"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, April 16, 2007

Playing (to the) Bass

Smokin' Tom, bass player for the Van Dykes, wrote below:

And Mike Huckabee played bass. No word on whether he was any good at it, but he probably was. Any idiot can play bass.

Judge for yourself: a home-made Pop-Up Video of Capitol Offense, courtesy of C-Span. (Pop-Up text has not been verified for accuracy, and at least some of it is most certainly Completely Made Up.) Also notice the governor is not playing just any bass, but a Tobias Growler.


Ordinarily I would have put this fluff in a comment, but our comments section, being Not As Smart as Fred Thompson, wouldn't allow anything as elaborate as an embedded YouTube video.

Fredophiles are already pointing out that we didn't do too badly the last time we elected an actor as president; Huckabee seems like a nice fellow and I hope he doesn't suffer from reflections on what we got the last time we elected a governor of Arkansas with a musical instrument on a neckstrap.
Thinking of running for president, or at least governor of Arkansas...

Judging from the audio, Capitol Offense has an opening for a lead singer.

Weekend GOP Prez-Wannabe Report

Well, they all went to Iowa, except for Fred, who, as the only smart one, stayed home and watched NASCAR. (My man Jeff Burton with the win! Booyah!)

John McCain was in favor of beating the Islamofrackheads in Iraq. Rudy was against losing to 'em.

Mitt was against abortion before he was for it but now he's against it again.

And Mike Huckabee played bass.

No word on whether he was any good at it, but he probably was. Any idiot can play bass, in fact, I play a little bass meself. Thinking of running for president, or at least governor of Arkansas...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

McCain Unable; Newt Nought

I am sorry to admit I cannot share the admiration my beloved coblogger TVD harbors for John McCain. The man gives me the pip. Always has. Believe me, I would have been happy, during the interminable and depressing 1999-2000 campaign season, to have been presented with some plausible alternative to the coronation of Dauphin Bush. Pulling the lever for his father in 1992 damn near gave me a cerebral aneurysm. But the exhaust from the "Straight Talk Express" always smelled like manure to me, and the thing was sewed up by the time the Minnesota primary rolled around anyway.

I have been convinced for at least two years that McCain had no chance in 2008. Back before Patrick Ruffini went to work for Guiliani, he ran a blog where he gave away the kind of political and polling analysis for which Rudy is probably paying through the nose now. A feature of that blog was a rolling presidential candidate straw poll crosstabbed by state. And you saw the usual 'favorite son' dynamic at work there -- Virginians supported George Allen (that'll give you a clue about how many political tectonic plates have shifted since then), Massachusetts went for Mitt Romney, Minnesotans voted for Tim Pawlenty, etc. The glaring exception was McCain. For the many months I tracked this poll, Arizonans supported McCain at about half the level he polled among respondents as a whole. When the people who know you best dislike you twice as much as complete strangers do, the intense scrutiny of a national campaign is not going to trend your way. And the YouToobification of political discourse will ensure that every temper tantrum, every irritable outburst, and every pissy self-righteous arrogant expression that crosses his face when he can't help himself will be broadbanded around the world while Terry Nelson's still tying his shoes.

Granted that dynamic, I am a bit surprised that this YouTube offering hasn't received more attention. As far as I can tell, it marks the complete and utter disintegration of Newt Gingrich's chances to ever be elected to any office again.

Look, I understand what he was trying to say, and I thought he got a bad rap over the original comments. I admire Newt's intellect and accomplishments, and although I don't think he would be a very good presidential candidate, and is probably not presidential timber, he would be a valuable asset to any conservative administration that was intelligent enough to appreciate his virtues and patient enough to overlook his flaws. But if Newt emerges as a serious primary contender, there is no way this Muy Dorko Gringo thing stays off the urban airwaves. Good grief, he sounds like an extra from a Spanish class scene in a Napoleon Dynamite movie.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Homnick & Hutchins on a Roll

See below.

Imus In Mourning

Never eat in a bar or drink in a restaurant: this advice, tendered by a sage elder, has served me well over the decades. Applying its wisdom to another sphere, I never listen to television shows over the radio or watch radio broadcasts on TV. Here in Miami you can pick up NBC TV on 87.7 FM, but the thought of processing Kelly Ripa’s vapid vaporings without visual aids fills me with dread. By the reverse token, if I want to catch the Imus Show, my only access is by tuning in to MSNBC on cable; it has no radio home in Miami. Or had, before its plugs were pulled. The upshot is I have not heard the show since leaving Cincinnati in 2000, save the periodic New York visit.

Now they tell me I will never hear it again, nor will you or the 2.75 million people who habitually did in the past. CBS has asked the I-Man to take his creaky, oft-broken old bones and shuffle off in his absurdly tacky cowboy boots for parts unknown, following MSNBC’s snappier dismissal. This in the wake of his describing the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, Cinderella finalists against Tennessee for the NCAA championship, as a group of “nappy-headed hos”.

The singular of that is “ho”, listed in Homnick’s Dictionary of Modern Slang as: 1. a soothing Hawaiian lounge singer with fifty or so kids. 2. half a cylindrical, frosted, cream-filled cake manufactured by Hostess. 3. a third of a holiday greeting by Santa Claus. 4. the unnamed female protagonist in rap songs who needs to get the **** over here and engage in various sordid activities involving large quantities of asterisks. Short, one presumes, for the more Biblical “whore”, a word used variously to describe a woman either loose or commercial in her sexual proclivities. And, of course, Mr. Imus has now encountered the last definition: 5. (with heave-) the unceremonious process of being evicted or fired; the bum’s rush.

Is the I-Man’s career over? I think not. He will not be satisfied to let his 40-year run finish in unrelieved ignominy. Either he will sign with a lesser network for much less money or he will follow his mortal nemesis, Howard Stern, to satellite radio. His corporate sponsors like Procter & Gamble will give way to the sleazy ads endemic to the medium: baldness cures, get-rich-quick home business packages and virility aids. And most of his big-name guests will scurry for cover into taller grass.

It could not have happened to a less nice guy. Imus is to Dale Carnegie as Al Sharpton is to Emily Post. He may have been a Marine, but his buddies are none too proud of his simpering for a fee. If I rise to defend him, I do it with nose firmly held. He can make me laugh but he can never make me smile. (This is not to minimize his considerable acts of charity. But writing a check does not whitewash a disreputable personage.)

Am I the first guy to notice this is neither a racist nor a sexist slur? A slur, I should think, impugns the character in some way. Racist means attributing some debility or unwholesome behavior to members of a particular genetic group. Sexist – vile word! – indicates a presumption of inferior human fiber on the part of one gender (an intrinsically absurd notion, since every human being has one father and one mother). Now find me that, any of that in Imus’ gibbering.

Was he disparaging these girls’ chastity? Of course not. Was he trying to asperse their style of dress? Ridiculous: all college basketball players wear a uniform outfit, differentiated only by team colors. Was he saying they must be whores because they are black? Ludicrous; Rutgers is no blacker than other college teams. Was he saying all women are whores? Gimme a break.

What he was saying, in silly street language coined by black wastrels, is that these girls projected a kind of tough street persona, a court sensibility that tells an opponent: you can’t hurt me anymore than I have been out there in the big bad world, and I’ll keep clawing until I have your crown. In fact, if you have been around sports long enough, you know that some teams cultivate that sort of image to intimidate opponents. Whether or not they have a valedictorian and a musical genius in their ranks.

Irony of ironies. What he said was offensive, but only on grounds of generalized crudity. He did not insult the Rutgers girls or blacks at large or women in general, he only insulted a standard of decorum most of his listeners would deem effete. Think about it… then laugh at the foolishness… and cry at our national idiocy.

Right Said Fred

I'm not sure what's up with the "All Fred All the Time" teasers on the right sidebar, but since they're there I figured this was fair game. Best fake bumper sticker of the nascent 2008 campaign, courtesy of Vodkapundit:

An explanation is available here for those allergic to Tom Clancy.

Speaking of Fred, I was a little confused when I came across slate.com's John Dickerson slagging a candidate with:
an undistinguished eight years in the Senate, an acting career, and a youthful turn as co-counsel in the Watergate hearings

'Cause I didn't think liberals would be so upfront about Hillary Clinton's First Lady years being a stage performance. But then I realized he was talking about Fred.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Wretch Wrenches a Wretch

Actor Ed O'Neil's wife was once in Mrs. TVD's theatre group, and he was persuaded to lend his marquee value to a fund-raiser with them. They would read from a book of theatre stories, but one in particular, something about sending a famous lech a diseased chorus boy, raised Ed's eyebrows a little.

It was agreed that maybe they shouldn't do that one, and Ed noted that they were really in trouble if Al Bundy was their arbiter of taste.

Which brings us to Al Sharpton volunteering himself to head America's new Legion of Public Decency. We're in trouble, folks. When Sharpton began his own career of public speaking, people died. He followed that with libeling a New York assistant DA, charging him with rape in the Tawana Brawley case. (Stephen Pagones was innocent.)

"Reverend" Al never even said he was sorry. Don Imus did, but Sharpton refused to forgive him, and instead marched into CBS Radio headquarters today and had Imus' scalp delivered unto him.

There is a book that Brother Sharpton putatively holds to be gospel truth. One passage goes something like this:

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

It's a very good book, Mister Sharpton. Word up.

The Very-Friendly Toilets

So, apparently, the bathrooms of the Atlanta airport are quite the hook-up joints for a certain cast of characters and the Atlanta police (on the lookout for luggage thieves) have arrested a number of folks recently, including the director of MARTA, Atlanta's metro. Pretty icky. But the funny part of the story was the quote the reporter was able to wheedle out of some professor at Hunter College in NYC:

"Police have far better things to do with their time than to arrest people for this," said Kenneth Sherrill, professor at Hunter College of The City University of New York. "Being 'sex police' in bathrooms strikes me as a perversion of rational law enforcement activities."

I wonder if the reporter giggled when he typed in that quote. Perversion, indeed....

Iraq and Walter Cronkite

(Hugh Hewitt's full-time guest blogger, the exquisite Dean Barnett, provides a link to Fox News' Shepard Smith going a bit Cronkite on the Iraq War. I was moved to post a fragment of my thoughts about it there, and did, but this was the whole of them:)

Dean, well observed. Such things will happen as each of our hearts grow fainter.

Paul Harvey's opening today was nothing but bad news on the Iraq butchery front as well, bad news on re-enlistments and bad news that the administration asked three retired 4-star generals to return to active duty and help straighten out this mess. (They declined.)

If there's a Cronkite still around, wouldn't it be Paul Harvey?

Most of our nation has lost faith in President Bush, let's face it. So be it. If one consumes only mainstream news, and most folks do, no other opinion is possible.

But I think what's beginning to happen is that the decent people in the United States are losing their faith that there is still a critical mass of decent people left in Iraq. We're growing disgusted. Day by day, person by person, Americans stand up for themselves. The Iraqi people are not.

So we're starting to question whether we should continue to support and encourage our brave military men and women who are willing to risk their lives to save theirs.

Did I say brave? No, that's too faint of praise. Heroic, and we weaker folk should never stand in the way of heroes.

The moment I perceive that these heroes have come to see themselves as the unwilling led by the incompetent to do the unnecessary for the ungrateful, as they put it in the days of the Vietnam War, conscience requires us all to pull a Cronkite, too.

The "incompetent" part has support virtually across the left-right board. We shoulda done this (more troops), shouldna done that (disband the Ba'athist army). Can't say the criticism is off---there's always more incompetence than brilliance in any war. That's how human events tend to work.

But the "ungrateful" part is getting more plausible by the day. And should America's first heroes of the 21st Century become unwilling, the unnecessary part will become moot. You can't give anyone a gift they don't want, whether it's their freedom or even their lives. (I mean you can, but they'll return it, stick it in a closet, or simply throw it away.)

I'll continue to listen as best as I can hear, and trust their judgment. I'm having a great moral dilemma about abandoning the good people in Iraq to the butchers, and our heroes are, too.


Apologies, all. Had the crud that's been going around out here in LA. Didn't want to commit an Imus in my weakened mental state---I sign my real name to things, and one attempted witticism can result in a career death sentence. I've still got a family to feed.

These are perilous times, shorn of all frivolity.

Perhaps that's a good thing in light of the current situation, but one jokes at his own peril, and that's a drag. I don't know how Homnick does it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The McCain Campaign, Kicked Off the Island

My heart bleeds for John McCain, who is a great man. I almost came out for his candidacy six months ago, because I felt (and still feel) that our country needs someone who can get all us Americans roughly on the same page. Left and right are at each other's throats: at the office, at dinner parties, at the bowling alley, and in some cases, the bedroom.

But something held me back. McCain's silly but well-intentioned campaign finance reform was in the grand scheme of things small potatoes. His objection to the first round of Bush tax cuts was disconcerting, but at least he wasn't a tax-raiser. No, it had to do with John McCain, the man.

I caught McCain's run-in with CNN's Iraq correspondent/pundit Michael Ware at the doctor's office (I'm fine, thanks for asking, but I thought I'd slip that in to explain why I've been MIA here lately). McCain said that Baghdad was getting quite safe. Ware, albeit keeping himself purposefully but understandably constantly drunk in the Apocolypse Now that is today's Iraq, was quite right to scoff.

In an attempt to defend his assertion, Sen. McCain donned a Kevlar vest and rounded up a US military posse to accompany him in a tour of an Iraq open-air market. That was shown to be ridiculous---an American, not to mention a US senator, can't walk around freely in Baghdad. Nor could most members of the Iraq government.

McCain will back off in an interview to be telecast on Sunday:

"Of course I am going to misspeak and I've done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future," said McCain, according to 60 Minutes.

John McCain, when his emotional temperature permits, has worked to heal his (minor) ideological rifts with the GOP since the 2004 presidential campaign, when he stumped for President Dubya in New Hampshire, and has made appearances on behalf of any Republican congressional candidate who's asked. In the war against the Islamo-Badguys, he's been a rock.

Success or failure in Iraq is the transcendent issue for our foreign policy and our national security. People say they want to defeat the terrorists, but if we withdraw from Iraq prematurely, it will be the terrorists' greatest triumph.

There it is, put better than anyone anywhere at this moment. I wish I could say my regard for John McCain is unbounded, but it has bounds.

McCain forgives himself for misspeaking, but in this day and age, with a 24/7 news cycle/reality show that includes al-Jazeera and the Daily Kos, a president just can't "misspeak" anymore. Even that silver-tongued devil Bill Clinton didn't have to run such a gauntlet.

Amazingly, except for a single mention of the incendiary word "crusade" shortly after 9-11, the putatively most inarticulate commander in chief in American history has seldom if ever "misspoke." By contrast, Bush rival John Kerry shot his own candidacy through the mouth with his "I voted for it before I voted against it" moronism shortly after his nomination.

I don't think America's genuine enemies really give a damn about political rhetoric; in that way they're smarter than us. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can deny the Holocaust or speak of the annihilation of Israel or the US and nobody blinks an eye, especially America's theoretical friends, the western left that rules Europe and holds great sway in our own nation's Democratic Party.

But let a member of the world's real reality-based community, the diminishing non-leftist Anglosphere, slip off the rails just once, and he's dead meat. For all his virtue and decency, a quick google of "McCain" and "Iraq" shows the jackal pack punching his ticket to the political abattoir.

A man can be great, a man can be good, but to be our president in this day and age, he or she must first be clever. Senator McCain, I hope that it's some consolation that two out of three ain't bad, atall atall.

Mercer Nary Intimidated

Ilana Mercer, whether you agree with her or not, stands out as one of the most independent-minded columnists writing today.

Here is her remarkable defense of Pelosi's Syrian adventure, and I pass it along for your perusal without prejudice.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Is the Honeymoon Over?

I caught this headline at Drudge and felt my heart sink just a bit: “Giuliani: Public funding for abortion OK.” This is a CNN blog and their headline is even more bracing: “Giuliani to social conservatives: Take it or leave it.” Frankly I’m more inclined to leave it. Here’s the way CNN's Lauren Kornreich put it:

Rudy Giuliani's message to social conservatives: If you don't like my views, don't vote for me.

The Republican presidential frontrunner Thursday reaffirmed his support for federal funding for some abortions, a position which puts him at odds with many conservatives. During a press conference at the State Capitol in Columbia, South Carolina, he said he didn't expect to win over 100 percent of the voters.

"If that's real important to you, if that's the most important thing, I'm comfortable with the fact that you won't vote for me," the former mayor said.
Well, if you put it that way, Rudy, I’m inclined not to vote for you, and I would bet so a majority of Republican primary voters as well. You have to wonder what Rudy and his advisors are thinking putting out such an in your face assertion, especially in South Carolina. He’s asking a lot for pro-life conservatives to set aside their commitment to the cause to vote for him, but it’s quite another thing for him to rub their face in it.

Who expects to win 100 percent of any voters? So why say it? I could see him saying something like this, though I wouldn’t like it, if he’d already won the nomination. But alienating strong pro-lifers, who are a majority of the voters he’s trying to persuade to vote for him in the primaries is not a smart strategy.

He declared his fealty to the Hyde amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion to cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. Which is great, but he affirms that abortion is an individual right and that a woman “can make that choice.” He also states that he hates abortion, but not enough to do anything about it. Somehow it’s a woman’s “right,” I guess because a hand full of Supreme Court justices declared it so, so it is!

If this is part of Rudy’s strategy for winning the Republican nomination he can just quit now. As much as I love the guy for what he did in NYC and on 9/11, I would have a very difficult time voting for somebody who appears so tone deaf to the concerns of pro-life conservatives. Prior to this he seemed to be doing a pretty good job of walking the tight rope, but I think he may now have fallen off.

Bashir and Nancy Sitting In a Tree...

Someone, anyone, please explain to me why Assad the Child hasn't announced some trivial concession, obviously to be reneged later, so that the Frank Riches of the world can write that Baker and Hamilton are right, BushCheney warmongering is wrong, better to negotiate with the fascists, etc. Don't those smart guys in Damascus know how to play this game?

British Dishonor

I do not, to put it gently, often find myself in agreement with John Derbyshire over there in NR-land. But he's completely right on the question of whether the just-released British sailors dishonored themselves. Even if they had been tortured or coerced into giving confessions or making statements, there was no excuse for giving the cameras smiles and exuding a joviality that made it look like they'd just been on holiday or something. Given that the Brits have been our only reliable military ally over the past couple of decades, this doesn't suggest much optimism about how much use they'll be in the future.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Passing Over (and Through) History

It has become a sort of cultural cliche that the Passover Seder (Hebrew for a series of things done in a particular order) is an opportunity for dysfunctional families to clash and vent. Perhaps that is true in some quarters.

My own childhood yields no such memories. I remember only a thrilling atmosphere, with my Dad managing the flow deftly. And until I was 11 years old, we had the added bonus of my paternal grandfather being there to sing our family songs.

In this respect I am aware that we were blessed with a unique legacy. My family was musically inclined since forever (including the tradition of descending from King David), and we sing tunes probably heard nowhere else, ancestral compositions.

My Dad is still going strong in New York at age 75, while I do my thing here in Miami. You have to figure that if we are still doing this 3300 years later, it is a good bet the prophecy is true that there will be Jews as long as there are people.


Don't miss our new Fred Thompson news ticker on the sidebar to the right. According to various accounts, he's a true conservative, is lazy, and not a Christian. Something for everyone.

Until heir apparent Rudy stumbles into a rhetorical ditch, John McCain learns to make friends without adding enemies, or Mitt Romney climbs above 3% in the polls, Fred's where the action is.

At some point, we'll have to add something on the Democrats if Hillary goes broke or Barack Obama says something of actual substance, but neither event is anticipated at this time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Academy, the Dollar, and the Almighty Opinion of Others

David French over at NRO points to this very interesting article on the declining percentage of university faculty with tenure (or on tenure-track). French chalks it all up to "market forces" and seems pretty sanguine about the whole thing. After all, tenure just protects those ol' hippie radicals and gives license to lazy profs who do less and less work without penalty.

Well, that's no doubt part of the story. Adjunct and non-tenure track faculty are cheaper than the tenure-track sort. But if it's the case that "market forces" are driving things, then why is it that this change is occuring precisely while university tuition has been increasing at rates far above tuition (something like 6-8% per year) and while university endowments have seen spectacular growth? Maybe it's because I just finished teaching Marx to my modern political thought class, but with just those set of facts at hand, it sure looks like it's just a product of universities squeezing the faculty to enrich themselves (or at least the institutions they control).

But I don't think that's the whole story - or even the most important part of the story. Universities are controlled, in ways most people just don't get, by the faculty as a whole. Faculty individually might not like the increase in the number of adjuncts or part-time lecturers, but the acquiesce in their employment because, truth be told, those folks serve the tenured profs' interests. Suppose that the resources available to any particular university were to remain constant and the faculty decided that they would make an effort to have fewer adjuncts teaching their classes. One of two things would happen: either the school would hire more tenure-track faculty or the current faculty would teach more students. The first we can discount, since no faculty I've ever heard of has voted themselves a pay cut in order to hire more faculty. (For all their anti-capitalist rhetoric, university faculty are plenty attentive to their economic interests, even at the expense of others). So why not do the latter, and have the current faculty teach more - either teach more students in their current classes or teach more classes?

Because that would interfere with their research and publication? And less research and publication means less prestige? And since universities are almost entirely now in the prestige business (as opposed to the knowledge or truth business), they dare not do that. So even though I think French is right to point to "market forces" as an important element in the changes in higher education employment structures, such an analysis is just incomplete.

Is Hugh Hewitt a Secularist?

My mother grew up in small-town Alabama. She was Catholic and went to a parochial school through the eighth grade. When she went to the local public high school she got a taste of anti-Catholic prejudice. People asked her questions like, "Is it true that when you get married, you have to sleep with a priest before you sleep with your husband?" It was a sometimes humiliating experience, but she lived through it and today, Catholic and Protestant relations in that same town are very comfortable. In fact, the pastor at a Southern Baptist church in the city gave a sermon praising John Paul II after his death. He went on to say that we should fervently hope the next Pope is a man like him because the Pope is the face of Christianity around the world. This rapprochement between Catholics and Evangelicals hasn't happened by avoiding questions or hiding behind identity politics. It has been earned through engagement.

So now, Hugh Hewitt writes a book about Mitt Romney as the first Mormon in the White House. I've already questioned whether the book is premature in the extreme. It's not as if there has been some amazing groundswell for the one term governor of Massachusetts who skipped out on the second term at least in part because everyone knows he would likely have lost. But the part that concerns us here is Hewitt's claim that by acting as if Romney's faith matters at all we somehow violate the spirit of Article VI's prohibition on religious tests for officeholding and that evangelical Christians in particular should hesitate to consider Romney's religion because they don't want to have their own political hopes stymied by others considering their faith.

I think Hewitt is fundamentally wrong. Let's tease this thing out a bit, shall we?

Article VI prohibits any religious test for officeholding in the federal government. So we will have no official requirement that only Episcopalians or whoever may serve in the federal government. Historically we know that set-up was basically about federalism (different states endorsing different denominations thus requiring federal stalemate), but let's forget that and deal with it as we see it today. No official test set in legislation, executive order, etc. Fine. But then there is the question of the individual's vote and you may exercise that however you wish. No Article VI interaction there.

Now, Hugh Hewitt wants to play the left-wing game and say that Article VI sets out an American value we should observe and that paying any attention to Romney's religion is a violation of that value.

I disliked that argument just as much the first time I read it in a little book titled The Godless Constitution by Isaac Kramnick and Laurence Moore. Kramnick and Moore were concerned that evangelicals and Catholics would refuse to consider a candidate who wasn't religious enough and would therefore, apply a sort of religious test against an atheist, for example, running for President.

Historically, there is plenty of precedent for considering a candidate's religion and it hasn't been such a terrible thing. Jefferson was nobody's idea of an orthodox Christian. He was the perfect picture of a deist, believing in morality and punishments and rewards in the afterlife, but not in the specific Christian revelation. New England Clergy who were members of the Federalist party raged against Jefferson's lack of correct faith. They preferred Adams, who was also not a picture perfect Christian in theology, but who was more favorable to religious establishments. Tellingly, Jefferson's supporters felt the need to deny the attacks on his Christianity.* Despite the religious controversy, Jefferson did defeat Adams and won the presidency. He required no rule against debating religious convictions of a candidate to do so.

John F. Kennedy was another example. In order to keep the Democratic party's southern support base intact, he had to deal with the issue of his Catholicism by taking it up directly with the people, as he did with Baptist ministers in Houston. Kennedy insisted he would be the president and not a proxy for Rome. Work it out for yourself whether that was correct theologically for a Roman Catholic, but Kennedy didn't hide behind some kind of insistence that his faith was off limits.

In interviewing Erick Erickson, Hugh Hewitt wanted to compare caring about Mitt Romney's religion to caring about someone's race. The entire line of argument is wrong-headed. The left has enchanted us into thinking about everything in terms of categories and how wrong it is to consider categories. On the face of it, Hewitt is right. Certainly, it would be illogical and malicious to refuse to consider voting for someone based on the surface reason of their race or religion. But there is a second layer to the inquiry. If a white candidate's beliefs about the world, about government, and about culture were significantly impacted by his race, then I think it's fair ground to know exactly how. If it leads him to believe in some kind of white superiority, then it's worth taking into account when voting. The same is obviously true of a disciple of Louis Farrakahn, in which case we are considering his race AND religion. I do not say such persons have no right to run for or hold office. I am saying WE have to right to ask such persons questions and to withhold our vote from such persons.

Would anyone willingly relinquish that right?

The point Erick made repeatedly in the interview that Hewitt treated as though it were no point at all is that there is very little public knowledge about the Church of Latter Day Saints. As a Ph.D. candidate in religion and politics, I know a great deal about some of the ways Mormons have been terribly mistreated in American history, but I know very little about their actual theology. I'm an evangelical Christian with great sympathies toward the Catholic Church. My theology certainly affects my view of politics and I think I would be a cad to take the position that if I were running for office no one would have a right to ask me about it and wait to hear what I would say. I would assume that equal respect for a Mormon would be to assume that his religious beliefs are not purely private but actually have some impact on what he thinks, believes, and does.

To hold otherwise is to become a secularist who says that religion is only private and doesn't matter in the public square. I don't think Hugh Hewitt has come out in favor of secularism before, but maybe that's his new position. Religion is private and doesn't matter a whit to politics. Is that what you think, Mr. Hewitt?

No, Erick Erickson had the correct position. It's okay to be curious about the Mormon faith. It's okay for Mitt Romney to face questions about how his faith impacts the other areas of his life, including his political life. There's nothing unconstitutional or immoral about it. This is the process that will make the Church of Latter Day Saints a part of the fabric of American religious, political, and social life. Just being open to engagement is the key.

*The part about Jefferson's backers defending him from attacks on Christianity is telling because it denies the claim that the founding generation wasn't much concerned with the Christian faith. Jefferson couldn't come straight out with it and hope to still be elected.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cable Pick of the Week

Choices, choices. Saturday night, HBO aired a documentary called Celibacy, highlighting the Catholic, Hindu, and Buddhist beliefs on the subject. And over on Cinemax was Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusade (no link necessary).

Me, I watched the Clippers game, but they both sounded interesting.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Integrity at the LA Times

Well, now, Andres Martinez---blond and blue-eyed and who used to be Andrew Martinez until he arrived at the LA Times and discovered the career benefits of faux Hispanicness---has resigned as editor of the editorial and op-ed pages, as a result of the decision by higher-ups not to publish the "Current" (opinion) section this Sunday. Why? Well, someone had the bright idea of having a guest editor once a quarter, who was to have been some Hollywood gasbag this week, but it turns out that Martinez is dating that gasbag's publicist, and so this created an apparent conflict of interest, and the Times' integrity is its highest value and blah blah blah.

Oh, please. The Times almost daily prints blatant opinion columns in its news pages---the front page usually---and there was constant pressure from the news room to get the editorials on the same page, so to speak, as the news "reports." That the Times has timed the publication of innumerable stories so as to engender maximum political effect is beyond dispute. But now we are supposed to believe that integrity suddenly is all the rage. Give me break. What actually has happened is obvious: For all of Martinez' political correctitude, it is a fact that under his editorship the Times' editorials have become far less reflexively left-wing and Pavlovian than was the case for years. On rare occasions they actually were worth reading. And so it is obvious that the army of hard leftists that is the LA Times simply could not abide that; Martinez had to go and this was the opportunity to get rid of him. The Times sinks ever deeper into the swamp.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Christian Nation? Well, sorta, mebbe...

It's certainly a bridge too far to claim America for Trinitarianism, for orthodox Christianity as we know it, but Jesus as God has never been an issue in this here republic. That's why "Judeo-Christian" is used today, to remove the Trinity part.

However, despite Thomas Jefferson's protestations about his "influences" being non-Biblical, it cannot be disputed that John Locke was one of them.
A great many things which we have been bred up in the belief of, from our cradles, (and are notions grown familiar, and, as it were, natural to us, under the Gospel) we take for unquestionable obvious truths, and easily demonstrable; without considering how long we might have been in doubt or ignorance of them, had revelation been silent. And many are beholden to revelation, who do not acknowledge it.
---Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity

Here Locke confesses that his work and the work of his contemporaries is heavily indebted to "revelation," which can only be read as "Biblical principles."

Whether or not Jefferson had the same self-awareness (it seems not) as Locke is immaterial. You can't take the Locke out of Jefferson, and you can't take the Bible out of Locke.

The Lord's Prayer survived Jefferson's razor when he created the "Jefferson Bible," where he edited the Good Book and took out all the supernatural stuff.

But is The Lord's Prayer rational? Not by today's standards. Might as well swear by Grabthar's Hammer.

Jefferson is known mostly for his un-self-evident assertion on human rights, the endowed by their Creator thing, an assertion that bears a striking resemblance to the work of St. Robert Bellarmine, a notorious Christian. Jefferson is exactly the type Locke was referring to, "beholden to revelation, who do not acknowledge it."

Now, Locke makes no claim here or elsewhere that the Bible is historically true: even the Jewish medieval philosopher Maimonides excises the miracles from scripture. (We can dispense with Trinitarianism thusly, for the sake of discussion. For one thing, I wouldn't want the government to order everyone to believe Jesus was God. That would defeat the purpose of the whole faith thing, and neither the Father, the Son, nor the Holy Ghost would be pleased, I think.)

But "love your enemy" is not rational, nor is The Lord's Prayer, nor is the 1700-odd years of theology of the "human person" that led up to Jefferson's bold assertion.

We run the risk of turning Locke's statement, and the history of the Bible in western thought, into gibberish if we dismiss whatever we don't like as "irrational."
"Or whatever else was the cause, 'tis plain in fact, that human reason unassisted, failed men in its great and proper business of morality. It never, from unquestionable principles, by clear deductions, made out an entire body of the law of Nature. And he that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers, and compare them with those contained in the new testament, will find them to come short of the morality delivered by Our Saviour, and taught by his apostles; a college made up, for the most part, of ignorant, but inspired fishermen."---Locke, ibid.

It's not so much about what Locke himself believed, but the role of Judeo-Christian principles in founding the American republic. What Locke is saying here is that the Bible was further along than philosophy as a moral system.

Whether philosophy-slash-reason has caught up with the Bible is still questionable. I look at ethicist and philosopher Dr. Peter Singer of Princeton University, who believes in consciousness as the primary claim to rights (your dog has more self-awareness than your newborn son or daughter, after all) and I suspect it never will.

Peter Singer is a reasonable man,
So are they all, all reasonable men