The Corner

Culture

The Power of Love — Even in Politics

Arthur C. Brooks

Arthur C. Brooks is one of the luminaries of the conservative world. An economist and public-policy analyst, he is the president of the American Enterprise Institute. He will soon decamp to Harvard, to teach. I have done a Q&A with Arthur, here.

His latest book is Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt. We talk about this issue, or these issues, of course. The idea of a “culture of contempt” is interesting. There is also the culture of the “sick burn” (related). At this point, many of us, I think, have had our fill of “sick burns” — even when they burn the other side.

In the course of our podcast, Arthur and I both tell some stories — including on ourselves. I had a memory, from the mid-1980s. I was watching The McLaughlin Group, as was my wont. (We all did.) Bob Novak was explaining why many on the right had a problem with Jack Kemp. After Novak had finished, Mort Kondracke said, “He’s not a hater, is what you’re saying.”

I burned when I heard this. I resented it a lot. But I also knew it was a little true, or maybe more than a little true. I myself wanted Kemp to show more passion, so to speak, against the other side — against my enemies!

You remember what Homer Simpson said about child-rearing, don’t you? “Kids are the best, Apu. You can teach them to hate the things you hate. And they practically raise themselves, what with the Internet and all.”

In 2000, Governor George W. Bush ran as “a uniter, not a divider.” Would that fly today? Is anyone interested? I put this question to Arthur Brooks. He is for passionate disagreement. And strong views. Also love — which is an interesting cocktail.

I further ask him, “What’s a conservative?” Big, big question these days — more than ever, I think. The term “conservative” — the very notion — is up for grabs. People mean wildly different things by it. (Mainly, they mean their own beliefs.)

Before he turned to economics and public policy, Arthur was a professional musician, a French-horn player. We duly talk some music in this podcast. At any rate, I think you will enjoy him a lot. As I mention on the ’cast, if I had the power to appoint him president — of the country, I mean — I would.

I’m all for the Constitution, trust me. But it’s an interesting parlor game, this appointive business. I used to play it with some friends, way back, in college and right after. (This was during the Reagan years.) My top guys were Bill Bennett and Henry Hyde. I thought WFB was most valuable with his pen, and his tongue.

Remember what he said when asked what position he would accept in a Kemp administration? “Ventriloquist.”

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