The latest Gallup poll has Romney ringing in the new year at the top of the pack yet again. The theme of the 2012 Republican primary has been one challenger after another racing after Romney, only to shine for a moment and quickly burn out. Thus far, Romney has shown amazing endurance and his rivals have served only to distract the Democrat's ire from the once and future GOP forerunner.
Power Line's John Hinderaker recently issued a full-throated endorsement of Romney, quickly followed by a strong endorsement, on different foundations, from Ann Coulter. Chris Christie is speaking at Romney rallies. This isn't to say that the race is over. Power Line is a house divided, with Johnson and Hayward still resisting the potential inevitability of a Romney victory. But if Gingrich fades and Santorum fails to rise, the options are running thin.
NLT hasn't really come out screaming in favor of a (viable) candidate. Peter Schramm seems to be supporting Romney (or at least opposing Gingrich) along the lines of George Will and Ramesh Ponnuru. I tend to agree. While I'm not in love with Romney any more than the next conservative, he seems to fulfill the Buckley Rule without any aberrations which make him absolutely unpalatable.
This is all just a survey of the present lay of the land. I don't feel sufficiently compelled to root for Romney, and so am still willing to entertain opposition. And, politically, I think it's good for Romney to have continuing opposition - once he becomes the heir apparent, the left's political machine will begin a non-stop smear campaign which is presently diffused among the GOP field. Romney's star rose early, but constant competition has kept him from becoming a bore and beginning to descend.
Nonetheless, conservatives might want to begin privately accepting that Romney will be the party's standard-bearer in 2012.
As a typical conservative, I'm rather fond of patriotism and generally dissent from the "blame Amerikkka" crowd. And while I subscribe to a strain of American exceptionalism, I find patriotism in those of other nations to be highly commendable. In particular, I think Europeans are often lacking in national pride - leading to the sort of cultural drift currently observed in many northern European countries.
On the other hand, the last time France took a stab at patriotic nationalism, they ended up with the Reign of Terror. So, while I commend the latest attempt by the French to introduce substantive prerequisites to French naturalization, I do so with slight hesitation. According to France 24:
Foreigners seeking French nationality face tougher requirements as of January 1, when new rules drawn up by Interior Minister Claude Guéant come into force.
Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker. They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities.
"Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought", reads the charter, drafted by France's High Council for Integration (HCI).
Residing in Asia, I'm accustomed to rather strict naturalization laws. Viewing nationality as primarily a matter of blood, many Asian countries take a dim view of non-ethnic naturalization (excepting mixed-marriages) and simply forbid dual-citizenship. The thin-skinned may sense a pervasive racism in such sentiments, but there is an undeniable and obvious truth in the assertion that I, for example, am simply not Asian.
America, of course, occupies the opposite end of the spectrum and is rather exceptional with regard to citizenship. We alone in the world are truly a nation of immigrants and boast no purely ethnic component to citizenship. History has rarely witnessed such a national condition, and never upon so broad a scale. We are truly unique.
Immigration has never been my hot-button issue. Illegal immigration is certainly objectionable, but I can't passionately condemn something that I might very well attempt myself (for the safety and prosperity of my family) were I born into radically different circumstances. I see American citizenship as a privilege which should be available to those possessed of a certain American patriotism and willingness to adopt American culture (i.e., our language and basic civil and moral virtues). Immigration and citizenship are practical matters to me, best determined by balancing national interest with the circumstance of the applicant.
Yet America's immigration discussion generally encompasses Mexicans and the occasional Latin American. France is facing culture-altering waves of Muslim immigrants who have no will to adopt Western culture.
Guéant, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, described the [naturalization] process as "a solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant", adding that migrants should be integrated through language and "an adherence to the principals, values and symbols of our democracy". He stressed the importance of the secular state and equality between women and men: rhetoric perceived largely as a snipe at Muslim applicants, who make up the majority of the 100,000 new French citizens admitted each year.
France's interior minister has made it clear that immigrants who refuse to "assimilate" into French society should be denied French citizenship.
Earlier this year, Guéant intervened personally to ensure an Algerian-born man living in France was denied French nationality because of his "degrading attitude" to his French wife.
That followed an earlier push by France's former Immigration Minister Eric Besson to revise existing laws in order to strip polygamists of their acquired citizenship.
France is correct in all of this. While Sarkozy is accused of "pandering to the right," he has a responsibility to uphold the basic laws and ethics of France. There is always a danger of such sentiments degrading into ethnic, religious or other forms of prejudice, but the alternate extreme of cultural abandonment is equally perilous. Nations must stand for something, and France is finally standing for something worthwhile.
Law jokes may be a bit funnier to me than to most, but WSJ's Law Blog posted a few resolutions which I thought worthy of sharing.
BigLaw Partner: Spend more time with the family. This year I mean it.
BigLaw Associate: Save more. Bill more.
The SEC: Stop bringing cases in the Southern District.
Justice Department: Get the bankers before the statute of limitations runs out.
Supreme Court: Keep cameras out of the court, knock out a few opinions by July.
Plaintiffs Lawyer: Stop settling so often.
ABA: Spend more time with law schools.
In-house counsel: Avoid the word "billable."
President Obama: Remember to get Justice Kennedy a present.
My own new year's resolutions pertain to spiritual exercises a la St. Ignatius and finding the perfect kim chi. If anyone can suggest superior goals, I'm all ears.
Among a group of seven blesseds soon to be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI as saints, two are of special significance to America.
Blessed Marianne Cope was a nursing sister who joined St. Damien de Veuster at his mission to lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was a Mohawk Indian who converted to Catholicism. Blessed Kateri will be the first Native American to be proclaimed a saint.
Anyone unaware of the leper priest, St. Damien de Vuester of Molokai, suffers a great poverty of knowledge and should become familiar with his heroic works of mercy. Blessed Marianne shares in his inspirational works and surely deserves the honors which she now receives.
Blessed Kateri has the honor of being the first Native American saint. She exhibited extraordinary courage as the only member of her Mohawk tribe to convert to Christianity, later making a 200 mile journey (by foot) to avoid execution due to her conversion.
It was once far more common to be acquainted with the saints and heroes of our past. Such familiarization provided important role models and practical guides for behavior - responsibilities which have now largely been transferred to sports and musical celebrities. But it is refreshing to be reminded that great people walk amongst us. I've recently been reading of Saint Therese of Lisieux and her "little way" of simple abandonment to God through the perfection of small duties. I wonder how many "little flowers" are undiscovered acquaintances to each of us today?
This is just worth sharing. The small German town of Mitterfirmiansreut near the Czech border wants its own church, but the powers that be aren't proving generous. So, they've built their own ... from snow.
The church is actually the second of its kind, a precurser having been built a century ago in a similar protest concerning their lack of a local parish. Persistence and ingenuity are obviously among their virtues.
David Brooks on how the Obama Administration used the wrong historical analogy of Progressivism--more government to deal with our crises--to get the nation into deeper trouble.
First, the underlying economic situations are very different....
In the progressive era, the economy was in its adolescence and the task was to control it. Today the economy is middle-aged; the task is to rejuvenate it.
Second, the governmental challenge is very different today than it was in the progressive era. Back then, government was small and there were few worker safety regulations. The problem was a lack of institutions. Today, government is large, and there is a thicket of regulations, torts and legal encumbrances. The problem is not a lack of institutions; it's a lack of institutional effectiveness.
The United States spends far more on education than any other nation, with paltry results. It spends far more on health care, again, with paltry results....
In the progressive era, there was an understanding that men who impregnated women should marry them. It didn't always work in practice, but that was the strong social norm....
One hundred years ago, we had libertarian economics but conservative values. Today we have oligarchic economics and libertarian moral values -- a bad combination.
In sum, in the progressive era, the country was young and vibrant. The job was to impose economic order. Today, the country is middle-aged but self-indulgent. Bad habits have accumulated. Interest groups have emerged to protect the status quo. The job is to restore old disciplines, strip away decaying structures and reform the welfare state. The country needs a productive midlife crisis.
The progressive era is not a model; it is a foil. It provides a contrast and shows us what we really need to do.
Brooks concedes far more to Progressivism than he should on both policy and its philosophic soundness: "The country needs a productive midlife crisis." It needs rather to reassert its founding identity. Here are some incisive brief essays on Progressive loopiness and radicalism.
Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 2,000 year old clay seal that seems to have been used in rituals performed in the Temple of Jerusalem. Aramaic lettering on the seal reads, "Pure for God," and may have authorized an object for use during rituals.
The find marks the first discovery of a written seal from that period of Jerusalem's history, and appeared to be a unique physical artifact from ritual practice in the Temple, said Reich, co-director of the excavation.
Very few artifacts linked to the Temples have been discovered so far. The site of the Temple itself - the enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary - remains off-limits to archaeologists because of its religious and political sensitivity.
One wonders what other artifacts await discovery in the Holy Land.
Continuing the theme of yesterday's post, I notice that John Hinderaker of Power Line writes on the same topic and categorically documents anti-Christian violence during the month of November tallied by Raymond Ibrihim of Middle East Forum. The list is too extensive to replicate here, but I urge anyone interested in the topic to view and browse MEF. (Long-time NLT commenter "Kate" also recommends Persecution.com.)
HInderaker echoes my sentiments of government responsibility to address the foreign persecution of Christians.
At a minimum, our government should afford asylum to endangered Christians with at least the same enthusiasm with which it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Muslims, most of them not in any danger at all. So far, that is not happening. More fundamentally, Christians ought not be forced to flee from their homelands. Christians in the U.S. should demand that our government pressure countries that receive our aid to protect Christian minorities-and other minorities, too, like Hindus, Jews and Baha'is, where they have not already been exterminated-before it is too late.
The Obama administration, and Democrats in general, happily inject the government into nearly every aspect of human life - from the light bulbs and toilet flushes in our homes to the global economy and the Ozone Layer. But when it comes to the genocidal murder of Christian minorities, they all suddenly become very unmotivated and reserved.
I am increasingly of the opinion that the only means by which to affect the situation abroad is through state action, and thus Americans must make Christian / religious persecution in the Middle East a foreign policy priority of the United States. This is the sort of diplomacy - freed from the constraints of an "unjust war in Iraq" - at which Obama was supposed to excel. It's time for the president to address the issue, and for Republican candidates to declare their day-one policy.
UPDATE: Apparently, President Obama is a reader of NLT. The U.S. has promised to aid Nigeria in the search for those responsible for the Christmas Day murders. Press Secretary Jay Carney went so far as to admit that the attacks "appear to be terrorist acts."
Today is a magical day. Today, Christians celebrate the birth of God on Earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Fully man and fully God, Jesus is later revealed as the second person of the Holy Trinity. While the image of the Infant Jesus is (by design) easy for people to relate, the celebration contains a mystery beyond human experience and intellect. It is a miracle.
Christmas is the first instance of the Good News of the Gospel, but the fallen nature of mankind ensures that Christianity continues to exist in a sinful world. Even the day of Christmas, perhaps the most innocent of all human celebrations, is marred by evil men. As Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace across the Middle East, Muslim murderers chose the holy occasion as an opportunity to shed blood.
Early Sunday, an explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria's capital of Abuja, and an emergency worker reported that 25 people were killed. A second explosion struck near a church in Nigeria's restive central city of Jos, while two other explosions hit the northeast state of Yobe.
Such violence is not exclusive to Nigeria.
In Iraq ... another round of suicide bombings on Thursday killed some 70 people [and]there will be no Midnight Mass. ... Iraq's Christians spend Christmas in "great fear," ... Christians are not displaying Christmas decorations outside their homes.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, the Fides news agency reported that more than 2,500 police will be protecting Christian churches during Christmas. Local sources told the agency that some 430 churches in Pakistan will have "special security measures." ... Christians make up about 3% of the Pakistani population. As reported to Fides by official sources, over the past five years, nearly 5,000 people have been victims of attacks by fundamentalist groups in Pakistan: a quarter of the victims are Christians.
Charles Jacobs at Big Peace [h/t Power Line] summarizes anti-Christian persecution in Egypt.
Gordon College is a Christian school between Salem and Rockport. A few weeks ago I spoke there at a commemoration of Kristallnacht, Germany's night of broken glass, the first mass assault on Europe's Jews and the harbinger of the Shoah. I told the Christian audience how good it was to feel Christian support for Jews in these times, and that even some of the most stubborn of my people were now appreciating Evangelical support for Israel. I also said that we felt this blessed support came from a spirit of Christian altruism. But given the news from the Middle East, concern for others is surely not the only reason Christians need to support Israel.
I asked how many in the audience of 250 knew of Anne Frank. Almost every hand shot up. Then I asked how many had heard of Ayman Labib. I got a mass blank stare. Ayman was a 17-year-old Egyptian Christian who just weeks ago was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates as teachers watched because he refused their demand to remove his cross necklace.
I asked how many knew about the Maspero massacre, which had left at least 24 Copts dead and 270 injured. And whether they knew that since January, there had been more than 70 attacks on Christian churches or institutions in Egypt.
While tonight you commemorate a Jewish pogrom, I told them, Christianity has just suffered its own "Kristallnacht" ... and I have yet to see much of a Christian response.
I invoke Christian suffering and the call for "a Christian response" during this Christmas season because attacks on Christians at this time of year are particularly perverse and the time of year provides a proper context for contemplating a just response.
Christian suffering around the world is curiously unlamented by Christian America. This is partially due to media-induced ignorance. CNN has no intention of interrupting its message of eco-solutions, gay-rights and Democratic talking-points in order to sympathize with Christians. Catholics aren't the folks CNN and their ilk have in mind when they bray about minority rights.
But seeming Christian apathy in the U.S. is also explained by culture and religious sensibilities. Whereas Muslims around the world react to a solitary pastor in Florida burning a Koran with murder and mayhem, Christians are called to respond to violence with forgiveness and by turning the other cheek. Whereas Mohammed issued ultimatums and led armies to war, Jesus preached hope and embraced martyrdom. Christianity retards the natural human impulse for revenge and recommends a response borne of hope.
Of course, that response is often difficult to articulate and may manifest as hesitancy in the search for peaceful, diplomatic channels. Perhaps these occasions of violence are matters of foreign affairs subject to state action. When America refuses to decry such atrocities and threaten repercussions, they seems to go unlamented. But the lamentable fact may be the impotency of the United States to aid in the security of the rights of Christian minorities around the world.
Perhaps a presidential candidate should be asked, "What will you do to protect persecuted Christian minorities abroad?" Surely the matter deserves far greater attention and consideration that it presently receives. A Christian response may be hard to decipher, but it is worth the trouble.
Nevertheless, today insists that Christians retain hope for the future - of this world and for the next. It is nothing less than a miracle that we celebrate today. If the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, the perils of this world must not cause us to lose faith. The Christmas story is one of hardship and suffering, but ultimate triumph. When we reflect upon the hardships and sufferings of this world, we must be mindful of the promise of ultimate triumph.