America Goes to War

We all, if we are old enough, remember the horror we felt 18 years ago this morning. I happened to be home and watching the morning news, never, not once in my life have I been so shocked, and yes, angered. But we all were, I still remember the picture of a German destroyer coming alongside one of our warships on a NATO exercise,  rails manned, stars and stripes at the foretruck, and a homemade sign on the bridge, “We are with you”, it said.

We talk of this every year, as our parents and grandparents talked of Pearl Harbor, and it was the same kind of thing, out of the blue, mass casualties, and a coming together. Sadly that last didn’t last very long. My remembrance of the day is here, and I’ve spoken of the heroes of the day before as well, here. Both are, I think, worth rereading.

But we are continually learning more, and seeing people in a new light. Garrett M. Graff published in Politico last week an excerpt of his book: The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11. Even the excerpt moved me to tears and a huge respect for all those mentioned in it. I’m not sure how ‘fair use’ plays out here, but I think we should be all right with his chosen excerpt, and perhaps a couple pictures. I hope so, I want you to read this.

Gary Walters, chief usher, White House: It was a little bit before 9 a.m. when Mrs. Bush came downstairs—I met her at the elevator. As we were walking out, I remember we were talking about Christmas decorations.

Laura Bush, first lady: My Secret Service agent, the head of my detail, Ron Sprinkle, leaned over to me as I got into the car and said, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.”

Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, White House: I thought, Well, that’s a strange accident. I called the president. We talked about how odd it was. Then I went down for my staff meeting.

Matthew Waxman, National Security Council, White House: I had started about six weeks earlier as Condi Rice’s executive assistant. At about 9:00 o’clock, we would have a daily Situation Room meeting for the national security adviser and all the senior directors. It was during that meeting that the second plane hit.

Mary Matalin, aide to Vice President Dick Cheney: I was with the Vice President when the second plane hit, and we knew instantly that this was not an accident.

Condoleezza Rice: It was the moment that changed everything.

Matthew Waxman: We went into full crisis response mode.

Mary Matalin: We went right into work mode. While we were in his office making calls to New York, making calls to the president, making calls wherever they needed to be made, the Secret Service barged into his office.

Dick Cheney, vice president: Radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles an hour.

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney: We learn that a plane is five miles out and has dropped below 500 feet and can’t be found; it’s missing. You look at your watch and think, Hmmm, five miles out, 500 miles an hour. Tick, tick, tick.

Dick Cheney: My Secret Service agent said, “Sir, we have to leave now.” He grabbed me and propelled me out of my office, down the hall and into the underground shelter in the White House.

Mary Matalin: My jaw dropped and the jaws of my colleagues dropped because we had never seen anything like that.

Condoleezza Rice: The Secret Service came in and they said, “You have got to go to the bunker.” I remember being driven along, almost propelled along. We had no idea where it was safe and where it wasn’t. We didn’t think the bunker of the White House was safe at that point.

Dick Cheney: They practice this—you move, whether you want to be moved or not, you’re going.

Gary Walters: The Secret Service officers started yelling, “Get out, get out, everybody get out of the White House grounds.” I remember early on, the chaos. People running, screaming. Fear was in my mind.

Christine Limerick, housekeeper, White House: The look on the faces of the Secret Service agents who were told that they had to stay—I will never forget that because we had at least the opportunity to flee.

Ian Rifield, special agent, U.S. Secret Service: We were fairly confident that plane was going to hit us. The supervisor in the [Secret Service’s] Joint Operations Center basically said, “Anybody who survives the impact, we’ll go to an alternate center, and we’ll continue.” It wasn’t a joke.

Dick Cheney: A few moments later, I found myself in a fortified White House command post somewhere down below.

Commander Anthony Barnes, deputy director, Presidential Contingency Programs, White House: Vice President Cheney arrived in the bunker, along with his wife. The PEOC is not a single chamber; there are three or four rooms. The operations chamber is where my watch team was fielding phone calls. Then there’s the conference room area where Mr. Cheney and Condi Rice were—that’s the space that had the TV monitors, telephones, and whatever else.

Mary Matalin: It took a while for everybody to actually get to that area. It hadn’t been used for its intended purpose—which was to be a bomb shelter—since its inception.

Commander Anthony Barnes: Shortly thereafter, I looked around and there was Condi Rice, there was Karen Hughes, there was Mary Matalin, there was [Transportation Secretary] Norm Mineta. Mr. Mineta put up on one of the TV monitors a feed of where every airplane across the entire nation was. We looked at that thing—there must have been thousands of little airplane symbols on it.

Mary Matalin: The vice president was squarely seated in the center. It was emotional, but it was really work, work, work. We were trying to locate first and foremost all the planes. Identify the planes. Ground all the planes.

Commander Anthony Barnes: That first hour was mass confusion because there was so much erroneous information. It was hard to tell what was fact and what wasn’t. We couldn’t confirm much of this stuff, so we had to take it on face value until proven otherwise.

At 9:59 a.m., those inside the bunker—as well as millions more glued to TV screens around the country—watched in horror as the South Tower fell.

Mary Matalin: We saw the building collapse.

Commander Anthony Barnes: There was a deafening silence, and a lot of gasping and “Oh my god” and that kind of thing.

Mary Matalin: Disbelief.

Commander Anthony Barnes: There are four or five very large, 55-inch television screens in the PEOC. We would put the different news stations—ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC—on those monitors. I remember Cheney being as flabbergasted as the rest of us were sitting there watching on these monitors. Back in those days, a 55-inch TV monitor was a really big TV. It was almost bigger than life as the towers collapsed.

Dick Cheney: In the years since, I’ve heard speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11. I wouldn’t say that. But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.

Mary Matalin: We had to go right back to work.

Richard Clarke, counterterrorism advisor, White House: Many of us thought that we might not leave the White House alive.

Matthew Waxman: One of the things we were all very conscious of down in the PEOC was that the White House Situation Room was staffed with our close colleagues and friends who were staying in those spots despite a clear danger. The Situation Room, which is only half-a-floor below ground, was abuzz with activity, from people who wouldn’t normally be posted there, but who felt duty bound to stay there to help manage the crisis. Especially early in the day, there was a palpable sense that close friends and colleagues might be in some significant danger.

Ian Rifield: There was a sense of frustration too, because we were sitting there. Everybody wanted to fight back. We’re trained to go to the problem, and we were sitting there. There was a lot of tension in that regard. You wanted to do something to protect the complex and the office of the president even better than we were, but we were doing the best we could with what we had. […]

Commander Anthony Barnes: I was running liaison between the ops guys who had Pentagon officials on the phone and the conference room [in the PEOC] where the principals were. The Pentagon thought there was another hijacked airplane, and they were asking for permission to shoot down an identified hijacked commercial aircraft. I asked the vice president that question and he answered it in the affirmative. I asked again to be sure. “Sir, I am confirming that you have given permission?” For me, being a military member and an aviator—understanding the absolute depth of what that question was and what that answer was—I wanted to make sure that there was no mistake whatsoever about what was being asked. Without hesitation, in the affirmative, he said any confirmed hijacked airplane may be engaged and shot down.

Col. Matthew Klimow, executive assistant to the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, Pentagon: No one had ever contemplated the need to shoot down a civilian airliner.

Major General Larry Arnold: I told Rick Findley in Colorado Springs [at NORAD’s headquarters], “Rick, we have to have permission. We may have to shoot down this aircraft that is coming toward Washington, D.C. We need presidential authority.”

Major Dan Caine, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland: I handed our wing commander the phone to talk to the high levels of government to get the rules of engagement.[…]

Col. Matthew Klimow: It was a very painful discussion for all of us. We didn’t want the burden of shooting down the airliner to be on the shoulders of a single fighter pilot, but we also didn’t want to have that pilot go all the way up the chain of command to get permission to shoot. It was decided the pilots should do their best to try to wave the airplane off, and if it’s clear the airplane is headed into a heavily populated area, the authority to shoot can be given to a regional commander.

THE CALL

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard: This sounds counterintuitive, but when the magnitude of the situation hit me, I really lost all emotion. It was really much more focused on, What are the things I need to do to enable us to protect our capital? What are the things I need to do to facilitate us getting airborne?

Brigadier General David Wherley, commander, D.C. Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland: My translation of the rules to Sass was, “You have weapons-free flight-lead control.” I said, “Do you understand what I’m asking you to do?” [Sasseville and Penney] both said yes. I told them to be careful.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville, F-16 pilot, U.S. Air Force: As we’re going out to the jets, Lucky and I had a quick conversation about what it is that we were going to do and how we were basically going to do the unthinkable if we had to.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: We would be ramming the aircraft. We didn’t have [missiles] on board to shoot the airplane down. As we were putting on our flight gear in the life support shop, Sass looked at me and said, “I’ll ram the cockpit.” I made the decision I would take the tail off the aircraft.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: We didn’t have a whole lot of options.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: I had never been trained to scramble [mobilize] the aircraft. It would typically take about 20 minutes to start the jets, get the avionics systems going, go through all the preflight checks to make sure the systems were operating properly, program the computers in the aircraft. That’s not even including the time to look at the forms, do the walk-around of the airplane, and whatnot. We usually planned about half-an-hour to 40 minutes from the time you walked out the door to the time that you actually took off.

Col. George Degnon, vice commander, 113th Wing, Andrews Air Force Base: We did everything humanly possible to get the aircraft in the air.

Major General Larry Arnold, commander of the 1st Air Force, the Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Command, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida: Bob Marr quotes me as saying that I told him that we would “take lives in the air to save lives on the ground.”

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard: Seeing the Pentagon was surreal. It was totally surreal to see this billowing black smoke. We didn’t get high. We were at about 3,000 feet. We never got above 3,000 feet, at least on that first sweep out.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: There was all this smoke in my cockpit. It made me nauseous to be honest with you—not from an Ugh, this stinks, it was more from an Oh my God, we’ve been hit on our own soil and we’ve been hit big. I couldn’t believe they had gotten through and they managed to pull off this attack.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: They made the decision we didn’t have to make.

There is much more at Politico and  I really want you to read it all. It includes the transcripts and remembrances of the phone calls and cockpit voice recorder from Flight 93.

Too often we talk about heroes, and often we exaggerate. We don’t here, from Vice President Cheney right down to the passengers and crew that took down flight 93, we can truly say,  The soul of the United States of America in action.

Thus ended the first day, many would follow.

 

The Political Class and Assisted Suicide

I’ve been reading Clarice Feldman, albeit sporadically since Obama’s first term. What with one thing and another, I quit reading American Thinker, not because of anything they wrote, more of a time issue than anything else. But with all three Spectators behind a paywall, I needed something to fill that niche, and Thinker works admirably.

Clarice’s Pieces for this week is one of my favorites in a long time. As usual written in a fairly light, easygoing style, but making a solid point. It’s entitled, The Political Consultants Assisted Suicide Center. Enjoy!

My neighbor, E.Z. Ryder, fancies himself a farsighted entrepreneur and is always full of imaginative ideas. He was sitting on his front porch shuffling through a stack of blueprints as I pulled into my driveway. He waved and motioned me to join him, so I walked over.

“See these plans? This is by best idea ever — an assisted suicide center for political consultants.”

“What? Why?”

“I got this idea during the last presidential campaign, and this article in the Atlantic confirmed it,” Ryder said. “Political consultants burn through billions of dollars and have no idea what they’re doing except to enrich themselves.

“They do a number of things over and again of limited effect: TV and radio ads, direct mail, robocalls. And burn through money they do. Jeb Bush’s campaign famously spent $139 million and he dropped out early after having won only four delegates. Top men. Hillary’s campaign juggernaut was defeated by Donald Trump who had no super PAC, no traditional fundraising operation, no campaign pollster, speechwriter, or campaign strategist.”

I couldn’t help but agree. “He utilized Twitter and Facebook, mass rallies, and sold campaign gear like MAGA hats, didn’t he? And he spoke his own words, not something poll tested by his staff. He mapped his own strategy, paying attention to voter sentiment and things like the Electoral College.”

Ryder chuckled. “No one pays much attention to those annoying campaign robocalls and the TV ads help only those who sell snack foods or need bathroom breaks.”

“They do spew out slews of talking points for the media,” I pointed out. “If your candidate is a Democrat, that may be helpful, but it is of little use to Republicans. Media love stuff they only have to republish with minor changes — like the headers indicating the source, but first and foremost they are Democrat operatives.”

Keep reading.

I think she raises a valid point here. The consultants and other assorted wannabe wizards seemed to work for years, but those were the years when the electorate wasn’t paying much attention, cause things were pretty much going OK. But that isn’t really true anymore, is it? Actually, things are going quite well, but a fair proportion of the country hasn’t got over losing the last election and have continually thrown their toys out of their playpen, and so for a lot of us, well we’re bloody well tired of the damned noise. Personally, I’ve been an independent all my life, but for the life of me can see no reason at all to ever vote for a Democrat again. They’ve simply proved that they run the gamut from untrustworthy to seditious. So my choice of candidate will be in the primary, and to be honest, the more a candidate is like Donald Trump, the more he will appeal to me.

You see, I’m one of what is called a character voter, if you’re honest and fairly close to practical, preferably with some real-world experience, I don’t have a need for us to agree on every jot and tittle. Broadly, almost all of us who have earned a living tend to agree on the basic things. That is what I like about Trump, he’s worked hard, screwed up and more or less failed (like so many of us) got back up and started over. That my sort of guy or girl.

I used to know some Democrats like that, but they’re gone, all that’s left in that party are the grifters, that have legally or not made a living off the public purse all their life. The country is too screwed up now to take a chance on them as dogcatcher let alone what their overweening ambition makes them think they should be doing.

Sunday Funnies: Horsemen and Debates

 

Did you watch the Democrat Debate?  Nope, I didn’t, were what 16 months out, and I already know every single one of them wants to hurt the country. There are better ways to waste time. But the highlights are funny, I’ll admit.

This should cover most of it…

You know when I was growing up around Chicago, there was lots of corruption, but minor things usually got fixed, garbage picked up, rats sort of under control (except in the projects, of course). Something has changed.

And, of course

Kaepernick Abuses History and a Black Man

You may have noticed that last week, while we were celebrating American Independence. Colin Kaepernick was flying his anti-American flag and attempting to pervert Frederic Douglass to his cause with this Tweet.

In his desire to blame America for his incompetence to play football, that’s fairly normal, but in any case, Senator Ted Cruz provided an excellent education.

 

 

Senator Cruz is, of course, correct. Mr. Douglass’s speech is a powerful indictment of slavery, not the United States. Its context was that he saw that America could and would improve. Indeed starting within ten years of that speech given by a Republican, 600,000 mostly white Americans would die to end slavery in the United States.

In short, what Kaepernick did was pull a quote to completely twist what a great American said. It’s a cheap trick but what else would you expect from a failure like him.

Here’s the speech: What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?

By the way, you’ll notice that my link to Douglass’s speech is different from Senator Cruz’s. This is a famous speech. Anybody with any sense at all wouldn’t attempt to blatantly twist it. But we are talking about Colin Kaepernick here.

Tribes of American Conservatives

So, yesterday we took a quick look at making sense of American conservatism. If you haven’t read it, you probably should, but today’s will stand on its own, as well. Again we are basing on Matthew Continetti’s Making Sense of the New American Right. Today we’ll take a quick look at some of the types of American conservatism, which is far from unitary. That is both a strength and a weakness, I think. It gives us many strains in house, as well as some pretty loud debates, but it also can fragment us when we differ on issues. So let’s start:

The Jacksonians

Some conservatives—myself included—see Donald Trump through the lens of Jacksonian politics. They look to Walter Russell Mead’s landmark essay in the Winter 1999 / 2000 National Interest, “The Jacksonian Tradition in American Foreign Policy,” as not only a description of the swing vote that brought us Trump, but also as a possible guide to incorporating populism and conservatism.

The Jacksonians, Mead said, are individualist, suspicious of federal power, distrustful of foreign entanglement, opposed to taxation but supportive of government spending on the middle class, devoted to the Second Amendment, desire recognition, valorize military service, and believe in the hero who shapes his own destiny. Jacksonians are anti-monopolistic. They oppose special privileges and offices. “There are no necessary evils in government,” Jackson wrote in his veto message in 1832. “Its evils exist only in its abuses.”

This is a deep strain in American culture and politics. Jacksonians are neither partisans nor ideologues. The sentiments they express are older than postwar conservatism and in some ways more intrinsically American. (They do not look toward Burke or Hayek or Strauss, for example.) The Jacksonians have been behind populist rebellions since the Founding. They are part of a tradition, for good and ill, that runs through William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Jim Webb, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump. The Jacksonians believe in what their forebears called “The Democracy.” They are the people who remind us that America is not ruled from above but driven from below. Irving Kristol captured some of Jacksonianism’s contradictions when he described the movement as “an upsurge of revolt against the moneyed interests, an upsurge led by real estate speculators, investors, and mercantile adventurers, which spoke as the voice of the People while never getting much more than half the vote, and which gave a sharp momentum to the development of capitalism, urbanism, and industrialism while celebrating the glories of the backwoodsman.”

This, in essence, is what I am as well, although, at least in my case, I think Mathew underestimates the role of some of the classic writers. I find Burke important, but not paramount. In fact, I think Locke is at least equal in importance, not least because of his influence on Jefferson. Jefferson was also influenced (perhaps more than he knew) by some combination of Cranmer and Luther. A deal of their thinking runs through his writing especially the Declaration.

As Mathew says, this is a very deep strain in American conservatism, quite possibly the basis of the others, going back all the way to before the Revolution. Jackson epitomized it, but it could likely be the strain of Americanism that caused the Revolution itself. The linked article says the Jacksonian in the Senate is Tom Cotton. I daresay he’ correct on that.

The Reformocons

Reform conservatism began toward the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, with the publication of Yuval Levin’s “Putting Parents First” in The Weekly Standard in 2006 and of Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam’s Grand New Party in 2008. In 2009, Levin founded National Affairs, a quarterly devoted to serious examinations of public policy and political philosophy. Its aim is to nudge the Republican Party to adapt to changing social and economic conditions.

In 2014, working with the YG Network and with National Reviewsenior editor Ramesh Ponnuru, Levin edited “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class.” The report was the occasion for a lot of publicity, including a Sam Tanenhaus article in the New York Times Magazine asking, “Can the GOP Be a Party of Ideas?

Much as I try, I can’t quite see the world through these guys eyes. I recognize a lot of what they are trying to do as good, especially their outreach to the uneducated/ uncredentialled of our society who often get shunted out of view. I’ve lived my life amongst them, and they’re at least as wise as any other group. But to me, these guys are a bit too willing to have the government (especially the federal government) do things that would be better done by a local association or at most local government. But they have a lot of ideas, and many are good.

The Paleos

Where the paleoconservatives distinguish themselves from the other camps is foreign policy. The paleos are noninterventionists who, all things being equal, would prefer that America radically reduce her overseas commitments. Though it’s probably not how he’d describe himself, the foremost paleo is Tucker Carlson, who offers a mix of traditional social values, suspicion of globalization, and noninterventionism every weekday on cable television.

Carlson touched off an important debate with his January 3 opening monologue on markets. “Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined,” Carlson said. “Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two.”

I like these guys quite a bit. When you read me rant about short-termism in American business (a regular occurrence), I’m often drawing on paleo sources (and experience). But their noninterventionism comes perilously near to isolationism, and their horror of tariffs is misplaced. America is above all a trading nation, and that carries with it almost automatically the Mahanian necessity to control the seas. That can, of course, spill over into ill-advised adventures, so it is a balancing act. Matthew picked Mike Lee as the Senator who most represents the Paleo view, I have no disagreement with that.

And finally,

The Post-liberals

Here is a group that I did not see coming. The Trump era has coincided with the formation of a coterie of writers who say that liberal modernity has become (or perhaps always was) inimical to human flourishing. One way to tell if you are reading a post-liberal is to see what they say about John Locke. If Locke is treated as an important and positive influence on the American founding, then you are dealing with just another American conservative. If Locke is identified as the font of the trans movement and same-sex marriage, then you may have encountered a post-liberal.

The post-liberals say that freedom has become a destructive end-in-itself. Economic freedom has brought about a global system of trade and finance that has outsourced jobs, shifted resources to the metropolitan coasts, and obscured its self-seeking under the veneer of social justice. Personal freedom has ended up in the mainstreaming of pornography, alcohol, drug, and gambling addiction, abortion, single-parent families, and the repression of orthodox religious practice and conscience. “When an ideological liberalism seeks to dictate our foreign policy and dominate our religious and charitable institutions, tyranny is the result, at home and abroad,” wrote the signatories to “Against the Dead Consensus,” a post-liberal manifesto of sorts published in First Things in March.

This is the Josh Hawley group, and if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’ll know I’m sympathetic. The author notes that this group seems to be dominated by traditionalist Catholics, and there are truly a lot of them here.

And in a little noticed commencement address to King’s College, he inveighed against the fact that

For decades now our politics and culture have been dominated by a particular philosophy of freedom. It is a philosophy of liberation from family and tradition; of escape from God and community; a philosophy of self-creation and unrestricted, unfettered free choice.

This “Pelagian vision”—Pelagius was a monk condemned by the Church fathers as a heretic—”celebrates the individual,” Hawley went on. But “it leads to hierarchy. Though it preaches merit, it produces elitism. Though it proclaims liberty, it destroys the life that makes liberty possible. Replacing it and repairing the profound harm it has caused is one of the great challenges of our day.”

The post-liberals say that the distinction between state and society is illusory.

There is truth in all that, quite a lot of it, in fact. I hear this more, I think, in British conservatives, who are much less likely to recognize a gap between church and state. And, in truth, it is much narrower there. This is where the “Liberty is not libertinism” argument comes from, and it is a valid observation.

That’s close to a triple post today, and that’s enough. I will try to see if I can come up with some valid real-world thinking about how we work together and against each other. That may well take more than overnight, so we’ll see if I can get it done. Do read the linked article, long as this is, I skipped a lot as well.

Making Sense of American Conservatism

And so, time to start trying to make sense of the world again, I guess, Matthew Continetti has a long piece up at The Washington Free Beacon called Making Sense of the New American Right. It’s a valiant effort at a nearly impossible subject. Let’s look.

The story goes that, for many years, American conservatives adhered to a consensus known as “fusionism.” Economic and social conservatives put aside their differences. Freedom, they decided, was necessary for the exercise of virtue. The struggle against and ultimate defeat of the Soviet Union was more important than domestic politics or intramural disagreements. Conservative intellectuals eager to privilege either freedom or virtue like to attack this consensus, which they often describe as “zombie Reaganism.” The truth is that the strength of fusionism always has been exaggerated. The conservative intellectual movement has been and continues to be fractious, contentious, combustible, and less of a force than most assume.

Episodes of division and strife are far more common than moments of unity and peace. The more you study the history of American conservatism, the less willing you are to describe it in monolithic terms. There isn’t one American right, there are multitudes, every one of them competing for the attention of politicians and policymakers. The most prominent and politically salient varieties, as expressed in William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review, Irving Kristol’s Public Interest, Norman Podhoretz’s Commentary, and William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, have weakened or disappeared altogether. One of the reasons the intra-conservative argument has become so personal and acrimonious is that nothing has replaced them.

Indeed, the situation today is awfully similar to that which confronted conservatives in the 1970s. Then, the Buckley consensus had to find a modus vivendi with neoconservatives as well as with the Catholic integralists around Triumph magazine, against the background of a populist revolt that called out failing elites while relying on racial and ethnic appeals that sometimes crossed the border of decency.

Indeed, that consensus is what many of us to today deride as ‘cocktail party conservatism’. It is one of the things that Donald Trump blew up on his way to the White House, with the willing help of many of us. We also tend to believe these are the people who gave us never-ending wars, mostly to enrich their friends, while denigrating our troops.

The rise of Donald Trump, Brexit, and nation-state populism throughout the world certainly suggest that something has changed in global politics. American conservatism ought to investigate, recognize, and assimilate the empirical reality before it. The trouble is that no one has concluded definitively what that reality is.

Not for lack of trying. Beginning in 2016, intellectuals who favored Trump have been searching for a new touchstone for conservative thought and politics. These writers are often described as populists, but that label is hard to define. Broadly speaking, they have adopted the banner of nationalism. They believe the nation-state is the core unit of geopolitics and that national sovereignty and independence are more important than global flows of capital, labor, and commodities. They are all, in different ways, reacting to perceived failures, whether of Buckley conservatism, George W. Bush’s presidency, or the inability of the conservative movement to stop same-sex marriage and the growth of the administrative state. And they have turned away from libertarian arguments and economistic thinking. Not everything, these thinkers believe, can be reduced to gross domestic product.

And that is an important concept. Too many, whom some call the ‘Chamber of Commerce’ Republicans do believe it is all about the GDP. And what is even worse, they tend to believe the best GDP is taken from the quarterly balance sheet. This very short term thinking has led to the deindustrialization of the US (and Britain and some other nations). There is nothing wrong in profit-seeking, but there is in putting short term profit ahead of the firms long term best interest. And that is what I see all too often.

That is rather the foundation of what we are going to be talking about, there is a lot out there, both in the linked article and some others. So much that there is at least one but probably two (maybe more) articles in it to talk about, since I write articles and not books here. So let’s discuss this much and we’ll continue, hopefully, tomorrow, if the creek doesn’t rise too much.

%d bloggers like this: