Stories by Alex Knepper
October 7th, 2010 at 8:13 am
Over at Reason’s Hit & Run blog, editor Brian Doherty takes exception to my case against Rand Paul. My real motivation for opposing Mr. Paul’s candidacy, he says, has less to do with his wild conspiracy theories and a lot more with my supposed aversion toward limited government.
It is assumed, without a hint of skepticism, that, because I support the war in Afghanistan, I must necessarily also be opposed to his libertarian aims of small government, reducing the deficit, and returning to constitutional originalism. We diverge on a single point, so I’m pocketed into a narrow, affixed category that he can comfortably dismiss.
This is exactly the kind of ideological rigidity that the likes of Mises, Hayek, and Sowell warn against. Despite the thoughtless caricatures that emerge of David Frum and those who choose to ally with him, Olympia Snowe is not my style. When it comes to governance, men like Chris Christie represent what I’m looking for. He’s the kind of man who would stomp out the door if someone like Alex Jones or Lew Rockwell tried to hijack the bureaucracy-slashing mission he’s on. But the truth about the Pauls, unfortunately, is that what Alex Jones is doing does not represent a hijacking: the Pauls are more than happy to sit back, crack a bottle, and chat about tax policy with 9/11 Truthers.
The assertion that I believe that anyone who conspicuously supports Constitutional originalism should be lumped in with Jones is a strange conflation of two different objections that I take to Rand Paul’s candidacy. The first is his aversion toward pragmatism; the second, his alliance with 9/11 Truthers. When blended together, they amount to crude invective: ‘Knepper thinks Constitutionalists are like 9/11 Truthers!’ As an admirer of the judicial philosophies of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Robert Bork, I find this an odd assertion. But I call the Pauls conspiracy theorists not because they support the Constitution, but, well, because they’re conspiracy theorists. (Doherty doesn’t say a word about the Pauls’ belief in the coming of the North American Union.)
Finally, the qualms I express against those who oppose our current wars are not so rigid as Doherty would make it out to be. Those who opposed the war for respectable, prudent reasons — such as William F. Buckley, for instance — retain my respect. The Pauls are motivated not by prudence, but by ideology. They firmly hold onto the notion that America is an oppressive global empire whose influence harms the world, and seem to have forgotten that we have a very good reason to be in Afghanistan — so good, in fact, that Ron Paul himself voted to go to war! The breathless assertion that I — and Frum — are drunk on some notion of “endless war” is pejorative masquerading as analysis. I, like Mr. Doherty, one would imagine, support wars that I feel are necessary. Let’s argue over that. (To preempt the logically-worthless ‘chicken-hawk’ attack, I should note that I also support the notion of firefighters putting out fires: am I obligated too to volunteer at my local station?)
The Pauls are doing libertarians no favors. They’ve spent their time on the national stage doing little but reinforcing every negative stereotype about libertarian thought. Doherty himself, in his wonderful history of the movement, Radicals for Capitalism, has proven that it need not be this way. I haven’t the faintest idea why he wants to grant so much legitimacy to the worst factions of his ideology.
October 6th, 2010 at 12:55 pm
The infamous Westboro Baptist Church cult, en route to Washington D.C., made time Tuesday morning for a pit stop outside of the school I attended as a teen: North Hagerstown High, in Hagerstown, Maryland. Eight protesters and their children stood across the street from school grounds during the opening hours of the school day, waving the signs they’ve become notorious for: “Pray for Dead Children,” “Your Pastor Is a Whore,” and, of course, the classic: “God Hates Fags.”
About two hundred counter-protesters showed up too, as well as the Freedom Riders, a group of motorcyclists who obstruct Westboro’s chanting with the noise of their engines. Although the cult’s presence outside of schools is basically harmless, this group has done a great deal of good for the families of dead soldiers whose funerals Westboro has protested.
About half of the counter-protesters attended out of genuine outrage or sadness. This perplexed me: why legitimize such people? Since Westboro is a cult, it should be mocked, I figured, not argued with. There seemed to be a consensus amongst the religious believers that I interviewed: the event served as an excellent way to demonstrate the loving nature of their religion, especially when juxtaposed with fanatics. Raymond S. of Hagerstown attended to “stick up for Christianity…they give a bad name to the Bible.” Rae F., also of Hagerstown, agreed: “That’s not my Bible…we as Christians have been passive for too long and it’s time to stand up.” They were there, they said, to spread their message to anyone who might wrongly think that Westboro represents a legitimate strain of Christianity. “If they want attention, we’re gonna give it to them!” said student Amber R.
Half of the counter-protesters were there for, as Jennie H. of Frederick put it, “the lulz” — an Internet slang term for off-color humor. They understood the no-stakes nature of the event (well, unless those stakes were used to hold up signs) and their signs included mocking phrases such as “Eat Mor Chikin,” “Hi Mom,” “Jesus Died For Our Signs,” and, most amusingly, a lengthy discourse about the life of a giant pink rabbit. The man holding that sign, adorned as the rabbit himself, explained his presence thus: “If they’re going to do this, I might as well take advantage of it and get some self-promotion in.” That’s the spirit! PlasticFarm.com is the rabbit man’s website.
The scene itself was kept in perfect order. I parked at a grocery store down the street, since the school itself — which was in “modified lockdown mode” thanks to the hoopla — was blocked off. About a dozen policemen monitored the street, the road serving as a strict line of demarcation between Westboro and others. Much to my chagrin, no one was permitted to speak with the cult members: they were kept strictly separated from journalists and counter-protesters. And like clockwork, at 8:45, they were shuffled out of the area as quickly and efficiently as they came in, driving away without incident. As they left, I was overcome with the sense that the event, in the final analysis, was rather…boring.
“Party’s over,” I said, looking at a friend. The event came and went, just like that. Nuts walk around with tacky signs for thirty minutes, everyone whips themselves into a frenzy, and then we all go home. All in all, it was a very successful morning for everyone in attendance.
The Westboro protest
The Freedom Riders come roaring in
October 5th, 2010 at 10:54 am
Dan Riehl of RiehlWorldView.com, to whom I responded on Twitter last night after a NewsRealBlog contributor named Lisa Graas tweeted him a list of NewsRealBlog hit pieces on me, penned this about me this morning:
Good grief, Alex. Sorry, I’m not prone to generous moods when inexperienced, young no nothings who fancy that they know it all include me in their tweets, or force me to read the irrelevant Frum Forum.
Great, I no sooner get done with Conor with one N, again, only to find out he has a younger and just as pretentious brother. Go away, Alex, you bore me. My God, does every idiot college kid with a PC have to make himself known on-line? Go look at porn, or something else more constructive and befitting your age
Just stay away from the kiddie stuff, I wouldn’t want to see you end up in jail; though, given the company you keep, … well, I wouldn’t rule anything out one day. David Frum must be down to luring them in from campus with candy at this point.
This is what earns a person a guest slot on Hannity nowadays? If left-wingers stood around in a laboratory, piecing together every crude stereotype and mean caricature of the right-wing in order to discredit conservative thought, they’d emerge having created Dan Riehl.
Riehl has been persuaded of this, if one can call it that, by David Horowitz’s NewsRealBlog cult.
Most of the time in journalism, when a writer is dismissed from an outlet, the parting of ways is the end of the relationship. Whether that parting was friendly or chilly, there’s a general expectation that the relationship was professional, not personal, and should always be considered so.
When a person is booted from David Horowitz’s NewsRealBlog cult, however, the parting of ways is only the beginning. Every month since my firing this July from the cult (I was too harsh on Ann Coulter, who, it was explained to me, is “a friend of the David Horowitz Freedom Center”), at least one NewsRealBlog contributor has engaged in bizarre, obscene allegations against me on prominent conservative websites.
Their tactics are relentless, like something out of the Church of Scientology — their rants about me have been Google-bombed to the top of the search results of my name, user-friendly sites that cater to ideologues such as RedState and FreeRepublic have given them platforms, and, between all of the hit pieces, the list of pejoratives employed against me seems almost endless. Since my reputation has not been damaged — who, outside of David Horowitz’s own circle, takes such nonsense seriously? — the cycle keeps repeating itself. In November, I can probably expect another attack.
Quite a few of NewsRealBlog’s contributors have been complicit in spreading this vicious nonsense, and not a single one of them has expressed any credulity toward the cult narrative. How could they, after all? They’re not dumb people: they know that they have to fall in line, or they’re next. John Guardiano, a fellow FrumForum contributor fired for his political views but smeared for his personal behavior, can attest to that.
The unfortunate truth about David Horowitz is that he never really departed from his far-left methods: he still believes, with all of his heart, that politics is war, and that the ends always justify the means. This is an idea that he instills into all of his disciples — not that they have much choice in the matter.
This behavior cannot be legitimized. Horowitz has one last lesson from the 1960′s to unlearn: Politics is not warfare. The slogan “by any means necessary” is the slogan of anti-democratic conspirators, not for people who defend a free society and constitutional rules.
October 4th, 2010 at 11:14 am
In my more generous moods, I am apt to excuse Kentucky Republicans for nominating Rand Paul for Senate. To the rank-and-file, he is not a man, but a symbol: he, like his father, comes out swinging with his hard-edged libertarianism and veneration of constitutional originalism. He doesn’t mince words for the media like, say, Mitch McConnell, and he’s never held political office. He’s proudly angry, and he’s not in the good graces of Senate Republicans or the Republican National Committee.
I can sympathize with the discontent of the Tea Party. All that I listed makes for very compelling abstract symbolism. Unfortunately, we are not sending a symbol to the Senate.
Rand Paul has hijacked the Tea Party movement to appropriate it to his family’s radical brand of libertarianism. Led by Lew Rockwell and Thomas Woods, two of Ron Paul’s most prominent boosters, the ‘paleo-libertarian’ movement that the Pauls belong to has done a pretty good job of hiding its fringe elements from the eye of the mainstream media and the broader public.
Rand Paul has not been as active as his father in this movement, but from the available evidence, we know that at the very least, he is a fellow-traveler. Paul is on record as believing in a conspiracy to create a “North American Union,” warning ominously of the imminence of a new currency called the “amero.” He regularly sits down to chat with radio talk show host Alex Jones, a man who believes that the United States government is behind 9/11. Rockwell, infamous for his pro-Confederate views, has been boosting Rand Paul since the start, and has sat down to interview him. (Playing a simple game of connect-the-dots, is it any wonder that a man like this wants to abolish the Federal Reserve? Has anyone asked him about the Bilderberg Group yet?)
No one on the right would — or should — give Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi a free pass if they allowed a 9/11 Truther to casually interview them about tax policy. Alex Jones, in between slamming the U.S. government for knocking down the Twin Towers, calls Rand Paul “real change” in 2010.
We turn, then, to the only viable alternative to Mr. Paul. Jack Conway is not a particularly compelling candidate, but he is not a radical. Although he supports Obamacare, he also supports extending the Bush tax cuts, opposes feckless cap-and-trade measures, and is certainly stronger on national security issues than Rand Paul, who, in the final analysis, believes that the United States is an oppressive global empire which has no business being in Afghanistan — or anywhere else.
Paul, like his father, does not believe in the American exceptionalism of Ronald Reagan’s variety. Indeed, he doesn’t even share the views of Sharron Angle. Paul’s America — one without NAFTA, one in which the Federal Reserve magically disappears overnight, one in which America retains no global military presence — is utterly oblivious to the economic and military realities of the 21st century. It is oblivious to the changes that globalization is demanding of us and it is oblivious to the military and cultural threats of Islamic fanaticism.
More saliently, it is completely oblivious to the practicalities that cultural change demands. One can’t even make the argument that I should hold my nose and support Paul on the basis that he’ll be a vote for most Republican legislation. If he’s truly a Mini-Me clone of his father — which he appears to be — then he’ll oppose most of the party’s legislation, anyway! At least with Conway, who seems to resemble Ben Nelson more than Barbara Boxer, we’d retain a fighting chance of winning his vote on crucial legislation. Ron Paul, with his exhaustive history of making the perfect the enemy of the good, has proven to be totally useless where it counts. At the heart of everything, Rand Paul, like his father, is an ideologue, and the rules of Congress do not cater to ideologues.
Because of Rand Paul’s ideological rigidity, we face this reality: no matter who wins in Kentucky in November, the Republicans have lost a key vote on many major issues. We should at least honor sanity by sending the man to Congress who doesn’t affiliate himself with anti-American conspiracy theorists.
September 27th, 2010 at 8:05 am
After a four-hour bus ride and a mentally taxing experience with New York’s subway system, I arrived safely at the first annual quasi-convention for GOProud — the younger, cooler, more conservative version of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Held in the apartment of Peter Thiel, Homocon 2010 attracted about one hundred guests. Mostly the reason for the attendance count was that the tickets were deliriously expensive, thanks to Ann Coulter’s appearance: $250 a pop. I was able to attend as a poor college student only thanks to the graciousness of event organizer Roy Eappen, who offered me his extra organizer’s ticket. (He told me to stop thanking him so much, but I must defy his wishes and offer another note of thanks here.) Ann’s starpower ensured that the event would be a success, though, and, indeed, GOProud’s stock has skyrocketed since the announcement. Its chairman, Christopher Barron, recently sparred with WorldNetDaily’s Joseph Farah over whether gays can truly be conservative. For her part, Coulter happily abandoned her slot as WND’s convention keynote speaker when Farah asked her to drop her association with GOProud.
I was able to briefly converse with Ann, in a trademark slinky black dress, and was gratified when she said that she recognized my name and had seen some of my work.
“Today’s fifteen-year-old gay boys have Lady Gaga. I had Ann Coulter,” I told her to laughter, recounting my obsession with her as a high-schooler. She’s a charming, agreeable person. I’m not always pleased when I encounter the person behind the writings I enjoy — David Horowitz, anyone? — but in Ann’s case, I’m happy to report, she is as humorful as her irreverent writing style would indicate.
Her remarks, which probably lasted for no more than ten minutes, came about forty-five minutes into the party. The media have focused on her remarks against same-sex marriage. Paraphrasing, she said: “If you think I’m not going to try to talk you out of gay marriage, you’re kidding yourselves; I went onto The View and attacked single motherhood in front of a bunch of single mothers.”
And indeed she tried. Her argument was essentially this: You conservative gays don’t actually care about this activist crap like marriage, or serving in the military. Ultimately, what you really want is some sort of assurance that Americans are accepting of gays, not marriage itself. Gay marriage initiatives don’t fail because Americans hate gay people; they fail because marriage is fundamentally about rearing children. Most Americans love gay people; they just don’t want that institution extended.
The Q&A session was mostly an attack on that line of argument. Red Eye’s Bill Schulz (who was standing next to me) and I kept our hands raised, hoping that a sense of order would remain, but eventually people just started shouting out questions. Porn director Michael Lucas in particular became a bit testy, trying to talk over her during her response to his unsolicited question. He noted that her base might not understand that she has no problem whatsoever with homosexuality or gay assimilation, and that she should use her platform on right-wing shows to drive home that point.
I approached her afterward.
She remembered me: “It’s you! Hello.”
“First of all, let me say: you’re definitely right — at least in my case — that I don’t care about these issues much. I’ve always annoyed the gay left by saying, you know — I don’t need my existence validated by some paper-pushing bureaucrat…”
“Thank you!” she yelled, throwing her hands up. “Thank you. Now go say that to that New York Times reporter over there in the hat!”
“…but yeah, like, this piece I wrote a few weeks ago…”
“No, I’m serious! I want you to go talk to her and say that!”
“Oh, I will; the media whore in me can’t resist. But this piece I wrote about Ken Mehlman — you know, the gay left always gets up in arms about this point — you know, he was working for Bush because he can’t understand why anyone cares about what the state thinks about his sexuality!”
“Oh yeah! And by the way, those of us who knew him: we all knew. Everyone knew!”
“Yeah, definitely. But, as far as your earlier points: would you support some kind of mandate — and we like man dates, here — that would dissolve childless marriages?”
“So then it’s not about children..?”
“No, the law has never done that.”
I was talking to her at the tail-end of her visit, so by now we were walking toward the door while we were talking. I did go to the New York Times reporter, who did not record my remarks and was very patronizing: “Oh, good for you, honey! That’s what the women used to say! Who needs to get married!” Alas, being (and looking) twenty years old is an impediment to appearing authoritative to reporters. I got in a few good words with an Esquire reporter who recognized me, though. I also ran into Tammy Bruce, Students for Liberty president Alexander McCobin (who is not gay), and, weirdly enough, Mark Koenig, a NewsRealBlog writer.
Overall, it was a fun, light-hearted party that existed mostly for the publicity it generated. GOProud and its supporters are a group of independent-minded folks trying to organize to defy orthodoxy and blast open a stale narrative.
September 24th, 2010 at 4:42 pm
The NRSC has a message for West Virginia voters: Joe Manchin supports getting Big Government in your Medicare!
A new ad opposing Governor Manchin in his quest to replace Robert Byrd runs as follows:
“Manchin supports Barack Obama’s big government agenda…Manchin supported the government takeover of healthcare that cuts Medicare…”
The words “Government takeover of healthcare” are actually juxtaposed with “Cuts Medicare” on the screen.
Ironically, the cuts to Medicare were among the only responsible parts of Obamacare. Do these newfound entitlement-lovers think that these cuts were made because Nancy Pelosi enjoys watching old people suffer? The cuts to Medicare are assumed to be made up for through increased quality elsewhere, and are there to help pay for the new provisions. I think that this approach is misguided — FrumForum‘s own David Gratzer has written a book and a pamphlet explaining why — but the NRSC’s implications are simply preposterous.
West Virginia is one of a few sleeper races that have unexpectedly become competitive. Businessman John Raese, who entered the race after Congresswoman Shelley Moore-Capito declined to run, is mostly self-funded and hopes to upset Manchin, whose approval ratings are in the 60s — although, after this race, we may have to say that they were in the 60s. It will be an astonishing measure of voter anger at the Democratic Party if one of the country’s most popular governors cannot win against an anonymous businessman.
September 17th, 2010 at 12:10 pm
In their quest to impose a narrative onto the primary season, pundits and newscasters have latched onto the idea that we’re witnessing a wave of anti-incumbent anger directed against all of Congress. This is simply not backed up by any evidence: while it is true that, in contested races, anti-establishment candidates have tended to prevail, most races have not been contested at all. Over four hundred and fifty Congressmen and Senators up for re-election have either been re-nominated or have witnessed their establishment successor win the nomination.
Republican or Democrat, win or lose, however, the party-favored nominees who have faced legitimate challenges have invariably been more moderate than those they were opposed by. The left presented Blanche Lincoln and Michael Bennet with serious opponents, while Arlen Specter was successfully toppled. Thanks to the Tea Party, the right’s challenges have been more fruitful, knocking off Bob Bennett and Lisa Murkowski, denying nominations to Mike Castle and Charlie Crist, and giving John McCain a scare. None of these people’s challenges have had anything to do with ethical reasons, or because they were unpopular with the state at large: they were all punished for not adhering to ideological orthodoxy.
A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that two-thirds of Republican primary voters want to ditch Olympia Snowe in 2012 for a more conservative candidate. In an environment like this, what can Snowe, popular amongst Maine voters as a whole, do? If she switches parties, she may well face the same fate Arlen Specter did. Ben Nelson, also up for re-election in 2012, faces similar questions.
Is there any room for moderates in national politics? One may point to the Blue Dogs, but they comprise an astonishingly high proportion of the Democrats likely to lose their House seats this November. We are witnessing an incredible polarization of the parties. But politicians like Ben Nelson, Mike Castle, and Olympia Snowe — with American Conservative Union ratings of roughly 50 — have to go somewhere. There is no obvious party for such people; it comes down to a matter of priorities. Are today’s political activists ready to deny all of them seats at the table?
At the bottom of things, the problem may rest with the closed-primary system. Americans are not nearly as polarized as the parties are. New Hampshire’s open system may be worth emulating: Republicans vote in their primary, Democrats vote in theirs — but independents may select either ballot. If Delaware had such a system, the state could never have produced a Christine O’Donnell. It will weaken the power of state parties, of course, which is why such policies aren’t as common as they should be. But the results it produces are undeniably sane.
September 14th, 2010 at 11:51 pm
Jim DeMint, Mark Levin, and the Tea Party Express have declared war on America.
The Republican Party is being hijacked by those who care more about inflating their egos than stopping the destructive Obama agenda. If we agree as Republicans — and I think we can — that failed stimulus packages, phony healthcare “reform,” and subdued attitudes abroad are bad for the United States, then we must conclude, as a matter of basic logic, that an axis of egotists worked against American interests last night.
If there were any evidence that Mark Levin and Jim DeMint cared about promoting conservative principles, I might retain a modicum of respect for them. But what we witnessed in Delaware last night was not the elevation of Christine O’Donnell: it was the purging of Mike Castle. Christine O’Donnell is a quixotic, fraudulent, gold-digging liar with no job and no accomplishments. DeMint and Levin would endorse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if he promised to purge the party of RINOs.
It is true that Mike Castle supports cap-and-trade. So does Chris Coons, who, thanks to the Tea Party, is about to coast to what will probably be a cushy, lifetime job in the Senate. Castle, however, unlike Coons-style liberal Democrats, voted against Obamacare, against the stimulus package, and in favor of Republicans to fill the all-important House leadership positions. Chris Coons will be one more vote in favor of Harry Reid for majority leader (I would have written Chuck Schumer, but thanks to the DeMints and Levins of the world, that too is in doubt). Spare me any nonsense about Christine O’Donnell’s ability to win: she can’t win, and she doesn’t deserve to. The only Republican in Delaware who could win that seat is Mike Castle, and his career came to a shocking and humiliating conclusion last night.
Republicans from deeply-red states like South Carolina and Alaska are utterly ignorant of what it actually means to sacrifice moderates on the altar of purity. Hailing from states where people like Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller regularly win statewide elections, DeMint and Palin are completely unable to comprehend the real-world consequences of their actions. Republicans in left-leaning states like Delaware and neighboring Maryland — my own home state — quickly learn to compromise with moderate and center-right candidates like Mike Castle and the victorious Bob Ehrlich. When we blue-state Republicans nominate unelectable candidates, we actually have to live out the consequences: here in Maryland, we have put up with years of the tax-raising, government-expanding leadership of Martin O’Malley, and few Republicans here are interested in going through another four of them in the name of “purity.” We in the blue states are the ones who suffer the greatest consequences of out-of-state propaganda from the likes of DeMint.
Stopping the Obama agenda is not on the minds of Jim DeMint, Mark Levin, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party Express. The only agendas this band of narcissistic posers care about are personal ones: how they can inflate their egos and fatten their wallets — even if it means flushing a Senate seat down the toilet.
September 5th, 2010 at 9:15 am
Rick Perry has, perhaps due to the more-localized nature of state politics, not caught fire in the media as a tea party icon. But his eyebrow-raising gaffes certainly place him in league with Sharron Angle or Rand Paul — and his slash-and-burn style is keeping the numbers in his quest for a third term far too close for comfort.
Perry generated some national controversy in the middle of 2009 when he infamously raised the specter of secession as a way of combating big government: “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that…if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that?” This statement outraged Keith Olbermann, though, so conservatives didn’t seem to care that Perry was being blatantly unpatriotic.
Earlier this year, of course, Perry trounced Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in the gubernatorial primary after being out-weirded by a tea party activist named Debra Medina. Both were challenging Perry largely on the rationale that his choice to run for a third term exemplified the arrogance of power. However, coming from Hutchison, a consummate insider, the argument just seemed too hypocritical (and Medina just seemed too batty), and Perry won a majority of the vote, making even a runoff unnecessary. Still, it’s never a good sign when an incumbent governor can only cobble together half of the vote in his own primary.
Perry’s mouth got him in trouble again when, a few days ago, weirdly linking same-sex marriage to threats to job creation, he blasted: “We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation…Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where guys can marry guys?”
In a ruby-red state like Texas — and in a year like this — it is astonishing that Perry is leading his opponent, former Houston mayor Bill White, by only eight points among likely voters. In contrast, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley leads by sixteen points. It is only in light of his aggressive, overtly ideological style that it makes sense that Perry’s numbers look more like those of New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, who is running in a blue state to replace a Democratic governor. Perry’s claim about jobs is wrong, by the way: his state’s unemployment rate (8.5%) is more than twice that of the state that’s really creating the most jobs per-capita — North Dakota, with its rate of 4.1%. That state’s governor, the center-right John Hoeven, is going to replace retiring Democrat Byron Dorgan in the Senate, probably by an earth-shattering margin of about fifty points.
In the end, the odds that Perry will lose are negligible. Bill White is simply too soft-spoken and the year is amounting to a tidal wave for Republicans that looks more like 1994 than 2006. But Perry’s performance has not proven him to be a reliable winner. If he truly has national ambitions, he ought to check them at the governor’s mansion’s door when he returns next year for his third term.
August 19th, 2010 at 2:28 pm
Should the West be at war with Islam? In a critique of the hard-line stance against Islam, John Guardiano rebukes David Swindle, who has called for the “eradication” of Islam. Marine officer Guardiano is applying his firepower against a low-value target. Let me suggest to John that he turn his attention to some brave and thoughtful people who also stand against Islam with no less vigor but with much more sense: the Human Rights Service, located out of Norway. Contributors to HRS’s website are secularists of the left and right, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, and Bruce Bawer. These writers are at war with Islam too – a war of enlightenment ideals against a fundamentalist faith, exactly the kind of war that Hirsi Ali’s hero, Voltaire, waged against the Catholic Church.
The Human Rights Service writers (and I am one of them) reject the postmodern proposition that the plain words of a text are endlessly malleable; that they allow for any interpretation the reader wants from them. When the Qur’an states that the testimony of a woman is not worth as much as a man’s, it is not to be read as an esoteric, arcane piece of apocrypha that secretly holds a feminist message: it is instead simply to be taken for what it obviously says – and then condemned. There’s no hidden message beneath the contempt for women. It’s just sexist.
Like the Enlightenment tamed Christianity, Islam too must be moderated. But Volatire, Hume, Montesquieu, and Madison have not yet found their Islamic equivalents, perhaps because certain clearly specified Qur’anic values that simply cannot be reconciled with Enlightenment ones.
The great thinkers of the past tried to undermine the values of the Church. They did not do this by treating it with awed reverence and solemn respect. The entire point of Voltaire’s critique of Christianity was, indeed, to undermine the religion and drag it into the modern world. The Enlightenment was, at its core, a war on faith in the name of reason. It was a century-long process that involved much kicking and screaming, a lot of excess, and a few tragically misguided philosophies. But the glory of its end result can hardly be denied: the crowning achievement of the American project, and its secular, capitalist culture – the first country on Earth that placed full legal primacy in the individual.
Islam has not yet gone through that messy process. It must. To say so is no more “Islamaphobic” than Thomas Jefferson was “Christophobic.”
Some may concede that above point – but argue that criticisms must from “insiders.” Apostates like Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraw, infidels like Bawer and me and achieve nothing. But why can we not speak for ourselves? If even Europeans won’t condemn the misogyny of the burqa, how can someone who’s grown up with it fight against it? The West cannot hope for Islamic reformers to come forward unless we affirm our confidence in our own values. Debates about tone and rhetorical approach are completely appropriate, but our fundamentals must be clear.