Politics & Policy

Men We Love

In praise of a few good men.

Who are the men we here at National Review Online? Well we could make a pretty good list without going anywhere at all. Bill Buckley, Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg (his mother and his wife–who both appear below–would agree if allowed), Rick Brookhiser, Ramesh Ponnuru…see, it’s hard to stop? Taking the men of NR as a given, and our husbands and fathers and sons and brothers, too, NRO asked a group of ladies for a name or two of men NRO-reader types do, should, would love.

La Shawn Barber

Lynn Swann, the former pro football player, is considering seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Pennsylvania. The standing ovation he received at the Super Bowl was nothing compared to what awaits him. Not only is he devastatingly handsome, but he also volunteers his time working for charities and is the national spokesman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The married father of two even has a blog. With commenting!

Lynn Swann, popular and appealing, is a fresh face in the conservative movement. He’s definitely someone Republicans should support. I look forward to the day I can blog about Governor Swann!

La Shawn Barber is a freelance writer from Washington, D.C., and hosts a blog at www.lashawnbarber.com.

Myrna Blyth

Most people in media talk the talk. But once in a while there is a journalist who really walks the walk. Such a guy is Matt Pottinger, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, who is now a Second Lieutenant in the Marines. Matt spent seven years covering China for the Journal. Being there, he says, made him realize how rare the liberties Americans take for granted are in much of the world. He also found himself increasingly distracted by the war on terror.

On a visit home, Matt began to think about joining the Marines while roaming around the U.S.S. Intrepid Museum, which has a recruiting station on board. But Matt was 32 and out of shape and the recruitment officer doubted he could pass the physical. Matt went back to China and to filing stories. But while covering the tsunami in Thailand, he was impressed by the Marines who spearheaded the relief effort. He started training. Five months later he was accepted as an officer candidate. At his swearing-in ceremony, an officer joked, “It’s an honor to have somebody from the dark side, come over to our side.”

Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.

Barbara Comstock

He’s “The Great One.” The great brain, the great intellectual brawn, the great sense of humor, the great author, the great conservative commentator, the great American. For those of us in Washington, D.C., who have long been fans, we are thrilled that “Dr. Levin” now has his national radio show (that we can listen to on our way home now–he’s on 6:30 AM in Washington, D.C., 6-8 P.M.–and the rest of the country can get to know the man we so admire. Mark R. Levin was fighting for you long before most of you knew him. Now, enjoy him.

Barbara Comstock is a former Department of Justice spokeswoman and currently a principal with Blank Rome Government Relations.

Janice Shaw Crouse

I find nothing more attractive in a person than a clear-eyed passion for what is true and good. I first saw Phill Kline, attorney general for Kansas, a couple of years ago when we each gave testimony about an anti-sex-trafficking bill before the Kansas legislature. It took no special insight to recognize that here was a man from the heartland of America who speaks with the passion of William Jennings Bryan about wrongs that must be righted.

I’ve followed Kline’s career ever since. What an incredible joy to see that there are yet in America heroes emerging who speak great truths with simplicity, eloquence, and passion.

There are yet in America heroes who fiercely condemn wrong, but understand that we all stand in need of grace and mercy. No matter how severe Kline’s condemnation of wrong, he is a man who understands and believes in redemption because he knows suffering firsthand. He is a firebrand, a warrior, yet he is human to his core.

There are times and situations when a mere technical analysis of a person’s speaking style falls short in communicating the totality of a person or an event. Hearing Phill Kline talk about the evil of what he is convinced is the covering up of the rape of pre-teen girls by Planned Parenthood clinics to protect their abortion franchise is to understand the power of integrity, words, and passion in conveying the essential principles of decent people.

“Bloody Kansas” is once again a battleground where opposing forces are confronting basic principles of decency, honor, and justice. You have to love a man who is willing to take a strong stand for truth at great risk to himself and his family. It brings renewed hope for the future when you recognize the transforming potential of a real hero taking center stage in the national debates over the values that will shape America’s future.

Janice Shaw Crouse writes from Washington, D.C.

Jessica Gavora

I love George Clooney. I love him the way Tommy Lee loved Pamela, Frank loved Marilyn, and Doris loved Rock. I love him because he’s so darn cute.

And I know I’m not supposed to. The current issue of NRODT warns us that Clooney is the leading man of Hollywood liberal activism. But guess what? When they could have just as easily gone with the always perspicacious John J. Miller’s exposé on monarch butterflies (“our favorite butterflies”), they put Clooney on the cover. And why? Because they love him too. The suits know that there are millions of us fans who nodded off during Good Night and Good Luck but watched Ocean’s 11seven times just to catch Clooney’s earnest speech to Brad Pitt about how “the house always wins unless you bet big and you take the house.” We’re the ones who skipped Syriana to watch Ocean’s 12 (again), just to catch the scowl that infinitesimally creeps over Clooney’s perfect face during the meet with Matsui as the Matt Damon character launches into the first chorus of “Kashmir.”

And I know, I know. Ours would be a Carville-Matalin sort of thing (except that I have never been to Tim Russert’s chalet in Park City and Clooney is sooooooo much cuter than Carville it’s almost like he’s a different species). But so what? When he starts flapping his pretty gums about the unblemished track record of liberalism or the moral courage of Hollywood for taking on Joe McCarthy, I’ll just look into his eyes and tune him out. Men have been doing it for millennia.

So that’s it. I love George Clooney and I will go on loving him.

Until he loses his figure.

Jessica Gavora is author of Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex and Title IX.

Lucianne Goldberg

The first Valentine’s I ever sent was in the third grade. Then the only acceptable way to make such a commitment was not to sign it. Looking back, an unsigned mash note probably would have scared any number of eight-year-old boys half to death. Since I can’t be anonymous here, I just want to assure the men I cite that I will not stalk them. I will not push my way through a crowd to get their autograph nor make hang-up calls in the middle of the night. I promise I will never again embarrass them.

Dick Cheney, the Uber Daddy: Maybe it’s the sly, knowing smile that hides a teamster’s vocabulary that makes this man so macho. To me he is the essence of cool. I cannot imagine him raising his voice, getting flustered, angry, or non-plussed (even when someone runs in front of his shotgun). He is the kind of man you call if you are picked up for speeding and need bail. If you are sick as a dog or can’t get home or find yourself alone in the last grinding pangs of labor you call a Cheney kind of guy. When every other authority figure tells you “no,” Dick Cheney, because you are a woman and he seems to like them, would tell you “yes.” I always liked him, but two incidents sealed the deal. I was first introduced to him at a reception and, even though he didn’t know me, he leaned over and kissed me. Right then I was hooked. But, when it was suggested to him that a certain arrogant New York Times reporter was, in so many words, a fool, and he responded, “Big time!” I was cooked.

Tony Snow: The high-school class president you could never get a date with because he dated cheerleaders and the prettiest girl in the senior class. Tony is and surely always has been dazzlingly good looking and even if he weren’t, the sweetness he radiates would get an axe murderer off. If I didn’t love him before for this cloyingly trivial reason, his recent extraordinary bravery in the face of the most terrifying health crisis anyone can face would do it. He never whined, he never stopped saying he was going to be fine. He never gave up hope or his cheerful attitude in the face of excruciating pain. Because he insisted, he survived. His was true courage and the measure of a man. His family got him back, we got him back, and I can always pretend he took me to the prom.

Brian Lamb: There is something so attractive about a man who never uses the first person pronoun. Come on, admit it, have you ever heard Brian Lamb say “I” or “me”? If the brain is indeed a woman’s most erogenous zone, Brian Lamb could make “X”-rated movies just talking about history or philosophy or politics. Behind his back I once called him “the thinking woman’s sex symbol” and when the blabber mouth I said that to told him, I am informed, he turned crimson from neck to hairline. If I ever had to be in traction and couldn’t move for six months, I would want Brian Lamb in the next bed. That’s probably the only way he would agree to any such arrangement.

Brit Hume: Brit is the big brother you wished you had. The one who mussed your hair and taught you how to drive a stick shift and threatened to punch the lights out of the first guy who did you wrong. He doesn’t suffer fools and laughs at all the right stuff, and if, as his baby sister, you were in his wedding he would rig it so you caught the bouquet.

Thomas Sowell: A professor who writes and says things you can actually understand. He is true north on the intellectual compass and a tuning fork that finds the exact pitch to explain clearly the way the world works. If you don’t have the time or patience to get up to speed on political arcanery like the Kyoto Accords or global warming, just read Sowell and you’ll sort it out in minutes.

Mark Steyn: The Air Jordan of the English language, Steyn’s rants can be so desk-poundingly funny one gasps for air and immediately makes a listen-to-this phone call to a like minded friend. Steyn-induced laughter is not just medicine. Built on an exquisite sense of irony and righteous anger, it is a cure. Start reading Steyn when you feel down and by the last paragraph things look a lot better. The reason he’s getting a metaphorically huge padded satin heart Valentine festooned with cupids and ribbons is that, though profoundly straight, people who know say he sings show tunes.

Editor’s rules prevent me from saying who my two permanent Valentines are but they know they are my reason for living…and so, dear readers, do you.

Lucianne Goldberg is a syndicated talk-show host on Talk Radio Network and the publisher of the online news forum Lucianne.com.

Gail Heriot

‐When law students held the Federalist Society’s first meeting in 1981, no one dreamed that this ragtag group would grow to a distinguished nationwide organization of thousands of conservative/libertarian lawyers and law students (or that conspiracy-minded lunatics would imagine that the organization pulls the Bush administration’s strings!). Student-founded groups usually disappear when their founders graduate, and the Federalist Society might well have done so had those students not hired Eugene Meyer to be the organization’s leader.

He was an unlikely choice–an International Chess Master, not a lawyer. But his master strategy for the Federalist Society’s success has been simple: Provide an open forum for the intelligent discussion and debate of legal issues with the best, most knowledgeable speakers on all sides of the issues. Then let the chips fall.

It helps that Meyer has a genius for dealing with talented people with outsized egos–a skill he may have learned from his father, the late NR Senior Editor Frank Meyer. Son Gene does it by leaving his own ego at home–a trick that has allowed him to build the Federalist Society into an important institution that is transforming American legal culture. Dad would be proud.

‐”Mom, I think I met the smartest man in world this week.” I had just begun as a first year law student at the University of Chicago almost 28 years ago and was calling home to report on the first week of classes. “Are you sure, dear?” she responded carefully, “The world is rather large, you know.”

Well, maybe she was right that Richard Epstein, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, is not the smartest man in the world. But you can’t prove it by me. Through his extraordinary intellectual gifts, Epstein has done as much to fuel libertarian intellectual thought in the legal world as anyone alive. If you are interested in law or public policy and have any libertarian leanings at all, you should have an entire bookshelf dedicated to the complete works of Richard Epstein. Whoops! Make that six bookshelves.

By the way, Epstein isn’t just a man who can speak off the cuff on any subject in perfectly formed paragraphs. He’s also a great dancer–and a bit of a sweetheart. The combination makes for the perfect NRO valentine.

‐At first I didn’t understand it. Of all the members of the Reagan administration, Attorney General Edwin Meese always got the worst press. They hated him.

Then I cracked the code. When the mainstream media used the word “respected” to describe a member of the Reagan administration, they meant “not a conservative,” and when they used “highly respected,” they meant “leaks confidential information to us.” In contrast, when they used unflattering terms like “embattled”, they meant “effective advocate of the Reagan agenda.” And when they got really nasty and called somebody “a liability to the administration,” they meant “an effective advocate of the Reagan agenda who is too sweet and nice a guy to waste his time trying to retaliate against media low-lifes who take pot shots at him.” Yup, that’s Meese.

Meese is still hard at work in Washington. He’s now the Chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, where he is considered one of those rare creatures in the world of politics–a nice guy, the kind who actually enjoys other people’s successes. Here’s to you, General Meese! We think you’re … uh … “a liability to the administration.”

Gail Heriot is a professor of law at the University of San Diego.

Bridget Johnson

To anybody who reads my blog, my pick should be no surprise. Yes, I’ve called this fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom a “Heritage Hottie” and a “conservacutie,” but my admiration for Nile Gardiner really does extend beyond that damn adorable smile. The first time I saw him was on Neil Cavuto, telling a guy who blamed African poverty on imperialism and not corrupt governments that he was spouting nonsense–hot! Nile has an illustrious track record of putting the smackdown on Kofi Annan and consistently reminding the wavering to get tough on terror. He has fed us Oil-for-Food news, has John Bolton’s back, and has shone a spotlight on evil U.N. peacekeepers. He may not have a legion of fans in Brussels, but ’tis better to be feared than to be loved by the EU anyway! As political types from across the pond go, Nile is the antidote to George Galloway–and would never act like a cat on Big Brother. As on-air pundits go, Nile always keeps his cool, even when confronted by commentators whose idiocy level is in the stratosphere. Nile puts the “special” in the Anglo-American special relationship!

Bridget Johnson is a columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She blogs at GOP Vixen .

Wendy Long

This is Saint Valentine’s Day, taking its name from the young priest who lived in Rome in the third century and, like many of the early Christians, was imprisoned and martyred for his faith. The Feast of St. Valentine, on the February 14 anniversary of his death, grew to be associated with our love for one another and with the love of God for each of us. So it’s appropriate to include three great priests who have won–and saved–many hearts over the past year, particularly in the wake of the death of Pope John Paul II. These servants of God remind us, as Pope Benedict XVI states in his just-released first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, that “God is Love.” The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, traveled around Munich on his bicycle for his parish work, became one of the youngest and most popular theology professors in Germany, and as the Vatican’s chief theologian was a brilliant doctrinal enforcer of orthodoxy and timeless truth. Since he’s become pope, the world has also seen his smile of love, warmth, and humility. NRO devotees are still pinching ourselves: Can it be that Cardinal Ratzinger actually became the pope, in one of the quickest conclaves in recent history?

Father George Rutler and Father Gerald Murray, both priests of the archdiocese of New York–Fr. Rutler as pastor of Church of Our Saviour and Fr. Murray as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul–must be, with the Holy Father, at the top of the list of “Men We Love.”

Not coincidentally, they are the kind of priests who would also have made great husbands and fathers: brilliant, patient, hard-working, faithful, funny. They are both Dartmouth men too, embodiments of our college motto: “Vox Clamantis in Deserto.” Like the God of Isaiah 40:3, they are with the Holy Father on a mission into the wilderness, spreading the knowledge and love of God.

Fr. Murray (who in his spare time plays hockey at Chelsea Piers) has defended in the wilderness of New York the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage–a job worthy of St. Valentine. He also appeared widely on television after the death of Pope John Paul II, helping Americans to understand its significance. At one point, Geraldo Rivera asked Fr. Murray why people should not be entirely devastated by the Pope’s death. Fr. Murray replied that “the only ultimate sadness is eternal damnation to hell.”

Fr. Rutler’s prolific writings, media appearances, and weekly homilies are a feast of scriptural exegesis, literary and cultural references, and sharp perspective on current events. Last Easter, after noting how John Paul II’s final days revealed both the sanctity of life (hours after Terri Schiavo had been starved and dehydrated to death) and a holy natural death, Fr. Rutler noted that “The Risen Christ looks upon our Culture of Death as it goes through its own passion now, when the sanctity of life is challenged and the life of virtue is scorned.”

Fr. Rutler also once noted that “a well-known author refused to use exclamation points because it would be like laughing at one’s own jokes” and that “in original Scripture texts there are no punctuation marks as we use them.” Perhaps he’ll forgive one exclamation point: These great priests are Men We Love!

Wendy E. Long is legal counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network.

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Needless to say, our armed forces. We do the talking, complaining, and living freely. They do the heavy lifting–and then-some.

And our first responders. The Katrina no-shows in New Orleans should serve to remind us how much we take the guys who do report to work–responding to both the minor and the overwhelming calls–for granted.

A men-we-love list cannot end without a mention of El Rushbo. Or his comrade in clear-thinking-arms, Sean Hannity.

And, uh, ladies? We can’t forget to mention Chief Justice John Roberts, Bold Justice Samuel Alito, and the president who put ‘em there.

And we must, too, mention Judge Bill Pryor, who is sitting on a federal bench today, a fact that must make some Senate Dems scream in terror now and again. HOW WILL NARAL LEGISLATE THROUGH THE COURTS WITH MEN LIKE THESE…? Come to think of it…maybe I should just mention The Men of the Federalist Society, to cut this short. Then, I’ve got Ed Whelan and The Men of Bench Memos covered, as well as the next Supreme Court justice…(a girl can dream…)

Mitt Romney, because he took on Harvard on one of the most important issues of our day.

(And because anyone who reads The Corner and the occasional “Romney Watch” thread there would take a Romney non-mention here as a dramatic turn of events, and a vote for George Allen.)

And before we get to 2008, we should mention Rick Santorum, Michael Steele, Ken Blackwell, Steve Laffey…men we want to see win this year.

I love the truthiness of Stephen Colbert. Even when it’s not my kinda truthiness.

(Plus, he knows Steve Carrell, whom I’ve got the perfect Office spin-off idea for. It all takes place in the office of a conservative magazine…it can even be easily made into a British conservative magazine…!)

I hate these lists because they leave out way too many deserving names, in this case, men we love. But then, on the other hand, we love these men in part because they don’t need the recognition. Though I think Stephen Colbert really does. But only until his salary is higher than Jon Stewart’s.

I’m tempted, I confess, to keep mentioning names anyway, in part just for the reactions I’d get from the left side of the web. The man behind the Narnia movies, Micheal Flaherty…I’ll hand those Walden Media guys some NRO Oscar nods. Mel Gibson! Maybe I should second Lucianne’s Dick Cheney…by the way, Karl: That was some dramatic move, taking attention away from NSA wiretapping this weekend… Man, men…if only Wal-Mart were a man…

Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

Carrie Lukas

America lost one of its greatest capitalist-philanthropists last summer. And underprivileged children lost one of their greatest advocates.

John Walton–the second son of Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton–died in the crash of an experimental plane in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. His legacy lives on in the tens of thousands of children who owe him a debt of gratitude.

John Walton was a leader in the school-choice movement. In 1998, he pledged $50 million of his own money to help fund the Children’s Scholarship Fund, a charity that offered private-school tuition assistance for disadvantaged children. The program granted scholarships to 67,000 children.

Walton’s legacy extends far beyond bettering the lives of those who received his charity. His commitment to school choice helped launched a national movement dedicated to giving all children a shot at a quality education. School choice is expanding across America–from Milwaukee to Cleveland to Arizona to the District of Columbia. More than 100,000 children now attend private schools through publicly funded scholarships. School choice legislation is pending in numerous more states and Democrats face pressure to abandon their union allies by embracing these popular measures.

Children around the country are escaping failing government schools and receiving better educations due to John Walton. That’s a legacy worth celebrating.

Carrie Lukas is vice president for policy at the Independent Women’s Forum and a contributor to National Review Online.

Heather MacDonald

The man one must love? That would be Mozart, of course. Who else can levitate us into a realm of pure nobility and crush us with erotic passion bound into dark and intricate form?

Our culture has produced a superabundance of pundits, moralists, and entrepreneurs, but where is the man who can bring forth life-threatening beauty?

Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Frederica Mathewes-Green

In a life blessed by many strong and honorable men, worthy of love, the one I’d like to celebrate here is an 80-year-old priest. In 1948, at the age of 22, Father George Calciu was arrested and held in the dread Pitesti prison in Bucharest, Romania. That institution was designed specifically to break down and “re-educate”–brainwash–young men, in order to transform them into the ideal “Communist Man.” During this horrific experience, he saw the grace and fortitude with which imprisoned clergy bore and transformed their sufferings. After release he was ordained, and his bold preaching led to further arrests. His story is full of both life-threatening moments and miracles.

Although targeted for death by Ceaucescu, Fr. George survived and emigrated to the United States. He now pastors a small Romanian Orthodox Church in Alexandria, VA, and still works full-time, even at his age, even after quintuple bypass surgery. He is small of stature with a crown of white hair and a brilliant smile, and has seemingly limitless energy. His boldness is undiminished after all these decades; I think of him as a “little lion.” I am very blessed that Fr. George Calciu is my spiritual father and confessor.[MP1]

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes regularly for NPR’s Morning Edition, Beliefnet.com, Christianity Today, and other publications. She is the author of Gender: Men, Women, Sex and Feminism, among other books.

Jana Novak

After a decade in politics, I thought nothing could surprise me when it came to politicians. Then I studied George Washington. Founder of our nation, savvy politician, and great war general–yet preeminently, he embodies the core characteristic of what makes us American. His life tells us how we desire to spend our lives, individually and as a nation; guiding us, for example, with his belief in the importance of religion in a republic. His grasp of an American’s trepidation about power was exact, exemplifying Aldous Huxley’s observation that “Idealism is the noble toga that political gentlemen drape over their will to power.”

In the chaos at the war’s conclusion, several prominent military men felt a strong, single ruler–a king–was needed. There was only one man for the job–but instead, Washington was horrified. He replied: “…[N]o occurrence in the course of the War, has given me more painful sensations…I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country…you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable.”

How many politicians, when offered a crown, would walk away–blushing with embarrassment? It is George Washington’s exquisite understanding of the American soul that overwhelms most other great achievements of his day.

Jana Novak, who counts her fiancé, John, as the man she loves, is the co-author of Washington’s God (Perseus Books), and is a dog-walker on Capitol Hill.

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