Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thomas Friedman: “I Am For A High Wall With A Big Gate.”

Thomas Friedman: “I Am For a High Wall With a Big Gate.” Interviewed by Tucker Carlson. Video. Real Clear Politics, January 9, 2017. YouTube.

RCP Transcript:

TUCKER CARLSON: Technology leads to isolation... It’s easy for us, who are thriving, relatively speaking, in this economy. But the idea that people who are displaced by technology are going to seamlessly or at all find a place in this new order is really hard to believe. You can teach a farmer to run a drill pass, you can’t teach one to write code. Or a cable news host to write code. You just can’t. So what about those people?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Because my point is I don’t think that we’re going to be the cutting edge of the jobs. I think the best jobs are going to be these people-to-people jobs.

Yes, some people write code. Unfortunately, computers will soon be writing a lot of our code.

CARLSON: Exactly.

FRIEDMAN: I think we’re going to see a whole new set of jobs and industries really around the heart, connecting people to people, it may be through restaurants, through entertainment. Think of our generation, how many people are going to need elder care as the baby boomers retire. So I’m much more optimistic about these new jobs.

CARLSON: And I’m glad you’re optimistic. I am not. But I am glad that somebody is. I don’t understand at a moment of change this profound why you would want to add demographic and cultural and economic change on top of economic change. And I know it benefits a small number of employers who want cheaper labor. But why would you want to let in low-skilled labor, no promise for participating in this new economy, how does that help anybody?

FRIEDMAN: My view on openness in general, I say in the book and have always said I am for a high wall with a big gate. I believe our country has to control its borders. I’m a big believer in that. But I also believe that what has made America great is we’ve accrued more high IQ risk takers than any country in the world. And high-energy risk takers – the lower skilled, the higher the energy. That’s what made us great.

CARLSON: Shouldn’t we screen for them? Because our current immigration system says that if you have a relative you get to come. Shouldn’t we say, wait a second, are you impressive or not?

FRIEDMAN: That may be, I’m really agnostic on how we best bring in these people. But what I would hate to see us do, Tucker, is to close off America as this giant magnet. We are who we are as a country because we've attracted more of these risk takers. My great grandparents and somewhere your great grandparents, they left somewhere bad and came to somewhere they thought were better.

What Is Trumpism? By Victor Davis Hanson.

What Is Trumpism? By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, January 10, 2017.

Trumpism is the latest incarnation of Jacksonianism.


First sketches of a list, starting with tradition, populism, and American greatness.

Donald Trump is hated by liberal Democrats because, among other things, he is likely to reverse the entire Obama project. And, far worse, he probably will seek fundamental ways of obstructing its future resurgence — even perhaps by peeling off traditional Democratic constituencies.

The proverbial mainstream media despise Trump. Culturally, he has become a totem of their fears: coarseness, ostentatiousness, flamboyance, and the equation of big money with taste and success. His new approach to the media may make them irrelevant, and they fear their downfall could be well earned.

The Republican Washington–to–New York establishment is alienated by Trump. It finds his behavior reckless and his ideology unpredictable — especially given his cruel destruction of in-house Republican candidates in the primaries and his past flirtations with liberal ideas and politicians. That he has now brought them more opportunity for conservative political change than any Republican candidate in a century only adds insult to their sense of injury.

Note the common denominator to the all these hostile groups: It is Trump the man, not Trump the avatar of some political movement that they detest. After all, there are no Trump political philosophers. There is no slate of down-ballot Trump ideologues. If Trump were to start a third party, what would be its chief tenets? There is as yet neither a Trump “Contract for America” nor a Trump “First Principles” manifesto. 

Nonetheless, from the 2016 campaign and from President-elect Trump’s slated appointments, past interviews, and tweets, we can see a coherent worldview emerging, something different from both orthodox conservativism and liberalism, though certainly Trumpism is far closer to the former than to the latter. Here may be a few outlines of Trumpist thought.


Trumpism promotes traditionalism. Trump showcases “Merry Christmas!” because his parents did. He believes in dressing formally and being addressed as Mr. Trump. And he insists that his children be well-behaved and polite.

You might object that Trump is thrice-married, Petronian in his tastes, and ethically sloppy or worse in his own business dealings. No matter: Trump seeks a return to normalcy all the more. His personal excesses apparently spur his impulses for traditional norms.

Perhaps Trump is like many Baby Boomers as they enter their final decades: They look back at their parents and grandparents, and wonder how they put up with their offspring — and see how far this generation has fallen short of their forebears’ ideals, which in turn sparks a desire for a return to normalcy in the wayward. Deists were believers in the abstract who otherwise shunned a living Christianity yet thought that active religion had social value for others. Similarly, Trump is a non-practicing moralist who believes traditional morality can restore structure and guidance to society.

So Trump is foul-mouthed but wants a return of decorum; he has been conniving but thinks his own recklessness is not necessarily a model for the nation.

Populism vs. Elitism

The billionaire Trump won by going after elites of both parties —attacking the protected classes of the Left as politically correct snobs, and those of the Right as crony capitalists (Trump confessed that it took one to spot one) or as uppity no-fun scolds and professional Washington hacks and political handlers.

By “elites,” Trump certainly did not mean plutocrats like himself or the various grandees he has appointed to his cabinet.

How does he square that circle? For Trump, there are apparently good elites like himself and then the rest, the bad elites. The dividing line is not income, status, or lifestyle per se, but whether one advocates one thing for others and quite another for oneself. Trump is rich and unabashedly likes what riches can bring, and he claims that he wants average Americans to have their own version of a Trump Tower existence.

He is not Al Gore urging Middle Americans to drive less while he flies on his Gulfstream private jets, or Barack Obama who loves exclusive, expensive Sidwell Friends prep school for his own children but opposes charter-school choices for the less fortunate, or a Senator Barbara Boxer who lives in an irrigated desert oasis but seeks to stop contracted water transfers for those who grow food rather than lawn turf.

In the next four years, expect a continual war on intellectuals and academics (who, not surprisingly, are almost absent from the Trump cabinet), the media, the political establishment, and the progressive class in general, whose lavish lifestyle and preachy rhetoric are irreconcilable.

So it is not privilege that Trumpism targets, but rather the hypocrisies of privilege, of those who seek to avoid the natural consequences of their own ideology. He is no friend to the exalted who virtue-signal, at the expense of others, in order to assuage the guilt for the own rarified existence. When Trump put on his red cap and too-long tie — with his orange skin, yellow comb-over, and Queens accent — and bragged about his tremendous wealth, awesome companies, and huge successes, he came across to millions as authentic and unapologetic about his own success. Trump can be outrageous, but his tweets and invective seem less outrageous than Obama’s combo of Ivy League smugness and too-cool-for-school interviews with GloZell, and Obama’s infatuation with rapper Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

National Greatness

Nationalism is another Trump axiom — the deliberate antithesis to the progressive and Socratic idea of being “a citizen of the world.” In Trump’s mind, the U.S. is a paradise thanks to its exceptional values and the hard work of past generations; the mess elsewhere (to the degree Trump worries about it) is due to human failing that is not America’s fault. Trump laments self-inflicted misery abroad but feels that he and his country are not culpable for it, and, other than Good Samarian disaster or famine relief, we cannot do too much about it in the long term.

If Mexico wants good jobs or Europe seeks to re-arm, then they can first make their own necessary adjustments to give them what they need without necessarily involving the U.S., whose first obligation is to make sure that its own citizens are well, secure, and employed. It seems that in Trump’s view, America’s poor and forgotten have claims on this country’s attention that far outweigh those of the illegal immigrant or the globe-trotting internationalist; the lathe worker in Des Moines and the real estate broker in Manhattan, by virtue of being American, deserve more of Washington’s attention than international bureaucrats or foreign royals. The least American is preferable to the greatest foreigner.

To the Left, this is xenophobic, nativist, and Peronist; in the Trump mind, it is a long-overdue pushback against 21st-centurty globalism. Good borders make good neighbors; illegal immigrants who arrive by breaking the law will certainly keep breaking the law to stay. Americans cannot pick and choose which American laws to follow; why would they allow foreigners to do what they themselves cannot and should not do?

Making Stuff

Trump is a pragmatist in another way: his unapologetic deference to 19th-century muscular labor and those who employ and organize it. Though we are well into the 21st-century informational age, Trump apparently believes that the age-old industries — steel, drilling, construction, farming, mining, logging — are still noble and necessary pursuits. Using one’s hands or one’s mind to create something concrete and real is valuable in and of itself, and a much-needed antidote to the Pajama Boy–Ivy League culture of abstraction.

Silicon Valley, the marquee universities, and progressive ideologues might dismiss these producers as polluting dinosaurs, but all of them also rely on forgotten others to fuel their Priuses, bring them their kitchen counters, their hardwood floors, and their evening cabernet and arugula and, 12 hours later, their morning yogurt and granola. The producers acknowledge the equal importance of Apple and Google in a way that is never quite reciprocated by Silicon Valley.

In other words, expect Trumpism to champion fracking, logging, Keystone, “clean” coal, highway construction, the return of contracted irrigation water to its farmers, the retention of federal grazing lands for cattlemen — not just because in Trump’s view these industries are valuable sources of material wealth for the nation but also because they empower the sort of people who are the antidote to what America is becoming.


On matters of foreign policy, Trump is not a realist, isolationist, or neoconservative, although at times he can sound like all that and more. Instead, he is a Jacksonian who wants a huge club at the Department of Defense largely to ensure that he’ll never have to use it. And if he is pushed to swing it, he wants to flatten any who would hurt the U.S.

Many of us are skeptical of such Whac-A-Mole punishments, or the idea that bombing the “sh**” out of an enemy while getting nowhere near him will solve the problem. But we are thinking conventionally and historically. Trump, in contrast, does not believe that foreign enemies and terrorists need be persuaded, through long-term nation-building projects of what is in their own interests. He instead assumes that you beat down (only existential) threats the way you regularly mow your lawn (and you always will have to mow your lawn). If you don’t mow, the lawn grows rank, ugly, and unmanageable. We should no more complain that the grass always grows back than we should whine that Iran lies or promotes terrorism

Trump assumes that the world is Hobbesian. When the Iranians get close to getting their bomb (and they will), or the Chinese keep stealing U.S. drones (and they will), you push back hard, on the assumption that Iranian theocrats and Chinese Communist do such things the same way that a pit bull cannot stop biting. In time, by vigilance and deterrence, you can discourage such chronic chomping, but you are not going to spend blood and treasure in an effort to make a pit bull into a poodle.

In short, whatever is the cheapest and quickest way to make an aggressor stop is preferable to long-term nation-building or multilateral initiatives to address “root causes” and seek permanent solutions. For Trump, enemies are always numerous and to be opposed, friends few and to be appreciated. Foreign policy then is Sophoclean, not Socratic: Hurt enemies, help friends.

Reagan’s bombing of Qaddafi is Trumpian. Rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan is not. Likewise un-Trumpian are Obama’s destroying Libya to destroy Qaddafi, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood because the otherwise preferable alternative was not quite liberal enough for Western sensibilities.


Trump admires people who make money. He doesn’t buy that those, to take one example, with Ph.D.s and academic titles could have made money if only they had wished—but for lots of reasons (most of them supposedly noble) chose not to. For Trump, credentialed academic expertise in anything is in no way comparable to achievement in the jungle of business.

Instead, in Trump’s dog-eat-dog world, only a few bruisers make it to the top and the real, big money — the ultimate barometer of competence. He sees the “winners” as knights to be enlisted in behalf of the weaker others. He might not quite say that a Greek professor is inherently useless, and he might not worry much about preserving the ancient strands of Western civilization. But he might remind us that such pursuits are esoteric and depend on stronger, more cunning and instinctual sorts, whose success alone can pay for such indulgences. Without Greek professors, the world can still find shelter and fuel; without builders and drillers, there can be no Greek professors. Brain surgery and guided missiles both require lots of money without which decline is inevitable.

Policies are good or bad based on how much they cost and how much value is returned on the sale. Success is profitability; failure is red ink and negative net worth. If Solyndra had worked, and if it had paid back its $500 million taxpayer-funded loan as its expanded plants and work forces, then a pragmatic Trump would have been for it and ignored classical free-market axioms. The solution to the inner city is an economy in overdrive — not government handouts, but so many good jobs that employers are forced to hire at good wages every employee they can find.

So what is Trumpism thus far, based on campaign rhetoric and campaigning?

In sum, it’s an America that emulates (even if hypocritically so) the lost culture of the 1950s; exploits fossil fuels; is run by deal makers who make money ostensibly to achieve a GDP that can fund the niceties of American civilization; opposes unfettered free trade and is united by race and class through shared material success; assesses winning as what’s workable rather than what’s politically correct or doctrinaire; makes “tremendous” cars, air-conditioners, and planes; has the largest and most powerful and least-used military; and is loyal to our allies and considerably scary to our enemies. All that seems to be Trumpism (at least for now).

When Trump has a record as president, one can add to or subtract from the list.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Return of “Street Corner”—Jacksonian—“Conservatism.” By Matthew Continetti.

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Tucson, AZ, on Saturday, March 19, 2016. AP/Ross D. Franklin.

The Return of “Street Corner Conservatism.” By Matthew Continetti. Washington Free Beacon, December 23, 2016. Also at National Review Online.


Donald Trump and the Jacksonian political philosophy of the Deplorables.

Richard Nixon was plotting his 1968 presidential campaign when he received a letter from a high-school English teacher in Pennsylvania. The correspondent, a young man named William F. Gavin, wasn’t certain Nixon would run. But he sure wanted him to. “You can win,” Gavin wrote. “Nothing can happen to you, politically speaking, that is worse than what has happened to you.”

Gavin cited Ortega y Gasset to explain why Nixon was uniquely suited to lead during the violence and uncertainty of the late 1960s. “You are,” he went on, “the only political figure with the vision to see things the way they are and not as Leftist and Rightist kooks would have them.”

The forceful and eloquent style of Gavin’s prose impressed top Nixon aide Patrick J. Buchanan. Gavin soon joined the nascent campaign, beginning a career writing speeches for the 37th president, for Senator Jim Buckley of New York, for Ronald Reagan, and for congressman Bob Michel, as well as composing novels, nonfiction books, and journalism. Gavin understood well the political realignment that brought city- and suburban-dwelling white working-class ethnics — Irish, Italians, Greeks, Pols, and Slavs — rather tentatively into the Republican camp. “The Nixon aide who understood the Catholic opportunity best,” Buchanan wrote later, “was Bill Gavin, who had grown up Catholic and conservative, his views and values shaped by family, faith, and friends.”

I have been thinking about Gavin lately because his life and thought so perfectly capture the conservatism of Donald Trump. When you read Gavin, you begin to understand that the idea of Trump as a conservative is not oxymoronic. Trump is a conservative — of a particular type that is rare in intellectual circles. His conservatism is ignored or dismissed or opposed because, while it often reaches the same conclusions as more prevalent versions of conservatism, its impulses, emphases, and forms are different from those of traditionalism, anti-Communism, classical liberalism, Leo Strauss conservatism in its East and West Coast varieties, the neoconservatism of Irving Kristol as well as the neoconservatism of William Kristol, religious conservatism, paleo-conservatism, compassionate conservatism, constitutional conservatism, and all the other shaggy inhabitants of the conservative zoo.

Trump has always been careful to distinguish himself from what he calls “normal conservative.” He has defined a conservative as a person who “doesn’t want to take risks,” who wants to balance budgets, who “feels strongly about the military.” It is for these reasons, he said during the campaign, that he opposed the Iraq war: The 2003 invasion was certainly risky, it was costly, and it put the troops in a dangerous position, defending a suspicious and resentful population amid IEDs and sniper attacks. The Iraq war, in this view, is an example of conservative writers and thinkers and politicians following trains of logic or desire to un-conservative conclusions.

Nor is it the only example. Fealty to econometric models, Trump says, has led many conservatives as well as liberals to embrace a “dumb market” that gives mercantilist powers in Asia advantages over U.S. industry and labor. The rush to pass comprehensive immigration reform as a result of the elite consensus that immigration is an unmitigated good set the Republican-party leadership against its own voters. The desire to restrain entitlement spending through cuts rather than prolonging the lifespan of these programs through economic growth demoralizes Republican voters who count on their checks to arrive each month.

Indeed, Trump was so at variance with the mainstream of the intellectual conservative movement on these issues that he modified his political identity. “I really am a conservative,” he said last February. “But I’m also a commonsense person. I’m a commonsense conservative. We have to be commonsense conservatives. We have to be smart.” Common sense in this understanding is opposed to the theoretical and academic analysis that has led conservatives to nonsensical and unpopular positions because they are beholden to speculative conclusions or to creedal dogma.

Trump’s politics are grounded not in metaphysics but in what he understands to be the linguistic root of the term conservative. “I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word conserve,” he has said. “We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth. We want to conserve. We want to be smart. We want to be smart where we go, where we spend, how we spend. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country.”

The conservatism of Donald Trump is not the conservatism of ideas but of things. His politics do not derive from the works of Burke or Disraeli or Newman, nor is he a follower of Mill or Berlin or Moynihan. There is no theory of natural rights or small government or international relations that claims his loyalty. When he says he wants to “conserve our country,” he does not mean conserve the idea of countries, or a league of countries, or the slogans of democracy or equality or freedom, but this country, right now, as it exists in the real world of space and time. Trump’s relation to the intellectual community of both parties is fraught because his visceral, dispositional conservatism leads him to judgments based on specific details, depending on changing circumstances, relative to who is gaining and who is losing in a given moment.

His is a blunt and instinctive and demotic approach arrived at after decades in the zero-sum world of real-estate and entertainment-contract negotiations. His are sentiments honed by immediate, knee-jerk, and sometimes inelegant reactions to events and personalities observed on Twitter or on “the shows.” And the goal of his particular conservatism is not adherence to an ideological program so much as it is to prevent the loss of specific goods: money, soldiers, guns, jobs, borders, national cohesion.

This is the conservatism of Bill Gavin who, in his 1975 book Street Corner Conservative, gave voice to the instinctual conservatism of the men and women who populated the Jersey City neighborhoods in which he was raised. “They do not want to overthrow the system,” Gavin wrote. “But they are not quite satisfied with the system either. They supported the United States efforts in Vietnam, but at the same time deplored the strategy of piecemeal escalation that led to such a disastrous state of affairs. They are sick unto death with the follies and the arrogance of liberal Democrats, but they have not quite snuggled up to the Republican Party.”

The Queens-born Trump, like other street-corner conservatives, has never quite felt at home in either political party. And while he went to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, he, like other street-corner conservatives, lacks the graduate degrees and credentials that establish oneself in society as a professional or as an originator and exponent of ideas. “We were all, I am convinced, conservatives,” Gavin wrote of his family and friends. “We never intellectually knew that we were, but instinctively, it seems, we knew that certain people and institutions and places have claims upon our loyalties.”

It is this specificity of attachment rather than adherence to a program that explains the divide between street-corner conservatives and their political brethren. Many of the conservatives in Washington, D.C., myself included, arrived at their politics through study or experience at university, by encountering a great text, the coherence of natural law, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, or the economics of Smith, Ricardo, Friedman, and Tullock. That is not the case for the street-corner conservatives. Their stance, Gavin says, “isn’t dependent on arguments from free enterprise, although most street corner conservatives embrace free enterprise. . . . Neither is it dependent on aristocratic tradition . . . nor a particular intellectual viewpoint.” Nor is it “based on nostalgia for some long-gone golden age nor on some reactionary aesthetic idea.”

It is the gut conservatism of someone who does not want to be cheated, who wants to live according to traditional notions of family, community, vocation, and faith, and who reacts negatively when these notions are toyed with from above. It is the politics of a construction worker, a contractor, a technician, a waiter or waitress, a taxi or Uber driver, of someone who is patriotic but skeptical of non-retaliatory and mismanaged foreign interventions, who gives precedence to the practical over the theoretical, the tangible over the conceptual, the concrete over the abstract. Street-corner or commonsense conservatism is more than the set of attitudes, inclinations, reactions, and habits of Bill Gavin or Donald Trump. It is nothing less than the political philosophy of the Deplorables.

Street-corner conservatism is most distinctive when set against the conservatism of the Beltway. Economists, for example, can explain in minute detail the efficiencies gained when the supply of labor is global and therefore limitless. They can point to highly sophisticated quantitative models that describe how consumers benefit from the global supply chain and from the off-shoring of low-wage employment. It all works so well in theory. What the economists are too quick to dismiss, however, is the first word in the old subject of political economy. They prefer not to recognize — or, in some cases, they celebrate outright — the erosion of nationhood by lax enforcement of border controls and immigration policy.

Unilateral disarmament in the face of trading partners that manipulate their currencies and maintain tariffs against U.S. products not only diminishes objective measures of national community and sovereignty, but also carries a human cost in workers displaced, factories moved, communities warped, livelihoods and vocations disappeared. A street-corner conservative responds to these dislocations with a sense of outrage, with a desire to rectify injustices that benefit an affluent and aloof elite, and with frustration when his sentiments and wishes and bonds are not recognized by either Republicans or Democrats.

When Donald Trump and Mike Pence arranged for Carrier to retain some of the jobs it had previously announced would move to Mexico, adherents to free-market ideology roundly criticized the move as cronyism. But, as has so often been the case this year, these thinkers lacked a constituency. They found themselves defending the economic basis of Walmart rather than the livelihoods of the people who shop there. The Carrier deal was popular not only with Carrier employees but also with voters. It was a textbook example of street-corner conservatism: deviation from principle in the pursuit of tangible goods. Arguments from theory or economic calculation had no purchase because the street-corner conservative thinks not in terms of producers and consumers but in terms of citizens and foreigners.

There is a similar practicality in Trump’s stated opposition to reform of Social Security and Medicare. The street-corner conservative sees these programs not as entitlements but as deserved benefits. He paid premiums in the form of payroll taxes and expects a return. He believes Social Security and Medicare aren’t undeserved welfare transfers that feed dependency and anomie but universal programs that benefit citizens equally. And the street-corner conservative knows that, since the Republican party has become the party of the poor and lower middle class, cutting Social Security and Medicare today to make actuarial tables work years from now is an attack on the GOP grassroots.

Street-corner conservatism informs Trump’s foreign-policy instincts as well. “In our nation’s relations with other countries we want: enough military strength to prevent war; a rational ‘America First’ attitude avoiding the extremes of expansionist jingoism on one hand and isolation on the other; and a cool but correct attitude toward totalitarian dictatorships that have the potential to destroy our nation,” wrote Gavin. The street-corner conservative is intensely patriotic — to use Trump’s word, “militaristic” — and recoils at the humiliation of his nation at foreign hands. For the street-corner conservative, the words America First summon thoughts not of Charles Lindbergh but of the pursuit of concrete and visible American interests rather than the expansive defense of the amorphous concept of “liberal world order.” He supports overseas interventions in response to attack or, as it initially seemed in Iraq, in the face of grave threat. But when the rationale for intervention changes to the maintenance of the “liberal international system” or the promotion of airy concepts such as “human rights” and “democracy promotion” and the “responsibility to protect,” he is far more skeptical. So is Trump.

If street-corner conservatism is a recurrent temper in our public life, it is also a volatile and easily frustrated one. It found expression in the majoritarian theories of William F. Buckley Jr.’s mentor Wilmoore Kendall; the populist and anti-establishment rhetoric of Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan; the social conservatism of the suburban warriors who fought liberal social policies such as the Equal Rights Amendment, busing, abortion, and the therapeutic approach to crime, and who played such an important role in the Reagan Revolution. Street-corner conservatism has waxed and waned, risen and fallen, a periodic response to social disorder, economic stagnation, and elites who forget that America is not to be ruled from above but driven from below. Street-corner conservatism can bring you to office, but it also can turn on you easily when it is depressed or disillusioned or, conversely, enriched and pleased with the state of society.

Politicians who listen to them flourish. “What is it we want?” asked Gavin.

We want a strong country, the strongest in the world because we aren’t going to rely on mutual manifestations of good will to keep this country free. It is a tough world. The liberals think anyone who says that is practicing a false, twisted masculinity. So be it. We have been called everything else by liberals; we might as well be called sexual psychopaths. But at the same time, let’s demand that our nation be so strong that no nation or group of nations will ever dare attack us — or even think of attacking us. . . .

We believe this is a good country. We believe that our way of life, our values, our adherence to formal religion, to the family, to what Chesterton called the “decencies and charities of Christendom” have for too long been abused or ignored or threatened by left-liberalism. Left-liberalism is intellectually, morally, and spiritually bankrupt. We don’t want it to be replaced by radicalism of the left or right. We want our kids to grow up knowing not only their prayers but their philosophy, our philosophy.

What is it that we want?

I’ll tell you.

We want America.

Bill Gavin died of cancer last year at the age of 80.

One week later, Donald Trump announced that a street-corner conservative was running for president.

Walter Russell Mead Discusses Jacksonianism and American Elites with Ben Domenech at The Federalist.

Walter Russell Mead on Jacksonianism, Foreign Policy, and American Elites. Audio. Interviewed by Ben Domenech. The Federalist, December 22, 2016. Soundcloud.

Summary at The Federalist:

Walter Russell Mead, editor of The American Interest and fellow at the Hudson Institute, joins Ben Domenech in studio to discuss foreign policy schools of thought, Jacksonianism, and the future of education and religion in America.

Mead labels the type of people who voted for Donald Trump in key Democratic states as Jacksonians, Mead said. “Jacksonians are often, in foreign policy and domestic policy, they are often more motivated by threat than by opportunity,” he said. “They’re often surprisingly unmotivated by stories of political corruption, but perversion of government is a different thing and that reaches them on a different level.”

Mead discusses how Trump’s cabinet and national security advisors view America’s role in the world, and how their views will overlap or collide. “Tillerson and Trump will both face the problem that government isn’t the same as corporate governance,” he said. “When you bring Jacksonians into government, they generally have less experience with government, less understanding of the people around them.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Peloton TV Commercial: “This Is Peloton.”

Peloton TV Commercial: “This Is Peloton.” Video., May 18, 2016. YouTube. Starring Jill de Jong. Website.

Description on iSpot:

A woman wakes up and begins an exercise routine with her instructor Robin on the Peloton indoor cycle. She attacks the hill, crushes the flats and fights her way through the pack. And she does it all from the comfort of her home before breakfast time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ralph Peters: Russia Will Never Be America’s Friend.

Ralph Peters: Russia Will Never Be America’s Friend. Video. Washington Free Beacon, December 12, 2016. YouTube.

Ralph Peters: Rex Tillerson would be a “terrible” choice for Secretary of State. By AllahPundit. Hot Air, December 12, 2016.

Ralph Peters Slams Rex Tillerson as Possible Secretary of State Because of Ties to Putin. By Cameron Cawthorne. Washington Free Beacon, December 12, 2016.

Vladimir Putin will always be America’s enemy. By Ralph Peters. New York Post, December 11, 2016.


Vladimir Putin is our enemy. Not because we want him to be, but because resentment and hatred of the United States is central to his being. Russia’s president yearns to do us harm.

He blames us for the Soviet Union’s self-wrought collapse. He blames us for Russian stagnation. He blames us for the derelict lot of his drunken, diseased country. And he wants revenge.

Putin has five strategic goals: He wants international sanctions lifted, Europe divided and NATO destroyed. He seeks to restore the empire of the czars. And he wants to humiliate the United States.

Americans and Europeans are targets of a ruthless, audacious and skillful disinformation campaign portraying Russia as a victim, not an aggressor. Not since the heyday of the Soviet-sponsored Ban-the-Bomb movement in the 1950s has Kremlin propaganda thrived so broadly.

We naively insist the truth will prevail. That’s nonsense. Putin knows that big lies work, if repeated until absorbed. And he’s aided by Western stooges who, for money or malice or moral malfeasance, abet Putin in deluding our populations.

The current pro-Putin narrative holds that Russia’s a martyr to Western aggression, that we’ve abused Russia since the USSR dissolved and that NATO’s eastward expansion equals aggression. Then there are the preposterous claims that Russia’s battling Islamist terrorists on behalf of civilization, even as Russian bombs butcher civilians by the thousands.

We can’t polygraph all the pro-Putin voices (although I’d love to, publicly), so let’s look at the facts of what Putin has done.

He interfered with our presidential election via computer hacking, the use of front organizations and fake news (Kremlin-gate may prove our worst political scandal). His military challenges us in the skies and at sea. In Afghanistan, his agents assist the Taliban. In Syria, his jets target Syrian hospitals, clinics and civilians in a literal “Slaughter of the Innocents” at Christmastide.

He invaded Georgia and Ukraine (the latter twice). He threatens the NATO-member Baltic states and subsidizes Europe’s extremist political parties to radicalize electorates, undercut democracy and realign ­nations with Russia.

At home, he suffocated Russia’s nascent democracy, crushed the free press, jailed and murdered his opposition, cheated foreign investors and turned Russia into a gangster state where the czar is the only law.

What of his claim of a vast Western conspiracy to harm Russia?

I served in Washington (traveling often to Moscow) as the Soviet Union died of organ failure. Far from attempting to punish the “new” Russia, we and our European allies fell all over ourselves to indulge Moscow’s whims and encourage investment. Our State Department’s infatuation with the “new” Russia was embarrassingly extreme.

Nor did our goodwill end with the Clinton administration’s witless indulgence. President George W. Bush insisted he’d seen into ­Putin’s soul and that we could be partners. Putin then embarrassed Bush with glee. Next, President Obama fooled himself into believing he could deal constructively with Putin behind the backs of American voters. He wound up shocked and humiliated.

Putin would be delighted to chump another US president.

Russia’s problems are made in Russia. We’ve tried to help, not harm. But Russians refuse to help themselves, preferring brutality, squalor and hostility to the rule of law and civilization.

As for the upside-down charge that NATO’s eastward expansion signaled aggression against Russia, look at how ­Putin has treated non-NATO-member Ukraine and you’ll understand why the newly free states of eastern Europe cling to history’s greatest peacetime alliance.

Putin suggests a Russian right to the Baltics and Ukraine, as well as to hegemony in Eastern Europe. Russia has no such rights. Ukraine has not “always” been part of Russia. It was conquered in the 18th century and, ever since, Moscow has tried to crush Ukrainian identity, from czarist-era bans on the Ukrainian language to Stalin’s horrific man-made famine that killed at least 10 million.

Is it any wonder Ukraine doesn’t want the bear back? Or that Ukrainian (and Baltic) partisans continued to fight the Red Army and its commissars after World War II?

As for the Baltic states, when they gained independence after World War I, they went through an incredible cultural flowering — only to be invaded by the Red Army, the Nazis and the Red Army again. Now they want to live in peace and freedom, as part of the West to which their cultures belong. How is that aggressive? Is little Latvia going to march on Moscow?

The east-European states — above all, Poland — know too well how savage Russian mastery can be. The key event in modern Polish-Russian relations remains the mass murder in the Katyn Forest of 15,000 Polish-officer POWs by Stalin’s secret police. The nightmare of Soviet domination followed. Is Poland wrong to fear Russia?

Should those who suffered under Moscow’s tyranny forget the slaughter of workers in Berlin in 1953? The bloodbath in Hungary in ’56? Soviet tanks rolling into Prague in ’68? Or the millions who disappeared into the Gulag?

Russia’s victims scream warnings from the grave.

In today’s age of cyber-assaults, Russian subversion and Putin’s ­naked aggression, fear is back. We must decide what we value, either freedom and decency, or foolhardy efforts to make friends of monsters.

To align ourselves with Putin in 2017 would be the equivalent of ­allying with Hitler in 1937.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Real Time with Bill Maher, November 11, 2016

Real Time with Bill Maher, November 11, 2016. Video. HBO. YouTube.

Walter Russell Mead on U.S. Foreign Policy Under President Trump.

Walter Russell Mead on U.S. Foreign Policy Under President Trump. Video. PolicyExchangeUK, November 11, 2016. YouTube. Also at The American Interest.

Donald Trump’s Jacksonian Revolt. By Walter Russell Mead.

Andrew Jackson with the Tennessee Forces on the Hickory Grounds, 1814. Library of Congress.

Donald Trump’s Jacksonian Revolt. By Walter Russell Mead. Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2016.


Andrew Jackson’s brand of populism—nationalist, egalitarian, individualistic—remains one of the most powerful forces in American politics.

The election of Donald Trump was a surprise and an upset, but the movement that he rode to the presidency has deep roots in American history. Mr. Trump’s strongest supporters are the 21st-century heirs of a political tendency that coalesced in the early 1820s around Andrew Jackson.

Old Hickory has been the despair of well-bred and well-educated Americans ever since he defeated the supremely gifted John Quincy Adams in the 1828 presidential election. Jackson’s brand of populism—nationalist, egalitarian, individualistic—remains one of the most powerful forces in American politics. The Republican Party’s extraordinary dominance in this election demonstrates just how costly the Democrats’ scornful rejection of “hillbilly populism” has been.

Jacksonian culture can be traced to the 18th-century migration of Scots-Irish settlers to the colonial backwoods and hill country. Some Jacksonians have long been Democrats; some have long been Republicans. They are not a well-organized political force, and their influence on American politics, while profound, is often diffuse.

The folk ideology of Jacksonian America does not line up well with either liberal or conservative dogma. Jacksonians have never been deficit hawks when it comes to government spending on the middle class. In the 19th century, they enthusiastically supported populist land policies culminating in the Homestead Act, which gave out western farm land for free. Today, Jacksonians support middle-class entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, even as they remain suspicious of policies and benefits seen as supporting the poor. They do not, on the whole, approve of free trade.

Jacksonians are often libertarian when it comes to everyday life. While many of them support tough drug laws, some are recreational drug users. Jacksonian farmers participated in the Whiskey Rebellion against federal excise taxes on alcohol in the 18th century, and Jacksonians today still view tax collectors and federal agents with skepticism and hostility. One issue that largely unites Jacksonian opinion is gun control. Jacksonians often view the Second Amendment as the foundation of American liberty, ensuring the rights of a free people against overreaching government.

On race, Jacksonians have been slow to accept change. Their conception of America’s folk community has not historically included African-Americans. While a small fringe of violent racists and “white nationalists” seeks to revive old Jacksonian racist attitudes, Jacksonian America today is much more open to nonwhite and non-Anglo cultures.

Now their bitterness is directed primarily against illegal immigration and Islam, which they see as culturally and politically incompatible with their conception of American values. Jacksonians have come a long way from Jim Crow, but they still resent their tax money being spent to help the urban poor, and they overwhelming support both the death penalty and tough police tactics against violent criminals.

As for foreign policy, Jacksonians are motivated by threats. When other countries are not threatening the U.S., Jacksonians prefer a course of “live and let live.” They believe in honoring alliance commitments but are not looking for opportunities for military interventions overseas and do not favor grandiose plans for nation-building and global transformation.

In war, the fiery patriotism of Jacksonians has been America’s secret weapon. After Pearl Harbor, Jacksonian America roused to fight the Nazis and Japan. After 9/11, Jacksonians were eager to do the same in the Middle East, particularly after they were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. When Iraq turned out not to be such a threat, Jacksonians felt betrayed.

Many of them voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 out of disillusion with the neoconservative agenda of war and democracy activism. Mr. Trump’s criticisms of the Iraq war and President George W. Bush struck a chord in Jacksonian America.

When war does come, Jacksonians believe in victory at any and all costs. Jacksonian opinion has never regretted the atomic attacks against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a war of self-defense, Jacksonian opinion recognizes no limits on the proper use of force by the U.S.

Social scientists and urban intellectuals have been predicting the death of Jacksonian America since the turn of the 20th century. Urbanization and immigration were the forces that observers like Woodrow Wilson and Walter Lippmann hoped would transform American popular culture into something less antagonistic to the rule of technocratic intellectuals ensconced in a powerful federal bureaucracy. This did not work out as planned.

It is too simple to say that economic discontent was responsible for the political insurrection that over the past year has upended the Bush and Clinton dynasties as well as the Republican establishment and Democratic electoral hopes. When liberal politicians talk eagerly about a future where whites will no longer be the majority in the U.S., Jacksonians hear a declaration of war, a plan to deprive them of power in their own country. Democratic support for identity politics among every group in the country except for heterosexual white males has strengthened a sense among Jacksonians, both male and female, that their values and their identity are under determined attack.

How President-elect Trump will channel Jacksonian frustrations into policies remains unclear. Whatever happens, though, Mr. Trump’s election sends a signal that leaders and citizens at home and abroad cannot ignore: Andrew Jackson is still the most important figure in American politics, and any political party that pours contempt on Jacksonian values risks a shocking rebuke at the hands of the voters.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump, Clinton, and the Culture of Deference. By Shelby Steele.

Trump, Clinton, and the Culture of Deference. By Shelby Steele. Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2016.


Political correctness functions like a despotic regime. We resent it but we tolerate it.

The current election—regardless of its outcome—reveals something tragic in the way modern conservatism sits in American life. As an ideology—and certainly as a political identity—conservatism is less popular than the very principles and values it stands for. There is a presumption in the culture that heartlessness and bigotry are somehow endemic to conservatism, that the rigors of freedom and capitalism literally require exploitation and inequality—this despite the fact that so many liberal policies since the 1960s have only worsened the inequalities they sought to overcome.

In the broader American culture—the mainstream media, the world of the arts and entertainment, the high-tech world, and the entire enterprise of public and private education—conservatism suffers a decided ill repute. Why?

The answer begins in a certain fact of American life. As the late writer William Styron once put it, slavery was “the great transforming circumstance of American history.” Slavery, and also the diminishment of women and all minorities, was especially tragic because America was otherwise the most enlightened nation in the world. Here, in this instance of profound hypocrisy, began the idea of America as a victimizing nation. And then came the inevitable corollary: the nation’s moral indebtedness to its former victims: blacks especially but all other put-upon peoples as well.

This indebtedness became a cultural imperative, what Styron might call a “transforming circumstance.” Today America must honor this indebtedness or lose much of its moral authority and legitimacy as a democracy. America must show itself redeemed of its oppressive past.

How to do this? In a word: deference. Since the 1960s, when America finally became fully accountable for its past, deference toward all groups with any claim to past or present victimization became mandatory. The Great Society and the War on Poverty were some of the first truly deferential policies. Since then deference has become an almost universal marker of simple human decency that asserts one’s innocence of the American past. Deference is, above all else, an apology.

One thing this means is that deference toward victimization has evolved into a means to power. As deference acknowledges America’s indebtedness, it seems to redeem the nation and to validate its exceptional status in the world. This brings real power—the kind of power that puts people into office and that gives a special shine to commercial ventures it attaches to.

Since the ’60s the Democratic Party, and liberalism generally, have thrived on the power of deference. When Hillary Clinton speaks of a “basket of deplorables,“ she follows with a basket of isms and phobias—racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamaphobia. Each ism and phobia is an opportunity for her to show deference toward a victimized group and to cast herself as America’s redeemer. And, by implication, conservatism is bereft of deference. Donald Trump supporters are cast as small grudging people, as haters who blindly love America and long for its exclusionary past. Against this she is the very archetype of American redemption. The term “progressive” is code for redemption from a hate-driven America.

So deference is a power to muscle with. And it works by stigmatization, by threatening to label people as regressive bigots. Mrs. Clinton, Democrats and liberals generally practice combat by stigma. And they have been fairly successful in this so that many conservatives are at least a little embarrassed to “come out” as it were. Conservatism is an insurgent point of view, while liberalism is mainstream. And this is oppressive for conservatives because it puts them in the position of being a bit embarrassed by who they really are and what they really believe.

Deference has been codified in American life as political correctness. And political correctness functions like a despotic regime. It is an oppressiveness that spreads its edicts further and further into the crevices of everyday life. We resent it, yet for the most part we at least tolerate its demands. But it means that we live in a society that is ever willing to cast judgment on us, to shame us in the name of a politics we don’t really believe in. It means our decency requires a degree of self-betrayal.

And into all this steps Mr. Trump, a fundamentally limited man but a man with overwhelming charisma, a man impossible to ignore. The moment he entered the presidential contest America’s long simmering culture war rose to full boil. Mr. Trump was a non-deferential candidate. He seemed at odds with every code of decency. He invoked every possible stigma, and screechingly argued against them all. He did much of the dirty work that millions of Americans wanted to do but lacked the platform to do.

Thus Mr. Trump’s extraordinary charisma has been far more about what he represents than what he might actually do as the president. He stands to alter the culture of deference itself. After all, the problem with deference is that it is never more than superficial. We are polite. We don’t offend. But we don’t ever transform people either. Out of deference we refuse to ask those we seek to help to be primarily responsible for their own advancement. Yet only this level of responsibility transforms people, no matter past or even present injustice. Some 3,000 shootings in Chicago this year alone is the result of deference camouflaging a lapse of personal responsibility with empty claims of systemic racism.

As a society we are so captive to our historical shame that we thoughtlessly rush to deference simply to relieve the pressure. And yet every deferential gesture—the war on poverty, affirmative action, ObamaCare, every kind of “diversity” scheme—only weakens those who still suffer the legacy of our shameful history. Deference is now the great enemy of those toward whom it gushes compassion.

Societies, like individuals, have intuitions. Donald Trump is an intuition. At least on the level of symbol, maybe he would push back against the hegemony of deference—if not as a liberator then possibly as a reformer. Possibly he could lift the word responsibility out of its somnambulant stigmatization as a judgmental and bigoted request to make of people. This, added to a fundamental respect for the capacity of people to lift themselves up, could go a long way toward a fairer and better America.