Friday, December 09, 2011

To vote or not to vote--for Gingrich

Christian philosopher Francis Beckwith has a post today at the Catholic Thing in which he recounts one of our many evening conversations over coffee when we were in grad school. As he recounts it, in an attempt to convert him over to the conservative cause, I had recommended that he read Newt Gingrich's book Window of Opportunity: Blueprint for the Future.

This is the Francis Beckwith who rocked the theological world by converting to Catholicism while he was the president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He is now in the philosophy dept. at Baylor University.

I honestly don't remember having done this, but I'm going to trust him on it because the sands of time have worn away much of my memory of that time when Frank and I used to meet at JoJo's after class.

Unlike most people I recommend books to, Frank actually read the ones I recommended to him, which is one of the reasons that I now claim credit for all of his incredible successes in world of academic philosophy. Hey, it's a lot easier claim credit for Frank's successes than it is to have achieved them myself.

In any case, he recounts the impact the book had on his political thought. But the post has a surprise ending: he says he is not going to vote for Gingrich.

So I have decided to pay him the biggest compliment I know how to give: I am going to argue with him. Maybe, just maybe, I can call up the old magic and influence him again. I intend to post it on Monday, and to call it, "Why Francis Beckwith should vote for Newt Gingrich."

My goal is to one day be tottering around the Old Bloggers Rest Home (which I hope will be in the same complex as the Old Philosophers Home)  with a walker and to run into Frank, who, tottering around with a walker himself, will, as he recalls the old days, reminisce about the time I succeeded in convincing him to vote for Gingrich.

Stay tuned.

29 comments:

Francis J. Beckwith said...

And it would be doubly ironic since I will likely have served as his Ambassador to the Vatican.

KyCobb said...

As someone hoping Obama is reelected, I would also urge Francis to vote for Newt in the GOP primary.

Martin Cothran said...

KyCobb,

You may have a point there.

Art said...

Fear not - Mitt's competing:

(From http://www.borowitzreport.com/)

Falling in Polls, Romney Considers Adultery
Huddles with Advisors About Possible Affair

CONCORD, NH (The Borowitz Report)– Troubled by his fading poll numbers, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is considering a bold strategy to reboot his Presidential campaign: engaging in a high-profile extramarital affair.

At a press conference in Concord, New Hampshire today Mr. Romney confirmed that he was consulting with senior advisors about the best way to proceed with an inappropriate relationship.

“Republican voters have sent the message that they want to vote for an adulterer and I have heard them loud and clear,” he said. “I promise that I will engage in a world-class extramarital affair that will make all of us proud again.”

Singring said...

I have to admit, it *is* a tough field of contenders in the Republican primary this year.

Who could possibly choose when you have a guy who can't remember his own financial plan, a woman who would close a non-existant US embassy in Iran, a guy who thinks child labour laws are 'stupid' and who lobbied for Fanny/Mac while vilifying them? But then there's also the guy who would cut five government departments right off the bat and who thinks it perfectly fine to leave someone critically ill to find a charity to help them out (tough luck if they don't)? Or how about the two guys who are wearing magic underwear?

Decisions, decisions...

You know, I somehow wish the guy with the affair who proudly cites Pokemon songs and has 'all these things flying around in his head' when he thinks about Libya were still in the race. That '999' line was so catchy!

Lee said...

The Republican Party's relationship with its conservative base is eerily similar to Lucy's relationship with Charlie Brown.

Every fall, Lucy pretends to hold the football for Charlie Brown, only to yank it away at the last minute, leaving him flat on his back.

Every election year, the GOP pretends to be conservative for its conservative base, only when elected to seek "bipartisanship", i.e., capitulation to liberal policies and acquiescence to liberal ideas.

When Newt isn't sounding like a conservative, all it means is that he doesn't want your vote for anything in particular that year. He prefers to use the time in between years divisible by four to sound like a nut. When he's not touting strange books by Alvin Toffler, he's joining hands with Nancy Pelosi on global warming, or criticizing conservatives who don't want the GOP to support and give money to liberals like Dede Scozzafava.

His main opponent is the man who implemented mini-ObamaCare in Massachusetts. So the GOP offers a choice between a nut and a socialist. Of course these are not mutually exclusive categories. In addition to being a nut, Gingrich may be a socialist too, for all I know -- who knows how many ideologies are rattling around in his belfry.

And in addition to being a socialist, Romney may also be a nut. He does look better in a suit, but some of us think the suit is empty.

In this country, we have two parties in favor of big government. The only difference is that one of them is forced to sound like it is in favor of small government for a brief time in even-numbered years.

Singring said...

'Every election year, the GOP pretends to be conservative for its conservative base, only when elected to seek "bipartisanship", i.e., capitulation to liberal policies and acquiescence to liberal ideas.'

So almost forcing the US into default by holding debt ceiling negotiations hostage to ideology is 'bipartisan'? Signing pledges that one will never, under any circumstances, raise any taxes at all is 'bipartisan'??? Refusing to cut military budgets despite ridiculous spending is 'bipartisan'?

'And in addition to being a socialist, Romney may also be a nut.'

Romney is a *socialist*?!

Lee, all due respect, but I don't think you have the faintest idea of what socialism is.

Politics in the US are in an even more dire state than I feared if the electorate has been so misinformed that it now considers the likes of Mitt Romney 'socialists'.

Lee said...

> Lee, all due respect, but I don't think you have the faintest idea of what socialism is.

I think I've picked up on enough of it over the years at least to know what socialism isn't.

Socialism isn't whatever they had in the last country where it failed. If it fails, then they did it wrong.

Singring said...

'Socialism isn't whatever they had in the last country where it failed. If it fails, then they did it wrong.'

Your ascerbic whit aside, this statement clearly reveals your misunderstanding of socialism. Socialism is an umbrella political philosophy with many different shadings - just like Capitalism. On the extreme end of socialism is Communism, on the extreme end of Capitalism is Anarchy.

Communism has failed in several places, you are absolutely right. That's why I'm not a communist.

I'm a socialist. I'm a socialist who believes in the European model of a social marketplace that is tightly regulated. I believe in a society in which taxation is progressive and in which those who earn the most pay a higher rate of tax (I would support a top income tax bracket of somewhere between 50 and 70 %, for example). I believe in a society where these revenues are used to support the poor, the sick, the unfortunate, by providing universal healthcare and adequate welfare benefits. I believe ins a state in which *some* parts of all major and essential industries are publicly owned - including a part of the banking sector, public transport, postal services, energy production and natural resources.

Now, regardless of what you personally think of all these socialist policy principles - can you name which of these positions Mitt Romney supports? Heck, can you name which of these positions the supposed 'uber-socialist' Obama supports?

In fact, can you name any member of the House of Representatives that prescribes to any of these principles (besides Bernie Sanders)?

And yet you throw about the term 'socialist' as if it appied to the majority of American politicians. It's absurd and the US is in a very dangerous place politically if someone like Romney is being called a 'socialist' - because the political spectrum has then been reduced to such a narrow sliver on the far right that meaningful political debate is dead.

In countries with a healthy policitical landscape, like Germany, we have parties on the far left and the far right and everything in between.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

I believe at one time socialism was the government owning the means of production for use on behalf of the working class. Now even when the stock market is booming, if the government provides any social safety net at all its considered "socialist". As recently as 2008, the individual healthcare mandate was a mainstream republican proposal endorsed by the Heritage Foundation, supported by the GOP congressional leadership in the nineties and enacted by a GOP governer. It wasn't even an issue when conservatives like Rush Limbaugh endorsed Romney as a "true conservative" against McCain. Then the individual mandate was included in Obama's healthcare plan, modeled on Romney's, and it magically transformed from being a conservative plan based on individual responsibility to an evil socialist plot to destroy America. Funny, that.

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said...

> Now, regardless of what you personally think of all these socialist policy principles - can you name which of these positions Mitt Romney supports?

Romney supports none of them. Now. During an election year. Out loud. At the national level.

But when he was busy installing RomneyCare in Massachusetts, he was supporting the following:

-- "a social marketplace that is tightly regulated."

-- "revenues are used to support the poor, the sick, the unfortunate [or at least whomever the state decides is qualified], by providing universal healthcare and adequate welfare benefits."

And perhaps even this one:

-- "*some* parts of all major and essential industries are publicly owned."

Lee said...

KyCobb,

> I believe at one time socialism was the government owning the means of production for use on behalf of the working class...

I think the concept of ownership is perhaps flexible enough to add an element of ambiguity.

E.g., even though ownership may imply control to many people, if the government has enough laws, regulations, judges and marshals, it can effectively wrest control from the nominal owners.

Ownership may also imply that the owners themselves will be the ones to benefit from appreciation of an object's value, or to suffer from its depreciation. But again, given sufficient levels of government taxes, penalties, labor laws, mandated expenses and what not, profit and loss too can be illusory.

By my way of thinking, a liberal is simply a socialist who has figured out that the state does not need to possess nominal ownership of an asset in order to exert the kinds of power usually associated with ownership. You may think you can judge the degree of socialism solely by whose name is on the stocks or the deeds. I still think one should also judge it by who makes the decisions regarding control of property and the distribution of its fruits.

> Now even when the stock market is booming, if the government provides any social safety net at all its considered "socialist".

If you can characterize the government's current participation in such activities as "any at all", then anything short of 100% is likely to be too little to please you.

> As recently as 2008, the individual healthcare mandate was a mainstream republican proposal endorsed by the Heritage Foundation, supported by the GOP congressional leadership in the nineties and enacted by a GOP governer.

So your argument is that if Heritage is for it, and Heritage is conservative, and I am conservative, I should therefore always be for it. Correct?

> It wasn't even an issue when conservatives like Rush Limbaugh endorsed Romney as a "true conservative" against McCain.

So your argument is that if Rush is for Romney, and Rush is conservative, and I am conservative, I should therefore be for Romney. Correct?

> Then the individual mandate was included in Obama's healthcare plan, modeled on Romney's, and it magically transformed from being a conservative plan based on individual responsibility to an evil socialist plot to destroy America. Funny, that.

Almost as funny as the fact that nowhere did I in my argument endorse what Romney did. I don't. In fact, I called him a name for doing it. "Socialist."

And the jury is still out with regard to whether socialized medicine is an evil plot, or just a stupid one.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

Since you are not the arbiter of what conservatism is, I think its perfectly appropriate to point out that lots of conservatives were for the individual mandate before they were against it.

Lee said...

> Since you are not the arbiter of what conservatism is, I think its perfectly appropriate to point out that lots of conservatives were for the individual mandate before they were against it.

So, Heritage = "lots of conservatives"?

And by the way, in case it matters whether Heritage changes its mind (did the individual mandate take away that right, too?), be advised that Heritage changed its mind.

Lee said...

I should probably add that I measure conservative progress, or regress, not by what certain individuals labeled "conservative" say or do, but by whether policy upholds or tears down conservative principles.

Ushering in a state-level socialized medical plan with an individual mandate is, in my view, in opposition of conservative principles, regardless which political party label is attached to the state governor, and regardless which radio personalities or think-tanks think it's wonderful.

But c'mon. I'm sure you can come up with more red herrings than these.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

"And by the way, in case it matters whether Heritage changes its mind (did the individual mandate take away that right, too?), be advised that Heritage changed its mind."

Of course they did. If Obama came out in favor of breathing, conservatives would denounce it as a socialist plot and hold their breaths until they passed out.

Lee said...

> Of course they did. If Obama came out in favor of breathing, conservatives would denounce it as a socialist plot and hold their breaths until they passed out.

Oh, you mean the way liberals behaved when Bush was president...?

Well, I haven't heard too many conservatives complain about the fact that Obama has kept Gitmo going. Maybe Ron Paul or Pat Buchanan has. I don't normally consult those particular chicken guts.

I do have to admit I was somewhat more enamored of Romney in 2008. It seems independent of principled thought, admittedly, but one's opponent is somehow able to make one look like a decent alternative, if the opponent is horrifying enough.

Within the GOP, Romney was the alternative to McCain.

I'd rather have my hemorrhoids popped like zits and stitched up with barbed wire than have to wake up every morning to President McCain.

Ergo, Romney looked decent.

Think of him as the next-to-ugliest girl in the saloon at 2 AM.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

This is OT, but there is a good article on Slate explaining how conservatives are recognizing the correct way to interpret the original intent of the 14th Amendment is the way I explained it to you:

What conservatives such as Olson and Calabresi have slowly been recognizing is that it is inappropriate to look to the intentions of the Framers of the 14th Amendment to trump the actual text they wrote, the cardinal sin in constitutional interpretation if ever there were one. It is the text that guides and binds judges, and the text of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment broadly supports protection of fundamental rights and equality under the law for all persons, not just former slaves. In ratifying the 14th Amendment, the American people redeemed the Constitution from the sin of slavery by adding to our foundational charter a universal guarantee of equality, covering every person in the United States. As Calabresi emphasizes, under the original meaning of that text, all systems of caste and subordination violate the 14th Amendment.

Lee said...

Somehow, the actual text matters, but not the actual meaning behind the actual text. The actual text is carved in stone, but the meaning is free to change in anyway that you like, so long as it produces your desired outcome.

Like many of your other judgments, to my ears, this one sounds arbitrary.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

"Like many of your other judgments, to my ears, this one sounds arbitrary."

But to me, it seems arbitrary to limit the scope of the words of the Constitution based on your ability to read the minds of men dead for more than a century.

Lee said...

It's just that I don't see much difference between saying the text is king and making the meaning of the text bow to what you want, or saying that the text is not king to begin with.

Either way, the Constitution is rendered effectively into mush. Meaningless except for whatever arbitrary meaning they assign to it.

If the Constitution can mean anything, then ultimately it means nothing.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

I'm not saying it means anything. I'm only saying it means what it says, which is that no state can deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. You are the one who wants to add qualifiers which aren't in the text.

Lee said...

> I'm not saying it means anything.

I know. You're just saying it means anything you want it to mean.

And all you have to do is to change the meaning of important terms that meant something else when the Constitution was written.

If the definition of the word "religion" was expanded to include public orgies, for example, then now all of a sudden the First Amendment protects public orgies. It's not what the Framers had in mind at all. It's not what the states thought they were ratifying at the time. It's not the definition of religion that has served for thousands of years.

But a couple of strokes of the pen in Webster's Third, and thanks to the endless malleability of language itself, we have a new "right".

If the text is important, so is the meaning behind the text. I know a shell game when I see one.

Lee said...

To expand on my earlier comment, when meaning of language is changed in order to change the meaning of the Constitution, it doesn't have to be in the area of granting more rights. Changing the meaning of language can be also used as a method of taking away rights.

Case in point:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2397450,00.asp

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press. What did the Founding Fathers mean by "freedom of the press"? They meant the freedom to discuss and disseminate ideas without Congress outlawing it. They meant that anyone, you, me, Thomas Paine, could write and distribute pamphlets and newspapers critical of the government. You didn't need a license; it was your right as an American citizen.

But a federal judge has recently ruled that First Amendment protection does not protect bloggers because they aren't professional journalists.

The text of the First Amendment is clear: freedom of the press is protected.

But the language has changed its meaning: freedom of the press now means freedom only of the commercial press; independent bloggers are not protected.

See how easy that was?

KyCobb said...

Lee,

Interesting example. It reminds me of how you have defined "any person" as meaning "any heterosexual person."

KyCobb said...

Lee,

"If the definition of the word "religion" was expanded to include public orgies, for example, then now all of a sudden the First Amendment protects public orgies."

Statutes which regulate behavior and are religiously neutral are enforceable. So, for example, parents can be prosecuted for allowing children to die of easily treatable illnesses if they rely on faith healing.

Lee said...

> Interesting example. It reminds me of how you have defined "any person" as meaning "any heterosexual person."

I find it far more interesting how you have defined a protected class of people based on a feeling.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

I'm not asking that they be protected, merely that they receive equal protection, as required by the 14th amendment.