Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Chesterton as Anti-Progressive

To Peter’s notice immediately below of RJ Pestritto’s most welcome demolition of Theodore Roosevelt as conservative hero,let me add one contemporary non-Progressive alternative: G.K. Chesterton, also celebrated in today’s Wall Street Journal. We (or at least I) usually think of Chesterton as a writer of the ’20s, but his novel The Man Who Was Thursday was published in 1908, as was his theological classic Orthodoxy. Chesterton’s later (1922) What I Saw in America features a non-Progressive interpretation of the Declaration of Independence that inspires.

For Chesterton aficionados, try James V. Schall’s study of Chesterton.

A Unique National Figure

Michael Barone thinks there’s a lot of evidence Obama is a lot like Eisenhower. He has and will continue to hold himself aloof from his fellow Democrats to sustain his huge and fairly transpartisan popularity. Obama is obviously not THAT much like an old war hero who really had no clear history with either of the two parties and could easily have won the nomination of either party. Still, he does seem to be astute enough to see that the president can be more effective if he seems to be a lot more than a party leader.

Teddy Roosevelt and Booker Washington

R.J. Pestritto reminds us that TR was the first progressive, what that really means, and what a serious break from the Founder’s view of limited government that was (and is).

This reminds me of a consequential event: Teddy Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House in December (26th, I think) of 1901 (TR had been consulting him on dispensation of patronage in the south as soon as he became president, which, until then, Mark Hanna had controlled). Even though Washington had been to the White House, he knew that no black man had ever dined there (and he must have remembered the harsh criticism President Cleveland got when he hosted Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii at the White House in 1895). Although concerned about how this could be viewed, he did not think he had a right to refuse in part because this represented a "recognition of the race." He had dinner with the President and his wife Edith, three of his sons, and his seventeen-year-old daughter Alice. Within forty-eight hours a kind of hysteria overtook white southerners at such a display of "social equality." TR was condemned and it was said that he would lose all political support and authority in the south. Senator Ben Tillman of South Carolina said that TR’s entertaining that man, "will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place again."

This example of "social equality" marked both the peak and the beginning of the end of Booker Washington’s authority and power over race matters in the country.

A few years later Washington was on a trip to Gainsville, Florida, when the train stopped in a village where a local white farmer asked to meet Washington. As they shook hands the farmer said: "You are the greatest man in the country!" Washington replied that surely the greatest man in the country was the president, to which the white farmer answered: "Huh! Roosevelt! I used to think that Roosevelt was a great man until he ate dinner with you. That settled him for me."

Culture Wars

There’s now a web-based version of MY entry in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CONSERVATISM on "Culture Wars." Somebody needs to update it to include, for example, the recent election. Obama is the most culturally leftist president we’ve ever had, but he didn’t really campaign and sent various signals that he doesn’t intend to govern that much as a culture warrior.

Death of a City

Detroit: Can it be saved? Matt Labash gives a tour of the wreckage. Time to send in the Marines? Long essay, but worth the reading.

Baghdad Al?

I’ve argued for a long while, to gasps of outrage and disbelief, that President Al Gore would have invaded Iraq, too, had the chads swung the other way in Florida 2000. This new study agrees.

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you peace and joy this Christmas season!

This is what my wife will be singing in our church’s Christmas Eve service this evening.

Attention Deficit Disorder

After a particularly depressing bout of end-of-semester grading, I was, er. "inspired" to write this piece.

Ivan the K had related thoughts a couple of months ago.

A Real Christmas Message

...I received on a REAL (if e-) Christmas card

Lovely, Glorious, Beautiful Christmas

1. It’s true enough that one reason Obama is no Lincoln, at least yet, is that, at this point, he’s all talk. But geez, he’s not even president yet. My own view is that these times, as tough as they are in some ways, probably don’t call for a Lincoln anyway. So I’m not going to speculate on how Lincolnesque Barack really is.

2. So I’d probably do well to say something about Christmas. But that’s a divider--not a uniter--topic. Not everyone is a Christian. Some Christians--like our founding Puritans--believed Christmas--especially it’s timing--is basically pagan, and they’re not totally wrong. Not all Christians believe that God became man to die for our sins, and so they tend to say Christmas is about generic views of hope and joy and peace, while discourging real thought about what or whom to hope for.

3. So we’ve had, for a while, the Holiday Season, during which we say "Happy Holidays." We unite on Thanksgiving and New Years, and then agree to disagree on what holidays there are (and what their point is) in between.

4. If we were really Christians, we’d start to figure out that we should do more, if not all, of our religious carol singing and such between Christmas and Epiphany--the Twelve Days of Christmas. We shouldn’t, for example, "Go tell it on the Mountain" until Jesus Christ is actually born. Songs about sleighs, winter wonderlands, Santa, being white, being blue, and so forth are, of course, welcome any time during the season. My reform would make the Christmas season a lot less long, while not completely scuttling the amorphous Holiday Season. Not only that, restoring the custom of a present for each of Christmas’s 12 days would surely stimulate the economy.

5. My title, of course, is from the classic uniter--not a divider--Christmas movie "A Christmas Story," which is a wholly secular tale about an utterly unreligious but quite unelitist family in a seemingly unreligious, proto-rust belt town. As the president-elect would explain to us, when such ordinary folks don’t focus on God, they turn their attention to guns. That’s why Ralphie is so obsessed he’s willing to risk shooting his eye out to get the Red Ryder rifle. "Every kid, at the back of his mind, vaguely but insistently believes that he will be struck blind before his 21st birthday. And then they’ll be sorry."

A Toast

Ulysses S. Grant was a dedicated consumer of the this wholly American product. And so am I. Cheers on my 62nd birthday and Merry Christmas to y’all!

Obama will use Lincoln Bible

Mr. Obama has decided to use the Bible Lincoln used when he first took the oath.

"Deep Throat" and the Crisis of Journalism

This piece from Stratfor on the death of "Deep Throat" of Watergate fame is a little repetitive but it does a nice job of showing how the Watergate affair has been misunderstood and, more importantly, how it set the stage for the kind of "death by leak" journalism that prevails today. Here’s an excerpt:

The Felt experience is part of an ongoing story in which journalists’ guarantees of anonymity to sources allow leakers to control the news process. Protecting Deep Throat’s identity kept us from understanding the full dynamic of Watergate. We did not know that Deep Throat was running the FBI, we did not know the FBI was conducting surveillance on the White House, and we did not know that the Watergate scandal emerged not by dint of enterprising journalism, but because Felt had selected Woodward and Bernstein as his vehicle to bring Nixon down. And we did not know that the editor of The Washington Post allowed this to happen. We had a profoundly defective picture of the situation, as defective as the idea that Bob Woodward looks like Robert Redford.


Bear Market

Russia orders 70 new nclear missles. Meanwhile the US is the only major power that lacks a " a nuclear weapons modernization program and the ability to build new nuclear warheads." As a result "the aging U.S. nuclear force is becoming less reliable every year."

Lincoln, Obama, and Bush

There is a great deal of nonsense out there suggesting that Barack Obama is the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. Tom Krannawitter slapped the comparison down not too long ago in the Washington Times. I add my own thoughts on the topic in The Daily Standard, wherein I suggest that when it comes to action, as opposed to rhetoric, the real comparison between Lincoln and a contemporary political leader is between the sixteenth president and George W. Bush.

"Lincoln’s rhetoric was important in drawing a line concerning the rightness or wrongness of slavery and in stressing the importance of preventing the extension of the institution into the Federal territories. It was also important during the war in linking the sacrifices of the soldiers to the survival of republican government. But his actions were important as well. Without the steps he took to win the war, Lincoln’s rhetoric would have been hollow."

BTW, the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) will be publishing my study of Lincoln as war president early next year, just in time for the Lincoln bicentennial.

America’s New Norm

The first page of today’s New York Times describes Columbia, SC as "an ideal listening post. According to a range of indicators assembled by Moody’s — from job growth to change in household worth — this metropolitan area came closer than any other to being a microcosm of the nation over the last decade." What makes it typical?

The Carolinas may conjure thoughts of textile mills and tobacco fields, but Columbia has a diverse economy. The state is a major employer. So is the university, along with hospitals and banks. The Fort Jackson Army base employs 9,200 people. United Parcel Service has a regional hub here. Michelin operates a tire factory next door in Lexington County. The Computer Science Corporation develops software north of the city.

If that’s the mix that makes Columbia typical, it raises an interesting question about the current economic difficulties. The votaries of President Obama suggest that the troubles are primarily in the private sector. There was speculative excess and a lack of regulation that led to the crisis, and to a middle-class squeeze that has lasted several years. But what if part of the problem is that the public sector, and the service sector has grown too big to be supported by the rest of the economy? Note that only Michelin and the software company actually made something. And what if it is regulations in the use of land, in employment, in how to minimized the impact on the environment that, as much as anything, has caused America’s industrial and agricultural base to shrink?

Given the options, it is prudent to give Obama’s view a try. From his perspective, the problem is that the economic model America has developed since the 1980s is no longer functioning. But what if the problem is that the model we’ve had since the 1930s is the problem? After all, viewed from the perspective of the US as it appeared in 1929, in terms of regulatory bureaucracy, labor law, environmental law, the size of our manufacturing and agricultural sectors, etc., rather than from the perspective of those who wish for ever more laws and regulations, the changes Reagan made were minor. If the problem is that in the US to a certain degree, and in Europe to a greater degree, the modern social welfare state is not viable in the long term, it will be even harder to get out of the current mess than many suggest.

Mosquito blood

Police in Finland "believe they have caught a car thief from a DNA sample taken from a mosquito they noticed inside an abandoned vehicle.

Finding the car in Seinaejoki, north of Helsinki, police saw that the mosquito had recently sucked blood and decided to send the insect for analysis.

The DNA found from laboratory tests matched a man on the police register." I dunno.