Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Debate

1. The Luntz focus group and NRO agree that Fred was most impressive. He was lively and combative. A prepared opening salvo against Huck--which merely collected the familiar charges--stirred the hearts of anti-Hucksters. And he had a good joke about virgins. I thought, though, he was most inauthentic when he was bragging about "his" record in the senate. He was loose, for the most part, and occasionally effectively sarcastic. He wants to be the anti-Huck man. It was a mistake for Mitt to go negative on Huck, but, of course, not for Fred. His subtext is that McCain is too soft on Huck. My own opinion is that, despite his wild swinging, Fred didn’t lay a glove on Huck.

2. My own opinion is that the most impressive thing was Romney’s genuinely expert answers on Iran and the broader picture in the region. He was also, I think, best or most articulate on immigration. But the audience only liked his prattle about change.

3. McCain was good on Iraq. But he may be overdoing his change agency when it comes to the surge. And he was weak on taxes and immigration. Overall, he left a favorable impression.

4. Huck also didn’t say much memorable, although I think only his enemies would say he was actually bad. He gave a stirring out-of-nowhere defense of Israel (against Ron Paul), and other candidates felt compelled to immediately echo him. He got a rude question about whether his affirmation of a Baptist view of wifely submission would keep him from being electable. His answer managed to alllow him both to complain about being oppressed as a believer and offer a memorable defense of marital devotion. Huck might complain that he never gets any questions about the "socal issues" or really any questions that would allow him to present his core message. He was good on Letterman and great on Colbert. (Fred might do well on Colbert too.) My genuine opinion is that the debate didn’t help or hurt Huck. (Well, it DID help him in this way: His supporters are convinced he was the unfair focus of attacks and were edified by his staying in character; the debate might have done a little to energize Huck’s base.) He needs to find some way to sneak the looser Huck back on the debate stage more often.

5. Giuliani was very competent on foreign policy but sort of one-dimensional in his conservatism otherwise. He tries to make the excellent point that there are both good and bad changes, but this may not be the year for that.

6. Ron Paul gave a fine answer on why we’ve lost our way on fiscal conservatism and the most plausible answer on the cause of the likely recession. He was certainly the most authentic candidate and was pretty much set up for ridicule on his less-than-plausible foreign policy answers. If I were a Paul supporter I’d be really angry now.

7. No questions about health care? About judicial activism? Those, truth to tell, are much more interesting to me than immigration--on which they’re all being less than candid.

Discussions - 13 Comments

"was pretty much set up for ridicule on his less-than-plausible foreign policy answers"

Yeah, following the Constitution and the advice of the Founders is so implausible. That wacky Paul.

Red, are you aware there is a very large number of people out there who are both scholars of the Constitution and supporters of America's current foreign policy (and no, they're not all neoconservatives)? Let's just say, their knowledge of the Founders' thoughts on foreign policy isn't limited to one sentence in Washington's Farewell Address.

Peter, I just found and read you editorial on candidate's religion. It was an persuasive and I think correct discussion of the interaction between religion and politics. You should link to it on the blog, unless of course I missed it earlier.

My question relates to the this:

It’s a common but fundamental error to believe that religion in America is to be judged as primarily an instrument for securing rights. The liberty our Constitution secures is only good in view of its purposes. We’re free from political domination to be friends, family members, citizens, and creatures or members of religious communities. Our free exercise of religion is for religion, and our "rights of conscience" can’t be exercised effectively or truly in lonely isolation. Our nation is characterized by religious diversity, or not by a homogeneous indifference to religion. And our belief in the equality of all human beings under God is an indispensable limit to the excesses of "progressivism," a limit to what we believe can or should be achieved by egalitarian political reform. Our genuinely Christian belief has spared us extreme efforts, at least, to obliterate the distinction between the City of God and the City of Man.

Yet you above say: It’s very doubtful that men and women without any personal faith at all can really devote themselves to the proposition that all men are created equal. I am interested to hear how you explain this possible contradiction. Saying that it requires faith to really believe in equality seems to say that a purpose or use of religion is freedom and of course many founders believed this and Romney had this in his speech. However the end of liberty you say is not the primary purpose of religion. While true that religion is probably more about justice and salvation than liberty, it seems from a political viewpoint (Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, maybe even the more devout Adams) religion's main public purpose was to secure our liberties.

I think this interaction between liberty and religion leads to a chicken and the egg question. Does our natural liberty and equality give rise to our religion, or does our religious faith give rise to natural equality? It is tempting to have it both ways, but I'm not sure that is possible. Could you explain more of what you meant?

Andrew, I am well aware of what the Constitution says because I have been through this battle so often. To be honest, the Constitution is not as clear as I would like it to be on foreign policy. That is why there is room for the globalist interventionists and Executive supremacists to insert their opinions. Almost always based not on what the Constitution says, but on what it doesn't say. That is why you have to look at original intent as well as the plain language.

There was a significant minority including Madison who didn't even believe we should have a standing army. So if no standing army was legitimately on the table, then it can not possibly be true that the Founders thought it would one day be permissible to police the world. The suggestion is just absurd.

That is certainly not the only argument for why the original intent of the Founders was self-interested non-interventionism, but it is a strong one.

Eaton Expedition.


So non-intervention wouldn't allow us to respond to obvious state sponsored piracy? Besides, Tripoli declared war on us. (Constitutionally, we definitely should have declared war back. That the Founders veered rather early from their stated intent is sad and conceded by all. It also supports the anti-Federalist position, I might add.) But isn't it instructive that Jefferson thought maintaining the Navy was too expensive, and it had already begun to shrink? Yeah that Jefferson was a real globalist neocon.

And what of the Eaton Expedition? It was not too far off of the doctrine of non-interventionism. The government of the United States of America's primary purpose is to protect its citizens. The Barbary pirates were not only disrupting American trade and demanding tribute from us (which in itself is unconstitutional, in my opinion-- I believe it was Jefferson who declared "millions for defense, not one cent tribute). Then when Jefferson refused to pay the bribe, they took American citizens hostage. Disrupting American commerce, attacking the U.S. military, and holding American citizens hostage seems to be justification to attack the aggressor. Non-interventionism is not initiating violence.

4. Huck also didn’t say much memorable

I'm surprised that none of the resident Jesuits pounced on Huck's logical fallacy:

"The Air Force has a saying that says that if you’re not catching flak, you’re not over the target. I’m catching the flak, [so] I must be over the target."

Geez. That fallacy is so well-known, it even has a name.

Yea but Michelle, it SOUNDS so good. It's not about the logic of the thing, it's not whether the minor and major premises add up to a logical conclusion, according to the rules of logic. It's the sound of the thing. It had a certain ruggedness to it.


McCain has now heard Huckabee use that line several times, and the next time Huckabee drops that line in a debate, MCCAIN SHOULD JUMP RIGHT IN, AND SAY: "Governor Huckabee, let me tell ya' something, I went repeatedly into Route Package 6, I went over Hanoi and Haiphong, which were the most densely defended targets in the long history of air war, so I know a thing or two about anti-aircraft fire, and I know a thing or two about catching "flak," and Governor Huckabee .... YOU'RE NOT CATCHING FLAK. {then give him a somewhat sideways look and finish off by saying} "I'll let you know when you are....."

That would be a crushing line.

It would be a variation of Bentsen's line to Dan Quayle, "I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine, ... you're NO Jack Kennedy." It was a killer line, and Quayle's career never truly recovered from it.

One final word on the foreign policy tid-bit (should have just let Red's barb go . . .) The situation we're facing now is VERY similar to the Barbary Pirates episode, the big difference (which all you "non-interventionist" types ignore) is this: while the Barbary pirates made threats and demands and backed them up with violence against our shipping, today's pirates (al-Qaeda) make similar threats and demands but try to back them up with large-scale attacks against our civilians - preferably with WMD. Thus, the attacks must needs be stopped in the first place (if someone is acting hostile towards you and says he's going to attack you, why sit there and take the punch before you fight back?) Just like Jefferson did, when attacks like that take place against American citizens you send in the Marines and overthrow the regime. I'm sorry there's a body of conservatives who foolishly believe our current foreign policy goes against the Constitution, but I'm afraid we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

Most non-interventionists advocate going after al Qaeda since they, you know, both threatened and attacked us and want to do it again. Ron Paul voted in favor of the invasion of Afghanistan, I believe, although he wanted a few things that did not take place (such as giving the president the ability to grant letters of marque and reprisal against bin Laden). As they attacked us, a state of war already existed between us and the Taliban-backed terrorists, and while non-interventionists would have liked it more if we declared war on Afghanistan, they understood that we didn't.

So, we sent in our boys and took out the Taliban that attacked us, then started the hunt for bin Laden. Surely something that everyone except the pacifists and the isolationists could support; hunting down the bastards that hit it.

Oh, wait. There was that little detour that completely went against everything non-interventionism stands for. Invading a nation-state that had not touched us and had no capability of touching us. A nation that we initiated aggression against. That is what has the non-interventionists all riled up. First we're knocking out the government that supported and hunting down the man that orchestrated the attacks on our homeland and our people, and the next we're dumping our blood and treasure into a sandpit trying to "build democracy" and "push the freedom agenda" in the Middle East. One tenet of non-interventionism is not initiating violence. Another is that America does best to lead by example and not by using our guns. Furthermore, the Jeffersonian/Washingtonian style non-interventionists (such as how I like to describe myself), while different from some other ones, do believe in the notion of American Exceptionalism and know that war corrupts our people and our government and hinders our justness.

As I've said before around here, I don't believe it to be mere coincidence that "Big Government" has all but eliminated small and local government over the same time period that we have waged sixty years of undeclared wars.

So, yes, al Qaeda and the Taliban are like the Barbary Pirates and Tripolantia. Saddam Hussein, however, was just another evil dictator who we had little reason to--in yet another undeclared war--wipe out. (By the way, while opposed to invading Iraq, Ron Paul introduced legislation for a Declaration of War against Iraq, since he believed that if we were going to go fight, we ought to do it the right way, especially since we weren't really retaliating for any attack).

Andrew, the "Barbary Pirates" weren't "pirates" at all. They were jihadists. They were waging jihad.

The purpose of the attacks then, or now, is ransom. If the ransom can be obtained by intimidation, they'll use threats alone, if the ransom can be obtained only by attacks, they'll do that too. But it's all about money.

All of our aid to the "Palestinians" should be viewed through the shakedown rackets ran by the Barbary jihadists long ago. They threaten havoc unless we give them money to keep their supposed more hot headed members under control. It's a game, and it's morally repugnant for the United States to give just about any aid to any muslim state. Especially Egypt. WE'RE PAYING FOR THEM TO KEEP THE PEACE.

So how long is that going to last?

We're going where Rome ultimately went. They too thought upon a time it easier to pay tribute. Of course they didn't see it as "tribute" per se, but history views it as tribute. And 100 years from now history will view our payments to muslim terrorist groups as a form of tribute. And they'll probably do the same about OPEC. The VAST AMOUNTS of money effectively extorted by OPEC won't be seen merely as a function of supply and demand. History will go beyond the superficialities.

It's a game, and it's morally repugnant for the United States to give just about any aid to any Muslim state.

Well Dan, you got that just about right. Drop the Muslim and you will have it. It is wrong for the United States to give aid to ANY state.


Ron Paul was chastised by supposedly conservative House members for introducing a Declaration of War. They told him it was archaic. Such is the sorry state of modern conservatism.

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