Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


"Embarassment" of Debates (update)

The current Republican exchanges? Besides those, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, according to the popularizing Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. He responded to Newt Gingrich's call for Lincoln-Douglas debates against Obama. Holzer, however, reassures us that "Rather than inspiring memorable words, they proved for the most part an embarrassment." In fact, in his view, they show Lincoln's racial bigotry: 

"I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races," he declared in Charleston, Ill., to robust cheers, "nor ever have been in favor of making voters of the negroes, or jurors, or qualifying them to hold office, or having them to marry with white people." It was not the future emancipator's finest hour.

This is mediocre historian shallowness, which ignores what Lincoln might do in the future--shown clearly by the Emancipation Proclamation, his allowing blacks to fight in the Union army, and his early policies for reintegrating the South. Lincoln had no reason to speak of such civil and political equality, when most blacks were slaves. This superficiality breeds ignorant Lincoln haters and other cyncial leftists who despise their country. Though Holzer describes well the excitement of the debates, he, like most historians, simply doesn't see the principles involved. Ultimately, he does not understand the subjects as they understood themselves.

Read Harry Jaffa, author of the best book on political science since The Federalist. Crisis of the House Divided is also available via google books.  Ashbrook has a pdf as well, but I can't find it. In the meantime here are some short essays by real Lincoln scholars.


Our friend Jack Pitney is skeptical of Newt's debating skills.


Categories > Presidency


I Wouldn't Put It Past Him

With all this talk of unfair tax rates, might President Obama propose a flat tax? Of course his version would be loaded with exemptions and cut-outs for his base, but it will force Republican cooperation and, incidentally, likely win him reelection.
Categories > Presidency


Your Tax Dollars at Work

Former Democratic MC Jane Harman, now head of the Woodrow Wilson Center, appraises the SOTU. She knows which side her bread is buttered on.

Broken link now fixed, h/t JL.

Categories > Progressivism


Self-Destructive GOP

I'm not talking about Newt and Mitt, but about the "class warfare" complaint hurled against Obama. This attack in fact affirms Obama's point--that there are classes, two (or three) Americas, as it were. Such rhetoric reflects the victory of the Progressive mentality, which was to reject the individual rights and limited government language of the American Founding, in favor of talk about the progress of history and a ruling class of civil servants--nonpartisan, scientific administrators. That is the real "class warfare" that needs to be fought, but Republicans flunked American history. In fact Progressivism got its political start under the popular president TR.

Theodore Roosevelt supplied the rhetoric for this swindle, Woodrow Wilson (and Calhoun) the political science, and now Obama a potential coup de grace. The liberal version of Mt. Rushmore--what might this be? we need a Howard Roark for this purpose--would feature Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and Obama.


Categories > Presidency

Reviewing the SOTU

I can't bear to reread it right now, so I'll let Wheat&Weeds whack it. Buffett's secretary? Caligula's horse.

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

From Spengler:

"Egypt's crisis was the easiest market call since Moses warned Pharaoh about the frogs."

Categories > Quote of the Day


The Postmodern Media

For the Postmodern Presidency. Headline on the first page of today's Wall Street Journal: "Obama Makes Populist Pitch."  The news is his strategy, not what he said.
Categories > Journalism

Health Care

Bureaucratic Efficiency

In Liberty Fund's new blog Michael Greve points out how powerful and efficient bureaucracies can be when they have determined leaders. The issue here is HHS rules requiring religious organizations to provide contraception coverage in their employee health plans. In sum:

Follow the progression: first comes a statutory text of sufficient ambiguity ["Obamacare"] to keep the Catholic Health Association, representing Catholic hospitals, on board in support of the ACA. (Now that it's been had, one hopes the association has learned its lesson.) Then comes an administrative creep forward and a de facto delegation to a private organization of known disposition, whose perceived authority and expertise provide cover for the bureaucracy. Then comes the wholesale, underhanded adoption of the interim rule.

Categories > Health Care


Roe v. Wade and Equal Opportunity

Obama on Roe:  "And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams." So does he oppose sex-selection abortions? 

The entire statement below:

As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman's health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right. While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue- no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

Categories > Bioethics


Squirrel Appreciation Day

...was Saturday. I'm mortified to have missed the event and hereby make amends for my unconscionable oversight. However, I believe that I've aptly expressed my appreciation for the little critters over the years. Here's a snapshot of the flower pot outside our house in Georgia on a typical day last summer.

Flower Pot.jpg

The invasion quickly escalated into a full Occupy Casa Paulette Movement, as evidenced from this view of our back yard.


Of course, we may have been partly to blame for encouraging them.

Nut House.jpg 

My realtor, a savvy local conservative, saw what we were encouraging in the back yard and warned us that Georgia squirrels are Democrats. They'd soon feel entitled to the food, housing and quality of life to which they'd become accustomed and expect us to continue paying for their leisure long after we'd moved away.

The difference between squirrels and Democrats, of course, is that squirrels are really cute.

Categories > Leisure

Foreign Affairs

Chinese New Year

Since we're observing the Lunar New Year, the situation in China merits a few remarks. Gary Locke is a bit of a rock star in China. Not only is he the first U.S. Ambassador to China of Chinese ancestry, but his non-rock-star persona strikes a chord with the Chinese people.

Locke's popularity here among ordinary Chinese ... has as much to do with his unassuming nature -- his ordinariness -- as his Chinese looks and background. Even before he arrived, Locke was photographed with his daughter at the Seattle airport, sporting a backpack and trying to pay for his coffee with a coupon.

Since then, Locke "sightings" have included the ambassador flying in economy class, buying ice cream with his daughter in the Sanlitun neighborhood of Beijing, and waiting in line with his family alongside tourists for a seat on a cable car descending from the Great Wall.

The reason for the fascination, many here posit, is that when Chinese look at this backpack-toting American envoy with a Chinese face, they see everything their own leaders are not -- leaving authorities struggling for how best to respond to his increasingly evident popularity

"Struggling" Chinese authorities are unlikely to be further enamored with Locke for his most recent statements describing China's political structure as "very, very delicate." While Locke notes that "calls earlier this year for a Jasmine Revolution" ultimately came to nothing, the people are increasingly willign to demonstrate and oppose the government - and a "significant, internal" event could have the power to spark an upheaval.

Locke said that since he took over the ambassadorship from former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, he has become aware of public demonstrations large and small throughout China that ordinary people were using to pressure the government to address their grievances. He singled out a recent protest in the southern Chinese city of Wukan over the confiscation of land without reasonable compensation.

"[The people] basically prevented anybody from the outside from coming in and brought the city to a halt and forced the Chinese government communist leaders to send people to address their grievances," Locke said.

Of course, this growing unrest has been accompanied by a steep decline in China's commitments to human rights and the rule of law. Hope and courage - the promises for 2012, the Year of the Dragon - may be absolutely necessary for the Chinese in the months to ahead.

P.S. All of the above may seem more relevant in light of Peter Kiernan new book, "Becoming China's Bitch." Kiernan was recently interviewed by Foreign Policy - the intro is below.

The year 2012 will see a stream of new books in the patented Thomas Friedman "Oh My God the Chinese Are Eating Our Lunch with Environmentally Friendly Chopsticks" mold. Some will be more worthwhile than others. One book in particular, however, is sure to stand out, if only for the title: "Becoming China's Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now." 

The author, Peter D. Kiernan, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, explains in the introduction that "it's not a book about China exactly. It's about how America got diverted and lost momentum, and a dragon leapt into the breach. It's also about getting our mojo back."

Perhaps a must read for 2012.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Lunar New Year

Korean Lunar New Year.jpg

Korea is celebrating Seollal, the Lunar New Year, today. It is a very traditional holiday marked by a mass migration out of the cities toward ancient homelands in the surrounding rural hills. The Koreans pay homage to their ancestors and spend the day with their elders. Some still wear traditional garb and the country is practically swimming in a traditional rice cake soup called Tteokguk. They are a wonderfully traditional people.

Also, according to my Korean friends - and to the dismay of many local Western females - today is our lunar birthday and we have all turned one year older. Luckily, westerners are not required to age again on our biological birthdays! (Korean age reckoning is interesting, by and by. They count conception as the beginning of life - newborns are thus considered to be one year old.)

2012 is the Year of the Dragon and hence promises hope and courage. (Fortune and superstition are also important to Koreans.) So, in the customary manner, I say: saehae bok mani badeuseyo - Receive many New Year blessings.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Rethinking an Old Issue

The science columnist for the Wall Street Journal writes about sex-selection abortion and how it might be curbed. The case against this practice leads one to question the morality of abortion altogether.

Another approach, quite suitable to young adults, is presented in the Newbery award-winning novel The Giver. In the dystopian world young Jonas inhabits, he discovers that his father, a doctor, kills those deemed unfit. Progressive Montgomery County, MD assigns this as an eighth-grade text (along with other dystopian fiction such as Animal Farm and Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron.")

Categories > Bioethics