Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why media conservatives hate John McCain

One of the most frustrating aspects of this election season has been the willingness of our allies in the conservative media to outsmart themselves by supporting liberal Republicans. Some of them latched on to one of these "moderates" from day one. The most egregious example of this tendency is Sean Hannity, who must feel a bit foolish for his slavish promotion of Giuliani, given Rudy's inglorious performance at the polls.

Hugh Hewitt also gets raspberries for becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Romney, Inc. One wonders if the FEC will be investigating Hewitt for all the free advertising he has given the Republican version of John Kerry. Personally, I'm more than a little insulted by Hewitt's shameless pumping of liberal Mitt under a micro-thin pretense of impartiality. I hope his audience share has suffered accordingly.

Other hosts, not nearly so audacious in their error (Rush Limbaugh most predominant among them), withheld their support from good conservative candidates until it was too late to do much good.

So now three weak sisters remain, with John McCain appearing as the most likely to limp to the nomination. Yet somehow, someway, the media conservatives have decided to rally around Mitt Romney who is perhaps the most liberal of the remaining three in terms of his record. With the sole exception of Michael Medved who, after a worrisome start, has been a level-headed, equal-access paragon of Republican impartiality throughout this extended campaign, the vast majority of media conservatives are now going after McCain hammer and tongs.

Which brings me to a quesiton that's been haunting me for the past month: What's so bad about John McCain that the supposed lights of the conservative movement would rather support a pandering, phony, northeastern liberal like Mitt Romney? I'm no fan of McCain, myself. Indeed, I've called him just about every name in the book over the past eight years. But at least with McCain, you know what you're getting and we can gear up for a serious fight after he gets elected.

With Romney, the GOP base is likely to be lulled into a false sense of security--until he goes Arlen Specter on us. Mitt had a strange propensity in Massachusetts to allow liberalism to advance on all fronts--and help it from behind the scenes--while putting on a dog-and-pony show of opposition. A crypto-liberal like Romney in the White House would be infinitely more dangerous to conservative causes than a mushy moderate like McCain. And given what has happened to the GOP in Massachusetts post-Romney, conservatives could be looking at another 40 years in the wilderness following a Romney term.

So why are these intelligent, plugged-in media conservatives willing to get on board the Romney bandwagon and reject McCain with extreme prejudice? It has to be more than mere political differences. Here's a theory that popped into my head to explain this phenomenon: the animus displayed by media conservatives toward McCain comes not from any true ideological difference, but mainly from fear that McCain would threaten their livelihood.

Last night, I got a bit of confirmation of this theory. A talkshow host who frequents a major forum posted the following:
McCain is a disaster...This should concern all conservatives, in and out of talk radio....At least the best in talk radio, and most of talk radio’s audience, have tried to stop this day from coming....But you go ahead and attack talk radio. I am sure McCain, with his great regard for the First Amendment and the Constitution, will be working with Kennedy, et al, to punish it.
I'm not saying this statement is wrong. McCain has shown himself to be on the wrong side of this issue with his ludicrous campaign finance "reform" act. But let's remember, McCain & Feingold may have been the catalysts for this piece of legislation--but President Bush signed it. I don't recall too many media conservatives holding a similar long-standing grudge against the President for his part in limiting their speech.

What I want to know from our friends in conservative media is this:

1. Is your extreme negative position on McCain based predominantly on worries about your ability to continue to make a (very) comfortable living in a McCain administration?

2. Has Mitt Romney made any soto voce promises to leave talk-radio alone?

I think we, your audience, have a right to know. If that's the case--fine. Come out and say it publicly and make it clear that you are not simply making a political case for "anyone but McCain" but are also lobbying to preserve your livelihood. Otherwise, all this vitriol about how awful and liberal McCain is and how conservatives need to rally around an even bigger liberal like Mitt Romney makes no sense...

...unless you guys really have become more media than conservative.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why is this book a classic?

I was one of the lucky ones who managed to make it through high school without having to read The Catcher in the Rye. However, I was recently challenged on J. D. Salinger's "magnum opus" and, having never read it, I could not respond other than to say, "Don't know." So in the interest of informing myself on the subject, I read it and as I did so, the first thing that popped into my head was this quote from the "Current Communist Goals", a list read into the Congressional Record in January of 1963 by Florida Democrat A. S. Herlong, Jr., based on the research of Cleon Skousen in The Naked Communist:
25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.
There is so much wrong with this book, that it can't possibly qualify as anything like a classic on the strength of Salinger's writing skills alone. In brief, The Catcher in the Rye is a tale of Holden Caulfield, a neurotic, narcissistic sixteen year-old from an upper crusty family who flunks out of prep school and spends a night of debauchery in New York City. Holden has a penchant for calling everyone a phony, yet it soon becomes obvious that he's the biggest phony of them all. The narrative style is first person, so the reader is forced to endure Holden's puerile blather throughout the entirety of the work. The fact that his younger brother died tragically is supposed to add a level of pathos to the story, and I suppose provide an excuse for why Holden acts and thinks the way he does. But in my opinion, the uninspired plot is totally coincidental to what made this book "special" and how it has become a "must read" for every high school student.

This book was (and is) a vehicle for introducing young people to obscenity and "alternative lifestyles"--and making them seem normal, at least in comparison to the occasionally judgmental but always hypocritical main character. The amount of pointless vulgarity and blasphemous language contained in The Catcher in the Rye is so overwhelming, even by today's standards, that the reader quickly becomes numb to it. It was apparently one of the first mass market books to incorporate the phrase "f--k you", and no doubt that made it immediately attractive to those with an agenda of breaking down societal standards.

Salinger is a sloppy writer, with stream-of-consciousness tangents flowing out in every direction. Some of these are meant to be profound, I suppose, but their profundity never reaches above frat-house-level philosophy. Some might say that this was Salinger's point--to recreate the ribald banter and egotistical musings of upper-class teenagers. But to what end? Such talk is trite and tiresome in person, let alone when encountered in the written word.

On the whole, there is nothing inspired or inspiring about The Catcher in the Rye. I can't imagine how anyone who reads it will come away with any positive insights into life, the world, or the human condition--negative ones abound, of course. Recalling how naïve I was as a teenager, I can readily imagine the kind of impact a book like this might have had on me, particularly in light of the false gravitas English professors are wont to bestow upon the works they select for study.

And that brings us back to the question of how this book achieved such status that seemingly every American high school student must be exposed to it. Again, a scanning of the Current Communist Goals may be instructive:
17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers' associations. Put the party line in textbooks.
Old Uncle Joe knew what he was doing, apparently.

If you are a young person whose professor has selected The Catcher in the Rye as part of your course work, you should take it as an insult. Imagine as you read that this is how your professor views you and everyone in your age bracket--as moody, ill-spoken, amoral losers who awkwardly seek sexual encounters and intoxication at every turn without a second thought. If you don't view yourself that way, I would encourage you to read something better, more positive, and more uplifting--like the book that would have been my favorite as a teenager had it been available at that time: Angels in Iron.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

El Cid: God's Own Champion

I'm embarrassed to admit that I have almost no knowledge of Rodrigo Diaz of Vivar, known to history as El Cid, the national hero of Spain. In this, sadly, I suspect I'm not alone among Americans. Thus, I was happy to receive El Cid, God's Own Champion: The True Story of the Knight of Vivar, a new book by James Fitzhenry.

The book is a historical narrative, meant specifically for older kids, perhaps ages 12 and up. It is well written and Fitzhenry's prose has an easy grace that flows well and keeps the reader's attention. Based mainly on Ramon Menendez Pidal's work, The Cid and His Spain, the text chronicles the amazing life of El Cid and gives a glimpse into a time when the threat of radical Islam was even more immediate and dangerous than it is today. The Iberian peninsula in the 11th century was rent with conflicts between the various petty Christian and Islamic principalities, and it was not uncommon for Christian nobles to ally with Islamic ones against other Christians--and vice-versa. Into this confusing morass enters El Cid, an unconquerable hero who accomplishes what seems impossible with the barest handful of men. In this he reminded me of the late Roman hero, Belisarius who found phenomenal military success against similarly daunting odds.

But El Cid's successes provoked the jealousy of his rivals who had the ear of King Alfonso of Castile. Time and again, Alfonso punished and exiled his greatest champion, but through all the injustice, El Cid remained unwaveringly loyal, ever seeking to win back the good graces of his sovereign. In this, too, El Cid's story echoes that of Belisarius who was also unjustly slandered by jealous rivals and who suffered, as a result, the suspicion and punishments of his master, the Emperor Justinian. Of course, the difference is that while Hollywood has made an epic version of the life of El Cid, it has not yet done so for Belisarius. Perhaps this is for the best, however, given what Hollyweird has become these days.

Fitzhenry also portrays El Cid as a paragon of Christian manhood. He is honest to a fault, pious, and humble before his king. He also shows mercy to his enemies and repeatedly tries to win the allegiance of the faithless Muslims of Valencia who repay his friendly overtures and honest justice with sedition and rebellion.

Overall, I enjoyed El Cid, God's Own Champion very much. Because it serves as both a history lesson and an inspiring tale of Catholic manhood, it is an ideal book for parents to read with their kids.

Five stars for this one.

An American Story--My Grandfather's Son by Justice Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas is someone that I have admired since I first became aware of him in the early 1990s. As soon as this autobiography appeared, I knew I had to read it. Now that I have done so, I think it needs to be read by anyone and everyone. It offers an inspirational road map to achievement, and devastates the notion that Blacks may advance only with a hand-up from the Democrat party or a hand-out from the government.

As should be obvious from the title, My Grandfather's Son is a paean to Thomas's grandfather, Myers Anderson. "Daddy" as Thomas called him, was one of those honest, religious, tough as boot-leather men who used to proliferate in America. He taught Thomas the value of work--hard work--faith, an education, honesty, and self-respect. In the past, such men helped shape and mold future Supreme Court justices. In our degenerate, emasculated culture today, they'd probably be hauled before child protective services.

Thomas includes some memorable chestnuts from his grandfather in the book, among them:
"Old Man Can't is dead—I helped bury him."
"Hard times makes a monkey eat cayenne pepper."
Thomas's view of the Catholic Church and the status of his first marriage is somewhat problematic. His grandfather was a devout Catholic, and Thomas himself attended Catholic school in his youth. His own personal devotion was such that he entered the seminary with his grandfather's blessing. Unfortunately, the racial problems of the 1960s created conflicts between him and his fellow seminarians and left Thomas disillusioned. He eventually left the seminary, wrongly ascribing the racist attitudes of some of his fellow seminarians to the Church as a whole.

The rest of his early life was one of moral confusion. He dissolved his first marriage for reasons that remain vague but seem best explained by immaturity and an inability to sacrifice his own needs for the sake of his wife and young son. He was also a heavy drinker. To his credit, Thomas overcame his alcohol problem and obviously feels considerable guilt about his treatment of his first wife to this day.

The story of how he battled back from the angst, frustration, and moral failings of his early years dominates the middle of the book. Thomas chronicles his intellectual development--his transition from an angry Black radical to a conservative. He came to believe that government intervention is ineffective in helping Blacks and that in the case of issues like forced busing, it had done more harm than good. The result of this intellectual shift is that he was effectively ostracized by other Blacks in his circles for whom the doctrine of the political left was not to be questioned.

Thomas's description of his bruising battle for a seat on the Supreme Court is perhaps the most riveting part of the book. Thomas is effusive in his praise of those who provided moral, political, and spiritual support for him during this protracted fight, John Danforth in particular. He also pulls no punches when it comes to identifying the frauds and slanderers who attempted to destroy him. Joe Biden, Howard Metzenbaum, and (not surprisingly) Anita Hill end up appearing positively villainous along with the entire spectrum of pressure groups on the political left.

By the end of My Grandfather's Son, it becomes very obvious that the political left did far more to destroy this talented Black man than the KKK ever could have. It leaves one wondering how many others the left has beaten down and demoralized to the point that they just surrendered. As Thomas's mother, Leola, is quoted as saying in the aftermath of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings:
"I ain't never votin' fo' another Democrat as long as I can draw breath. I'd vote for a dog first."
If more Blacks came to that realization, it would be to the benefit of the entire country.

Reading this book will also be a stark reminder of the intellectual bankruptcy of the women's movement in the United States. The same radical feminists who attempted to destroy Clarence Thomas using trumped up charges of sexual harassment were nowhere to be found when, a mere six years later, a Democrat president was demonstrated to be guilty of exactly the same kind of tawdry, disgraceful behavior. Wait, I take that back. They were to be found--supporting and exonerating the harasser and excoriating the whistle-blower.

In short, this book is fascinating, moving, well-written, and highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand who Clarence Thomas is and where he came from.

Monday, January 07, 2008

More reasons to run from Flip Romney if you're a Republican

Hat tip to Diogenes on Free Republic for these quotes from Boston newspapers about Flip Romney:
"During the four years of Romney’s tenure, the number of registered Republicans in Massachusetts fell by 31,000. During that same period, the Massachusetts Democratic Party gained 30,000." (Boston Globe 11/2/2006)
“The Massachusetts Republican Party died last Tuesday. The cause of death: failed leadership. The party is survived by a few leftover legislators and a handful of county officials and grassroots activists who have been ignored for years. Services will be public and a mass exodus of taxpayers will follow. In lieu of flowers, send messages to New Hampshire Republican voters warning them about a certain presidential candidate named Romney.” (Boston Herald, 11/12/2006)
“Romney arrived on the scene with great promise, but is leaving the Republican Party here in shambles. Not only are the Republicans yielding the governor’s office for the first time in 16 years, but registered Republicans have fallen by 31,000 since Romney took office, and their legislative presence is at historic lows. But it worked out fine for him: He is now chasing the prize he really covets, the presidency.” (Boston Globe 11/8/2006)
Hey Republicans--if you want the national GOP to resemble the Massachusetts GOP--a pale, impotent reflection of the Democrats--vote for Flip.