The media reports these days make conservatives look like a fractious bunch—as indeed we sometimes are. I am deeply informed about grumpy conservatives and paranoid libertarians, bellicose neocons and navel-gazing paleocons. What I know as a matter of basic political arithmetic, however, is that we will need all of these groups—and more—if we are to restore some semblance of conservative governance. The path to that convergence, if not all the way to civility, is not only rhetorical but also doctrinal. We should start with the latter challenge, which lies, most consequentially, in the field of international affairs.
Great Britain could soon be finished. If, in the referendum this September, a majority of Scots answers “yes” to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” the Act of Union (1707) will be dissolved, a veil will be drawn over three centuries of shared history, and one of the most potent nation states ever to have existed will come to an end. The Union Jack, our flag, will have to be redrawn. The country will have to be renamed.
This should be a big deal, and not only for the Scots. Yet here in the south of England, apathy reigns. Studies suggest that 60 percent of the English would prefer Scotland to remain part of the UK. Ask a Londoner, however, or someone in Suffolk or Kent, and you’ll probably just get a shrug, or maybe a hesitant guess that the Scots won’t go through with it—and that if they do, well, we might be better off without them.
It’s been a lousy couple years for the Establishment. A subtle (but seismic) shift has taken place. Many Republicans in leadership are now scrambling for grassroots credibility. Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, and others who have become desperate are shadowing their libertarian junior colleagues.
Then there’s Lindsey Graham. Of all the incumbents up for reelection this cycle, only he remains untroubled, unrepentant, and seemingly unassailable.
Just to review the record: The senior senator from South Carolina has declared that, “We need to raise taxes to get our nation out of debt.” According to Graham, TARP was “necessary because the whole economy was gonna collapse, and Bernanke, Paulson, and everybody that I know and quite frankly trust, after Lehman Brothers went down that if we had not involved ourselves, quickly, you’d have had a financial meltdown.”
Gutzon Borglum knew what he was doing when he picked the site for the future Mount Rushmore. The area’s 1.6 billion-year-old granite is thought to erode only a single inch every ten millennia. Barring a detonation at the hands of our jihadist foes, the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt will still look serenely down at future visitors of South Dakota’s Black Hills when the America of the twentieth century is as remote as we are from the pharaoh whom built the first pyramid.
If only our Constitution had been carved out of the same sturdy material. American liberty has not been eroding so much as crumbling away these last five years. Increasingly burdensome and intrusive legislation, persecution (and sometimes prosecution) of political enemies by the executive branch, a swelling national debt: It’s been a bad few years, to say the least. But the biggest threat to the bedrock of our freedom is the presidency itself, the crown government of the almighty chief executive, which is completely at odds with the republican principles of our Founders.
The debunking of formerly oracular Global Warmer and proto-Gorite Michael Mann should have been a routine matter, conspicuous only for the skill and originality of the polemicist involved—I mean Mark Steyn, of course. To review: Rand Simberg at the Competitive Enterprise Institute published a blog post in which he made the amusing suggestion that Mann
could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.
Steyn, a friend of mine for many years, cited Simberg’s piece in a post for National Review Online and added a shower of causticities of his own:
Samuel Alito is wearing a numberless Philadelphia Phillies uniform, standing next to Phillies legend Richie Ashburn, the hittingest batter of the ’50s and a childhood hero of his. He looks happy.
“Back when I was on the Court of Appeals, when I was forty-three, my wife signed me up for Phillies Phantasy Camp,” he tells me. “I never would have done it, but it was a Christmas present.” Phantasy Camp is the aging baseball junkie’s nirvana. For a week, campers train with athletic professionals, drill with former players, square off against one another, and, on the last day, play a game—with real MLB rules—against Philly old timers. Alito, a Little League veteran who has coached his son’s baseball team, says he loved it. Before I can think of a tactful way to broach the subject, Alito begins telling me what it’s like to live with a bunch of white-collar middle-aged guys pretending to be professional athletes. “By the end of the week everybody had pulled their hamstrings,” he says. “The locker room smelled overwhelmingly of Bengay. Nobody could run. Everybody was hobbling.”
The quickest way for a commie asshole to gain weepy fans is to die. This is something I’m willing to accept, as long as it happens regularly.
But it’s no surprise that when someone truly awful dies, the cool break out in reverence. Which is what happened when Hugo Chávez croaked. On that day in March 2013, we saw a parade of misty-eyed celebrities and solemn left-wing hacks paying tribute to a dead guy. Out of the woodwork came a parade of Hugoslavians, tyrant-lovers who could overlook the heathen’s badness for the sake of coolness. See, someone can be truly evil. But if that person runs a country and you know that person well, it makes you kinda cool. It’s better to know Darth Vader than Doris Day. It’s pretty cool to brag that you just shared a burrito with a murderous despot, as opposed to a biscuit with Billy Graham.
In America today there is only one group that can be legally discriminated against: the rich and successful. Political rhetoric is increasingly hostile toward those who have climbed the mountain of success. The progressive tax system imposes higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans and President Obama continues to advocate higher rates because this group “can afford it.”
When he died at 85 on January 11, Ariel Sharon had already passed from the current concerns of pundits to the more detached reflections of historians. In January 2006, when he was stricken by a massive cerebral hemorrhage, Sharon wasn’t only the prime minister of the state of Israel. The former general was the living symbol of Israeli military power and a master politician who transformed the country’s politics in pursuit of a vision of peace. But at the moment of his death, although the symbol remained, his political achievements had already proved ephemeral.
Sharon’s death evoked two different types of reaction around the world, both of them fundamentally mistaken.