Don’t Hold Back, @TAC!

My secret project at The American Conservative is no longer secret. It’s now live for all to see: @TAC, the new American Conservative group blog, with posts from me, Michael Brendan Dougherty, Kara Hopkins, Kelley Vlahos, Leon Hadar, Tim Carney, and many more to come. Check back regularly. (Naturally, business will be carrying on as usual here at The Tory Anarchist, too.)

Update: @TAC isn’t the only new group blog on the scene. The Independent Institute has just launched one as well, The Beacon.


William Jefferson Is a Crook, But…

… the Supreme Court has made the right call by refusing to hear the Justice Department’s appeal of a lower court ruling that held that the FBI acted unconstitutionally by raiding Congressman Jefferson’s office. It’s the best decision the Court could have made, in fact, since accepting the case would have involved giving an authoritative ruling on the latitude of the “Speech or Debate” clause of the Constitution, which says that Senators and Congressmen “shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

The letter of the Constitution says nothing about the sanctity of congressional offices. So is Jefferson really protected by this clause? Probably not, but “Parliamentary privilege” is older than the Constitution, and common law has generally taken a wide view of its protections. In this case, literalist interpretation of the Constitution may be somewhat at odds with an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, depending on what the Framers intended. Did they intend for the “Speech or Debate” clause to anchor the wider customary protections of Parliamentary privilege in the Constitution? There’s nothing in the Constitution that denies broad Parliamentary privilege, though there’s nothing that affirms it beyond the narrow wording of the “Speech or Debate” clause.

My layman’s view is that the Constitution does not shield Jefferson’s office from search, but the common law  protections should remain in force. I don’t know whether the Supreme Court could even make such a ruling. What they have done is the safest course: broad Parliamentary privilege is sustained but not given a definitive constitutional review by the high court.

Without Parliamentary privilege, the legislative branch is at the mercy of the executive, and that’s much worse than any amount of congressional corruption.

Gerson’s Prescription for Tory Socialism

President Bush’s former chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, advises John McCain to take a few lessons from a party that has been out of power for over a decade, Britain’s Conservative Party. Ok, he admits, the Tories have lost three elections in a row, a modern record for them, and their leader, the “impossibly young” David Cameron (he’s 41), “tends to avoid foreign policy issues,” takes positions on moral issues that “most American conservatives would find … troubling,” and holds economic views that are hard to distinguish from those of his Labour opponents. Never mind–Gerson sees all that as to the good: Cameron is “ideologically flexible.” Or, translated from Gersonspeak, he’s totally unprincipled. Gerson likes that, but what he really likes about the utterly limp Cameron is that he sounds like a “compassionate conservative” — gee, maybe he’s in the market for an American speechwriter — and he places a lot of trust in the most neoconservative of British politicians, Iain Duncan Smith, who is himself a failed Tory leader.

Gerson’s whole pointless column, which never does show how McCain could benefit from taking a few hints from Cameron — what is he supposed to do, get Iain Duncan Smith to come over to the United States? — seems to be written just to boost his British neocon friend. Just look:

[Cameron] has been wise enough to turn for ideas to an exceptional politician named Iain Duncan Smith. As a former leader of the conservative opposition, Smith was largely discredited by his close identification with the Iraq war. But since losing his leadership post, he has dedicated himself to the cause of social justice within the conservative fold, gaining broad respect in the process. As chair of a policy think tank called the Center for Social Justice, Smith has gathered a group of bright young policy researchers who have published thick volumes of proposals on issues from prison reform and education to crime and family stability.

The Center for Social Justice isn’t just a think-tank with a pinko name — no, it’s a soup kitchen as well: “It invites members of Parliament to spend a week working in anti-poverty programs — on the condition that they leave their BlackBerrys behind.” Gerson is the maestro of fleecing taxpayers while congratulating himself on his own moralism, but even he ought to be able to see that sending M.P.s to take part in anti-poverty programs isn’t compassionate at all. It’s cruel to the poor, who shouldn’t have to put up with sanctimonious balderdash from politicians just to get a bowl of soup.

About That Gravelanche…

Richard Spencer has a reaction to it up at Taki’s Magazine. I still think that the true believers in the LP will prevent Gravel from getting the nomination. But Gravel may be the second coming of Russell Means, the Indian-rights activist who was Ron Paul’s rival for the LP’s 1988 nomination. Means was also a fashionably outre lefty with questionable libertarian credentials. But he came rather close to getting the nomination. In fact, if he weren’t running against a serious contender like Paul, he would have won the nomination easily. So perhaps Gravel will do better than I expect.

I’m inclined to vote Libertarian in November no matter who they nominate. Gravel’s entry into the race might actually help Bob Barr if Barr decides to run. The main obstacle Barr would have faced were Gravel not in the race would have been questions about his libertarian orthodoxy — Barr was a drug warrior in Congress, after all, and also voted for the Patriot Act that he now campaigns against. Gravel might make Barr look more orthodox by contrast.

Apropos of nothing in particular, I feel like mentioning that one of the few flaws of Brian Doherty’s otherwise nigh comprehensive history of the libertarian movement, Radicals for Capitalism, is that it contains very little about the 1988 LP nomination fight, even though that fight and the bad blood that followed it had monumental consequences, spurring Murray Rothbard to break with the party and seek allies on the Buchananite Right instead. The present configuration of libertarianism, with a sharp division between the Beltway libertarians and Rothbard-inspired institutions like the Ludwig von Mises Institute, owes a great deal to the fallout from the 1988 race.

And apropos of everything, here’s David Weigel’s coverage at Reason of the Gravelanche (which I think David christened).

Update: Am I selling Means short?  His libertarian credentials were better than Gravel’s, at any rate.

Mike Gravel, Big-L Libertarian?

With his national health care plan and other big-government commitments, Mike Gravel is no small-l libertarian. But he’s seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination, which will be decided at the party’s national convention, May 22-26. Gravel has a chance, since there’s sure to be a contingent in the LP that would like to have a prominent candidate, but he’s going to need to retool his positions on quite a few issues to win over a majority of delegates. Also, as obscure as some of the current contenders for the LP nomination may be, Gravel is obviously not a name to conjure with himself, even if he is a former U.S. senator.

Still, it makes a for a livelier political scene. And Lord knows Gravel would be better than Clinton, Obama, or McCain.

New @TAC

The forthcoming issue of The American Conservative went to press yesterday. It includes Nick von Hoffman and Wilson Burman on the Bear Stearns debacle and what it means; Steve Sailer on Obama’s ambiguous views on race; Kelley Vlahos on women in combat in Iraq; Allan Carlson on the Dixiecrats’ revenge; Phil Giraldi on Admiral Fallon; Michael Brendan Dougherty on the virtue of men’s magazines; Freddy Gray on the pope’s upcoming U.S. visit; reviews by Piers Paul Read, Wayne Merry, and Paul Gottfried; columns by Patrick Buchanan, Daniel Larison, and Fred Reed; and a whole lot more.

There should be something new on the website later today — and not just articles. Keep your eyes peeled.

Update: Look for those website changes on Monday.

Current Reading

As always — but even more so than usual — I have piles of books on my desk and strewn throughout my apartment. The review pile by itself is fairly hefty, with volumes by Bill Kauffman, William F. Buckley Jr., Alan Crawford, Dan Flynn, and Paul Gottfried. Some of the reviews are for quarterlies, so it may be a while before they appear in print. (On the other hand, I have one or two pieces already queued up to appear in the next month or so. Will post details as soon as I know they’re out.)

On top of that, I have various bits of research reading ongoing at the moment. In what spare time I have left, though, the book that has my attention is Carl Oglesby’s Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Antiwar Movement. Actually, I’ll review it somewhere or other eventually too, if there are any editors interested. Or maybe I’ll see if I can get a magazine interested in a longer essay on the student Left and Right in the 1960s. Oglesby was a leader of SDS, for a while its president, and he made a point to learn about the anti-interventionist tradition on the Right. He even made the occasional appeal to YAF to join forces with SDS, which earned him denunciation from his Marxist colleagues. He wasn’t apologetic about it:

If it was an error, it was one I kept on making. I even put it into print at the end of my contribution to a two-part book Containment and Change, published in early 1967. The book had grown out of a “dialogue” with Professor Richard Shaull at Union Theological Seminary in February 1966. Shaull, whose specialty was the political history of Protestant theology, had recently discovered two historians who rang my bells and had talked about them a lot at the Union session. One was the liberal William Appleman Williams, and the other was the conservative Murray Rothbard. They were both libertarians, and that is what I had begun calling myself.

That’s from page 120 of Ravens in the Storm. Unfortunately, SDS and its spin-offs kept getting pulled further and further to the left, deep into Marxism and revolutionary rhetoric (as well as some comical, but occasionally deadly, attempts at revolutionary action). The damage that did to the noninterventionist cause is still being felt to this day — not least in that the backlash against such radicalism made the Right even more militaristic than it had been before. The hawks on the Right could now always set up a cardboard sixties radical as a symbol of everything that patriotic Americans had to oppose. On the other hand, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go against the war with the activists you have, not necessarily the activists you want.

Update: I should have linked to Bill Kauffman’s interview with Carl Oglesby before now.