The former Texas congressman gave voice to a noninterventionist foreign policy when almost no one else would. And he’s not abandoning the field even now that he’s out of office, as he announces the inauguration of a new foreign-policy institute next week. From the press release:
Former Congressman Ron Paul will hold a press conference this Wednesday to launch his next big project: the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. After decades in and out of the US House of Representatives leading the call for a non-interventionist foreign policy and the protection of civil liberties, Dr. Paul is launching a revolutionary new vehicle to expand his efforts. The Institute will serve as the focal point of a new coalition that crosses political, ideological, and party lines.
The Ron Paul Institute will focus on the two issues most important to Dr. Paul, education and coming generations. It will fill the growing demand for information on foreign affairs from a non-interventionist perspective through a lively and diverse website, and will provide unique educational opportunities to university students and others.
The neo-conservative era is dead. The ill-advised policies pushed by the neo-cons have everywhere led to chaos and destruction, and to a hatred of the United States and its people. Multi-trillion dollar wars have not made the world a safer place; they have only bankrupted our economic future. The Ron Paul Institute will provide the tools and the education to chart a new course with the understanding that only through a peaceful foreign policy can we hope for a prosperous tomorrow.
Founder and Chairman Dr. Paul has invited the Institute’s board of advisors to speak at the conference, including Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. (NC), Rep. John Duncan, Jr. (TN), Judge Andrew Napolitano, Ambassador Faith Whittlesey, and Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr.
Kermit Gosnell is on trial in Pennsylvania for performing grisly, illegal late-term abortions in a filthy clinical setting that regularly put women’s lives and health in danger. Conor Friedersdorf relates some of the details. As he and Rod Dreher, among others, have asked, why wasn’t this story getting national attention before now?
I don’t find comparisons of the Gosnell story to that of Sandra Fluke very persuasive. The better comparison is to last year’s Trayvon Martin story. My take is the opposite of Kirsten Powers’s: of course the Gosnell story is about abortion, not just “human rights,” and the ideological charge that abortion carries is what’s making this a national story. That’s entirely proper.
If you’re an opponent of abortion, it’s obvious that Gosnell should be an A1 national story because it’s the best prima facie argument for greater regulation or outright bans on abortion to come along in a while. Abortion is a national issue, and this story powerfully illustrates the contentions of one side of the abortion debate, so it should get maximum attention. Read More…
I may have helped popularize the now well-known fact that Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections—or four of the last five, at the time I wrote. Britain’s post-Thatcher Tories have been in even worse shape: as their pollster Lord Ashcroft points out, the last time the Conservatives won an outright majority in Parliament was 1992. John Major was lucky in that he had only been prime minister for about a year and the public still wanted to give him a chance, while Labour’s leader was Neil Kinnock, who was very much yesterday’s news—the man Britain had already decided it didn’t want as prime minister back in 1987. And yet, says Ashcroft,
there was more to Major’s victory than the benefit of the doubt and a dream opponent. In the two years before the election, the Tory campaign built consistently on the theme of “opportunity for all”, both in tone and content. The rhetoric was matched by a coherent plan, which included the expansion of higher education, and the commitment to choice and accountability in public services. Tory motives were trusted to the extent that Labour failed to make a number of campaign lies stick (while five years later, their baseless claim that the Conservatives would privatise the state pension system quickly gained currency). Though mocked in some quarters, the talk of a classless society signalled a commitment to social mobility, the idea that we wanted to include rather than exclude, that we were for everyone.
… Ultimately, the lesson of 1992 is that a party of competence and decency, that can show it wants to improve opportunity for everyone, is a powerful force.
As it happens, “competence” and “decency” are words that I often find myself using for the qualities our own Republicans lack. “These things were more important than the negative campaign against Labour which, admittedly, was relentless,” Ashcroft says about the Tories’ 1992 victory.
“Opportunity for all” is a pretty good slogan, if you can say it with any conviction—and it’s not quite the same thing as David Cameron’s “modernisation” project or the kind of GOP rebranding that’s fashionable at the moment. Cameron’s push for same-sex marriage has been a disaster because it alienates his party’s core voters without overcoming the reservations that other voters have about what they see as exclusively the party of the rich. Marco Rubio’s entreaties to Hispanics may fail for the same reason. But likewise a right-wing strategy of appealing only to the party’s base while demonizing the rest of the country—the majority, in fact—as dependents on government, possible criminals, and moral reprobates is suicidal. Parties like the GOP and the Tories only have a prayer if they can sell themselves as vehicles of integration for everyone, through prosperity and law—parties for the 99 percent, plausibly offering opportunity for all.
John B. Judis, in Grand Illusion: Critics and Champions of the American Century, charts how Nixon transformed his outlook in foreign policy:
Congressman Nixon initially aligned himself with the internationalist wing of the Republican Party… . But within this framework, Nixon pitched to the right. During the Korean War, Senator Nixon favored General Douglas MacArthur’s disastrous plan to advance to the Yalu River. In 1954, , Vice President Nixon advocated sending troops to Vietnam to rescue the French and, if necessary, even using nuclear weapons. In 1957, he urged the Eisenhower administration to back the French in Algeria. During the Vietnam War, campaigner Nixon criticized President Lyndon Johnson for not sending enough troops or dropping enough bombs. He unequivocally called for the United States to maintain its nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union.
Yet sometime in the mid-1960s, while he was practicing law in New York and campaigning for Republican candidates, Nixon began to look more dispassionately on international relations—what he called ‘taking the long view.” It was possible for him to do so because of his distance from political decision making, which allowed him to view the world outside the immediate framework of domestic anti-Communism and missionary moralism. In his method of observing international relations, Nixon was influenced by his favorite among world leaders, French President Charles de Gaulle… . Nixon, who later described de Gaulle in Leaders as “a man of enormous ego and yet at the same time enormous selflessness,” was struck by his ability to look at the world without immediate preconceptions. De Gaulle had granted independence to Algeria, distanced France from the United States, and taken the first steps toward what he called “détente” with the Soviet Union. As France prospered, Nixon saw in the French statesman the rewards of “selflessness” and unconventionality in international relations.
“Taking the long view” and looking dispassionately at domestic policy, as well as foreign affairs, would be a good beginning for aspiring Republican leaders today.
The late prime minister was marked by her early Methodism, even after she joined the Church of England, as the Economist relates:
It was never hard to see the influence of Methodism, born as a reaction to the complacency and privilege of 18th-century Anglicanism, on Mrs Thatcher. She believed in thrift and hard work, and liked the advice of John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, to earn, save and only then give as much as possible. The acts of generosity listed in the New Testament, from the Good Samaritan’s to that of the woman who anointed Christ’s feet, were possible only because the donors had money, she noted.
But in other ways, Mrs Thatcher moved away from Methodism, and it moved away from her. As she ascended firmly to the upper middle class, she began attending Anglican church. Conspicuous consumption and debt-fuelled growth, often seen as legacies of the Thatcher era, could hardly be further from Methodist values. And in her native east Midlands, Methodist communities and ministers were active in defending coalminers during the strike which she defeated. Methodism has influenced Britain’s centre-left far more than its political right.
She was, as the magazine notes, “the last British prime minister openly and emphatically to acknowledge the influence of Christianity on her thinking, in particular terms not fuzzy ones.” (While Tony Blair was “passionately religious,” he was “famously discouraged by his advisers from “doing God” in public because of the fear that he might sound nutty.”)
…were the vintage sports jackets Ben Affleck got to wear. The film itself was ok—not much character development or suspense, but very watchable for such a straightforward story—all that ’70s tweed, however, was remarkable. And now the tweed industry of the Outer Hebrides has honored the CIA officer who inspired the film, the Guardian reports:
In an interview with the Guardian, Mendez spoke about the previously unknown role of the cloth in the world of US spies during the cold war years.
Affleck wore a Harris tweed jacket during the movie, dusting down its somewhat stuffy image. But Mendez disclosed that not only had he worn a Harris tweed jacket during his covert trip to Tehran in 1979, to help six US diplomats caught up in the embassy siege escape, but that the tweed was the de rigeur for CIA agents at the time and throughout most of the cold war.
Mendez said when Affleck, who directed the movie, was making preparations, one of his staff phoned him to ask what he had worn in Tehran. He said a Harris tweed jacket, slacks and a pair of cordovan shoes with wingtips.
“That was our uniform,” Mendez said. “The jackets were representative of our group. Those of us in the CIA who did overseas work, work in the field. If you were in the field during the Blitz, you wore a trench coat. If you were tracking Ivan [the Soviet Union and its allies], you had Harris tweed.”
The occasion for the Tweed industry’s recognition of Mendez was a lunch to mark the launch of the Need for Tweed website.
Interesting essay by Eamon Duffy in the Telegraph, who says it’s time to reform the English view of the Reformation:
in multicultural England, the inherited Protestant certainties are fading. It is time to look again at the Reformation story. There was nothing inevitable about the Reformation. The heir to the throne is uneasy about swearing to uphold the Protestant faith, and it seems less obvious than it once did that the religion which gave us the Wilton Diptych and Westminster Abbey, or the music of Tallis, Byrd and Elgar, is intrinsically un-English. The destruction of the monasteries and most of the libraries, music and art of medieval England now looks what it always was—not a religious breakthrough, but a cultural calamity. The slaughtered Popish martyrs look less like an alien fifth column than the voices of a history England was not allowed to have.
Multicultural-ism, as an ideology, was often just anti-Westernism in practice. But the questioning of national identity that both modern political values and the practices of economic globalization have brought about may really open the door to a multiplicity of cultural traditions, some of which, as in the case of English Catholicism, have deep roots indeed. There’s still a need for political unity—enough to uphold the rule of law—but its a new kind of unity in pluralism that must be sought.
…attempts by the British government to curtail the failing welfare state of the 1970s actually began under Margaret Thatcher’s predecessor, a Labour prime minister, as Norman Barry relates:
Although Mrs. Thatcher’s election victory in 1979 is thought to be the first direct political expression of the new anti-consensus ideas, it should be stressed as a matter of historical fact that the Callaghan Labour Government, albeit under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, made the firs tentative moves towards the breakup of the old economic and social order. Towards the end of the 1970s the growth in public spending was restrained and the dangers of inflation recognised. Indeed, it was James Callaghan (in 1976) who first publicly pronounced the death of the crude Keynesianism that had been practised throughout the previous decades, with his admission that governments could no longer (if they ever could) spend their way out of depressions.
That’s from Barry’s book The New Right. He was one of Britain’s leading libertarian scholars, and one of a rather Rothbardian bent. That predisposed him not to accept easy characterizations of Thatcher’s Conservatives as straightforward classical liberals. Of the Conservative Party that emerged from the 1970s, he wrote:
The policy that was formulated in this period, and which to a small extent was carried out in Mrs. Thatcher’s administrations, bore a resemblance to classical liberalism only in certain aspects of economic management and in its general utilitarianism. There was less concern with personal liberty or with the dangers of group privilege (except in the case of trade unions) that has pre-occupied much anti-statist political thinking.
For those wondering about how Carter kicked off the Reagan revolution—it was by appointing Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve and by deregulating airlines and trucking and a few other sectors. The point here isn’t that Carter really had the same economic philosophy as Reagan, or that Callaghan had the same as Thatcher—plainly that wasn’t so—but rather that the catastrophe of the late 1970s economy was plain enough that even before conservative/neoliberal leaders came to power in the U.S. and UK, governments were moving in the direction of liberalization.
Andrew Sullivan notes one of the ironies of the Thatcher era: “She wanted to return Britain to the tradition of her thrifty, traditional father; instead she turned it into a country for the likes of her son, a wayward, money-making opportunist.”
The Conservative Party had its factions before Margaret Thatcher, but it was under her that the old Tory ethos lost ground to what we in the United States would recognize in many instances as neoconservatism. Henry Fairlie sketches the traditional Tory his 1984 essay “If Pooh Were President“:
The conservative and the tory may be allies, but they are not the same creatures. Americans may not appreciate how shattering it is to come to their country and find a ‘conservatism’ that has no element of toryism to nourish and humanize and correct it. The conservative can all too easily drift into a morally bankrupt and intellectually shallow defense of those who have it made and those who are on the make if the tory is not there to remind him of what Edward Heath, in denouncing Margaret Thatcher, called ‘the ugly face of capitalism.’
The first mark of the tory is a steady, unvolatile, almost unconscious confidence in the resources and resilience of his society. He is not much disturbed by the ‘movements’ that wash over or through it form time to time. He plants his own saplings; he will not be here to see them when they are grown, but he knows that long after he has gone, and whatever the winds that buffet them, they will take root in the soil of the society and give shade to it. What more can a tory do? More to the point, what more should he do? He can see no reason why those who are the governors of a well ordered society should spend their time reacting to every fad. Why get hot under the collar about the apparent decline of the traditional family? It was never in question that before long people would with to recover the traditional family, even if altered (and so strengthened) by the assault that was sprung against it. One may say that the English aristocrat has always been the truest tory because he knows that his own family has survived the most eccentric and often reprobate conduct of its members for centuries.
By the time she reached Downing Street, Margaret Thatcher had gathered around her skirts her own group of court intellectuals … some more impressive than others. Not a few of those who became her ardent supporters had begun life on the left, from the historian Hugh Thomas, to Paul Johnson, a former editor of the New Statesman who had once called for the abolition of all traditional institution from the Brigade of Guards to the House of Lords and who had been enraptured by the student revolt in Paris in 1968, to the extreme case of Sir Alfred Sherman, who for a time ran the Centre for Policy Studies, the innocuously named right-wing think-tank, and later became an advisor to Radovan Karadzic. Thomas had written a history of the Spanish Civil War, Sherman had actually served with the International Brigades as a devout Communist. There was nothing unusual about this rightward tendency, which had been a phenomenon throughout the century and throughout the west. The revealing truth about many of these was that they had become right-wingers, but not Tories. It was no doubt because of their idiosyncrasy that they had an affinity with Mrs. Thatcher, although in their bellicose intransigence transferred from left to right they also illustrated Newman’s saying that convictions change but habits of mind endure. They encouraged her own cantankerous opposition to many of her colleagues, as well as her disdain for much custom and tradition.
For all that something was lost in this changing of the guard, it has to be said that traditional Toryism wasn’t doing much for an England that in the 1970s was, as Sullivan writes, “a decaying museum—some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.” It’s a case in point of Burke’s maxim that “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation”—a saying that holds as true for conservatives themselves as for what they wish to conserve.
Almost as soon as we shook hands on immediate introduction, I felt that she knew my name and had perhaps connected it to the socialist weekly that had recently called her rather sexy. While she struggled adorably with this moment of pretty confusion, I felt obliged to seek controversy and picked a fight with her on a detail of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe policy. She took me up on it. I was (as it chances) right on the small point of fact, and she was wrong. But she maintained her wrongness with such adamantine strength that I eventually conceded the point and bowed slightly to emphasize my acknowledgement. “No,” she said. “Bow lower!” Smiling agreeably, I bent forward a bit farther. “No, no,” she trilled. “Much lower!” By this time a little group of interested bystanders was gathering. I again bent forward, this time much more self-consciously. Stepping around behind me, she unmasked her batteries and smote me on the rear with the parliamentary order-paper that she had been rolling into a cylinder behind her back. I regained the vertical with some awkwardness. As she walked away, she looked back over her shoulder and gave an almost imperceptibly slight roll of the hip while mouthing the words: “Naughty boy!”
It’s an amusing anecdote, and there’s a bit more to it—namely, what Hitchens experienced as “the uneasy but unbanishable feeling that on some essential matters she might be right.”
In late 1970s Britain, and to a some extent in the U.S., the right had the allure of forbidden fruit. Even the pre-Thatcher Tories were rather dour socialists, and the New Left passions that had excited a generation of Hitchenses had become rather sordid and dull by the time the likes of Jimmy Carter and James Callaghan were in office. So Hitchens was a socialist, and he could still find left-wing attitudes with which to strike provocative poses, but the left had long since become the establishment, and even what remained of the New Left was taking on puritanical traits under the influence of second-wave feminism. Boredom was a serious danger. And then came Thatcher.
From one direction—say, Alan Moore’s—she was a great inspiration for thrilling scenarios of a fascist Britain. From another—that of many an ex-socialist—Thatcherism was a gateway drug to libertarianism or power-worship. The right seemed assertive, heterodox, young (even when its leaders were not), mischievous, fun. (This had been part of the appeal of National Review in its early days as well: as old-fashioned as leftists might think its politics, it was irreverent when their journals were pious.) The right retained the ability to shock—it stood for inequality, violence, illicit sex; things stricken from the progressive lexicon—while the left had grown frumpy, predictable, and politically correct. The thrill-seeking that had always brought talent to the left now worked for the right.
Part of the reason the new-wave right had this sex appeal, however, was because it stood in such sharp contrast to the consensus politics of the bygone decade: an age when Richard Nixon declared us all to be Keynesians and when the fate of Britain was to be decided between Edward Heath and Harold Wilson. Thatcher was a jolt of electricity; the Thatcherite right was dangerous. In the U.S., some sense of this could be seen in P.J. O’Rourke’s celebration of the “Republican Party Reptile“: “We are in favor of: guns, drugs, fast cars, free love (if our wives don’t find out), a sound dollar, and a strong military with spiffy uniforms.” The left was in favor of, well, whatever you think of when you think of Walter Mondale or Neil Kinnock.
A decade in power wore away the newness of the right, however, and once the shock value was gone, what was left? There had been some good ideas, some salutary (and some not-so-salutary) pro-market reforms and deregulation, but the economic problems facing the UK and U.S. today are quite different from those of the late 1970s. The cultural landscape is transformed, the world situation utterly unlike that of the Cold War’s final stages. A very different kind of right, and left, is needed today.