Sunday, 11 February 2007


This is the best thing I’ve read in several days. As much as I admire Ronald Reagan (despite having voted for Ed Clark in 1980 and Walter Mondale in 1984), there were many respects in which he was not conservative. But that’s okay; a politician is not a political morality. Neither is a party. Just as I use my normative ethical theory (deontological egoism) to evaluate actions, I use my political morality (conservatism) to evaluate politicians and parties.


Guess how long it’s been since we had a president who served in the United States Senate? Answer: Almost 33 years. Here are the public offices held by our most recent presidents:

John F. Kennedy: House, Senate
Lyndon Johnson: House, Senate
Richard Nixon: House, Senate
Gerald Ford: House (Ford was not elected to the presidency)
Jimmy Carter: Governor
Ronald Reagan: Governor
George H. W. Bush: House
Bill Clinton: Governor
George W. Bush: Governor

I don’t know why it would be that senators don’t make it to the presidency. Goodness knows, many have tried. But let’s assume that there’s something going on of which we’re unaware. What does it say about the 2008 contest?

Among the leading Democrats are Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, and Barack Obama. All are (or were) United States Senators. There is one House member (Dennis Kucinich). There are two governors (Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack).

Among the leading Republicans are Sam Brownback and John McCain. Both are United States Senators. There are three House members (Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo). There are four governors (Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Tommy Thompson). There is one mayor (Rudy Giuliani).

It doesn’t look good for the Democrats. If history is any guide, either Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani will be our next president. Each has executive experience without the taint of having served in the United States Senate. By the way, I’ve said before in this blog that it appears to be a necessary (but not a sufficient) condition for a Democrat to be elected president that he or she be a Southerner. This would rule out all but John Edwards.

Addendum: I noticed something interesting. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon—the most recent presidents who served in the Senate prior to becoming president—defeated people who had been senators. Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960; Johnson defeated Goldwater in 1964; Nixon defeated Humphrey in 1968; and Nixon defeated McGovern in 1972. Obviously, if two people who served in the Senate face off, one of them must win. It’s as if the American people elect former senators as president only if they have no choice. Hillary Clinton must therefore hope that John McCain is her opponent in 2008, for then a senator must win, as in 1960 through 1972.

Addendum 2: Hmm. This is getting even more interesting. I compiled a list of who defeated whom since 1960 (S = Senator; G = Governor; H = House member):

1960: S > S
1964: S > S
1968: S > S
1972: S > S
1976: G > H
1980: G > G
1984: G > S
1988: H > G
1992: G > H
1996: G > S
2000: G > S
2004: G > S

Senators are 4-7, governors 7-2, and house members 1-2.  If we remove cases in which both candidates had the same status (e.g., both senators or both governors), senators are 0-4, governors 6-1, and House members 1-2.

Talking Urinal Cakes

Will Nehs sent a link to this. Isn’t technology great?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In “The Racial Politics of Speaking Well” (Week in Review, Feb. 4), about Senator Joe Biden’s use of the word “articulate” to describe Senator Barack Obama, Lynette Clemetson suggests the following rule: “Do not use it as the primary attribute of note for a black person if you would not use it for a similarly talented, skilled or eloquent white person.”

During the recent hearings on Iraq that Senator Biden presided over as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he referred to the following people as “articulate”:

Leslie H. Gelb
Edward N. Luttwak
Lawrence J. Korb
Robert Malley
Senator Lisa Murkowski
Peter W. Galbraith
Frederick W. Kagan
Ted Galen Carpenter
Gen. Jack Keane
Senator Edward M. Kennedy

While Senator Biden has expressed his regret that anyone was offended by his words, we wanted to make it clear that his reference to Senator Obama was sincerely intended as a compliment.

Alan L. Hoffman
Washington, Feb. 9, 2007
The writer is the chief of staff for Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Allan Bloom (1930-1992) on John Rawls (1921-2002)

Rawls begins with our moral sense, develops the principles which accord with it, and then sees whether we are satisfied with the results; the principles depend on our moral sense and that moral sense on the principles. We are not forced to leave our conventional lives nor compelled, by the very power of being, to move toward a true and natural life. We start from what we are now and end there, since there is nothing beyond us. At best Rawls will help us to be more consistent, if that is an advantage. The distinctions between opinion and knowledge, and between appearance and reality, which made philosophy possible and needful, disappear. Rawls speaks to an audience of the persuaded, excluding not only those who have different sentiments but those who cannot be satisfied by sentiment alone.

(Allan Bloom, “Justice: John Rawls Vs. The Tradition of Political Philosophy,” The American Political Science Review 69 [June 1975]: 648-62, at 649)

A Year Ago



January and February are the worst months of the year for a baseball fan. For a couple of months after the World Series ends in late October, I’m content to focus on other sports. By January, I’m starting to miss the Grand Old Game. By February, when the only sport worth watching is college basketball, I’m going stir crazy. It doesn’t help that the weather is gray and cool. I need sunshine! Warmth! The crack of bat on ball! The smell of freshly mowed grass! I want to read stories about rookies and veterans, about the competitition for roster spots, about which teams are improved and which unimproved, about owners, agents, salaries, new parks, records, and divisional forecasts. I want to think baseball, talk baseball, listen to baseball, watch baseball, eat, drink, and sleep baseball. My adopted Texas Rangers begin spring training in six days. I may die of anticipation.

Safire on Language