Bill Clinton never ceases to amaze. The Chris Wallace interview flap, which should have been an overnight story, has had media legs for over a week with no signs of abating. Was the act he pulled a spontaneous combustion or a pre-meditated strike? Who will ever know? If it was a pre-meditated outburst, it seems foolish in retrospect because it served to push all the issues that might benefit the Democrats off the screen in favor of an issue which everyone agrees represents an advantage for Bush and the Republicans. In addition, it sent all the Clintonite groupies and sycophants rushing to the TV talk shows to soak up more valuable time and visibility defending their hero. But then it’s never about the party or the cause, is it? It is always and inevitably all about him—his legacy, his image, his ego as a world statesman. I have a prediction: If Hillary runs and is not elected President in 2008, the future of this couple will most resemble that of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after his abdication of the British throne in 1936—over thirty years of roaming the world, making all the watering holes with all the glitterati and being hosted by all the top celebrities. The difference will be Clinton’s $50-100K a pop in speaking fees and the fact that, unlike the Duke, he will constantly be in our face. Which recalls the last time he wagged his finger in our face—remember how that episode worked out?
What further evidence and insult do we need that the United Nations is a bad joke and should be evicted from American soil? Let the prima donnas from the tinhorn dictatorships and tribes with flags find accommodations in Port-au-Prince or some other such garden spot that will waive the parking tickets for their limos and otherwise subsidize world wide media coverage for their anti-American ranting. The entire notion of a “world parliament of man” has been a pipe dream of the romantic internationalist elite for decades, and its futility has been clearly revealed in the complete abdication of the Security Council in its most critical moment of truth—the clear and present threat of Islamofascism joined with nuclear weapon capability. If, and it’s a big if, there is a real need for a global institution dedicated to serious discussion of common security, we should organize a Congress of Democracies, or the like, to engage in meaningful dialogue about how freedom based on the rule of law and the consent of the governed can best be expanded and the real threats to world peace can be confronted and defeated.
I’ve often thought that Pope Benedict XVI has his current job primarily because he was far and away the best choice to lead the Catholic Church’s primary mission of this century—to salvage Europe for Christendom—and because this mission cannot be separated from its corollary, which is to determine how Western Christian culture can coexist with fundamentalist Islamic culture. In his recent lecture at Regensburg University, he entered the fray, and not a moment too soon. Here’s hoping that there is much more to come, for this brilliant theologian/philosopher has much to say in depth about the historic relationship between faith and reason (Jerusalem and Athens, if you will) over the centuries, and important questions that must be addressed by the intellectual classes of all faiths, as well as secularists, agnostics, and atheists, if the age of right reason, properly understood, is to survive this century.In the book, Salt of the Earth, then Cardinal Ratzinger speaks of the essence of Islam, noting that it does not have the separation of the political and the religious sphere that Christianity has had from the beginning. The Koran is totalitarian—sharia law shapes everything in society. Consequently, Islam is “not a denomination that can be included in the free realm of a pluralistic society”. In other words, the liberty of conscience, so integral to the belief system of the West, is not embodied in Islam. Nor is there in Islam a “teaching authority” that openly pursues errors and inconsistencies and promotes dialogue and public introspection among Islamic scholars and laymen. For these attributes, the West owes a debt to the Greeks beginning with Socrates with his discipline of critical self-examination and the subsequent assimilation of the reason of Athens to the faith of Jerusalem that formed the basis of the Western intellectual tradition, a tradition based on the right reason of a law-ordered universe discoverable by man. It is about the future of this tradition of reason wherein Benedict’s questions are so timely.
The most insightful commentary on the Pope’s speech that I have seen came from Lee Harris in The Weekley Standard, to wit: At Regensburg he was reminding us that “the encounter between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance, not only for religion, but for world history. Further, this is a legacy that we in the West are duty-bound to keep intact, yet it is a legacy that is under relentless attack, both from those who do not share it, namely Islam, and from those who are its beneficiaries, namely, Western intellectuals”.
So, according to Harris, the critical challenges in the form of questions (more directed to Western elites than to Islam) posed by Pope Benedict are these: Is it really a matter of subjective choice whether men follow a religion that respects human reason and that refuses to use violence to convert others? Can even the most committed atheist be completely indifferent to the imaginary gods that the other members of his community continue to worship? If modern, scientific reason cannot persuade men to defend their own communities of reason against the eruption of disturbing pathologies of religion and reason, then what can persuade them to do so? Shall we delude ourselves into thinking that the life of reason can survive without courage and character? And, most decisively, shall we be content with lives we refuse to examine, because such examination requires us to ask questions for which science can give no definite answer?
In his book, The Universal Hunger for Liberty, Michael Novak begins the final chapter by asking whether Islam can come to terms with democracy but, as with Benedict’s challenge, ends up with questions directed primarily to the West, such as: why in a world without purpose, resulting from blind chance, should human beings follow reason?, of what avail is reason in a reasonless world? and, what legacy of reason are we left by the secular West’s fundamental right to the individual’s untrammeled freedom of choice?
I am more convinced than ever that Islam is in the midst of a long period of reformation and that we in the West are its unwitting catalysts. However, the Muslim community is not alone in its need for introspection in dealing with the post-9/11 world, and our own intellectual leaders had best listen seriously to the questions posed by the philosopher-Pope. The final exam will come soon enough.
The tragic murder of a Houston police officer by an illegal immigrant who previously had been deported has lifted to high relief the city’s shameful “sanctuary” policy for dealing with illegal immigrants. The incident and the resulting outrage have forced the police department to revise the policy slightly, but arrests solely on the basis of illegal status in this country are still prohibited. Not only does this make a mockery of the rule of law but undermines the very notion of national sovereignty, that as a people with rights as citizens, we have the prerogative to determine who may and may not enter our country.
Even worse, the policy of local non-enforcement is defended by those who should know better on the basis that enforcement would be detrimental to the “fragile bonds of trust” between the law enforcement authorities and the illegal immigrant community. The culprits here are several—the employer/exploiters, the “one world/open border” crowd, and Anglo guilt for the plight of the illegals—but this duplicity is one more example of living a lie, and one that eats at the core of what citizenship in a republic under the rule of law should mean.
Thomas B. Edsall, who writes for The New Republic, is one of the most intellectually honest liberals I have read or heard. In a recent article, “Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power”, he credits the rise of the Republican majority to their superior resources of anger, ruthlessness, and cynicism fueled by the recent transformation of social forces. I was particularly struck by this comment about the very high incidence (about one-third) of out-of-wedlock births: “To social conservatives, these developments have signaled an irretrievable and tragic loss.
Their reaction has fueled, on the right, a powerful traditionalist movement and a groundswell of support for the Republican Party. To modernists, these developments constitute, at worst, the unfortunate costs of progress, and, at best—very much the view of the Democratic Party—they constitute a triumph over unconscionable obstacles to the liberation and self-realization of much of the human race.” Intellectual honesty, indeed.