The Corner

Politics & Policy

Kasich on the War of Ideas

After reading tweets like this one and this one, I was inclined to do a post defending John Kasich from media distortions. The gist of that post would have been: Kasich wants a new government agency that promotes, in his words, “the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association” in other countries, but the press is making it sound as though the agency would instead be tasked with promoting religious conversion. “Kasich Proposes New Government Agency to Promote Judeo-Christian Values” is the headline NBC ran with.

The thing is, though, that Kasich himself presents human rights, democracy, and so on as Judeo-Christian values. Here’s a fuller quote from a report linked above:

“We must be more forceful in the battle of ideas,” Kasich said in his speech. “U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals and effectively countering our opponents’ propaganda and disinformation. I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core, Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share: the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association.”

I think there is a good case for what he’s talking about, and I don’t think there’s anything inappropriately sectarian about it. But it’s hard to defend him from media distortions when Kasich himself doesn’t. Check out that NBC link. Kasich is asked about his proposal to create “a new government agency that would help promote Judeo-Christian values around the globe.” He doesn’t challenge that description of his proposal; his answer explains that the agency would “beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic, to be a Judeo-Christian society,” which he then spells out as including respect for women, democracy, and so on.

I don’t doubt that individual rights and democracy are indeed linked to being in a Judeo-Christian society. But conflating these ideas with Judaism and Christianity seems like a very poor way to win the battle for those ideas in societies that are not Jewish or Christian.

(disclosure)

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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