Editor's Note: The exclusive Philadelphia Society, which the New York Times called "a prestigious club for conservative intellectuals," had its forty-first annual meeting in Miami this past weekend. National Review, in its better days, reported on these events. Given the current state of NR, one of our operatives was there to report on the goings-on. Following is a recap of the proceedings.
The theme for this year's national meeting was "What is an American?", a subject given new currency because of Samuel Huntington's new book Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity, as well as conservative outcry over accession of neocon Midge Decter to the presidency of the Society. Victoria Hughes, of the Bill of Rights Institute, was chosen as the new president for the upcoming year.
After the opening reception, the dinner's keynote speaker, Victor David Hanson, mounted an unsuccessful half-hour campaign to stimulate and amuse an unsurprisingly sympathetic audience. His target of opportunity was missed. In Who Killed Homer?, V.D.H. wrote in moving and elegiac prose about the rapidly declining interest in the classics among students at his university. Having sat through his speech, perhaps the problem wasn't with the students, but with V.D.H. himself. Indeed, the speech was a monotonous and derivative rehash of his earlier works on why American students have lost a sense of American identity. His answer to the problem? They should study more American history.
Saturday's luncheon was the highlight of the weekend. Lee Edwards, Philadelphia Society past president and the conservative movement's preeminet historian, introduced the venerable and legendary M. Stan Evans. Stan Evans is the Man. Evans is the founder of the National Journalism Center, whose alums include John Fund, Ann Coulter, and Michael Gladwell. His lunchtime talk was an extended meditation on "Evans' Law of Inadequate Paranoia," which reads: "No matter how bad you think something is, when you look at it, it’s always worse." (As an aside, other Evans maxims include "You can't always count on your friends, but you can always count on your enemies," "Once we get our people into power they stop being our people," and "I had no respect for Nixon until Watergate.")
Evans talked about his forthcoming book Blacklisted By History : The Real Story of Joseph McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies, which confirms and supplements everything in this book.
After lunch, a panel on immigration featured Prof. Andrew Yuengert of Pepperdine, Benjamin "Doogie Hoswer, Ph.D." Powell, and author Peter Brimelow. Brimelow is an English immigrant who warned against the dangers of immigration. Another panel called E Pluribus Unum featured Linda Chavez of the Center for Equal Opportunity, the cool and ever-entertaining Barry Shain of Colgate University, and rock-ribbed Old Right paleocon Prof. Forrest McDonald. (Interestingly, McDonald mentioned that Patrick Buchannan convinced Russel Kirk to become anti-immigration.) If anything, there was a notable lack of controversy among the panelists.
While attendance was not as big as for last year's fortieth anniversary celebration in Chicago, many regulars were present (Edward Hudgins, Washington Director of the Objectivist Center, Gene Meyer, Exec. Director of the Federalist Society, Linda Bridges of National Review, Timothy Goeglin, Special Assistant to the President--W's emissary to the Movement--Edwin Fuelner, President of the Heritage Foundation, and Ed Meese).
New faces included this year's Prom King and Queen of the Christian Right--the beautiful Michelle Rickert (the new Dean of Admissions at Liberty University Law School), and her cop-turned-academic husband Paul Rickert, Professor of Criminal Justice at Liberty University's [Jesse] Helms School of Government--and Hiro Aida, Washigton Bureau Chief of the Kyodo News.
Justice Hugo Black
once said that "I was brought up to believe that Scotch whisky would need a tax preference to survive in competition with Kentucky bourbon." I agree, and I've got company: See sometime bourbon-apologist Walker Percy, in this essay.
Julia Gorin asks this question the Wall Street Journal, and, unsurprisingly, the answer seems to be Yes. Actually, Gorin spends most of the piece pondering just what a libertarian is, and the definitions tendered seem to be more cultural than political. Apparently, a libertarian is just a conservative with a less dweeby lifestyle.
Here are some of the descriptors given:
1. A conservative with an unhealthy preoccupation with sex.
2. A Republican with a wild side.
3. An amoral Republican.
4. Hedonism combined with the desire to not be made to take account for the needs of others; a person who thinks about the public commonweal in terms of how much he has to pay to support it; i.e., "I don't give a shit, and I'm not paying for shit.'"
5. A Republican with bad manners.
6. A libertine-arian.
7. A Democrat who wants to own a gun.
8. A Republican who wants to smoke pot.
9. Fiscally conservative but socially liberal; also translated as, "a cheapskate who can't keep his pants zipped."
10. Someone who thinks he should get a medal for being home in time for dinner and helping the kids with homework regardless of what the lower part of his anatomy was doing earlier in the day.
One could multiply and shade these kinds of taglines. P.J. O'Rourke's definition of a "Republican Party Reptile," for instance, as "A Republican who owns sex toys" -- I'm paraphrasing here -- amounts to pretty much the same kind of characterization. I'd toss a couple more into the mix. A libertarian is:
11. A Republican who'd rather die than wear Dockers.
12. A Republican who doesn't believe in God.
Gorin doesn't totally short-shrift the actual politics of libertarians. Our principles, she rightly notes,
usually center on a "government out" ideology that says the government has exactly two functions: to protect citizens from foreign attackers, and to create and defend a body of law that protects citizens' property rights and physical safety. There is also an emphasis on personal liberty and individual responsibility.
We even get some analysis of the rhetorical and sociological advantages attaching hereto, which are considerable, if you hate socialism and don't live in Kansas:
The Libertarians' atheism, together with the hedonism-as-a-virtue outlook they share with Democrats, allows them to laugh with the left at the "Puritanism" of the right. But their ability to view and digest the right's good-sense policies without knee-jerk antagonism enables Libertarians to roll their eyes along with Republicans at the political correctness and do-goodism of the left's compassionate classes.
Politically, the Libertarian world isn't a bad place to be. Libertarians have more credibility with the left than Republicans do, even though their conservative side is callous compared with the charitable Christian right. And they have more credibility with the right than Democrats do, despite being more godless than the left.
What Gorin overlooks, alas, is the big difference between Liberterianism big-L, as a hapless third-party, and small-l, as a set of principles. I'm the latter. That allows me to call myself a libertarian Democrat. Not that this makes the cariactuare of a horny, intellectualizing, style-conscious cheapskate any less applicable.
There's an important piece to be written on how ethsetics drive politics and pretty much everything else in life. In the meanwhile, the Babe Theory of Politics will perhaps explain why I try to admix right-wing politics and really hot women on this site. P.J. O'Rourke first framed the principle in Parliament of Whores:
[T]here were hardly any beautiful women at the [Housing Now!] rally. I saw a journalist friend of mine in the Mall, and he and I purused this line of inquiry as assiduously as our happy private lives allow. Practically every female at the march was a bowser. "We're not being sexist here," my friend insisted. "It's not that looks matter per se. It's just that beautiful women are always on the cutting edge of social trends. Remember how many beautiful women were in the anti-war movement twenty years ago? In the yoga classes fifteen years ago? At the discos ten years ago? On Wall Street five years ago? Where the beautiful women are is where the country is headed," said my friend. "And this," he looked around him, "isn't it."
As Willisms puts it: "Look for the babes, and that's where the social action is, that's where the success will be." Which is why Republicans are losing the Culture Wars, one cocktail party at a time.
Last week, for instance, I went to a mixer at the New York Historical Society, hosted by James Panero and the Young Friends of the New Criterion. The white, flourescent lights were turned up so brightly, it was like an interrogation cell where the East German secret police were trying to deprive you of sleep. There was no music. They were serving bad wine in plastic cups the size of mouthwash caps. The whole event, in short, was exquisitely designed to send any worthwhile woman running for the door.
Clarification of my post Where the Babes Are. I received a rejoinder email from one of the women present last week at the Young Friends of the New Criterion blow-out, at the New York Historical Society:
Without question, the atmosphere was soporific, the wine sophomoric. That said, with your ultimate sentence, you slight, at the very least, your [censored] and your pal (moi). And, shit, was that YOU who fell down the stairs at One on Saturday night?!
No, I'm not saying there weren't a few cuties present. There were. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the babealicious Lindsay Koval; or Dawn Steeves, a.k.a. "Goth Spice"; or conservative communicatrix Lindsay Young and her “Power Girls.” But I wouldn't have blamed any of these fine ladies for leaving early and never coming back.
No, really -- don't get me started! When the New Criterion folks had a cocktail party in their office in January, they had no dark liquor, and I was going around turning down the lights. At the Manhattan Institute’s Christmas Party, I had to surreptitiously switch my IPod with a colleague's, to make the music blacker. (Are conservatives the only ones not to have learned that when you play white music, it kills a party, and when you play black music, people start moving?) Then I went around unscrewing the lightbulbs, until one of the waitstaff said I couldn’t do that, because they might get sued. See a pattern here?
(And yes, it was me at One. But I quickly righted myself. That last step down, right by the Women's Room, really jumps up at you.)
Further to my post, Losing the Culture War One Cocktail Party at a Time, the Cutie-in-Question ripostes:
I, for one, WANTED your so-called "black" music at the Christmas party...(see attached [emails cpationed "re: play that funky music white boy"]...and I came to you saying "please, please Mark -- give me your iPod" when the interns were demanding def leppard and the cars. It's those kids you should be worried about...
My besmirched reputation aside, I agree with you. Case in point: The AEI Dinner earlier this month. I have NEVER seen so much arm fat hanging out of recycled bridesmaid's outfits. Luckily (since I was a member of the college democrats, don't tell anyone) I missed out on the conservative women's gatherings where they teach you to take off all your make-up, eschew waxing of any sort, and dress like your 5th grade teacher. Okay?
Okay, okay! I've had an intern research this question, and it seems my music wasn't added to the party playlist, because I was "working at home that day." That definitely has the ring of plausibility.