Archive for the ‘Andrew Sullivan’ Category

In much of America, if Karl Marx is known at all, he’s considered a bad person:  the intellectual grandfather of Communism and an enemy of organized religion, and thus an opponent of the traditional American way of life. 

This is not so everywhere, such as on elite college campuses or Obama’s Trinity Church (with its unique take on liberation theology), nor in the community organizing circles where Obama spent much of his young adulthood.  There’s a reason that former Weather Underground terrorists are employed as academics.  Marx is popular there, as is his disregard for “individualized justice” as a bourgeois anachronism.  Power to the people!

It’s more than a little bit amusing to see Joe Biden and others work so hard to ridicule the very suggestion that Obama’s program might have something in common with the ideas of Karl Marx.  Indeed, what else would Obama’s promised economic redistributionism be other than a Fabian-Trotskyite strategy of transforming a capitalist society?

Andrew Sullivan quite remarkably argues that Obama’s early 2000s radio interview discussing the Warren Court shows that Obama is in fact a conservative decrying judicial activism.  Even allowing some correction for Sullivan’s hero-worship of Obama, this is quite a stretch. If you admit the possibility that intelligent people might be extremely liberal–even socialists–then it’s clear that Obama wasn’t saying anything conservative.  Only the results-oriented prejudice that Obama can’t be that liberal compels Sullivan, Biden, and others to dissemble on Obama’s behalf. 

Obama was quite clearly saying that the notoriously activist Warren Court was, in fact, not activist enough.  He was making a descriptive statement.  He thinks it missed the boat by not also recognizing so-called positive rights, such as the right to a job, healthcare, a share of national wealth, etc.  University of Chicago liberal Mortimer Adler said something very similar in Six Great Ideas, which was basically a Great Books defense of democratic socialism, and this idea was very current among legal academics at this time.

Since the Courts would not go down this road, Obama thinks the civil rights movement should have shifted its focus onto the legislative and presidential branches.  Obama never says the Warren Court was right not to make such rulings . . . simply that it didn’t.  Procedural niceties are of little moment when “economic justice” is on the line.  Obama’s pursuit of the presidency is the fulfillment of Obama’s judgment about the strategic mistakes of the 1960s-era civil rights movement.

His discussion of community organizing at the end of his earlier interview is hardly a lament for the absence of a vibrant civil society, that is, a saccharine suggestions that blacks and whites should have formed Boy Scout Troops and midnight basketball leagues and other grass-roots approaches to supporting vulnerable, impoverished families.  It’s a lament that the civil rights movement was content with, well, civil rights.  Obama recognizes that in the last 40 years, that is after Jim Crow and other ugly and un-Christian impositions on people’s lives and livelihoods were taken away, many blacks were content to get on with their lives, achieving the American dream of upward mobility. The whole point of community organizing is to stop this process and keep people mad, to get communities riled up to seek money and power through the government, and to prevent disunity. It’s designed to coalitions among the “dispossessed” across economic, racial, and other lines to prevent economic attrition of natural leaders by their movement into the more conformist and less alienated suburbs.

It is this “contentment” and movement to the suburbs–i.e. the traditional American dream–that Rev. Jeremiah Wright condemns so forcefully.  Just to give a sense of time and place, when I was in Chicago in the 90s, a popular poster said, “Bomb the Suburbs.”  To Rev. Wright, and apparently to Obama, the civil rights movement is not over until the government is yoked and directed by community organizers and their agitated constituencies.  The conservative criticism that the welfare state rewards idleness, promotes poor decision-making, and stifles economic growth is largely absent from Obama’s worldview.  Indeed, it is this system of rewards and punishments and “trickle down economics” that is the problem to him and others of his far left ideological worldview.  The traditional capitalist way is, for them, unjust, unfair, ridden with corruption, “institutionally” racist, and leads to “false consciousness” even where it seems to succeed.

The whole point of Obama and his One America rhetoric is to get everyone united over the transformational power of fleecing the rich . . . this, a group that will soon have to be defined very expansively to achieve Obama’s ambitious agenda.

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I have a long essay up at Takimag.com on Edmund Burke.  I criticize the modern tendency to invoke Burke for liberal causes, as if his concerns were chiefly procedural.  Burke’s philosophy is much more than a habitual disposition to gradualism and decentralization.  The content of political activity matters.  I write, among other things:

Burke’s latest fans, however, misunderstand something important about Burke and his philosophy by abstracting from his ouevre only the following two ideas:  (1) criticism of ideological fanaticism, particularly the concern with uniformity, and (2) Burke’s promotion of gradualism under the rubric of “organic change.” Burke had many more themes, all of which find echoes in conservative thinkers today.  For example, Burke also defended the necessity of social inequality, political authority over moral matters, organized religion (including state support of the same), sound money, chivalry and traditional sex roles, and traditional political institutions, most notably in the form of hereditary monarchy.  Burke was neither a libertarian, nor a Classical Liberal.  He famously sparred with Thomas Paine, who penned his obnoxious work, The Rights of Man, as a criticism of Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France

Modern “Burkeans,” who defend such varied matters as universal healthcare and gay marriage in Burkean terms, effectively cut Burke’s philosophy in half, focusing exclusively on his concerns for procedure and the pace of political action, while distorting or ignoring Burke’s more controversial treatment of the substantive ends of politics.

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Even Obama’s white supporters were starting to get put off by what Reverend Wright implied about Barack Obama. But they’re all back on board now . . . most especially, Andy Sullivan.  The candidate of few accomplishments–legislative or otherwise–calmed them down once again with the right words. 

He’s the candidate of hopeful words, after all.  His speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention propelled him into the limelight.  Since then he’s carefully–oh, so carefully–positioned himself for the national run.  He’s avoided controversial votes and controversial people.  Wright was the exception; he needed Wright back in the day to get an entree into South Side Chicago politics, and, Obama was loyal to him for this reason.  Obama also had an emotional connection with Wright: the reverend and the scene at Trinity gave Obama the authentic blackness he has obsessed about since high school. 

But Obama’s essentially a pundit running for president.  Where leadership, tough choices, and tangible work were required–with Wright, in the Senate, as a law professor–Obama’s nowhere to be found.  He makes mistakes of judgment because he’s unwilling to take risks.  But his true believers are always willing to be sweet talked back into his arms.  All is forgiven; in this case, 20 years of membership in a black racist church coupled with the unbelievable alibi that he never heard any of this crazy nonsense from Wright until recently, even though his talk is a core expression of black liberation theology. 

In the meantime, conservatives are castigated for suspicious that these words were opportunistic, too late, slightly dishonest, and the product of political necessity.  In the minds of Obama’s true believers, something is wrong with us for being skeptical about a smooth-talking, liberal, Chicago politician seeking national office.

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Andrew Sullivan complains that Obama is being “swift boated.”

Swift Boating


Truthful recitation of facts and reasonable inferences from the same that a candidate’s supporters would prefer no one knew about, e.g., racist church memberships, defamatory rhetoric about one’s fellow Vietnam veterans.


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Sullivan’s been praising Ron Paul and his awesome youth movement for months now.  But now he’s sad to learn that Paul’s youth movement was once a “good ol’ boy” movement that used to make fun of “welfare queens,” yankees, and “homos.” 

Did I call this or what:

Ron Paul only appeals to Sullivan because he’s a gadfly who shares Sullivan’s (au courant) view that the Iraq War is a mistake. As with Bush, whose “compassionate conservatism” once appealed to Sullivan’s gobbeldy-gook moderate views, Sullivan’s romantic sentiments will soon be dashed by some expression of a genuinely conservative viewpoint by Paul, such as his opposition to civil rights laws. At that point, expect Sullivan to return to his tried-and-true modus operandi: hysterical denunciation of yet another heart-breaking politician who has the temerity not to agree with him on everything.

I predict libertarianism will always be a fringe movement.  Because people that care about the liberties it embraces today–drugs, abortion, gay rights–also believe strongly in social equality.  And people that believe in social equality are by definition people that think discrimination is a great evil; it’s hard to sustain the deontological embrace of complete freedom (outside violence) when one’s view of liberty would permit a great evil.  Thus Sullivan’s liberalism trumps his libertarianism, and we’ll see something similar from most other left-libertarians.  This was the basic historical trajectory, incidentally, of Classical Liberalism.

Conservative-leaning libertarians may well stay libertarian, but they have a more abiding substantive reason to do so and will continue to form the base of practical libertarian voters:  They’re in society’s productive class and don’t like the government taking their money to subsidize disorderly parasites. Of course, as men of a conservative bent, they won’t lose any sleep over gay marriage or other social innovations supposedly required by doctrinaire libertarianism.

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Andrew Sullivan’s excited about Ron Paul. Not too surprising, since he’s something of a libertarian.  Of course, he’s also excited about Obama.  Sullivan’s torn between his social and economic liberalism.  He also is carried away by the “youth movement” aspect of both campaigns. 

In discussing an esoteric philosophical discussion among off-duty Paul volunteers, Sullivan notes, “There’s something real there. And something so new the GOP doesn’t want it.”  Uh, no.  It’s called a fringe group.  These groups attract intense, earnest volunteers.  Their fringness explains their intensity and also their un-electability.  I’ve been at ISI events where we discussed whether the Constitution was unconstitutional because of the unanimity requirements of the Articles of Confederation.  For some reason, I don’t see the Sam Francis wing of the party gaining on account of our moral seriousness.

Ron Paul is not affecting this race in any real way because 90% of the Republican Party wants a strong national security candidate, and Paul isn’t it. They also want someone who won’t legalize drugs, permit gay marriage, and all the rest.  Thought he’s made noises about border security, his empty vessel concept of American identity doesn’t inspire restrictionists to believe he’ll stick to it.  Finally, we’d like someone with a shot of winning, not the Republican version of McGovern.

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Lots of interesting things going on out there in the blogosphere.

Lawrence Auster takes Charles Johnson of LGF to task for his idiosyncratic anti-left and anti-right criticism of Islam.  For Johnson, everyone that doesn’t dislike Muslims as much as Charles Johnson while also disliking Europeans as much as Charles Johnson is a fascist and anti-Semite.  For all his popularity with knuckle-draggers, Johnson’s view is thoroughly modern and useless because it inevitably alienates Christians, Europeans, and everyone but Israel in the fight against radical Islam. Well, guess what, this may take some cooperation.

Jared Taylor cooly explains why the “achievement gap” in our schools isn’t going anywhere soon.

The War Nerd enjoys the Southern California fires.

Redacted sounds like typical Hollywood anti-war insanity. Hold your breath for a movie about Paul Smith or other heroes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Andrew Sullivan approvingly quotes the utter apotheosis of the “Natural Republican” theory, applying it to Barack Obama, a well-known liberal and Democratic Party candidate for President.

Kathleen Parker echoes Tom Wolfe’s noting that the “hook up” culture on campus leads to spiritual and physical pain.

Robert Levy roots for the Second Amendment in an upcoming Supreme Court case.  I join him in hoping the Supreme Court will put some teeth in the amendment, of course.

Ace rains on Al Gore’s parade citing a study that the Arctic Ocean changes may likely be naturally occurring.

A Vermont blogger has an interesting discussion of paleoconservatism versus traditionalist conservatism.

Jim Kalb reviews a book by Thomas Molnar on the purpose of philosophy.

Child rapist and murderer continues to gum up the machinery of justice delaying his well-deserved execution, even though everyone knows he is guilty of an atrocity.

New piston-based operating systems for the AR-15 should rival the excitement that greets new operating systems for computers.  This change might actually lead to saved lives and a cleaner, more effective infantry weapon.  Of course, the sclerotic Pentagon bureaucracy will sit on this for who knows how long. But hopefully it works as advertised and will lead to the adoption of the HK 416 or a similar platform to succeed the finicky M4.

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