Saint Valentine’s Day

  1. Rhetorical complicity
  2. A better mechanic
  3. Trump’s abolitionist cabinet
  4. Who’s in charge?


ÜberCalvinist blogger Doug Wilson gently upbraids Vice-President Pence:

I saw that you recently defended the president’s approach to LGBTQ issues, in his extension of President Obama’s executive order on LGBT rights. In the past you have said that you are a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third, in that order. In the past you have recognized that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.” But just recently, in this interview with George Stephanopoulos, you said that you applauded the president’s continued inclusion of the “LGBT community” in this way.  You further said that there is no room in a patriot’s heart for prejudice. This is problematic in many ways, which I would like to take a moment to explain.

In the first place, as you well know, no responsible Christian leader advocates queer-bashing. But as you also know, the activists on the left have labored industriously to equate every form of principled biblical opposition to sexual perversion with such hatred, bigotry, and prejudice. You cannot echo this language, acting as though this were a battle with prejudice, without complicity in perpetuating the impression that the Christians who oppose sexual perversion on biblical principle are doing so because of discrimination and prejudice. But it is not prejudiced to read Leviticus, I Kings, and Romans with a submissive heart ….


If you don’t like the way your mechanic is keeping your car running, you hire a better mechanic — you don’t hire a web designer to fix your car on the theory that he won’t be tied down to old ways of thinking about car engines. But that’s what 46 percent of the American voters did in November, and now we’re seeing the results.

You can agree or disagree with the substance of what this administration is trying to do. But it’s hard to deny that so far they’re going about it with a stunning level of incompetence.

(Paul Waldman)


On Trump’s “abolitionist” cabinet, a hopeful take:

It helps to remember that the Environmental Protection Agency began life as Richard Nixon’s attempt to buy favor with the left. In a similar way, the Education Department was Jimmy Carter’s sop to the National Education Association (even the New York Times editorialized against its establishment as “unwise”). Labor began as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903 but 10 years later morphed into a separate department. Which illustrates another lamentable fact of cabinet agencies: Far from dying off, they often subdivide into more agencies that each become bigger than the parent.

Competence is not a requirement. One small example from the Education Department: a just-released federal analysis of a signature Obama initiative to improve failing public schools reports almost zero gain from the $7 billion spent. Yet we’re to believe that Mrs. DeVos is the unqualified one here?

Ditto the EPA. For Democrats today’s EPA is less a government bureau than a secular church enforcing the dogmas of climate change. Over the Obama years, this took the form of trying to kill off the coal industry, as well as to assert federal control at the expense of the states. Enter Mr. Pruitt, who as attorney general for Oklahoma tussled in court with the EPA. The fierce opposition to Mr. Pruitt speaks to the progressive fear that he might help restore not only science to its rightful place but federalism.

In George Washington’s day, the president got by with four cabinet members: secretary of state, secretary of the Treasury, secretary of war and attorney general. Their posts reflect the core functions of the federal government. Today there are 15 separate departments in the cabinet, along with agencies like the EPA, which chug along merrily in Republican as well as Democratic administrations because, once established, they almost never have to justify their existence.

(William McGurn)


On the question “Who’s in charge?” in Trump’s White House staff:

Trump has run a family business but never a large organization. Nor has he seen such an organization as an employee. “Trump,” says another former official, “is ill-suited to appreciate the importance of a coherent chain of command and decision-making process. On the contrary, his instincts run instead toward multiple mini power centers, which rewards competing aggressively for Trump’s favor.”

This seems to be the dynamic unfolding on the weekend political talk shows. These have traditionally been venues for an administration to communicate with media and political elites (whose religion dedicates Sunday morning to the gods of policy, scandal and pith). But Trump surrogates are clearly appealing to a different audience: an audience of one, who may well tweet them a nice pat on the back.

(Michael Gerson, who I’m finding more useful as an “establishment conservative” critic of Trump than I found him over the past eight years)

* * * * *

“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.