Correspondence - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics

Positive Pause

Bob Tyrrell’s lecture on the overarching virtues of candidate McCain was the single best-written argument I’ve read with respect to voting for this guy (“Captain McCain,” TAS, July/August 2008). I am biased, I suppose. Tyrrell is one of those conservative “warriors” I keep trying to locate. And at least a minor treasure. He actually brings passion and logic to his convictions. I’ve met the senator— and disliked him almost immediately; sometimes after listening further to the fellow I wonder why I didn’t dislike him sooner.

He strikes me as self-important, self-regarding, and self-inflating. I believe him to be bitter and wrong far too often on conservative issues, e.g., immigration, First Amendment. Well, you know the drill. On the other hand, Tyrrell’s apologia does make a case for double-clutching on an absolute refusal to vote for McCain. McCain is a serious man. Senator Obama is as well, but in the style of a preening, supercilious feline. He would, in concert with a Reid Senate and Pelosi House, proceed to break this country. If nothing else, Bob Tyrrell has given me cause to pause. This election will count for something.

Chetek, Wisconsin

Something Borrowed

In the article, “What Will Rumsfeld Write?” (by Jed Babbin, TAS, September 2008) the following is written: “The second borrows a line from the great Toby Keith, converting ‘I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then’ from lyric to prose.”

Actually, it was Mr. Keith who borrowed that line. He penned his song, “Wish I Didn’t Know,” to which the article refers, in 1994. The line originally comes from the song “Against the Wind,” written by Mr. Bob Seger. Mr. Seger wrote the song in 1980. Mr. Keith aside, cheers on a great article!

St. Louis, Missouri

Like Jed Babbin, I cannot wait for the Rumsfeld memoirs. Even discounting Rumsfeld’s years serving Ford or his influence with President Reagan, he is the one man who could probably fairly describe what occurred with our military during the post-Clinton/Bush era.

My biggest questions lay with the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks up to his resignation in 2006. The Afghan campaign was brilliant up to the Tora Bora operation; the Iraqi invasion was anything but brilliant. Thus far there haven’t been any books written “from the top” which discuss the many operational problems both campaigns entailed. There was also the political aspect. Why did the Army insist on a World War II-style invasion of Iraq when the insurgency model in Afghanistan worked so well, and our conventional military was just a shell of its Cold War strength? How much backbiting occurred between the Department of Defense, State Department, and the CIA? Was Rumsfeld forced to keep quiet about the insurgencies both Syria and Iran supported against our efforts in Iraq?

These are just a few brief questions I would love to have answered. Rumsfeld is that rarity in our postmodern, Beltway-driven politics: a brilliant civil servant. He also has honor. He took his lumps and graciously retired when it was required of him to do so. He retired with his reputation in tatters, taking most of the blame for the series of bloody insurgencies that plagued Iraq from 2004 to 2006. Those Army field commanders and State Department officials who were responsible for order in Iraq either were transferred or retired with their reputations largely intact. Rumsfeld’s memoirs should clear the air a bit.


Klein’s Prescription

This is an absolutely fantastic article on health care and the free market (“Learning to Care About Health Care,” by Philip Klein, TAS, July/August 2008). As with all things, less government regulation and more privatization are the solutions. Just study Galveston County’s private retirement plan, in lieu of Social Security. As an employer, I benefit from providing health care (pre-tax) for my employees, but not much. I would strongly prefer for them to benefit on a personal level, as well as to personally administer the plan. As you stated, conservatives need to get their heads out of the sand. Thank you for the ammunition to battle the growing liberal war cries.

Houston, Texas

Under Investigation

In his highly enjoyable “Bill and Me at Georgetown” in the September 2008 issue, the eminent Mr. Tyrrell wonders how “let the researcher beware” would be translated into Latin. It is, very simply, Caveat investigator. (The complementary noun for investigation, or “looking into,” is investigati-o-onis and the verb for “to look into or search after” is investigare.) Keep up the good work.

Clive, Iowa

To the Naked Buckeye

I appreciated W. James Antle III’s piece on the Ohio Republican Party (“What’s the Matter with Ohio?” TAS, June 2008), particularly his concession at the end of the piece that 2006 Republican gubernatorial nominee J. Kenneth Blackwell, despite striking all the right conservative notes, was swamped by his opponent, Democrat Ted Strickland. I would direct Antle, and your readers, to political scientist John Fenton’s 1960s book Midwest Politics, which branded Ohio’s politics as “issueless.” Blackwell ran an issues campaign: he talked about a constitutional amendment that would have limited state spending growth— that is, before the state’s sane moderate wing persuaded him to throw it out because it was disastrously worded—and leasing the state turnpike. Strickland, meanwhile, ran on a platform that supported grandma, apple pie, and the American Way. Throw out the Democratic tidal wave in 2006; Blackwell never would have won modern Ohio, which, as Fenton noted, likes bland politicians who don’t rock the boat. Politicians who, as legendary Ohio GOP chairman Ray Bliss put it, keep issues out of campaigns. Despite sending two bedrock conservatives, John W. Bricker and Robert Taft, to the Senate in the middle of the last century, the leaders of the Ohio GOP since the 1960s have largely been moderate. Four-term Gov. James A. Rhodes loved big bond issues; George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, Ohio’s two recent GOP senators, were decried as “RINOs”— Republicans In Name Only—by their conservative detractors in Ohio.

Better a RINO in Ohio, because, here, “true conservative” is a euphemism for “loser.”

Lakewood, Ohio

The Art of Clarity

Two things came to mind when I read “The Legacy of 1968” (Roger Scruton, TAS, September 2008). First was a comment made by a crusty old geologist who complimented me, in the late 1960s, on speaking lucidly. He went on to tell me he was unable to carry on a meaningful conversation with his own son, who was about 20 years old at the time. Second is a list of words my brother acquired on the University of Arizona campus, around 1966. A brief instruction attached to the list stated all you had to do to sound learned and intelligent was to make up sentences using words from the different columns in the list (see table below). Here are two examples:

1. We must use balanced, management options. 2. It had been synchronized, so transitional hardware was not needed.

The great 20th-century philosopher Karl Popper was a big proponent of clarity and a big opponent of obscurity. He stated, “Clarity is an intellectual value in itself.” He went on to say that the intellectual owes to his fellows his ideas presented as clearly and modestly as he can. “The worst thing that intellectuals can do—the cardinal sin— is to try to set themselves up as great prophets vis-à-vis their fellow men and to impress them with puzzling philosophies.”

San Gabriel, California

I knew there was a particular reason why I enjoy Roger Scruton’s writings so much.

Boston University CLA, X’50
Shreveport, Louisiana

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