This week, two eminent Republicans did something quite novel in 2019. They committed conservatism. By conservatism, I mean a philosophy of limited, constitutional government, individual rights, trust in tradition, love of country, prudence in foreign policy and restraint at home. Restraint means not doing something that you could. It means conceding the right of your opponents to run the country for a while — for the sake of the common good. It means admitting that sometimes you’re wrong. It means give as well as take. It often means compromise.
First up, Robert Mueller. I think it’s worth reiterating how impeccably he has behaved in what has become an extremely tense constitutional moment. He kept his cool and maintained his silence in an era of massive and deafening oversharing. His bland affect is attuned to the role he plays: as a neutral enforcer of the rule of law. He strikes me, in this sense, as a classic conservative — dedicated to existing institutions and liberal democratic norms. And he felt the need to explain this week, in the wake of the obfuscations and misdirections of William Barr, what his report actually outlined, its reach, and, most importantly, its limits.
the president clearly obstructed justice — several times. In fact, Volume II is proof of the president’s multiple attempts to rig, stymie, pressure, and prematurely end the investigation into Russian interference in our elections — including witness tampering, and alteration of documents. Mueller did not need to go into all this, but he restated why it matters: “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”
thread, more effectively than anyone else in Congress, including the Democratic leadership. Then he went back to his district and explained himself further.
If you have a couple hours, I recommend watching the town hall. I found it hard to tear myself away from the YouTube video of the two-hour grilling. In the years we have lived with a strongman threat to our system of government, this was the first time I discovered someone deep in the congressional GOP who recognizes the profound danger of doing nothing, and may have the fortitude to live up to his constitutional duties. It was, in a word, thrilling. The simplest case against Trump is a deeply conservative one — as Amash, a founding member of the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus, understands. It’s about constitutional order, the restraint of Executive abuse, and resistance to tribalism.
principles and who I am … I agree with you that many of the people cheering me on aren’t going to support my campaign … It doesn’t matter to me. This is what it means to be a bigger person. It doesn’t matter to me that some people won’t support me or are hypocritical. You have to do the right thing regardless.
This is a central struggle of this time: Do we acquiesce to tribalism or aim for the citizenship the Founders hoped for? Do we worship a cult leader or practice self-government? This week, Amash has done something important: He has opened up a tiny space within the congressional GOP to debate this question. In a very dark room, he’s the light that begins to seep through the crack under the door. It may not be much, but it’s enough to allow your eyes to adjust and see.
Sohrab Ahmari, a recent Catholic convert, writing at the theo-conservative, Trump-friendly journal First Things and David French, an Evangelical voice of reason at National Review. Ahmari makes the case for Trump the same way that Michael Anton did: All that matters right now is the culture war between good and evil, the West and the rest. Since this is an emergency, and the Godless enemy is on the march, niceties, such as being a stickler for the rule of law, or rhetorical civility, are irrelevant. Insisting on legal distinctions, believing in constitutional restraint, even cooperating with the other party in some circumstances are, for the illiberal mind, all forms of cowardice and surrender.
mocks “that earnest and insistently polite quality of [David French] that I find unsuitable to the depth of the present crisis facing religious conservatives.” He has no time for a live-and-let-live pluralism which leads, Ahmari believes, to the end of a Christian culture. Even though French has spent much of his adult life litigating in defense of religious freedom, Ahmari regards these legal sallies as lame and ineffective, when the culture as a whole is rapidly secularizing. Then he ventures into chilling territory. He wants the state to act boldly “to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”
enraged by drag queens telling stories to children in libraries — “This is demonic. To hell with liberal order. Sometimes reactionary politics are the only salutary path.” — and the treatment of Brett Kavanaugh — “Kavanaugh snapped something in me.” This unholy, emotional fusion of religious fundamentalism and strongman politics is the real innovation of the Trump era.
I have my issues with some Never Trumpers. They have stoked religious fundamentalism for political gain, they gave us Sarah Palin and Abu Ghraib, and they bequeathed us a crippling debt. But many on the center right in Britain and America still haven’t given up on the liberal democratic project. For the most part, they believe in a pluralist system, defend norms and objectivity, value civility, persuasion, and a broadly liberal order. They seek to disperse power, not concentrate it; they prefer compromise over raw victory; they pursue magnanimity in success and grace in failure. They defend skepticism against certainty, doubt against faith, freedom against power, and culture over politics.
Oakeshottian understanding of politics as a conversation in the tradition of individual liberty and a near Schmittian view of politics as the exercise of raw power. It’s between a pragmatic reconciliation with modernity and an angry, bitter war against it.
new revelations about Martin Luther King Jr.’s private life. Everyone has long known that King was no pristine saint. Documents in the National Archives allege that he had multiple affairs with many women, even as he was being closely monitored, followed, bugged, and taped by the FBI. I don’t find this even faintly tarnishing for King’s wider legacy. In fact, I find the interaction between his aspirations and his flaws both fascinating and humanizing. We want saints. We get sinners. But sometimes we get sinners of prodigious courage, vision, and eloquence. This is as true of statesmen and women as it is of artists. The reduction of a person’s entire life to his sexual proclivities is an obstacle to understanding and appreciating any great figure.
But new documents add to the tension between King’s greatness and his shortcomings. Most of the FBI files on King are sealed until 2027, but for a variety of reasons, some have surfaced recently. And there’s no way to sugarcoat this, but they are brutal. I would not mention this story if it were not relayed by one of King’s preeminent biographers and experts, David Garrow. Garrow explains that “in recent months, hundreds of never-before-seen FBI reports and surveillance summaries concerning King have silently slipped into public view on the Archives’ lightly-annotated and difficult-to-explore website.” Many are records of King’s extensive and consensual sexual adventurism — recorded by Hoover’s henchmen as weapons of potential blackmail. In one case, an FBI official sent King an anonymous letter detailing these alleged offenses and advising him to take his own life. It is horrifying to see just how powerful, unrestrained, and callous the FBI then was. They even told King to kill himself on Christmas Day.
“The group met in his room and discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural or unnatural sex acts. When one of the women protested that she did not approve of this, the Baptist minister immediately and forcibly raped her,” the typed summary states, parenthetically citing a specific FBI document (100-3-116-762) as its source. “King looked on, laughed and offered advice,” Sullivan or one of his deputies then added in handwriting.
Is this FBI disinformation? Some experts have made that suggestion:
In a statement provided to The Post, King’s personal lawyer Clarence B. Jones vociferously denied the claims, adding, ‘J. Edgar Hoover is laughing in his grave today.’ Donna Murch, a Rutgers University historian who specializes in the civil rights movement, said the story had a “strange trail of evidence … that seems just very, very flimsy to me.” … “I would question the veracity of an anonymous, handwritten note on an FBI report,” said Yale historian Glenda Gilmore, who has worked extensively with FBI reports on civil rights activists. Files such as these contain “a great deal of speculation, interpolation from snippets of facts, and outright errors.” Johns Hopkins University historian Nathan Connolly, who has also examined FBI files, said, “I would be deeply suspicious.”
Garrow is sticking to his guns — for the following reason:
check this out: a piece about Pete Buttigieg’s groundbreaking candidacy for president that’s based on the Time cover of Pete and Chasten standing in front of a house. The headline? “Heterosexuality Without Women.”
So that’s what gay men are now, is it? Straight misogynists.
The author, Greta LaFleur, describes the inspiration for her hot take which is another essay about “whiteness.” Just like whiteness is a systemic form of oppression, LaFleur argues, so is heterosexuality.
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