Yesterday, one of the first comments on my "Give me that old-time conservatism" column post was from Gene Retske, who proposed the following:
Brad, c’mon, do you really believe that you are a conservative? Do you think that Roe v Wade was improperly decided? Do you think Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of the 20th Century? Do you think America is the model for the world, and is obligated to spread democracy? Do you think America is a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles? Would you leave your wife for Ann Coulter?
If you can’t answer "yes" to all these questions, you may not be a true conservative.
John McCain believes in Duty, Honor and Country, for sure. That these basic criteria are touted as presidential qualities shows how far down we have come. There are over 12 million current and former military who also have these qualities, and are thus more qualified than Hillary or Obama to be president.
Sorry, Brad, you can’t redefine conservatism to your standards, nor can John McCain.
Hey, I’m good at tests! So here we go:
- Brad, c’mon, do you really believe that you are a conservative? No. I utterly reject both the "conservative" and "liberal" labels, because the popular, current definitions of those terms describe world views that each contain much that is repugnant to me. One of the main reasons I do this site is to have at least one place in the blogosphere that provides an alternative to the perpetual extreme-left vs. extreme-right argument that tends to predominate in this medium. Traditionally, however, there is much (or perhaps I should say, was much) in both conservatism and liberalism that I see as being of value. The last part of my column Sunday was an evocation of what I see as good in conservatism. As for liberalism — well, there used to be much good in that, too, but it really started to degenerate starting about 1968.
- Do you think that Roe v Wade was improperly decided? Yes, absolutely. In fact, you don’t state it nearly strongly enough. It was disastrous, on many levels. First, there is the obvious — more abortions. But then it’s not the job of the Court to decide cases in terms of outcomes (a point on which the admirers of Roe would disagree). Therefore in answer to whether it was "improperly decided" I’ll say this: The ruling was based on a bogus proposition — that the Constitution guarantees a "right to privacy." It does no such thing. (I’ve always been struck by the way the presumption was said to arise from a "penumbra" — suggestive to me of the Shadow of Death.) Finally, I’ll say — and once again, this is irrelevant to whether it was properly decided, but I think it speaks to where you intended to go with this — that this disaster of a ruling is probably more to blame than any other one cause for the nasty polarization of our politics. This country would be a better place in many ways without Roe.
- Do you think Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of the 20th Century? Absolutely not. While I don’t dislike him today as much as I did at the time, I think he did much to ruin the sort of conservatism that I have always valued — in particular, he helped instill the imprudent notion that we can have all the blessings of good government (and folks, there’s no such thing as private property — to cite one such "blessing" — without a sound system affirming, protecting and supporting it) without paying for it. The grossly immature Gimme-Gimme wing exemplified by the likes of Grover Norquist is a product of the Reagan era. As for defeating communism — I give him credit for doing his part, as had every president of either party since Truman — and he had the honor to have the watch when it all came tumbling down. If he provided the final push needed to reach the tipping point — which seems to be the consensus, although I have no idea how to measure such things — hurrah for him. He certainly demonstrated resolve — such as the resolve to spend the Soviets under the table. To the extent that’s what did it, hoorah again. But was that "conservative?" Oh, and if you want to talk about "amnesty" for illegals (which I don’t, but a lot of folks who call themselves "conservatives" do) — Reagan went for it; McCain does not. (Let me point out that Sen. McCain, unlike Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney, has been opposed to abortion his entire career.)
- Do you think America is the model for the world, and is obligated to spread democracy? Yep, in many ways (although obviously we’re a poor model on health care). That’s why I’m an unreconstructed interventionist — but then, so were liberals before 1968. In fact, as I’ve often said, the invasion of Iraq was the most liberal thing that George W. Bush ever did — which is probably why he botched the aftermath. Like most conservatives, he doesn’t believe in nation-building. Like liberals of the endangered JFK stripe, I do. I’m assuming you meant to go in that direction. Or perhaps you’re speaking of the "city on a hill" notion of American exceptionalism? I’m for that, too. But again, there’s nothing conservative about that. To the extent that we are a beacon for the world, it’s based on liberal principles — in the sense of advancing liberal democracy. But then, I’m using terminology that has little to do with the post-Reagan definitions of "liberal" and "conservative" in our domestic politics (although, I’m happy to say, the term is still current in an international context).
- Do you think America is a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles? I believe it was founded by people whose culture was informed by Judeo-Christian principles, such "freethinkers" as Thomas Paine aside. If it helps you any, I’m much more an admirer of John Adams (he who wrote, "Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.") than Thomas Jefferson, although Jefferson probably had a greater impact on the development of the country’s self-concept, which is a shame.
- Would you leave your wife for Ann Coulter? Certainly not! Nor would I leave her for French Socialist leader Ségolène Royal, who is a LOT more attractive. I would cross a continent to avoid either Ann Coulter or Paul Krugman, either Rush Limbaugh or Frank Rich, or any of those who delight in tearing this country apart. My support for both John McCain and Barack Obama is based in the same principles that cause me to utterly reject the Coulters and Krugmans of the world.
I’ll have to leave it to Mr. Retske to score this. Since it was an essay test (my favorite kind, much better than multiple guess), and since he’s the "teacher" in this instance, I guess he’ll assign whatever values (in every sense) he chooses to each question.
But if I flunk, fine by me. See my answer to question 1.