A Pause for Wretchard

Richard Fernandez discusses Dostoevsky and abortion, noting that

Fyodor Dostoevsky, speaking through Ivan in his Brothers Karamazov, wrote that the only questions which really mattered were the eternal ones. They are what return in various guises generation after generation not because we can never resolve them, but because we resolve ourselves in them.

This week, looking at writers as disparate as Thomas Paine and John Adams, we talked in my classes of the concept of human rights, of the importance of the belief that they were God-given, inalienable.  We talked of the Puritan belief that all souls were equal before God and the British one that saw men equal before the law; these concepts mutated and grew perhaps, but remain because they are, as Wretchard observes, “an unbroken thread throughout its history.”  Would that Wretchard could come to my class and address those students, moving them as he so often moves me.  He speaks of the great questions: 

The source of liberty, the provenance of inalienable rights, whether all men are created equal and if God Himself had a role in the public space are issues that run like an unbroken thread through its history. The reason for the enduring topicality of these themes may lie in the lack of artifice in the choice of political system America has chosen to adopt. A democracy will inevitably bring the deepest fears and hopes of common humanity to the front and center; while an aristocracy eventually concerns itself with manners. The survival of basic human themes as subjects of American political discourse is testimony to the proposition that it has — not yet — left its roots.

Tonight, we saw a man of action in McCain, but one who had clearly confronted those eternal questions.  He has had a long and tough life; both in the intensity and the length of his years, he seems to have come to know who he is.  His nature is clearly shoot-from-the-hip; he has a populist streak that can be a little unnerving.   He wants to put blame when the truth is complicated.  Nonetheless, I’d prefer a president who thought about those questions.  Such a man thinks in terms of blame & shame, because he also thinks in terms of responsibility & honor.   Nor would he assume that the reality of such standards negates the equally important fact that all men are united, involved with one another.  Sometimes he’s bi-partisan because of a certain self-righteousness, but this is made more attractive by the shifting nature of his allegiances.  He really does care about the substance rather than the politics and respects others, from both sides of  the aisle, or at least engages them. 

We would be lucky, it seems to me, to have a leader who has that density of experience-taught thought.  He’s not going to be perfect, but we feel he’s been there before – and he’ll be there again.  In the center, taking responsibility, taking risks – but risks that are worth it because he knows how much the story of America is worth it.

And, of course, Belmont is full as always:  on the debate, on Afghanistan, on the Obama campaigns rather alarming habit of threatening to sue those who disagree.


15 thoughts on “A Pause for Wretchard”

  1. Having a strong leader right now, or somebody who thinks he is strong and has a good grasp on the issues (but is sadly mistaken, I think) is the worst thing that could happen to you. FDR and John ‘The Dollar is our currency but your problem’ Connally each were strong leaders in their own way, and they were instrumental in getting you into the current mess. Mccain is displaying some serious warning signs already. I don’t think that he truly believes in free markets and he is already railing against companies and business leaders, instead of discussing how to reduce the malignant influence of the state on the private sector. Excessive and downright insane regulation led to this mess, but McCain the populist is going to turn on business once elected. Obama’s ideas are even worse, but unlike McCain he won’t be able to put them into practice. That’s the virtue of having a weak leader, especially so in a crisis none of the candidates understands, or is even able to understand.

  2. I do not intend to get into a spitting match about McCain, suffice it to say that Stonewall Jackson was about as strong a president as we have had and he was responsible for the barbarism of the Indian removal (read: genocide).

    It is always questionable to take one character from an author’s work and suggest that that character stands for the author. In fact, Ivan is an intellectual–and certainly McCain is not that.

    Here is the character who best summarizes values Dostoyevsky came to believe in when he wrote this great novel:
    “Alyosha becomes the messenger of the Elder Zossima’s teachings and is presented as the closest thing to a more perfect human since the Prince in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. “

  3. “unlike McCain he won’t be able to put them into practice”…really? Even given that he would probably also have a Democratic House & Senate?

    I had heard that the chances for a Democratic Congress had declined considerably. Of course, that was before the bailout issue that also had improved polls for Obam again. I should have thought of that.

    If all three houses tuen Democratic I will hope on Obama’s tendency to dither to prevent the worst.

  4. Please do explain, for my edification, how “excessive regulation” was responsible for the current financial mess? As opposed of course, to the usual suspects of greed, improvidence and short-sightedness?

  5. -Hope is not a plan.

    It is for Obama. It’s all he got.

    I really don’t see what can be done right now, the situation is very fluid. The bailout issue emerged all of a sudden, changing the momentum of the campaign and the poll numbers yet again.

    Let’s wait for Monday for now. Bernanke and Paulson insisted that the bailout absolutely has to happen this week or we would see the financial system go down the drain. If they fail to agree on a final bailout plan tomorrow and the sun rises in the East on Monday morning anyhow, the bailout plan probably will lose a lot of support. It also might mean a new shift of momentum for the various election campaign.

  6. Please do explain, for my edification, how “excessive regulation” was responsible for the current financial mess?

    Fine, I’ll edify tomorrow. It’s almost midnight here.

  7. If you folks want a preview of what an Obama administration will be like then I suggest reading this transcript from Rush Limbaugh’s show on Friday where he describes the surreal happenings that occurred at the White House on Thursday when all the Congressional Leaders + Presidential Candidates + Treasure Dept were at the White House to iron out a deal on the bailout.

    None of this is comforting.. These people are so untrustworthy it frightens me.


  8. To add onto what Mitsu has contributed..

    Democrats in their own words Covering up the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Scam that caused our Economic Crisis.

    At a 2004 hearing see Democrat after Democrat covering up and attacking the regulations to protect Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (their Cash Cows) that are now destroying our economy because the Democrats let them cheat


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