The Magazine

IRS Bad, NSA Good

Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Conservatives today, based on years of painful experience, instinctively scorn the equivocating sophistry of pseudo-sophisticated punditry. But conservatives need also to reject the seductive simple-mindedness of unreflective demagoguery. The temptations to both sophistry and simple-mindedness are real. Both are mistakes, and both are dangerous.

The good news is there exists a middle ground between the two mistakes. Or rather, there’s a higher ground. It’s the American political tradition. We can read it in The Federalist and Tocqueville. We can study it in the examples of Lincoln and Reagan. Of course, as we carry that tradition forward we can’t simply look back. New times demand fresh thinking. We need to exercise our own reflection and choice. For the danger remains that the great American experiment in self-government could fail, reduced to merely another instance in the long catalogue of the triumphs of accident and the vicissitudes of force.

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