Republican Multiculturalism, The Director’s Cut

Nikki Haley, the new face of the Republican party.

Over at the Globe and Mail, I look at the efforts of the Republicans to become a more multi-racial party. I had to cover a lot of ground in 900 words. Those who want to read the earlier, longer version (or “director’s cut”) can do so below:

Historical memory might be on the wane elsewhere but it is very much alive in South Carolina, a state whose expansive cotton fields and stately plantations memorialize the paradox of a genteel civilization built on centuries of slavery and segregation. So the world perked up to the news earlier this week that Tim Scott, an African-American legislator, won the primary to be the Republican candidate in the state’s first district, beating Paul Thurmond, a son of the late Strom Thurmond, the fabled segregationist who represented the state as a Senator from 1956 to 2003.

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From Lionel Trilling to Sarah Palin: Podhoretz’s Pilgrimage


Sarah Palin

Once upon a time, Norman Podhoretz admired intelligence. Podhoretz’s best book, Making It, is a non-fiction bildungsroman, the story of how an uncouth Brooklyn boy learned to love literature and high culture, eventually becoming a formidable critic and editor. The book is filled with tough-minded but loving portraits of Podhoretz’s teachers, especially Lionel Trilling and F.R. Leavis. Podhoretz was a scholarship boy, someone whose gift for words transported him out of his humble origins into the heady world of Partisan Review and the New Yorker.

Here is Podhoretz’s account of his first visit to the home of Lionel Trilling: “Everything there was easy and informal – even, I thought, rather surprisingly bohemian – and no one seemed to care whether my tie was on or off. It was an atmosphere in which I could loosen up, and after a swim and several martinis, I began talking my head off abut Cambridge, about Leavis, about Europe, and even, finally, about my secret uncertainties….Yes, of course, he [Trilling] said, he understood exactly what I meant, and proceeded – with a witchlike precision which the hesitant style of his speech and the diffidently soft quality of his voice left one unprepared for and somehow surprised by, even though one knew he was Lionel Trilling and one of the most intelligent men in the world – to tell me what it was I had been trying to say.”

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Advanced In Another Direction

Harvey Kurtzman's cover for Two-Fisted Tales #26 (March/April 1952)
Harvey Kurtzman's cover for Two-Fisted Tales #26 (March/April 1952)
In her remarkably incoherent speech announcing that she’s stepping down as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin misattributed a quote to Douglas MacArthur. As the New York Times reports
But at another point she invoked a military quotation, misattributing it to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in what seemed to be an effort to wave aside any suggestion that she was abandoning the fight. “He said, ‘We’re not retreating; we are advancing in another direction,’ ” she said. (The remark was actually said by Maj. Gen. Oliver Prince Smith.)
Leaving aside the misattribution, it has to be said that the quote itself seems like a bit of overheated bravado to hide the fact that there actually was a retreat. As long ago as 1952, Harvey Kurtzman slyly called attention to the fake chest-thumping of the statement by showing a very bedraggled soldier retreating while claiming that the Marines “advanced in another direction.”

McCain Wins Debate!

Whatever else you can say about John McCain and Sarah Palin, you have to admire their chutzpah. Indeed there entire campaign has been an extended display of sheer nerve, a willingness to say and do things that would shame normal people.


Via Washington Post, McCain’s campaign is already running ads (on the website of the Wall Street Journal) saying MCCAIN WINS DEBATE! Another ad quotes McCain’s campaign manager as saying: “McCain won the debate– hands down.” Pretty prescient since the debate, which McCain tried to postpone, hasn’t taken place yet. (See here and  here; and thanks to Laura Rozen for pointing this story out).


Speaking of chutzpah, Palin has argued that those who want to talk to Iran (i.e., former Secretary of States like Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Warren Christopher, James Baker, and Henry Kissinger ) are “naive.” Ah, yes, that naive Kissinger. If only he had the wiliness Palin, the Bismark of Alaska.

Palin Pile-on

The blogosphere rings out with denunciations of Sarah Palin, Republican vice-presidential nominee. Among the more interesting items is the following ABC news report, which helpfully explains the political scandal involving an Alaskan state trooper who is Palin’s former brother in law:



Note the detail at the end about the timing of the investigation into the affair: it is scheduled to be released four days before the U.S. election. The Republicans are currently devoting much sleazy energy to delaying its release.

Palin also appears to be losing the support of conservative intellectuals such as Charles Krauthammer (whose column, like the ABC report, I came across at Andrew Sullivan‘s blog). 

Speaking personally, the most disappointing thing about Palin is her belief in creationism. During her 2006 race for governor of Alaska, Palin said of evolution and creationism, “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.” Some right-wing sites are now downplaying the significance of this remark.  They note that a few days later, Palin said that she would not push schools to actually teach creationism in science class. All she meant to say was that if creationism did come up in biology lessons, students should be allowed to discuss it. “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”

I don’t find this line of defence very reassuring. For one thing, she is simply wrong that creationism deserves any sort of presence in biology class. It is the worst form of pseudo-science, and has no place in a serious scientific discussion. Moreover, the issue is not confined to what Palin herself personally believes, although her personal views are bad enough. If elected Palin will inspire and energize people who do want to mandate creationism in schools. Indeed, this seems to be the official view of the party she represented when she made her original creationism comment. As the Anchorage Daily News noted in 2006, “The Republican Party of Alaska platform says, in its section on education: ‘We support giving Creation Science equal representation with other theories of the origin of life. If evolution is taught, it should be presented as only a theory.'” 

If we must have fundamentalists on the Republican ticket, it would at least be nice to have some variety for a change. They’ve been going after evolution for decades now. Don’t they ever get tired of fighting the same old battles? Just once, couldn’t they come out against gravity or photosynthesis to liven things up?