Jul 6, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 41 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
It’s the summer of 2015, and the left is on the march. Or perhaps one should say—since the left presumably dislikes the militarist connotations of the term “march”—that the left is swarming. And in its mindless swarming and mob-like frenzy, nearly every hideous aspect of contemporary leftism is on display.
We see a French Revolution-like tendency to move with the speed of light from a reasonable and perhaps overdue change (taking down the Confederate flag over state buildings) to an all-out determination to expunge from our history any recognition or respect for that which doesn’t fully comport with contemporary progressive sentiment. The left’s point, of course, is not to clarify and sharpen appreciation for our distinctive history; the point is to discredit that history.
And the point is not to advance arguments and criticize alternative views; it is to deny the legitimacy of opposing arguments and to demonize opponents and purge them from the public square.
We see a pitiful aversion to standing up to barbarism abroad and a desperate willingness to accommodate and appease. This requires an amazing ability to shut one’s eyes to reality, and an extraordinary refusal to make tough decisions and assume real responsibilities. As Harvey Mansfield put it in the 1970s, “From having been the aggressive doctrine of vigorous, spirited men, liberalism has become hardly more than a trembling in the presence of illiberalism. . . . Who today is called a liberal for strength and confidence in defense of liberty?”
We see a wanton willingness on the part of leftist elites to use sophistic arguments to override democratic self-government when the people might not endorse the outcome (say, “marriage equality”) that the left has decided “progress” requires. We see a desperate desire to find a secular substitute for religious belief in the embrace of abstract doctrines (“global warming”) that are appropriately renamed (“climate change”) when the facts complicate matters. And we see a cavalier willingness to impose costs on others less fortunate and less well-protected for the sake of the left’s moral self-regard (by, for example, pledging to end “the era of mass incarceration,” also known as the era of crime reduction).
But as Alexander Hamilton (another recent object of the left’s perpetual discomfort with human achievement) wrote in Federalist 70: “There can be no need . . . to multiply arguments or examples on this head.” All the trends and tendencies, the pathologies and perversities that have made the modern left so corrosive of national spirit, so corrupting of self-government, so damaging to Western civilization, are on display front and center in today’s America. As the title of a brilliant article by Kevin D. Williamson in National Review puts it, “We Have Officially Reached Peak Leftism.”
Williamson interprets this moment hopefully, as one of leftist desperation, as a sense on the part of the left that time is running out: “The hysterical shrieking about the fictitious rape epidemic on college campuses, the attempts to fan the unhappy events in Ferguson and Baltimore into a national racial conflagration, the silly and shallow ‘inequality’ talk—these are signs of progressivism in decadence. So is the brouhaha over the Confederate flag.” It’s all, he concludes, “a fraud.” And, Williamson posits, “some scales are starting to fall from some eyes.”
Let’s hope so. The term “Peak Leftism” first came to our notice in an interesting essay several months ago by Robert Tracinski, “Have We Already Reached Peak Leftism?” Tracinski points out just how bad things have gotten in the academy, just how lopsided the left’s dominance is. And he suggests, “There are two ways to look at this trend: as evidence that we are doomed because the left has taken over the key institutions of the culture—or as evidence that the left has reached such a high degree of saturation that they have nowhere to go but down.”
Tracinski argues that we may well have reached peak leftism. He sets forth various factors, most notably a deep tendency for institutions and trends to revert to the mean, that indicate things will get better. But he also acknowledges, “I don’t mean to suggest that a cultural reversion to the mean is inevitable.”
Of course the very term “peak leftism” makes that point. The term plays off the claim that America, or the world, had reached “peak oil.” But it turns out that “peak oil” wasn’t a peak. Fracking means we’re producing more oil than ever before. So, to pursue the analogy, will the left’s cultural fracking take it to new heights?
The only way to ensure leftism has peaked, and to ensure that it doesn’t drag us further down into the abyss, is to fight it and defeat it. We either overcome peak leftism, or we’re doomed.
Jul 6, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 41 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
One week before the June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a series of demands about the final terms. Among them: He called for an immediate end to all United Nations Security Council and U.S.
Looking back at the Iraq war Jul 6, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 41 • By NOEMIE EMERY
Is the world better off than it was eight years ago?
Is the Middle East? Is Iraq? These questions, echoing the one asked by Ronald Reagan in his debate with Jimmy Carter just before the 1980 election, should be posed by all Republicans until the polls close in November 2016. Added to these are a few other things . . .
A rare partnership on free trade.Jul 6, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 41 • By FRED BARNES
"It was like an out-of-body experience,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says. He was talking about his congratulatory phone call from President Obama after Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) passed the Senate last week.
Jun 29, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 40 • By LEE SMITH
The Obama White House thinks that when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, we ought to let bygones be bygones. What’s past is past, and now it’s time to focus on the future. Sure, the administration once thought it was a problem that the Iranians refused to disclose their past nuclear activities, or what the International Atomic Energy Agency calls the “possible military dimensions” (PMDs) of their nuclear program. As John Kerry said in April, if Iran wants sanctions relief it will need to come clean about its past activities—it will “have to do it,” said Kerry.
Jun 22, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 39 • By LEE SMITH
A year ago the Islamic State first made headlines around the world by storming Mosul and conquering Iraq’s second-largest city. President Obama pledged to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the organization. Here we are a year later, and with ISIS now holding more territory—including other Iraqi cities like Ramadi—the Obama White House has yet to figure out how to degrade, never mind destroy, the organization. As Obama said last week at the end of the G7 summit in Germany, “We don’t yet have a complete strategy.”
Jun 15, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 38 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
William Butler Yeats sure had the Age of Obama right:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
Jun 8, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 37 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
In his Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama seems to have taken it upon himself to update the greatest achievement in the history of the English language—the King James Bible. He was reaching for John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” A beautiful, immortal, and holy phrase. But not gender-neutral. So here’s how it came out: “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”
May 25, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 35 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
Let’s begin by doing something we don’t often do, and that is quoting the New York Times at some length. We do this because David Sanger’s report of Thursday, May 14, makes clear how mistaken are the premises underlying President Obama’s forthcoming Iran deal:
The trade treaty may pass, no thanks to the president. May 25, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 35 • By FRED BARNES
There was a time when Democrats were free traders and getting trade treaties through Congress was a snap. No more. In the last quarter-century—with most Democrats having slipped into the protectionist camp—winning ratification has become difficult. Today it takes a majority of Republicans to pass a trade pact.
3:30 PM, May 11, 2015 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
It was a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away: In July 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama made big, bold news by travelling to Berlin to – as The New York Times triumphantly recorded – “restore the world’s faith in strong American leadership and idealism.” With 200,000 Berliners waving
May 18, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 34 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
John Forbes Kerry is the 68th secretary of state of the United States of America. If you’re ever tempted to ponder American decline, or for that matter the decline of the West, you might pause to reflect that John Kerry was preceded in his august office by, among others, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, William Seward, John Hay, Elihu Root, Charles Evans Hughes, Henry Stimson, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Henry Kissinger, and George Shultz.