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In Memoriam

Last Spat in the House of Commons

By 10.16.15

Geoffrey Howe was the last member of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s first cabinet who was still there at the end — the bitter end — of her third and last cabinet. Indeed, it was his words that toppled her government. Howe died last week at 88.

Several obituaries in the British press made much of the manner of his parting — which led swiftly and directly to Thatcher’s fall from power. This is how the Economist put it (“What Geoffrey Howe’s career revealed about power — and Thatcherism,” Oct. 11, 2015):

Nothing in Geoffrey Howe’s ministerial career became him like leaving it. Browbeaten and humiliated one too many times by Margaret Thatcher, he stepped down as deputy prime minister and — as a colleague later put it — “wielded the dagger of Brutus” by lambasting her in the House of Commons.

Political Hay

The Call to Mediocrity

By 10.16.15

They’re about to hold an election in my native Canada, and I’m reminded of Roman Hruska, an otherwise unmemorable Republican Senator from Nebraska, and his defense of a less than qualified Supreme Court nominee in 1970. Even if Harold Carswell is mediocre, said Hruska, so what? “There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.”

The thought that mediocrities deserve representation is the wind beneath Canadian Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s wings. The Liberals tried brilliant (Michael Ignatieff) and experienced (just about every prior leader), and look where it got them. We don’t need no Harvard professor, let’s have a high school teacher—Justin.

Another Perspective

No, Mr. Trump — Removing Saddam Was Right

By 10.16.15

Invading Iraq totally destabilized the Middle East and gave us the Islamic State (IS) — the latest in a long line of public figures to give voice to this combination of ignorance and amnesia is Donald Trump.

Speaking to Bret Baier on Fox News, the Republican presidential contender declared, “I think it was one of the worst decisions ever made. [George W. Bush] has totally destabilized the Middle East. Had Saddam Hussein still be in charge, you wouldn’t have the problems that you have right now.”


It wasn’t the dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s criminal and genocidal regime that destabilized the Middle East. The Middle East was not stable in 2003, before U.S.-led forces invaded. 

Special Report

Arthur Miller — Communist

By 10.16.15

October 17, 2015 is the centenary of the birth of Arthur Miller, one of the literary left’s shining lights and righteous crusaders against some of liberals’ worst demons: Joe McCarthy, “HUAC,” and, more generally, anti-communism. Yes, anti-communism. As often noted by Harvard’s Richard Pipes and the Hoover Institution’s Robert Conquest, few things have animated liberal animus quite like anti-communism. It’s not that liberals have been pro-communist so much as they are anti-anti-communist. They dislike anti-communists more than they dislike communists. Their preferred demon isn’t Joe Stalin but Joe McCarthy. As James Burnham, the great ex-communist, put it, “for the left, the preferred enemy is always to the right.”

Another Perspective

Papalnomics — Not So Infallible

By 10.15.15

Here’s a quick question I received via email from a reader who said I was too negative in one of my columns about President Obama’s economic record: “Does the economics of Pope Francis better match the economic ideology of Barack Obama or Donald Trump?”

Well, regarding a life of work and spending, let’s start with Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former nightclub bouncer (“Pope Francis has revealed that he once worked as a bouncer at a nightclub in Buenos Aires,” USA Today, December 3, 2013) who became a cardinal and then the compelling and charismatic Pope Francis, a powerful world leader who appears to stay in tune with the average person and be unswervingly supportive of those who are truly down on their luck.

Cardinal Bergoglio, elected to the top job in the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013, breaking Europe’s millennium-long lock on the papacy, issued his initial Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, on November 26, 2013.

In the 224-page manuscript, the first major document of his pontificate, Pope Francis spoke of his vision of social justice, economics and politics.

A Further Perspective

Dems’ Revolution Already Is Here

By 10.15.15

Elections change how Americans think and talk. Nowhere was the shift in the conversation more evident than in Las Vegas on Tuesday night at the Democrats’ first debate for the 2016 presidential campaign. Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, federal immigration law has been pretty much what it was under President George W. Bush, as Congress failed to pass a comprehensive bill to create a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally. But on the CNN debate stage, you’d never know it.

During Democratic 2008 primary debates, candidates routinely, if not exclusively, used the term “illegal immigrants.” In one debate, then-Sen. Obama even used the term “illegal aliens.” During Tuesday’s CNN debate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley uttered the words “illegal immigrants” once — when he talked up his measure to allow immigrants here illegally to pay in-state college tuition. Other than that slip, the Democratic hopefuls and debate hosts referred to those in the country illegally as “undocumented.”

Media Matters

The Taranto Principle Does Vegas

By 10.15.15

The Taranto Principle strikes again.

A Republican debate this was not. Thus far the GOP has held two debates: the Fox debate in Cleveland and the CNN debate at the Reagan Library. And whether the immediate audience was huge (with those thousands in Cleveland) or small and intimate (as it was with a few hundred at the Reagan Library), Republican candidates were in a fighting mood. They turned on Donald Trump, and they turned on each other. If there were not a single additional GOP debate the nation’s memory book has already etched Donald Trump scalding Jeb or Carly or Rand or Marco. And getting it dished back. There were Chris and Rand getting it on. And so on.

Special Report

Bourgeois Equality for Conservatives

By 10.15.15

Two or three centuries ago a new and equal economic liberty, with a new and equal social dignity, emboldened ordinary people to have a go. The dual change in ethics, first in Holland and then in the Anglosphere — equal liberty and equal dignity — yielded gigantic innovation. You might call the change “bourgeois equality,” because the woolen weavers and telegraph operators called to innovation would move into the middle class, now honored. Whatever you call it, the ethical change produced the Great Enrichment, the astounding, unpredictable leap from the $3 a day typical in 1800 of our ancestors up to the $130 a day we now enjoy. The Enrichment had little to do with the usual suspects, the ancient routines of trade and investment and exploitation and rule of law. It had to do with a startling change in how people viewed each other.

The Public Policy

The ‘Gun Control’ Farce: Part II

By 10.15.15

The grand illusion of zealots for laws preventing ordinary, law-abiding people from having guns is that “gun control” laws actually control guns. In a country with many millions of guns, not all of them registered, this is a fantasy and a farce.

Guns do not vanish into thin air because there are gun control laws. Guns — whether legal or illegal — can last for centuries. Passing laws against guns may enable zealots to feel good about themselves, but at the cost of other people’s lives.

Why anyone would think that criminals who disobey other laws, including laws against murder, would obey gun control laws is a mystery. A disarmed population makes crime a safer occupation and street violence a safer sport.

The “knockout game” of suddenly throwing a punch to the head of some unsuspecting passer-by would not be nearly so much fun for street hoodlums, if there was a serious risk that the passer-by was carrying a concealed firearm.

Another Perspective

Ben Carson’s Unhealthy Nazi Obsession

By 10.15.15

It didn’t surprise me when Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson raised the specter of the Holocaust following the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. As we all know Carson made the case last week that if Jews had been armed before the Second World War, fewer of them would have died in the concentration camps. To be precise, Carson said, “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.”

It was a peculiar comment for two reasons. First, Jews (at least those in Germany) were already a despised people despite representing less than 1% of the population. The vast of majority of Germans enthusiastically supported Hitler stripping Jews of their property. Even if Jews had been armed who among their fellow Germans was going to help them?