The Great Conservative “No!”

(AP Photo/Lou Krasky)

William F. Buckley Jr. talks with former California Governor Ronald Reagan at the South Carolina Governor's Mansion in Columbia S.C., on January 13,1978

 

In the ’80s and ’90s, the GOP basked in an atypical rep as “the party of ideas.” Thanks to the liberal project’s distinctly dilapidated charms once Jimmy Carter got done playing the concerned mortician, the rise of deep-pocketed think tanks and often sharp-witted neocon intellectuals—and, not least, Newt Gingrich’s endlessly self-fertilizing conception of himself as a brainiac—it wasn’t even undeserved. Revealingly, though, all that froufrou stayed disconnected from the party’s popular appeal. Unlike midcentury Democrats, for whom Adlai Stevenson’s intellectualism and the New Frontier’s Harvard pedigree were pluses, the Republican base never did develop much of a taste for white meat disguised as gray matter, preferring Gingrich the hyper--partisan to Gingrich the guru every time. 

Today’s conservative elites have learned the dangers of flirting, no matter how disingenuously, with innovative thinking. (Pace Paul Ryan, destroying Medicare isn’t an innovation; it’s an eternal dream.) From cap-and-trade and immigration reform to the individual health mandate, the big risk is that your notions will sound plausible enough for the other fellow to find merit in them. When the other fellow is Barack Obama, it’s obviously “Hulk smash” time, at whatever cost to intellectual consistency. 

So I gather, anyhow, from The New Leviathan: The State Versus the Individual in the 21st Century and Future Tense: The Lessons of Culture in an Age of Upheaval, two compilations of jeremiads by the conservatives’ intellectual crème de la froth. Individually published in pamphlet form over the past three years by Encounter Books honcho Roger Kimball, the essays of The New Leviathan aim to bring, he says, “an 18th-century sense of political urgency and rhetorical wit” to the modern age. The companion volume, Future Tense, also commemorates the 30th anniversary of The New Criterion, the neocon arts magazine founded by the late Hilton Kramer, which Kimball now edits.

In a bubbly mood, George F. Will—who contributes The New Leviathan’s foreword—suggests we’re in for a rare treat. The table of contents is a better guide to the trudge readers are in for. Try this for a version of The Avengers where everybody just takes turns punching Loki in the face: “How Barack Obama Is Endangering Our National Sovereignty” (John R. Bolton), “How the Obama Administration Threatens to Undermine Our Elections” (John Fund), “How the Obama Administration Threatens Our National Security” (Victor Davis Hanson), “How the Obama Administration Has Politicized Justice” (Andrew C. McCarthy), “How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting the U.S. Economy” (Stephen Moore), “How Obama Has Mishandled the War on Terror” (Michael B. Mukasey). Out of 13 essays, only 5 don’t indict the Other by name in their title. 

 

Lesser villains include government unions (helping to bankrupt America, Daniel DiSalvo says), “progressive institutions” (unsustainable, according to Richard A. Epstein), the Environmental Protection Agency’s “green tyranny” (Rich Trzupek), and “The Dependency Agenda” (Kevin D. Williamson’s disgraceful, LBJ–calumniating contribution). By my count, that leaves just one poor bastard—Glenn H. Reynolds in “The Higher Education Bubble”—analyzing a credible problem almost as if the main point is to figure out what to do about it, not turn the issue into a stick to beat the opposition with. Luckily for my sanity, Reynolds signals he’s one of the brethren by ridiculing diversity programs and economically unproductive liberal-arts degrees. 

Anyhow, The New Leviathan’s other contributors should feel aggrieved that John Bolton gets to kick things off; it’s like being asked to follow James Brown doing “Sex Machine.” Few men are as likely as Bolton to invite a suspicion that they only wear a mustache and keep their eyebrows bushy to help soak off the saliva. It’s been too long, J.B.—and of course, you’re right. It’s probably time to trot out the old sample case now that you’re in the running to be, Lord help us, Mitt Romney’s secretary of state. 

His contumely at Obama—“our first post-American president”—for bending the knee to the “international Left’s” underhanded schemes of global governance is a splendid performance, right down to the inevitable mention of how “small” and easily picked-on Israel is. Rarely stooping to concrete examples that would illustrate his thesis—aside from a few snippets of Obama’s oratory in his citizen-of-the-world mode, none exists—he finds room for salvos at everything from his eternal bête noire, the U.N., to his new one, internationalist-minded NGOs. While picking the prize nugget in this feast of bellicose nutballism is no easy job, the recommendation that “defenders of American sovereignty … must develop international capabilities like the Left’s NGOs” is berserk even by Bolton standards. You simply have no idea what he’s advocating: Tea Partiers Without Borders? The International Rifle Association? 

Considering that Obama has waged war on al-Qaeda more effectively than Bush did—and shown less regard for constitutional niceties, not to mention Pakistan’s hurt feelings, in the process—how to portray him as a foreign-policy weakling vexes not only Bolton but several of his colleagues. Michael Mukasey does grant Obama “one or two tactical successes,” which is charitable. But that’s only on the way to upbraiding his administration for living “in a fantasy world in which choices have no consequences,” by which he chiefly means giving up torture as an intelligence tool. Clearly, George W. Bush’s last attorney general not only misses the good old days but hates how they’ve been tarnished, since he spends several paragraphs assuring us that Gitmo is a swell place to be indefinitely detained in.

For Victor Davis Hanson, Obama’s sins include leaving “vulnerable Israel”—I told you it was inevitable, didn’t I?—to cope unaided as Iran threatens to become “a nuclear regional hegemon,” something Israel itself has been for decades. Meanwhile, the Loki in the White House cozies up to Latin America’s most left-wing regimes—a “natural” complement to his domestic agenda, which “seeks to … redistribute supposedly illegitimately obtained private capital” right here at home. That incidentally puts Hanson on the same page as Stephen Moore, who calls Obama’s ten-year budget blueprint a “socialist fantasy that read as though ghostwritten by Hugo Chavez.” Nonsense, say I. It wasn’t that wordy.

 

***

Elsewhere, John Fund and Andrew C. McCarthy both mount attacks on Obama’s Justice Department. Fund’s has its moments, since all Justice Departments are politicized by their parent administration’s priorities, and it’s never that hard to make Eric Holder look at once overweening and shilly-shallying. However outrageous, the GOP’s current jihad against him derives from a shrewd recognition that he’s the Obama cabinet’s weak link. 

Regrettably, Fund’s argument is dulled by his old-fashioned notion that sounding reasonable can be a useful ploy in convincing readers he didn’t spot the fire first and the smoke second. That makes him seem tame next to McCarthy, who’s off to the races as soon as he suggests that—“Given the well-known anti-gun obsessions of top Obama officials”—the hidden goal of the Fast and Furious program may have been “to bolster the left’s claim that America’s ‘gun culture’ fuels international violence.” God, but we pinkos are diabolical at propaganda. 

 

It’s worth remembering that Kimball’s contributors represent the respectable—indeed, in their own minds, the high-minded—face of conservative thinking. (Pimples on the body politic’s rump like, say, Jonah Goldberg are blessedly MIA, although it may go without saying that the heterodox likes of David Frum are too.) Yet with few exceptions, Richard Hofstadter’s “paranoid style” is in full cry. Never particularized as to personnel but clearly meaning us no good, shadowy entities like “globalists” and “the international Left” flit malignantly through essay after essay, like the Comintern trying out a casual-Fridays look. 

Any approach to the world that even hints at sharing Thomas Jefferson’s outmoded concern with “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” is sure to be reviled as an assault on our sovereignty, exceptionalism, and freedom to administer whuppings to anybody in our way. That’s particularly true of international covenants that might oblige us to play by the same rules as everyone else, of course. But almost as bad is any tainting of homegrown American jurisprudence by so much as a mild curiosity about how other countries get the job done. Even poor Justice Anthony Kennedy—not yet redeemed by his vote against Obamacare—gets scolded because he “trends transnational-
progressive,” conjuring up a disturbing image of the get-your-freak-on outfit under his chaste robes. 

As it happens, that’s Andrew C. McCarthy again—but in Future Tense, the other and lesser of Kimball’s compilations, to which he contributes a charmer titled “Enter Totalitarian Democracy.” Overall, Future Tense’s only divergence from The New Leviathan is that its dudgeon casts a wider net of blame, which has the welcome fringe benefit of making it the less monotonous of the two. Clearly a man who never goes on vacation, Victor Davis Hanson compares Obama to Pericles and finds the Kenyan metrosexual wanting. Andrew Roberts mourns the shackling of the “American Prometheus” by “self-hating Americans” who “embrace an effete European-style social democracy.” 

Then somebody parodying Charles Murray—apparently with Murray’s permission, since his byline isn’t in quotes—applies “historiometric methods” to determine the preconditions for a great culture. Anyone capable of claiming that “artistic elites have been conspicuously nihilist for the last century” is destined to sound brainy only on Twitter, but Murray futzes around a good deal before his roundhouse punch: “Religiosity is indispensable to a major stream of artistic accomplishment.” 

Luckily, a couple of contributors seize the chance to write about things that interest them in the guise of furthering Kimball’s agenda. James Panero is fun and smart about museums as the present’s all-too-fungible—or should that be smartible?—idea of the past. David Bentley Hart’s “America and the Angels of Sacré-Coeur” is imitation Henry Adams that arrives at the same conclusion as Murray does but with more sophistication. If you’re starved for heresy, Hart’s impudent admission that he has no “emotional investment in America’s pre--eminence”—he’s a Brit, allowing for court-jester license—almost makes up for his unwarranted belief that he has a sinuous prose style. 

Yet there’s a paradox here. Aside from Andrew Roberts’s appeals to the leonine legacy of Omaha Beach, Valley Forge, and (seriously) Custer’s Last Stand—despite, he says, “the sneers of the intellectuals and the jibes of the late-night satire shows,” a charge that doesn’t make me any readier to take lessons in martial Americana from a man who writes about “the defense [my italics] of Guadalcanal”—these outraged patriots seldom if ever celebrate American culture. That ongoing proof of capitalism’s redeeming glories— from Hollywood to the Super Bowl—might have made even Karl Marx think twice the first time he caught himself humming “Don’t Worry, Baby” or getting misty-eyed over The Searchers. Granting that he’s a foreigner, Hart’s astounding claim that “spirituality … makes very little contribution to the aesthetic surface of American life” just tells you he’s never heard George Jones sing. Or Ray Charles, either, and how can you analyze Barack Obama’s appeal if you don’t even know who Al Green is? 

Hart isn’t the only one. In fact, how little these people seem to be familiar with—let alone appreciate—the genius of the nation they’re allegedly defending is a little eerie. In not only their disdain but their ignorance, they could almost be, well, European. The same goes for most of the contributors’ patent craving for an autarchic and militarized nation-state to replace our imperfect but lagniappe-crammed democracy. I don’t know about you, but personally, I think they’re trying to civilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

Comments

The Civil War never ended. North vs. South. Strong Federal vs. State-Centered government. Public vs. Private. Progressivism vs. Traditionalism. Which side of the divide do you reside?

Vote here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvTIphPnDM8

Without the benefit of that "no", we are now faced with paying for yet another unaffordable entitlement and the prospect of growing both the debt and welfare state to an unsustainable level. But then, that's what the "transformation" was meant to accomplish.

I'm pretty sure David Bentley Hart was born in Maryland. He has mentioned a long family history there in his writing.

Wow! What a fantastically pretentious, long-winded ramble!

Another disappointing article about calling Republicans stupid rather than addressing their points. Are federal diversity programs and the UN a waste of taxpayer money? Uhhh.... Hey, John Bolton drools!

Let's run it down:

John Bolton - Law degree from Yale
Victor Davis Hanson - Doctorate from Stanford

and

Tom Carson - Movie critic and former staff writer at LA Weekly and The Village Voice

One has a duty to say "no" to evil. Liberal doctrine, not liberals, mind you, is evil. Liberals do not know, or with malice ignore, the 10th amendment of the US Constitution, which teaches that all powers not expressly given to the fedgov are reserved to the states or individuals. Thus liberals cannot 'conserve' the document on which this nation, and its success, has been based. Don't like any part of it, or want to add to it? Amend it, as it was thankfully amended to end slavery and recognize the right of women to vote. Liberal supreme courters: we are smarter than Madison et al. the constitution means whatever my whim is on a given day.

Liberals condescendingly think they are smarter than conservatives, and are morally better, more 'Christian' one might say. Conservatives recognize the intelligence of liberals, and don't think they're better than liberals, just that they are wrong on X issue. Conservatives tithe their $ to charities. Liberals want to send $100 to DC, from other people's money, of which we get back 50 bucks worth of service, the other half paying liberal bureaucrats.

This article is not thought but an auto-erotic act; self-satisfying but fruitless.
(note to editors keep publishing drivel like this and you will be paying people to subscribe not just offering substantial discounts)

Worthless propagandist tripe. It's telling that the author never addresses the substance of conservative objections to obama's statist and unconstitutional governance; his cabinet and czars composed of a who's who of socialist and communist organization members; his appalling and deliberately destructive spending. Reading Carson is an education in intellectual envy. His writing is an excersize of nugatory and onanastic insularity passing as thought.

You may have seen this before, but now that the countdown is on until election day, the time is at hand...

ONE MINUTE EACH NIGHT

This is the scariest election we as Christians have ever faced, and from the looks of the polls, the Christians aren't voting Christian values. We all need to be on our knees. Do you believe we can take God at His word? Call upon His name, then stand back and watch His wonders unfold.

This scripture gives us, as Christians, ownership of this land and the ability to call upon God to heal it.

I challenge you to do that. We have never been more desperate than now for God to heal our land.

This election is the scariest I remember in my lifetime.

2 Chronicles 7:14. 'If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.'

During WWII, there was an advisor to Churchill, who organized a group of people who dropped what they were doing every night at a prescribed hour for one minute, to collectively pray for the safety of England , its people and peace. This had an amazing effect, as bombing stopped.

There is now a group of people organizing the same thing here in America .

The United States of America , and our citizens, need prayer more than ever!!!

If you would like to participate, each evening at 9:00 PM Eastern Time (8 PM Central, 7 PM Mountain, 6 PM Pacific), stop whatever you're doing, and spend one minute praying for the safety of the United States, our troops, our citizens, for peace in the world, the upcoming election, that the Bible will remain the basis for the laws governing our land, and that Christianity will grow in the U.S.

If you know anyone who would like to participate, please pass this along.
Someone said if people really understood the full extent of the power we have available through prayer, we might be speechless. Our prayers are the most powerful asset we have.

Please pass this on to anyone who you think will want to join us. Thank you and God Bless You!!!

Glenn Reynolds ridicules liberal education? Well, why not?

He's a real and frank voice of the plutocracy, and the plutocracy wants you to be well prepared to be useful, if possible and if it’s profitable to themselves to get you that way, to their relentless and all-important efforts to make themselves rich, come what may.

Anything that's just for your good has no value for them at all.

And if it might make you a tad uppity toward their power, their neoliberal world, and the spot they've got all ready for you in it, then it’s actually got negative value, for them.

Let's be clear, in case somehow you don't get it. Liberal education is education.

Everything else is vocational training for welders, auto mechanics, lawyers, cosmetologists, cosmetic surgeons, bankers, carpenters, accountants, or any other kind of cog in the great capitalist machine you or they can think of.

As for the supposed debate about the value of education there is really only one question to be addressed.

Do you actually think ignorance is a good thing?

Would you rather be ignorant and powerless, both, say, than just powerless?

OK, I get it. It's too late for you. You're well past school age and maybe you don’t even have any kids or even lateral descendants to worry about.

But, given your druthers, what do you want the future America, the future planet Earth, to look like?

A world of precipitous inequality, of ignorant, powerless, impoverished masses entirely ignored when not viciously exploited by a fabulously rich and self-indulgent oligarchy?

That future is only too literally not only possible but even likely, both for America and for the whole world. It may even be pretty much a sure thing.

Unless we humans foul the planet beyond habitability, first; otherwise, if we don’t do so at the same time then we will do so soon after.

Anyway, would you prefer that or an ecologically and economically sustainable world as close as may be to the impossible, egalitarian, humanist dreams of the more visionary socialists of the 19th and 20th Centuries?

I suppose if I loathed mankind enough – and who could deny that humans deserve it? – I would actually root for the future of abysmal planetary oligarchy and human population collapse and perhaps even extinction that is almost certainly coming, anyway, out of sheer misanthropy.

But I don’t.

I prefer the other.

For all that it matters.

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