The Corner

Back From a Long Weekend

So let me tie up a few loose ends. First, I see that Jonah has mentioned Walter Olson’s response to my post on Virginia and same-sex civil unions. Justin Katz has written a response to Olson. Katz, incidentally, is a smart social conservative blogger who, judging from some of his recent posts, could use some tip-jar visits from fans.

Second, I don’t know if anyone noted that Peter Schramm had finished up our conversation about David Brooks, Iraq, and the Declaration of Independence. One last comment from me: I think that Schramm may, in his initial complaint about me, been responding to something other conservatives have been saying. President Bush has said on a number of occasions that he rejects the view that Arabs are unfit for democracy and liberty, a view he holds to be cynical, condescending, and–though he does not quite say this–racist. Many conservatives, especially George Will, have strongly criticized the president for making this comment, accusing him of inventing a strawman and attributing character defects to opponents of his policies. I think both Bush and his conservative critics have legitimate points here. On the one hand, it is possible to embrace a kind of cultural determinism that excuses tyranny: The Arabs love being tortured and poison-gassed, it’s their culture. On the other, it is clearly not the case that all people, whatever their culture and history, are immediately ready for republican government. There has got to be a large middle space here. Anyway: When I criticized Brooks, who was making a Bushian point, without distancing myself from conservative critics who make the same sort of criticism I was making, Schramm may have assumed that I am closer to them than I am.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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