Originally published on July 20, 2005
David Brooks has touted Giuliani and Senator John McCain as partisans of a non-partisan politics of “courage.”
In last Saturday’s New York Times, columnist David Brooks began beating the drum for Rudy Giuliani, either as presidential candidate or as John McCain’s veep, in 2008.
This is not news. Rudy Giuliani may have known he wanted to become president at a younger age (while in his mother’s womb?) than even Bill Clinton did. And the man who could say, with a straight face, that he didn’t know that the first of his three wives was a cousin, is clearly a liar of presidential proportions – and he doesn’t even need to bite his lip.
When Giuliani was cited, first for New York’s crime-fighting “revolution” and then, after 911, for his Churchillian leadership during the city’s darkest days, even liberals gave away in so many words, that the man had “chief executive” written all over him.
The GOP, of course, had already set Giuliani up as possible heir apparent at last year’s Republican Convention in New York City. And Giuliani gave a marvelous keynote speech, presenting himself as a national leader who nonetheless had not forgotten where he came from. (Giuliani was presented on a parallel track with another moderate Republican keynote speaker, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, should Senator Orrin Hatch get his Schwarzenegger Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed, permitting itinerant Austrian politicians and other foreign-born, naturalized citizens – say, from Mexico – to run for President).
David Brooks touts Giuliani and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) as partisans of a non-partisan politics of “courage.” Brooks writes,
courage politicians organize their energies by picking fights with venal foes. They locate some corrupt power center that violates their sense of honor. For [Teddy] Roosevelt it was the trusts; for R.F.K., the mob; for McCain, the campaign finance system or K Street; for Giuliani, the bloated Board of Education or the self-indulgent edifice of urban liberalism.
Then they charge in, never more tranquil than when in the midst of combat, never more convinced of their own value than when the foe is big and powerful.
They demand complete, almost blind, loyalty from their friends, but their leadership is clear and unflinching.
The courage politicians speak of character, not morality. That is to say, they are more comfortable talking in the language of the classical virtues – duty, honor, service, patriotism, honesty and fortitude -- than in the language of what you might call the Christian virtues -- love, compassion and charity. It's not that they don't value these private things. It's just that they are stoical by nature and are more comfortable publicly with matters of the gut than with matters of the heart.
In public life they tend to flee from the politics of family values, believing that government can do little that is productive or good in this sphere. They handle social issues with obvious discomfort, and pick them up only reluctantly and out of political necessity.
Brooks closes, “As one reads through [historian Fred Siegel’s Giuliani/New York book] The Prince of the City, one question keeps reoccurring: Are we Americans so blessed with political talent that we can afford not to use the courage politicians we do happen to have in our midst?”
Brooks doth protest too much, when he claims that a Giuliani has no chance with the party hierarchy. What does he think was going on, when the party brass made him a keynoter in 2004?
And his “ideal type” of “courage politician,” a hybrid between the dichotomy that Max Weber in his 1919 lecture, “Politik als Beruf“ (“Politics as Vocation”), postulated between his ideal types the politics of conviction” (Gesinnung) and “the politics of responsibility” (Verantwortung), is anything but ideal, having been the journalistic equivalent of a computer graphics program melding the faces of McCain and Giuliani. This project has been Brooks’ since his days at the Weekly Standard, back in 2000, when he backed McCain for president. It’s one thing to have a political preference, and another to seek and give that preference some sort of social scientific/philosophic status.
Mr. Brooks, I knew Max Weber; he was a friend of mine, and Mr. Brooks, you’re no Max Weber!
If you want to wax Weberian -- and Brooks pretends to -- Giuliani hews to the “responsibility” side of the aisle. (This is what Richard Nixon meant, when he described himself as “a pragmatist.”) This politics of courage “type” is not a philosophical type in the same sense that conviction and responsibility are, assuming you even accept Weber’s problematic dichotomy. Until fellows like New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay (1966-1973) and Senator George “I’ll Get Down on My Hands and Knees and Beg for Our POWs” McGovern (D-SD), the 1972 Democrat presidential candidate came along, Democrats and Republicans alike expected “courage” (read: toughness) of their leaders.
(Weber (1864-1920) was already in trouble, by postulating an empty “politics of conviction” as a type, as opposed to comparing the various types of conviction that guide different politicians. Perhaps that was due to the influence of Bismarck and his unsentimental Realpolitik, and in reaction to it. And Weber postulated a world of mutually irreconcilable convictions or values of equal standing. I once thought that had Weber not died in 1920, at the beginning of the Weimar Republic, he could have successfully countered Carl Schmitt’s (1888-1985) philosophic destruction of Weimar’s constitutional order. Later, I realized that, based on Weber’s own value relativism, he had no basis from which to counter Schmitt, a fascist who was also a value relativist, but who sought to fill his value vacuum with the figure of a decisive, sovereign, dictator.
On the other side of the Weberian equation, a “responsibility” politician without convictions might go any way the wind blows.)
Now, I love Fred Siegel. He’s my favorite living writer on New York City. (My favorite of all is Roger Starr, but alas, Roger is no more. He has gone up to that Yale Club in the sky, where he is presently regaling lunchtime listeners with stories about Lenny Bernstein and the ‘60s.) And yet, I am afraid that Siegel has bought into Giuliani’s PR machine, rather than confront the reality of New York, which is why he gives Hizzoner credit for long-lasting reforms which in fact have all the solidity of sand castles. And that’s not a knock on Giuliani; that’s life in the big city.
With that said, I am convinced that Rudy Giuliani was the greatest mayor in New York’s history, and would have been, had 911 never happened. But do I want him as my president?
Brooks says that a “courage” politician shies away from social questions, but that’s hogwash. John McCain is anti-abortion and supports the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He also supports illegal immigration. And Giuliani doesn’t shy away from such questions, either. He is enthusiastically opposed to respecting American citizens’ Second Amendment rights, and supports gay rights, women’s right to abortion, and the “rights” of illegal immigrants.
When Brooks says that “courage” politicians “handle social issues with obvious discomfort, and pick them up only reluctantly and out of political necessity,” he means ‘I, David Brooks, and my neocon cronies, most notably Bill Kristol, publicly handle social issues with obvious discomfort. (Although I made an exception, with my advocacy of gay marriage, even to the point of misrepresenting Bible passages.)’
Brooks & Co. are actually pursuing two mutually contradictory goals: They would bring back the notion of technocracy, of a morally bereft, value-neutral, bipartisan managerial class of politicians who would avoid or seek to finesse controversial social issues, and yet they want these managers to be characterized by “courage.”
Courage to what end?
Every now and then, Brooks tries to sound philosophical, indirectly reminding us that he took a class or two with philosopher Alan Bloom during his student days at the University of Chicago, and yet all he offers his readers is sophistry in philosophic guise. Meanwhile, he would sneak a particular package of social issue positions in through the back door. What’s so courageous about that?
While I am second to none in my admiration for Rudy Giuliani, and I have already asked myself the same question Brooks poses, I do not want a president who is pro-gay rights, pro-illegal immigration, intent on violating the Second Amendment, and whose stand on abortion is identical to that of NARAL.
The answer I came up with, was to hope that a future conservative president (or at least, one that would honor America’s sovereignty) would name Giuliani to his cabinet.
Rudy Giuliani worked miracles in New York, but not the miracles (whipping crime and welfare and the Board of Ed) for which he is given credit. He is supposed to have tamed crime, but as several journalists (Bill Rashbaum, then of the Daily News, myself, and especially, Newsday’s Lenny Levitt) have reported, going back to 1996, under Giuliani, the NYPD engaged in a fraudulent underreporting of crime statistics of massive proportions, a systemic fraud that has continued unabated under Mayor Bloomberg. And as I showed already six or seven years ago, a healthy chunk of Giuliani’s reduction in the welfare rolls was achieved through shifting tens of thousands of clients from welfare (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF) to much better paying federal disability Supplemental Security Income, which is disbursed through the Social Security Administration, and which is not counted in the welfare statistics. As for beating the Board of Education, which Brooks credits Giuliani with doing; it was in fact Giuliani’s successor, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who wrested control of the city’s schools away from the Board of Ed, which was eliminated. (And though I supported the move, Bloomberg has not handled the new, mayor-dominated schools regime well.)
And yet, for all of my criticisms of Giuliani, I think he was the greatest mayor New York ever had, because he managed to keep the city functioning under impossible conditions.
He inherited the mayoralty from the second-worst mayor in the city’s history, socialist David Dinkins (who might have been worse even than John Lindsay, had he managed to get re-elected). He
faced down a united front of racist black leaders who sought, even before his inauguration, to humiliate him, to make it impossible for him to govern, and to encourage even more violent crime than occurred under mayors Dinkins and Koch. (Fairy tales charging Giuliani with “racism” and “racial profiling” were only invented years later, as cover stories, to retroactively rationalize the racist campaign initiated against Giuliani even before he had made a single decision as mayor.)
And the New York media spread the various smear campaigns against him.
Had I been in Giuliani’s position, facing so much united, concentrated, downright demonic hatred, I might well have eaten the business end of a .38.
New York Democrats -- white, black, and Hispanic -- called him (and still do) a “right-winger.” A “fascist.” “Mussolini.” “Racist.” And their favorite, “Hitler.”
You have to consider the context. New York Republicans are sui generis. Radical left-winger John Lindsay was first elected, in 1965, as a Republican. Liberal Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1933-1945), generally considered the greatest in New York’s history, was a Republican.
To be a New York Republican means not to be a New York Democrat. The function of the Republican mayoral candidacy has gone, in recent years, from a suicide mission for a candidate whose name most New Yorkers will never even know, to a serious slot for: 1. A reform Democrat or technocrat from outside the Party (Bloomberg); or 2. A liberal Republican (Giuliani) who offers disaffected whites a chance at a little racial pride, sotto voce. (This is Steve Sailer’s theory, which happens to hold true, even if such politicians, whether named Bush or Giuliani, do absolutely nothing to improve the lot of the white men who are their largest voting bloc, while providing perks to the minorities who voted against them.)
If Mayor Mike Bloomberg wins re-election this fall, it will be the fourth consecutive New York City mayoral election won by the Republican candidate.
A Bipartisan Right-Wing?
Giuliani actually covers both of the above bases, but Brooks wants him exclusively for function #1 -- that of a popular Democrat without party support. Brooks and his buddies (Bill Kristol, et al.) seek a “Republican” candidate who isn’t a Republican at all, but rather a melding of certain corporate-type characteristics extant in both parties that Brooks & Co. consider clean and inoffensive. My colleague Jim Antle put it best back in 2000:
[Kristol's and Brooks’] political strategy in essence was this: Jettison the boorish white Southerners -- a Weekly Standard bete noire held responsible for much of the GOP's troubles within its pages -- and their Christian right friends, as well as other elements of the Republican coalition easily caricatured by the Democrats. Replace them with a party that chablis-sipping sophisticates from the Northeast who dress like Tucker Carlson would be more comfortable with. Sprinkle generous amounts of happy talk about reform. Voila! A new majority is born....
What is to be gained by reading the GOP's backbone constituencies out of the party in exchange for better coverage from the New York Times? It ought to be said that when the party looked more like what Kristol and Brooks envision, it was consigned to permanent minority status.
Most of all, this formulation is utterly devoid of moral and intellectual substance....
Well, Brooks gained a column at the New York Times, and invitations to even more of the best cocktail parties. So, there!
Neocon Max Boot once said that (according to an unnamed friend), a neocon is a conservative that a “liberal” (read: socialist) can feel safe inviting to a cocktail party. And yet, sucking up to socialists hasn’t helped Brooks much of late. Last year, Slate’s David Plotz wrote, “liberals” had turned on “their favorite conservative.” Sticking to principles can have great utility, while throwing them overboard can often sink you.
What Lawrence Auster, the most trenchant critic of neo-conservatism – and of paleoconservatism – (which is why he’s such a lonely guy, though it doesn’t help his cause, when he orders friendly correspondents to use the same, tiny-sized font in their e-mails that he uses!) – said of Max Boot applies as well to David Brooks: He’s a Democrat who favors a strong foreign policy.
In 2002, Auster showed
how, rather than providing an alternative to multiculturalism, the neocons today are an expression of the very liberalism plaguing America.
Clearly, these leading edge neocons have given up any idea of resisting the moral liberationism that now defines the dominant culture of America and the West. As the eager, sycophantic tone of their writings makes clear, they've decided to get along by going along.
Auster argues that neocons took the traditional conservative American ideas of the unique, distinctive character of the American people and the transcendent idea of equality, and tossed out the first. Then they gutted the second of its eternal, transcendent, religious basis, and turned it into its opposite: A radical, subversive, wholly secular idea.
Auster’s criticism of neoconservatism reminds me of Leo Strauss’ criticism of 19th century historicism (and which applies, without qualification, to its offshoot, multiculturalism): Historicism at first celebrated tolerance and concrete uniqueness, but then jettisoned tolerance, leaving only intolerant uniqueness.
The neocons, however, in jettisoning concrete uniqueness, did it backwards. Strauss was Allan Bloom’s teacher, which could seem ironic, but wasn’t really. Leftists who never read Strauss or who have misrepresented his ideas, have in recent years insisted that neocons are Straussians, which clearly they are not. (During last year’s presidential campaign, political scientist Alan
Wolfe, sounding like he’d never read German fascist thinker Carl Schmitt, produced some tabloid scholarship suggesting that the neocons ... and their enemies, the paleocons -- were both Schmittians! Anyone who has taken the trouble to study Schmitt and Strauss would know that the natural rights thinker Strauss and the Hobbesian-Nietzschean legal positivist Schmitt were, albeit conservatives, philosophical, political, and even temperamental antipodes. But then, Wolfe’s ignorance of his subject was staggering. Not only did he know next to nothing of Schmitt, but he got neoconservatism and paleoconservatism both wrong.) Heck, the neocons aren’t followers of any philosopher, including Machiavelli.
It’s odd that, of all things, David Brooks should praise a politics of “courage.” For if there is one thing that characterized the first generation of neocons – the real neocons – during their rise, it was courage. Courage to honestly depict and condemn black racism, courage to thoroughly, honestly, research and oppose affirmative action, and courage to confront the forces of anti-Americanism. However, once most of the founders (Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Norman Podhoretz) rose to power, they lost that courage, although Glazer retained an honesty that made friend and foe alike uncomfortable.
For instance, Glazer titled his most recent book, We are All Multiculturalists Now, and admitted that he was surrendering to the Left. And when he was invited to give a speech on the 150th anniversary of his alma mater, the City College of New York, although he spoke supportively of the regime of “open admissions,” which had been imposed under threat of race riots in 1970, he did so in a way that made no one happy. He granted that of course the school was academically inferior to the one he attended, but that it had to be. That was not what his hosts had wanted to hear.
(Open admissions meant “no standards,” as in, the only ability you needed, was that of being able to fog up a mirror held to your mouth. Open admissions’ supporters have always lied about the reality of their regime, and sought to punish anyone who told the truth.
Although folks who knew nothing of CCNY have always called it “the poor man’s Harvard,” in reference to the pre-open admissions regime, in fact during Glazer’s student days in the early 1940s, the school had much tougher standards than Harvard and was the most rigorous undergraduate school in the country.)
When neoconservatism was a vital movement, it was dominated by New York Jews who had grown up working-class socialists during the Great Depression. They forged a sensibility out of their love of learning, passion for Talmudic-style disputation, experiences of the streets of New York, early socialism, and the choice they made, when confronted with anti-Americanism, to stick with America. All of the first neocons got their start at City College, including Irish Catholic Pat Moynihan, who finished his degree at Tufts after World War II service.
But when the neocons became politically influential, they went to hell as intellectuals and as political observers.
A conservative Catholic friend of mine complains that the neocons (meaning the Founders) expect everyone to have grown up in New York during the Depression.
Well, neo-conservatism’s second generation brat pack (Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, and though he is not part of a family business, David Brooks) has no such expectation. Where the fathers loved argument as an end in itself, the sons enjoy it only as a means to material ends. Thus, sophistry replaces philosophy and social science. Where the fathers knew want, the sons knew only plenty. Where the fathers knew the city from its streets and subways, the sons know it, if at all, through its taxicabs and limousines.
In Steve Sailer’s current column, he provides the most dramatic dichotomy imaginable between the Fathers and the Sons.
Brat packer John Podhoretz fancies himself not only Sailer’s intellectual but his moral superior. Sailer calls Podhoretz the Younger a “birthright pundit.”
Sailer had been riding Podhoretz the Younger of late, in response to the latter’s attempts to intimidate John Derbyshire and anyone else who deviated from the neocon party line on immigration, at The Corner, the blog at National Review Online. (Unlike Derbyshire, a veteran NRO contributor, Podhoretz, who has long been a fixture on the Murdoch payroll at the New York Post and Weekly Standard, had only recently been invited to participate at The Corner.)
At Sailer’s blog, he imagined Podhoretz saying,
Sorry, pal. If you're born a Podhoretz, you get to make a living offering your opinions, no matter how big of a jerk and fool
you are. Period. That's how it works, and thank God for it, otherwise a great deal of the money made in the 21st century by Podhoretz relatives would not have come to pass.
Sailer was having some fun with Podhoretz’ irrelevant defense of anchor babies. (“Sorry, pal. You're born here, you're a citizen here. Period. That's how it works, and thank God for it, otherwise a great deal of the advances made in the 20th century by immigrant children to the United States would not have come to pass...”)
Podhoretz responded with the following e-mail:
Please keep attacking me. It's how I know I'm not a bigoted, racist scum.
Such wit, such eloquence, such insight!
If you think I lack them, I imagine you think I have too much melanin in my skin.
Before you (or my editor) accuse me of wasting bandwidth, consider Sailer’s next response. He quoted from an essay
that sounded like something from yours truly – i.e., beyond the pale of invitations to civilized cocktail parties – might have written, except that the words were penned in 1963.
[F]or a long time I was puzzled to think that Jews were supposed to be rich when the only Jews I knew were poor, and that Negroes were supposed to be persecuted when it was the Negroes who were doing the only persecuting I knew about – and doing it, moreover, to me.... [It] was the whites, the Italians and Jews, who feared the Negroes, not the other way around.
(Heck, even my wife thought I’d written the essay, when I read it to her without mentioning the years it referred to!)
Thirty years later, the same writer looked back.
In 1963 those descriptions were very shocking to most white liberals. In their eyes Negroes were all long-suffering and noble victims of the kind who had become familiar through the struggles of the civil rights movement in the South, the "heroic period" of the movement, as one if its most heroic leaders, Bayard Rustin, called it. While none of my white critics went so far as to deny the truthfulness of the stories I told, they themselves could hardly imagine being afraid of Negroes (how could they when the only Negroes most of them knew personally were maids and cleaning women?). In any case they very much disliked the emphasis I placed on black thuggery and aggression.
Today, when black-on-white violence is much more common than it was then, many white readers could easily top those stories with worse. And yet even today few of them would be willing to speak truthfully in public about their entirely rational fear of black violence and black crime. Telling the truth about blacks remains dangerous to one's reputation.... the fear of blacks has become the dirty little secret of our political culture.
(Of course now, with racist black violence much worse than it was in 1963, white Leftists and aristocrats routinely deny the truthfulness of honest reporting on racial violence.)
The author was none other than Norman Podhoretz.
Sailer closed with, “Time for John Podhoretz to email to his father accusing him of being ‘a bigoted, racist scum.’!”
I predict that within the next five years, neocons will have learned to love affirmative action.
As John Stuart Mill observed in his essay, “On Liberty,” one may have all the brain power in the world, but be a waste as an intellectual, if one lacks courage.
Where Nixon comes in, is that I (and the Left) see in Rudy Giuliani the political reincarnation of Nixon. Nixon was as tough as they came, he was an anti-communist (though no more so than his political twin, Jack Kennedy, except that Nixon was to the left of JFK on economics, and it was Nixon who gave us affirmative action), and yet he can be most accurately described as a moderate or liberal Republican. (Writers not blinded by hatred often describe him as an Eisenhower Republican, but I think Nixon was too much of a hands-on tinkerer with the machinery of government to be so described, whereas Ike was a hands-off kind of guy.) That Democrats described Nixon and those old enough to remember him still do in the same sort of demonic terms that they now use to describe Giuliani, had nothing to do with Nixon’s (or Giuliani’s) actual character, and everything to do with Nixon’s successful prosecution of communist traitor Alger Hiss, and with their rage at Nixon’s continuing success.
And just as Giuliani assumed control of New York in 1994, when it threatened to disintegrate into chaos, Nixon inherited a similarly plagued body politic in 1969.
And yet, as much as I admire Nixon, may he rest in peace, were he running for the presidency in 2008, I doubt I would vote for him.
In any event, with America facing demographic collapse no longer by 2050 as predicted, but more likely by 2030, and with a now forty-year-old, low-intensity, anti-white, race war picking up, I don’t see any value in remaking the national Republican Party in the image of the New York City Republican Party, even if that means that some folks will lose out on cheap help.