Friday, May 04, 2007

Mark Kleiman claims that the C in Harvey C Mansfield does indeed stand for consistent and that the op-ed which I discuss below is a Straussian denunciation of Bush and everything it seems to praise.

Kleiman argues (brilliantly) that Mansfield fears that an open statement of his views might lead Republicans to sin once more against philosophy so he (still more brilliantly) presents his refutation of Republican authoritarianism under the guise of a defence.

with a broad wink, Mansfield signals that arguments of the very type he purports to make are necessarily partisan and insincere. But he does so in a way that demands the "close reading" Straussians teach. Early in the essay, he writes:

In other circumstances I could see myself defending the rule of law.

Hmmm … just what might those “other circumstances” be? A hint is given in the middle (where Straussians argue that the truth is most cunningly hidden):

The American Founders heeded both criticisms of the rule of law when they created the presidency. The president would be the source of energy in government, that is, in the administration of government, energy being a neutral term that might include Aristotle's discretionary virtue and Machiavelli's tyranny — in which only partisans could discern the difference. (Emphasis added.)

And, just in case the reader is especially dense, Mansfield frankly provides the answer to the riddle near the end of the essay:

Democrats today would be friendlier to executive power if they held the presidency — and Republicans would discover virtue in the rule of law if they held Congress.


So, Mansfield, in his adopted character of an apologist for Bushism, reveals the Bushite project of ruling in defiance of the law as fundamentally tyrannical, fundamentally unlimited, and defensible only from a position of partisan bad faith.


I must say that Kleiman's exegesis is convincing. It is widely agreed that Mansfield is extremely intelligent, and it seems odd that he would let make even one reference to partisanship by mistake. It is impossible that he has forgotten the contempt Republicans had for the rule of law last year when they held congress. Only an idiot could write that an mean it, and Mansfield (I am told) is no idiot. The clause only makes sense as a reference to the impeachment of Clinton when Republicans appealed to l'obligatoriatà dell'azione penale come aspetto dello stato di diritto which they imported from over here and mistranslated as "rule of law" doing violence (as usual) to the legal traditions of the English speaking peoples. This is a datum which I can not explain without agreeing with Kleiman, although it is, to quote Machiavelli "uno solo."

As I have not read Mansfield's op-ed (and don't intend to) I can not argue with Kleiman so I will instead paraphrase Hilzoy

Mark Kleiman has written one of those posts in which the writer's elegance, erudition and stylistic flair make an abhorrent position sound halfway reasonable. One lovely sentence follows another, and if you aren't careful, they lull you into overlooking the fact that he is defending Harvey Mansfield.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Harvey Mansfield is mad as a hatter and a heck of a lot meaner, but I have to figure out what is happening here after I take a walk. There are always those spooky sorts of people about Cambirdge, though.

anne

Anonymous said...

We really do not understand what it means to be military occupiers of another country. I do not think we were quite so even in Vietnam, and the military presence we had in Germany or Japan was entirely different after the wars in each theater. Iraq however is simply a lunatic occupation, of which the mere photograph of soldiers makes me fearful.

anne

Anonymous said...

The military is recording 17.8% of returned soldiers having traumatic brain injuries, and a seemingly impossible number of soldiers in need of psychological referrals. What then of Iraqis, as well? I am beyond understanding, but the mere photographs make me fearful.

So, there are those lunatics who wish more of the same.

anne

Anonymous said...

During Vietnam, I wonder whether there was a running sense of the war in America from the Vietnamese perspective. I almost never have such a sense on Iraq from regular reporting. There is a distancing that is everywhere. Juan Cole helps a lot though.

anne

Anonymous said...

Also, I may begin to newly consider Hillary Clinton if she is really going to push for complete withdrawal of soldiers from Iraq. I want to be sure I understand though, before I ease my criticism. Well, Iwill ease till I am sure, which I guess is fairer.

Anonymous said...

There will be a time, though possibly not for years, when we come to understand the extent to which we have been imperialist in Iraq. This has been American colonialism, as possibly with no parallel in our history.

Anonymous said...

If, by the way, Hillary Clinton is finally decided we must entirely leave Iraq, I will be grateful as I will make clear to the staff. Then we need Barack Obama to be forceful on leaving, as well, and more from John Edwards. Democrats must persist.

Then, I need to badger Brad DeLong on Iraq since I have never known Brad to call for us leaving.

anne

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/04/washington/04cong.html?ex=1335931200&en=88bd5d0519c03489&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

May 4, 2007

Clinton Proposes Vote to Reverse Authorizing War
By CARL HULSE and PATRICK HEALY

WASHINGTON — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed Thursday that Congress repeal the authority it gave President Bush in 2002 to invade Iraq, injecting presidential politics into the Congressional debate over financing the war.

Mrs. Clinton's proposal brings her full circle on Iraq — she supported the war measure five years ago — and it sharpens her own political positioning at a time when Democrats are vying to confront the White House.

"It is time to reverse the failed policies of President Bush and to end this war as soon as possible," Mrs. Clinton said as she joined Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, in calling for a vote to end the authority as of Oct. 11, the fifth anniversary of the original vote.

Her stance emerged just as Congressional leaders and the White House opened delicate negotiations over a new war-financing measure to replace the one that Mr. Bush vetoed Tuesday.

Even if Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Byrd succeed in their effort, it is not clear whether President Bush would have to withdraw troops, or if he could resist by claiming that Congress cannot withdraw its earlier authorization but instead has to deny money for the war to achieve that result.

The question could prompt a constitutional debate over war powers that only the federal courts could resolve....

Anonymous said...

Suddenly, I am hearing all sorts of talk about Hillary Clinton's evident and hoped for change of stance on Iraq. I am hopeful, but cautious as are others, but the point was simply to let it be known that no Democrat will be supported who does not continually advocate leaving Iraq and leaving completely.

As I mentioned, and am more confirmed than ever, I will never vote for a candidate who not not pledge to take American soldiers, all American soldiers from Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Possibly the anti-war movement is being taken seriously enough; possibly.

anne

Anonymous said...

Now to make sure Barack Obama is as forceful on leaving Iraq. Edwards is fine here. Also, where the heck is Obama on health care? Why can't Obama talk policy?