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Once Watts gets down to discussing policy prescriptions, though, the book loses some of its distinction. He announces a three-part “New Conservative Strategy for a Better America” that is long on rhetoric about family renewal, racial harmony, and “new models” of thinking, but short on specifics. It seems a bit out of place in a book that is at its best discussing values through compelling stories. Watts is no threat to Shelby Steele when it comes to making arguments against racial victimology and the destructive effects of white guilt. But he does write powerfully of the “ideological apartheid” in the black community that regards him as a pariah for his views on poverty and race.
Watts caused an uproar when he described the liberal black establishment as “race hustling poverty pimps.” But despite that brave and accurate language, he takes a soft-footed approach to racial preferences. He stood up to his party on affirmative action reform during Newt Gingrich’s tenure as House Speaker. While expressing his disagreement with the concept of racial quotas, he decided that the country was not ready to do away with affirmative action altogether. His thinking here is somewhat muddled. On the one hand, he argues for assistance based on economic need, not race; on the other, he writes that the Republican Party simply hasn’t “laid the foundation” to communicate with Americans about why affirmative action is wrong. The party would be sending a message, he told Gingrich, that “We don’t believe racism exists.” When it comes to affirmative action, Watts apparently shares in some degree the view of the racial Left that Republicans are insensitive. Have the race hustlers and poverty pimps gotten to him here? On other issues fraught with racial politics — like welfare and education reform — he has been immune to their intimidation.
One of Buddy Watts’s favorite sayings was, “If you keep walkin’ down a bear trail, eventually you’re gonna run into a bear.” Watts surprised many with his decision to retire from Congress in 2002. Is this book a summing up or a prelude? Speculation continues that he will return, possibly for a Senate run in 2004 if Don Nickles retires. But it is equally likely that Watts has concluded he is not cut out to scale the heights in Washington; or maybe he sees one of his father’s bears down the end of that path. Whatever his thinking, he has consistently demonstrated an ability to understand his limitations, to take stock and move on. Athletes typically have enormous difficulty doing this. Politicians don’t find it much easier.
J.C. Watts has been both of these, but neither has ever fully defined him. Free men, like conservatives, come in all colors.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?