Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Two Comments

1. On the Palin resignation: The bottom line is that she was elected to serve a fixed term as governor of Alaska. It can’t be so all about her that she can up and quit as part of some broader personal strategy. That might be understandable if she were leaving politics for good, but nobody believes that. Her situation is being compared to Nixon’s in 1962, but Nixon didn’t have to resign from his constitutional responsibilities to get himself gainfully unemployed (for one thing among many). What’s wrong with these Republican governors? The Democrats are getting too much mileage off the Palin-Sanford all-narcissism-all-the-time ticket. Or, as Steve H suggested, the all-Lifetime (channel) ticket...

2. The most troubling thing in the NYT was an account of the president’s decision--contrary to the advice of the judicious Gates-- not to modernize our nuclear weapons. Doesn’t he know that would make the world safer? As long as those weapons are around, we have to be techno-dominant for everyone’s sake. And it seems pretty obtuse to say that we because we have plenty of those weapons, we never need to upgrade and make more reliable what we have. Those weapons will be around, sad to say, as long as the knowledge of how to build them is with us. It would have been better if they had never been invented, of course, even if they are what kept the Cold War pretty cold.

Discussions - 65 Comments

Did Obama serve all of the full terms to which he was elected? Did he even pretend to be fully performing his duties as the junior Senator from Illinois? Was he even present on the Senate roles for more than 365 days? Let's not make too much of her declination of full-term service.

We're not sure of her reasoning; everything is speculative. She may feel she can't accomplish much more in Juneau. She might feel that the issues she wants to champion can't really be advanced by her in Juneau? We don't know what she's thinking.

The fact that she said she wants to go in another direction provides little clue, for many another politico who was bailing out has used similar language.

And I think it's insulting to her to speak of her actions in the same breath as those of Sanford. This seems to be a trend, remarking on her resignation in the same breath as Sanford's bizarre pursuits. Mark Sanford betrayed himself as a dolt, {and we should all be thankful that now we don't have to waste any time considering him for the Republican nomination}. But Sarah Palin has not betrayed herself. She may, to be sure, have made a mistake, but she hasn't disgraced herself, not has she embarrassed her followers.

Then again, few Conservative writers and talking heads really understand what that woman has been through, and what she's going through right now.

She's been up on a cross; that's where she's been; she has been getting tortured by creatures who are thoroughly disgraceful, creatures such as Sullivan for instance. And she hasn't been able to respond; she's just had to try to bear it all with a certain dignity, a certain stoicism. Biden talks about FDR appearing on television, Obama prattles on about 57 states and gets just about everything wrong in his Cairo speech, and none in the establishment take them to task. Palin by contrast was set up for one high-stakes failure after another, and she stumbles once, and all manner of people come out of the woodwork eager to flay her alive.

This post-modern crucifixion of Sarah Palin is a sad commentary on our public discourse. That's for damned sure.

1. I think the people of Alaska will survive. Lt. Gov. Parnell apparently shares Palin's perspective on state policy.

2. Outrageous. The American people were the victims of the biggest con job in our history in 2008. Nonetheless, they're guilty of taking an enormous gamble. It's not clear that we will recover from this folly.

You criticize Sanford and Palin for "all-narcissism-all-the-time." But in other writings, you have argued that to be human is to be an "alien" in the world, because to be human is to be utterly self-centered--"it's all about ME!"

Is this consistent?

The double standard regarding Palin and Biden is glaring and despicable. But if the scrutiny that Palin has been under is too much for her, that is a good argument against her being President or Vice President in the next few election cycles and maybe ever. And that is only if we take her statement friday at face value.If this is some form of political stratgery on her part, I don't think it speaks well of her political sense and her statement friday would be as dishonest as it was rambling.

Some of you probably watched this interview of Lt. Gov. Parnell, Karl Rove and Mike Huckabee on TV, but I read it. I looked for something like it, wondering what Parnell thought of the whole thing. He seems sympathetic to Palin and seems to consider her honest.

If this is about Palin not being able to take the heat, then yes, she needs to get out of that particular kitchen.

Really the second part of the post is much more important. Palin can be a footnote in election politics and it really doesn't matter much. Trying to look up the NYT article referred to above, I found this one from October 2007: Senator Barack Obama will propose on Tuesday setting a goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world, saying the United States should greatly reduce its stockpiles to lower the threat of nuclear terrorism, aides say. We elected this guy knowing full well what his plans were. Reading today's article, I can't help but wonder that all of you guys are not jumping on this issue. I can't believe all of sane America is not howling about this lunacy. He might as well be sayiing, "Let's make the world free for nuclear terrorism." as that is what we are likely to get.

2: Dan, your post makes a great deal of sense. In addition, I fail to see how Lawler can call Palin a narcissist. People unused to big-time politics naturally will have an additional concern for their ability, and their family's, to swim with the sharks. It's natural enough that they would see the situation more personally than more experienced national pols. Lawler's post smacks of piling on.

It was also wrong to call Mark Sanford a narcissist. He was in a personal tragedy (of his own making, as he very clearly admitted), and spoke about it with far greater honesty and pain than is typical of political figures. Perhaps it made Lawler squirm as an excessively personal revelation. Fair enough. But don't call a man with a more sensitive conscience than usual a "narcissist." Imagine that John F. Kennedy's vastly greater sexual sin had been exposed in his lifetime by the media, which of course it wasn't. In all probability, he would not have shown much remorse about it, coolly shrugging it off or perhaps denying it completely. Would that have been more admirable, more moral, more mature just because it would allow those people who were so inclined -- there were and always are many, of course -- to forget about Kennedy's habits? I think not. Indeed, I know not.

"Let's not make too much of her declination of full-term service."

Sanford's "personal tragedy" vs. Kennedy's "greater sexual sin."

You guys are just a laugh riot, I gotta tell ya!

Don't forget, Sanford's wonderful, exemplary, honorable admission of whatever-it-was likely came about due to a 3rd party's possession of certain e-mails. It's not like he decided to just do the right thing because of his aching... conscience.

Did Palin insinuate that Obama was a terrorist before or after she was up on her crucifix? Overall, her alaskan support was on thin ice. Most alaskans did not appreciate her policies of opening up the state as a stop-n-shop for resource extraction and predator hunting, the latter especially ignoring the science. She tried to play that card during the election, that she was working to deliver the alaskan oil to the lower 48, with gas prices at a high, but even that did not work. I predict her book will be heavily sold by Fox, and her hunting and fishing show on ESPN2 will rake in millions, especially if she winks and wears those shorts for Dan and the rest of the NLT gang who immortalized (and simultaneously doomed) her as the hot librarian.

Question for ren.

Are you the ren from 'ren and stupid'?

Yeah thought so.

A hunting and fishing show on ESPN? Wow, that could work. Or maybe some sort of regular segment on The 700 Club? Espcially if this little gem turns out to be true (I repeat - IF):

"When Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig's condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God's, and signed it 'Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father.'"

Personally I think she would, honestly, make a great cross-country and/or track coach, especially at a conservative Christian high school or college.

The double standard regarding Palin and Biden is glaring and despicable. But if the scrutiny that Palin has been under is too much for her, that is a good argument against her being President or Vice President in the next few election cycles and maybe ever.

Why is it a "good argument", Pete? I'm not seeing it. Do you think there is a poltician in the country who could withstand the "scrutiny" (aka smearing in the press) which she has been subject to?

John M, The scrutiny she has been under is bad, but if being governor under these conditions is too much, then I wouldn't want to trust her with the presidency, where the pressure and the stakes might well be much higher. Imagine the "scrutiny" plus having to decide to send thousands of Americans into harms way plus who knows what else.

If its too much for her, fine. It would be too much for me - by a damn sight. But its tough to then turn around and say you can be trusted to handle being President.

Not that she is saying any such thing right now.

What if her choice really is about her family and that they cannot take the political heat? What is the conservative response then? If she could take the pressure, but her family was cracking under the strain, then what should she do? Should she ignore them and press ahead for the next year and half in the governor's office, or should she stpe down?

This also relates to Craig's latest, wherein he points out Palin's committing the great modern sin of sentimentality. What is wrong with her? Women in politics had better be manly, or men like Craig will find great fault.

Kate, then I would say she made an honorable choice, and I would say the same if she were a man. But that choice has consequences and if she comes back in two years and says that her family now can take it and please elect me President, that is a different story.

Yes . . . it's an honorable choice. But one she only made after painting herself into an entirely predictable corner. And that's my problem with it. I'd say the same thing if it were a man, of course. Though in a man's case I think we have to concede that the coming corner would have been less predictable.

Craig, how many days was Obama actually enrolled as "present" in the US Senate? Additionally, did he even pretend to be fully performing his duties as a member of the United States Senate? Did such things trouble you? What did you think of Obama barely going through the motions as a Senator? In terms of effort in office, when you compare the effort and the legislation pushed forward by Governor Palin to that of Senator Obama, do the two politicians even remotely compare? Have you been troubled by other politicos saying they fully intend to serve out their terms, then no sooner taking office and they commence on full campaign mode for a higher office still? I've no idea whether such things bothered you or not; that's something only you will know. But she did accomplish some serious things in her tenure as Governor, some things other Governors of Alaska didn't even attempt. She pushed through some ethics legislation, she cleaned up some long corrupt state boards and she pushed through a true energy bill for the state. So though her term in office was not fully complete, her tenure was marked by some genuine accomplishments. Nothing similar can be said of Obama's pathetic tenure as junior Senator from Illinois.

None of us knows for sure what she's thinking, and she's not under any obligation to fully explain herself. Everything is speculative, some have offered a more informed speculation to be sure, but so far, none of us knows for sure what she's intending to do next. So we might as well wait and see.

A} Was the jerk Bill Ayers a despicable domestic terrorist? Yes or no?

B} Was the false messiah good pals with the domestic terrorist aforementioned? Yes or no?

C}If the answers to A and B are "yes," how then was it somehow beyond the Pale for Sarah Palin to bring that to the attention of the American electorate, particularly in light of the fact that the nation's media failed to do so?

Don't fault Sarah Palin for Barrack Hussein Obama's choice of freinds, mentors, allies and associates. If you're hanging around creatures like Said, Khalidi, Wright, Ayers, et al, there's something seriously wrong with you. And there was absolutely nothing wrong for Sarah Palin to point out that our false messiah/President was indeed, "paling around with" a domestic terrorist. Ayers himself has never apologized for his actions, in fact, the jerk is still proud of his whacked out attitudes and deeds. And our false messiah at large knew that.

How many times have we all heard Obama, the false messiah educated at the Ivy League, drop into urban-speak, inner-city mode, and start speaking with supposedly a more "authentic" black accent? He does it all the time, {it drives me nuts, listening to a man who is supposed to be well-educated affect the mannerisms and the lingo of "the 'hood"}. Yet not one newspaper in the country would take to phonetically spelling out portions of his speeches. Sarah Palin meanwhile is spelled out phonetically all the time, while no other politician is. I'm not just calling to mind a double-standard; I'm calling to mind the widespread animus against her.

If there was a debate on energy policy between Sarah Palin and Barrack Hussein Obama, who here really doubts that she would get the better of him? For all of her alleged intellectual gaps, take a look at the number of serious issues of late that she got right, and Obama/Biden got wrong. Biden was wrong about just about everything regarding Iraq, from breaking it up to the surge. Likewise Obama. Sarah Palin opposed breaking up the country and supported the surge, when many another ostensibly more informed and well-spoken Republican was taking to the hillls, {such as the old foreign relations stalwart Dick Lugar, who has become a sad joke on the Sunday talk shows}.

The Washington Post just recently editorialized against the Cap and Trade legislation, which Obama supports. Too bad The Post editorial board couldn't have been more clear-eyed during the recent campaign cycle, for Sarah Palin remarked upon the probs associated with that proposed legislation back then.

Who got Gitmo right? Not the two lawyers Obama/Biden. Who recently said he wanted "empathy" on the Court, whereas over 75% of the electorate said they wanted judges to apply the LAW. So again, another issue where Sarah Palin was right.

The host of issues that Obama has been forced to back away on highlight in a backward fashion the number of issues she's been right on all along. Yet still she's the joke, not the false messiah, and we have Republicans casting aspersions on her mental abilities, ot his. Krauthammer said the other day she can't advance with cliches, overlooking the fact that Obama offered nothing more than different coloured skin and one cliche after another.

I'll take Sarah Palin over Dick Lugar and his ilk any day of the week.

And REN, Sarah Palin's husband is one of the most fortunate men in America, because Sarah Palin is TRULY an attractive and DESIRABLE woman, and everyone knows it, {and the rabid Left despises her for that too!}. Nobody has to trot out falsehoods about how desirable she is, ---------------------------------------------- as the media has been trotting out about the tremendously unsightly wife of our present President.

Scanlon, once again you're posting crap. When will it stop?

Scanlon, once again you're posting crap. When will it stop?

When he's dead. Posting crap is his entire reason for living.

The scrutiny she has been under is bad, but if being governor under these conditions is too much, then I wouldn't want to trust her with the presidency, where the pressure and the stakes might well be much higher.

That's idiotic. No politician in US history has been subject to the same "scrutiny". (A funny choice of words on your part.) By your logic every existing politician must be deemed unqualified. Very much including the current President of the United States, who still does not receive the same "scrutiny".

In a sane world, the people at Ashbrook would be staking out the left wing of American politics. God knows they're not in any sense conservative.

John M, if she can't take the criticism she is getting and be governor of Alaska (if that is really it, there are other plausible explanations), wouldn't it be a problem for her to take over the much greater pressure of the presidency, and still maybe get the same amount, or more, of criticism? It would of course be better if she got a fairer deal.

And I reject the notion that the attacks on Palin are worse than those launched on other political figures in our history. Granted no one questioned Lincoln's fitness as a mother, but the attacks on him were at least as harsh in their own way. Similar things could be said for Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

Art Deco, I'm not disputing that her treatment was awful only that a it isn't the worst ever for an American national politician,and that if she were to run for President (or become President), she would face much the same or worse plus the pressures of that office. Andrew sullivan and David Letterman probably won't have less malice in four years time. Add that to being commander-in-chief and all the rest that goes with being President. If she or her family can't handle this when she is governor of Alaska, one might ask if she or her family would be able to handle it if she were President. That doesn't make it fair. It isn't fair. But if she were a presidential candidate in 2012, her sudden resignation raises real questions. She might have persuasive answers, but I suspect that people who are not already Palin supporters will want to hear them.

On the top list I might have added the Nazi-baiting of Barry Goldwater. I remember having read about a magazine that published an article describing his as some kind of mental defective. I think he ended up winning a libel suit - after the election. There was also CBS linking him to German Nazis during the 1964 Republican Convention

Pete, comment #16, yes, that's how I see it. If she comes back when the kids are older, especially if she has spent the time learning about the world and its history, won't she be something? I say this after reading Dan's comments, which establish that she is really something.

James Taranto says, Maybe Sarah Palin really does want to spend more time with her family. and then discusses why the political class does not take this seriously.

Hasn't she been attacked as she has not because of her vice-presidential run, but because of the probability of her being a Republican presidential candidate in the future?

Kate, how is writing a (presumably serious, sincere) e-mail to friends and family and signing it as "[your kid's] Creator, Your Heavenly Father" being "sentimental"?

You don't think that to be at all (I'm trying to be as charitable as possible), strange? It's been a while since I scanned the Hallmark card racks, but even in a place such as that, a prime outlet for sticky sentimentality, I've never seen a card that (seriously) claims to carry the thoughts of God.

"But don't call a man with a more sensitive conscience than usual a 'narcissist.'"

Hello??? Again, this guy "hiked the Appalachian trail" (via Argentina, with another woman, after riding the high horse on the Clinton/Lewinsky affair) on Father's Day. That's not narcissism? That's a "more sensitive conscience than usual"? You're surely joking. If not, I think you've gone AWOL, as well. AWOL from any semblance of reality.

Art Deco, we are arguing about two different things. I don't question that the treatment of Palin was despicable - especially the treatment of her family. Though the treatment of some candidates was just as bad in different ways (Cheney and Andrew Jackson and Jefferson all had their family lives attacked, and Jackson blamed his wife's death on those attacks). It is if this was too much for her to continue as governor of Alaska, how is it not too much for her to be President - where one cannot assume that the attacks will be fewer or that the job pressures will be lesser?

How about some common, general, everyday uses of the word?


1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself. See Synonyms at conceit. (American Heritage, 4th Ed.)

1. A consuming self-absorption or self-love; a type of egotism. Narcissists constantly assess their appearance, desires, feelings, and abilities.

(American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition)

Various definitions are also heavy on egoism, egocentrism, self-absorption, self-importance and self-interest. I'd say it surely fits Sanford.

"As a rule, it is unwise to offer an opinion about someone you have never met or interviewed in the flesh."

But that doesn't stop you from offering one, even in your very next sentence.

what is ren and stupid? I think there was a show called ren and stimpy. Nuclear weapons make the world safer....thanks. We now know that only bin laden can save us by exploding a wmd. that sounds about right. in theory nukes are a deterence, but in reality, war is about profits so deterence is nothing if not more wasteful spending.

Art Deco, I don't blame her for getting out - I think I've written quite the opposite. But I do think that if she got out because the public criticism she has faced is too much for her or her family, that has important implications in the event that she runs for President in 2012. And I think that

1.She could have risen above the attacks (and still may). A solid term as governor, a broad issue agenda that could plausibly offer improved living standards to the majority and some plausible sounding foreign policy patter, and she would have been a contender - if she wanted to be. The loathsome stuff would still have been there but I think she would have had a decent chance to win despite it.

2.We conservatives should not overstate the political importance of the scummiest attacks. Sarah Palin's biggest political problems were not Andrew Sullivan's mad ravings or magazine speculations about her mental health. If they were, she would be the prohibitive frotrunner for the 2012 GOP nomination. If the crude attacks were too much for her and her family, thats fine by me. I wouldn't demand or expect anyone to to put up with that if they decided they could not bear it. But her biggest political problems were on matters of policy mastery (though I mostly blame McCain during the campaign season) and political coalition building.

Craig, I don't think that I would ever send out a card to friends and family like the one that you described as coming from Sarah Palin and, if I got one, I confess that I might snicker a bit (in private) or find it a bit odd. But I'd also consider that it was not any of my business to pass judgment on it. And I hardly see anything prohibitively strange in it. I am quite certain that many of the religious practices I engage in within the confines of Roman Catholicism are held in equal (though I hope, relatively, private) contempt by a great number of people. I know people who were a bit off-put by my talking so openly about my son's First Communion, for example. It is not my desire to make people feel uncomfortable and I don't make a habit of broadcasting the inner workings of my heart and the details of my devotion to God . . . but I generally think that people who are put off in a visceral way by those who are more open in their expression are the ones who have the problem. Why do you care so much about her birth announcements. I think that is more weird than the announcement. And how many serious evangelical Christians do you know? Do you find them all equally and repulsively strange? I would suggest that your harping on this makes you a religious bigot.

Hahaha these comments are ridiculious!!! I love NLT! I think that lawlers assertion about palin leaves out the fact that she cost the state 150000 dollars in investigation of her as well as cost her 500000 dollars in legal bills. Palin is a horrible leader not to mention dumb. The nukes should be modernized.

Julie, she (supposedly) sent out correspondence in which she presumed to know what God would have to say about her situation and her child. She was writing as God. Isn't that just a tad presumptuous? Was this e-mail the product of divine revelation? If not, doesn't it sort of reduce God to an ultimate-nice-guy that anyone might be able to play-act (or play-think) by asking "What do YOU think God would think/say/do in this situation?" You don't see anything "prohibitively strange" in such impersonations of God, but I do think the Catholic Church might. After all, even the Pope can claim to speak for/as God within certain, strict parameters. (and no, I'm not a fan of papal infallibility)

Why do you care so much about her birth announcements. I think that is more weird than the announcement.

I don't really "care so much" about them, but since she's a public figure (twittering relentlessly now) and it's out there (again, assuming this e-mailing even occurred), I have a tentative opinion about it, which of course is shaped by other things I know of Palin and have seen from her.

You confuse me with this:

"I generally think that people who are put off in a visceral way by those who are more open in their expression are the ones who have the problem."


"if I got [such an announcement], I confess that I might snicker a bit (in private) or find it a bit odd."

So, I presume your reaction (snickering, finding it odd) is more cerebral and not so visceral? Fine, so, on an intellectual level, why would you have such a view, such a response to an announcement signed as the child's "Creator, Your Heavenly Father"?

The line between having an opinion on something and passing judgment on it can be a fine one at times, surely. But many Christians, particularly evangelicals (and yes, I have known and do know plenty), are hardly reluctant to pass judgment at one moment on one thing and then proclaim in the next moment that another thing is for God alone to judge.

No, I don't find evangelical Christians to be "all equally and repulsively strange." Naturally, I can co-exist better with those whose politics are more to the left (they're rare birds, but they're out there), but regardless of politics, I've found that the more one is inclined to actually evangelize and to prosyletize, the less I appreciate their company - I think it ultimately comes down more to personality than politics on that score.

I don't appreciate the suggestion that I'm a religious bigot. You may be surprised to learn (but might doubt my honesty if you think that secular agnostics have nothing to prevent them from lying) that I've respectfully sat through several masses in Catholic Churches over the last few years. People obviously have the right to their religious beliefs or lack thereof, and that's a very personal thing. I can only hope that the faithful choose not to press to translate their beliefs into right-wing public policies.

I also think it's inaccurate to say I've been "harping on this." I made a passing mention of it as it seemed like something from a 700 Club fundraising testimonial, and I briefly responded to Kate's claim that I was critiquing Palin for her "sentimentality". That's it.

Some of my best friends are sentimental Christian ladies. Palin was presuming to know God's mind on the matter of her son's birth because she believes in the sovereignty of God. She probably also believes that bowing to the desires of her family, especially her husband, in the matter of her stepping down, is an acceptance of God's will in the matter. I know I am presuming to know her thoughts, and am basing that presumption on listening to her and knowing my friends very well. I hear echoes of them in her.

I do not doubt she regrets using that closing, today, because of how it has been trashed and sullied consequently. I like Julie's semi-defense of it and her full defense of my calling it a sentimental closing. I still say that, as I see it as expressive of her sentiment at the time. Maybe she would not be so sentimental today, as then she was probably awash with postpartum hormones, which do, yes, make women more emotional. If that has no place in American politics, then perhaps pre-menopausal women should be barred from political participation as being inferior to men on account of their hormones. Call it a medical excuse.

If Hallmark is your standard, your hallmark (can't help it) for sentimentality, then you have just proved my point, that sentimentality has the flavor of kitsch for modern, "reasonable" men like yourself. It is a gross sin against your manly humanism.

Finally, the idea that Christians have no right to bring their values to bear in politics is bigotry, whether you like the word or not.

Kate, I can only hope that you are unusually deficient in interpreting this:

"I can only hope that the faithful choose not to press to translate their beliefs into right-wing public policies."

to mean:

"Christians have no right to bring their values to bear in politics"

Were you just trying to be sneaky, or honestly obtuse there?

Of course they have such a right, but just as I'm not agreeable to Sharia law, I'm not open to conservative Christian versions of the same.

I don't know what you mean regarding my "manly humanism." I can be as sentimental as my mother, but she wouldn't express sentimentality by signing a personal correspondence as God.

Last thing, Kate, what do you mean by this?

"Palin was presuming to know God's mind on the matter of her son's birth because she believes in the sovereignty of God."

I meant to include this link previously, for what I hope are fairly obvious reasons...

Ok, last thing before I break away from the intertubes for a spell.

Kate, do you think that atheists have, or should have the right to bring their values to bear in politics, too? (Values, which, in many respects may well be very similar or even indistinguishable from conservative Christian values, on many policy matters)

I always find pesky facts (such as those I linked to) to be interesting to consider when the old Christians-are-under-fire meme gets rolled out...

Craig, To claify: I said I "confess" that I would snicker but I also said that I would not do it in public--and both are ways of saying that I wouldn't be proud of my reaction if others who were not my intimates saw it. It isn't any of my business how this woman writes her birth announcements. I'd probably be a little "weirded out" by a birth announcement that said, "Praise be to Allah for the birth of our son!" or even a secular one that, for example, went into the details of the birth. I'd probably find something to snicker at, frankly, in almost all birth announcements that did not stick to the essential facts. But even then, I might find something strange about the paper they used or the photograph or the stamp. Who cares what I think of someone's birth announcement?

Maybe we cannot control our visceral reactions as they occur inside of us. But we can and should control ourselves in public. Just because this note would not find its way into my comfort zone does not make it something prohibitively strange. I can ignore it and see past it to the larger person who wrote it, her deeper intentions, and pronounce them sweet. The "tolerant" left cannot. You want everyone to be exactly the way that you determine to be "normal."

And Kate is right that a postpartum and hormonal woman is capable of a great man silly utterances in relation to the object of her then greatest affection. It is not a disqualifying characteristic but one that requires understanding and checking. Men have their own sort of silliness in relation to their hormones that requires understanding and checking too . . . but we don't have to discuss THAT.

Further, I don't know what you think those links prove. AZ has a state senator who is a little off in her understanding of geology (and with the Grand Canyon too!) . . . but I guess she's doing what the folks of her district want her to do. I don't expect that she'd get very far in national politics. As for the Mississippi law . . . even the blog that notes it recognizes that the Supreme Court has found such laws to be unconstitutional (as they surely are). Do you think that the law would withstand a challenge? Do you really think Mississippi has never sworn in a so-called "atheist"? I don't know with certainty that they have, but I think it is unlikely that they haven't. If said atheist had to be "quiet" about his atheism, I think that has more to do with politics than with law. And I don't have a problem with that. Nor would I have a problem with that AZ having to keep her ideas about geology quiet if she were pursuing national office. But you go beyond that when you attack a woman's birth announcement and private (if sentimental) expression of faith. If Palin were writing her public speeches on policy in God's voice then you'd have a point. But, then, we wouldn't need Craig Scanlon to make that point for us.

Obama was condemned as 'the messiah' even while Palin, cut from Hagee and Haggard cloth, wrapped up tightly in her last-days evangelism, friend of the CNP, of Joel's Army, of Dominionism, gets defended as the mother of the year and defender of the sovereignty of God. Go figure.

@ ren: I don't know, it's called a joke. The joke is that some folks think Obama thinks he is God. Other folks think Palin really really likes God.

I don't think atheists can help but bring whatever values they have into politics. I note that many have what are commonly called Christian values. Your bring your conscience with you, whatever it is, whoever you are, wherever you go. It is when people seem to have left conscience behind (like in Mark Sanford's case) that we are most shocked by them.

We bring what we believe into the public forum and hope our values have influence. You may think it is right for Christians to leave belief at home, but I don't see how they/we can. My Christian values make much of Sharia a horror to me. I reject it. However, I know that in a democratic nation, if a majority of the population became Muslim, their values would have greater weight than mine or yours. Personally, I would prefer Christian law to Sharia, but maybe I understand Christian law differently than you do. Even worse, I suspect I understand Christian differently than many Christians do. I also agree that some of what Christians say or do can make little or no sense. I think that of many atheists, too. Pete Singer seems like an idiot to me. I wouldn't want to live in a country governed by laws expressive of his values, at all.

"Palin was presuming to know God's mind on the matter of her son's birth because she believes in the sovereignty of God." What did I mean? If a Christian believes that God is sovereign, then he believes that what is, is God's will. I am speaking without subtlety on this point and there certainly can be (usually is) subtlety, but given this perspective,if Sarah Palin's son, Trig, is born with Down's Syndrome, that is God's will. Therefore, Trig's birth expresses the mind of God, the will of God, and Sarah Palin can understand it. She submitted her will to God's will and gave birth to a son she knew was always going to be a challenge and she was committing herself to love the child as a gift from God. That's what she was saying in her letter.

I don't know, really haven't got a clue, how much Sarah Palin's belief in God influences her politics in Alaska as relates to oil production or road construction or anything like that. She may be of the type of Christian who believes that a democratic election expresses the will of God. That the people voting freely express God's will, whether they vote for a Christian politician or not. The "or not" some people call God's judgment. I don't know much about her religious doctrine, but I did understand what she wrote in her letter about the birth of her son. She was expressing her theology in sentimental terms in that closing. I think that to many people who experience God in a personal way, what Palin was expressing in that wording was as obvious as daylight. Yet I can see that someone who has no experience of God might find it ludicrous. I can't help my experience, and so, it made sense to me.

I note that many [atheists] have what are commonly called Christian values

I'd like some specifics on that one. Just starting out with, say, moral prohibitions on murder, that sort of thing existed before Christians came on the scene, and it's not like the wrongness of it was invented or trademarked by Christians. Where atheists and Christians might happen to agree on moral values, it's not some automatic, one-way influence.

It's funny that you cite Singer, probably the most controversial philosopher (at least in pop culture that knows of philosophy's existence) out there today. I disagree with plenty of his ideas, too, but I think it's pretty wild and certainly uncharitable at best to label him an idiot

As for Palin and how her Christian beliefs "inform" her notions of governance here are two troubling examples of how that played out. Calling the Iraq War a "task from God" and telling evangelical students (on the taxpayer's dime) that "God's will has to be done, in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built." So much for a sovereign God! (or is that where things get more subtle, and presumably, complicated?)

I also don't agree with using the military to endorse and promote any religion - and to the extent Obama is actually behind that recent decision, it's one of the few things he's done that I am really pleased about. Would such promotional activities be kosher (haha) in your particular conception of "Christian law"?

Hee-haw, spending money and resources to fly jets over events "promoting Christianity" and states telling atheists to, effectively, closet themselves.

Craig: Just starting out with, say, moral prohibitions on murder, that sort of thing existed before Christians came on the scene, and it's not like the wrongness of it was invented or trademarked by Christians.

The "wrongness" of something isn't invented or trademarked by any Christian. If one is a Christian, there is something called the Law that does that. And, at least in the Christian worldview, that is written into everyone's soul. Watching you on these boards, one of the most common tropes is the tired notion thrown around of Christian hypocrisy or hubris. Christians are only humans trying to act Christ-like. If you haven't noticed, this is a rather cultish world. Converts are what people desire -- not taking in Christ. To the extent that they actually do, the world is made a better place for it.

As for Palin/the military thing -- try going anywhere near the House of Saud and saying "God is dead;" all the "victories" being won right now over "pernicious tradition" is really like defanging a miniature Schnauzer. It is one thing to call GWB an evangelical crazy -- quite another to draw up a critical cartoon about Muhammad, etc.

Craig, I really do not have time to argue today. T-Hag says some of what I might have said, anyway. (Thank you, T-Hag.) Yet, for crying out loud, I was just trying to explain the remark you took issue with as thoroughly as I could so that even you could get my point.

I did not say the Singer was an idiot, I said he seemed like one to me. My mind is fatally skewed by faith and I would not out-right call anyone an idiot, or rather I know I should not. God knows you might remember some time when I did so and Google it back into consciousness in order to embarrass me with my moral failings.

I said I did not know anything about Palin's belief might influence policy. In what you offer, I would note two things -- first that the people of Alaska knew of her beliefs when they elected her and second that statement of hers might refer to a Biblical call to unity, which is why she might have used in front of evangelical students, who would get that. That latter might also relate to what I said about democracy and God's will, and even subtlety in Calvinist theology, especially as it relates to politics.

I don't know about military fly-over thing, but both you and Obama seem pretty anti-Christian to me. Which leads me to my final point, which is that you really should admit to us and to yourself that you are appalled by people expressing Christianity in public. Seriously, you seem absolutely to hate it.

T-Hag, your citing the House of Saud is irrelevant. Simply because they have less tolerance and more aggression towards atheists doesn't make what I described any more acceptable. The existence of something worse doesn't make the original injustice any better.

Also, try getting Christians (to the extent that group can even be clearly delineated) to agree on what it actually means to act Christ-like. Also, I've had many Christians tell me that attempting to act like Christ is unnecessary, beside the point, or both.

Kate, I'm not anti-Christian, nor a religious (or anti-religious) bigot, as Julie "suggested". Believe it or not I've kneeled at a mass within the last year. Not wanting to pay for U.S. military jets to fly over Christian rallies is distinct from being anti-Christian, and I think you can understand that. Why the persecution complex? [I'm starting to wonder if you're a proponent of the Quiverfull movement.]

If you haven't noticed, this is a rather cultish world. Converts are what people desire -- not taking in Christ. To the extent that they actually do, the world is made a better place for it.

Truly amazing sentences there, T-Hag.

I don't know about military fly-over thing, but both you and Obama seem pretty anti-Christian to me.

I guess you didn't even skim that link (about the military fly-over denial), did you, Kate. "Anti-Christian" - that's exactly what Gretchen Carlson of FoxNews had to say in her uber-shrill reportage of that situation. So lack of endorsement of (X) now equals hositility to (X)? Wow.

Kate's remarks in her #48 and #51 are interesting. First of all, she indicates that her Christian values and beliefs are a kind of conscience that she 'cannot help' but have. She then says that she presumes this to be true of other Christians as well, namely that they cannot 'bracket' their values; they cannot be neutral with regard to them. They are deeply contextualized items she cannot transcend. I guess I can appreciate that as a sincere expression of her faith; but it sets it off from any possible rational discussion. And in political contexts it basically announces that one is a certain way, that one will advance these values, that one cannot and will not reflect on them or their impact on the public sphere, and that others can and should recognize this. Ok, I recognize your saying this, and your right to do so. But I will work against such a view ever serving as a wide political context.

Second, she describes the notion that 'whatever is, is God's will', and goes on to sensitively explain how Palin's having her child is an expression of God's will. If so, if what is is God's will, then please clarify why the act of aborting that pregnancy would also not have been an expression of God's will. I predict that she will say that the one course is consistent with God's will, and the other is not, because Kate happens to 'know' what God's will is; and when challenged to explain or defend how that is the case, will retreat to her earlier point, namely that she cannot help but know this, that she cannot be neutral or objective with regard to such a belief.

I find this reason enough to reject as a discourse in the public sphere. Kate points to justifications that are wholly private, based on unencroachable sentiment, yet also casually 'obvious as daylight' to others with similar sounding mystical views. It is irrational to hold to a belief one cannot help but hold. If someone said "I cannot help my experience that I was Winston Churchill," we would reject them and such a justification as just so much nonsense.

Is there any wonder then why Scanlon would not be appalled by people expressing this in public sphere? To my mind, the Bush era was marked by privileging just these mystical insights and the effort to remake or dissolve government accordingly. Palin is a further expression of this sort of thing. The sooner such an era is over, the better. But it will take a long time because the kinds of affliction Kate is suffering from takes a long time to recognize, to diagnose, and to leave behind in the political domain.

Name one thing Bush ever did to benifit evangelicals/mystics. Bush the evangelical was a political creation probably dreamed up by Karl Rove. When asked about the famous conversion Billy Grahm could not remember it. They even hired a guru, who's name escapes me, to coach them up on how talk to evangelicals. The only thing I can even think of that someone might say is the public funded faith based stuff, but I will counter that by saying those were a way for the government to get into the churches and start controlling them. What did Bush do to dissolve government?

T-Hag, your citing the House of Saud is irrelevant. Simply because they have less tolerance and more aggression towards atheists doesn't make what I described any more acceptable. The existence of something worse doesn't make the original injustice any better.

It seems to me that tolerance today is often conflated into full-blown acceptance. Wee see this in every sphere of life; it is present in both the spiritual and political, the public and private. Your demand is for nothing less than an untenable perfection of human will. Why we should be Christ-like, given this? Because we know from just this that we are separated from God, and would therefore rather choose his own over our will in order to restore ourselves to what should be. Our Fallen state, BTW, mimics the tragic Thucydidean view of man. There was a reason the ancients' concerns about political life centered around the soul -- citizens seeking the best life could make a better political life.

Everyone (especially progressives) cite the passage from MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail about the arc of justice and whither it tends; less quoted is this passage from the same letter:

I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will.

Man finds himself in conflict with the divine by his very nature -- able to do both bad and good, and bad more often than good -- so how do you expect all Christians to come to a consensus on God and his will?: how on this earth would one not expect the divine to be extorted? But that wouldn't make it any less needed.

By the logic that because we are not perfect ("your citing the House of Saud is irrelevant...") we are abjectly bad, then the United States would have never seen the progress made in 2009 had it allowed itself to wither away in 1860. The Christian life of loving thy neighbor is something that takes much tending, not unlike the seemingly simple principle that 'all men are created equal.' Thus, the two easiest things to remember are the two most difficult to live by -- difficult, but possible.

@ ren: Such an elementary understanding comes from a flawed notion of Christianity and the fundamental state of this world as one Fallen from Christ. God's will is made distinct from evil, and this is seen at length in Christian text. As creatures of free will we, not God, chose and created evil for wanting to be God ourselves. For only if God was truly great would he make creatures that obeyed him via the homage of reason rather than mindless sycophants there at the snap of a finger.

Has God been politicized? Sure. I believe that is why Jesus once remarked, "render to Caesar what is Caesar's."

ren, I am honored that you took the time to deconstruct my remarks. I do not think you quite understood what I was getting at, but then I was rushing out comments and probably was not clear.

I do not think I said that I cannot or that Christians cannot be reflective about belief or politics. As a minor example, what do think I am doing when I write here?

In your second part: I can understand your not understanding God and considering anyone who claims to experience God as delusional. I was an atheist once, myself. I hope and will be praying that you will be able to say the same thing yourself, someday. That may or may not be God's will for you, though I am inclined to think that atheism is not.

Actually, I do not know what God's will is about anything and was merely discussing in a too brief way the worrisome tension between man's free will and God's will and how some Christians see that or wrestle with it. I rather hope that what you say about abortion and God's will is true, for very personal reasons.

I will point to Brutus' comment, as we are in agreement about the Bush era. I may be too credulous about Bush as a man of faith, but do not see that he pressed through some evangelical political agenda that transformed America. You seem really silly in your wrap-up on that account.

Once again, I thank you for taking the time to think about what I wrote. Either I did not write clearly enough, or writing in response to Craig I presupposed a knowledge in the reader that even Craig did not actually have. I suppose blog-commenting is not the best way to make theology clear, anyhow. I refer you to T-Hag, up there, who seems to have a better grip on how to do that than I have.

T-Hag, as to rendering unto Caesar what is his, isn't part of our modern problem that our Caesar sees more and more as his? That's why I have a certain ambiguity about Craig Scanlon's military fly-over thing. I did look at it, Craig. I could be more vehement about government not promoting "Christian" events and things, if it were not also promoting all sorts of other things ideological with tax-payer money. If our government is going to suck up our money, which presumably is theirs, and tossing it all over the place, to specifically exclude tossing it at Christian things seems discriminatory and yes, anti-Christian.

"and be tossing"

@ Kate: That is an interesting point. And anyways, I do believe that politicians should inject religion into politics, if that is their belief. After all, they are publicly audited by election with their remarks. The liberal will say they are pandering to the roving masses who eat up such tasteless drivel; how long are we to believe that the people are stupid?

What concerned me a bit more than the military fly-over was the Obama speech at Notre Dame. After all, if you want to keep God out of the public square, just don't give a speech there!

Funny that you brought up Render unto Caesar as Fema is using that passage (out of context I think) as the main teaching for its clergy response teams to quiet resistence to marshal law in a crisis.

Brutus: What do you mean?

Clergy response teams

Or just google it for hundreds of stories, although most of them will give the same basic summation as the linked article.

Goodness gracious.

T-Hag, I do not think politicians can keep belief, or lack thereof, from their politics. It is just there. or not there. No, people are not stupid, or at least not entirely so.

Brutus, separation of church and state, but not in an emergency? That sounds prudent.

That is not why anyone is opposed to the idea of clergy response teams. It is the fact that they will be using our clergy as PR manipulators to stop legitimate dissent at federal power grabs.

Oh. So it is an "opiate of the masses" type of thing?

Kate: In full agreement.

The fear from the paranoids(who I am finding to be right more often than not) is that these teams of pastors on the government/DHS payroll (scary in and of itself) will shepard people into surrendering their weapons and heading to the camps when martial law is declared, or another for instance, encourage their "flocks" to get the mandatory vaccinations that are getting a lot of PR right now. They might even advise citizens that taking the mark of the beast (rfid implants) is a good thing. The heart of this is about seperation of church and state but not in a whiny get the god out of the pledge sort of way. It is about the church selling its soul to the government for cash then advising its followers to do whatever the government wants.

Oh, Brutus. "They" do not know my pastor.

Its not all, obviously, just some are on the government payroll. Ask your pastor about it, I imagine he has heard and will have an opinion. I have heard some pastor's remark that this was akin to selling out to evil or even satin.

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