a sense in Iowa now that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary.

O.K., I’m not in Iowa and I’m not in the heads of Iowa voters, but surely all those considerations matter. Or is Noonan simply arguing that on every other level--"executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands"--Huckabee is so unimpressive that it could only be his faith that explains his meteoric rise? Surely his opinions matter; surely ten years as governor stand for something; surely on matters of temperament and character he seems to be an engaging fellow.

I’m somewhat with Rothenberg on this: social conservatives were looking for a challenger to Mitt Romney (who seemed to be a recent convert to their causes and who didn’t electrify on the stump). Fred Thompson had his chance and didn’t seize it. Huckabee was poised to move up to the first tier and didn’t play Hamlet the way Thompson did. Romney’s inadequacies gave Huckabee his opening. MH has his own problems. Can Romney now make people forget why they hesitated about him?

This isn’t a big deal

But how could a resolution acknowledging the importance of Christmas attract some no votes, while similar resolutions acknowledging Ramadan and Diwali passed unanimously (albeit with a number of Republicans voting "present" in both cases)?

Hat tip: Religion Clause.

I Never Thought I’d See This

The Milton Friedman Choir.

My head is about to explode.

AEI election watch

I saw about 30 minutes of the AEI’s Election Watch panel on CSPAN toay. It included Michael Barone, John Fortier, and Norman Ornstein. The part I saw (the last quarter or so) was dominated by Barone and he was quite good. He was a march of logic and full of facts, and some good insights. Quite interesting. Best analysis I have seen thus far.   

Italian malaise

Perhaps related to Joe’s post below, the NY Times notes the "malessere" in Italy, for what it’s worth.

The Europeans worry

About God-besotted Americans, who are apparently about to restart the wars of religion.

What I’m Doing on Christmas Eve

I am sooooo going to have to do this on Christmas Eve this year. The kids are going to love it! I remember "seeing" Rudolph out my bedroom window every Christmas Eve when I was a kid. It never occurred to me to ask why his nose was flashing and never moved . . .

But Wait! There’s More

Now Richard Samuelson brings to my attention this attack ad on John Adams:

I suspect there are a lot of these floating around out in YouTube land, produced by bored graduate students everywhere. Send the best to me at: [email protected].

For love or money

Our friend Patrick Deneen has a very interesting post responding to this "rebuttal" of this WaPo op-ed. My favorite line from the "rebuttal":

The lure of large salaries is likely to appeal more to conservatives than to liberals.

Now there’s someone who’s not entertaining stereotypes!

Patrick’s argument focuses more on the "progressive" character of the research ideal that has come to define the American university. Where once colleges and universities were "conservators" of a cultural tradition (which might have contained a plurality of views, not to mention the resources for self-criticism), they’re now essentially "progressive," in the sense that the accumulation of a body of knowledge is progressive (at least since the Enlightenment). Everyone’s a scientist of a sort:

The infiltration of the canons of scientific research into the humanities has been the root cause for the decimation of the very idea of the humanities on our campuses. In their efforts to prove their "originality" and progressiveness faculty glommed onto post-structuralism, post-modernism, post-colonialism, and post- everything in order to prove that they were "with it," and indeed, that they were anything but "conservative" - that is, the one thing that made the humanities defensible inasmuch its reason for existence is to be conservators. By demonstrating their hostility to the authors and books they studied or even the very idea of "humanity" (what is now fashionably called "the subject"), the humanities at once made themselves "relevant" and destroyed themselves from within.

And Furthermore. . .

I tend to avoid posting much on NLT about this climate change business--I could post ten items a day if I wanted to and had the time--because I think most NLT readers rightly view the subject as a crashing bore and because it sets off another round of the usual cliches in the comments section that everyone has heard 1000 times now, but Julie’s post immediately below gives me license to post a link to this paper I wrote recently with two of my collaborators here at AEI (where we are known as the Three Musketeers) about the latest UN report on the matter.

Gore and his chorus keep yelping that the entire matter is "settled," and that it is an act of bad faith even to mention "uncertainties" in the science. So it came as a bit of a revelation to find that the term "uncertain" or "uncertainty" appears 1,300 times in the UN’s full 976 page report on climate science. The technical summary of the UN report identifies 52 "key uncertainties," many of which have a bearing on our estimation of the problem, and which would affect the sequence and timing of the whole range of policy responses. None of this is reflected in either the summaries the UN bureaucrats produce, nor in the press accounts.

I play a fun parlor game with reporters who call me. I say, "Of course I know you’ve read the whole report, so I know you’ve noticed the important bit on page. . ." Always leads to some awkward moments.

Envirnomental Issues that Deserve Real Attention

When stories like this come out, it makes me think that a smart presidential candidate would move the discussion away from "global warming" (which, looks ever more complicated and elusive as an issue except for those who wish to manipulate politics) and more toward environmental issues like this (which are fairly straightforward and concrete). Notice the efforts of AU Professor of Chemistry, Jeffrey Weidenhammer mentioned prominently in the last story.

Huckabee, the evangelical (and no one else?) candidate

Jim Geraghty thinks so, and he may be right.

But two points are worth noting. First, Republicans have to be serious about getting some of the themes that Huckabee has articulated if they’re serious about getting some of the support he has attracted. If the G.O.P. is going to remain a big tent, then there has to be room for Huckabites inside. Lisa Schiffren’s snarky condescension (and I’m putting it mildly here) can’t be the only, or even the modal, response. Of course, the converse is also true: evangelicals can’t be part of a winning political coalition if it’s their way or the highway.

And then there’s Randy Brinson, mentioned by Geraghty as someone with an extensive mailing list. Brinson, as I’ve noted before, is not above reaching across the aisle. The management team of Brinson’s Redeem the Vote includes this guy, whose friends range from John Street to Rick Santorum. Its advisory board runs the gamut from Eric Sapp of Common Good Strategies to YAF’s Stephanie Acosta Inks. I first heard about Brinson from the doyenne of the faithful Democrats, Amy Sullivan. And I first wrote about him for TAE Online in March, 2006, in an essay I’ve reposted here.

This is the coming wave of evangelicalism. Democrats can miss it if they continue to insist that being pro-choice on abortion is the "soul" of their party, but so can a Republican Party that thinks Rudy Giuliani is its most electable candidate. Huckabee and Michael Gerson need a seat at the table.

Separated at Birth?

Mike Huckabee and Gomer Pyle?

Yesterday’s Debate

Here’s one assessment with various comments. Romney’s policy expertise and executive experience were displayed to good effect, although he still hasn’t quite figured out to make health care an effective sound bite. Thompson seemed funny. folksy, tough, engaged, and alive. And, as Rob Jeffrey says below, he’s the only candidate to have taken on the Department of Education. MAYBE Mitt and Fred are both beginning to roll, although Fred, in particular, has to really turn up the heat now. Huck, for once, didn’t help himself; he seemed less authentic as he shied away from risk and wit. McCain seemed tired and disabled by the moderator’s strange decision to take Iraq and immigration off the table. John can’t afford not to occupy center stage at this point, and he didn’t seem presidential. Giuliani, the incredible shrinking candidate, shrank some more. Overall, the event was unexciting but not demeaning, and all of the real contenders seems competent enough. Its significance is in terms of what might be coming in the last few weeks of the unpredictable Iowa campaign.

If Emmanuel Kant Ran for President Today. . .

. . . He’d get hit with attack ads like this:

Here’s a question

Posed by an old acquaintance, relayed by MOJ’s Rick Garnett, apropos of the issues raised in this post.

My short answer is that I care for three reasons. First, since I’m not wise, it’s important to me to know what smart, thoughtful people think. Second, that these smart, thoughtful people stand at the fountainhead of the tradition to which I am heir and the regime that formed (or deformed) me helps me understand who I am. They also provide a yardstick or standard against which current circumstances can be measured. The authority of the standard is of course not absolute, but it seems to me that we need good reasons to depart from it. Stated another way, unless we’re conscious or self-conscious about our circumstances, we’re not free in the way Chris Eberle seems to think he is.

Third, and finally, I learned from Plato and Aristotle that "prejudice" or settled opinion plays a powerful role in politics, that politics, in other words, isn’t fully rational. For the most part, if we don’t honor our ancestors, we’re going to honor (and flatter and gratify) ourselves. And that’s a pretty good reason to care what the founders thought.

Update: There are good responses over at MOJ.

Sounds of the season, part 2

My wife forwards them to me, and I post ’em.

The trial of the year, century, millenium, and beyond

Here, with the most able Patrick Deneen as an expert witness. Called by the defense or the prosecution? He doesn’t say.

But since it won’t last more than a day, I can’t imagine Socrates regarding the trial as fair, regardless of the outcome.

Update: Patrick writes to say that Socrates was acquitted, though the vote by the audience was relatively narrow (55-45). His expertise was employed by both sides, as befits a "philosopher."

That does it

John Smoltz and Dale Murphy.

Huckabee’s Waterloo?

Not the one in Iowa, but rather his NYT Mag profile, which is giving him so much grief from so many people. So deservedly, it seems.

Update: But wait, he has the home-school vote.

Update #2: Huckabee has apologized to Romney, making it sound as if he was set up by the NYT reporter. Read about it and follow the links here.

Update #3: Mollie Ziegler Hemingway has more here.

Special Election Not Bad News for GOP

Stuart Rothenberg reports on the special Congressional elections for seats in Ohio and Virginia yesterday and the Republican success both. This does not represent any shift in the status quo (Republicans already controlled both seats) but, the fact that the GOP did not lose the seats (especially the hotly contested seat in Ohio), is taken by many as a sign of good news. Well, at least its a sign that things may not be as bad as many thought after the losses in ’06. The Ohio GOP has had its share of disappointments in recent years and there is no question but that Ohio will be crucial in the coming election. Tuesday’s special election seems to be an indication that the state is still, very much, in play for the Republicans. Needless to say, not bad news is a long way from being good news . . . but I’ll take it.

Congress’s Energy Bill: Lipstick on a Pig

Thanks to Peter for noting my earlier Christian Science Monitor piece in which I addressed the security aspects of the pending energy legislation. Today, I examine some of the economic consequences of the legislation in the Providence Journal.

Despite the attempt to appeal to environmentalists and advocates of "fairy dust" energy sources, aka "renewable energy," this bill, like most energy bills, is laden with pork, albeit "sophisticated" pork. Pork comes from pigs. You can try to dress up a pig by putting lipstick on it, but in the end, it’s still a PIG.

Bill Kristol Sees an Opening for McCain and Thompson

They seem like the most presidential candidates. Somebody might retort that they seem old enough to play ex-presidents on TV. But there’s still something to the observation, especially in McCain’s case, and tomorrow’s debate may be John’s time to shine. It also may be Fred’s last chance to look alive. Bill is certainly right that Romney seems small in his negative ads against Huck, and that Rudy has become the incredible shrinking candidate. He might also might be right that Huck is not an appropriate wartime candidate, although he adds that most voters don’t see us aa at war right now.

Is Romney the Republican Kerry?

Well, that makes sense, if Huck is the Republican Dean. Does that mean, as the NATIONAL REVIEW says, that Mitt is the moderate who can hold the coaliton together? Or that flip-floppers can’t win? To be fair to Romney, it’s just not true that he’s part of the D.C. establishment, and he’s stuck with being plenty controversial. (Thanks to Clint.)

Is Huck the Republican McGovern?

According to Drudge, the Democrats think so. And that’s why they’re holding their fire.

Sounds of the Season

So far as I know, our church choir won’t have the human teleprompters this Sunday evening.

HRC’s religion again

I’ve noted this book before, but can’t resist calling your attention to this interview with its author.

Will he find the time to write a book about Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or... before November, 2008?

Contending originalisms

MOJ’s Rob Vischer calls our attention to this typically one-sided piece by the University of Chicago’s Geoffrey Stone, who trots out much of the evidence for the heteodoxy of many of the Founders. But as I suggested here and here, saying that the Founders were men of the Enlightenment doesn’t make them men of the radical Enlightenment, dedicated to a buck naked public square. Far from it, as even the carefully-worded First Amendment (leaving intact state establishments) makes clear. Stone of course overlooks one obvious reference to religion in the Constitution (the way the date is phrased) and doesn’t mention the Northwest Ordinance, which provided public support for schools that were to teach "religion and morality."

But a public square friendly to religion and religious expression isn’t the same as a Christian nation. There are all sorts of grounds for accommodation, cooperation, and support without there being any basis for establishment in the old-fashioned sense (which is the only sense we ought to care about).

More places to find Knippenberg on the web

Long-time readers of NLT might recall that for almost a year, I wrote a weekly column for the now-defunct The American Enterprise Online. There was a time when my TAE Online pieces could still be found on the inactive site, but that time has passed. I’ve started reposting them at Knippenblog. The first two with new life over there are "Thucydides and Us" and "Contending Originalisms: Secular vs. Christian America," which speaks to the discussion prompted by Mitt Romney’s speech.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for November

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

Jon Van Patton

Kevin Kearns

Susan Jordan

Roland Camp

James Croskey

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter December’s drawing.

Is Evangelical Prudence an Oxymoron?

Being to lazy to look for my own posts for now, I’m stuck with observing that I enjoyed Huck’s foreign policy speech posted by Joe. It was as sensible and, in its own way, as tough as those been given by the other candidates. It was "Christian realism" much more than compassionate politcs or unduly optimistic. I also noticed John Kienker’s "quibble" about Jim Ceaser’s NATURE AND HISTORY IN AMERICAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT on the Claremont Christmas books page: "Ceaser notes some of the rhetoric in the present-day Repblican party as a sign of hope for a restoration of natural-rights thinking in our politics, but not only has George W. Bush been guided more by evangelical fervor that natural-rights thinking, the gulf between our president’s rhetoric and his actions has regrettably allowed the latter to discredit the former, even within his own party."

Now Kienker endorses the Ceaser narrative of the displacement of nature by history in American political thought. So does that mean that "evangelical fervor" is a version of historicism, in his view? And does that mean that the real objection to Huck is that he is that he’s just another progressivist or historicist? Is Huck just another George W. Bush?

Discuss among yourselves.

Is Evangelical Prudence an Oxymoron?

Silent days

The campaign seems to have displaced the so-called war on Christmas, of which there have only been isolated outbreaks, with cooler heads seeming to prevail.

Theocracy, er, I mean religious freedom, alert

They commemorate Hanukkah at the White House, using a menorah that once belonged to Daniel Pearl’s grandfather. Read the President’s remarks here:

While reporting in Pakistan in 2002, Daniel was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists. His only crime was being a Jewish American -- something Daniel Pearl would never deny. In his final moments, Daniel told his captors about a street in Israel named for his great-grandfather. He looked into their camera and he said, "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, and I’m Jewish." These words have become a source of inspiration for Americans of all faiths. They show the courage of a man who refused to bow before terror -- and the strength of a spirit that could not be broken.

Xmas Book List

Peter references the Claremont Review’s Christmas book list below. For some reason, theCRB folks didn’t receive/didn’t use my submissions, so NLT gets to have them:

Jeremy Paxman, The Political Animal

This book, by veteran British journalist Jeremy Paxman, is not out in a U.S. edition and is several years old by now, but is readily available from Amazon.UK in paperback. (I ran across it in a bookshop in London.) It is a splendid look at the character of Britain’s political class and contains great descriptions of life in the House of Commons and on the campaign trail. It’s a great read. (Sample: Paxman quotes Margaret Thatcher’s one-sentence putdown of Michael Heseltine, who attempted to bring down Thatcher with a flamboyant cabinet resignation: Whereas both of us are ambitious, Thatcher said, "whereas with me it is certain political principles that provide a reference point and inner strength, for Michael such things are unnecessary."

Robert Faulkner, The Case for Greatness: Honorable Ambition and Its Critics

For a thoughtful treatment--and defense--of political ambition and therefore a good companion to Paxman, see this new book just out from Yale University Press. Faulkner rescues political ambition from the slights and deprecations of social scientists, cynics, and egalitarians, surveying examples and analysis from antiquity through Lincoln and Churchill. This book deserves a wide audience among serious students of politics and statesmanship.

James Piereson, Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism

Piereson offers a remarkably fresh analysis of what should have been obvious for a long time: liberalism suffered a nervous breakdown in the aftermath of JFK’s killing, couldn’t process the significance of the fact that his killer was a hard-core Communist (thus making JFK a martyr of the Cold War), and hasn’t put itself back together again in the four decades since. (My Weekly Standard review of the book can be found here.

Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods

Goldberg’s book isn’t officially available until January 8 of next year (I got an advance galley), but it’s worth pre-ordering. It is a deeply sober and serious book, and Jonah’s well-known wit and snark from National Review Online is conspicuously absent. His research is staggering and wide-ranging, and he makes a solid case that American Progressivism, and its heir, contemporary liberalism, rests on the same philosophical and historicist assumptions that generated European fascism. The left is already raising hackles about the book before it is even released (its Amazon page has been hacked, and is already the scene of flame wars), so buckle your seat belts, this is going to start some fights. I think Jonah is up to it.

Donald T. Critchlow, The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History

Fresh off his fine biography of Phyllis Schlafly, Critchlow offers this new synoptic history of how the conservative movement triumphed within the Republican party. And he got Harvard University Press to publish it! Worth reading a fresh treatment in this season of conservative discontent.

Huckabee’s foreign policy

In writing this post, I had the occasion to read this NRO editorial, which echoes the views of other people I respect.

But I also read Mike Huckabee’s big foreign policy speech, delivered before anyone was paying much attention. While it’s easy to be annoyed by his folksy style and somewhat inane analogies, and the focus on the minutiae smacks of someone who feels compelled to display his new-found learning, there’s nonetheless evidence that he’s not the Jimmy Carter retread that some fear he is. There is, for example, this evidence of what I’d call (and have called) Kantian realism:

My goal in the Muslim world would be to correctly calibrate a course between maintaining stability and promoting democracy. It’s self-defeating to try and accomplish too much, too soon – you’d just have elections where extremists end up winning – but it’s equally self-defeating to do nothing.

Even a Kantian commitment to principle does not require "premature" action. The prudence Kant encourages includes waiting for the moment.

Then there’s the context of a passage that our friends at NRO don’t like:

It’s an enemy that’s conducive to being tracked down and eliminated using the CIA and Special Forces and special operations. We can accomplish a great deal. We can achieve tremendous bang for the buck with swift, surgical air strikes and commando raids by our elite units, as we’ve recently done with the Ethiopians in Somalia. These operations are impossible without first-rate intelligence.

When the Cold War ended, we cut back on our intelligence, just as we cut back on our armed forces, and both have come back to haunt us. As president, I’d like to beef up our human intelligence capacity, both the operatives who gather the information as well as the analysts who figure out what it means. I’d rather have more people in Langley so we can fewer in Baghdad.

Taken out of context, the last sentence does indeed lend itself to the conclusion that Governor Huckabee "seems to think intelligence analysis from afar can be a substitute for combat power on the ground." But note that his point is for the intelligence to be good enough to be actionable, using military force. Robert D. Kaplan might have said it better, but the point is the intelligent use of military force.

Reading what the NRO editors said about Huckabee’s views of Iran, you’d never know he’d said this:

The administration has quite properly said that it will not take the military option for Iran off the table. Neither would I.


Both al Qaeda and Iran seek not just to dominate Israel, but to destroy her and to control the Palestinians. The Huckabee administration would not waver nor flinch in standing by our ally, Israel. The difference in America’s mission is that al Qaeda must be destroyed as a movement, while Iran just has to be contained as a nation.

So how do we achieve that? Well, to contain Iran, it’s essential that we actually win in Iraq.


And while there can be no rational dealings with al Qaeda, Iran is a nation-state looking for regional power. It plays the normal power politics that we do understand, and can skillfully and rightfully pursue.

Yes, he’s unfair to the Bush Administration (is there a candidate other than McCain who isn’t?), but this isn’t Dailykos verbiage. Huckabee may lean a little too much in the neo-realist soft power direction, and his unguarded responses may be a better indication than a prepared speech, but he knows who our friends and enemies are, and the passage that NRO quotes to criticize him is prefaced by a remark that isn’t quoted:

The wisdom of Sun-Tzu, from nearly 2,500 years ago, is relevant today: Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer. We haven’t had diplomatic relationships with Iran in almost 30 years, most of my entire adult life, and a lot of good it’s done. Putting this in human terms, all of us know that when we stop talking to a parent, or a sibling, or even a friend, it’s impossible to resolve the differences to move that relationship forward. Well, the same is true for countries. Our experience in Iraq should prove a valuable lesson for Iran.

Adding the italicized sentence makes him seem a little less naive. Leaving it out makes it easier to make the charge of naivete stick.

I’ll end where Governor Huckabee ends:

Our history has always been one of perseverance from the snows of Valley Forge to the flames of 9/11. Our way of life, our economic and moral strength, our civilization, is at stake. I’m determined to look this evil in the eye, to confront it, to defeat it, and to emerge stronger than ever. All of us, I think, would like to be known as peace lovers, but I would remind you, from the words of Jesus, that it’s not “blessed are the peace lovers,” it’s “blessed are the peace makers.” And that’s what we should commit to being.

This comes perilously close to what might be called genuine Christian realism, not the ersatz variety peddled by Jimmy Carter. Huckabee knows that we have enemies, knows that they can’t or won’t become friends anytime soon, knows that there is a military option, and knows that a military option isn’t plausible without a healthy (and expanded) military.

This isn’t a perfect speech. As I said above, it wears its new-found wonkery a little too heavily. And even then, contrasts are drawn without adequate nuance. But Governor Huckabee says many of the right things. If I go by what he says, I can’t yet rule him out.

Hobbes and Machiavelli vs. Milton?

Stanley Fish opts for the former (that would be Clintiani rather than Huckabama). But I wonder: is being "wise as serpents" only the preserve of the Machiavellians? Some think Mike Huckabee proves it. Is "integrity" really simply "the quality of standing up for the same values in every situation no matter whom you’re speaking to"?

A postwar election?

David Brooks wonders whether 2008 will, in effect, be a postwar election, with the world seeming (my emphasis) a much less dangerous place than it seemed just a year ago. I’m not ready to declare a "new normalcy," but I am worried that the voters are.

A note on necessity in war

I know that the big news this morning is that Led Zeppelin is back playing a gig for the first time in almost thirty years. When I first heard them (I�m guessing it was around 1968) is when I stopped listening to so-called rock. Speaking of torture, this article

from Bloomberg, and this longer piece from the Washington Post on a CIA agent who was (in some way) involved in waterbording Abu Zubaydah says that while it may have been torture it broke Zubaydah and yielded vital intelligence that thwarted "maybe dozens" of planned attacks. On the one hand, he thinks that it may have been necessary at the time, yet now thinks that we "are better than that," and "we’ve moved beyond that." And this is the story of the security guard (a woman) who shot the killer in Colorado, as other security guards hesitated. The man had already killed four people, and had another 1,000 rounds of ammunition on him when his body was searched.

Christmas books

You can take a look at the Claremont list here.

I’m on sabbatical next semester, which means more time for reading books other than those I assign to students. My Christmas list of books I plan to read includes Pierre Manent’s Democracy without Nations, Barry Bercier’s The Skies of Babylon, this book about what went wrong at Baylor, this one (of course), and this book on Augustine and history, as well the Gerson and Lilla books we’ve discussed from time to time here, not to mention this book, whose author will be visiting Oglethorpe on Wednesday, February 6th (along with a number of other interesting folks).

I’ll also read this book, if HRC survives the Oprah onslaught.

Update: As I’m a big fan, Robert D. Kaplan’s latest will be on the pile on my nightstand (or carried with me to the gym, to be read while I sit on the bike).

The Gettysburg Controversies, Part I

The latest installment of my Civil War series for Ashbrook is now available
here. The topic is the continuing controversies about the campaign and battle.

Most of these are on the Confederate side and include the decision to invade Pennsylvania in the first place; the performance of Longstreet during the battle; Lee vs. Longstreet on the question of defense; the effect of losing Jackson at Chancellorsville; and Lee’s decision on the third day to attack the Union center on Cemetery Ridge on the second and third days of the battle. Many of them are the result of personal and professional jealosies that the participants aired after the war, most notably the attacks by Jubal Early and the Southern Historical Society on James Longstreet, who was deemed an apostate. His worst sin was to criticize Lee.

There were plenty of controversies on the Union side as well, although they are not generally as well known as those on the Southern side. These have to do primarily with Meade’s performance as commanding general of the Army of the Potomac during the campaign. They involve the intersection of the claims of ambitious officers, primarily Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles and Maj. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, who also were partisans of the army’s former commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, and the open war waged by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, the creation of radical congressional Republicans, against West Point graduates and Democrats (often one in the same) in the Union army. I will address these soon in my next installment.

Another Benefit of Big Retail Chains

Apparently such chains as Wal-Mart and Home Depot have disaster warning, relief, and recovery systems that tend to be larger, and far more efficient, than those of run by municipal governments. So claims this article, which discusses the response of the chains to the storms that hit the Pacific Northwest last week, not only to clean and repair their stores, but to assist employees and the community at large.

A tip of the hat to Division of Labour.

Huck and Dive

I take Peter’s point (and that of several commenters) that Huck represents the authentic disquiet in conservative ranks with the self-appointed and media-blessed front runners, and for a while I rather liked the idea of Huck. I seriously considered sending his campaign $100 or more just for the fun of it, until I started paying attention to some of his ideas, such as having the federal government get into the smoking ban business. No. Let’s not. In other ways he’s just too populist (in the bad sense of that word) for my tastes.

As a practical matter I doubt he has, or can get, the resources to follow up on an Iowa win, and organization and resources count more in this contest than momentum. I wonder if he even has full delegate slates filled out and filed in the subsequent primary states. This time-consuming step proved to be the Achilles Heel for both Reagan in 1976, and Gary Hart in 1984, both of whom left a lot of delegates on the table they could have had--in Reagan’s case, perhaps enough to have won the nomination.

Is Huck Another Dean?

Thanks to Steve Hayward for his post below. But, with all due respect, I don’t think he deserves any dibs. We’ve been discussing the Huck-Dean comparison, which is in some ways quite instructive, for weeks here at Berry College. And the most obvious possibility is that Huck will flame out like Dean. But there are differences: Dean had become the establishment candidate soon before imploding. He was endorsed, remember, by Steve’s good friend Al Gore, and many, many others. The Republican "establishment," meanwhile, has shown nothing but contempt for Huck, and that’s not likely to change. So the new man from Hope continues to benefit from the "outsider," "man of the people against the interests" perception. What united Democrats in 2004 was hatred for Bush, and the perception that any relatively moderate, uncontroversial candidate could beat him. As soon as it seemed Dean could really get the nomination, he suddenly seemed too risky. The most important thing was not that any particular Democrat win, but that Bush lose. It suddenly seemed obvious to the Democrats that the "electable alternative" was Kerry. (Boy, were they wrong!)

The Republicans aren’t united by hatred of Hillary; Hillary hatred ain’t what it used to be. And it’s not obvious who the electable alternative to Huckabee is. Giuliani has been fading for months, has not had good press, is conservative only on issues on which the Republicans seem unpopular and on the defensive (health care, Iraq, even more tax cuts), has not campaigned well, and missed numerous opportunities to reach out to social conservatives (by, for example, being against ROE).

Romney is just starting to show some character, but he has a way to go. Thompson and McCain seem too old and sort of yesterday’s news. In general, they all seem like yesterday’s news, parts of a party that now deserves to surrender the White House and give the other guys a chance.

But I’m in favor of giving McCain a close second look, simply because he joins Huck in scoring high in authenticity. The Republican establishment is discredited for lots of reasons, and the party really, really needs an outsider. McCain is trying to be one. Huckabee certainly is one. I agree with those who who say he’s surely too evangelical to be elected, and that we really don’t know much about him. He would certainly be a very high-risk nominee. But that criticism only works if there’s confidence that someone else can be elected. And, let’s face it, most astute Republicans are pretty despondent about their party’s prospects next November. I’m not endorsing Huck (far from it), but Republicans shouldn’t be smug about cooler heads prevailing against him.

I Call Dibs

For getting to use the obvious bon mot, "The Huck Stops Here" when Huckaby hits the wall in New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Michigan or wherever. He’s looking more and more like the Howard Dean of the 2008 race, capturing attention and generating impressive momentum, but likely to flame out as more and more problematic aspects of his record and views are vetted.

Let’s Pretend Day

A few weeks ago brought us "Talk Like a Pirate Day," which prompted several thought experiments featuring Schramm (what does a Hungarian pirate sound like anyway??).

Today is Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day. There are some mischievous suggestions here for you practical jokers out there in NLT Land:

Greet people by referring to things that don’t yet exist or haven’t existed for a long time. Example: "Have you penetrated the atmosphere lately?" "What spectrum will today’s broadcast be in?" and "Your king must be a kindly soul!"

Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell "NOOOOOOOOO"

Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished. [NB:But how would that be different than any day today??--Ed. Good question.]

Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it. [NB: Doesn’t Schramm do that now??--Ed. Yup.]

Hat Tip: Jim Lindgren, The Volokh Conspiracy

I Knew It

Everyone knows that Democrats prefer windsurfing to waterboarding, but today’s lead story in the Washington Post brings to light the inevitable hypocrisy of liberals on this episode: Hill Briefed on Waterboaring in 2002. Among those at the briefing: Intelligence Committee member Nancy Pelosi. Quoth the Post: "on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said. ’The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,’ said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange."

Reminds me of the episode in 1984 when members of the Senate, including especially my sometimes hero Daniel Patrick Moynihan, professed to be "shocked, shocked" to learn that the CIA was placing (non-lethal) mines in Nicaraguan harbors. Of course, the Senate Intelligence Committee had been briefed on the operation, but the temptation to grandstand was just too irresistible when the matter became public. Goldwater, one of the most outraged, at least had a decent excuse: He had missed the committee briefing. What’s Pelosi’s excuse?

We’ve lost Biggs, Red Leader

Wired tells of a team of amateur rocketeers who built a semi-working replica of an X-Wing Fighter and launched it somewhere in the desert outside San Diego. While it did make it off the launchpad, it exploded after only a few seconds in the air.

Of course, true Star Wars geeks know that this is what really happened to it.