Power LinePower LinePassingsRobert Pear, RIPAs Nadler nattersCRB: Giving up DarwinThoughts from the ammo line Fri, 10 May 2019 18:12:17 +0000 hourly 1 43088053 Fri, 10 May 2019 18:05:57 +0000 Steven Hayward (



Another busy, travel-heavy week, so I wasn’t able to post a proper obituary notice for John Lukacs, who passed away early this week at the age of 95. The first Lukacs book I read as an undergraduate way back in 1980 was The Passing of the Modern Age, followed shortly by 1945: Year Zero, and I was hooked. (Both of these books hold up extremely well after 40 years.)

John Lukacs

Lukacs was a literary-philosophical historian akin to Herbert Butterfield or R.H. Carr, and thus unlike 99 percent of the writers and scholars who work in the field today. His works are always compelling and compulsively readable. He was my model, along with Paul Johnson, for how to do historical writing—a style I described once to Johnson and Lukacs as “analytical narrative.” They both liked the label.

Lukacs may be best known for his several books that have Churchill as their central focus, especially Churchill: Historian, Visionary, Statesman, which is one of the best short analytical books about Churchill. He was the historical adviser to the Darkest Hour film project, which was partly based on his terrific little book Five Days in London about that critical episode of the third week of Churchill’s premiership. But not to be missed is his book The Duel: The Hundred-Day War Between Churchill and Hitler, and The Last European War: 1939-1941. He also had a lot of interesting things to say about Tocqueville, and more than a few things that were arguably wrong.  And he was perhaps more fond of George Kennan, whom he knew well, than he should have been.

I got to spend some time with Lukacs at a small Churchill conference at the University of Louisville about 20 years ago, and among the many interesting things about that encounter was something he told me and James Muller over dinner about David Irving, the infamous Holocaust-denier “historian.” Lukacs said that while we was working in the British archives on one of his books, he decided to check on a few of Irving’s footnotes sourced to original documentary material. Lukacs couldn’t find many key documents. This didn’t necessarily mean the documents did not exist, but Lukacs was strongly inclined to the view that Irving had simply fabricated some of his evidence. I always hoped that he might follow up on this and expose Irving.

The other surprise of that encounter was the discovery that for all of his very perceptive writing about Churchill, Lukacs had never read any of Churchill’s essays in Thoughts and Adventures, which were the subject of my talk at the conference. I told him, correctly, that he was in for a treat.

Fr. James Schall

Likewise I missed a notice of the passing of Fr. James Schall, the long-time professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University. I did not know Fr. Schall especially well, but we exchanged letters on a few occasions, and one letter from him in particular back in the mid-1980s encouraged me to continue my graduate studies out at Claremont. At the time I wrote to him inquiring whether I might transfer to Georgetown to finish my Ph.D, he was uncertain about where the Georgetown government department might be headed, and advised me to stay put.

Much of Fr. Schall’s great work concerns the divide between—or potential synthesis of—reason and revelation, which makes him a successor of sorts to Thomas Aquinas—a comparison I know he would have disavowed. But you can grasp his profound understanding from just a single sentence of one of his books, Reason, Revelation, and the Foundations of Political Philosophy:

Political philosophy has come to be the first line of defense not merely of the limited city but also of a revelation that does not conceive its task to be one of building a city based implicitly on the denial of the norms of nature.


Back in the 1980s he was my go-to guy for how to think about the problem of “liberation theology,” which was all the rage on the left then. (I called it “Marxism with salsa.”) More recently he drew our attention to the content and significance of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 “Regensberg Lecture,” which inflamed the politically correct everywhere because of its criticism of Islam. This was to miss the depth of the Pope’s rich teaching about reason and science in that lecture. I especially like these two passages of Fr. Schall’s analysis:

A professorial pope will demand of his listeners a high level of careful reading and intelligent reflection to understand what he is about. He will be much more demanding on intellectuals, that usually proud and often touchy lot, than on ordinary people. The former, the scholars, cannot so easily avoid the implications of his arguments if the pope’s intellectual stature stands on the same natural grounds as theirs. Yes, as Aquinas showed, intelligence is not intended to obscure but clarify things, even for beginners and for those who have no intention of being philosophers. Well-ordered minds are their own delight.

And, from his analysis of the heart of the Regensberg Lecture:

Modern philosophy is seen in this lecture as a steady and gradual effort to eliminate any understanding of reason that would prevent man from doing whatever he wills. Hence modernity is seen as an effort to “dehellenize,” that is, to get rid of Greek thought and principles. This effort entails a discussion of the meaning of reason in modern science, and whether it is the only or prime understanding of reason. What Benedict finally suggests is that any kind of reason must be protected from a concept of voluntarism that would justify violence in the name of reason or God. Thus, this whole lecture is based on a sustained argument about reason.

You can see why Islamic extremists, and Western nihilists (aka, the media) were outraged.

]]> 0 216911 Fri, 10 May 2019 15:15:48 +0000 Paul Mirengoff (



Robert Pear, a reporter for the New York Times, died earlier this week due to a stroke. Pear reported on health care issues for the paper.

I’m not a fan of the Times, but was a big fan of Pear. I don’t see how you couldn’t be a fan if you took a serious interest in the health care debate. The obits from the Times and the Washington Post provide a good sense of the relentlessness of his reporting and his ability (as the Post says) to “enlight[en] readers and rankl[e] partisans with the clarity of his reportage and his savantlike understanding of the federal government and its arcana.”

In the 1990s, for example, Pear’s reporting was at the center of the debate over the Clintons’ attempt to overhaul our health care system. As the Times puts it, “much to the White House’s consternation, Mr. Pear regularly pierced the cone of silence that the Clinton administration had erected around its negotiations for a national health care consensus.” Some in the White House accused him of undermining their process.

Allan Dodds Frank, an award-winning business journalist, described Pear as “the most important reporter in Washington you have never heard of.” I think he may have been the most important reporter in Washington, period.

If Pear was a reporter people never heard of, it was because he refused to appear on television. Rather than become a talking head, he spoke through his reporting.

Pear would have spoken well on television. I can attest to this because I debated him in high school. As a junior, my partner and I took on Pear and his partner. I have no recollection of his partner, but Pear made an indelible impression.

He was debating for Walter Johnson High, the perennial local champions. We represented upstart Wheaton High. Pear defeated us. It wasn’t close.

The next year, Pear was gone. I always assumed he had graduated. However, his obituaries show that he graduated from Harvard the same year I graduated from college. Thus, he might still have been in high school when I was a senior. Perhaps he had simply outgrown high school debate.

Good thing for me if he did. My partner and I easily defeated a team from Walter Johnson my senior year. As improved as we were, I doubt we would have gotten the better of Pear. He was the best debater I ever encountered in Maryland and as good, I think, as any I faced nationally while in high school.

I wasn’t surprised that he went on to become a legendary reporter. His reporting will be sorely missed.

]]> 0 216889 Fri, 10 May 2019 13:17:48 +0000 Scott Johnson (



The contempt citation served up by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and his Democratic colleagues on Attorney General William Barr is stupid almost beyond belief. Professor Jonathan Turley exposes its complete and utter asininity without breaking a sweat.

That is not the hardest of the questions raised by Nadler’s shenanigans. What’s it all about, Jerry? That is a somewhat more difficult question to answer. Kim Strassel takes up the deep meaning of Nadler’s handiwork in her weekly Wall Street Journal Potomac Watch column headlined “What Nadler really wants.” She concludes:

Mr. Nadler’s contempt resolution…immediately begins a protracted court fight—guaranteeing he gets nothing for months, even years.

What does Mr. Nadler want, if not information? He wants the fight; he wants a show. Mrs. Pelosi prefers to avoid impeachment, for fear of public blowback. But she and her team need desperately to feed the angry progressive masses, to demonstrate that they are taking it to the Trump team. That’s what’s behind the shouts of obstruction and lawlessness and the dramatic show votes. Mr. Nadler chose to explain this purportedly serious contempt vote on that most unserious TV destination of Democratic base voters—MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” There Mr. Nadler railed that Mr. Trump is acting like a “king” or “dictator.”

The rage-on strategy holds electoral risks for the Democrats. Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Nadler and other committee chairmen come from safe districts and don’t have to worry about re-election. But the more red meat they throw, the more the base will demand impeachment—and the more swing voters will wonder what, if anything, Democrats have to offer beyond this fraudulent show.

Do Democrats really want a show starring Jerry Nadler? I wonder if they have thought this thing through. It is hard to imagine a less appealing figure. Even after surgical intervention, he seems to embody their limitless appetite for money and power. If that is a bad thing, it is far from the worst thing about him.

]]> 0 216883 Fri, 10 May 2019 11:52:04 +0000 Scott Johnson (



We conclude our week-long preview of the new (Spring) issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here) this morning. I stretched our preview to from three days to five in part because of my indecision, in part because of my desire to give readers a glimpse of the many highlights on display in this issue. I think we have a good thing going.

We conclude with a highlight of the highlights we have featured from the current issue. David Gelernter is the Renaissance man and polymath at Yale. His diverse interests are reflected among the several books he has written. He is, moreover, that rara avis in the university setting. He stands up for truth, justice, and the American way.

Having invented the basic ideas behind software features like Spotlight, Cover Flow, and Time Machine, he made his professional reputation in computer science. Indeed, he even secured the related patents. A jury believed that Apple thought enough of the patents to rip them off, although the judge took the verdict away from the holder to whom they had been transferred. The New York Times talked to Professor Gelernter about the lawsuit in 2011.

How does Professor Gelernter assess the Darwinian theory of evolution? Now that is a question I would like to hear him answer. If you find the subject of evolution or the question posed of interest, you won’t want to miss Professor Gelernter’s review of three books that take up the theory in “Giving up Darwin.”

]]> 0 216870 Fri, 10 May 2019 11:41:58 +0000 Scott Johnson (



Ammo Grrrll writes in an elegiac key this week in remembrance of her friend HEATHER:

My mission as delineated by my excellent editor and friend, Scott, is both to help him with his self-defined anger management problem and to entertain. So I always feel guilty when I fail to entertain. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. Today is such a day.

There is no other way to say it: Delightful regular commenter Heather Beresford fought a brief, courageous battle with an aggressive Stage 4 cancer that had spread from her lungs to her brain, and passed away on April 26, 2019. Her beloved twin sister, Bonnie (Ladyhawk), her wonderful new husband, Bill, and I – and all of us in Heather’s large circle of friends and relatives and our commenter Family – have lost a world-class friend. The loss to those of us privileged to have known her well is pretty close to unbearable.

As a corporate speaker/entertainer for a few decades, I often opened with comedy before introducing The Big Deal Credentialed Speaker. Sometimes the credits they insisted I read in the overblown introduction stretched to three or four boring pages – degrees, honors, awards, and plaudits up the wazoo. But rarely did those three pages tell us anything about the character of the person who had earned the degrees. Yet the character of that person was often on display.

Some speakers would have contracts with page after page of “riders” like “I need to wash my hair two hours before the event in Evian water.” Or, “I will need a bowl of M & Ms in the green room with all the red ones picked out.” Or, “I require a limo ride the 200 feet from my hotel to the event center. I will not shake hands with any audience members at the rope line and I will leave to get the limo back to my hotel 3 minutes after my six-figure speech.” Hillary’s “riders” and demands were notorious, for example. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

One famous speaker whom I shared a stage with in Pueblo, Colorado, for a women’s event would not even ride in the limo they provided for us because it was too old and “germ-filled” and she insisted on a brand new Cadillac off the lot to be schlepped around in. She also refused the nice flower-filled speakers’ suite the modest little Super 8 had made by combining two rooms and demanded to be taken instead to the private HOME of the hospital CEO whose hospital was sponsoring the event.

Why do I mention this? Because Heather’s CV would not have run to 3 or 4 pages, but she had more character in her little finger than most of those credentialed or celebrated folks have in their entire beings. I believe she had a B.A. from the University of Minnesota. She also earned a certification in a specialty in the aerospace industry rather late in life for which she studied very hard while working full-time and caring for her late husband fighting COPD.

If that doesn’t demonstrate enough “character,” try this. When Heather was first diagnosed with this wretched, evil disease, it was in early March, just before three separate groups of relatives booked consecutive stays at our casita. Heather hesitated to tell me about her diagnosis because she was afraid it might “spoil my fun” with my relatives. THAT kind of character and selflessness is what I am talking about. The mind boggles.

I first met Heather in 9th grade Social Studies where, due to the happy coincidence of our having last names beginning with “B,” she sat behind me. She was an adorable young lady, smart as a whip, with a terrific sense of humor and a raucous, ready laugh. I actually kind of worshiped her, in that Platonic way that young Nerd Grrrlls often are in awe of the more socially-successful girls. Plus, she came with a terrific bonus — an identical twin, Bonnie! – with whom I actually became even closer due in part to the fact that Heather was “cooler” and more self-confident than either of us at that time.

The twins were somewhat exotic to me in that they had moved to Alexandria from Canada, which it turns out, is an entirely different country from ours with weird money and everything. They drank TEA instead of coffee. They watched and understood hockey and cared not a whit for baseball, if you can imagine such a thing when the Minnesota Twins were a brand-new exciting franchise with Harmon Killebrew and Camilo Pascual! Sometimes they even ended their sentences with “eh.”

Their mother, whom I also adored, had been determined from their birth to keep them as individuals, not naming them typical “twin” names like Cindy and Mindy, dressing them differently, and the like. And INDIVIDUALS they both were. In spades. A lot of people we meet kind of remind us of other people we have met, but not these women.

We have known each other for just shy of 60 years, through several husbands (well, I only got the one, but they made up for it), tough times, differing political outlooks for a while, and vast geographical separation. As a blessing in the last decade or so, we became as close again as we had been in high school. I wouldn’t have traded a day of it for all the tea in China and Canada put together. I loved Heather right down to the marrow of my bones and will miss her every day.

Bonnie is still here. She was a godsend to Heather in her hours of greatest need, and is an invaluable surrogate-daughter to my Daddy in Alexandria, Minnesota, and my Best Friend Forever. Bonnie and I discussed our intentions to “live twice as loud” to make up for the years of life missing for Heather. She would like that.

We will also miss Heather’s vote in 2020. Unlike me, she never for a minute flirted with the claptrap that was ’60s leftism. She was kind, loyal, generous to a fault, witty and wise and madly in love with her new husband, Bill. She made online friends with several Power Line commenters and was a devoted reader and prolific commenter.

When Fridays come and I don’t see her name among the commenters that will be a certain sign that this tragedy really happened and I will have to move on from Denial to another stage of grief. As a wise new friend gently pointed out, for those of us who do not die young, it falls to us to miss and mourn the ones who do. Tough duty. But an honor to do so. For those who don’t think 72 is young, well, you are mistaken. Particularly in the case of this youthful, fun-loving delight of a woman.

I read once that the final words (generally unpublished I would guess) on most “black boxes” recovered from airline crashes are “Oh, sh*t”. Unseemly though that is, that’s how I feel, too, from this tragedy leaving a hole in my world. Call your friends and tell them how much they mean to you while you still can. Leave no love unexpressed.

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