I have returned to the mothership after a great trip to Worcester, Massachusetts earlier this week to speak at Assumption College for its Constitution Day event, albeit a few days after September 17th. The students and faculty at the event were excellent. I thought it worth mentioning that the students in attendance were fundamentally sound in mind and not overwhelmed with ideological convictions, which proved excellent for the talk I delivered. In short, there’s a solid liberal arts tradition at Assumption. And that’s all to the credit of the faculty. If you’re looking for an education in the Humanities for yourself or for a son or daughter, then I would urge considering Assumption. They also permitted me to indulge in a bit of an off-road lecture on Orestes Brownson’s case for political loyalty as the crucial underpinning of our constitutional order. Many thanks to Prof. Bernard Dobski, Chairman of the Political Science Department, for the invitation and to Brother Greg for a wonderful introduction. My talk is below:
A good explanation of the Clinton-Trump clash we are living through, and of Trump’s having taken the Republican Party by storm, is in Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule’s 2010 brief for executive supremacy as the way we do constitutionalism. The Posner-Vermeule thesis in The Executive Unbound is that the Madisonian philosophy of separation of powers as a constraint on the presidency no longer exists, and good riddance. The more authoritative check on executive power, they say, is majority opinion and the fact that the President must face the voters every four years. This, and not Greg Weiner’s paean to Jemmy Madison, is the only source we have now for safe, effective, and informally limited government. Those wanting Madison on demand, Posner and Vermeule inform us, are whistling past the graveyard of a constitutionalism that no longer fits this American nation.
The capability of radical Islamist terrorists claiming fealty to ISIS to attack soft targets here has been painfully demonstrated again, this time in the form of 49 dead and 53 wounded in an attack on a gay nightclub in Florida. The Orlando massacre is now added to ISIS-inspired attacks on Philadelphia (January of this year, 1 police officer shot 3 times); San Bernadino (December 2015, 14 dead, 21 injured); Dallas (May 2015, 1 wounded), New York City (October 2014, hatchet attack on 4 police). The Tsarnaev brothers who killed 3 and wounded 264 in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing also reportedly had ISIS ties.
I’ve been reading With the Old Breed, Eugene Sledge’s classic account of his experiences in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Many have come to know his story from the successful 2010 HBO Series The Pacific that relied in part on his diary of these two battles. Sledge enlisted for the duration of the war +6 months in 1943 and, owing to his intelligence, was part of a military training program at Georgia Tech. There he could have earned his degree and joined the war effort in a highly skilled position of some kind, remote perhaps from actual fighting. However, he withdrew from the program, as many of his fellow classmates did, and joined the Marines to fight as a rifleman. And so he did. The narrative “Sledgehammer” provides is compelling, horrific, and fascinating.
In his neglected mid-century essay “The Direct Glance” Whittaker Chambers sought to understand the smugness of the West and America regarding Soviet Communism. The struggle against it was marked, Chambers thought, by a “boundless complacency” rooted in the West’s belief in its material superiority. And this failure of understanding left the West, Chambers argued, listless and without appeal.
Writing in the Journal of American Greatness, Plautus, who is more intent on making Trump to be the candidate he wants, as opposed to the vulgar brute that he is, calls for a conservative nationalism with tremendous purpose whose chief goal will be the elimination of the “managerial class.”
I am delighted to introduce Marc DeGirolami as a guest blogger for the month of January. Marc is a professor at St. John's University School of Law, where he is also Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship and Associate Director of the Center for Law and Religion. His writing concerns law and religion, criminal law, and constitutional law. He is the author of The Tragedy of Religious Freedom (2013), which was the subject of a great discussion at Liberty Law Talk. He is also the co-leader of The Tradition Project, a research initiative that will explore the value of tradition in a system…
My current podcast is a discussion with a most excellent scholar, Michael Paulsen, on the book he has coauthored with his son, Luke Paulsen, introducing the U. S. Constitution to the general reader. Good as the book is in many respects, it did surprise me with its embrace of the idea that the Constitution of 1787 was a pro-slavery document.
I am excited to announce that Mark Pulliam will blog for us in July as Michael Greve returns to Germania for the month. Mark's first contribution to the site was on race and cronyism at the University of Texas. I think it's safe to assume that he'll have more to say on this topic. Mark is a writer living in Austin. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, he clerked for Judge Walter Ely on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then practiced law for 30 years with the firm of Latham & Watkins, specializing in labor…
It was in April, during oral arguments in the collection of cases known as Obergefell v. Hodges that Justice Kennedy publicly fretted over the legal outcome that his jurisprudence has, in effect, created. To the surprise of Court-watchers, Kennedy at one point let out that he had “a word on his mind . . . and that word is millennia.”