Jan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On September 4, 2014, as the NATO summit convened in Wales, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron coauthored an op-ed in the Times of London. Its headline: “We will not be cowed by barbaric killers.” On January 15, a mere four and a half months later, the same coauthors had the good fortune to have another submission accepted by that august paper. Its headline? “We won’t let the voice of freedom be muzzled.”
One can’t blame politicians for message discipline. One also can’t help but note that their message is conveyed in the hortatory tone and declamatory voice used by politicians when asserting a condition contrary to fact. It’s not that Obama and Cameron are dissembling, exactly. Their determination may well be sincere. But they surely protest too much. People who aren’t cowed don’t spend a lot of time proclaiming they won’t be cowed. Leaders who really have strengthened the voice of freedom don’t need to reassure their electorates that they’re committed to doing so.
We in the West enjoy our freedoms. We occasionally appreciate them. If it’s not too much trouble, we’re more or less in favor of defending them. When the enemies of freedom kill innocents, we sympathize with them. But surely we are nagged by the unbidden thought—I suspect even Obama and Cameron are nagged by the thought—that while we like freedom, we may not really be up to defending it. And so we wonder if C. S. Lewis didn’t have it right: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
It’s true that we say “Je suis Charlie.” That’s better than saying nothing. But we do so only after the fact and in the safety of crowds.
“Je suis Charlie” is an echo, across half a century and from a neighboring country, of John Kennedy’s famous statement: “Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was ‘civis Romanus sum.’ Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ ” But “Je suis Charlie” is a plaintive and hollow echo of Kennedy’s proud and assertive boast of freedom.
Here’s how Kennedy continued:
There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin. . . . All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”
Who today takes a proud stand for freedom?
Two who did, men of Kennedy’s generation, died last weekend. The achievements of Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa are chronicled elsewhere in this issue. Both understood that freedom was precarious and the American republic was precious. And both were students of Leo Strauss, and therefore understood the weaknesses of the modern accounts of freedom.
The life’s work of both was shaped by the problem identified by Strauss in Natural Right and History: Modern thought, most decisively in Germany, had abandoned the idea of natural right and of any claim that there might be reasonable grounds for an attachment to freedom. Strauss remarked in 1952 that “It would not be the first time that a nation, defeated on the battlefield and, as it were, annihilated as a political being, has deprived the conquerors of the most sublime fruit of victory by imposing on them the yoke of its own thought.”
Berns and Jaffa, each in his own way, sought to preserve that sublime fruit of victory. Whatever differences, important and transient, there were between the two of them, both understood that saving freedom required historical and philosophical rethinking.
Strauss’s discoveries in the history of political philosophy had the effect of liberating his students from the yoke of contemporary thought. But Strauss and his students understood—indeed, emphasized—that such a liberation could not mean simply ignoring the challenges to or wishing away the weaknesses of modern freedom. Berns and Jaffa each tried to work through the arguments and rediscover the history that could deepen our understanding of the conditions of freedom, and thereby inform and strengthen our commitment to freedom. The greatest tribute we could pay to Berns and Jaffa is to rededicate ourselves to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly advanced.
Harry Jaffa, 1918-2015.Jan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
To begin to convey a sense of what an extraordinary and compelling figure Harry V. Jaffa was, I offer a confession: The only class notes I have kept from college or graduate school are contained in the dog-eared, green notebook from my courses with Jaffa, and I keep it in my top desk drawer. In idle moments, I read over those notes, reminding myself of key points, puzzling over ideas and observations I still don’t fully understand, but above all marveling at the mind of one of the great teachers of our time.
The overestimation of the John Birch SocietySep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
Populism, that ever-lurking and always problematic phenomenon in American politics, is especially galling to liberals when it breaks from the right, as it has done during the last few years in the form of the Tea Party. Conservative populism disorients and frightens liberals (almost as much as the Republican establishment does), such that liberals find it necessary to make out conservative populism to be “extremist” and to magnify its potential threat to democracy.
8:36 AM, Jul 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A lively panel and discussion on Ronald Reagan and today's conservatism, held yesterday at the Heritage Foundation with remarks from the boss, Jonah Goldberg, and Jim Antle:
2:48 PM, Jun 4, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
"Everything reminds Milton of the money supply," Robert Solow once said of his fellow Nobel-winning economist Milton Friedman at a symposium. "Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of the paper."
Washington gains a friend in Canberra.Sep 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 03 • By ROSS TERRILL
Canberra has joined Tokyo and other U.S. allies in Asia by electing a conservative government vowing less tax on business, robust defense, support for the United States, and guarded cooperation with China. A big victory in Australia’s national election on September 7 for Tony Abbott’s Liberal-Nationals ends six years of political tumult under Labor.
They were just as conservative.Jun 17, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 38 • By JAY COST
Former senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole had some harsh words for his political party recently. In a Fox News Sunday interview, Chris Wallace asked, “You describe the GOP of your generation as Eisenhower Republicans, moderate Republicans. Could people like Bob Dole, even Ronald Reagan—could you make it in today’s Republican party?” Dole replied, “I doubt it. Reagan wouldn’t have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn’t have made it, ’cause he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:00 PM, Apr 8, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with William Kristol on the rise of Margaret Thatcher and the lessons for today's GOP.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:38 PM, Mar 15, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with Michael Warren, live from CPAC. Will conservatives find a new way forward? Hosted by Michael Graham.
2:05 PM, Mar 13, 2013 • By FRED BAUER
Four of the most lamentably omitted words in American politics are the following: "in this present crisis." Conventional references to Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address note his declaration that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Reagan actually said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Omitting those first four words does a significant damage to the legacy of Reagan---and also poses problems for the future of conservatism and the GOP after 2012.
5:57 PM, Jan 7, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
At the Washington Post, Jen Rubin writes of a renewed interest in compassionate conservatism, citing Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, Republican Paul Ryan, and Gertrude Himmelfarb, writing in THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Here's Rubin:
How to turn a successful majority coalition into a perpetual election-losing machineNov 19, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 10 • By SAM SCHULMAN
Oct 29, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 07 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Viewers of the 2012 debates have witnessed an extraordinary turnaround. John Stuart Mill famously spoke of “a party of order and stability, and a party of progress or reform.” Once upon a time, Barack Obama and Joe Biden could claim the mantle of change and progress. But the televised exchanges between Mitt Romney and Obama and Paul Ryan and Biden have revealed that this is no longer the case.
6:00 AM, Oct 19, 2012 • By JAY COST
Naturally, there has been plenty of talk this week about who won the debate. As I mentioned in my own recap, I thought that though Obama won more “points,” Romney did a better job advancing his argument for election.