Bench Memos

An Idyll

I have been AWOL from Bench Memos for a week by both choice and circumstance. The choice was one I made months ago to teach a seminar in South Carolina. The circumstance was that the seminar was so lively and engrossing that I had not a moment for communication with the outside world. Or, perhaps I should say, that I chose not to try. It was that much fun.

The Seminar topic was “Philosophical and Political Foundations of the American Republic.” My partner in leading the discussions was Brad Wilson, Associate Director of Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. (Many readers know that the brilliant scholar Robert George is head of that program.) Brad proved to be a terrific teacher; he made me look good by comparison in just one way: I chose him. The seminar participants were ten very sharp business and professional people. We read together the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist, and the Constitution.

The Seminar’s pupose was to re-create the world the founders inhabited and which they tried to preserve (in broad outline) for their descendants. I think the consensus (but not universal) view of those present was that the founders built very well indeed, but also that their world is just about unretrievably gone. The question we debated at Seminar’s end was, in fact, whether globalization had rendered the founders’ ideas irrelevant. I think that the house ended up undivided on the resolution.

Our nonpareil host was a (much) larger than life polymath named Buckley. Reid Buckley that is, youngest of the Buckley Boys.The Seminar is part of the regular programming of the Buckley School for Public Speaking, in Camden, South Carolina, a dear old town which is an integral part of the whole Buckley School experience. This Camden is a lot different than the one in New Jersey. In this Camden they call any house built since 1920 “new construction.” In this Camden you can have lunch at the antebellum mansion of Civil War diarist Mary Boykin Chestnut, and dinner in the Lord Cornwallis House. (He’s the very decent chap who threw the Revolution our way.) In this Camden — and if you are lucky — you can share cocktails at Reid’s house with NRO columnist Kathleen Parker, as we did a few nights ago.

So where is this post going? To a book which I discovered on Reid’s desk, which I then bought at the airport Borders, and which I have not put down since. It is a marvelous read, and a book everyone reading these words should get. The book is called An American Family: The Buckleys. The author knows more than a little about his topic. His name is Reid Buckley.

Most Popular

White House

The Damning Inspector General’s Report

It is hard to believe that the run-up to the presidential-election year has plumbed such a depth of farcical degradation. It must be that Trump’s influence has contributed to unserious responses, but he can’t be blamed for the unutterable nonsense of his opponents and the straight men of the political class ... Read More
White House

The Damning Inspector General’s Report

It is hard to believe that the run-up to the presidential-election year has plumbed such a depth of farcical degradation. It must be that Trump’s influence has contributed to unserious responses, but he can’t be blamed for the unutterable nonsense of his opponents and the straight men of the political class ... Read More
World

Present at the Demolition

Economists at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund must feel pretty lucky these days. They work for just about the only institutions set up in the aftermath of World War II that aren't in the middle of an identity crisis. From Turtle Bay to Brussels, from Washington to Vienna, the decay of the economic ... Read More
World

Present at the Demolition

Economists at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund must feel pretty lucky these days. They work for just about the only institutions set up in the aftermath of World War II that aren't in the middle of an identity crisis. From Turtle Bay to Brussels, from Washington to Vienna, the decay of the economic ... Read More
Elections

Diversity Panic Hits the Democratic Field

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Asian guy, two black guys, three white women (one of whom spent much of her life claiming to be Native American), a Pacific Islander woman, a gay guy, a Hispanic guy, two elderly Caucasian Jews (one a billionaire, the other a socialist), a self-styled Irishman, and a ... Read More
Elections

Diversity Panic Hits the Democratic Field

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Asian guy, two black guys, three white women (one of whom spent much of her life claiming to be Native American), a Pacific Islander woman, a gay guy, a Hispanic guy, two elderly Caucasian Jews (one a billionaire, the other a socialist), a self-styled Irishman, and a ... Read More
World

Well . . . .

So much for my prophecies of doom. Britain's Conservatives won, and they won with a very healthy parliamentary majority, breaking through Labour’s “red wall” across the industrial (and post-industrial) Midlands and the North. The BBC: Leave-voting former mining towns like Workington, which was seen as ... Read More
World

Well . . . .

So much for my prophecies of doom. Britain's Conservatives won, and they won with a very healthy parliamentary majority, breaking through Labour’s “red wall” across the industrial (and post-industrial) Midlands and the North. The BBC: Leave-voting former mining towns like Workington, which was seen as ... Read More
White House

The Costs of Trivializing Impeachment

Resorting to a vague “abuse of power” theory, the House Judiciary Committee Friday morning referred two articles of impeachment to the full House on the inevitable party-line vote. The full House will impeach the president next week, perhaps Wednesday, also on the inevitable party-line vote. The scarlet ... Read More
White House

The Costs of Trivializing Impeachment

Resorting to a vague “abuse of power” theory, the House Judiciary Committee Friday morning referred two articles of impeachment to the full House on the inevitable party-line vote. The full House will impeach the president next week, perhaps Wednesday, also on the inevitable party-line vote. The scarlet ... Read More