Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A little more about South Carolina

Marc Ambinder has some useful observations. Consider these three, for example:

5. The exit polls show that Bill Clinton did not help his wife not one bit in South Carolina and may have hurt her. Late deciders were driven to Obama by large margins.

6. Obama kept it competitive with white voters and brought tens of thousands of new voters and young voters into the process. His usual coalition -- younger folks, folks with college degrees -- expanded to include voters of all income levels. This is key to Feb. 5.

7. Whether the racial prism through which South Carolina was viewed was, in matter of fact, the fault of a concerted effort by the Clintons, the political establishment believes it to be so, and the Clintons face a huge perception problem.

And then there’s
this: as some have noted (gleefully or glumly), Obama received more votes than the top two Republicans in last week’s primary. To be sure, weather was a factor then, but there’s more chill in that number than the mere threat of snow. Here, by way of contrast, are the 2004 Democratic results. Back then, roughly 300,000 people voted; this time, Obama got almost that many votes by himself. In 2008, roughly 180,000 more people voted in the Democratic than in the Republican primary. In 2000, over 500,000 people voted in the Republican primary, but since the Democrats caucused that year, we shouldn’t read too much into that. The bottom line: the Democratic primary turnout wasn’t far off Kerry’s total vote in the 2004 general election, while the Republican result this time was almost 600,000 votes shy of GWB’s 2004 total in the state.

A simple-minded projection from the primaries to the general election suggests that South Carolina--a state Republicans have won comfortably in recent years--would be in play in 2008. Of course, there’s reason why we have campaigns with real candidates, not just projections of hypothetical candidates. But it’s fair to say that Republicans will need to generate far more enthusiasm and undeertake a GOTV operation of Rovian efficiency and effectiveness in order to have a shot at winning in November.

Random Observations About Democrats

1. Obama’s victory in SC was impressive. He not only (overwhelmingly) carried the black vote, but the young vote. And he got a significant amount of the white vote generally.

2. Hillary carried the white women, but Edwards carried the white men. Edwards only came in third because he got virtually black vote at all, while Hillary got nearly 20%.

3. So it’s almost clear that the Democrats are about race (Obama), class (Edwards), and gender (Clinton). Well, almost clear: Edwards SC voters were especially affluent. Poor John was the candidate of the rich, white, male who believe that America is not ready for a black or woman president.

4. We can say that the Democratic race tightened a bit as a result of this result. Obama will probably do well throughout the South on Feb. 5, and so he could afford to sustain relatively narrow losses elsewhere.

5. Is a tight race in the interest of the Republicans? Well, probably not. It increases the chance of a Hillary-Obama ticket (which she doesn’t really want but might get stuck with, especially if he has lots of delegates at the convention). That ticket, in the astute judgment of Joe Carter, would be unbeatable. I suspect Bill Clinton shares that judgment.

6. The case for McCain is, most of all, that he would be the strongest candidate against Cinton(s). Would he really be a good choice against Obama?

7. I agree that Obama’s alleged promise to make Edwards attorney general is especially troubling. Great defense lawyers who turn prosecutor are especially tough. Our prisons might end up fuller than ever, and our definition of criminality might change.

Bush’s Legacy and Reagan’s

The Cannons, pere et fils, write that in some respects GWB’s domestic legacy rivals (and perhaps even exceeds) RWR’s. Compare, for example, Bush’s Supreme Court appointees to Reagan’s. Reagan gave us Scalia, but also O’Connor and Kennedy. While it’s too soon to tell whether Roberts and Alito will "evolve," they’re surely better than the current versions of the latter two RWR appointees.

While cautioning that presidencies look quite a bit different long after they’re over, the Cannons’ conclusion is harsh:

Bush’s approval rating is now in Carter territory, less than 30 percent of Americans hold a positive view of the Republican Party, and Democratic presidential candidates have overtaken the Republicans in campaign money, votes and crowds. The Republicans’ chances of taking Congress back from the Democrats are slim. So we can indeed reach a short-term political judgment of George W. Bush: He is a disaster -- if not the worst president of all time, then at least the worst since Carter, Hoover or any other recent failure. But who knows how the story will end?

To be sure, they note that Congressional Republicans had a hand in their own political fate and that of their party and that the end of the Cold War complicated the relationship of the GOP to the voters. President Bush is arguably responsible for two causes of the GOP’s slide: Iraq and the closely related perception of administrative incompetence, manifested in other ways as well. But if you consider the execution of the Iraq policy, the two people most closely associated with it are...(drum roll please)...Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, both old Republican hands whose "orthodoxy" is hard to question. Yes, GWB is ultimately responsible (at least in part) for the short-term fate of his party, but the men who urged him on are GOP stalwarts. The current state of the GOP is as much the result of what it did to itself as the result of what Bush did to it.

Democrats and religion

Prominent Democrat Leah Daughtry wishes that the exit polls for her party’s primaries would cover religion as well as those for the Republicans do. After all, she argues, Democrats are people of faith, too.

Here’s her argument:

Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith. My own support for the party stems from my sense that it is most emblematic of gospel values. Democrats believe in equal opportunity for all Americans, that no child should go to bed hungry or go without health care, that we should be good stewards of the earth, that we shouldn’t pass on debt to our children, and that people who work hard should be able to earn a living wage so they can support their families.

I don’t per se object to these "gospel values," though I have two questions. First, I’m not sure that they’re all rooted in the Gospel, even as I can think of some "gospel values" that don’t make her list. And second, even if they are, the Gospel doesn’t tell us that government should compel people to uphold them.

Of course, she notes, these "gospel values" are shared by non-believers, so, in fact, they’re aren’t simply or strictly "gospel values." Good; there’s no religious test for becoming a Democrat. The Democrats aren’t exclusively "Christian Democrats."

Of course, if everything that she thinks follows from the character of her "gospel values," then those who don’t uphold them (in her way) can’t be Christians. While there’s no religious test for being a Democrat, there is one to define the other party. Genuine Christians can’t be Republicans. (I know that I’m engaging in a kind of exaggeration of her argument. Doubtless she’s not quite this ungenerous with her political foes. After all, she’s called to love them. But it remains the case that Democrats have a habit of citing the passage from James about faith and works, as if genuine faith were always reflected in a voting record that won the approval of the ADA.)

The evidence that I’m exaggerating comes from something else she says:

The DNC has been actively engaging people of faith who share the core values and principles of the Democratic Party.

She concedes, in other words, that there are "people of faith" who don’t "share the core values and principles of the Democratic Party." Does this mean that the core values are different from "gospel values" or that those people of faith are simply misguided? If it’s the latter, then there’s no point in talking to them. The Democrats apparently have nothing to learn from "people of faith" who disagree with them. Their views will not be permitted to influence or transform the party, which, after all, is committed to its "core values and principles."

Stated another way, the current visibility of people of faith in the Democratic Party shouldn’t lead us to conclude that anything about the party has changed or will change.

Religion & the death penalty

Our friend RC2 calls our attention to this piece on the death penalty by Walter Berns, one of my professors in grad school. If you’ve read his book on the subject, the argument will be familiar, but he also offers an interesting reflection on how the current spiritual state of Europe might affect its attitude toward the death penalty.

Random Observations

1. The Zogby poll shows erosion in both Giuliani’s and Huck’s support in Florida, and McCain with a narrow lead over Romney. It’s now clearly a two-man race in Florida, and probably both John and Mitt will continue to gain in the closing days. I don’t know who’s going to win. I do know that Romney needs the win more.

2. I’ve been (properly) criticized in the thread for saying that a constitutionalist who prefers Giuliani over McCain would have to be afflicted with deranged personal hatred. He’s the case against me, in my opinion: Rudy is interested and fairly clear on constitutional issues of concern to conservatives other than those that flow from ROE (about which he has no understanding at all). Rudy has appointed an able board of judicial advisors, to whom he might listen if he got to make judicial appointments. And there are various kinds of conservatives over there at THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY. At one extreme you have people like Scalia and myself who are against judicial activism pretty much across the board. We’re anti-ROE and anti-LOCHNER. At the other you have Randy Barnett who wants a new birth of judicial activism across the board; he and his fans pro-ROE and pro-LOCHNER. Most conservative constitutional types are someone between those two extremes. From my extreme view, Rudy’s position seems especially pernicious, while John has at least written clearly he knows what’s wrong with ROE. But I would have to add that Giuliani, Romney, and Huck have all shown us more evidence of their sound personal reflection on constitutional limits than McCain.

The Billary Chronicles, Continued

The liberal backlash against the Clintons continues to mount. Exhibit 1 this morning is NY Times columnist Bob Herbert:

Bill Clinton, in his over-the-top advocacy of his wife’s candidacy, has at times sounded like a man who’s gone off his medication. And some of the Clinton surrogates have been flat-out reprehensible. . .

Still, it’s legitimate to ask, given the destructive developments of the last few weeks, whether the Clintons are capable of being anything but divisive. It makes one wonder whether they have any understanding or regard for the corrosive long-term effects — on their party and the nation — of pitting people bitterly and unnecessarily against one another. What kind of people are the Clintons?

Okay, so we know Herbert is a slow learner, since most of the rest of us know the answer to that last question.

Exhibit 2 is WaPo columnist Colbert King, who writes today of "that superficially charming, self-absorbed couple Billary, ever so possessed with an outsize sense of entitlement." More:

If they make it there -- a big if -- the only unanswered question is where Bill will choose to hang his hat. Will it be in her old space in the East Wing, or will he set up shop in the West Wing? Smart money is on Billary settling in the Oval Office with "his" and "hers" desks. Who would have thought, eight years ago, that the country might get back Billary, two people reeking of self-pity and spoiling for fights with anyone who has the temerity to stand in their way?

Now, both Herbert and King are columnists who, as the old trope might go, "happen to be black," and so no doubt some Clinton surrogates will dismiss them for merely sticking with racial solidarity. But who is that has fostered this kind of racial solidarity, and sense of "entitlement," in the first place?

After Mondale was smashed up in the 1984 election, Kevin Phillips wrote that it signaled “the death knell for the smokestack wing of the Democratic Party.” To be replaced by what? The identity politics wing of liberalism, that’s what. Now we are seeing the chickens come home to roost. Interestingly, shortly after the 1984 election, Bill Clinton commented to journalist Peter Brown about Jesse Jackson that “I have never believed Democrats need to distance themselves from him. I think Democrats need to disagree with him.” Sister Souljah didn’t know it, but Clinton had painted a bullseye on her back, with a use-by date of 1992. Now it’s Obama’s turn.

Billary’s Dynastic Dilemma

“Sen. Clinton, if you are elected president, will you have the power to stop your husband from making public statements that could be harmful to your administration? Could you, for example, prevent him from deriding the arguments of a foreign leader or a prominent Senator as a ‘fairy tale?’”

If a journalist or an opponent asks this question the answer is certain to be something that cannot be parsed to yield a recognizable “Yes” or “No.” We’ve known since 1991 that the first principle of Clintonian metaphysics is the rejection of false dichotomies. It’s a sound principle, as far as it goes – they’re called false dichotomies for a reason. The problem is that in the parallel universe the Clintons inhabit, there are no true dichotomies. It is possible there for Bill to smoke marijuana without smoking marijuana, and Hillary to vote for a bankruptcy bill as a way to register her opposition to it. Poor John Kerry voted for things before he voted against them. The Clintons, however, break through the space-time continuum to be for and against things, to do and not do things, at the same time. No wonder the meaning of the word "is" goes up for grabs.

Hillary can hardly run on the promise that her husband will be the loose cannon of her administration, acting as minister without portfolio and political commentator at large. Ronald Reagan didn’t think the voters or the Constitution could allow former Pres. Ford to become “co-president” in 1980, and the idea doesn’t sound any more promising 28 years later. But if she insists that Bill Clinton will be subdued starting next January in a way he hasn’t been this January, she is either endorsing his over-the-top Obamaphobia, or making the weird claim that she’ll have more control over her presidency than over her presidential campaign.

Inevitably, Hillary wants to have it both ways, to distance herself from Bill’s attacks and avail herself of them. “I’m here, not my husband,” she said in Monday night’s debate. “This campaign is not about our spouses, it’s about us. . . . At the end of the day, voters are going to have to choose among us.” Yet her campaign advisors made clear to Patrick Healy of the New York Times that, “Mr. Clinton is deliberately trying to play bad cop against Mr. Obama,” leading Healy to observe that “the Clintons are all but openly running together as a power couple ready to take office in 2009.”

The tenor of the criticism of Bill Clinton’s role in his wife’s campaign since the Iowa caucuses could lead to the conclusion that the vast right-wing conspiracy has picked up some surprising new members. Joe Klein calls it “desperate,” “unprecedented,” and accuses Clinton of making “a spectacle of himself.” Clinton’s “transition from elder statesman, leader of his party and bipartisan ambassador to ward heeler and hatchet man has been seamless — and seamy,” according to Maureen Dowd. E.J. Dionne laments “Clinton’s Depressing Assault on Obama.” Michael Tomasky says that Clinton has “done himself a tremendous amount of damage” by campaigning “against a fellow Democrat no differently than if Obama had been Newt Gingrich.”

It’s clear that the Clinton campaign is willing to pay the price of diminishing Bill, as long as it diminishes Barack Obama even more. James Carville, of course, is happy to give the Times the pugnacious take-away snarl: “This is not Williams College students electing a commencement speaker. This is a huge deal. Does the president risk going overboard? Sure. But Obama runs a risk of being wussified.”

But the whole process has diminished Hillary Clinton, too – in ways that might not cost her the nomination or even the election, but which will put a Barry Bonds-sized asterisk beside her name in the history books. To the extent the 2008 Clinton campaign is about them it’s not about her. No detailed recitation of policy nuances can keep such a candidate from being reduced to Lurleen Wallace, a political spouse running as a stand-in for her term-limited husband. The New Republic’s Michael Crowley says that debunking Hillary’s claim that her Oval-Office-relevant credentials go all the way back to when she was a 25-year-old law student is beside the point. “Experience” is the Clinton campaign’s code word for having a former president right down the hall. The first female president will give us our first training-wheels presidency.

New Ad for the Marines

It’s really good.

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit

Random Observations

1. Thanks to all the CHANGE AGENTS who came out last night at Georgetown to hear my message of hope and love. My apologies to Dr. Pat for being so hard on his furniture, although my lawyer’s story is the table attacked me.

2. The latest studies show a dead heat in FL, and that means Romney has slipped a little. Huck has stopped slipping. Giuliani remains at 18% (which is about as interesting at this point as Francisco Franco is still dead). (That’s just a joke; I’m not calling Rudy or anyone else a fascist.)

3. Nationwide, McCain is not extending his lead, although he still leads. Huck is still a strong second and is apparently not slipping. Romney is third and probably needs some mo’ (in addition to all his money) to show well enough on February 5.

4. I didn’t see the debate last night. But the best comment I read is that it was dull and substantive, and so naturally Romney prevailed.

5. In talking to various experts in DC, I learned that conservative lawyers and other constitutional types really don’t want McCain. They’re pretty sure he’d appoint a Kennedy or Souter type to the Court just to show his integrity and freedom from conservative prejudice. I’m not saying they’re right... And the few who say they’d prefer even Giuliani are clearly suffering from deranged hostility to McCain syndrome.

6. Other inside-the-beltway types are for McCain because they think the deranged attacks on him are deranged. Or at least that’s what they say. Most people actually don’t think Romney can win, and it’s possible John could.

7. Everyone agrees with Yuval and David Frum etc. that Republicans, unless they get smart and start offering credible alterntives, will get slaughtered on the domestic issues.

The three-legged stool

David Frum takes a look at the Republican coalition. In a year when economic issues are likely to predominate as voters go to the polls, "[w]hat the Republican Party desperately needs is a domestic program that responds to the values and needs of the tens of millions of American families making around $70,000 a year. That’s not an impossible order. But it will take some new thinking by our presidential candidates and other leaders to meet it." It’s all fine and good to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, but that’s not going to win the election.

Some unsolicited advice for the Huckabee campaign

I offer it here.

Update: Well, he’s not a Southern pol, but Duncan Hunter has endorsed Huckabee. Don’t laugh; he has one convention delegate.

And while we’re at it, opinions are all over the place on what Thompson’s departure does to the race. My bet: voters might follow their hearts, but activists and politicians are looking for a winner.

Finally, this WaTi article paints an unfavorable picture of Huckabee’s governing style in Arkansas. The big charge is that he did less to build the Arkansas GOP than to promote his own agenda. Sounds kinda like a guy who had other things on his mind, both for his state and for himself. And, as the article notes, Mitt Romney didn’t exactly devote himself to building the Massachusetts GOP while he was in office.


I talked with Andy Busch about politics yesterday. About a half hour, with Andy in top form.   

Tavern Talk

I’ve been visiting taverns lately, and last night I gave a talk to about 50 men, followed by a long conversation. The vast majority are still unenthusiastic about the GOP field. Yet, patterns are starting to take shape, more complete and thoughtful opinions are starting to form. They have seen enough to think the following: 1) Guilliani is finished; he shouldn’t have tried to pull the inside straight. 2) Too bad that Thompson couldn’t make a go of it, but there is something to be said about ambition, and he should have revealed more of it; also, he should not have let his wife get involved in his campaign; he should have acted like the man he appeared to be before his campaign started. 3) Even his initial supporters now admit that Huckabee is too incomplete to be president, although they liked his feisty ability to gab. 4) The more moderate and business oriented conservatives are moving toward Romney; they are now saying that his steady competence is worth something. 5) Those that are most deeply concerned about the terror war like McCain, for the reasons Rich Lowry notes; heroic character will keep us safe, besides, he’ll probably be forced to move right for the general campaign (including having a more conservative running mate) and he will keep his promises. Anyway, they are convinced that after Florida they will have to choose between Romney and McCain.

And last, although they are not surprised by the Clintons’ viciousness in general, they are in awe of its fierceness and boldness and baseness toward Obama; and none of them thought Hillary would have this kind of Sister Souljah moment, especially before South Carolina. Somebody said that this is like watching the Sopranos. They now think that the GOP actually may have a slightly better chance in November, maybe a five percent better chance, but still not 50-50.

Dennis Prager’s View of Rudy

Dan keeps calling our attention in the threads to the fact that Dennis Prager has endorsed Giuliani. Indeed he has, so I include the link for those of you still open-minded enough to consider the argument. Like Prager, I am more or less resigned to the unlikely odds Rudy’s facing in Florida and, therefore, the rest of the contest. But also like Prager, I think this is a shame and a missed opportunity and that it does not portend good things for November. I expect I will continue to mystify those of you who think me mad in my support for Rudy. But those of you who no longer have a reasonable expectation of Huck pulling through really should explain why McCain or Romney are worthy of more of your trust on judicial appointments--which is the ONLY way the next president (if it’s one of these three guys) is going to touch the abortion question as a practical matter.

Obama on abortion

In response to the comments on this post, I thought it worthwhile to do a little digging. Here’s a site detailing Obama’s record on this issue. From the pro-life point of view, it’s not pretty. He has, for example, voted against a partial-birth abortion ban that provided for an exception regarding the life of the mother because it lacked an exception for the health of the mother, an exception capacious enough to amount to pba on demand. He also voted against the parental notification bill. And his rating from National Right to Life is a big fat zero.

In other words, for all the agonizing in which he engages, his record is that of a garden-variety pro-choicer.

Indeed, consider what he says about his role as the father of two daughters:

“I’m all for education for our young people, encouraging abstinence until marriage, but I also believe that young people do things regardless of what their parents tell them to do and I don’t want my daughters ending up in really difficult situations because I didn’t communicate to them, how to protect themselves if they make a mistake. I think we’ve got to have that kind of comprehensive view that says family planning and education for our young people and so forth – to prevent teen pregnancies, to prevent the kinds of situations that lead to women having to struggle with these difficult decisions and we should be supportive of those efforts."

Note that he starts with abstinence and then moves to birth control (which undermines the abstinence message). But he’s willing to let his daughters "struggle with the issues," in the event they are confronted with "unplanned parenthood."

Note also that the Clinton campaign has attacked him, not in particularly good faith (of course), to which the Obama campaign has responded by emphasizing his ties to Planned Parenthood.

Interestingly, you can’t find much on Obama’s campaign website about abortion--only this. His reluctance to talk about it--despite a record that abortion advocates ought to regard as sterling--provides an interesting contrast with HRC’s forthright embrace of "choice."

Update: Our friend the Friar notes an odd turn of phrase earlier in the campaign season.

Immigration and Hispanic evangelicals

This is worth pondering. Observant Hispanic evangelicals and Catholics have demonstrated openness to Republicans in the past. Is there a way of talking about the enforcement of immigration laws that doesn’t alienate them? Or should people who care about life issues simply hope that their migration over to the Democrats helps that party revert to positions that it once held, before the rise of the "choice" lobby?

Religion and politics in S.C.

This isn’t really news, though when Republicans engage in this sort of behavior there’s typically all sorts of worry about theocracy. Is there no worry in this case because no one thinks the Democrats are serious?

For the record, I think Obama is serious about his "religion" and that he’s not a theocrat in any ordinary sense, just a run-of-the-mill big government guy.

Money Matters

Confession time: I hate thinking about money. I hate thinking about the details of investing and taxes and really, generally, anything that’s got to do with my lifelong enemies: numbers. I don’t think that makes me an unusual person or even a deeply flawed person. Indeed, in most ways, I think that makes me a healthy person. In any event, I’m pretty sure that if nothing else, it makes me a typical person. Still, even healthy and widespread habits (of body or mind) can be overdone. You can exercise yourself to death and you can "not worry" yourself right into poverty and all the evils that come with a state of financial embarrassment.

The last week on Wall Street has had a way of re-focusing the mind on the details of one’s financial future--rather like the proverbial two-by-four across the forehead might have a way of waking a person out of pleasant slumber. But leaving aside the details of this or that investment and bromide filled promises to "stimulate" the economy, the big picture remains that economies and markets cycle, things (particularly housing prices) were puffed up, and all the old rules about having appreciation for the real value of your dollar will always apply--no matter how creative your financing is.

But given this reassertion of the old rules of economy into the forefront of our minds, which presidential candidates are best equipped to help us see the bigger picture in these times? We know what the Dems are going to say and it’s certainly going to be something that enhances their power and our dependence on government. Steve Forbes, on the other hand, thinks Rudy Giuliani is exactly the man with exactly the proposals that will help Americans understand that "self-government, not centralized government, makes America great." His combination of tax cuts and tax reform with strong incentives for middle class savings is, indeed, a breath of fresh air. Much, much more needs to be said to Americans about savings these days. Conservatives have been derelict in neglecting that aspect of conservatism (at least as long as I can remember). Tax rebates may get the economy going for a short hop . . . but all we’re really doing is hoping that people spend more money they may not need to spend. Spending is important to keep the economy moving. But savings and investments are important to keep the economy healthy in bad times and to keep the people self-governing rather than dependent.

This article also argues that Rudy has an opening in tonight’s debate in Boca Raton to show his strength on this issue against McCain, especially, but also Romney who is likely to be mired in detail. If Giuliani can keep his message on the economy and taxes focused on fundamentals that are clearly understood and appeal to an old-fashioned sense of justice and economy, it could help him. Also see Michael Barone’s very good piece on the ways in which our understanding of the state of the economy has become very partisan based instead of experience based. This has to do with that generational shift we keep talking about. The Depression is less and less a factor. The 70s and disasters of the Carter administration are becoming a dim memory. The median birth year for today’s voter is 1963. In the end, he argues, the realities of this economy call for new and clear thinking not old partisan prescriptions.

More Obama and religion

In addition to the speech on which I posted, Obama has given two interviews on religion and politics in recent days. In addition to a kind of personal testimony about his life as a man of faith, there are some interesting comments about abortion and about the faith-based initiative.

Here’s Obama on abortion:

Ultimately, women are in the best position to make a decision at the end of the day about these issues. With significant constraints. For example, I think we can legitimately say — the state can legitimately say — that we are prohibiting late-term abortions as long as there’s an exception for the mother’s health. Those provisions that I voted against typically didn’t have those exceptions, which raises profound questions where you might have a mother at great risk. Those are issues that I don’t think the government can unilaterally make a decision about. I think they need to be made in consultation with doctors, they have to be prayed upon, or people have to be consulting their conscience on it. I think we have to keep that decision-making with the person themselves.

On the faith-based initiative, he says he’s solicitous of the freedom of the groups with which the government cooperates to deal with social problems (clearly one of the principal tasks Obama sees for the church, with or without government assistance). In one iterview he says this:

One of the things that I think churches have to be mindful of is that if the federal government starts paying the piper, then they get to call the tune. It can, over the long term, be an encroachment on religious freedom. So, I want to see how moneys have been allocated through that office before I make a firm commitment in terms of sustaining practices that may not have worked as well as they should have.


There’s always a danger in those situations that money is being allocating based on politics, as opposed to merit and substance. That doesn’t just compromise government. More importantly, it compromises potentially our religious institutions.

In the other, he distinguishes his position from Bush’s:

I am much more concerned with maintaining the line between church and state. And I believe that, for the most part, we can facilitate the excellent work that’s done by faith-based institutions when it comes to substance abuse treatment or prison ministries…. I think much of this work can be done in a way that doesn’t conflict with church and state. I think George Bush is less concerned about that.

My general criteria is that if a congregation or a church or synagogue or a mosque or a temple wants to provide social services and use government funds, then they should be able to structure it in a way that all people are able to access those services and that we’re not seeing government dollars used to proselytize.

That, by the way, is a view based not just on my concern about the state or the apparatus of the state being captured by a particular religious faith, but it’s also because I want the church protected from the state. And I don’t think that we promote the incredible richness of our religious life and our religious institutions when the government starts getting too deeply entangled in their business. That’s part of the reason why you don’t have as rich a set of religious institutions and faith life in Europe. Part of that has to do with the fact that, traditionally, it was an extension of the state. And so there is less experimentation, less vitality, less responsiveness to the yearnings of people. It became a rigid institution that no longer served people’s needs. Religious freedom in this country, I think, is precisely what makes religion so vital.

Someone should ask him if part of protecting religious freedom means permitting faith-based organizations to take mission (and hence religion) into account when hiring. Indeed, the most explicit consideration regarding religious freedom he offers is the freedom of clients from proselytization. To be sure, he says he doesn’t want fbo’s to be simply extensions of the state, but the only suggestion he makes in that regard is less entanglement. He apparently can’t imagine not attaching strings to money. So religious freedom would seem to require not taking government money. The Bush Administration’s thoughtfulness and creativity in this regard he dismisses as indifference to separation of church and state and/or political favoritism. This doesn’t give me much hope for anything from Obama other than the same old-same old.

I’m not surprised.

Yglesias and Others on Abortion

Matthew Yglesias may have a sense that his defense of Roe v. Wade – all arguments that it is “legally dodgy . . . ought to be resisted” – is less than dispositive. He decides to outsource this bit of work, directing his readers to Scott Lemieux’s defense of Roe. If you’re going to succeed as a general contractor, though, you need to choose your subcontractors more carefully.

Lemieux, a political scientist at Hunter College, shows himself to be an unembarrassed practitioner of what Sanford Levinson derides as the “happy endings” school of constitutional interpretation: You decide what policy result you want to effect, then grab hold of any and every argument that shows your happy ending is mandated by the Constitution. Lemieux’s policy goal is legalized abortion, and he is not fastidious about resorting to any argument that shows the Constitution requiring it.

His defense of the democratic legitimacy of Roe – the justice and necessity of the Supreme Court removing abortion from the purview of elected legislators so that only life-tenured federal judges would determine policy – is particularly weak. Lemieux relies on Justice Harlan Stone’s suggestion that “prejudice against discrete and insular minorities” might leave their rights unprotected by “political processes” and may, therefore, call for “more searching judicial inquiry.” The democratic legitimacy of Roe, according to Lemieux, is based on the idea that women cannot protect their interests in the legislatures so the courts have to intercede to protect them.

Lemieux takes note of the strongest argument against this claim, which was put forward the late John Hart Ely, but doesn’t really grapple with it. Ely’s politics were pro-choice: “Were I a legislator I would vote for a statute very much like the one the Court ends up drafting,” in Roe. But he considered Roe “a very bad decision,” because “it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”

If Lemieux, and Yglesias, want to carry the point that the need overcome gender discrimination establishes the democratic legitimacy of Roe, they’ll need to do more than point out that women have been discriminated against and are under-represented in legislative bodies. They’ll need to respond to this argument by Ely: “Compared with men, very few women sit in our legislatures, a fact I believe should bear some relevance—even without an Equal Rights Amendment—to the appropriate standard of review for legislation that favors men over women. But no fetuses sit in our legislatures. Of course they have their champions, but so have women. The two interests have clashed repeatedly in the political arena, and had continued to do so up to the date of the opinion, generating quite a wide variety of accommodations. By the Court’s lights virtually all of the legislative accommodations had unduly favored fetuses; by its definition of victory, women had lost. Yet in every legislative balance one of the competing interests loses to some extent; indeed usually, as here, they both do. On some occasions the Constitution throws its weight on the side of one of them, indicating the balance must be restruck. And on others—and this is Justice Stone’s suggestion—it is at least arguable that, constitutional directive or not, the Court should throw its weight on the side of a minority demanding in court more than it was able to achieve politically. But even assuming this suggestion can be given principled content, it was clearly intended and should be reserved for those interests which, as compared with the interests to which they have been subordinated, constitute minorities unusually incapable of protecting themselves. Compared with men, women may constitute such a ’minority’; compared with the unborn, they do not. I’m not sure I’d know a discrete and insular minority if I saw one, but confronted with a multiple choice question requiring me to designate (a) women or (b) fetuses as one, I’d expect no credit for the former answer.”

Random Observations

1. There’s a second study out of Florida that shows Romney in the lead and Huckabee fading, with McCain and Giuliani stuck in a battle for second.

Huckabee has no money to spend there, and, he’s concluded, no real prospect of winning. In more or less "pulling out," he’ll probably benefit Romney more still.
So, too, will the withdrawal of Fred, if only a bit--whatever Fred himself might prefer. McCain may soar if Rudy starts to slide in the days immediately preceding the primary, which seems pretty likely to me.

3. So it’s clearer than ever that Huck was probably defeated--however unluckily-- for good in SC. It’s hard to see how he’ll do that well on Feb. 5 with no money and no mo’. He may still carry Georgia, though.

4. We seem to have to choose between Romney and McCain and agree that the choice is not so bad. The Romney and McCain people are now accusing each other of deranged hostility to the other guy. As someone pointed out, though, someone might have accused the Jefferson guys of deranged hostility to Adams etc. etc.

5. McCain wrote a solid letter to the right-to-life people on the day of their march on how we can all agree that Roe v. Wade needs to be reversed. His clear and forceful statement distinguishes him in a fundamental way from Giuliani.

6. It’s hard to deny, though, that Romney has more credibility on the economic issues and on at least really believing that uncontrolled illegal immigration is real issue.

7. Romney has, at least, a slight "values" and competence advantage. McCain has the "leadership" or at least character advantage.

Among Democrats, Cynicism Will Triumph Over Victims

We’ve already seen the many ways Hillary Clinton can use her gender to her advantage politically--even when she seems to reinforce negative stereotypes and appears to put herself at a disadvantage. The tears of this clown were on call and came out on cue in order to help secure her victory in New Hampshire. Hillary the Strong . . . Hillary the Victim . . . Hillary the Triumphant . . . Hillary the Tried . . . Hillary named after the Everest climber before he climbed Everest . . . Hillary the wife of America’s first black President! Why not? If you want to lie, lie big! And so, according to Dick Morris, she is.

It doesn’t matter that the lie won’t be believed in the wide field of public opinion. In the cynical world of Hillary Clinton, it didn’t matter that her tears weren’t so believed. What matters is the way in which the lie can manipulate the reactions of particular groups of people to her benefit. So Bill Clinton can traipse around South Carolina in black neighborhoods and compare his civil rights record to Obama’s, bare his wounds to that multitude, suffer their scorn, and give his wife a victory in a defeat of their doing by spurring more white pity votes in Florida. It’s audacity incarnate. It’s cynical beyond words. But it’s beautifully and masterfully of a piece with Democrat logic. One can’t argue against that. The victims they purport to elevate have to know their place, after all. There is a hierarchy of victim-hood. The lesser victims (blacks and women) will always be sacrificed on the altar of the higher victim. And with the Clintons--as with all the most successful Democrat politicians--the highest victim is always themselves.

For more on this theme of the Clinton Machine (though with a slightly different twist) see Hugh Hewitt’s analysis of today’s WSJ editorial about Obama’s "education" in real Democratic party politics, Clinton style.

Huckabee in Atlanta, the sequel to the sequel

Here’s the AJC story, focusing on the struggle for the assistance of those politicos who supported Thompson. This thread on a conservative Georgia blog suggests that the "Fred-head" activists are mostly heading Romney’s way.

Assessment in higher education: what business wants

It turns out, at least according to this survey, described in this article, that business leaders don’t think much of standardized tests as assessment tools. Shockingly, they’d much prefer students apply their knowledge in a "real world" setting (an internship, for example) or perform an intellectual task that’s comprehensive in its scope (a senior thesis, for example). They’re right, I think, that these tasks require students to think and integrate, to gain a synoptic view, and to work independently, rather than just spitting back what professors have given them. These tasks lend themselves more to qualitative evaluation of individuals and offer less basis for the aggregation required for institutional comparison. Some folks in the Bush Administration’s Department of Education won’t be too happy about this.

Obama in Atlanta: a false prophet

I just got around to reading the speech Barack Obama gave at Ebenezer Baptist Church this past Sunday. Abstracting from its content, its soaring rhetoric makes it pretty dad-gum impressive. Even I--ironic and stolid as I am--might have been swept up in the momment if I’d been in the sanctuary that morning.

But at this distance, I can pick at the content a bit. Here’s how he begins:

The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho, they could not enter. The walls of the city were too steep for any one person to climb; too strong to be taken down with brute force. And so they sat for days, unable to pass on through.

But God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city, and on the seventh day he told them that when they heard the sound of the ram’s horn, they should speak with one voice. And at the chosen hour, when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

There are many lessons to take from this passage, just as there are many lessons to take from this day.... As I was thinking about which ones we need to remember at this hour, my mind went back to the very beginning of the modern Civil Rights Era.

Because before Memphis and the mountaintop; before the bridge in Selma and the march on Washington; before Birmingham and the beatings; the fire hoses and the loss of those four little girls; before there was King the icon and his magnificent dream, there was King the young preacher and a people who found themselves suffering under the yoke of oppression.


"Unity is the great need of the hour" is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome.

Thus the conclusion Obama would have us derive from the story from Joshua 6 is not that, as the Bible says, God has delivered Jericho to His people, but that human unity is necessary. God doesn’t really play a part in Obama’s lesson. He doesn’t tell us to trust in the Lord, but rather to trust in our unified efforts. Now, I’m not arguing that "orthodoxy" requires us only to pray for deliverance and wait patiently for God to answer our prayers, doing nothing in the meantime. But surely orthodoxy requires us to acknowledge that no human community, however unified, can act in the place of God, without depending upon Him.

But I’m not finished. Obama then tells us that unity is required to overcome what he calls our "empathy deficit." And he provides a long list of examples of our empathy deficit. With a conspicuous, but predictable, omission: the unborn. There’s empathy for children sent down "corridors of shame" in "schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education." (Don’t get me started about choice.) There’s empathy for "the innocents" suffering in Darfur. But not a word about "the innocents" suffering in abortion clinics; no empathy deficit there. This despite the fact that, as he puts it, the unity he seeks can’t be "purchased on the cheap." It also can’t be purchased at the expense of offending key Democratic interest groups. Don’t ask Obama to risk speaking truth to power. He’s got to win a nomination, after all.

I have to concede that he’s right about one thing, or at least half-right:

[T]rue unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes - a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.

It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not easy to see past our differences. We’ve all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart - that puts up walls between us.

We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

Yes, unity requires a change in our hearts and minds. Religious believers know this, and hence seek to help others change their lives. It’s true that if the only move were condemnation, Obama would be more than half-right. But it shouldn’t be, and often isn’t. Nonetheless, for Obama unity seems to require that the believer abandon his judgment so that the non-believer can let go of his charge of intolerance.

Oh yes, and unity also issues in lots of government action. Consider these examples of things that need to be fixed, and the implicit (and sometimes explicit) lesson about how to fix them:

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.


And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.


But if changing our hearts and minds is the first critical step, we cannot stop there. It is not enough to bemoan the plight of poor children in this country and remain unwilling to push our elected officials to provide the resources to fix our schools. It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much-needed reforms....

The Scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed. And if we are to truly bring about the unity that is so crucial in this time, we must find it within ourselves to act on what we know; to understand that living up to this country’s ideals and its possibilities will require great effort and resources; sacrifice and stamina.

Every time we come together, government has to do something. Our empathy is measured, above all, by our willingness to support government programs and government spending.

To be sure, Obama does at least make a gesture in the direction of self-help and self-transformation:

All of us will be called upon to make some sacrifice. None of us will be exempt from responsibility. We will have to fight to fix our schools, but we will also have to challenge ourselves to be better parents. We will have to confront the biases in our criminal justice system, but we will also have to acknowledge the deep-seated violence that still resides in our own communities and marshal the will to break its grip.

But this is a minor coda in the great Obamian symphony of empathetic government as the expression of empathetic community. Big empathy and big unity require big government. This is the standard fare of contemporary liberalism, however prettily Obama packages it. And you always have to wonder, when government is the instrument of our compassion and the expression of our community, whether there will be any genuine compassion and community left at the end.

Bookmark this

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has a new web journal, First Principles, which promises to have new material daily. I have no doubt but that something by Peter Lawler will soon appear there.

More on Huckabee in Atlanta

Sorry to add another post, but "technical difficulties" prevent me from updating the previous one.

Here’s a WaPo article on today’s event, though how the reporter came up with an audience of 300 I’ll never know. Judging from the length of the ensuing march, I’d bet on two to three thousand in attendance.

Typing, A-Plus; Logic, D-Minus

Matthew Yglesias has become a blogosphere fixture by writing many sharp observations and arguments. Given the quantity/quality trade-off that lowers his batting average, however, no one could wish that his posts were more numerous. His weakest entries tackle important questions with the haste of a postcard from summer camp written just before the start of archery class.

Here, for example, is the entirety of his examination of the policy and constitutional questions raised by Roe v. Wade: “I think the effort to convince even pro-choice people that there’s something legally dodgy about Roe ought to be resisted.” Should it be resisted because Roe is a good decision, or a bad decision that was the only way to bring about the results Yglesias favors? That detail is left unaddressed.

And here is Yglesias refuting libertarianism: “[T]o me the idea of [a] state committed to neutral and effective administration of justice around laissez faire lines seems like an illusion. The alternative to reasonably effective democratic institutions and a viable left-wing political movement isn’t free markets but the capture of the state by large economic interests as during the Gilded Age or, indeed, the Bush administration.”

Yglesias has an obvious gift for saying too little; many haikus dig deeper than his discussions. Yet he also has the ability to say too much at the same time. Both of his hit-and-run arguments reveal the same core belief: Politics is about power, and the concepts of right, law and justice are just pretty, empty words meant to confuse us. There is no justice, only outcomes we like or dislike, groups we favor or oppose.

Plato needed all ten books of the Republic to allow Socrates to talk Thrasymachus out of the opinion that justice is merely the advantage of the stronger. Given the vastness of his cynicism and limits of his attention span, Yglesias would have required a much longer Socratic dialog.


Rich Lowry’s good paragraph on learning that Fred Thompson quit the race:
"He’s a good and talented man, but I’m still mystified at why he got into the race in the first place. For the most part, he was a very unhappy warrior out on the campaign trail and seemed to have little appetite for the normal give and take and indignities of campaigning. He never developed a rationale for his candidacy besides that he had always been a conservative. To the extent that he had a unique theme, it was that he wasn’t going to play the game the way everyone thought it should be played—he was going to get in later, campaign less, and not bother so much with fundraising and organization. That was a formula for failure. He showed flashes of what could have been, especially later in his race, but it would have required an intensive effort starting long ago to build organizations and followings in the early states, raise money, and campaign his heart out. Conservatives had an understandable fondness and respect for him, and should hope he finds a role in our public life more personally congenial to him than stumping 24/7 for president."

Huckabee in Atlanta, the sequel

My son and I attended this year’s Together for Life rally and march, featuring Mike Huckabee, who was very generously introduced by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. (For more on the politics of Huckabee’s sojourn under Georgia’s gold dome, see this piece.)

Huckabee’s speech was first-rate, not only well-delivered but well-thought. I can’t find the text anywhere, but the core was is riff on Lincoln’s thought that "if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong." He understands that a Human Life Amendment is the culmination of a strategy that could surely begin with overruling Roe v. Wade, and does not overstate the President’s role in the process. The crowd (a few thousand on a cold, rainy day) responded very well.

A few thoughts. First, Huckabee clearly deserves this endorsement. He feels this stuff in his bones. If you’re a single-issue voter, or think the culture of life is an important issue, he deserves a close look.

Second, he’s a darn good public speaker, much better than any other candidate or President I’ve seen in person. (More immediately, he blows Rudy out of the water.) He’s comfortable, fluent, and establishes an easy rapport with his audience. Of course, this wasn’t exactly a tough crowd, but he’s just as at home among them as Bill Clinton was, the time I saw him speak (as an ex-President) at Ebenezer Baptist Church (not yesterday, but a few years ago).

Third, the fact that Sonny Perdue introduced him and that Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle was on the platform moments earlier is, I think significant. Huckabee isn’t anathema to the Georgia Republican establishment. He’ll likely have some significant high-level support, especially now that Fred Thompson has left the race. Huckabee was comfortably ahead in the last Georgia poll (about 10 days ago), and could well hold at least some of that lead, especially if his competitors don’t bother to do much in Georgia.

Fourth, Huckabee’s gifts as a campaigner would make him an asset on any ticket. With generous, or at least adequate, staffing, there’s no telling how well he could do.

Lucky John

Rob Jeffrey is underwhelmed by McCain’s victory in South Carolina, pointing out, for example, that he received fewer votes than he did in 2000--despite the support of much of the S.C. establishment. I’d add: the lower turnout, despite rapid population growth in the state, is an ill portent for Republican chances in the fall. As if we needed another.

Read the whole thing.   

Huckabee in Atlanta

He was here today and will be back tomorrow, participating in this event, which I will likely attend with the Knipp kids. (To be clear, this does not imply an endorsement; we’ve also seen Rudy Giuliani, for whom I’d only vote in a general election.)

As for the group of African-American pastors who endorsed Huckabee, their leader, Rev. William Owens, is a down-the-line social conservative and penetcostal who has earned the ire of the right people. The endorsement is unlikely to send many voters Huckabee’s way.

Indeed, his behavior today--spending four hours in the audience at Ebenezer Baptist Church—is odd for a candidate. There were surely not many votes to be won in that audience, and much more attention on the other man from Hope, who was given a chance to speak. If there’s a political calculation here, I don’t know what it is; perhaps the Huckabee campaign doesn’t either. I say this not to blame Huckabee for making the choice he did--so apparently free from any obvious political benefit or calculation that it must somehow be genuine. Some might argue that it dovetailed nicely with the aforementioned endorsement and perhaps served as penance for his remarks about the Confederate flag in South Carolina, but he didn’t have to give up his morning to accomplish that. I await a plausible "political" explanation. (There is, by the way, nothing yet on the Huckabee website about it.)

What’s a Classical Liberal to Do?

I really thought Ron Paul was the guy for me. I like his principled opposition to the current administration’s foreign policy. In fact I agree with nearly everything he stands for, so I was able to overlook the fact that he seems to attract a lot of conspiracy-mongers and crackpots to his banner. Heck, I’ve been a libertarian fellow-traveler for years, so I have a higher tolerance for cranks than most people. So I supported him. I sent his campaign some money (not much, but some), wore a Ron Paul t-shirt, put a sticker on my office door. I even joined Academics for Ron Paul.

Then came this article in The New Republic, revealing the sort of racist trash that appeared for years in newsletters bearing Paul’s name. I was glad to hear that he denied responsibility for writing them, and I believe those denials, but there’s no getting around the fact that he allowed them to appear under his name. I don’t want someone in the White House who has exercised such poor judgment, no matter what I might think about his views on drug legalization. Respectable libertarian organizations like the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute had already begun to distance themselves from Paul; this editorial by David Boaz puts it as well as any I’ve seen.

So who is a classical liberal supposed to vote for this time around? None of the other Republican candidates are talking about limited government; of course, given their records in office they’d sound like hypocrites if they did. This is shaping up to be the least libertarian-friendly election at least since 1992, when we were faced with the choice of Clinton or Mr. "Read My Lips." I suppose I still have 328 days to be convinced by someone, but right now the thought of staying home on Election Day sounds quite appealing.

Romney Surging in Florida

The most recent study (by Rasmussen) has Mitt up five, with a corresponding Huck decline. A more general look at recent studies seems to suggest that Rudy peaked around 20% a while ago and is not moving either way. Meanwhile, McCain is about the same and seeemingly won’t get much of a SC bounce. As Joe points out, having nothing but Republicans voting helps Romney, and maybe the social conservatives and "extreme conservatives" generally are starting to think about the possible nominee closest to their views. So I have to retract (as usual) my opinion that Romney has little chance in FL, and I now have to add that the best deal either Giuliani or McCain can hope for is a narrow 20-something% victory in a four-way race. And the latter is only possible if Huck can get back in the game by turning his personal charm back on. I’m starting to buy the real co-dependence theory when it comes to the strange liking that links John and Huck and even Rudy together.

Dreher on Obama’s faith

Rod asks some good questions, and comes to some of the same conclusions I came to here.

Like Dreher, I’m not at all worried about allegations about Obama’s ties to Islam, but his picture of the church is a little too worldly for my taste. As Dreher puts it, "Does Mr. Obama believe in God, or does he believe in the church?"

Huckabee as spoiler?

For Romney, not McCain.

Liberal Fascism reviewed

Our friend Jon Schaff posts a generally favorable review of Liberal Fascism.

And there’s also this, from our own Steve Hayward, unfortunately available only to TWS subscribers.

Dr. Pat on Energy, Entropy, and the Economy

Deneen goes a lot further than I would in the pessimistic direction here. Still, it’s true enough that our bright futures do seem to depend on economic growth and the indefinite perfectibility of technology. And there may be more reason to be anxious, at least in the short term, than usual.

Religion and politics in Canada (and elsewhere)

Our friend John von Heyking sends along this characteristically rich and thoughtful contribution to the discussion of religion and politics north and south of the border.

I especially liked his discussion of the role of our common sense of vulnerability in developing a "culture of life" (my words, not his). Here’s his criticism of the great Canadin public intellectual Michael Ignatieff:

[I]s it any wonder that the inspiration for human rights develops in cultures that have long contemplated the meaning and mystery of human vulnerability in “denuded human suffering”? Does Ignatieff not recognize in this language the figure and suffering of Jesus Christ and the “suffering servant” of the Israelite prophets, not in terms of an abstract species but in the concrete person? Do we not need rights precisely because we are so fragile, because the autonomous agent is in fact a “moral fiction”? Superman does not need human rights. Ignatieff reveals his Prometheanism when he fails to see this mystery in “nakedness,” and chooses “agency” and “difference” instead. This turn toward agency, while tentative, might reveal not so much skepticism toward instincts as contempt toward weakness.

John points to the way in which the Promethean element of contemporary liberalism relies, in effect, on a kind of magnanimity as the basis for respecting the rights of others and assisting the weak. Needless to say, this is diametrically opposed to genuine compassion and even has a hard time with mutual respect.

Read the whole thing.    

I’m Coming to Georgetown! Thursday, the 24th, to speak on Tocqueville on greatness and justice. For more details, go to Dr. Pat’s "Tocqueville Forum" website. There you can check out Deneen’s great series of lectures on Alexis, and I’m proud to be between the genuinely great Mansfield and Delsol. The time Thursday is 5 p.m, and the location is 3700 N Street. This is the best reason ever for you think-tankers and bureaucrats to knock off an hour early. It’s not like you’re really doing any work anyway.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about Huckabee as the perfect embodinement of the synthesis of classical magnanimity and Christian charity. But I am going to talk about the truth of the Christian correction of Aristotelian moral virtue.

And, by the way, HAPPY MLK DAY, which is, properly understood, a proudly American and deeply conservative holiday.

Martin Luther King

On this day let me bring to your attention Lucas Morel’s good piece on MLK we put out a few years back. Also, here is King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail.


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is on an eight-day long trip to Europe. He must think it is OK to leave for a bit, that nothing will happen, that the army can handle anything. Also see Stanley Kurtz’s lengthy review essay in the current Claremont Review of Books on books by Akbar S. Ahmed, and especially his focus on this book and its clear explanation of tribal ways in South Waziristan, and how the Brits used to deal with it. Also note that just yesterday, South Waziristan was in the news again. This will continue, of course.

Pro-life youth?

Is the anti-abortion movement becoming more predominantly youthful while the abortion rights movement is aging? Also, abortions in the U.S. are at their lowest rate since 1974.

End Women’s Suffrage??

A clever YouTuber strikes again. I’m all for it. LOL, as the saying goes.

Bill, Out of Control

Michael Tomasky, a lefty often worth reading, speaks what a lot of people are thinking right now about the prospective First Husband of the United States, Bill Clinton:

I don’t know who on this planet has the stature to go face-to-face with Bill Clinton and look him in the eye and tell him he behaved in a discreditable fashion. His wife? His buddy Vernon Jordan? Whoever it is, someone had better stop him. He campaigned against a fellow Democrat no differently than if Obama had been Newt Gingrich. The Clinton campaign may conclude that, numerically and on balance, Bill helped. But, trust me, to the thousands of committed progressives who supported him when he really needed it, who went to the mat for him at his moment of (largely self-inflicted) crisis but who now happen to be supporting someone other than his wife, he’s done himself a tremendous amount of damage.

I must say, this is starting to get fun.

Short attention span

O.K., it’s on to Florida. Here’s a story that argues, rightly I think, that McCain and Giuliani are fighting over many of the same constituencies, and a poll to support that argument. I’d bet on McCain to let the remaining air out of Rudy’s balloon.

Thompson voters apparently aren’t a big prize in Florida, but Huckabee supporters are. As I said before, Romney doesn’t have to win here, but he has to try to make sure that he, rather than McCain, becomes "Plan B" for Huckabee supporters, should they conclude (as they probably should) that their man can’t win. Anything less than second ought to be a serious disappointment for Romney, while first isn’t altogether out of the question, if Huckabee supporters migrate his way.

Economic Populism Rightly Understood

Yuval and Ramesh (with cool first names like those there’s no need to say more) have a great article on the right Republican view on economic populism in THE WEEKLY STANDARD. The Republicans have to admit that the middle-class is anxious or insecure and has good reason to be. Nobody with any astuteness worries that we’re slouching toward soft despotism any more; even prosperous Americans experience themselves as more on their own than ever. Huck is to be praised for seeing that fact clearly, and McCain and Giuliani are to be blamed for not facing up to it. Any Republican who’s going to be even competitive in November is going to have to be credible on being able to reduce health care stress, ease the middle-class tax burden, and really enforce immigration laws.
Only Huck and Romney, so far, seem up to the job. Huck, of course, may be weak on the specifics. And Mitt is very weak, so far, on focusing his message with the right kind of passion and purpose. He does have I’m too rich and perfect to feel the pain of the average screwed-up guy problem. Huck, of course, makes it easy to see how screwed up he is in some ways.

McCain Was Lucky in South Carolina

1. Rob Jeffrey was right to say that below.

2. Fred’s attacks on Huck and what vote Fred did get hurt Huck among evangelicals and very conservative people. And they allowed McCain to style himself as above that sort of thing himself.

3. Romney’s decision not to fight until the end through attacking McCain helped McCain. And it was surely in Romney’s real interest that Huck win in SC.

4. Actually, no one worth talking about was attacking McCain in SC. Certainly not Huck, who apparently is looking for the VP nod. Terry Eastland at THE WEEKLY STANDARD is talking him up as McCain’s running mate this morning.

5. Huck praised McCain--not to mention himself--in his concession speech as men of honor. But notice that John didn’t return the favor by mentioning him.

UPDATE: George Will has decided to begin his negative campaign against McCain in today’s column. John is really a Democrat, with the moralistic tendency to attack corporate greed as the source of most evildoing and the real cause of our misery and who combines with Democratic senators to pass bills that don’t really benefit anyone. In short: McCain has no credibility on domestic issues and is actually to the left of even populist Huck on them. It goes without saying that there’s an element of exaggeration here, but there are also a lot of talking points that could have helped Huck and Mitt on the campaign trail and were, of course, probably known and ignored by Thompson. George may well have launched his campaign a little too late. But there still may be time for Mitt and even Huck, if gets off this band of honorable candidates kick, to take notice.