diabetes diet nuts
Categories
Conservativism Politics The Opinionsphere

Honoring William F. Buckley Jr.

When one declares oneself to be a conservative, one is not, unfortunately, thereupon visited by tongues of fire that leave one omniscient. The acceptance of a series of premises is just the beginning. After that, we need constantly to inform ourselves, to analyze and to think through our premises and their ramifications. We need to ponder, in the light of the evidence, the strengths and the weaknesses, the consistencies and the inconsistencies, the glory and the frailty of our position, week in and week out. Otherwise we will not hold our own in a world where informed dedication, not just dedication, is necessary for survival and growth.

William F. Buckley Jr., Feb 8, 1956, National Review, as cited by Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner yesterday without a hint of irony.

On this day after what would have been William F. Buckley Jr.’s birthday, it’s worth reflecting on the man’s legacy. I am not the proper individual to evaluate Buckley’s legacy completely – but I think it’s accurate to say that Buckley is one of the dozen intellectuals who has most influenced my life. I take from him lessons both positive and negative – from his wonderful, timeless, definition of conservatism as standing athwart history shouting, “Stop!” to his determined resistance to Brown v. Board of Education.

There are a number of things that struck me about Buckley – his confidence, even arrogance; his style, almost delicate; his incredible life – from spy to magazine publisher; his magazine – brash, often wrong, generally provocative; his intellectual force, especially in that book which introduced me to him, Up From Liberalism. But what struck me most of all was that he was sensible. I mean that as the highest compliment.

He opposed Brown v. Board of Education, as poor of a decision as that might have been, for sensible reasons – in an attempt to preserve a system of federalism and social harmony. He opposed liberalism for sensible reasons – preferring the status quo to attempts to remake humanity. When liberalism became overripe and overreached – he was there condemning it. When conservatism became corrupted and overly ambitious, he was a voice of warning.

Buckley was not always right – but he was generally sensible – and it’s hard to expect more in a public intellectual.

Categories
Economics Election 2008 McCain Politics The Opinionsphere

Ideology Above Country


[Image courtesy of Barack Obama over at Flickr.]

[digg-reddit-me]Jim Manzi over at National Review‘s The Corner calls the House Republicans’ actions today “Irresponsible Folly” and writes:

Well, apparently the House Republicans have decided to run a neat little experiment to test the actual odds of the current financial crisis turning into another Depression in the absence of a bailout plan.

Kathryn Jean Lopez – also at The Corner – tries to spin this as proof of the Democrats’ lack of unity and suggests this wouldn’t happen under a Republican Congress.

Other Republicans are apparently attempting to blame their votes against the only plan to stave off another Great Depression on a few comments made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her speech to introduce the bill.

Marc Ambinder asks: “Where were you when the world economy collapsed?” That might be overdoing it a little. But not by much – seeing as the Dow is down over 5% as we speak and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq are down almost 7% each.

Regardless – it seems certain that McCain failed in this – and deserves a good deal of blame for this failure.

The Democrats gave up a lot in order to win over some Republicans – but now it looks as if they’ll have to ditch them and pass a much more left-friendly bill. That leaves them without political cover on an issue that isn’t politically popular. But it is the only responsible thing to do, which is why I have confidence the Democrats will pass something.

The Republicans today have proved that they will place ideology above their country. They have proved that they will place politics above their country. Whether they voted against the bill because of their fundamentalist belief in the power of markets or because they wanted to be on the short-term popular side of a major issue is unclear. Presumably, it is a combination of both.

But they have proved that they are not willing to be grown-ups and accept the pragmatic best alternative when there are no good options. They do not take responsibility for any portion of the chaos which deregulation has contributed to here. They have not proposed some better, other plan – they have instead just been oppositional – representing the final deathblow to conservatism as a governing ideology.

This is the latest in a series of events – where conservatives have placed ideology above country, and ignored the pragmatic solutions to hard reality. From Iraq – where ideological certainty led to insanely rosy projections of the post-war period; to Iran – where diplomacy was rejected out-of-hand, and Iran’s offer to cut back on their nuclear program as part of a comprehensive discussion of US-Iran issues in 2003 was ignored; to the constant prescription of tax cuts in the face of mounting deficits; to the opposition to any pragmatic solution to the immigration problem.

It’s not that there weren’t good reasons to oppose this bill. It’s that the Republicans were unwilling to take the basic responsibility needed to govern.

Barack Obama meanwhile, says the bailout will go through. Not because he likes it – but because, as distasteful as it is, it’s necessary. As Obama said, speaking in the midst of a storm yesterday, “The skies look cloudy and it’s dark. And you think the rains will never pass. But these too will pass: a brighter day will come.”

It’s not the rhetoric that matters as much as the tone. Obama’s calm, measured, steady public presence, even in the midst of a storm, contrasts with McCain’s hysteric, dramatic, volatile one.

Categories
Election 2008 Humor McCain Obama Politics

Off the Deep End

[digg-reddit-me]Over in crazy land, also known as the National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez says that many readers are suggesting that as Obama is saying the debates will go on…

they’d like McCain to just offer Palin step in for him.

I’d like to go on record as being in favor of that.

What are these people thinking? Either I’m crazy, or they are – and I’m hoping it’s them.

(H/t Andrew Sullivan.)

My guess is that the McCain campaign is (1) seeing a rapid change in the polls and trying to take some momentum back; and (2) wants to postpone the Vice Presidential debate because Palin isn’t ready (as Republicans have acknowledged recently). The Vice Presidential debate is scheduled for next Thursday.

Categories
Criticism Election 2008 McCain Politics

Where did the real Glenn Greenwald Go?

Glenn Greenwald has been one of the best – and most influential – voices in the blogosphere. Every day he writes an incisive piece exploring some hypocrisy within the Republican establishment and/or the press. He has been one of the few voices keeping alive such vitally relevant stories as the Pentagon propaganda scandal, the US attorney firings scandal, the many torture scandals, and the general media acquiescence to telling their stories on terms set by the Right. Greenwald’s writing does have a particular sense of continuous outrage that becomes off-putting. As serious as the issues we face are, outrage can become wearing. Despite this stylistic critique, I have found Greenwald to be one of the most insightful commentators on our current politics.

But since Glenn Greenwald has gotten back from his book tour, his writing has seemed off. Take these three lines from three of his latest blog entries:

They’re as transparent as they are dishonest and bloodthirsty.

The central truth of the 2008 election is that, with the exception of a few relatively inconsequential and symbolic matters, John McCain enthusiastically embraces the Bush/Cheney worldview in every way that matters.

John McCain is the ultimate embodiment of America’s hoary, Vietnam era “stabbed-in-the-back” myth. We should fight wars with massive bombing campaigns and unleashed force, unconstrained by excessive concerns over “collateral damage” and unimpeded by domestic questioning. That’s how we could have (and should have) “won” in Vietnam and how we’ll “win” in Iraq. That’s why the central truth of the 2008 election is that, when it comes to foreign policy, the Kristol/Lieberman-supported John McCain is a carbon copy of the Bush/Cheney warmongering mentality except that he’s actually more extreme about its core premises.

With all of these, I agree with the basic points Greenwald is making – but he veers into the territory of unconvincing polemicism instead of the more nuanced yet strongly worded critiques that are his best.  For me, even worse are the topical errors he has made.

In today’s piece about McCain embracing the “stabbed-in-the-back” narrative about Vietnam, Greenwald has to retract one of the more damning insinuations he makes – that McCain cares nothing for civilian casualties in war.

In another piece last week, Greenwald wrote about “The right’s selective political manipulation of Catholicism.”  But instead of taking the arguments of his opponents seriously, he – whether through laziness or misunderstanding – simply ignores their points.  Kathyrn Jean Lopez of the National Review is an extremely lazy thinker who Greenwald should be able to defeat handily in a blog-battle.  Yet Greenwald’s response to Lopez ends up being wildly off the mark.  He tries to attack her for hypocrisy for saying she wants to protect innocent human life while supporting Republicans.  Republicans have started a war that has cost over a million lives, Greenwald rightly points out.  What he fails to acknowledge is that Lopez would point to the hundreds of millions of “innocent lives” lost to abortion as a countervailing force.

She can – and should – still be taken to task for hypocrisy.  Andrew Sullivan has been especially effective on this front.  But Greenwald ended up seeming like a petty hack.

I know he’s better than that which is why I’m disappointed.

I have hope though that after some time to recuperate, the real Greenwald will be back.