Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Random Observations on McCain

1. His victory is narrow but real. No doubt Huck would have won had I not withheld my one-day/one-state endorsement. I actually heard some speculation that Huck’s flag comments hurt him in the "new" South Carolina earlier in the day. In general, Huck’s last week of campaigning was pretty uninspired.

2. The accusation the Fred was in the race merely to help McCain is surely untrue. But that was the "effectual truth" of the matter. Fred’s scattershot attacks on Huck didn’t help himself, but hurt Huck. And when Giuliani and Romney supporters cheered them, they did so not realizing they were also hurting their own candidate. Only today, belatedly, did they start to root for Huck in SC at the Corner.

3. McCain will be very hard to stop now. His lead in the national polls will increase, as will margins in California, New Jersey, and other states formerly thought to be Rudy locks.

4. Before tonight, Florida was sort of a four-way tie. But Huck will surely start to slide, and his vote will be split between Mitt and John, with most probably going to McCain. The slight chance of a Giuliani victory in Florida depended on a four-candidate race.

5. Now Romney really needs to win Florida, and it’s not impossible, but very unlikely. If McCain wins in Florida, it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t dominate the heck out of Feb. 5.

6. Another McCain advantage: When Fred drops out of the race, he’ll endorse McCain. If Huck were to drop out after a poor showing in Florida, he’ll almost surely endorse McCain (hoping, for one thing, to be on his ticket). If Giuliani were to drop out after finishing third in Florida, he’d surely endorse McCain. The more winnowing that occurs, the more isolated Mitt will seem.

7. Four more points: One reason McCain won in SC is they let people 65 and over vote there. Huck won the "youth" vote--those under 65. Huck, once again, was unable to attract many observant Catholic votes; they apparently went (once again) for Romney. Mitt erred by "pulling out" of SC, where he could have gotten, I think, a "better than expected" medal, at least. McCain may not have campaigned everywhere, but he never announced he wasn’t playing anywhere. Same with Huck, after all.

McCain wins S.C.

Here’s the story. Here are the exit poll results. McCain’s narrow victory over Huckabee was built on older, less conservative, and non-evangelical voters. Huckabee really didn’t break out from his evangelical base, who, if the exit polls are to be believed, accounted for the lion’s share of his votes (26 of the 30%). The New Hampshire bounce clearly helped McCain (folks who decided in the last week seem to have given him his margin of victory, with a last-minute Huckabee surge falling short).

Huckabee won on immigration (most important to 26% of the voters) and tied McCain on the economy (40%), and lost decisively to him on Iraq and terrorism (31% total).

This should be the end for Thompson. Huckabee’s ceiling seems pretty clear; the question is whether evangelicals will continue to stick with him in the face of his inability to appeal to anyone else. If it were solely a question of money, I’d say that he can continue indefinitely, since he gets an extremely good return on his minimal investments.

Florida can still be a four-way race, with McCain and Giuliani fighting over somewhat the same part of the electorate, and Romney with probably enough money to get a gold or silver. If evangelicals start bleeding from Huckabee, McCain has shown that he can win them over. Can Romney? If I were Mitt, I’d spend a lot of time (or at least money) in North and Central Florida seeing whether I can woo evangelicals.

Long War(s)

This past year I had the opportunity to serve as a member of the "Future War" panel of the Defense Science Board 2007 Summer Study. I have distilled my contribution to the final report in this piece for the Foreign Policy Research Insitute (FPRI). As some of you may know, I am the new editor of FPRI’s quarterly journal, Orbis.

Some Ashbrook readers may find the piece of interest. This is actually the kind of thing I do for a living at the Naval War College. Again, sorry. No Lincoln or Jaffa.

Random Observations

1. I still can’t link from home--long story. So I’ll have to tell you to go to NRO to read Matt Franck’s long defense of Huck’s living Constitution comments as "perfectly unobjectionable." Matt, of course, really knows his Constitution and is no Huck fan.

2. Fred has admitted that he didn’t understand that Huck was talking about AMENDING the Constitution. But he still criticizes him for naively using a phrase or "code words" that signify, for those in the know, judicial activism. But surely Huck was redefining a sophisticated slogan to fit with what the Founders really had in mind, as I do with "postmodernism rightly understood." (And perhaps the extremely pro-life Huck frightens federalism Fred by bringing up a fundamental alternative to judicial activism and popular sovereignty at the state level--amendment. Huck’s position is on abortion etc. is clearly too extreme to be winning one, but you gotta admire his guts for sticking with it.)

3. And to be fair-and-balanced, as always, let me add that Fred clearly gave a very fine first principles, anti-progressivist speech in South Carolina last night without relying on a script. He took his election eve obligation more seriously than the other candidates. As several have said, if Fred survives South Carolina, he’s going to have to bring that message forward all day every day to have a chance. (Remember: One poll has him surging, but clearly he’s going to have get at least a sliver, and, I think, a gold.) (Romney has won in Nevada--that’s three golds for him.)


Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a once trusted source of intelligence against al Quada, has been sentenced to life in prison. Even though there is more to the story than these few pages reveal, you still get a sense of the difficulties involved in gathering information about the bad guys. And, not unrelated, note this from Spain where good intelligence has led to the arrest fourteen terror suspects.

Random Observations

1. The very latest studies from South Carolina continue to show, for the most part, a dead heat between Huck and McCain. One deviant result, from the American Research Group, is Huck with a seven point lead and Thompson with a real surge to a strong third. That could lead Fred, Mitt, and Rudy fans to hope for a combination of Huckabee first and Thompson second that might really take John out. Because studies aren’t showing the same thing and the Palmetto state is in for some nasty weathy today, I can’t say for sure that fantasy won’t become real. But because the old are more persistent in the face of adversity than the young, I’m guessing the weather might favor McCain. You might also say, of course, that Huck’s evangelicals are better mobilized and ready to go no matter what, but I have no idea whether or not that’s true.

2. I continue to be bothered by Huck’s exploitation of the Confederate flag issue, which is contrary to his whole record on race in Arkansas. It’s not a big deal, but a deal. I say this only to encourage him not repeat this error in future states.

3. Bill Kristol, at THE WEEKLY STANDARD, has an exellent article about Republicans applying too high an ideological standard to Huckabee, McCain, and Romney. He says, and I gotta agree, that all this Reagan nostalgia is sort of creepy. Reagan was the leader of an ideological movement, and candidates generally aren’t. A normal candidate is an impure mixture of a variety of elements. BUT: Huck is pro-life, pro-guns, pro-low taxes, and was a very popular governor of a conservative state. McCain’s voting record has consistently been rated very highly by the American Conservative Union etc. (That is--his voting record is actually quite different from Lieberman’s or Scoop Jackson’s.) Romney manages to be moderately conservative on every issue. (Rudy, for some reason, is missing from the article.) Bill’s advice: Be for your favorite candidate, stop demonizing the others, the ones mentioned all good enough.

Hitch isn’t a Paine

Our friend Jerry Weinberger reviews Christopher Hitchens’ book on Thomas Paine and finds Hitchens to be more Franklinesque than Paineful, which, in his book, is high praise.

How is the Constitution alive?

Here’s the Thompson attack, which is a quibble about Huckabee’s language, not about the substance of what he says. I would have expected better from Thompson. You can watch the clip for yourself. Not the most felicitous use of words, but his meaning is clear enough: the Constitution can be amended--it is, after all, an expression of the constitutional will of the people--while the Bible cannot.

And Fred knows that, properly understood (not twisted for political purposes), Huckabee’s statement is consistent with what he says on his website.

Eastland, Huck, and the Living Constitution

Terry adopts a critical tone about Huck’s seemingly unscripted remarks about the Constitution, although he doesn’t point out anything Huck said that’s actually wrong.

Huck is quite critical of the academic "living Constitution" view that the Constitution can and should change or evolve through judicial interpretation. The Constitution has a mechanism for change--the amendment process. And it’s through amendment that the Constitution has changed--often to fulfuill better the intentions of the Declaration of Independence.

I haven’t heard any of the other candidates speak so clearly about the Constitution. Doesn’t Huck describe the living Constitution properly understood? Isn’t his a properly democratic and constitutional answer to the pretensions of judicial activism? (I hope you’re ok with this answer, Paul.)

UPDATE: My linking capability is disabled due to my incompetence, but: If you go to the Corner and scroll down to an entry by K-Lo, you will see Fred’s incredibly stupid attack on Huck on the living Constitution. According to Thompson, Huck’s view is identical to Gore’s about activist judges and all that. Anyone who can read or with any sense of fairness can see that’s not true. Of course, the Corner calls attention to the Fred attack in a seemingly favorable way. The heart of Fred’s so-called comeback, it seems to me, has been a series of unfair rants against Huckabee.

John McCain: Scoop Jackson Democrat

This is how Dean Barnett suggests conservatives should view John McCain as a coping mechanism should he become President. There’s something to the suggestion, it seems to me. It does bring to mind the legitimate point that there ought to be room for Scoop Jackson Democrats in the Republican party since there’s obviously no room for them among Democrats. But then Barnett considers McCain’s personal flaws and the many ways in which John McCain makes all charitable feelings toward him difficult for conservatives to muster. His latest remarks about ANWR are a perfect example of how he’s always willing to offer conservatives a gratuitous poke in the eye. Still, there’s a lesson in this. If conservatives don’t want to be guilty of imitating John McCain’s biggest vice, then conservatives ought to consider that when they’re wearing their GOP hat it might be wise NOT to poke Scoop Jackson Democrats in the eye.

RedBlueAmerica blog

Scripps is launching "a fully interactive forum for diverse political and cultural ideas and opinion." I mention this because Ben Boychuk is involved, and he is a good guy. Check out RedBlueAmerica yourself.

Jonah is #1

Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is the #1 seller at Amazon! Nicely done, Jonah. I guess I’ll have to read the book!

S.C. evangelicals undecided?

This poll (full report here) suggests that evangelicals are the largest single undecided bloc in S.C. It also seems to suggest that Romney’s effective surrender here might help Huckabee a bit, perhaps enough to overtake McCain.

McCain the S.C. insider?

These two Politico articles make that point, adding also that no one is really going after him (his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding).

Identity politics and the white working class

E.J. Dionne, Jr. notes that the recent squabble between the Clinton and Obama camps leaves white working class voters on the sidelines. I’d refine that a little. While identity politics is, to some degree, a middle class luxury, Obama obviously can reach out to African-Americans and Clinton to working women. (Unmarried women have historically accounted for a large portion of the so-called gender gap.) But the dispute leaves white working class men on the sidelines.

This is an opening for Republicans, if only they can figure out how to take it.

They’d do well to reread this article and get hold of this book, when it comes out.

South Carolina Update

The very latest studies confirm what Rob Jeffrey says. Huck’s bleeding has stopped, and it appears that he and McCain are in a dead heat. Meanwhile, Romney’s mini-surge seems to have topped out, as has Fred’s. So a vote for Huck is a vote to let the process continue. A decisive McCain victory would make him very hard to stop. Apparently McCain wins if lots of old people turn out. Huck wins if lots of the young turn out. If Guiliani and Romney supporters don’t actually vote for Huck in SC, they’ll have trouble denying that they hope he’ll win. (Given the right odds, I would still put money on Mitt to surprise, but his "people" don’t actually expect him to prevail. And even Fred is talking more about doing well than winning, altlhough nothing’s more obvious than he needs to win.)

And I don’t think the Confederate flag is like the Nazi flag or anything like that. But its official display did become a symbol of racial divisiveness and injustice that it’s best to get past. (As Ryan Rakness says in the thread below, sometimes the politically correct position is actually just correct.) Elections shouldn’t turn on the Confederate flag, as they have even in Georgia. The present governor of Geogia, in a most statesmanlike way, betrayed the flag defenders who elected him, still managed to get reelected by a landslide. and just about put an end to the controversy.

To be as fair-and-blanced as I can be, I wouldn’t choose between McCain and Huck based on their flag statements. John’s self-righteous self-criticism of his 2000 position on the issue offends me as much as Huck’s attempt to use that position to gain votes now. It also could be that I will end up concluding that I overreacted to Huck’s where to stick the pole remark.

An isolated, "redneck" flag remark, of course, might be more than counterbalanced by Huck’s bold pro-life statement quoted by Joe below. Reversing ROE, in truth, is just a beginning. Notice, too, that he’s not just putting forward the evangelical worldview but talking more in terms of something like natural law. If you read the whole interview you might wince a time or two, but overall you have to admit that there’s a lot to Huck that the other candidates lack--and even that he’s far more a subsidiarity than a big government guy. Part of my alleged overreaction all along to the MSM Republicans shrilly negative overreaction to Huck is its inability to acknowledge what’s good about him, Even Giuliani supporters like Julie have to acknowledge the new man from Hope’s superiority in certain key areas.

Huckabee’s reasonable higher law

Rod Dreher calls our attention to this very winsome Beliefnet interview, in which MH explains his God’s law remarks in terms that any proponent of natural law could accept. Here’s a snippet:

Well, I probably said it awkwardly, but the point I was trying to make– and I’ve said it better in the past – is that people sometimes say we shouldn’t have a human life amendment or a marriage amendment because the Constitution is far too sacred to change, and my point is, the Constitution was created as a document that could be changed. That’s the genius of it. The Bible, however, was not created to be amended and altered with each passing culture. If we have a definition of marriage, that we don’t change that definition, that we affirm that definition. And that the sanctity of human life is not just a religious issue. It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of our civilization of all people being equal, endowed by their creator with alienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


I think that whether someone is a Christian or not, the idea that a human life has dignity and intrinsic worth should be clear enough. I don’t think a person has to be a person of faith to say that once you redefine a human life and say there is a life not worth living, and that we have a right to terminate a human life because of its inconvenience to others in the society. That’s the real issue. That’s the heart of it. It’s not just about being against abortion. It’s really about, Is there is a point at which a human life, because it’s become a burden or inconvenience to others, is an expendable life. And once we’ve made a decision that there is such a time – whether it’s the termination of an unborn child in the womb or whether it’s the termination of an 80-year-old comatose patient -- we’ve already crossed that line. And then the question is, How far and how quickly do we move past that line?

And lest you think he’s playing the Confederate card, consider this:

And you also have states that not only practice abortion, but if Roe v. Wade is overturned, we haven’t won the battle. All we’ve done is now we’ve created the logic of the Civil War, which says that the right to the human life is geographical, not moral. I think that’s very problematic. That’s why I think that people like Fred Thompson are dead wrong when he says just leave that up to the states. Well, that’s again the logic of the Civil War – that slavery could be okay in Georgia but not okay in Massachusetts. Obviously we’d today say, “Well, that’s nonsense. Slavery is wrong, period.” It can’t be right somewhere and wrong somewhere else. Same with abortion.

Finally, on the matter of his "compassionate conservatism," he offers this measured response, with which even Fred Thompson couldn’t disagree:

I’ve said that, that I’ve felt like as Christians and particularly even as Republicans, we needed to address issues that touched the broader perspective, and that included disease, hunger, poverty, homelessness, the environment. And it’s not a matter that we’re going to become left-wingers. I don’t think that at all. I think taking care of the earth is a matter of stewardship. It’s not about global warming, it’s about stewardship and responsibility. Things like hunger and homelessness. And it’s not about having a government program, it’s about simply reminding each of us as individual citizens that this is an area of our own responsibility. At my own church… our church is very, very engaged in everything from dealing with hunger, poverty, and we reach out to a lot of people. We don’t ask the government to do it. We do it ourselves as a church. It’s part of our ministry. The only reason the government would get involved would be that the other social institutions – primarily the family the church the neighborhood – failed. If the family or church does its own work and does it well, then there’s no reason for government to ever get into these things at all. The ideal is that they wouldn’t, that they’ll do a lousy job of it generally.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Why we’re so confused

Andy Busch explains why our confusion is reasonable: all the considerations that go into making choices cut in different directions.

Almanac of South Carolina politics

Our old friend Rob Jeffrey offers us a lesson in South Carolina politics. Rob knows the state and the personalities quite well, thus providing an excellent context for those who would try to make sense of what’s going on in the Palmetto State.

His prediction? If Huckabee wins big in the upcountry, he’ll win the state; otherwise, we may end up with a fractured result. South Carolina may end up "predicting" the outcome by paving the way to a brokered convention.

I have to say that I’m a little less unimpressed by McCain’s prospects; see, for example, this poll. But Rob has much more local knowledge, and I know enough to know that Lindsay Graham’s support doesn’t help McCain all that much.

Stay tuned for Rob’s post-mortem after the race. He’ll explain why what happened happened.

Populism in the Bad Sense

I just saw Huck on CNN saying that the South Carolinians have every right to decide about their flag and something about where to stick the pole concerning those who would say otherwise. I guess they probably do have that right. Still, it is demagogic to try to rouse up the whole Confederate flag issue, which is, thank God, not what it once was. This has to be the dumbest conceivable way Huck could have come up with of distinguishing himself from McCain. I have been defending him by saying that there’s been nothing "Confederate" about his campaign. CNN can be misleading and inquiring minds want to know more. Still, this is enough for me to withhold my key one-state/one-day endorsement.

Lowry’s Strategizing

Someone emailed me to the effect that Rich, the leading light of the Cornerites, has urged Huck to go hyper-negative against McCain and, by implication, come close to urging the decent (Romney) people of South Carolina to vote for the new man from Hope as the only way of curbing John’s momentum. It goes without saying that life is to short for me to actually look for the link.

So here might be the strategic situation for many a social conservative: Even though my heart might be with Huckabee, should I go ahead and vote for Romney because he might actually get nominated? OR even though my head is with Mitt, should I go ahead and vote for Huckabee to stop McCain?

Because I’m perfectly aware that my one-state/one-day endorsement of Romney turned things around for him in Michigan, I’m huddling with my staff to decide whether to issue a one-day/one-state endorsement of Huck.

Hungarians and dogs barking

A few days ago I said that the Germans destroyed the mystery of Mona Lisa, now it turns out that the Hungarians have--with the help of some sheep dogs and computers--figured out "the acoustic features of barks and classify them according to different contexts and individual dogs." Actually, it’s the computer than can destroy the mystery of the bark, but I blame the Hungarians.

Handicapping S.C.

The WaPo’s Chris Cillizza thinks that the ground in a slightly more yankified South Carolina favors McCain this time, especially as Huckabee doesn’t have the socially conservative evangelicals to himself.

Quin Hillyer thinks that genuine conservatives ought to vote for Thompson on philosophical grounds, Giuliani supporters ought to support him to promote nomentum going into Florida, socons because Huckabee hasn’t shown the capacity to build a coalition around them, and South Carolina patriots to put a finger in the eyes of voters in the three states that voted earlier and to make the winner all the more indebted to them. We’ll see whether they all take his advice.

The latest Rasmussen poll suggests that Thompson has a long way to go, and that, if he gains, it will likely be at the expense of Romney, not at that of McCain and Huckabee (who are tied, with the latter having caught up with the former, thanks, probably, to Romney’s victory in Michigan). What hurts Huckabee is that social issues just don’t loom that large in the S.C. Republican electorate. What hurts McCain is that immigration does. If I were Huckabee, I’d stress my economic message. If I were McCain, I’d focus on national security. If I were Thompson, I’d throw everything I had at Romney, hoping to bleed enough voters from him to catch up to McCain and Huckabee. And if I were were Romney, I’d want anyone but McCain to win the race, because I’d be confident that no one can match my campaign spending from here on out.

Update: A Rich Lowry emailer argues that a number of polls overstated McCain’s support in Michigan (which would seem to hearten Huckabee supporters). But a quick look at this RCP chart for Michigan suggests that the only thing the pollsters didn’t get, on aggregate, was a big late break for Romney. Here is the current RCP chart for South Carolina.

Random Observations

1. My personal survey of the most recent studies showed that McCain’s loss in Michigan has not eaten into his momentum much. Those who won’t abandon all hope in Rudy should note McCain’s leads in California and Pennsylvania.

2. John has extended his lead in SC and Mitt is now a strong third. If Romney were to move into second, those two might well be the only ones who really battle it out on Feb. 5 and even in FL. Even a strong third in SC and a win in NV would be pretty momentum-y for Mitt.

3. It might be the case that more and more Huckabee fans are joining our friend Clint in thinking that it might be more "strategic" to cast a vote for a candidate who might actually be nominated. And they will divide between Romney and John in a way I can’t predict. So that we can really learn from Huck’s true strength, I’m hoping that Clint and the others stay the course.

4. If the studies are to be believed, Fred is dead. (That’s what they said.)

5. I’m pleased to notice that the Mormon issue is fading among Republicans as an obstacle for Mitt. That doesn’t mean I’m for him, but no one should be against him because he’s an upright religious guy who displays his "family values" through his faithful and responsible personal life.

U.S. Abortion Rate Declines

This article explains that the abortion rate in the U.S. has declined to its lowest level in 30 years. It is based on a study completed at the Guttmacher Institute--a non-profit organization that describes itself in the following way:

The Guttmacher Institute advances sexual and reproductive health through an interrelated program of social science research, policy analysis and public education designed to generate new ideas, encourage enlightened public debate, promote sound policy and program development and, ultimately, inform individual decision making.
From this description, further digging on their website and this quote from the author of the study:
"We don’t regard [the findings] as good or bad," Jones said. "It’s a descriptive study."
we can gather that the Guttmacher Institute is not some conservative agenda-driven group. If anything, it appears to have at least a hint of a leftward agenda.

So what does this mean? Does it indicate--as was speculated in this thread and in Peter Lawler’s numerous favorable mentions of the movie, Juno, that a sea-change of public opinion is coming on abortion?

Hillary’s Jalopy

George Will weighs in on the Hillary-Obama spat in much the same vein as David Brooks the other day, but with the benefit of this vivid turn of phrase: "Clinton’s clanking, wheezing political jalopy, blowing its gaskets and stripping its lug nuts. . ."

Photos of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

This L.A. Times story explains that three negatives of the crowd at Lincoln’s second inaugural ceremonies were recently discovered. Although the negatives had been around, they were mislabeled, thought to be from Grant’s inauguration, until a sharp eyed reader noted a few discrepancies. Here is the Library of Congress’ announcement. Note that at the end of the story you can click on the pictures themselves. I like this one.


Here’s the analysis of our friendly political scientist Dr. Pitney, which seems to me to have a pronounced pro-McCain bias. It’s true that John offers singular strengths on national security (pro-surge but borderline anti-Bush) and neutralizes the corruption issue that’s always brought against the party in power. But having, in effect, no domestic agenda and being unable to excite or even gain the full trust of the socially conservative base are not small weaknesses.

I have to add that the comments about Huck are unreasonably negative. It’s true that his strength wouldn’t be national security, but it’s not that clear to me that the Republicans will enjoy a national security advantage with the November electorate. It’s also not clear how much the election will turn on national security. Huck can’t really be confused with Faubus, and any attempt to do would backfire. And he is certainly strong where McCain is weak--on economic anxiety, social conservatism etc. I still don’t think he could actually win, of course.

Romney has some advantages on the issues, but the character and lovability concerns are real.

I’m not at all sure we have a solution to the electability problem at this point.

A Thoughtful Case for Romney

Let me preface this by saying that I was for Mitt for one day and in one state only. I’m moved by his competence but not by his charm so far. But here’s an email I received on his behalf by a particularly astute political analyst:

It occurred to me this morning why I like (but don’t love) Romney more than the rest. Romney is being accused of having adopted three different campaign messages in Iowa, NH, and MI, the implication being he is all ambition and a rank opportunist, etc. etc.
well, that is a bad thing...
BUT, it seems also true that Romney is the GOP’s most energetic AND competent candidate. reinventing/ changing your message on the fly is hard work. He wants to succeed and so he works for it and finds what works.

The GOP nominee is almost certainly doomed in the General. Having said that, the candidate with the best shot will be the one that is broadly conservative, with the most energy and competence.
what stands out about Bush is his lack of energy and competence (see inaction on Iraq from 04-06 and Katrina, bungled legislation, immigration tone deafness, etc). Sure Bush went to Business School-- all he learned was to wear a suit in the office. He reads History too-- like middle aged white (collar) males read history, they all want to be Churchill, anticipating foreign threats, staying the course, saving the world.

Romney doesn’t daydream, he works; he studies situational details and changes course accordingly. ASSUMING he has a core (which I think he does: see his happy family, his Mormonism and the moxie to govern Mass. as a prudent conservative), Romney’s flexibility, energy, and competence is the best medicine for a GOP suffering from Bush induced stagnation.

Huck- has his charms here and there. BUT methinks he is finally just a clever one trick pony, albeit an interestingly unorthodox one.
McCain’s record demonstrates that he has a big time core, which he will obstinately seek to advance, damn the Party ! the Polls ! whatever.
Thompson- glib and an almost orthoodox conservative, but NO ENERGY, no flexibility and therefore I doubt he will be able to respond to complex situations with creatively conservative policies.
Guliani- a complex candidate with many obvious warts. and I’ll leave it at that.

so, its Romney for me - because the guy doesn’t stand still.


Some bad guys (hundreds, maybe a thousand) captured a fort in Pakistan; first time ever. Not good. And then there is this, and this. Not good.

Hillary’s Michigan numbers

CNN notes that Hillary’s meaningless victory in Michigan may have revealed a problem: "...roughly 70 percent of Michigan’s African-American voters — a group that makes up a quarter of Michigan’s Democratic electorate — did not cast their votes for Clinton, choosing the ’uncommitted’ option instead. Yet these voters weren’t uncommitted at all: in fact, according to CNN exit polls, they overwhelmingly favored Barack Obama, whose name did not appear on the ballot.

Had Obama’s name been on the Michigan ballot, CNN exit polls show that he would have won an overwhelming 73 percent of the African-American vote, in contrast to 22 percent who say they would have voted for Clinton under those circumstances. If South Carolina’s large African-American community votes as Michigan’s, Hillary may not be feeling much ‘southern hospitality’ in that state."

Save Up!

Did you know that January is National Radon Action Month! I didn’t either. I stumbled across this by accident on the EPA’s website. How come the mainstream media is ignoring this important prelude to Black History Month? Does Radon Action Month come with a radon action figure??

The glorious ironies of homeschool

This morning, as is her wont when she’s doing almost any writing or math, my daughter was singing to herself. What she was doing was practicing her handwriting by copying out the fourth of these rules.

President of Michigan?

That’s how this unfriendly article characterizes Romney’s victory. Romney’s response presumably would be that Michigan is America in a microcosm.

If that’s true, then his prescriptions for Michigan’s health--which require heavy doses of government assistance and intervention--would seem to suggest that he wouldn’t "govern as a conservative." This is business Republicanism at its best: lift onerous regulations and provide lots of cash. Make the investments in basic research so that business doesn’t have to. When it’s convenient for your allies or welcome to your audience, pick winners rather than letting the market do so.

There’s a reason why in his Detroit Economic Club speech Romney didn’t mention the European model in his discussion of competing global models. (He mentioned the U.S., China, Russia-Iran-Venezuela, and jihadism.) It’s because his U.S. model looks pretty European to me.

Update: In his Michigan victory speech, Romney eschews the European model--"big government, big brother, big taxes"--but, aside from the big taxes, isn’t that what he’s proposing for Michigan (and hence for the nation)?

I have to say also that beyond the graceless preemption of McCain’s concession, there’s the equally graceless mentions of Reagan and Bush pere without the mention of the son. Wouldn’t invoking St. Ron have been sufficient, without the obvious slight at 43?

Update #2: Byron York reflects, somewhat more kindly than I have, on Romney’s Michigan strategy, noting (in disagreement with Romney) the sui generis character of Michigan’s plight. Also, if the Romney as outsider narrative is going to work in this field--who’s the insider? McCain??--won’t Romney have to bite the hand that’s been feeding him?

Quick Romney Thoughts

It’s an impressive victory, and a landslide among Republicans. Romney swept the conservatives and those who support President Bush. McCain did particularly well among those angry with the president. Romney’s perceived competence when it comes to economic matters helped him a lot. But he also did very well among socially conservative voters--including evangelicals and observant Catholics. Huck only prevailed among the very socially conservative, the very religious observant, and younger evangelicals. Huck’s showing was unimpressive but not devastating. Most troubling for his future was his poor showing among Catholics. Most troubling for McCain’s might be his poor showing among believers of any sort. Both Huck and McCain now have to win in SC. The "no-mo" scenario is becoming more credible. If Fred really were to win in SC, it’s barely but really possible that would allow Giuliani to sneak ahead once agin in FL. But if I could get the right odds, I’d put some money on Romney in SC. That’s not to say I have any real idea who’s going to win there, and I respect those who say it’s still going to be Huck. I just think Mitt has a chance now.

Huck probably won’t succeed in pushing the point that he was the first with the economic message that’s suddenly become fashionable; he certainly didn’t get the message out in Michigan. McCain can’t get away with just campaigning on patriotism and the surge, and he has to be credible on some domestic policy besides cutting spending. Romney was strengthened by his persistence and ingenuity in the face of adversity. The screen test for each candidates rightly continues, because none of them has really earned the part yet.

Why evangelicals need to talk to Catholics

Our friend RC2 patiently explains why the Huckabee remark quoted here is fraught with political problems.

"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it’s a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that’s what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards," Huckabee said, referring to the need for a constitutional human life amendment and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

As she notes, the thought behind the statement is defensible ("God’s standards" can, for example be conceived as the "laws of nature and nature’s God," which are accessible to all those created in God’s image). But getting there from the statement requires too much explaining. And, as she further notes, there are oodles of plain old political and potential theoretical problems with what he says:

In one sentence he’s just

*ceded the ground to those who would make the Constitution into anything they want (that’s what he’s doing after all);

*agreed with the Left that people who want to stick to the original meaning of the Constitution are elevating it to the level of a holy text;

*made the grounds of the defense of marriage and human life a matter of Revelation rather than reason and natural law;

*and arguably called for theocracy (that’s how it will play in the attack ads should he be the nominee).

If he can’t get past his Southern Baptist roots enough to walk this back to a ground that even non-evangelicals can share, he’s not up to the task of defending his political cause. Stated another way, even if he speaks "the language of Zion" as his first language, he needs to become bilingual, if he wants to be President. Otherwise, he might just be a darn good pastor, even if he only does praise services.

Update: You couldn’t ask for a better succinct statement on the subject than this.

Identity Politics, The Movie

Lots of people have linked to David Brook’s terrific column today on the civil war wrought by identity politics. Here’s
the movie version.

The closing of the Italian mind

In response to student and faculty protests, the Pope has decided not to visit an Italian university. Shame on those unwilling to entertain reasonable dissent from their views.

Hillary Clinton, Empty Pantsuit

Slate magazine is not generally regarded as a part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. In the week since New Hampshire, however, three of its writers have derided Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in strong and similar terms. For those old enough to remember the bitter divisions between supporters of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy in the spring of 1968, the tone of their comments suggests that the Clinton-Obama contest is going to leave deep scars.

First, Anne Applebaum argued that “the idea that Hillary is a very accomplished person because she was a star at Yale Law School, got involved in a few minor Washington issues, and had a decent career at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock before becoming a full-time presidential spouse just doesn’t hold water. . . . [H]er standing as a national political figure is derived solely from her marriage, and from nothing else. No man with that kind of personal biography would be considered electable.

Yesterday, Christopher Hitchens chimed in with “The Case Against Hillary Clinton,” which was, in part, a case against a third term for the Clinton co-presidency. “What do you have to forget or overlook in order to desire that this dysfunctional clan once more occupies the White House and is again in a position to rent the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign donors and to employ the Oval Office as a massage parlor?” Speaking specifically of the Clinton who is nominally on the ballot in 2008, Hitchens says, “Indifferent to truth, willing to use police-state tactics and vulgar libels against inconvenient witnesses, hopeless on health care, and flippant and fast and loose with national security: The case against Hillary Clinton for president is open-and-shut.”

Finally, Timothy Noah called Hillary’s attempt to run as the “experienced” candidate a “lie.” If that’s the quality Democratic voters ought to focus on, Hillary, Obama and John Edwards should all step aside and ask Joe Biden back into the race, since he has been a U.S. senator longer than the three of them, combined, have held elective office. Since neither Obama nor Edwards is running on his slender c.v., Noah asks, “Where the hell does she come off claiming superior experience?” He concludes, “Clinton’s claim to superior experience isn’t merely dishonest. It’s also potentially dangerous should she become the nominee. . . . Dennis Kucinich has more government experience than Clinton. . . . If Clinton doesn’t find a new theme soon, she won’t just be cutting Obama’s throat. She’ll also be cutting her own.”


I’ve been sitting here boring myself to (near) death filling out my annual Faculty Service Report. It did occur to me that three books you need know about three books that either have just or are just about to come out that have chapters by me (and many other great chapters besides):

INVITATION TO POLITICAL THOUGHT, ed. Kenneth Deutsch and Joseph Fornieri (Wadsworth). My contribution is "Introduction to Alexis de Tocqueville." I have to say that if you’re going to teach political philosophy with a single text, this is the one. It includes generous exceptions from primary texts and features all kinds of distinguished contributors. Worth the book’s price alone is Ralph Hancock’s invitation to Luther and Calvin.

CHRISTIANITY AND POWER POLITICS TODAY, ed. Eric Patterson (Palgrave). The essays in this book are characteristically both tough and realistic. Mine is "American Christian Political Realism."

MAGNANIMITY AND STATESMANSHIP, ed. Carson Hollway (Lexington). This is really a fabulous Strauss-inspired collection on the most manly of topics. My chapter is "Tocqueville on Greatness and Justice."

WWWD? What Would George W. Bush Do?

Let’s face it: None of our candidates really claim they’ll be constantly asking themselves that question when he hits the Oval Office. And they won’t even really be asking what would Ronald Reagan do, although their constant invocation of Reagan is a pretty stern implicit criticism of the Presidents Bush.

Still, in response to Joe’s question below: I would say that Huckabee is most like Bush. He’s all for the tax cuts, more with Bush on all the details of social conservatism than any other candidate, and certainly has the same weakness for compassionate policy. Huck has been critical of the president’s foreign policy "mentality." But if you look, again, to the details, it’s unclear what would really change after President Huck got up to foreign policy speed. (He may not have read the NIE, but let’s face it, the NIE ain’t rocket science and Huck is plenty smart.)

But no candidate (such as Thompson) is going to make it clear that his criticisms of Huck apply to the president (especially in SC, where Bush is still fairly popular among Republicans). And of course, given the fact that the president would be slaughtered if could run for reelection, no candidate is saying "stay the course."

I applaud the consistency (if not necessarily the wisdom) of those, such as some people at the Claremont Institute, who criticize both the president and Huck for being too evangelical.

Mona Lisa

Leave it to the Germans to solve a mystery and thereby add to the prose of life. Yeats is better, "He tells of the Perfect Beauty"

O cloud-pale eyelids, dream-dimmed eyes,

The poets labouring all their days

To build a perfect beauty in rhyme

Are overthrown by a woman’s gaze

And by the unlabouring brood of the skies:

And therefore my heart will bow, when dew

Is dropping sleep, until God burn time,

Before the unlabouring stars and you.

The First Republican Church of America?

David Gushee writes in 2008 about evangelical politics in 2004. It’s as if he hadn’t heard that some evangelical leaders were thinking of bolting the Republican Party, especially if Giuliani were the nominee, and that Mike Huckabee’s appeal to young evangelicals is based on his embrace of an agenda that includes things like concern for the poor.

Yes, the overwhelming majority of white evangelicals will likely vote Republican in the fall (though, depending upon the nominee, the absolute numbers may not be as impressive as they were in 2004), but some of the blame for that falls to the Democrats, who remain in the thrall of their "progressive" wing and so have a hard time articulating a morally traditionalist message.

The Bush legacy again

E.J. Dionne, Jr. attempts to make sense of the Republican aspirants’ stances toward President Bush. He fails. According to him, Thompson and Giuliani have been least critical, while Romney (recently, at least), McCain, and Huckabee are trying to put the most distance between themselves and the President.

A better way of conceiving it is to think of four aspects of the Bush legacy: foreign policy, "compassionate conservatism," "the culture of life," and tax cuts (or, more broadly, fiscal and economic policy). Different parts of the Republican coalition embrace different elements of this legacy, and the candidates are appealing to these different parts. Thus, for example, far from being the most different from Bush, on "compassionate conservatism" and "the culture of life," Huckabee is most like Bush. And Giuliani has been least critical because he’s not about to say much about the one element of Bush’s legacy--"the culture of life"--where he’s most at odds.

It’s probably impossible to win either the nomination or the general election by frankly embracing all the facets of George W. Bush’s legacy. Romney tried that for a while (well, he didn’t say much about compassionate conservatism), but being all things to all people got him "silver medals," as he put it. And in a fractured field, everyone has to maximize his appeal to his niche. In this regard, it seems to me that McCain actually has the toughest row to hoe, because his crossover appeal to moderates and independents is at odds with his strong support for the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Nevertheless, however the nomination is won, and whoever wins it, I can’t imagine the nominee not trying to appeal to all the elements of the Bush coalition: national security conservatives, religious conservatives (whose agenda is indeed broadening, but not at the expense of bedrock socially conservative "values"), and fiscal conservatives.

I’m for Romney Today

1. If I were a citizen of Michigan, I might well vote for Romney today. I certainly am rooting for him to win there at this moment. He’s run a decent and serious campaign and would be a good president. So he deserves one significant gold to go with his silvers. Not only that, there’s the real risk that McCain momentum might morph into buyer’s remorse for Republicans.

2. We, at least, need time to absorb Steve Hayward’s thought that McCain would be the weakest Republican nominee. I, for one, have been moved by those who’ve reminded us that John’s domestic record has largely been partnering with Democratic senators to pass really bad bills. (McCain-Feingold is just one example.) Recall the old joke told by the old conservative Stan Evans: The Republicans are the stupid party and the Democrats are the evil party. Sometimes they work together to do something that’s both stupid and evil. The point of the dumb joke concerns how McCain would work with a heavily Democratic Congress.

3. Had our NLT message of hope and CHANGE and love not been interrupted by more "technical difficulties," I would have linked a NYT article that described the evangelical "youth movement" behind Huckabee. What energy there is in our fairly decadent party is with such Praise Music loving kids. The one candidate that turns them off completely is Giuliani. So as weak as McCain might be in some ways, Rudy, in my view, is not the remedy.

4. Huck, so far, has not had much success reaching out beyond his evangelical base. I’m not wasting my time with Fred unless he pulls off the miracle of winning in South Carolina. So we may well be sorry if Michigan causes us not to have Romney to kick around any more.

5. Mitt, as I’ve said before, has had trouble displaying his manly character on the campaign trail. He doesn’t have a cool nickname like John "the Warrior" (or "the Pilot") McCain. 0r "Preacher" Huckabee. We need to give this some thought. "The Technocrat" or "the Expert" won’t work.