National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


  The good news: At long last, Saudi women can vote. The bad news: They’ll have to show a valid driver’s license.

Gov. Rick Perry is falling in the polls following a dismal debate performance in Orlando. One lowlight was his claim that opponents of his policy of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants have no heart. Another was an attempted shot at Romney as a flip-flopper that left doubt as to whether English is Perry’s native language. All is not lost for Perry, but he needs to sharpen. Republicans like his conservative record in Texas, but they are also looking for someone who can best Obama in the debates of 2012 — and right now, Perry is failing that test.

Before Wisconsin, there was Chris Christie in New Jersey — a Republican governor taking on public-sector unions with Garden State Parkway pugnacity. Assorted low-pressure fronts in the Republican presidential contest have caused a gust of interest in Christie’s belatedly entering the race. Our general view is, the more the merrier (it keeps interest on the GOP, and forces Obama’s attack machine to hang fire). Our word to Christie and his boosters is, expect the storm. He will have been governor for three years in 2012 — almost as much executive experience as the incumbent will have, but still on the slight side. He has a string of statements about his reluctance to run, including some expressing unreadiness for the office, that he would have to swallow. Every candidate has displeased some of the base somehow: Christie is pro-gun-control, and ostentatiously unconcerned with what might be called sharia creep. Is he, finally, too big for the job? The last big guy to get elected was William Howard Taft, and that was 103 years ago. Tastes change, and so do concerns: Imagine the chatter about the importance of Christie’s vice president. Still, he is smart, tough, and articulate. America could do a lot worse, and has.

Obama is ready to take on the Republicans — or at least a handful of boors in the audience at Republican debates. A few people, perhaps three, booed a gay soldier who submitted a question about “don’t ask, don’t tell.” When Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul a question about someone who chose not to get health insurance — “Are you saying that society should just let him die?” — a few people yelled, “Yeah!” Naturally, the same press that showed no interest in Obama’s connections to Bill Ayers has decided that these people are the dark heart of the Republican party. Which is absurd: The candidates have not lost any support from Republicans as a result of criticizing these eruptions. Republican-debate attendees should remember to be on their best behavior, because journalists and Democrats will not be.

There was a time when Joe McGinniss was witty and stylish. “Unquestionably a work of art” — William F. Buckley Jr. But that was a long time ago: The McGinniss book WFB was praising was McGinniss’s first, The Selling of the President 1968. Eleven election cycles later, comes McGinniss with The Rogue, a damp smack at Sarah Palin. McGinniss moved next door to the former governor, squabbled with her about moving next door, trolled anti-Palin bloggers for rumors and gossip, then wrote it all up, especially the part about moving next door. The thesis underlying McGinniss’s book — that politics has become pure celebrity, dancing with the candidates — is at least half true, yet it has been blunted in this instance by Palin’s apparent decision to bow out of politics for a career in celebrity and commentary. There’s room for her: Celebrity commentary is pretty thin these days, if McGinniss’s latest is the best on offer.

Ever since the Tea Party sprang up, a constant refrain from the left has been that the Tea Party is racist. As conservatives, what else could they be? The night before the Florida straw poll, actor Morgan Freeman went on CNN and denounced the Tea Party as racist. For good measure, he tarred Republicans at large with this brush. Their attitude, he said, is “Screw the country. We’re going to do whatever we [can] to get this black man out of here.” The next day, the Republicans and tea-party activists of Florida voted overwhelmingly for Herman Cain for president. Evidently, they want to replace one black man with another. More evidently, they care about what a man thinks, rather than what his skin color is.

Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat seeking to replace Scott Brown (R., Mass.) in the U.S. Senate, has been doing her best impersonation of a villain from an Ayn Rand novel, declaring that entrepreneurs, industrialists, and other fat-cat types have no unique claim on their own wealth because “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.” Because the factory owner benefits from such government-provided goods as roads, a workforce trained in public schools, and the like, she argues that the “underlying social contract” demands higher taxes on “the rich.” She needs to think her argument through: The “social contract” may indeed be used to justify the imposition of taxes to pay for true public goods — law enforcement and national defense, public sanitation, etc. — but there is nothing in that to justify, for instance, a steeply progressive system of income taxation, which is simply a preference of Mrs. Warren’s and Mr. Obama’s. Still less does the “social contract” imply bottomless financial support for the failing public schools, which today in many cases constitute a public nuisance rather than a public good. And still less does it imply an open-ended claim upon the wealth of anybody and everybody who produces something of value and thereby builds a large or profitable enterprise. Public goods are by nature available to everybody, but not everybody builds a Boeing, a Google, an Apple, or a Caterpillar. It may be true on some level that “nobody in this country got rich on his own,” but it’s also true that those factories didn’t build themselves.


October 17, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 19

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Ethan Gutmann reviews Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra F. Vogel.
  • Jeremy Rabkin reviews Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or Be Ruled by Others? by John Fonte.
  • Vincent J. Cannato reviews The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party, by Michael Bowen.
  • Mackubin Thomas Owens reviews What It Is Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes.
  • Richard Brookhiser measures the hospital, from multiple angles.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .