American “leadership”

I thought I might fail to blog today, but a kerfuffle between the President and Senator John McCain got the juices running.

When I read stories about “far right” European parties or candidates, I keep encountering the same feelings.

  • First, there’s appreciation that immigration can change a society, destroying much of what current citizens value.
  • Second, the appreciation that many of the immigrants in issue are refugees, and that American actions (with varying complicity by Western European nations) arguably have created the refugee crisis.
  • Third, and weakest, a suspicion that if we hadn’t broken the Middle East, something else would have. How long can strongmen like Sadaam Hussein and Bashir Al Assad keep power and order in their lands, U.S. support or opposition notwithstanding?

Which brings me to the kerfuffle:

Mr. McCain condemned “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats” than solve problems.

“You know, I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice,” the president said. “But at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”

“It’s fine with me,” Mr. McCain responded on Tuesday to Mr. Trump’s remark. “I’ve faced some fairly significant adversaries in the past.”

The verbal sparring was the latest round of animosity between Mr. Trump and the Republican senator, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The president has criticized and taunted Mr. McCain, most recently for his vote dooming a Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act; early in the presidential campaign he said Mr. McCain was “not a war hero” and that “I like people who weren’t captured.”

In Philadelphia on Monday night, Mr. McCain spoke after the National Constitution Center bestowed on him an award honoring his fight for liberty. He emphasized the benefits that arise from America’s willingness to engage with the world.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” the Arizona Republican told hundreds who gathered and applauded outside the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

“We live in a land made of ideals,” he said, “not blood and soil. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

(Siobhan Hughes, Wall Street Journal) The money line in this, of course, is “some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

But another line gave me, and others, pause.

John McCain is being applauded for delivering a fiery speech denouncing “half-baked, spurious nationalism” as he accepted the National Constitution Center Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Monday.

The cheers are understandable. Whatever your views of his Senate voting record, McCain is an American hero who is justly celebrated for his sacrifices in Vietnam. He is showing grace and resilience in fighting a terrible illness. And yes, his targets are clearly the likes of President Trump and former White House strategist Stephen Bannon.

Nevertheless, there is much about McCain’s remarks that is wrong or at least incomplete. And his errors are precisely what is fanning the flames of the populist and nationalist backlash he now denounces to such great fanfare.

”We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain declared. This is something the man who beat McCain in the 2008 presidential race might describe as as “false choice.”

James W. Antle III McCain’s Abstract America. The editor’s sub headline was that “McCain appeals to abstractions as much to avoid debate as to engage in it.” “A land made of ideals” surely was in mind.

Peter Beinart at the Atlantic almost perfectly captures my ambivalence about John McCain and confirms my wisdom in subscribing:

[Y]ou can’t help but notice that many of the conservatives who condemn Trump most passionately—Bill Kristol, Bret Stephens, Michael Gerson, Jennifer Rubin—remain wedded to the foreign policy legacy of George W. Bush. And in criticizing Trump’s amoral “isolationism,” they backhandedly defend the disastrous interventionism that helped produce his presidency in the first place.

The godfather of this brand of hawkish, anti-Trump conservatism is John McCain …. Sure, McCain—being a Republican Senator—doesn’t condemn Trump as forthrightly as his “neoconservative” allies in the press. But the terms of his critique are similar.

Look at his speech on Tuesday after being awarded the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal …

As a man, McCain is as honorable as Trump is dishonorable. But this narrative is false. The last seventy-five years of American foreign policy are not the story of a country consistently pursuing democratic ideals, only to see them undermined now by a fearful “blood and soil” isolationism.

[A]nti-communism … justified America’s overthrow of elected governments in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. It justified Ronald Reagan’s decision to label Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress a terrorist organization and America’s longtime assistance to the kleptocratic Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. And far from keeping the peace, it led the United States to drop more bombs on Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War than it had during World War II.

Since 1989 … [t]he United States has sought to extend its global preeminence while battling a range of enemies—from “rogue states” seeking “weapons of mass destruction” to hyper-nationalists murdering ethnic minorities to jihadist terrorist groups—that challenge the American-led order. During the Gulf War, this imperative led the United States to strengthen the United Nations and defend international law. But during the Iraq War, it led the United States to defy international law and obliterate the Iraqi state, thus creating the conditions for ISIS. In Bosnia and Kosovo, American power helped stop genocide. In Libya, it helped create chaos.

All of that narrative brings me back to my “we broke it so we bought it” suspicions that we must not turn our backs on the human beings whose “refugee” status our policies helped create.

Beinart continues:

The point is that American “leadership” sometimes furthers the ideals that Americans revere and sometimes it desecrates them. Sometimes it makes America stronger; sometimes it doesn’t. McCain’s implication is that it’s only when American “abandon[s]” and “refuse[s]” its leadership role that it fails its people and the world. But that’s not true. Over the last fifteen years, in a spasm of military hyperactivity, the United States has toppled governments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, in wars that have cost America dearly, and bred more conflict in their wake. Trump won the Republican nomination, in part, because—facing establishment candidates who would not criticize George W. Bush’s foreign policy—he condemned such adventures and pledged to avoid new ones.

McCain is right to (obliquely) condemn Trump’s hostility to refugees, his indifference to human rights and obsession with ensuring that America’s allies don’t rip it off. But that’s not the same as foreign policy restraint. Sometimes America best serves its people and its ideals by not trying to bend the world to its will …

John McCain once understood that. As a young congressman in 1985, he told the Los Angeles Times that America was neither “omniscient nor omnipotent. If we do become involved in combat, that involvement must be of relatively short duration and must be readily explained to the man in the street in one or two sentences.” In violating that principle, George W. Bush—with the support of an older John McCain—helped discredit the Republican foreign policy establishment, and lay the groundwork for Trump’s nationalist insurgency.

Now McCain and many of his hawkish allies are criticizing Trump’s amoral nationalism, which is good. But until they question the disastrous overstretch that helped create it, they will remain his useful ideological foils.

So take the refugees but stop trying to bend the world to our will.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Channeling Sergei Lavrov

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Robert Burns. Or was that Joseph Mussomeli, channeling Sergei Lavrov?

Americans are perhaps unique in the world in their view of the world—they are truly a conflicted people: they know less about history and the rest of the world than any other developed country, yet they deem themselves experts on all things. More intriguingly, they feel a messianic impulse to save the world, while at the same harboring deep resentment when the world intrudes on them. They are, paradoxically, irredeemably isolationist and compulsively interventionist.

But what is most important to understand about America is that it is not evil. The American people and their leaders are good-hearted and always mean well. Such silly leftwing notions of America the Evil need to be cast aside, onto the trash heap of history so to speak, with so many other myths. They want only to do good—and that is what makes America so dangerous. They do not have a lust for power, nor truly a craving for wealth. But they do lust for glory and they do crave admiration. A white knight on a noble steed, erratically trampling the rest of the world into submission with benign intent.

What is most infuriating about America’s self-image, however, is the ease with which it deflects its own foibles and inclinations onto the rest of the world …

On first reading, this masterful — well, what is it? Satire? — essay tickled every point of my confirmation bias, but I now see that Mussomeli gives less weight to acquisitiveness than I do and may view some other things differently. I’m inclined to defer, considering his credentials, in close cases.

I don’t know just how much credit “The Almighty” will give us for good-heartedness married to invincible self-deception.

Of course, Mussomeli must be wrong. All the best people say Russia is evil:

When the National Review, the New Republic, the Nation, and the Washington Post are all bleating like good sheep the same uninformed half-truths about Russia, you know that building better relations is now impossible.

If you don’t follow any other of my links today, follow this one, and read carefully.

A rapidly expanding and aggressive China and a determinedly nihilistic and ruthless Islamic fundamentalism are America’s true threats, but if they cannot see that themselves, we will never succeed in showing it to them. They should be eager to form closer ties with Russia, both to counter China in the East and to safeguard NATO in the west. Are we not part of that same broad Western civilization that they all ought to want to preserve?

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Trump, Russia, Poland and The West

I’ve figured all along that Team Trump was guilty of something in this regard. You don’t get so cozy with a Russian made man like Paul Manafort, not if you have the ethics of Donald Trump, and not get your hands dirty in some way. The problem so far is that much of the Trump-Russia speculation in the media has gotten out ahead of the known facts. That problem is rapidly going away, and may have just done so.

Here’s the thing that dogs me, and that’s a measure of my own cynicism about Trump: I’m struggling to care about this story at this point. Me, I’ve priced this corruption into my estimation of the man. He is morally unfit to be president. By the time his presidency is over, he will have made Richard Nixon and Warren G. Harding, previously thought to be considered the two most corrupt American presidents, look like Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans (sorry, Millennials; you have to be of a certain age to get the reference).

I guess it’s Trump fatigue. He has so lowered the bar on presidential behavior that this latest revelation comes across as just one more damn thing.

(Rod Dreher) I can’t say I’m with Rod on this one. I have not assumed “that Team Trump was guilty of something” with regard to Russia, nor do I think that the meeting of Manafort, Junior and Natasha Fatale is a smoking gun.

Analogy: 30+ years ago, we suffered a very disappointing loss in a Federal civil jury trial. As was then routine, the Judge ordered parties and counsel not to contact jurors. We didn’t. But a friend of our client, who had sat through the trial and was not subject to the Order, did somehow make contact, not at our instigation, and brought us information we couldn’t ignore. We filed a motion, were smacked down for trying to impeach the jury’s verdict, and even were rebuked by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals for having made the contact ourselves — a falsehood unsupported by any evidence — in violation of the trial court Order.

If I had it to do over again, I could not do it otherwise, even if I knew I’d be falsely accused and “convicted” by a judicial rebuke.

So I’m sympathetic, in bare-knuckled context of politics, with willingness to listen to any source that bodes to help. If Team Hillary had been approached by the same lawyer, promising to dish dirt on The Donald, I suspect they’d have sent Leon Panetta to Natasha with flowers and chocolates.

I have changed my views on another political-ish topic within the last week, though.

I had assumed that we’re still demonizing Russia through a failure of imagination, particularly on the part of Republicans (who were more hawkish during the cold war) — that we, or the GOP at least, needed someone to demonize, and that Russian would fit the bill admirably.

I’m now inclined — after Trump’s Warsaw speech, the reactions it provoked, and my idiosyncratic processing of that all — to think that we’re still demonizing Russia for the more specific reason that it represents the major more-or-less Western, more-or-less modern, power center that doesn’t buy our “universalist” dream that love of liberal democracy burns intensely, if secretly, in every human breast. Cynically or not, Putin “is positioning himself as the world’s leading defender of traditional values,” and notwithstanding domestic political prattle from what passes for The Right in America, genuinely traditional values are antithetical to our vaunted capitalist economic dynamism.

For that reason at least, demonizing Russia is a bipartisan consensus. Call that a “measure of my own cynicism” if you like.

We could talk at length about how both Republicans and Democrats in Washington have over the last 20 years or so supported policies that have benefited Wall Street interests at the expense of the common good. I’m not sure if you can still watch it on the PBS website, but in 2009, Frontline aired an episode called “The Warning”, about how a relatively minor government regulator, back during the late 1990s, warned Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, Clinton economic adviser Larry Summers, and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, that the derivatives market threatened to crash the entire economy. They all shut her down. Didn’t want to hear it. Wall Street was making too much money (and note well, the GOP Congressional leadership was fully on board with Team Clinton in this respect). We all remember what eventually happened in 2007-08. How many bankers went to jail over it, or paid any kind of professional price? How many Washington politicians?

I don’t think many, if any, laws were broken. But that doesn’t mean the corruption did not go deep.

(Dreher, whose whole column is worth reading. Don’t miss his comments about Obama’s personal rectitude combined with his willingness to impose damnable lies as destructive public policy).

As long as we’re on Trump, more or less, let’s go back to Warsaw and the reactions.

Not all reactions were shrill. John Mark N. Reynolds was generally admiring of the speech, and caught gentle heck from two Christian friends on roughly opposite political poles.

Reynolds opened with Mr. Trump goes to Poland, the very title of which offended a historian friend:

And it irks me because it exhibits the exact inversion of power dynamics that I’m going to describe in this response, as well as those which convinced otherwise good-hearted people to vote for a predatory man who proposed policies of oppression, scapegoating, and physical violence. Mr. Smith went to Washington to serve his constituents and build a camp for underprivileged boys he mentored. Mr. Trump called for the illegal execution of five wrongly accused boys as the first act of his political career. The comparison, even in mere syntax, feeds the narrative Trump tries to spin of his own victimization.

It seems to me that you are encouraged by this speech because (1) it elevates Poland and (2) it affirms our commitment to defending “western values.” These are both, perhaps, good things. But both the text of the speech and the character of the administration that produced it immediately require a much more critical eye than your piece gives it.

The core problem is context. The president stood in the square where thousands were murdered by Nazis, thousands who expected Allied aid that never came, and he did so as the first US president to play footsie with NATO’s Article 5. He praised a Poland of the past that overwhelmingly stood between tyrants and their victims, a nation in which the highest proportion of individuals chose to sacrifice themselves in order to personally hide Jewish people from Nazi death squads, and he called Poland’s current refusal to accept today’s refugees a continuation of that spirit instead of what it is: its betrayal.

The trick of white nationalism is to pretend the power dynamic is inverted. The conquerors, therefore, only conquer out of fear of conquest. The oppressor only oppresses to prevent greater oppression. Throughout our history as a nation, the United States has perfected this inversion and presented it for generations as fact ….

Next day, I was expecting Reynolds’ response to this friend, but, no, he’d caught heck from another friend, a pro-life Democrat who voted for Trump over Hillary:

The Left is the Boy who called Wolf. To accuse President Trump of racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia for a speech that was manifestly anti-racist, pro-Semitic, and xenophilic is to destroy what little remains of their credibility.

The critics’ argument is premised on the idea that any reference to “Western” civilization or “Western” values, or to any threat from the “East” or “South” is inherently racist and pro-Christian. This is, of course, nonsense. The idea of an opposition between East and West dates back to the war of the ancient Greeks against Xerxes’ invasion. It was also prominent at the time of the battle of Actium, when Octavius defeated Egyptian and Syrian troops commanded by Mark Antony. The idea of Western civilization predates Christianity by several centuries, and the invention of racism by Darwinian anthropologists by several millennia. Western civilization is essentially Roman civilization. Cicero and Virgil define its essential shape and tone, involving a way of life in which we find the rule of law, a sharp distinction of private and public, individual rights and private property, intermediate institutions, including schools and corporations, anthropomorphic gods, freedom of debate and philosophical inquiry, and a literature extolling civic virtue and romantic love.

My own problem with the speech is that Trump failed to recognize the distinction between the Communist Soviet Union and the authoritarian and nationalist Russia of today. The latter represents many orders of magnitude less danger to the world than did the former. We need to revive Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s useful distinction between authoritarian regimes and totalitarian ones. The world’s only totalitarian regimes are North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela, with Iran lying near the borderline. China and Russia have evolved into merely authoritarian regimes (as has Vietnam and former Soviet republics like Moldova and Uzbekistan) …

Let me close by addressing the larger question, the supposed “Bannonism” of the Trump administration. Ethnic, ethnicity, ethnos—these are not curse-words, some litany of Satanism. The creation and recognition of the status of nations (ethnos is simply Greek for nation) is one of the fruits of Christian civilization. I recommend the work of Roger Scruton, especially The West and the Rest, and T. S. Eliot’s classic Notes toward the Definition of Culture.

No nation is reducible to a set of ideas or a propositional creed. That includes the United States. Trump critics pose a false dichotomy: either abstract universalism or fascistic racism ….

Finally, Reynolds replies to both. I found his response on “Bannonism” especially notable:

I define Bannonism as being both an idea and an approach to politics. Let’s begin with the approach. Bannon has advocated a “by any means” conservatism, beating the left at her own game. Politics is not a Sunday School picnic and we can hit hard, but not use any means. We cannot (as Christians) hate, torture, or slander.

Christians are not too genteel to do those things, but too meek like Moses or Jesus.  Of course, you do not take issue with this, I assume you are not in favor of “by any means,” but that is central to my rejection of Bannonism. Christians are willing to be martyred rather than “win” in the short term!

You defend the nationalism of Bannon and here too we disagree. I think strong patriotism is compatible with Christianity, but not nationalism. I am an American and I love my nation, but I cannot think her special or unique. We are not “chosen” as Israel was chosen, though like any people group we have a work to do.

If you haven’t reached personal bedrock in your views of the Warsaw speech, or if you just want to see some civil and irenic comment among friends (well, Reynolds is the hub of the wheel; his two friends don’t interact directly), it’s worth 20 minutes or so to read the series.

* * * * *

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Trump in Warsaw

It sounds as if the President’s speechwriters gave him some very lofty things to say in Poland. I almost laughed out loud, derisively, at the thought of Donald Trump as the defender of what’s noble in the western tradition.

I wish I could credit him with believing — even understanding while uttering hypocritically — any of the better things he said. But I can’t.

If he follows through, he will enhance my faith in miracles.

* * * * *

I had every intention of leaving Trump’s Warsaw comment there, with nothing more said. But something bizarre has happened:

The shocking thing here is that this is controversial at all. It shows how decadent we’ve become.

Let’s sample some of the left-liberal freakout, shall we?

Here’s Peter Beinart in The Atlantic:

In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to “the West” and five times to “our civilization.” His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too.

… The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.

More Beinart:

The most shocking sentence in Trump’s speech—perhaps the most shocking sentence in any presidential speech delivered on foreign soil in my lifetime—was his claim that “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.” On its face, that’s absurd. Jihadist terrorists can kill people in the West, but unlike Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, they cannot topple even the weakest European government. Jihadists control no great armies. Their ideologies have limited appeal even among the Muslims they target with their propaganda. ISIS has all but lost Mosul and could lose Raqqa later this year.

Trump’s sentence only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia. The “south” and “east” only threaten the West’s “survival” if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders. They only threaten the West’s “survival” if by “West” you mean white, Christian hegemony. A direct line connects Trump’s assault on Barack Obama’s citizenship to his speech in Poland. In Trump and Bannon’s view, America is at its core Western: meaning white and Christian (or at least Judeo-Christian). The implication is that anyone in the United States who is not white and Christian may not truly be American but rather than an imposter and a threat.

Poland is largely ethnically homogeneous. So when a Polish president says that being Western is the essence of the nation’s identity, he’s mostly defining Poland in opposition to the nations to its east and south. America is racially, ethnically, and religious diverse. So when Trump says being Western is the essence of America’s identity, he’s in part defining America in opposition to some of its own people. He’s not speaking as the president of the entire United States. He’s speaking as the head of a tribe.

Let’s move on. Here’s a tweet by Slate’s Jamelle Bouie:

Here’s James Fallows on the Warsaw speech:

Has Donald Trump ever heard of Leni Riefenstahl?

These are collected by Rod Dreher, who detests Trump about as much as I do. I don’t recall much about Peter Beinart and nothing at all about Jamelle Bouie, but this kind of crap from James Fallows is bitterly disappointing. No, it’s worse than that: it’s unhinged. The real paranoiacs in this story are the deranged eisegetes.

I can’t give Trump credit for playing the media like a violin this time because I don’t think he intended anything provocative. He neither intended nor uttered anything racist or white nationalist, and the grievance-mongers aren’t likely to persuade me otherwise.

Dreher explains pretty well why Trump’s themes are legitimate and timely while David Frum and Ross Douthat explain what really was jarring about the speech (articulating what I had only intuited).


One key to understanding Trump, always, is that he appeals to people by attacking the decadence that he himself also embodies.

— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 7, 2017


As presidential speeches go, Trump’s address in Warsaw was fair. Ish. If you forget who is speaking and what that person has been saying and doing since Inauguration Day—since the opening of his campaign in 2015—and really through his career.

But if you remember those things, the speech jolted you to attention again and again.

[T]he most troubling thing about the speech was the falsehood at its core; the problem is not with the speech, but with the speaker. The values Trump spoke for in Warsaw are values that he has put at risk every day of his presidency—and that he will continue to put to risk every day thereafter. Trump’s not wrong to perceive a threat to the Euro-Atlantic from the south and east. But the most recent and most dramatic manifestation of that threat was the Russian intervention in the U.S. election to install Donald Trump as president. The threat from outside is magnified by this threat from within—and it is that truth that makes a mockery of every word President Trump spoke in Warsaw.

Maybe this is analogous to the trick bag the Left thought Trump was in on immigration (the one President, in all of American history, forbidden to limit immigration is Donald J. Trump because he promised to do so in terms connected to the religion of Islam): the one person forbidden to defend Western Civilization is Donald J. Trump because we know it’s racist dog-whistles when he does it.

Back to Dreher, who says what I was starting to feel:

If you tell people that to love and to want to defend the culture of the West is a racist act, then they will cease to care about your judgment on the matter, because you are requiring them to hate themselves as an act of virtue. In that regard, Jamelle Bouie’s sentiment here is a much greater gift to the racist alt-right than anything Donald Trump said in Warsaw.

I mean, really, how ignorant and provincial do you have to be, Messrs. Beinart and Bouie, to hear Trump’s speech and think of it as a #MAGA version of a Nuremberg Rally Address? Is the degree of self-hatred of the West required to be a virtuous, woke person such that you cannot tell the difference between Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and the Horst Wessel Song? Do they really think Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation (all of which is available on YouTube, starting here) is a plummy version of Triumph of the Will? If standing against this kind of liberal insanity means I have to stand with Donald Trump, well, okay, I’ll stand with Donald Trump. I won’t like it, but at least Donald Trump doesn’t hate his own civilization.

It is necessary to criticize ourselves constructively, for the sake of growing in virtue.But that is not what these people are doing. By anathematizing any and all who cherish the culture and history of the West, they will ultimately force conservatives to embrace Reaction as the only bastion of resistance to their nihilistic crusade. But they don’t see it anymore than the Social Justice Warriors grasp that their militant illiberalism is calling up and equal and opposite reaction from the people they have demonized.

“Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” Trump asked. Maybe he was thinking about Islamic terrorists. I’m thinking about the educated barbarians who cannot create a living culture, only live off the last vestiges of one they inherited, even as they scatter salt in its fallow fields. Donald Trump may be the enemy of culture in many respects, but he is in no way as potent an enemy as these mad evangelists for the Anti-Culture.

But then here comes respectable commenters on the left, like Bouie, Beinart, and Fallows, yammering about fascism, Leni Riefenstahl, and racist dog whistles, and you realize that whether he meant to or not, Trump’s speech was clarifying. I don’t think Donald Trump could write ten meaningful sentences explaining why the West matters, but that’s beside the point. The point is, when talking about the worth and the defense of Western civilization makes you into Hitler McGoebbelsface in the eyes of liberal commentators, then you suddenly see the situation in starker relief.

(Emphasis added)

Finally, I really want to share Dreher’s beautiful response to the “‘Western civ’ is white nationalist and racist” crap:

Broadly speaking, what we call the West are the countries and peoples formed by the meeting of Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Hebrew religion. There’s a great deal of diversity within the West, but religion, ideas, art, literature, and geography set it apart from other civilizations …

Go to Istanbul. Turks are heirs to a great civilization; you have to look no further than the religious architecture of the city to know that. But you also would never mistake Istanbul for a city of the West. So what?

Every descendant of Africa and Asia who lives in the West and broadly affirms the values that shaped Western civilization is a Westerner. Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters are as much sons of the West as J.S. Bach and Ludwig von Beethoven. I wrote a book about how reading a poem written by a 14th century Tuscan, Dante Alighieri, utterly changed my life. I have no Italian blood in me at all, but I am part of Dante’s civilization in a way that I simply am not part of the civilization that produced, say, the Analects of Confucius. If not for my mind having been shaped by the Christian narrative, and by Greco-Roman narratives, the poem would not have meant at much to me. Again: so what? This is normal human experience the world over. The civilization shaped by Islam have broad diversity too, but they all share a core belief and experience that binds them.

Thank God that the deracinated, de-Christianized EU elite plan to integrate Turkey into the European Union did not work. And if I were a Turk, I would thank Allah for preserving my Islamic country from that fate too. Elites in both countries wish to deny the religious basis of their respective cultures, and pretend that we’re all a bunch of universalists. We’re not, and never will be.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.