Tag Archives: Tapped

“There’s Nothing In The Constitution About That.”

Calvin Massey interviewing Justice Scalia for California Lawyer:

In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?
Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don’t like the death penalty anymore, that’s fine. You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up

Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post:

For the record, the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause states: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, called the justice’s comments “shocking” and said he was essentially saying that if the government sanctions discrimination against women, the judiciary offers no recourse.

“In these comments, Justice Scalia says if Congress wants to protect laws that prohibit sex discrimination, that’s up to them,” she said. “But what if they want to pass laws that discriminate? Then he says that there’s nothing the court will do to protect women from government-sanctioned discrimination against them. And that’s a pretty shocking position to take in 2011. It’s especially shocking in light of the decades of precedents and the numbers of justices who have agreed that there is protection in the 14th Amendment against sex discrimination, and struck down many, many laws in many, many areas on the basis of that protection.”

Greenberger added that under Scalia’s doctrine, women could be legally barred from juries, paid less by the government, receive fewer benefits in the armed forces, and be excluded from state-run schools — all things that have happened in the past, before their rights to equal protection were enforced.

Ann Althouse:

HuffPo headlines: “Women Don’t Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination.” The writer, Amanda Terkel, quotes the 14th Amendment, and concludes, with unironic textualism: “That would seem to include protection against exactly the kind of discrimination to which Scalia referred.” Thanks for the analysis, Amanda.

Terkel also called up Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, who professed to find Scalia’s opinion “shocking” — even though he’s been saying it for at least 15 years.

Scott Lemieux at Tapped:

Scalia has never been consistent about applying the principles expressed above. Nobody who voted for the 5th or 14th Amendments thought that they were prohibiting affirmative action, and yet Scalia has found that both amendments prohibit affirmative action in virtually all circumstances. Scalia also believes that Brown v. Board was correct, although very few of the persons who voted in favor of the proposal or ratification of the 14th Amendment believed that it prohibited racial segregation. When the originalist principles outlined above clash with (rather than reinforce) his political preferences, Scalia has no problem ignoring them.

Scalia’s answer when it comes to gender? That while the framers and ratifiers of the 14th Amendment did not think they were outlawing affirmative action or school segregation, they did think they were outlawing racial discrimination; they didn’t specifically discuss gender discrimination. The problem with this response is that Scalia’s choice to stop at this particular point on the ladder of abstraction is completely arbitrary. Scalia has already made clear in other cases that he doesn’t think that the concrete expectations of framers or ratifiers are binding. And the 15th Amendment demonstrates that the framers of the 14th could have limited the equal protection clause to racial discrimination, but they did not. So what basis does Scalia have for being certain that the 14th Amendment permits gender discrimination?

He doesn’t. Scalia’s belief that the 14th Amendment does not prohibit gender discrimination is a political choice in no way compelled by the text of the Constitution.

Jack Balkin:

Scalia argues that the fourteenth amendment was not intended to prevent sex discrimination. That’s not entirely true. The supporters of the fourteenth amendment did not think it would disturb the common law rules of coverture: under these rules women lost most of their common law rights upon marriage under the fiction that their legal identities were merged with their husbands. But these rules did not apply to single women. So in fact, the fourteenth amendment was intended to prohibit some forms of sex discrimination– discrimination in basic civil rights against single women.

Moreover, the Constitution was subsequently amended. After the nineteenth amendment, the common law coverture rules made little sense. If married women had the right to vote, why did they not have the right to contract or own property in their own names? If we read the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of civil equality in light of the Nineteenth Amendment, the guarantee of sex equality should apply to both single and married women. The conservative court during the Lochner era thought as much in a case called Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, decided immediately after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Scalia argues that if contemporary generations want to protect women, they can pass antidiscrimination laws and nothing in the original understanding of the Constitution forbids this. But this is not quite correct. The federal government would not be able to pass civil rights laws protecting women from discrimination; only states and local governments could. That is because if judges followed what the Constitution’s framers expected, federal regulatory power would be greatly constricted and, among other things, the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s ban on sex discrimination would be unconstitutional because it would beyond federal power to enact. Justice Scalia would surely vote to uphold much federal legislation today (see his concurrence in the medical marijuana case, Gonzales v. Raich), but that is because he accepts the New Deal revolution, which he well knows is not consistent with original understandings about the scope of federal power. So Scalia’s arguments about what modern majorities can do today rest on his view that a very significant proportion of constitutional understandings of the framers can simply be jettisoned because they make little sense in today’s world. That is to say, he doesn’t really believe in originalism either when it comes to a very wide array of cases concerning federal governmental power.

Second, if Scalia had really wanted to be faithful to the expectations and assumptions of the the adopters of the Fourteenth Amendment, he had no business joining the opinion in Bush v. Gore, because the Amendment was not intended to change state rules concerning the right to vote.

During the interview Justice Scalia says that he doesn’t even need to read the briefs to know what originalism permits, requires or forbids; but I would respectfully suggest he needs to read a bit more history.

Legal Insurrection:

Gee, Scalia must hate women.

Except that the headline is a good example of a half-truth.  Scalia’s point is the fairly standard originalist view that the 14th Amendment does not broadly apply to prohibit all forms of discrimination on the basis of sex.  Either sex.  It does not protect men against discrimination on the basis of sex, either.  The Supreme Court decision in Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971) is read by some as offering broad protection on the basis of sex, but that is an overreading of a fairly limited opinion in which the Court found no rational basis for a state law giving preference to males in the appointment of estate administrators.  Other cases after Reed have applied a more strict scrutiny approach.  I assume Scalia disagrees with the Reed decision, not because he doesn’t like the result, but because of the approach;  this difference in approach does not make Scalia wrong, or hostile to women as the HuffPo headline suggested.

Scalia’s view is neither novel nor new.  That the Constitution does not address discrimination on the basis of sex as such was evidenced by the ultimately failed attempt to amend the Constitution to add an Equal Rights Amendment which would have added this provision:  “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

The Blog Of Legal Times

Cat White at Scholars and Rogues:

So how important is the Constitution for protecting people’s rights? Apparently not very. Scalia goes on to say, “You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box.”

Unless you happen to be a corporation. Scalia et al continued the practice of defining corporations as persons with equal protection under the 14th Amendment (there is an article here on the history and meaning of the practice here–in short, define which “persons” are “citizens” and then grant protection to “citizens.”) Corporations are, of course, “legal persons” endowed by their creators with perpetual life and by the courts with inalienable rights by the 14th Amendment (as opposed to us “natural persons” who have limited life and apparently limited protection against discrimination by the 14th Amendment).

Apparently, “natural persons,” or at least female “natural persons” only need the protection of the laws, as Scalia said about the limits of the Constitution, “Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.”

So who else does not need the additional protections of equality? Perhaps workers over 40, African-Americans, gays and lesbians?

Did corporations really need to be given the rights to control our elections through donations? What’s next, the corporate right to vote? Oh, right–they’d only get one vote that way, much better to control the whole process through funding.

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In The Old Days, Bob Dylan Would Write A Song About This

Nate Jones at Time:

Students at Nettleton Middle School must be doing great on their American History exams, because their school is almost literally living in the past!

Segregation is still alive and well in parts of America. At Nettleton Middle School in Nettleton, MS, students are forbidden from running for certain student government positions if their skin is the wrong color. Each year, three of the the four executive positions are set aside for white students; one of the four is set aside for a black student. The highest rank a black student can hold? Vice-President, in 8th grade.

Even worse is the situation for students who are neither black nor white, who cannot apparently run for any office.

The policy was busted by the mother of a mixed-race student who had wanted to be class reporter, a position reserved for black students. As the mother, Brandy Springer, wrote to the blog Mixed and Happy, her daughter was denied on the basis of her matrilineal whiteness. When Springer complained to the school board, she says:

“They told me that they ‘Go by the mother’s race [because] with minorities the father isn’t generally in the home.’ They also told me that ‘a city court order is the reason why it is this way.'”

But don’t think the school is racist! The district has posted a statement on the policy, saying it is “under review.” Well, glad that’s solved

Irin Carmon at Jezebel:

If we still have segregated proms in the American South, including in Mississippi, why not segregated middle school elections? Welcome to Nettleton Middle School, where not only are class elections segregated, but the president slots are designated for white students.

But even segregated proms have an apparent black equivalent. In this middle school class officers election, there’s no pretense of separate but equal: The highest a black student can aspire to is vice president of just one of the classes. Because it’s not like a black person can be president or anything!

Jamelle Bouie at Tapped:

This is what I mean when I say that we’re only 40 years removed from the civil-rights movement. These attitudes took generations to materialize, and while we’ve come a long way, it’s unreasonable to expect that they’ll disappear in a few decades. On the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march on Washington, racism isn’t as bad as it was, but it’s not an abstraction, and it’s not a thing of the past.

Joanne Jacobs:

The school, which has a black principal, is 74 percent white and 26 percent black. I suspect the policy was written to ensure that blacks would win a share of class offices. And it will be dropped like a rock very quickly.

Once the policy went public, the superintendent put up a statement saying “the processes and procedures for student elections are under review.”

As bizarre as it seems, the intent was doubtless benign. As Joanne Jacobs points out, the school’s principle is black and the school “is 74 percent white and 26 percent black.” The intent, rather clearly, was to ensure that at least one black officer was elected per class.

I’m not sure what’s more interesting: That this has been going on for “more than 30 years” and people are just now complaining or that it was started 30-odd years ago. Presuming “more than 30″ doesn’t mean “almost 40,” that means this policy started in the late 1970s — years after official segregation ended.

Then again, I was slightly befuddled that the Alabama high school from which I graduated in 1984 and to which I transferred in 1980 had a “minority” spot in the Homecoming Court. A black girl could theoretically have been elected Homecoming Queen, since there was no rule that she be white (Yes: In those days, it was presumed she’d be a she and have always been one) there was a guarantee that at least one would be represented. Since we never had more than one or two black girls in our class, it was rather surreal.

Huffington Post:

MSNBC reports that the school board for Nettleton Middle school met in an emergency session today and voted to reverse its policy of apportioning student council positions by race:

“It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body,” Superintendent Russell Taylor said in a statement.
“Therefore, beginning immediately, student elections at Nettleton School District will no longer have a classification of ethnicity. It is our intent that each student has equal opportunity to seek election for any student office.”

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Open The Closet And Walk To The Outside

Marc Ambinder:

Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter’s questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush “was no homophobe.” He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
Mehlman’s leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities — such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform (“Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country…”). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
“What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
Mehlman is aware that his attempts to justify his past silence will not be adequate for many people. He and his friends say that he is aware that he will no longer control the story about his identity — which will simultaneously expose old wounds, invite Schadenfruede, and legitimize anger among gay rights activists in both parties who did not hide their sexual orientations.

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

Ambinder was apparently pushed to run the story two days early after Mike Rogers, whose track record on outing conservative politicians is very good, reported on Blogactive that Ambinder was preparing a story that would confirm that Mehlman was gay and the story was slated for Friday or early next week.

Within an hour of Rogers going public with his scoop that Mehlman was about to come out as gay, Ambinder posted his story.

It’s a rumor that has circulated around Washington, D.C., for years.  Mehlman–who was recently in the news for buying a condo in New York City’s very-gay Chelsea neighborhood–has previously denied he’s gay but now he tells Ambinder that he “arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently” and “anticipated that questions would be asked about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.”

[…]

In 2006, Mehlman’s sexual orientation led to an uncomfortable moment for CNN after they edited a transcript and a video that featured Bill Maher outing Mehlman on Larry King Live. That story was later told in the documentary Outrage, which featured Rogers and his work to “out” closeted  gay conservatives who work against the LGBT community.

Ambinder seems like a natural to break the Mehlman story.  In 2006, he wrote about the challenges that Mark Foley scandal created for gay Republicans, including the lavender mafia that surrounded Foley and reached into the Republican establishment. A well-connected openly gay reporter, Ambinder would have the connections inside the web of gay Republicans to convince Mehlman to give him an exclusive.

According to the story, Mehlman and Ambinder have been talking for a number of years about Mehlman coming out and his views on gay issues.

Honestly, I thought the guy came out years ago. Remember when Bill Maher talked about the rumors surrounding him on Larry King’s show — back in 2006? I guess you were the last to know, Ken.

He’s doing this now, it seems, because he wants to drum up publicity for the cause of gay marriage and figures that “Republican whom everyone thought was gay actually is gay” headlines will do the trick. Could be, although Ambinder’s careful to remind readers of the sort of social con initiatives that the GOP pushed during Mehlman’s RNC tenure. That won’t endear him to gay activists, and his newly public identity won’t endear him to social cons. Maybe he should have just worked for gay marriage like Ted Olson and kept his orientation private?

Joe My God:

Andy Towle is reporting that Mehlman has already agreed to chair a “major anti-Prop 8 fundraiser” for Americans For Equal Rights, Ted Olson and David Boies’ outfit. Gee thanks, shitbag. That’s like offering to help rebuild a house when YOU were the fucker that helped BURN IT DOWN.

Towleroad:

Just got off the phone with Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization challenging Proposition 8 in federal court, regarding former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman and reports that he is about to come out of the closet.

Griffin tells me that Ken Mehlman is chairing a major fundraiser in late September that has already raised over $1 million for the organization battling Prop 8. The fundraiser is co-chaired by prominent Republican donors Paul Singer and Peter Thiel and will be held at Singer’s home.

A large number of other Republicans are co-hosts of the fundraiser including Mary Cheney, Margaret Hoover, and Steve Schmidt. Dick Gephardt is also among the hosts.

Said Griffin to Towleroad:

“Mehlman has committeed his own resources and been an integral part of the team at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Our goal is to get as many people who aren’t on the side of gay marriage on our side, and once they are here, to welcome them.”

Said AFER board member Dustin Lance Black:

“Ken represents an incredible coup for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We believe that our mission of equal rights under the law is one that should resonate with every American. As a victorious former presidential campaign manager and head of the Republican Party, Ken has the proven experience and expertise to help us communicate with people across each of the 50 states.”

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

Good for Ken. I know a lot of people will want to criticize him for heading up the GOP as a closeted gay man. He says he only recently came to terms with being gay. I suspect he always knew he was gay, but recently came to terms with accepting it, and embracing it. And good for him. He’s now doing the right thing, helping support marriage equality. I’m not going to fault him for that. Coming out is a horrendously difficult and complicated thing. It’s not rational.

Now, does that mean I oppose efforts to out people who are hurting our community? Absolutely not. I was there with the rest of them calling Mehlamn out for being a closeted gay man running a homophobic political party. Our long-time readers will remember Mehlman Mondays on AMERICAblog. I long talked about Mehlman being the only closet-heterosexual I’d ever heard of – a man not willing to admit he’s straight.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace him now. And not just for strategic reasons. Mehlman, from what Ambinder says, is doing the right thing. He’s now using his position in the GOP to help our community on our number one issue: marriage. For that, he deserves our thanks.

Now, let me say, the GOP was happily anti-gay under Mehlman, so I don’t buy his story that he helped temper their nastiness. They were still homophobic bigots, regardless of what Mehlman did or didn’t do, and he chose to remain as their head. For that, he gets no thanks. But is he making up for it today? You betcha. It’s a start, and a damn good one.

As for the Democratic party, I hope someone at the DNC is starting to sweat. We now have the former head of the Republican party who is to the left of Barack Obama on gay marriage. There’s a virtual groundswell of senior Republicans coming out for marriage equality. It can’t be going unnoticed in the gay community. And while it doesn’t mean 70% of the gay vote will now go Republican instead of Democrat, it does mean that growing numbers of gays and lesbians will starting thinking of the GOP as a legitimate alternative to the Democratic party.

And finally, how about that religious right? The Republicans lied to them about Mehlman for years. And Mehlam himself admits that he used his position as RNC chair to help stop the GOP gay-baiting. The religious right was totally pwned.

Ann Althouse:

Journey? Oh, I hear the dog-whistle. He’s calling the Oprah crowd. Family, friendssupportive… he wants Democrats, women, etc., to care about him. Don’t hate me because I’m/I’ve been a Republican. Love me, because I’m gay, and oh! how I’ve anguished in the company of Republicans.

UPDATE: Michael Calderone at Yahoo

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Gabriel Arana at Tapped

Maria Bustillos at The Awl

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Filed under LGBT, Political Figures

Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! Morphs Into Barry! Barry! Barry!

Julie Mason at The Washington Examiner:

President Obama is going to New Jersey this week for remarks on the economy, with a little detour to NYC for a DNC fundraiser and a taping of “The View.” It’s his third appearance on the show, but the first of any sitting president — on any daytime talk show.

From the ABC release:

President Obama’s interview, scheduled to tape on Wednesday, July 28th, will touch on topics including his administration’s accomplishments, jobs, the economy, the Gulf oil spill, and family life inside the White House.

Sigh. Really? Is daytime talk a realm that really needed conquering by a U.S. president? Yes, the president should be seen, and certainly “The View” has its moments — they do try to be topical. But this feels like a potentially high ick-factor scenario.

Among other things, it’s very pandering, and there’s a great potential for embarrassment, on all sides. Are they going to tell him how handsome he is and then Elizabeth Hasselbeck launches into him on national security?

Shani O. Hilton at Tapped:

Obama, who released a new National HIV/AIDS strategy last month, has a chance to shift the heat to the show’s hosts. When comedian D.L. Hughley visited the show in late June, he and host Sherri Shepherd had a “hot topics” discussion that touched on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among black Americans.

Hughley said, “When you look at the prevalence of HIV in the African American community, it’s primarily young women getting it from men on the ‘down low.'” Shepherd added: “[HIV/AIDS] is so big in the black community with women because they’re having unprotected sex with men who have been having sex with … with men.”

But as Jorge Rivas at Colorlines magazine noted, that’s simply not true. Not only has the “down low” myth been debunked time and time again, it’s a dangerous idea that deflects attention from the real issues around the high rate of HIV and AIDS among black women. Unprotected heterosexual sex, and limited access to STD prevention and safe-sex tools, plus a lack of health care and regular screenings are the major contributing factors.

No one at The View bothered to correct Shepherd or Hughley. After GLAAD placed an ad in Variety magazine pointing out the misinformation being spread on the widely watched show and calling for a retraction, ABC non-responded, saying: “A guest moderator on the show expressed his interpretation of data about one way the virus can be transmitted. The topic of HIV/AIDS has been raised many times over the show’s 13 years, with many voices and opinions contributing to a conversation that we expect to continue as long as The View is on the air.”

Clearly, ABC was trying to couch Hughley’s statement as opinion. But when ill-informed opinions like Hughley’s and Shepherd’s are given air on a nationally syndicated show, there’s little reason for viewers to think those opinions aren’t fact. This is dangerous, if not deadly, because a clear public understanding of the factors that contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS is crucial to containing the epidemic. And while it’s doubtful that Obama will directly address the HIV/AIDS mythology being shared on The View, for the sake of building stronger support for his initiative, he should.

Matt Lewis at Politics Daily:

News that President Obama was set to appear on ABC’s “The View” on Thursday — the first time a sitting U.S. president will appear on a daytime talk show — has been met with predicable concerns about the dignity of the presidency.

(During the 2008 campaign, Obama and John McCain both appeared on the program.)

But while you might expect Republicans to be critical of the president’s appearance on the show, even some of Obama’s fellow Democrats are skeptical.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”‘ Tuesday (video below), Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) was less than confident that Obama was making the right move. As Rendell said:

I think there are some shows . . . I wouldn’t put him on ‘Jerry Springer’ either, right? . . . It is different, a little bit. But look, I think the president of the United States has to go on serious shows. And ‘The View’ is — you can make a case that ‘The View’ is a serious show — but also rocks and rolls a little bit. I’m not sure he has to go on ‘The View’ to be open to questions.

Meredith Jessup at Townhall:

Who says President Obama doesn’t transcend petty political differences?  He is uniting people like never before… against him.

In the latest case of individuals putting politics aside to bash Obama, Pat Buchanan–who disagrees with most everything the president does–and Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., appeared on MSNBC yesterday and came to one sound conclusion: Obama should not go on “The View”:

Rendell: I think there’s got to be a little bit of dignity to the presidency.

Mika Brzezinski: What are you saying, Ed?

Willie Geist: What a horrible insult to “The View.”

Rendell: I think there are some shows I wouldn’t put him on, “Jerry Springer,” too, right? … I think the president of the United States has to go on serious shows. And “The View” is, you can make a case that it’s a serious show, but it also rocks and rolls a little bit. I’m not sure he has to go on “The View” to be open to questions.

TV Newser reports that Obama will be taping his guest appearance with Babs Walters & her motley crew tomorrow for the show that will air Thursday.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

Barack Obama will skip the Boy Scout 100 year Anniversary Jamboree…

Instead he will travel to New York City to appear on “The View.”

Maybe they’ll call him “sexy” again?

Wonkette:

President Barack Obama will do just about anything to avoid his most important duties in office, which involve, as Chuck Norris pointed out, doing Boy Scout stuff. The latest chapter in Obama’s conspiracy against America’s boy industry is that he’s now blaming his absence at this year’s Jamboree on a scheduling conflict: He is taping The View on Wednesday. Why does Obama continue to disrespect our brave children in uniform?

Housewives can vote, you see, whereas Boy Scouts cannot — even though these costumed boy-children must collect the Democracy Badge, the Electioneering Badge, the First-Past-the-Post Badge, the Gerrymandering Badge, the Proportional Representation Badge, the Instant-Runoff-Voting Badge, the Shooing Away Black Panthers Badge and the Nixon Honor Badge to become an Eagle Scout.

Thus, the leader of the free world will chat with a handful of quasi-celebrities about lady stuff (like their periods, probably), instead of doing his real job, which is hanging out with eight-year-olds and teaching them how to build a campfire.

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The Melon In The Travel Office Next To The Christmas Card List

Jonathan Chait at TNR rounds it up here.

John Quiggin:

I’ve been too absorbed by my book projects and by Australian politics (of which more soon) to pay a lot of attention to the forthcoming US elections, but it seems to be widely projected that the Republicans could regain control of the House of Representatives. What surprises me is that no-one has drawn the obvious inference as to what will follow, namely a shutdown of the US government.

It seems obvious to me that a shutdown will happen – the Republicans of today are both more extreme and more disciplined than last time they were in a position to shut down the government, and they did it then. And they hate Obama at least as much now as they hated Clinton in 1995 (maybe not quite as much as they hated him by 2000, but they are getting there faster this time).

The big question is how a shutdown will be resolved. It seems to me that it will be a lot harder for Obama to induce the Republicans to back down than it was for Clinton. IIRC, no piece of legislation proposed by Obama has received more than a handful of votes in the House, and (unlike the case with Bob Dole in 1995) no aspiring Republican presidential candidate will have an interest in resolving the problem – the base would be furious. On the other hand, the price Obama would have to pay if he capitulated the Republicans would demand from Obama in a capitulation would be huge, certainly enough to end his presidency at one term. So, I anticipate a lengthy shutdown, and some desperate expedients to keep things running.

Paul Krugman:

I’ve been thinking the same thing. Also, expect many, many fake scandals; we’ll be having hearings over accusations of corruption on the part of Michelle Obama’s hairdresser, janitors at the Treasury, and Larry Summers’s doctor’s dog. If you don’t believe me, you weren’t paying attention during the Clinton years; remember, we had months of hearings over claims that something was fishy in the White House travel office (nothing was).

And if anyone remotely connected to the administration should die — oh, boy.

Oh, and you can be sure that many media figures will play right along.

Steve Benen:

This may sound hyperbolic. It’s not. In the Clinton era, House Republicans held two weeks of hearings investigating the Clintons’ Christmas card list, and the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform fired a bullet into a “head-like object” — reportedly a melon — in his backyard to test his conspiracy theories about Vince Foster. All told, over the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, that same committee unilaterally issued 1,052 subpoenas — that’s not a typo — to investigate baseless allegations of misconduct. That translates to an average of a politically-inspired subpoena every other day for six consecutive years, including weekends, holidays, and congressional recesses.

It would almost certainly be worse in 2011 and 2012. Indeed, the man positioned to lead the committee — reformed alleged car thief Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) — has already said he’s inclined to leave “corporate America” alone, so he can attack the White House relentlessly.

Matthew Yglesias:

The case against this happening is that conventional wisdom holds that the shutdown was a fiasco for Newt Gingrich that members of congress will be loathe to repeat.

I think the case for it happening is twofold. One is that conservative politics is now much more dominated by a set of overlapping, competing media figures who are more interested in ratings than in majorities. The other is that if John Boehner has the courage of my convictions, he’ll believe that a government shutdown will risk sending the economy into a double-dip recession and that ultimately Barack Obama will be blamed for the bad results regardless of what polling says in the moment. Now does Boehner have those convictions? I have no idea. And would he really be so bold and immoral as to roll the dice on that basis? I also have no idea. But it could happen. To an extent, I think the functioning of our political system depends on the key actors not fully understanding how it works.

Nicholas Beaudrot:

I think the answer to that is actually “no”. I think the Republicans have conceded that actually shutting down the government was bad for Newt Gingrich and bad for Republicans. It ultimately painted the GOP as the uncompromising party, and of course the economic rebound let Bill Clinton and the Democrats regain their approval rating.

What I think we’ll instead see is a more extreme version of what we’re seeing today, which is that Republicans will effectively shut down the government, but keep the lights on at enough agencies that most people notice the government is still around, just less responsive than it use to. We’ve seen this movie before, in both 1998 and 2006, when the House majority, anticipating a favorable political climate coming soon, decided not to engage in political confrontation. And somehow, we’re seeing it today, thanks largely to baroque (and broke) Senate procedure. The appointments process for sub-cabinet officials, District and Circuit Court judges, etc., has already slowed to a crawl. Should Republicans gain even the House majority, it will slow further. Regulatory actions will be subject to scrutiny from subpoena-empowered cranks, which will slow the federal bureaucracy from doing much of anything new, including implementing needed portions of the Affordable Care Act and the financial reform bill. People will still get their Social Security checks. But if you were expecting any agency to do something new that might help you out, you’re probably going to be SOL if Republicans take back the House.

Jonathan Bernstein:

The thing is that if we’re talking about a government shutdown, then what we’re talking about is an inability to get appropriations bills signed into law by October 1 — and an inability to agree to (routine) temporary measures to keep agencies funded while negotiations continue.  The form this has to take is either Congress doesn’t produce anything — in which case they’ll take the immediate blame — or they produce something that Obama vetoes.  It’s not an easy trick for Congress to manage to pass something that is generally popular but so unacceptable to the Democrats that Obama would have to veto.  In the case of a divided Congress, even if Democrats only hold a very slim margin in the Senate, I’d say it’s just about impossible.

As far short-term fallout, I agree with Beaudrot that it’s difficult to see a shutdown hurting Obama.  Yes, within the GOP echo chamber, he’ll obviously be blamed for it…but within that world, he’s blamed for everything.  But for everyone else, it’s very hard for “Congress” to win any public relations battles.  Everyone hates Congress; everyone always hates Congress.  If government offices are closed, if national parks are closed…does anyone really believe that John Boehner is going to win a contest with Barack Obama in the battle for public opinion?  Especially since reporters have been primed by the 1995-1996 confrontation to blame the incoming GOP Congress and not the Democratic president.  Of course, this gets even easier for Obama if the stalemate is within Congress, with a Democratic Senate refusing to accept budget cuts pushed by a GOP House.  And, really, is any pol better positioned to go on TV and play the above-it-all, willing-to-compromise president than Barack Obama?  In sorrow and rather than in anger, he’ll go before the cameras and say that he’d love to cut a deal but he just can’t throw grandma out of her nursing home and close down Johnny’s school…as we know, as unpopular as it is in the abstract, most federal spending is extremely popular when it comes to specifics, and it won’t be hard for the White House to find all the tragic stories in any package of cuts.

Jamelle Bouie at Tapped:

Republicans are smart enough to know that the last shutdown was a major political loser; by digging in their heels and forcing the federal government to close down parks, offices and everything in between, Gingrich-era Republicans handed President Clinton the brush he needed to paint them as right-wing extremists and ardent obstructionists. As Bernstein notes in his post, Gingrich failed in his reading of the president. He saw Clinton as weak, when in fact, the opposite was true.

Minority Leader John Boehner seems unlikely to make the same mistake. President Obama is entering his third year with a string of significant legislative achievements, successes which Clinton did not have. With that, Boehner has far more reason to think that Obama will push back against him than Gingrich had for Clinton. It seems very unlikely that he would lead a government shutdown and give Obama that kind of opening, especially when he is extremely well-positioned to play the conciliatory mediator.

To go back to a post I wrote last week, it’s far more likely that Republicans will adopt the strategy of 1997-2000 — endless investigations of the White House, regardless of whether there is anything significant to investigate. I’d be surprised if impeachment were seriously on the table, but at the very least, we can expect loud GOP investigations into ACORN and the New Black Panther Party (I wish I were joking).

As for the Senate (where Democrats will have a smaller majority), my guess is that Republicans will continue their unanimous opposition and use their greater numbers to all but halt Senate business, leaving Obama with few avenues for advancing legislation or confirming nominees. Either way, if Republicans do well this fall, we can certainly expect them to turn the obstruction up to 11 for 2011 and beyond.

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Newt And The Mosque (And The Alien)

Newt Gingrich:

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.  For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.

Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.  It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

And they lecture us about tolerance.

If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom.   They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

In a new blog post arguing against the planned Muslim community center near Ground Zero, Newt Gingrich explicitly argues that the United States should follow the lead of the oppressive theocracy of Saudi Arabia and reject the so-called Ground Zero mosque.

This is not a distillation or summary of his argument. Gingrich actually favors adopting the discriminatory policies of the Saudis.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

In this context, “double standards” means that the United States maintains a more pluralistic attitude toward religious minorities than Saudi Arabia does. Now, you could make the same kind of argument about any repressive policy in a place like Saudi Arabia. If women are not allowed to walk around freely in Saudi Arabia, then men should not be allowed to walk around freely in the United States!

Naturally, Gingrich would say that my proposal does not follow from his. Why? Well, because his argument depends on a parallel identity: Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country, and the U.S. is a Christian-Jewish country. Indeed, conservatives assert this so routinely that it’s no longer controversial or newsworthy: The United States is a Judeo-Christian country. (It sometimes attracts notice when they drop the “Judeo.”)

If you want to understand why this is such a toxic premise, just look at Gingrich. Because the premise that we are a Judeo-Christian nation naturally leads to the conclusion that non Judeo-Christians ought to enjoy less religious protection. That can be seen in his formulation of “us,” which excludes Muslims. And at that point there’s no longer any moral basis for differentiating the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. It’s not that they’re a theocracy and we aren’t. It’s that we’re one kind of religious country and they’re another kind.

To be clear, I’m not saying we are a theocracy or are becoming one. I’m saying that the now-dominant right wing view destroys any principled basis for giving equal treatment to religious minorities.

Matthew Yglesias:

Why on earth would we adopt this standard? There are no synagogues in the Vatican City, and yet we have Catholic churches all over the place. That’s because the United States of America isn’t a small city-state run by a religious leader. In Denmark, they have a state-sponsored church, but we don’t have a state-sponsored church because in the United States we have a strong belief in a brand of religious pluralism that’s served both the country and religion well. Saudi Arabia is notorious for its lack of freedom of religion, but we don’t improve anything by mimicking Saudi Arabia’s flaws.

One gets the sense that Gingrich’s reasoning is so weak here because he actually has no idea why it would make sense to prevent mosque-construction in Lower Manhattan. He just knows that this has become a far-right cause celebre and he likes to ride the far-right wave. If the far-right wants anti-Muslim bigotry, then he’ll provide it. But he’s an “ideas guy” so he has to try to think up a reason.

Jamelle Bouie at Tapped:

Chait notes that in this context, the “double standard” is the United States’ tolerance and religious pluralism, which stands in contrast to the illiberalism of a country like Saudi Arabia. To Chait, what Gingrich wants to say is that since the United States is a “Judeo-Christian country,” we should be allowed to prohibit Muslim places of worship, much in the same way that an Islamic theocracy like Iran would prohibit Christian or Jewish places of worship.

I’ve always been struck by the disrespect some conservatives have for core American principles like religious pluralism and freedom of worship. Especially since these are often the same conservatives who insist on “originalism” when confronted with any constitutional problem. I don’t expect consistency from right-wing conservatives, but if they were going to pretend like their views were coherent — and not just a combination of vulgar resentment and anti-liberalism — then they’d at least note that the Founders weren’t particularly keen to label the United States a Christian or Judeo-Christian country. Here’s Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli (seen above), which was approved unanimously by the Senate and signed by President John Adams on June 7, 1797:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

I’m struck by how uncontroversial this treaty was; the revolutionary generation still dominated national politics, and the Senate was home to many of the men who drafted and signed the Constitution. What’s more, the text of the treaty was released to the public, and as far as I can tell, there was little — if any — opposition to Article 11. In the United States of 1797, no one took offense at the notion of an officially non-Christian government, even when the overwhelming majority of Americans identify with some flavor of Christianity. Of course, that’s not to say that religious beliefs were irrelevant to the actions of leaders, but that most people recognized the government as essentially non-sectarian.

As Gingrich demonstrates, modern conservatives have a lot of antipathy towards religious pluralism, at least as it applies to Muslims. And to me at least, it’s striking how little of it has to do with the country’s history, and how much of it has its origins in very contemporary resentments and prejudices.

D.B. Grady at The Atlantic:

One might ask Gingrich how many mosques are permissible in New York City. He appears to suggest 100 is too many. Perhaps we should bulldoze them all. In his fervor over preventing the construction of a new mosque, he’s advocating the very religious intolerance he denounces from abroad. Similarly, the complex is not being built on Ground Zero. It’s two blocks away. That, it seems, is too close. Perhaps the former Speaker could suggest a more permissible distance for a house of worship. Would Brooklyn be more appropriate? Surely, though, families of 9/11 victims live in Brooklyn. They live all across the United States. Maybe the Saudis are onto something.

“America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization,” Gingrich continued. “Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.”

According to Daisy Kahn of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, “We decided we wanted to look at the legacy of 9/11 and do something positive” in order to “reverse the trend of extremism and the kind of ideology that the extremists are spreading.” In other words, exactly the sort of thing conservatives have been calling for Muslims to do for nine years.

“No mosque. No self deception. No surrender.”

Al Qaeda couldn’t have put it better themselves.

Daniel Larison:

From what we know of the promoters behind this project, Saudis have little or nothing to do with it, but Gingrich is hoping to conflate anyone involved with this project with Saudis. He is relying on his audience to remember that most of the hijackers were Saudis, to generalize from those 15 Saudis to all Saudis, and to identify all Muslims with the most extreme adherents of the most extreme forms of Islam. The purpose of this is not to resist “an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization,” because our civilization is in no danger of being destroyed by any such offensive, but to rile up people here and convince them that all Muslims are out to get them, which will in turn make them more receptive to the agenda of growing the security and warfare state that Gingrich et al. favor.

Gingrich complains that the original name of the building, Cordoba House, is itself an insult. References to Cordoba can mean many things. For Western ecumenists, Ummayad Cordoba represented a high-point of convivencia and therefore served as a model of multi-religious co-existence. What is usually not mentioned is how the cultural and intellectual life there stagnated later under the Almoravids and Almohads, nor do many remember the Mozarabic Christian martyrs of the early centuries of Islamic rule in Spain, and Gingrich doesn’t mention any of this, either. Then again, Gingrich is not really interested here in historical accuracy or understanding. Cordoba has also represented for Arab nationalists one of the high points of Arab culture, and for pan-Islamists it represented one of the most far-flung parts of the briefly-united caliphate, and it is only this latter meaning that Gingrich chooses to give to the name of the organization and the building project. Gingrich simply assumes bad faith on the part of the promoters, and that determines the entirety of his argument.

What may be most striking in Gingrich’s statement is his claim that “they” (i.e., Muslims) are lecturing “us” about tolerance, but what is happening is that “we” are being held to “our” own standards. Perhaps the most irritating thing about the arguments Gingrich and Palin are making is that they do not want to critique the idea of religious tolerance, but they don’t want to face up to what it might mean in practice.

UPDATE: Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo

UPDATE #2: Justin Elliott at Salon

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They Have No Bread? Let Them Read American Spectator Articles!

Carol Platt Liebau at Townhall:

Angelo Codevilla has written a thought-provoking piece, positing that the great political conflict in this country is actually between the “ruling class” and the “country class.”

at The American Spectator:

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government’s agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about “global warming” for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.

Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.

Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who created and doth sustain us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity. Our classes’ clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark’s Gospel: “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Instapundit

DRJ at Patterico:

This American Spectator essay by Angelo M. Codevilla, a professor of international relations at Boston University and former U.S. foreign service officer, is a must read for every American. Codevilla defines America’s ruling class and country class and reviews the decisions we Americans have made that will decide our and our children’s futures.

Implicit in Codevilla’s essay is the following question: Will Americans choose to be governed by a ruling class or will we return to self-governance by the country class? I think most blue states have already chosen the ruling class with its comfortable promises and European-style goals. I pray most red states and especially my fellow Texans will choose the Country Party, but at this point I have little hope it will be enough.

John Ballard at Newshoggers:

This weekend’s reading assignment is America’s Ruling Class — and the Perils of Revolution in American Spectator. Thanks to Memeorandum for bringing this piece to our attention. Only one commentary link so far, and comments there make think it may be a ton of lipstick, but I’m holding judgment until I read for myself.

Again, no, I haven’t read it yet. As I write it is printing out for me to read later, some fourteen thousand words plus. Much too long to sit here and digest at the computer monitor. If anyone else reads feel free to leave a comment and we can discuss it. I’ll do a followup later if the spirit moves me.

[…]

[A few hours later…]

I should have waited. This is a wasted post, along with several pages of ink used to print it out. I’m reminded of an exchange years ago told by a sales rep for a meat company.

Chicken farmer: “You know what that white stuff is in chicken shit?

Sales rep: “No, I never thought about it. What it is?”

Chicken farmer: “That’s chicken shit, too.”

By the end of the first page I counted half a dozen instances of spin preparing the reader to swallow what followed. Clearly the writer was breaking out more than a broad brush, a journalistic equivalent to a fire hose. I could hear Beck in the background railing about Progressives.

By the end of the second page it became fourteen pages of prose not unlike that which can be heard any time from conservative talk media. Somewhat turgid. Reading it is like driving in the rain with no windshield wipers. Turns out to be lipstick after all in a pathetic effort to legitimize the Tea Party.

Sorry to have furnished the links. I will do  better next time after due diligence. Steve and Joyner are too polite.

James Joyner, first quoting the piece:

Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that “we” are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation’s paradigm that “all men are created equal”?

This not only grossly exaggerates the attitudes of the current elites but confuses the flowery rhetoric of our Founding elite with their actual attitudes.  There’s not much doubt that the people who wrote and signed the Declaration and the Constitution were much less egalitarian than their successors.  Codevilla goes on the cherry pick history to demonstrate just the opposite:  An elite who became ever-more contemptuous of the unwashed masses.  After several paragraphs of this, he comes to:

Franklin Roosevelt brought the Chautauqua class into his administration and began the process that turned them into rulers. FDR described America’s problems in technocratic terms. America’s problems would be fixed by a “brain trust” (picked by him). His New Deal’s solutions — the alphabet-soup “independent” agencies that have run America ever since — turned many Progressives into powerful bureaucrats and then into lobbyists. As the saying goes, they came to Washington to do good, and stayed to do well.

As their number and sense of importance grew, so did their distaste for common Americans. Believing itself “scientific,” this Progressive class sought to explain its differences from its neighbors in “scientific” terms. The most elaborate of these attempts was Theodor Adorno’s widely acclaimed The Authoritarian Personality (1948). It invented a set of criteria by which to define personality traits, ranked these traits and their intensity in any given person on what it called the “F scale” (F for fascist), interviewed hundreds of Americans, and concluded that most who were not liberal Democrats were latent fascists. This way of thinking about non-Progressives filtered down to college curricula. In 1963-64 for example, I was assigned Herbert McCloskey’s Conservatism and Personality (1958) at Rutgers’s Eagleton Institute of Politics as a paradigm of methodological correctness. The author had defined conservatism in terms of answers to certain questions, had defined a number of personality disorders in terms of other questions, and run a survey that proved “scientifically” that conservatives were maladjusted ne’er-do-well ignoramuses. (My class project, titled “Liberalism and Personality,” following the same methodology, proved just as scientifically that liberals suffered from the very same social diseases, and even more amusing ones.)

The point is this: though not one in a thousand of today’s bipartisan ruling class ever heard of Adorno or McCloskey, much less can explain the Feuerbachian-Marxist notion that human judgments are “epiphenomenal” products of spiritual or material alienation, the notion that the common people’s words are, like grunts, mere signs of pain, pleasure, and frustration, is now axiomatic among our ruling class. They absorbed it osmotically, second — or thirdhand, from their education and from companions. Truly, after Barack Obama described his opponents’ clinging to “God and guns” as a characteristic of inferior Americans, he justified himself by pointing out he had said “what everybody knows is true.” Confident “knowledge” that “some of us, the ones who matter,” have grasped truths that the common herd cannot, truths that direct us, truths the grasping of which entitles us to discount what the ruled say and to presume what they mean, made our Progressives into a class long before they took power.

In reality, what we had was a government that took on more and more power in order to address the ills of society.   Maybe the practical difference is moot.  But the fact of the matter is that there was never an age when the governing class thought themselves the equal of the governed:  They’ve always thought themselves smarter and better.

Further, cherry picking statements like Obama’s unfortunate campaign slip obscures the fact that most politicians — especially on the Republican side — actually go out of their way to flatter the Real Americans who aren’t part of the Beltway Elite.   Indeed, elite has been a bad thing as long as I can remember.

Dan Riehl:

The essay breaks it down into a country class – the people, versus a ruling class – the establishment. Also, consider that, if the Democrat machine is better at gaining control of the levers of power and using them, the Republican Party is better at keeping its country class of would be followers down. That’s part of why we saw a Netroots on the Left, but chiefly see only more establishment-related punditry being elevated on the Right.

Of course, the Netroots is now being marginalized, even by the ruling Democrats, because it served its purpose. But there’s yet to be the same larger genuinely peopled-power movement on the Right, because the Republican ruling class is so set on marginalizing it, while funding more ruling class-related punditry in new media, before a more genuinely people-powered form of punditry ever rises up on the Right.

Take the ruling class away, and the real battle for America’s future is out here between the Left, Right and would be centrist blogs. Were it purely democratic, and not now largely formed by the flow of capital, I’m confident the center-Right would ultimately win out. It best reflects the views of a majority of the American people. So, I don’t fear the type of revolution upon which Codevilla speculates. But whether or not that battle ever truly takes place remains to be seen.

The so called conservative pundit class that is actually DC-centric punditry in new media is not our true ally. It functions more as a filter, or governor of our beliefs and desires as regards politics, than our enabler. And that will remain true until more people stop being nice to it, or fawning over it, simply because it has power and is purported to be wise. Its more truly Reaganesque thinking has long been corrupted by money, influence, access and power, just as has the GOP establishment.

Joyner responds to Riehl:

He approvingly cites the Ruling Class vs Country Class piece that I discussed in my previous post and, I gather, thinks that he’s doing his part of the latter by refusing to politely engage those on his side of the aisle who don’t see themselves as part of a religious war against the evil Left.

The problem with this, as Reagan himself noted, “somebody who agrees with you 80% of the time is an 80% friend not a 20% enemy.”  If David Frum and David Brooks and George Will are outcasts in the conservative movement, then Reagan’s “Big Tent” becomes a lean-to.  Winning such a war is thus a Pyrrhic victory.

It’s doubtless true that there are plenty of us in the right-of-center blogosphere who aren’t firebrands.   We’re not enamored of Sarah Palin and the Tea Parties. We support homosexual rights and an immigration policy based on reality rather than frustration.  But we’re still on the same side on most issues.

Further, Frum and Brooks and Will and the like are much more effective in articulating conservative ideas than those who preach to the choir.  If you treat people who disagree with you with contempt, they’ll rather quickly tune you out.  So, you’re left with firing up the people already carrying pitchforks.

To what end?

Ross Douthat:

For anyone with an appropriate skepticism toward meritocracy and its works, there’s an obvious critique of my suggestion, in today’s column, that America might be better off if our top-flight colleges welcomed more students from demographics — the white working class, rural America, evangelical Christians, etc. — that are currently viewed with suspicion and hostility by the highly-educated elite. Part of the problem with meritocracy is that it homogenizes in the name of diversity: It skims the cream from every race and class and population, puts all of the best and brightest through the same educational conveyor belt, and comes out with a ruling class that’s cosmetically diverse but intellectually conformist, and that tends to huddle together rather than spreading out to enrich the country as a whole. This is Christopher Lasch’s lament in “The Revolt of the Elites” — that meritocracy co-opts people who might otherwise become its critics, sapping local communities of their intellectual vitality and preventing any kind of rival power centers from emerging. And it’s something that Angelo Codevilla gets right (while getting a number of other things wrong) in his recent blast against the American elite:

Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another … Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed … Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits.

With this in mind, one could easily argue that it would be terrible for America if the meritocratic elite admitted more members of what Codevilla calls the “country party” to its ranks, because that would represent the final victory of centralization and homogenization over local allegiances and competing power centers. Once inside the machinery of meritocracy, aspiring farmers would become bureaucrats, R.O.T.C. cadets would enter investment banks, and evangelicals and Mormons would join the ranks of purely secular do-gooders. Better for such young people, and for the country, if they’re educated locally and stay local, rather than ascending and leaving their communities behind.

My only rebuttal to this argument would be the somewhat pessimistic point that centralization is very difficult to roll back, that some sort of broad national elite is probably here to stay, and that given those premises it may make more sense to create more room for real diversity within that elite — by holding meritocracy to its professed ideals — than to hope vainly for a localist revolution that undercuts the ruling class’s political and cultural authority. But good intentions often go awry, and I concede the possibility that this prescription could only end up making America’s current divisions even worse.

Tim Fernholz at Tapped:

The key fact that Douthat never returns to is that Buchanan is homophobic, racist, and anti-Semitic. Those despicable Ivy Leaguers are right! There is also plenty of evidence that Buchanan is wrong — starting with the fact that a plurality of Ivy Leaguers are white Christians. So Douthat has to draw a narrower case — that America’s elite colleges discriminate against not just white Christians but working-class, rural white Christians. Oh, and the presumption is that they must be his kind of Christian — you can’t be liberal and Christian, or “elite” and a Christian. As Adam notes, what discrimination exists comes down to a question of class, not culture.

Douthat’s second strange equivocation is the concern he is trolling — that the lack of interaction between poor white Christians and liberals creates a dangerous paranoia between groups in this country. (As a side note, I’d love to know how much time Douthat spends with white, rural, working-class Christians himself.) He observes that conservative-leaning white voters think Obama is a “foreign-born Marxist,” among other conspiracies, while liberals perceive an increase in “crypto-Klansmen and budding Timothy McVeighs.”

Once again, the conspiracy theories of the conservatives have no basis in reality. Meanwhile, the idea that liberals see right-wing conspiracies “everywhere they look” reveals that Douthat has as little knowledge of liberals as he does of rural, working-class whites. Liberals do fret that the Tea Party and like-minded right-wing groups are providing an outlet for racist and violent sentiments, but that’s only because the Tea Parties do provide an outlet for racist sentiments — and McVeigh-types have already attacked federal buildings and been arrested for plotting similar escapades.

This is the worst kind of opinion column, a sort of tease — Douthat airs competing claims but declines to weigh in on either side, instead offering a mealymouthed support for a kind of soft affirmative action for, well, he doesn’t quite say white Christians, which is where he began his column, but for those whom he believes are culturally affiliated with white Christians.

Douthat responds:

The “competing claims” I aired, so far as I can tell, were what I consider the more unfortunate paranoias of left and right — and yes, I do decline to throw my support to either side. As for my “mealymouthed” conclusion, Fernholz basically gets it right: I  support, albeit with some ambivalence, a kind of soft affirmative action on elite campuses for the sort of Americans — Southern and Midwestern, blue-collar and rural — who are much more likely than the current population of the Ivy League to be conservative white Christians.

This doesn’t mean that I want to see some kind of “evangelical quota” at elite schools. It just means that I regard greater religious and ideological diversity as a likely (and happy) consequence of greater socioeconomic and geographic diversity. And not, I should note, because white Christians from Montana or Alabama are hapless victims whose sufferings need to be redressed. It’s just that so long as top-tier colleges claim to be in the business of molding a suitable national elite for a country as vast and varied as the United States (as opposed to just admitting the absolute smartest people possible, regardless of race or class or ideology or geography), they have an obligation to extend their idea of “diversity” to encompass many more factors than just race and ethnicity. (The same goes for elite faculties, too, but that’s another story …)

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect:

Douthat never actually suggests that the admissions process relies too much on factors that favor the wealthy — he merely suggests that minorities are getting too many of the scraps and that lower-class whites are therefore correct to fight with people of color for the gristle being tossed under the table. Douthat never questions — and these days few do — the implicit size of the pie retained by the wealthy, as though being born into the type of family that can afford to send you to Andover is a matter of individual merit. It’s possible to argue that both African Americans and lower-class whites are underrepresented on elite college campuses — not exactly hotbeds of racial diversity either — but Douthat doesn’t make that argument.

More frustrating is the way Douthat uses this single study to conclude that Buchanan — and by extension the conservative grievance mongers arguing that there’s an “advantage” to being a Latino jurist given Sonia Sotomayor‘s rise to the Supreme Court (percentage of Supreme Court Justices who have been Latino, .009 percent, percentage who have been white, 98 percent), that there’s some truth about the idea that the Obama Justice Department won’t protect white voters (false) and the idea that the Affordable Care Act was “reparations” (47 percent of the uninsured are white) are actually onto something about white Christians being discriminated against. It seems a little odd to extrapolate from this single study on affirmative action in college admissions that white Christians as a whole are having a harder time in life than everyone else, given that a white guy just getting out of prison has an easier time finding a job than a black man who has never been. If you’re white and lower class, by the time you get out of college you’ve picked up enough to know how to fake the requisite social markers — if you’re black, you’re still black.

When you get down to it, Douthat’s right that being a white Christian is actually easier if you have oodles of money, but when has being broke in America, regardless of race, ever been easy? Douthat’s implicit conclusion isn’t really that we should expand the share of the pie at elite institutions to the underrepresented as a whole; it’s  to wave his foam finger for one group of underrepresented people over another.

Daniel Foster at NRO:

I’m disappointed by both Tim Fernholz’s and Adam Serwer’s takes on Ross Douthat’s column yesterday. Responding to empirical evidence that poor, white Christians are among the least well-represented “minority” groups at elite colleges, they both more or less default to saying ‘yeah, well, it sucks to be poor.’

Except Douthat’s point is that, when it comes to elite college admissions, it sucks more to be poor and white than it does to be poor and black, and a fortiori, that poor blacks’ chances improve as they get poorer, while just the opposite is the case for whites. Either Serwer and Fernholz are okay with this or they aren’t. But they won’t say, leaving us to assume that they view it as acceptable collateral damage in the battle for diversity.

They also dismiss as so much whining the feelings of alienation from “elite” culture felt by poor, working class whites — at their peril and ours.

I know, this sounds dangerously mushy-headed for a card-carrying conservative, and I’m not saying our top national priority should be the self-esteem of blue-collar whites. But that poor whites feel disenfranchised from participation in “elite” institutions is a problem whether or not they actually are, all the more so since we live with a political culture that tells them they have nothing to complain about. In some cases, feelings of discrimination become consequentially indistinguishable from actual discrimination. So when smarmy liberals look at poor gun-and-religion-clinging whites and ask what’s the matter with Kansas, this is part of the answer.

Arnold Kling, going back to the original subject:

I put the essay in a class that I call “neo-reactionary.” Other writing in this vein ranges from the best-selling (Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism) to the obscure (Mencius Moldbug’s old blog posts) to somewhere in between (Arthur Brooks’ The Battle, which I still have not read.)I call the outlook neo-reactionary because it is sort of like neoconservatism with the gloves off.

Some core beliefs that I share with the neo-reactionaries:

1. At its worst, Progressive ideology is an ideology of power. It justifies the technocratic few infringing on the liberty and dignity of the many.

2. At their worst, Progressives are intellectual bullies. They delegitimize rather than attempt to persuade those who disagree with them.

3. American government has become structurally less libertarian and less democratic in recent decades. For example, Codevilla writes,

The grandparents of today’s Americans (132 million in 1940) had opportunities to serve on 117,000 school boards. To exercise responsibilities comparable to their grandparents’, today’s 310 million Americans would have radically to decentralize the mere 15,000 districts into which public school children are now concentrated. They would have to take responsibility for curriculum and administration away from credentialed experts, and they would have to explain why they know better. This would involve a level of political articulation of the body politic far beyond voting in elections every two years.

Amen. I live in one of those mega-school districts, which gives unbridled power to the teachers’ unions. The widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced has much more on this theme. (Note to intellectual bullies: please do not confuse nostalgia for decentralized school districts with nostalgia for “separate but equal.”)Where I part company with the neo-reactionaries (and for all I know, Jonah Goldberg parts company a bit as well) is on the following:

1. Brink Lindsey has a point. The Progressives are not wrong on everything, and conservatives are not right on everything.

2. Tyler Cowen has a point. Manichean, confrontational politics is a dubious project. Questioning your own beliefs can be more valuable than issuing a call to arms to those who share them.

3. Tyler Cowen has another point. Do not think that the majority of people are libertarians. Both Codevilla and Arthur Brooks assert, with evidence I regard as flimsy at best, that two-thirds of the country is on their neo-reactionary side. I strongly doubt that, and even if it were true I do not believe that democratic might makes right.

I think that ideology is partly endogenous. I do not think that it is an accident that an ideology of rational technocratic control grew up as America urbanized and as enormous scale economies emerged in the industries made possible by the internal combustion engine, the electric motor, radio, and television. I do not think it is an accident that the Progressive ideology will be challenged as the Internet starts to alter the economy and society, reducing the comparative advantage of mass production and mass media while increasing the comparative advantage of local autonomy and individual expression. The Internet serves as a constant reminder of the wisdom of Hayek.

We live in interesting times.

UPDATE: More Douthat

Tim Fernholz and Conn Carroll at Bloggingheads

UPDATE: More Douthat

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