In the current (Fall 2011) issue of the Claremont Review of Books, Ross Douthat reviews Irving Kristol’s The Neoconservative Persuasion: Selected Essays, 1942-2009. In it Ross writes this:
The art of persuasion rarely succeeds without a leap of imaginative sympathy. Identification tends to precede assent: to embrace any worldview, any philosophical position, one must first imagine oneself as the kind of person who could become a Christian or an atheist, a Marxist or a libertarian.
Thus autobiography is often the most compelling form of argument, and few polemics are quite so potent as a well-told conversion story. Whereas lesser writers merely hector the unconverted, the intellectual convert identifies with them, and inspires identification in return. As you are, I once was, he reminds the reader – a reassurance that makes it infinitely easier to proceed with the argument that As I am, you should become.
No writer understood this better than the late Irving Kristol. He was a serial convert. “I have been a neo-Marxist, a neo-Trotskyist, a neo-socialist, a neoliberal, and finally a neo-conservative,” he wrote…
Ross’s point, elegantly made, is an important one. The ability to convert others does rest, at least in part, on the ability to identify with others. It creates a degree of trust between individuals and reduces the chances of hostility. If people feel as though you can sympathize with their point of view, they’re much more likely to be open to your line of argument.
The Americans for Herman Cain PAC blasts out a fundraising email today, claiming that left-wing racism is driving the sexual harassment allegations against Cain:
The last black conservative to rise this high was Clarence Thomas, and we know what the Left did to him. What happened on the floor of the Senate in 1991 was one of the most disgusting displays this country has ever seen.
Let’s send a clear message this time: “Never again.” Let’s stand up the liberal noise machine and their efforts to destroy any black conservative who stands up for conservative values.
This is what the Left always does. They hated Clarence Thomas. They hated Allen West when he ran in 2010. And now they hate Herman Cain. The Left spews such hatred at black conservatives because they know that if the GOP ever breaks the Democrat stranglehold on the black vote, they are DONE as a party.
Trying to spin it as racially-motivated slander is ridiculous.
Though as Alana noted, the polls indicate Republican voters don’t care about the sexual harassment charges lodged against Herman Cain; more charges are now surfacing about the candidate’s behavior. These new accusations, including a third woman who has complaints about Cain’s actions during his time as CEO of the National Restaurant Association and the statement by a GOP operative who also worked at the Association that the candidate behaved inappropriately to a woman at a restaurant.
While each of these stories could be dismissed individually as insignificant or unproved, we’re now up to four separate charges against Cain. His supporters may call this a media feeding frenzy but as the volume of accusations goes up, the more likely it is that this is a pattern of disturbing behavior rather than misunderstandings. As much as Cain seems at the moment to be impervious to damage from the issue, the longer this drags on with more women stepping forward to accuse him the harder it gets to dismiss it as either a function of media bias or racism.
John Derbyshire asks, “Is there anyone who thinks sexual harassment is a real thing? Is there anyone who doesn’t know it’s all a lawyers’ ramp, like racial discrimination? You pay a girl a compliment nowadays, she runs off and gets lawyered up. Is this any way to live?”
The answer to Mr. Derbyshire’s question is yes, there are lots of people who believe sexual harassment is a real thing. Does that mean that every case of sexual harassment is legitimate? Of course not. Nor does it mean that the term isn’t elastic and can’t be abused. But to argue that sexual harassment simply doesn’t exist – that every claim is always wrong — is a ridiculous statement. (Some of the women who experienced the predatory charms of America’s 42nd president could give you a pretty good definition of sexual harassment.)
When Obama moved his family to Washington, he decided to eschew the District of Columbia’s horrid public school system and chose instead Sidwell Friends School, the local Quaker school, for his daughters. Sidwell is an excellent school, as are many Quaker schools. (Full-disclosure: I attended a Quaker school outside of Philadelphia, and got a great education there). However, Quaker schools also preach – indeed, try to indoctrinate – certain values. Too often, however, the Friends Schools and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Quaker’s NGO, conflate Quaker ideology with leftist politics. While the Quakers say they embrace non-violence, for example, the AFSC has, in the past embraced the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; continues to support North Korea collective farms while remaining silent on that country’s slave labor; and serves as an apologist for Hamas.
Now the AFSC has turned its attention to the Occupy movement, endorsing the protests nationwide. From the AFSC webpage, “AFSC is proud to be able to support people striving to bring about change in our society through nonviolent actions.” The AFSC’s support goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Regarding the protest in New Mexico, the AFSC writes, “AFSC staff here have long worked with the native New Mexicans and understood well their concerns about the painful history of systemic racism that came with European occupation of North America. Many white activists had never had to confront these issues before, and it led to long and difficult meetings.” Oh, dear.
The on-going saga of the Greek financial crisis is beginning to resemble a TV soap opera, with the town alcoholic producing imminent catastrophe for himself and his family, followed by sudden redemption, reconciliation, and promises of good future behavior, followed by a new crisis. The difference, of course, is that soap opera crises are fantasies. They don’t hurt the actors (at least unless the character dies and the actor thereby loses his job) and they certainly don’t hurt the viewers, who enjoy them thoroughly.
The Greek soap opera could end up hurting particular individuals (just ask Jon Corzine) and the whole global economy. A measure of how serious the situation is can be seen by the behavior of the Dow-Jones Industrial Average. In recent years, the average daily move by the DJIA has been about .85 percent. In other words, if the Dow were at 10,000, you would expect the daily moves to average 85 points up or down. In recent months the daily moves have averaged about 1.67 percent, twice as volatile as normal. Every new development sends the market soaring or tanking depending on whether it was perceived as good news or bad news.
Those pondering the question of where some of the more than $800 billion in stimulus funds spent in 2009 to supposedly boost the economy at the behest of President Obama went got a partial answer today from the Department of Energy.
In testimony before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, Gregory Friedman, the DOE’s Inspector General, said that his office had launched more than 100 criminal investigations in probes of the 2009 stimulus spending that emanated from that department. While the Solyndra debacle has garnered a great deal of attention in recent weeks, the problem goes deeper than the bogus activities of just one company. This government crime wave was focused on false submissions and claims as well as fraudulent use of funds. During the course of his presentation Friedman pointed to the fact that, despite what President Obama claimed at the time, that, “in reality, few ‘shovel ready projects’ existed.”
Recent Federal Elections Commission filings show that former GOP House candidate Richard Iott donated the maximum amount to John Boehner’s political action committee earlier this year. Boehner accepted the funds. Why is this now a controversy?
“In the midst of last year’s election season, the website of the Atlantic revealed that Richard Iott, then Republican nominee for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, had an unusual hobby. He liked to dress in SS uniforms.” That’s from “Reenacting Evil,” an article written by Robert A. Slayton in COMMENTARY’s October issue. Slayton goes on to decipher the significance of this particular brand of World War II reenactment and home in on the exact nature of Iott’s offense:
In an interview with Minnesota’s WCCO-TV yesterday (with excerpts posted on RealClearPolitics.com), President Obama was asked at what point does the economy become his fault and not his predecessor’s? To which the Mr. Obama replied, “It’s always my responsibility. I’m less interested in allocating blame then just making sure that we’re taking every step we need to, to move the economy forward.”
The president was also asked whether we’re better off than we were four years ago, to which Obama said, “Well, you know, I think that we are better off now than we would have been if I hadn’t taken all the steps that we took. I don’t think the country is stronger yet then it was when the economy was still booming and we didn’t have Wall Street crisis, and we didn’t have the housing bubble burst. But, we’ve made steady progress, we just need to make more.”
In fact, Rasmussen’s post-scandal poll (taken last night) found Herman Cain leading the field in South Carolina by a 10-point margin:
In South Carolina, businessman Herman Cain leads the GOP field with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ten points behind. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the only other candidate in double digits. The survey was conducted on Tuesday night following two days of media coverage concerning allegations of sexual harassment against Cain.
In polling conducted before the latest allegations, Cain led in Iowa with Romney second while Romney led in New Hampshire with Cain second.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan recently offended the Occupy Oakland movement by asking police to clear out the parks they were sleeping in, and now she’s desperately trying to make amends.
The Occupiers have planned a citywide strike today, and Mayor Quan agrees that it’s a great idea. And to really hammer home the message to those Oakland establishment types, the mayor is even giving city workers permission to take the day off and join the Occupiers in “shutting the city down.”
For the last ten years the chattering classes in the West have spent a great deal of time lamenting what they feared was a terrible outbreak of Islamophobia. The fact that the idea of a post 9-11 backlash against Muslims was a myth devoid of proof did not deter liberals and others from constantly harping on the issue. Even in Europe where ethnic and religious tensions have been far greater due to the size of the immigrant population from Islamic countries, the notion of a wave of violence directed at Muslims was greatly exaggerated.
At the same time attacks perpetrated by Muslims living in the West are a reality that cannot be ignored as today’s firebombing in Paris of a magazine that published a satire on Islam proves once again. Though Western societies are racked with angst about the possibility of offending Muslim sensibilities, the willingness of Islamists to resort to violence to silence those whose views they dislike makes has created an offensive double standard.
The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?
Whether someone is optimistic or pessimistic is usually more a product of his temperament than external conditions. My own outlook is generally optimistic, so it should be no surprise that I am bullish about the prospects of my country. But there is also good reason to have faith in America’s future.
Look at how far we have come since the start of the War of Independence in 1775: from 13 beleaguered colonies with 2.5 million inhabitants perched precariously on the eastern seaboard to a continental nation of 307 million that is wealthier and more powerful than any other in history.
There was nothing foreordained about our rise. We had to surmount numerous challenges—from the initial revolution to the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War—that could have done us in, or at least vastly reduced our standing. Just look at how other megastates such as China and Russia, or potential megastates such as Europe and Latin America (both of which have long dreamed of unification), have sabotaged their own prospects with suicidal political and economic policies. That could have been us. But it wasn’t. Read More
In the current issue of COMMENTARY, I express my confidence about America’s future. Further evidence of the advantages we have, notwithstanding all of the gloomy sentiment one hears, comes from this Financial Times article which suggests that the long-sought goal of “energy independence” may finally be within reach. This is mostly the result of shale oil discoveries centered in places like North Dakota but also due to new drilling techniques which have opened up hitherto inaccessible “tight oil” fields in North America.
As a result, the FT reports, “Many analysts expect that in the coming decade the US will leapfrog Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest producer of liquid hydrocarbons, counting both crude oil and lighter natural gas liquids such as propane and ethane.”
The continuing saga of Jon Corzine’s fall from Wall Street grace—to accompany his fall from political grace—is the story of a man who measures success on a different scale. Corzine, as the New York Times acknowledges today, fashioned himself one of the American political sphere’s indispensible men. He would move “seamlessly between Washington and Wall Street, in the mold of former Treasury secretaries like Robert E. Rubin or C. Douglas Dillon.”
Then his reputation took a hit when he lost his 2009 re-election bid for New Jersey governor, and he would have to settle, at least for now, for being a comeback kid. But his desperation for a Phoenix-like resurgence, rather than committing to steady years of hard work, led him to make almost shockingly risky investments with MF Global that brought the firm to the brink of monumental collapse. The allegations that he skimmed investors’ own money to cover those bets has pushed MF Global over that brink.
My posts at CONTENTIONS tend to focus on the bad news–but every now and then it’s nice to focus on the good. Suzanne Gershowitz, a former colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, has been doing yeoman’s work over at IsraelStrategist.com. While Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s Startup Nation described Israel’s economy miracle, IsraelStrategist.com compiles all the economic stories and investment data in real time to show how Israel’s economy continues to boom, even as much of the world goes bust. In the process, it has become the go-to resource on all things relating to Israel investment.
The Washington Post reported last night that one of Cain’s accusers wants to tell her side of the story, but first needs to be released from a confidentiality agreement. According to the woman’s lawyer, the agreement may already be null since Cain may have breached it with some of his statements over the past few days:
According to [attorney Joel P.] Bennett, one of the stipulations of the confidentiality agreement was that neither party could make disparaging remarks about the other. Bennett said Cain violated that agreement on Fox News on Monday when he said that he had been told that the accuser’s performance in the workplace “was not up to par.”
It’s hard to believe that Cain could have broken a confidentiality agreement.
Loko is a controversial caffeinated alcohol drink which, I am told, has become popular on college campuses, much to the chagrin of university administrators. As with any drink and drug, its abuse can have serious health consequences. Yesterday, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society hosted the four founders of Loko to discuss their start up experience. The topic, however, was too controversial for Yale administrators who, according to the Yale Daily News, booted the talk off campus and threatened vengeance against the talk’s organizers. It is true that the Yale Entrepreneurial Society has not formally registered with the administration. Many organizations resist registration because of the Yale administration’s efforts to regulate their content. Organizations which sponsor discussions on topics which the administration finds uncontroversial seldom suffer consequences.
Kudos to the Yale Entrepreneurial Society. The entrepreneurial spirit is lacking at Yale, as is respect for free speech against the backdrop of an increasingly overbearing administration. The greatest irony, however, is how journalists appointed to Yale’s governing board have remained silent as Yale University increasingly makes a name for itself as an entity hostile to free discourse and speech.
A referendum in Colorado to raise nearly $3 billion in new taxes for education went down in flames yesterday, losing across the state by about two-to-one. Many local bond issues also failed.
Obama carried Colorado in 2008 (Bush carried it in both 2000 and 2004), and clearly hoped to carry it next year, having visited the state twice in recent weeks. So it has got to be very bad news for him that a swing state is clearly not in a mood to increase government spending even when it’s “for the children.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen proudly declared this week that “What has happened in Libya sends a clear signal to autocratic regimes all over the world — you cannot neglect the will of the people.” That might have been true, had he not declared in the very same breath that NATO’s military intervention in Libya would under no circumstances be replicated in Syria. “I can completely rule that out,” he said. In light of that corollary, here is how autocratic regimes – and many ordinary people worldwide – will actually interpret the “clear signal” sent by events in Libya:
First, you’re much better off being friends with Russia and China than the West. Almost two decades ago, Muammar Qaddafi decided to start courting the West: He paid billions of dollars in compensation to victims of various terror attacks allegedly perpetrated by Libya, most notably the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, and dismantled his nuclear program. Syria, in contrast, repeatedly thumbed its nose at the West while courting Russia and China.