Commentary Magazine


Topic: Georgetown

Catholics Angered by Choice of Commencement Speaker

To be precise, it’s Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute that will reportedly host Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – the official behind the birth control mandate – as its commencement speaker.

As you might imagine, the Catholic Cardinal Newman Society is furious:

It is scandalous and outrageous that America’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university has elected to provide this prestigious platform to a publicly “pro-choice” Catholic who is most responsible for the Obama administration’s effort to restrict the Constitution’s first freedom — the right to free exercise of religion — while threatening the survival of many Catholic and other religious colleges and universities, schools, charities, hospitals and other apostolates.

Georgetown insults all Americans by this honor. The selection is especially insulting to faithful Catholics and their bishops, who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion. The contrast is stark between Georgetown University and those faithful Catholic colleges and universities that have stood for faith and freedom.

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To be precise, it’s Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute that will reportedly host Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – the official behind the birth control mandate – as its commencement speaker.

As you might imagine, the Catholic Cardinal Newman Society is furious:

It is scandalous and outrageous that America’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university has elected to provide this prestigious platform to a publicly “pro-choice” Catholic who is most responsible for the Obama administration’s effort to restrict the Constitution’s first freedom — the right to free exercise of religion — while threatening the survival of many Catholic and other religious colleges and universities, schools, charities, hospitals and other apostolates.

Georgetown insults all Americans by this honor. The selection is especially insulting to faithful Catholics and their bishops, who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion. The contrast is stark between Georgetown University and those faithful Catholic colleges and universities that have stood for faith and freedom.

At the American Spectator, Quin Hillyer rightly wonders why Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech at Georgetown was criticized by 90 faculty members as anti-Catholic, but they have yet to object to the Sebelius invitation:

If 90 faculty members can protest a non-honorary speech by somebody who only arguably would violate interpretive church teaching, why aren’t they not just protesting but actually threatening to publicly demonstrate against honoring a speaker who is directly trampling upon central, doctrinal church theology and mission?

If there was any doubt that Georgetown’s PPI is intentionally trying to send a message by choosing Sebelius, consider the institute’s last controversial speaker. Georgetown law student and activist Sandra Fluke gave a lecture at the institute yesterday. This seems intended as some sort of protest of Georgetown’s birth control insurance policy, which the university has refused to change, despite complaints from activists.

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The Underwelming Kagan

Joshua Green examines why liberals are nervous about Elena Kagan. He explains:

The same thing that makes her confirmation so likely — the lack of a paper trail for opponents to parse and attack — has also become a prime source of concern for her own side. There’s little hard evidence to reassure liberals that she’ll adjudicate in the way they would prefer. Kagan’s lack of a judicial record and scant legal writing during a career spent mostly in politics and the deanship of Harvard Law School leave open the possibility she’ll turn out to be more conservative than advertised. … The liberal complaint against Kagan is threefold: that she wasn’t sufficiently aggressive in hiring women and minorities to the Harvard faculty; that she took worrisome positions on executive power, the war on terrorism, and corporate campaign spending; and that she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.

Green makes a comparison to David Souter, the quintessential stealth candidate who turned out to be not at all what the president who nominated him expected.

Most interesting is that the left — despite the silly Obama spin — recognizes that “she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.” Perhaps they are worried her intellect is not all that dazzling? Well, we can say she’s not demonstrated the sort of brilliance and scholarship or fine writing that the left understands is a prerequisite to do battle on the Court.

She has had a total of six Supreme Court arguments in her short tenure as solicitor general. It took a full six months before she gave her first argument in Citizens United, bypassing key cases, including Ricci (the New Haven firefighter case) and a high-profile challenge to the Voting Rights Act. Sources within the Justice Department report that Kagan was preparing to argue the Voting Rights Act case but ultimately gave way to her deputy.

Does this sound like a proficient, accomplished “lawyer’s lawyer”? Not even Kagan is high on her own advocacy abilities. Her outing in Citizens United was rocky at best, getting the worst of questioning from both Justices Scalia and Kennedy (whom she is tasked by the left with persuading once she is confirmed). At an awards ceremony at Georgetown Law School honoring Kennedy earlier this month, Kagan spoke, and her comments are revealing — and should be bracing to the left:

At one point, Kagan raised audience eyebrows when she said she would remember an exchange she had with Kennedy “for the rest of my career as an advocate.” …

That memorable exchange with Kennedy that Kagan was recalling, by the way, offered a glimpse into how Kagan handled her first oral argument before the high court — or any court — last September in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That’s the landmark campaign finance case that Kagan lost 5-4, with Kennedy writing the majority.

In spite of her earlier praise for Kennedy, Kagan told the Georgetown audience that the justice had “a bit of a bad habit,” namely that he asks advocates about cases that are not mentioned anywhere in the briefs for the case. Kennedy did just that in Citizens United when he asked Kagan whether something she had just said was “inconsistent with the whole line of cases that began with Thornhill v. Alabama and Coates v. Cincinnati.” … Perhaps many advocates know those cases, Kagan said, but “I at any rate did not.” She added, “There was a look of panic on my face.”

Without knowing for sure, Kagan said she believes that Kennedy “saw in the flash of an instant that … I really had no clue” about the cases he was asking her about. Instead of waiting for her painful reply, Kennedy quickly went on to explain the Thornhill line of cases — which relate to facial challenges to statutes under the First Amendment — with enough detail that Kagan was able to recover and answer the question.

The left has good reason to worry. Kagan will need to elicit respect, not pity, from Kennedy once she is confirmed if she is to fulfill the left’s fondest hopes. Maybe she will grow into the job, but if it took six months to get prepared for her first argument before the Court, how long will it take before she is an influential force on the Court? Will she ever be?

Joshua Green examines why liberals are nervous about Elena Kagan. He explains:

The same thing that makes her confirmation so likely — the lack of a paper trail for opponents to parse and attack — has also become a prime source of concern for her own side. There’s little hard evidence to reassure liberals that she’ll adjudicate in the way they would prefer. Kagan’s lack of a judicial record and scant legal writing during a career spent mostly in politics and the deanship of Harvard Law School leave open the possibility she’ll turn out to be more conservative than advertised. … The liberal complaint against Kagan is threefold: that she wasn’t sufficiently aggressive in hiring women and minorities to the Harvard faculty; that she took worrisome positions on executive power, the war on terrorism, and corporate campaign spending; and that she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.

Green makes a comparison to David Souter, the quintessential stealth candidate who turned out to be not at all what the president who nominated him expected.

Most interesting is that the left — despite the silly Obama spin — recognizes that “she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.” Perhaps they are worried her intellect is not all that dazzling? Well, we can say she’s not demonstrated the sort of brilliance and scholarship or fine writing that the left understands is a prerequisite to do battle on the Court.

She has had a total of six Supreme Court arguments in her short tenure as solicitor general. It took a full six months before she gave her first argument in Citizens United, bypassing key cases, including Ricci (the New Haven firefighter case) and a high-profile challenge to the Voting Rights Act. Sources within the Justice Department report that Kagan was preparing to argue the Voting Rights Act case but ultimately gave way to her deputy.

Does this sound like a proficient, accomplished “lawyer’s lawyer”? Not even Kagan is high on her own advocacy abilities. Her outing in Citizens United was rocky at best, getting the worst of questioning from both Justices Scalia and Kennedy (whom she is tasked by the left with persuading once she is confirmed). At an awards ceremony at Georgetown Law School honoring Kennedy earlier this month, Kagan spoke, and her comments are revealing — and should be bracing to the left:

At one point, Kagan raised audience eyebrows when she said she would remember an exchange she had with Kennedy “for the rest of my career as an advocate.” …

That memorable exchange with Kennedy that Kagan was recalling, by the way, offered a glimpse into how Kagan handled her first oral argument before the high court — or any court — last September in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That’s the landmark campaign finance case that Kagan lost 5-4, with Kennedy writing the majority.

In spite of her earlier praise for Kennedy, Kagan told the Georgetown audience that the justice had “a bit of a bad habit,” namely that he asks advocates about cases that are not mentioned anywhere in the briefs for the case. Kennedy did just that in Citizens United when he asked Kagan whether something she had just said was “inconsistent with the whole line of cases that began with Thornhill v. Alabama and Coates v. Cincinnati.” … Perhaps many advocates know those cases, Kagan said, but “I at any rate did not.” She added, “There was a look of panic on my face.”

Without knowing for sure, Kagan said she believes that Kennedy “saw in the flash of an instant that … I really had no clue” about the cases he was asking her about. Instead of waiting for her painful reply, Kennedy quickly went on to explain the Thornhill line of cases — which relate to facial challenges to statutes under the First Amendment — with enough detail that Kagan was able to recover and answer the question.

The left has good reason to worry. Kagan will need to elicit respect, not pity, from Kennedy once she is confirmed if she is to fulfill the left’s fondest hopes. Maybe she will grow into the job, but if it took six months to get prepared for her first argument before the Court, how long will it take before she is an influential force on the Court? Will she ever be?

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Hooligans, an Ambassador, and a General

As a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (class of ’91), a.k.a Berzerkely, I am by now fairly inured to displays of political correctness — the totalitarian impulse in action — on campus. I saw enough demonstrations — including one that turned into an actual riot with the burning of cars and the looting of stores on Telegraph Avenue — not to be shocked by most of what goes on in our citadels of higher learning. But I admit I am still deeply dismayed to see the treatment accorded in recent weeks to two of the people I most admire in this world — Michael Oren, the noted historian and Israeli combat veteran who is now Israel’s ambassador to Washington, and General David Petraeus, head of Central Command.

Oren spoke at the University of California, Irvine; Petraeus, at Georgetown. Both are unusually thoughtful individuals who are happy to engage in a civilized debate with just about anyone. But what greeted them was hardly civilized. Both speeches were thoroughly disrupted by hecklers — in the former instance, by members of the Muslim Student Union who are presumably opposed to Israel’s very existence (at least, judging by the rally they held afterward, chanting “anti-Israel, anti-Israel”), in the latter instance, by opponents of the war in Iraq, who loudly tried to read the names of Iraq War dead. You can see the videos here — for Georgetown and Irvine.

The demonstration at Georgetown was particularly disturbing in light of the common trope heard among the anti-war movement that they “oppose the war but support the soldiers waging the war.” In this case, their disrespect for our greatest general — a man who has repeatedly risked his life in the country’s service and whose son is now putting his own life on the line as a young officer — gives the lie to the slogan.

I can only hope that the universities in question take appropriate steps to deal with these campus hooligans. Anything short of expulsion, or at least suspension, would seem to be a wrist-slap that will only encourage more such misconduct in the future and make a mockery of the free speech that universities are supposed to champion.

As a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (class of ’91), a.k.a Berzerkely, I am by now fairly inured to displays of political correctness — the totalitarian impulse in action — on campus. I saw enough demonstrations — including one that turned into an actual riot with the burning of cars and the looting of stores on Telegraph Avenue — not to be shocked by most of what goes on in our citadels of higher learning. But I admit I am still deeply dismayed to see the treatment accorded in recent weeks to two of the people I most admire in this world — Michael Oren, the noted historian and Israeli combat veteran who is now Israel’s ambassador to Washington, and General David Petraeus, head of Central Command.

Oren spoke at the University of California, Irvine; Petraeus, at Georgetown. Both are unusually thoughtful individuals who are happy to engage in a civilized debate with just about anyone. But what greeted them was hardly civilized. Both speeches were thoroughly disrupted by hecklers — in the former instance, by members of the Muslim Student Union who are presumably opposed to Israel’s very existence (at least, judging by the rally they held afterward, chanting “anti-Israel, anti-Israel”), in the latter instance, by opponents of the war in Iraq, who loudly tried to read the names of Iraq War dead. You can see the videos here — for Georgetown and Irvine.

The demonstration at Georgetown was particularly disturbing in light of the common trope heard among the anti-war movement that they “oppose the war but support the soldiers waging the war.” In this case, their disrespect for our greatest general — a man who has repeatedly risked his life in the country’s service and whose son is now putting his own life on the line as a young officer — gives the lie to the slogan.

I can only hope that the universities in question take appropriate steps to deal with these campus hooligans. Anything short of expulsion, or at least suspension, would seem to be a wrist-slap that will only encourage more such misconduct in the future and make a mockery of the free speech that universities are supposed to champion.

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Al-Qaeda’s Resiliency No Excuse to Abandon Afghanistan

Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown had an important report in Sunday’s Washington Post on al-Qaeda’s emerging strategy, which can be glimpsed in such plots as the Christmas Day attempted airplane bombing and the suicide bombing at the CIA base in Afghanistan. He notes that such attacks suggest that al-Qaeda is exceedingly resilient and that reports of its demise are premature:

While the United States remains preoccupied with trying to secure yesterday’s failed state — Afghanistan — al-Qaeda is busy staking out new terrain. The terrorist network sees failing states as providing opportunities to extend its reach, and it conducts local campaigns of subversion to hasten their decline. Over the past year, it has increased its activities in places such as Pakistan, Algeria, the Sahel, Somalia and, in particular, Yemen.

He’s right about al-Qaeda’s ability to fill vacuums in undergoverned countries, but I disagree with the implication that the war in Afghanistan is a distraction from the wider campaign. If we were to lose in Afghanistan, it would become tomorrow’s failed state, as well as yesterday’s, and that would constitute a massive win for al-Qaeda. Among other things, it would further destabilize Pakistan, which is already facing a horrific threat. (A new think-tank report finds that in Pakistan, “terrorist attacks killed 3,021 people and injured 7,334 in 2009. There were 87 suicide bombings amid 2,586 terrorist strikes, a 45 percent increase over the previous year.”)

The answer isn’t to give up in Afghanistan but to do better on those other battlefields where we will have to fight without benefit of large numbers of our own ground troops.

Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown had an important report in Sunday’s Washington Post on al-Qaeda’s emerging strategy, which can be glimpsed in such plots as the Christmas Day attempted airplane bombing and the suicide bombing at the CIA base in Afghanistan. He notes that such attacks suggest that al-Qaeda is exceedingly resilient and that reports of its demise are premature:

While the United States remains preoccupied with trying to secure yesterday’s failed state — Afghanistan — al-Qaeda is busy staking out new terrain. The terrorist network sees failing states as providing opportunities to extend its reach, and it conducts local campaigns of subversion to hasten their decline. Over the past year, it has increased its activities in places such as Pakistan, Algeria, the Sahel, Somalia and, in particular, Yemen.

He’s right about al-Qaeda’s ability to fill vacuums in undergoverned countries, but I disagree with the implication that the war in Afghanistan is a distraction from the wider campaign. If we were to lose in Afghanistan, it would become tomorrow’s failed state, as well as yesterday’s, and that would constitute a massive win for al-Qaeda. Among other things, it would further destabilize Pakistan, which is already facing a horrific threat. (A new think-tank report finds that in Pakistan, “terrorist attacks killed 3,021 people and injured 7,334 in 2009. There were 87 suicide bombings amid 2,586 terrorist strikes, a 45 percent increase over the previous year.”)

The answer isn’t to give up in Afghanistan but to do better on those other battlefields where we will have to fight without benefit of large numbers of our own ground troops.

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Obama and the Virtues of Kowtowing

Reading the Washington Post‘s survey of Asia experts’ opinions on Obama’s swing through the region, I was struck by the general consensus that the trip was a failure. You would expect to hear such a view from conservatives like Misha Auslin and Dani Pletka at AEI, Michael Green at CSIS, or Victor Cha at Georgetown. But what’s striking is that this was also the view of liberals like Doug Schoen, the Democratic pollster, who writes, “President Obama was unable to secure any lasting agreements on climate change, free trade, revaluing the Chinese currency, or, most important, sanctions on Iran and North Korea…. The president’s failure to achieve any concrete results will impact his standing back at home and in his dealings with Congress over health care.”

Then there is the assessment of my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Liz Economy, another Democrat who offers an unvarnished assessment of this Democratic president’s foray abroad:

It was, optically, one of the worst U.S. presidential visits to Beijing in memory. … Lots of talk, little action — just the way the Chinese like it. Although I’d like to back the president, I’d place my own bet that being nice to the Chinese leadership isn’t going to get us very far. It never has.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the president will take some of these criticisms to heart and rethink the virtues of kowtowing before his next expedition abroad.

Reading the Washington Post‘s survey of Asia experts’ opinions on Obama’s swing through the region, I was struck by the general consensus that the trip was a failure. You would expect to hear such a view from conservatives like Misha Auslin and Dani Pletka at AEI, Michael Green at CSIS, or Victor Cha at Georgetown. But what’s striking is that this was also the view of liberals like Doug Schoen, the Democratic pollster, who writes, “President Obama was unable to secure any lasting agreements on climate change, free trade, revaluing the Chinese currency, or, most important, sanctions on Iran and North Korea…. The president’s failure to achieve any concrete results will impact his standing back at home and in his dealings with Congress over health care.”

Then there is the assessment of my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Liz Economy, another Democrat who offers an unvarnished assessment of this Democratic president’s foray abroad:

It was, optically, one of the worst U.S. presidential visits to Beijing in memory. … Lots of talk, little action — just the way the Chinese like it. Although I’d like to back the president, I’d place my own bet that being nice to the Chinese leadership isn’t going to get us very far. It never has.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the president will take some of these criticisms to heart and rethink the virtues of kowtowing before his next expedition abroad.

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Bill Clinton: EMT

There’s no reason to think the following is a fabrication. But two days ago Bill Clinton painted a pretty dramatic picture of his involvement in the aftermath of the 1968 D.C. riots brought on by Martin Luther King’s Assassination:

Then, I was in Washington at Georgetown, the city exploded into flames and I turned my car into an ambulance and I took supplies to the African Americans that were burned out of their homes and were hiding in church basements basically trying to stay alive, and surrounded by national guardsmen protecting them.

Clinton gave that account in Indianapolis on Wednesday. In reporting on Bill’s appearance in North Carolina today, the Winston-Salem Journal describes him recalling a less colorful narrative of his heroics after King was shot:

“He later joined with Red Cross volunteers to take supplies to inner-city Washington,” the paper simply reports.

Might someone have suggested Bill tone the tale down a bit after Snipergate?

There’s no reason to think the following is a fabrication. But two days ago Bill Clinton painted a pretty dramatic picture of his involvement in the aftermath of the 1968 D.C. riots brought on by Martin Luther King’s Assassination:

Then, I was in Washington at Georgetown, the city exploded into flames and I turned my car into an ambulance and I took supplies to the African Americans that were burned out of their homes and were hiding in church basements basically trying to stay alive, and surrounded by national guardsmen protecting them.

Clinton gave that account in Indianapolis on Wednesday. In reporting on Bill’s appearance in North Carolina today, the Winston-Salem Journal describes him recalling a less colorful narrative of his heroics after King was shot:

“He later joined with Red Cross volunteers to take supplies to inner-city Washington,” the paper simply reports.

Might someone have suggested Bill tone the tale down a bit after Snipergate?

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Benazir Bhutto

Some cynics in Washington and New York pooh-poohed Benazir Bhutto’s tough-on-terrorism rhetoric. She was only posturing to get American support, they said—telling the administration what it wanted to hear. But she kept on repeating her pledges to crack down on Islamist militants even after she returned home after a lengthy exile. Today, those pledges cost her her life. Apparently the suicide bombers took her seriously, even if Georgetown sophisticates did not.

Her death brutally exposes how little success Pervez Musharraf has had in cracking down on the jihadists. They have only grown stronger on his watch. It is possible that no other government could have done better; some might even have done worse. But there is also little doubt that the military regime has been compromised by all the alliances it has struck over the years with extremist groups who were deemed to be fighting for Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The Bush administration has been making a grave mistake by so unreserverdly backing a regime so ambivalent in its commitment to the anti-terror fight. The restoration of democracy has been long overdue, and is finally, belatedly occurring: It’s a good thing Musharraf has stepped down as army chief of staff, but it’s unfortunate that he continues to cling to the presidency without submitting himself to a free and fair election.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Islamic factions are not popular with the people of Pakistan as a whole; they are polling only 4% at the moment, about what Ron Paul is getting in polls of Republican voters. Their support has never exceeded 12% in any election, and that only because Musharraf hobbled the mainstream parties from competing. Now their backing has cratered because of their failure to deliver on their good governance pledges in Northwest Frontier Province which they have been running since 2002.

There is a vast “silent majority” in Pakistan that abhors the militants and has come to detest military rule. They are waiting for a leader. Bhutto, for all her imperfections, could have been that leader. She won’t be now. Alas. But let us hope that she will at least become a martyr for the cause of Islamic democracy, and that her death will inspire others to carry on her brave struggle.

Some cynics in Washington and New York pooh-poohed Benazir Bhutto’s tough-on-terrorism rhetoric. She was only posturing to get American support, they said—telling the administration what it wanted to hear. But she kept on repeating her pledges to crack down on Islamist militants even after she returned home after a lengthy exile. Today, those pledges cost her her life. Apparently the suicide bombers took her seriously, even if Georgetown sophisticates did not.

Her death brutally exposes how little success Pervez Musharraf has had in cracking down on the jihadists. They have only grown stronger on his watch. It is possible that no other government could have done better; some might even have done worse. But there is also little doubt that the military regime has been compromised by all the alliances it has struck over the years with extremist groups who were deemed to be fighting for Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The Bush administration has been making a grave mistake by so unreserverdly backing a regime so ambivalent in its commitment to the anti-terror fight. The restoration of democracy has been long overdue, and is finally, belatedly occurring: It’s a good thing Musharraf has stepped down as army chief of staff, but it’s unfortunate that he continues to cling to the presidency without submitting himself to a free and fair election.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Islamic factions are not popular with the people of Pakistan as a whole; they are polling only 4% at the moment, about what Ron Paul is getting in polls of Republican voters. Their support has never exceeded 12% in any election, and that only because Musharraf hobbled the mainstream parties from competing. Now their backing has cratered because of their failure to deliver on their good governance pledges in Northwest Frontier Province which they have been running since 2002.

There is a vast “silent majority” in Pakistan that abhors the militants and has come to detest military rule. They are waiting for a leader. Bhutto, for all her imperfections, could have been that leader. She won’t be now. Alas. But let us hope that she will at least become a martyr for the cause of Islamic democracy, and that her death will inspire others to carry on her brave struggle.

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The Liberal Moment?

Washington Post columnist and Georgetown professor E. J. Dionne has written a thoughtful essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education on what he calls “The Liberal Moment.” With one eye on the polls—which show plunging support for Republicans among the young, Hispanics, and independent voters—Dionne writes that “American liberals and the Left now have their greatest political opening since the 1960’s and their greatest opportunity to alter the philosophical direction of the public debate since the 1930’s.” He’s right. But will liberals be able actually to seize the opening?

Dionne invokes the late social scientist Michael Harrington, arguing that the Left must embrace a program that “will radically improve the conditions of life of everyone in the society,” because “the politics of noblesse oblige simply will not mobilize a majority that includes a very large number of people who are not poor yet are still suffering from relative deprivation.” But the very mechanism by which the Left once was able to accomplish those goals—Keynesian pump-priming—has been obviated by the globalization of economies. And today the most frequent and vitriolic attacks on attempts by Democrats to use market mechanisms to advance liberal goals come from the Democrats: specifically, from the netroots activists. (The netroots, in other words, bring to the Democratic party the same blind and destructive partisanship Dionne rightly condemns in Karl Rove.)

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Washington Post columnist and Georgetown professor E. J. Dionne has written a thoughtful essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education on what he calls “The Liberal Moment.” With one eye on the polls—which show plunging support for Republicans among the young, Hispanics, and independent voters—Dionne writes that “American liberals and the Left now have their greatest political opening since the 1960’s and their greatest opportunity to alter the philosophical direction of the public debate since the 1930’s.” He’s right. But will liberals be able actually to seize the opening?

Dionne invokes the late social scientist Michael Harrington, arguing that the Left must embrace a program that “will radically improve the conditions of life of everyone in the society,” because “the politics of noblesse oblige simply will not mobilize a majority that includes a very large number of people who are not poor yet are still suffering from relative deprivation.” But the very mechanism by which the Left once was able to accomplish those goals—Keynesian pump-priming—has been obviated by the globalization of economies. And today the most frequent and vitriolic attacks on attempts by Democrats to use market mechanisms to advance liberal goals come from the Democrats: specifically, from the netroots activists. (The netroots, in other words, bring to the Democratic party the same blind and destructive partisanship Dionne rightly condemns in Karl Rove.)

And while the Bush administration, as Dionne rightly notes, suffered serious setbacks when it pushed for more market-oriented social programs (such as privatizing social security), liberals need to ask themselves why it is that in the very areas where their policies are most dominant (such as New York, or Boston, or Los Angeles), the social order is the least egalitarian. As a group, they won’t reconsider a social security program/tax that’s not only regressive and a job killer, but far more onerous for the lower-middle class than the income tax. They come up similarly empty-handed on education, where the powerful NEA is wedded to failure, and no amount of new spending seems to be able to improve the outcome. Nor, as a group, do liberals seem to be able to come to grips with the Jihadist thread within Islam. In short, the failings of the Republicans notwithstanding, it’s hard to discern the basis for a liberal revival.

Columbia sociologist Todd Gitlin, commenting on Dionne’s article, insists that liberals and Democrats represent the “party of reason.” (Was it reason, then, that motivated MoveOn.org to call General Petraeus “General Betray-us” in a full-page New York Times ad?) As long as the Left is still capable of rhetoric like this, there is not likely to be a “Liberal Moment” in the sense that Dionne means—just a political opportunity for the Democrats. And I’d say that, as was the case with Bill Clinton, the success of any future Democratic administration will depend on the degree to which it can break with liberal dogma.

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