A clear-eyed view of Jeb Bush as governorFeb 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 21 • By TERRY EASTLAND
Our first national government—the one established by the Articles of Confederation—was notoriously weak. Congress wasn’t much good at administering the laws it passed or at conducting foreign affairs. The government lacked what the Framers of the Constitution said it sorely needed: energy. As James Madison explained in Federalist 37, “[E]nergy in government is essential to that security against external and internal danger and to that prompt and salutary execution of the laws which enter into the very definition of good government.”
At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the Framers sought to remedy that critical defect. They did so by creating the presidency, which, because of its structure and powers, would provide the necessary energy. Thus, Alexander Hamilton’s famous pronouncement: “Energy in the executive is a leading character of good government.”
The “conservative hurricane” referred to in the title of this book is, of course, the governor who “remade Florida,” Jeb Bush. Florida, which entered the Union in 1845, has had a long tradition of weak executives; Bush, who served two terms from 1999 to 2007, was not one of them. Moreover, he is proud of his repudiation of that tradition—proud, if you will, of his energetic tenure. “I believe a weak form of governorship is not appropriate for a dynamic state like Florida,” he observed shortly before leaving office. “My gift perhaps is that with this office now, we’ve shown that governors can be activist, they can be reformers if they want to.”
Bush was elected to an office that, in the preceding decades, had been formally strengthened, with the most recent change (by constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1998) downsizing the cabinet form of government that had been in place since the end of Reconstruction. As this treatment of Bush’s two terms shows, the governor used his structurally more powerful office in ways the Framers would have understood.
The Federalist describes the presidential office as one from which a president may undertake “extensive and arduous enterprises” for the country’s benefit, the efficacy of which (assuming their constitutionality) the people may judge at the ballot box. Likewise, a governor sufficiently empowered should be in a position to pursue such enterprises for the good of his state. In Bush’s case, the most ambitious of several major undertakings concerned education. As Matthew T. Corrigan observes, Bush sought not only to reform various policies but also to change the entire educational system, which assumed (falsely, in his view) that socioeconomic background determines school performance.
The Federalist also identifies how the energetic president should act for the sake of good government: with “dispatch,” “vigor,” “expedition,” “decision,” “promptitude of decision,” and “firmness.” Those are behavioral characteristics. It stands to reason that they would be evident in an energetic governor: From the information assembled here, Governor Bush often showed vigor, expedition, firmness, and more.
Of course, to act with vigor or firmness does not mean that a given action is correct or will succeed. Consider the heart-wrenching case of Terri Schiavo. In no matter was Bush as firm as he was in his effort to keep Schiavo alive by seeking to prevent the removal of her feeding tube. Yet with all options exhausted, not just at the state level but also the federal, Bush concluded that he could not disobey a court order permitting the removal—and thus, Terri Schiavo’s death.
As governor, Jeb Bush had a political compass, and it was definitely a conservative one, says Corrigan. That’s not surprising, given the influence of the modern conservative movement on Bush, which Corrigan chronicles in some detail. Against the perception offered by “some national commentators” (as well as some Tea Partiers) that Bush is really a “moderate,” Corrigan says that Bush’s record as governor of Florida is “a direct refutation of that description.”
It’s hard to argue with his assessment. As Corrigan shows, Bush secured record tax cuts, eliminated thousands of public-sector jobs while expanding private contracting of state services, broadened the rights of gun owners (he “methodically and completely changed gun regulation”), reduced the number of abortion “providers,” and ended racial preferences in admissions to institutions of higher education (standing firm when the liberal civil rights lobby protested). As for education reform, his most important undertaking, Bush initiated massive changes in K-12 education premised on testing and accountability.
Romantics, Romanticism, and historyFeb 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 21 • By THOMAS A. KOHUT
In his foreword, this book’s excellent translator, Robert E. Goodwin, describes the author, Rüdiger Safranski, as a “raconteur.” This is an apt characterization: Highly intelligent and extraordinarily well-read, Safranski brims with intellectual self-confidence. He is firm in his convictions and in his judgments. He relishes his erudition and delights in conveying it to his readers, which he does with imagination and panache. Indeed, one might even say that Safranski loves the sound of his own voice. It is generally a very enjoyable voice to listen to.
More subject, less author would taste better.Feb 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 21 • By MARTIN MORSE WOOSTER
The world of beer, like the parallel worlds of wine and spirits, has become more crowded and interesting in recent years. In 2010, for example, the District of Columbia had three brew pubs, all part of larger chains. Five years later, there are five brew pubs and five breweries, rapidly growing enterprises brimming with entrepreneurial energy. Other large cities in America have found that the rise in good bars and interesting local breweries has been exponential.
Translating the Iraq war into fictionFeb 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 21 • By ANN MARLOWE
When I finished The Kills, it was not with the sense of the world made right, or understood rightly, that the traditional novel aspires to, nor with the contemporary recognition that the author and I—ironists both!—share a cynical disillusionment. It was with a profound sense of loss, even anger, at Richard House, as though he’d invited me to watch him cook an elaborate dinner and then thrown it in the trash unconsumed.
The moral implications of being scared.Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By SYDNEY LEACH
In ancient warfare, the phalanx was a specific kind of troop formation in which armed soldiers were arrayed closely together in multiple rows and then advanced as one in battle. As Chris Walsh describes it here:
The words of Virgil Thomson, composer and critic.Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By ALGIS VALIUNAS
There are four 20th-century writers who are widely considered to be the gold standard in American journalistic criticism of the arts and intellectual life: H. L. Mencken, Edmund Wilson, James Agee, and Virgil Thomson.
The ebb and flow of American influence in the worldFeb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By ELIOT A. COHEN
The first laser-guided bombs operated on what was known as a “bang bang” guidance system. After the bomb’s sensor detected a laser designator’s reflection off a target, its fins would all flip in one direction, and then all in another. After zigging and zagging back and forth, the bomb would, in theory, hit the illuminated point.
How can Republicans reclaim black voters? Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By ARTUR DAVIS
A number of Republicans will pick an immediate fight with this book. First, one of its premises is that from the New Deal to the advent of Reagan conservatism, black Republicans lost an internal fight for the heart and soul of Lincoln’s house—and with that loss, the party founded on the ideal of equality has morphed into an institution its founders would not recognize. Conservatives who view that same period as the steady triumph of principle will bristle at this suggestion.
David Yezzi, poet of ‘urbane detachment.’ Jan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By JAMES MATTHEW WILSON
Every time I return to the poetry of Wallace Stevens, I am struck by how the world of his work appears bleak, emptied, almost entirely unpopulated. Even the perceiver who voices his philosophical lyrics is concealed for the sake of foregrounding perception itself, that the intermingling play of imagination and reality may alone hold our attention.
A report from the battlefield in the war on clichésJan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By JOSEPH EPSTEIN
"Mother,” asks 10-year-old Johnny upon returning from school, “do I have a cliché on my face?”
“A cliché on your face? Whatever do you mean, Johnny?”
“A cliché,” he answers, “you know, a tired expression.”
The cost of our slow, but steady, disengagementJan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By GARY SCHMITT
When it comes to understanding America’s place in the world, prospective presidential candidates could do much worse than read just three pieces of writing: Charles Krauthammer’s Weekly Standard essay “Decline Is a Choice” (Oct.
The transatlantic origins of evangelical AmericaJan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By MARK TOOLEY
This new biography recalls George Whitefield, the 18th-century English evangelist, as probably the most recognizable celebrity of his age. He was certainly the most traveled, crisscrossing the Atlantic countless times and preaching to audiences, sometimes in the tens of thousands, up and down the Atlantic seaboard and throughout the British Isles at a time when the total population of Great Britain and its colonies was only in the several millions.
How to deal with a world turned upside downJan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By JOSHUA GELERNTER
At a joint meeting of the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society in 1919, Arthur Eddington announced a discovery that turned physics on its head.
The pol at the dawn of North Carolina’s modern eraJan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By EDWIN M. YODER JR.
Some eight miles west by south of the central North Carolina town of my boyhood, one comes upon red-clay dairy country, furnished with lush pastures and comfortable houses. Hawfields, as the neighborhood is called, dates from colonial times: The route of Cornwallis’s fateful retirement toward Yorktown runs close by. It was the home of W. Kerr Scott, governor of North Carolina from 1949 to 1953 and U.S. senator from 1954 until his death in 1958.
‘Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.’Jan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By RYAN SHINKEL
What does it mean to be a conservative today? It may mean defending individual freedom against bureaucratic largess. “Freedom” was the anthem for the political right in the time of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, yet “that word demands a context,” Roger Scruton writes here. He answers that freedom is a means for conservatism, but not its end. Conservatism, rather, is about a shared love of home.