The presidents first speech to a joint session of Congress seemed to have won over some liberal pundits, but a few conservatives were more discerning
As of Tuesday night, when Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress, he seemed to have recovered some esteem in the eyes of liberal pundits. This seemed largely to be based on the fact that Trump had reined in his style. Some conservatives were more discerning.
Meanwhile, there are real reasons to think that Trumps ambiguous, sometimes isolationist-sounding campaign rhetoric is fading into a conventionally hawkish posture on the war on terror. Some who were charged with implementing the policies of his predecessors are asking why.
And in the more exotic corners of the right, we find libertarians debating the ethics of denying the far right a speaking platform, and traditionalist Catholics donning hats for God.
Publication: Notes on Liberty
Author: Like many libertarians, Zachary Woodman is an undergraduate student. (Sorry, Zachary, I couldnt resist). But in this post on the libertarian blog Notes on Liberty, he offers a pretty mature reflection on the prospect of a fascist creep in the libertarian movement.
Why read: Last week, Richard Spencer showed up at the International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington DC. He was swiftly tossed out but claimed that he had been invited by attendees. The openness of some libertarians to fascism, and the fact that Spencer thought that he might be welcome there or find new recruits, has led to some soul-searching among libertarians. As well it might the biographies of some major alt-right figures show that they found their way to fascism through anarcho-capitalist libertarianism. Woodman offers a painstaking, trenchant diagnosis of his own movement.
Extract: Not playing footsies with Nazis is the bare minimum for being ideologically tolerable, and not something to be celebrated. We need to recognize that the reason Spencer even felt comfortable showing up and the reason minor leaders in libertarian student organizations felt comfortable inviting him is a symptom of a deeper disease thats been in the making for quite some time. I do not know exactly how to address this disease, but the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that we have one.
Publication: The American Conservative
Author: Daniel Larison is a consistent and principled voice against US foreign adventures. This is the major theme of his blog at the American Conservative.
Why read: When even liberal pundits are somehow concluding that Trumps ability to read from a teleprompter is inherently presidential, its worth noting that not all conservative pundits agree. Larison notes that Trumps speech was, rhetorically, much like his campaign rhetoric: blustering, braggadocious, and empty of specificities.
Extract: Trump entered office as a wartime president, but he had very little to say about this and said even less about why the US is involved in wars in multiple countries around the globe. The war in Afghanistan didnt rate a mention, and neither did the ongoing horror of the US-backed war on Yemen. I suppose the very thin silver lining to this is that he didnt announce plans to escalate US involvement in either country, but that doesnt mean he wont do that in both places. For all of Trumps rhetoric about peace, he gave no indication that he intends to end US involvement in any of the wars it is currently fighting or enabling. I assume that is because he has no intention of doing any such thing.
Publication: The American TFP
Author: Anonymous, but the website is run by John Horvat III, a traditionalist Catholic intellectual who believes that modern society needs to be subjected once more to strict spiritual and temporal hierarchy.
Why read it: This is your weekly reminder that the right is, at times, just flat-out weird. The nameless author makes the case that a man wearing a hat in public is not a pointlessly retrograde gesture, but a sign of civility and spiritual dignity. Its a pretty convoluted defense of fedoras, but whatever works, I guess.
Extract: Just as a priest wears a biretta to express his mysterious power as mediator between God and men, so also a hat worn with dignity evokes gestures and attitudes that constitute a true social liturgy, necessary for human acts in a Christian society. In both the biretta and hat, a Catholic should look beyond the mere practical aspects and look for something which people who worship mundane practicality will call useless he must look for the principles that give the meaning of life and prepare the soul for Heaven (Plinio Corra de Oliveira).
Publication: The Weekly Standard
Author: Michael Warren is a senior writer at the neocon organ the Weekly Standard. Hes also worked at other conservative flagships such as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and National Review.
Why read it: Against the grain of the congratulatory assessments of Trumps address to the Congress on Thursday, many have rightly noted that Trumps speech contained many abhorrent proposals and was broadly similar to everything else he has said since his nomination as the GOP candidate. Warren picks up on another nuance: Trumps speech made a case for big-spending government, flying in the face of a half-century of Republican orthodoxy.
If they adhered to their principles, we might expect that more orthodox Republicans such as Paul Ryan would oppose this. Stop laughing.
Extract: But Trump also made a pitch for more infrastructure spending, paid family leave, and accessible and affordable childcare. And there was no talk of reforming Medicare or Social Security, nor of reducing the size and scope of government. He even seemed open to Medicaid expansion. Republicans in Congress won elections blasting federal spending projects and promising to fix unsustainable entitlements. But Tuesday found even House speaker Paul Ryan, the partys intellectual leader on domestic policy, applauding Trumps deviations.
Publication: War is Boring
Author: Maj Danny Sjursen is a US army strategist who used to lecture at West Point. In his books and journalism, he has presented a critical view of the United States generation-long, and still open-ended, commitment to war in the Middle East.
Why read it: This is a long, forensic and persuasive account of the failure of Americas Middle East policies, and the unlikelihood of improvement, by someone with practical experience in trying to implement them in theaters of war. He shows how US policymakers drew the wrong lessons from two crucial years – 1979 and 2003. The result has been a militarized Middle East policy which has only ramped up chaos in the region.
Extract: The State Department counted just 348 terrorist attacks worldwide in 2001 compared with 11,774 attacks in 2015. Thats right, at best, Americas 15-year war on terror failed to significantly reduce international terrorism. At worst, its actions helped make matters 30 times worse.