WSJ: How DeMint betrayed his friend Bob Inglis

Jim DeMint in 2007./photo by Brad Warthen

The best newspaper story on South Carolina politics that I’ve read in some time was on the front page of The Wall Street Journal this morning. Headlined “As U.S. Political Divide Widened, a Friendship Fell Into the Rift,” it is the story of how Jim DeMint betrayed and abandoned his friend Bob Inglis for the sake of DeMint’s all-consuming ideology. It’s written by Louise Radnofsky and Michael M. Phillips.

It’s pretty powerful, and it tells a story with which I am partly unfamiliar. First, since I’ve never had much occasion to track inside

Bob Inglis

baseball in Upstate congressional districts, I didn’t realize how close Inglis and DeMint once were. (DeMint was Inglis’ consultant when he miraculously won election to the House in 1992; they belonged to the same church that Inglis helped found, and on and on.) I even had forgotten that DeMint was Inglis’ immediate successor in the House when Inglis ran for the Senate against Fritz Hollings, although I did recall that Inglis succeeded DeMint when the latter went to the Senate.

But the main thing I just plain didn’t realize was that Inglis, facing an ultimately successful primary challenge this year from another former ally, Trey Gowdy, asked DeMint to help him back in January — and DeMint refused. Apparently the senator wasn’t going to let his perfect record as a kingmaker to extremists be sullied by backing a friend who, while indisputably conservative, dares to think for himself.

I hope you can read the story; you may be prevented by the WSJ‘s pay wall. But at the very least, read these excerpts:

The unraveling of the DeMint-Inglis friendship is emblematic of the balkanized state of American politics after last week’s historic midterm election. The two men fell out over disagreements that to outsiders might appear less significant than the many things on which they agree. That phenomenon now marks the political landscape: Both parties, largely shorn of centrists, are feuding within their ranks in addition to fighting the other side…

In the leafy cul-de-sacs of Greenville, two Republican conservatives—members of the same church and campaign allies since 1991—are no longer friends because of the schisms that have emerged between them…

Mr. Inglis, a real-estate attorney, began toying with the idea of running for Congress in 1991. For a campaign logo, he turned to a local marketing firm whose work he admired. It was run by Jim DeMint. It was at Mr. DeMint’s office where Mr. Inglis made his final decision to enter the 4th District race. Election Day went badly for Republicans, but Mr. Inglis overcame a late deficit to squeeze by a sitting Democrat and into Congress.

“It was a miracle that we won in 1992; Jim was one of the material means of that miracle,” says Mr. Inglis.

Once in Washington, Mr. Inglis established himself as a conservative stalwart, pushing for term limits, tighter abortion restrictions and an end to congressional mailing privileges.

Soon after Mr. Inglis took office, he and his wife began hosting a monthly Bible study group that included Mr. DeMint and his wife, and Dave Woodard, a Clemson University political scientist who had become Mr. Inglis’s pollster, and his wife. Group members shared lists of sins they had committed in the previous week, and discussed the concept of grace: Nobody is above reproach, or beyond salvation, if they accept God.

The inner circle that set Mr. Inglis on the path to Congress reconvened in Mr. DeMint’s office in 1997. Mr. Inglis was gearing up for a Senate bid, staying true to his self-imposed three-term limit for the House, and the group was eager to keep Mr. Inglis’s seat in conservative hands, someone to “carry the torch,” Mr. Inglis told the others. Top on his list was Mr. DeMint, who agreed to run.

Mr. Woodard did polling work for both men. Mr. DeMint dropped Mr. Inglis’s name in fundraising letters.

The night of the 1998 Republican primary, the first congratulatory call to DeMint HQ came from Mr. Inglis. “This is from Bob, this is from Bob,” Mr. DeMint said to hush the crowd, says attendee Brent Nelsen, a Furman University political scientist and friend of both men…

That’s probably as much as I can quote without running afoul of Fair Use. But I hope I can go away with quoting this brief description of Inglis’ moment of epiphany:

In 2001, Mr. Inglis passed out from dehydration at his home in Greenville, and banged his mouth on a bathroom vanity. As he recovered, he says he thought about his own failings. He vowed, if he returned to politics, to be “less inclined to label the other side as Satan incarnate.”…

Note that Inglis didn’t change his mind about issues. He was as conservative as ever. He simply decided to stop regarding people who disagreed with him as the enemy.

And that, tragically, seems to have made him DeMint’s enemy. DeMint’s continuing attitude toward politics was captured in this paragraph:

The day after the vote, Mr. DeMint urged the newly elected senators to stick to their principles. “Tea-party Republicans were elected to go to Washington and save the country—not be co-opted by the club,” Mr. DeMint wrote in an op-ed in this newspaper. “So put on your boxing gloves. The fight begins today.”

Worse for Inglis, worse even than his new distaste for demonizing the opposition, was that he wasn’t always on board with the GOP team. He had always gone his own way, which was apparently fine with DeMint when it meant being more conservative than anyone else. But now, he occasionally broke with the right. He criticized the use of Culture War issues such as gay marriage to divide the electorate. He voted against the Surge in Iraq (something that I strongly disagreed with him on, but respected for the courage it took). He voted with Democrats to censure Joe Wilson for shouting “You lie!” (Why? Because Joe deserved censure for such a breach of civility.)

And so when Inglis asked DeMint to help him this year, DeMint refused, giving the excuse that he wasn’t getting involved with House races.

You really need to read this story. If you can’t read it online, run out over lunch and buy a copy while they’re still available. It’s really something.

56 thoughts on “WSJ: How DeMint betrayed his friend Bob Inglis

  1. Doug Ross

    Now if you read the full article, it doesn’t come off as clearly anti-DeMint as you would suggest.

    “Bob’s view is everybody else is flawed and not as enlightened as he is,” says DeMint strategist Terry Sullivan, who also worked for Mr. Gowdy. “That’s exactly the attitude that gets elected officials to become former elected officials.”

    In January, Mr. Inglis made his desperate call to Mr. DeMint. He asked why Mr. DeMint couldn’t afford him the same endorsement he had offered Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, then running for Senate, even though Mr. Brown generally favors abortion rights.

    “Bob—you’re a great friend, but I’m not getting involved in House races, much less House primaries,” Mr. DeMint said, according to both men. Mr. Gowdy, too, had been a loyal supporter for years. In the primary, Mr. Inglis landed just 29% of the vote in a runoff against Mr. Gowdy, who went on to an easy victory.”

    So DeMint decided to back one longtime supporter over a “friend” and chose the one whose political philosophy most closely matched his own over another who did not share the same views. And that’s a big deal?

    I may not agree 100% with DeMint’s views but I respect the fact that he has remained pretty consistent throughout his tenure. Compromising on principles isn’t a core value we should celebrate.

  2. Tom Fillinger

    The election returns reveal who abandoned whom in this little dust up. I did read the entire WSJ article. You are correct about one thing – Bob ‘is as conservative as ever’ and that level of ‘conservative’ does not meet the approval of the electorate as evidenced by the results of the election. You may embrace all the ideologies you choose but the fact remains Inglis LOST the election because his positions DO NOT square with the people he desired to represent. That is what elections are for.

  3. bud

    DeMint is quite the character. But what motivates him? The question really comes down to two possibilities. (1) DeMint really does have strong convictions that all this conservative nonsense is the best way forward for the America people. Even to the point of casting aside friendships. Or, (2) DeMint is just in it for his own self-aggrandizement. If it’s the later then DeMint really should be thought of an enemy of sorts. He’s willingly working against the betterment of America. If the former then he’s just a garden variety idiot, conservative. Maybe not an enemy but still very dangerous.

  4. Phillip

    A really good story, not stopped by the “pay wall.”

    One of the subtle but unmistakeably incorrect impressions left by the WSJ article is that centrists of both parties have been “purged” by both parties’ pull to the extreme. This is utter nonsense, of course. The decimation of the Blue Dog Democrats’ ranks last week came as a result of losses to Republicans, because even as moderate as these Dems were, they were demonized as “abetters of socialism,” by the far-right rhetoric of the GOP. In the case of Inglis, or Mike Castle in Delaware, or other more moderate GOP officeholders, they were beaten in PRIMARY races, also of course by the right-wing of the GOP.

    The other thing that struck me about the article is just how screwed up these GOP guys have gotten by mixing God and politics constantly. The quote about Inglis not understanding how God could let him lose to Hollings is priceless! Good to see that gradually Inglis has come to his senses, and I really admired his calling-out of the Tea Party earlier this year. DeMint, on the other hand, comes off here as a borderline lunatic who’s convinced God is on his side, which I’ve always suspected of him, now this is coupled with a taste of power, which seems to be going more and more to his head. Lord knows we have enough people in the world who think God is on their side.

  5. KP

    I can’t “run out over lunch and buy a copy,” but I think this: Bob Inglis was not my kind of Republican when he was elected, but he had the sense to evolve. DeMint — he probably won’t.

  6. Brad

    Doug, it’s interesting to me that you think those parts make the piece less “anti-DeMint.” No, he didn’t shout ugly names at Bob when he asked for help — he simply brushed him off as not his concern, knowing that he was about to be steamrollered by the very people DeMint had allied himself with.

    Something I’ve noted before about DeMint, and it really took me awhile to understand… He is so mild-mannered, so butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth most of the time, that you sort of have to sit down afterwards and read back over what he has said to understand just how rigid and extreme he is. His statements tend to look a LOT worse written down than they sound when he says them.

    As for Terry Sullivan’s statements… they are typical of what you get with extremists. Those are pretty standard phrases for ruthlessly dismissing people who dare to be thoughtful about issues, who dare to say, “Wait a minute; let’s look at this more closely.” I found his comments rather chilling.

  7. Jesse S.

    As weird as it sounds I can’t completely blame DeMint for throwing Inglis under the bus, at least it makes sense (well, as much sense as that can make). Inglis decided to get soft and when the best option was to whip people into an angry frenzy, he just stood there.

    He should have learned his lesson from Clinton. This is all a just game and anyone who is stupid enough not to treat it that way, well, as someone else reminded us, we’ll hear the lamentations of their women.

    Don’t get me wrong, I respect Inglis’ stance on the whole thing. It is a loser’s stance, but I do respect it. At the very least he got to leave with an ounce of character and dignity, not that it really means anything.

    Lindsey Graham should take note. I’ve heard him say one or two things in his career that weren’t totally insane and he will pay dearly for that one of these days. Eventually someone will work that angle the right way and come off as a slightly less-than-transparent bigot and the current line of angry voters will toss him into the “bum” category. He’d better marry a virgin and keep the bed sheets on hand to show the villagers.

  8. Brad

    And Phillip — I, too, thought that Inglis was a little deluded when he wondered why God had forsaken him. But I think that’s because he had thought he was doing God’s will.

    My take on this is somewhat different from yours. Rather than assuming that God is on their side, more of us should think long and hard about what we need to do to be on God’s side. (And one thing I believe is that God is no respecter of the agendas or either the left or the right.) And I think Inglis has been trying to do that in recent years. And in the current environment, in Sullivan’s dismissive wording, “that gets elected officials to become former elected officials.”

  9. Brad

    Oh, and Phillip… the thing you think is erroneous in that story seems dead-on to me, and probably because to me, the extremists in both parties are partners in accomplishing this polarization. The left and right work hand-in-glove to accomplish the same result, even though they don’t speak to each other. The Republicans who won those seats last week have helped out the Pelosi wing of the Democratic Party by getting rid of Blue Dogs. This is why Pelosi is likely to continue as leader of the Democrats. Were the Blue Dogs still there, she would likely go down. But she it being propped up by the extremists on the right.

    This in turn benefits the extremists on the right because they like to portray all Democrats as lefties, and this actually makes the characterization more true, and more believable. And the fund-raisers of both sides have more pure “enemies” to use to shock and appall their supporters into giving more money.

    That’s why I tend to think of left and right extremists as one thing, two sides of the same coin. They are partners in tearing the country apart.

  10. John Smith

    An amazing amount of WSJ leg work for this early in the 2012 cycle clearly written to make sure the Nation knows that Demint is a Christian extremist.

    Someone in the GOP, perhaps Rove on the behalf of Jeb Bush, is very concerned about Demint and wishes to stop him right now.

    Now someone should write the story of how Demint funded the Mosteler\Woodard group to defeat Halley.

    Demint is a doctranaire true believer and will soon suffer from the George Jean Nathan curse.

    “For whom the Gods would destroy, they first make famous.”

  11. bud

    One of the subtle but unmistakeably incorrect impressions left by the WSJ article is that centrists of both parties have been “purged” by both parties’ pull to the extreme.

    Oh, and Phillip… the thing you think is erroneous in that story seems dead-on to me, and probably because to me, the extremists in both parties are partners in accomplishing this polarization.

    Sorry Brad, Phillip is 100% right on this. The GOP has become the party of extremists while the Dems try to hang on to a bit of rationality. For all the nonsense heaped onto Nancy Pelosi during the campaign she is pretty much a moderate. Has she campaigned for an increase in welfare spending while suggesting this can be paid for by a cut in the military budget? How many folks in the Democratic party campaign for a constitutional ammendment to ban the death penalty? No one at the federal level seriously considers legalization of marijuana or right to die laws that are common in Europe. And please someone show me a politician who wants to increase the restrictions on fireare. During the medical overhaul debate was the single payer option ever considered by anyone? The public option was briefly discussed then rejected.

    And I could go on. Bottom line: There is no more left in this country. The last true liberal was George McGovern. Even Richard Nixon would seem liberal in today’s political environment. Only a true ideologue would continue to harp on the notion that the two parties are equally culpable.

  12. Norm Ivey

    There are two tragedies in this story. There is the abandonment of a friendship in favor of political ideology, and there is the loss of a reasonable conservative voice in the House when this country needs it.

    Inglis is not inculpable in his own defeat. He appeared on the Colbert Report the evening before the primary. When Colbert asked him about where the president was born, he replied, “Not in Hawaii.” That was not the response of a courageous man.

    I agree (sort of) with Brad’s comment concerning God. It seems to me that God will rule an individual’s life if the individual allows it, but He doesn’t often take an active hand in manipulating world events.

    And anytime I think I know what He thinks, I humble myself with Isaiah 55:8-9.

  13. Kathryn "Blue" Fenner

    I was very sad to see Bob Inglis leave the political stage, although as you might expect, I disagreed with his politics. he really did seem to become more statesmanlike–which may be neatly defined as “not seeing those with whom you disagree as [Church Lady voice] Satan.”

  14. Brad

    Did any of y’all see that on one of those Sunday talk shows that I NEVER SEE BECAUSE I GO TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY (ahem), DeMint blamed OTHER Republicans for the loss of his protege Christine O’Donnell. Not his fault, you see. Not HER fault for being loony. No. THEIR fault for badmouthing her…

  15. Brad

    … personally, I’d like it if my junior senator simply saw it as a GOOD thing that she lost — good for the country, good for the party, and good for the Tea Party movement, because she gave it a bad name. But that’s too much to ask, I know.

  16. Shannon aka Scout

    Record them, Brad, Record them. That’s what we do. We usually watch This Week and Meet the Press on Sunday afternoon, since we too are at church in the morning.

    So technically I did see it. But it’s hard for me to pay close attention to him. I think I tuned him out waiting for the round table.

  17. jfx

    John Smith, I believe you are dead on. There is a kingmaker battle exploding behind the GOP curtain. Rove vs. DeMint is a concise assessment. If you ever catch Rove on Fox, you know he’s trying aggressively nowadays to pivot away from the Tea Party, for the sake of cultivating a 2012 presidential nominee who is actually electable. In Rove’s mind, the TP was an extremely useful idiot for the midterm. But now, going forward, it’s at best an embarrassing distraction, and, at worst, an independent-spooking, catastrophic liability. Should be interesting to see if Rove and Fox News can successfully muzzle this beast they helped create. The Democrats, for all their supposed current woes, do not have anything so ominous to contend with in their own ranks as these circular firing squads forming up on the Right.

  18. Phillip

    Sorry, Brad, I’m missing how the Blue Dogs’ loss is the fault of the Democratic “extremists.” The fact that the Democratic party had as many as 50 or so House members running as Blue Dogs means that by definition the House Democratic caucus was more ideologically diverse than the GOP. (Can you name me the Republican equivalent of the Blue Dogs, Brad? I didn’t think so.) These Blue Dogs were not “purged” from the Democratic party as Inglis was by the GOP. The fact that the more progressive wing of the Democratic party is now stronger percentage-wise within the caucus is hardly the party’s fault.

    For you to say that the “extremists” of the left are the reason for the extremism of the right, means that you then must be buying the idea that Obama is pursuing this socialist agenda, etc, and that he is responsible for the rise of the Republican extremists. But you’ve indicated you believe no such thing. So I’m perplexed.

    As I’ve said before many times here, if you try to stubbornly cling to some mythical idea of “center,” you are doomed to be at the mercy of whichever force is more successful at pushing the extreme end of its agenda. If 0 represents extreme liberalism and 10 extreme conservatism, 5 is the center; but when extreme conservatism moves its ideas to 16, then 8 (which was previously considered very conservative) is the new “center.” This is the America we have now, where Nixon, Ford, Bush Sr., and even Reagan would come under severe chastisement from conservative quarters in today’s Republican party.

    Bud, you’ll enjoy this Bill Maher take on the well-meaning but flawed “pox on both their houses” premise of Jon Stewart’s rally:

  19. Steve Gordy

    One may win an election by losing a friend (either through neglect or design) but there is always another election to follow; OTOH, deliberately losing a friend so that one’s party may win an election will in the long run make one neither a reliable friend nor a trustworthy representative.

  20. Andrew

    FWIW, Inglis & DeMint are coming from a PCA, conservative Reformed theological background, that would be heavily influenced not only by Augustine & Calvin & the Puritan movement; but also by former Dutch PM Abraham Kuyper and his concept of sphere sovereignty.

  21. bud

    It really has gotten to be a very far right country when someone as radical as Lindsey Graham is considered a moderate.

    As for DeMint, he makes for a good study in how reality can be perceived so differently from what is actuality. Didn’t see the DeMint piece on Sunday but if he blamed the O’donnell loss on other Republicans he is just plain crazy and belongs in a mental hospital. That woman was completely unfit to serve as a senator. She was just one tiny step removed from Alvin Greene. (Who apparently has his defenders too. Just check out today’s State). Did DeMint not see that ridiculous, “I am not a Witch” advertisement? Funniest political ad I’ve ever seen. And he actually has the audacity to blame other Republicans. Come to think of it, maybe Greene was the more sensible candidate.

  22. Greg Jones

    You HAVE to mix God and politics, at least personally (and how God leads you to make decisions). If you ever separate them too far, you’re doomed to failure.
    When will we ever get back to the place where these legislators go to Washington to REPRESENT their constituency? Very few districts/states are as extreme as either extreme.

  23. Brad

    Phillip, I don’t think I explained myself well. I didn’t say the Blue Dogs’ defeat was the result of any action by Democratic extremists. I said, or meant to say, that extremists on both sides do things that benefit their mutual cause of extremism. The Republicans who demonized their moderate opponents as a bunch of Pelosis purged the Democratic caucus of moderates, thereby ensuring that Pelosi would remain as leaders, thereby ensuring that Republicans could continue to run against her rather than against their actual opponents, etc.

    Also, we’re having a difference over the meaning of “extremist,” and I take blame for that. I’m talking NOT about people who hold certain views regarded as radical. It’s about people who are the most into the whole “us vs. them” competition between parties — the people who see members of the other party as entirely illegitimate, beyond the pale, as “the enemy.”

    For instance, Bob Inglis is a very conservative guy. Always has been, still is. But what has changed is that he no longer demonizes people who disagree with him, and THAT is what makes him unforgivable to the extremists (as I’m using the term) in his party.

    In other words, I’m talking about extremes of partisanship, of a tendency toward polarization, rather than extremes of ideology. Because to me, ideology is beside the point. What I’m about, what this blog is about — what distinguishes it from typical blogs — is civil discourse, people respecting each other enough to listen to each others’ points of view, however different they may be. It’s about fighting back against this culture of division, and making deliberation possible.

    This is why my UnParty has very few “fundamental, nonnegotiable tenets,” and the first among them is “unwavering opposition to fundamental, nonnegotiable tenets.” As I also wrote in the UnParty’s founding document five years ago, “Every Unpartisan would have his or her own set of positions on issues, having worked them out independently.”

    Anyway, I’m sorry that my use of “extremist” was misunderstood. We must be careful with language. One of the things that partisans do is stretch words until they have no meaning, such as (forgive me, bud) bud’s description above of Lindsey Graham as a “radical.”

    When in fact, “Lindsey Graham” was the answer I was going to give to Phillips challenge to me to “name me the Republican equivalent of the Blue Dogs.” I could also have said “John McCain” or “Bob Inglis.” Yep, there are so few of them that we can use their names, but in a way that’s good. As few as they are, they at least have risen to prominence in their party, whereas it’s hard for me to remember the names of any actual “Blue Dogs,” unless we’re talking John Spratt — and I don’t think he was officially a member…

  24. Phillip

    @Greg: let’s address this from a “Constitutionalist” perspective: the question of how “God leads you to make decisions” is of course entirely dependent on the office-holder’s personal view of who his or her “God” is, or whether or not he/she even believes in a God, per se. So, according to Article 6 of the Constitution (“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”) an atheist (or a paganist, worshiper of many gods) is equally eligible to serve in a civil capacity, as well as a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.

    I just wonder whether somebody like Jim DeMint really believes in the Constitution. And, since Nikki Haley and her incoming AG are making noises about challenging the Obama health insurance mandate in SC, how about their showing some REAL guts and challenging the clearly unconstitutional clause of SC’s state constitution which bars anyone who “denies the existence of the Supreme Being” from holding office in this state.

  25. bud

    What I’m about, what this blog is about — what distinguishes it from typical blogs — is civil discourse, people respecting each other enough to listen to each others’ points of view, however different they may be.

    Does that include labeling foreign war opponents as isolationists?

  26. Christina Jeffrey

    Bob Inglis seems like the soul of moderation, but his love of DC and the job of representative, shown by his losing comment after the loss to Fritz Hollings and other comments he made both during the 2010 campaign and afterwards, show a man who believes he has a right to rule – why? Because HE is on God’s side and the rest of us are not.

    Genuinely moderate and reasonaly humble people, people who know the value of the Aristotelian mean, are not so confidant that they are right. We do want principled people, we do want Constitutionalists, but we don’t want fanatics.

    Tea Party people are being called fanatics, but most have lived their lives without paying any attention to politics. They thought Bob and his colleagues were taking care of their business – they thought their stewards were faithful. When the unfaithful stewards are thrown out, it’s not the masters who are fanatics. However, when the steward protests as much as Bob has, it makes him look like a fanatic, that is, per Webster, one “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” What was Bob devoted to? His job.

    But his fanaticism is obviously tempered by an unwillingness to conform to the electorate. His children are not conservative and he raised them. Maybe, as his children came of age, he was ashamed to pretend to be a fundamentalist like his neighbors, and so dropped that pose and the politics that go with it.

    We cannot read another’s heart or know what motivates him; but this one thing we do know. The people voted for one thing and got another. We have elections every two years so that the congressmen who have outgrown their constituents can be replaced. What I still do not understand is why a smart and educated man like Bob didn’t see this coming and handle it with more grace and understanding. But if I am right about his fanaticism, that would explain it.

  27. Brad

    Bud, do you consider “isolationist” to be a pejorative? If so, I apologize. I thought it was the term for someone who, as you say, opposes involvement in foreign wars — particularly if he does so ON PRINCIPLE, rather than on a case-by-case basis.

    Isolationism has a very long and honored history in our country. True, I do not honor it, but consider it to be a rather extreme position that is not consistent with reality. But at many times in our history it has been the majority view, and at all times it is a persistent strain in the thinking of a huge portion of electorate, even if it doesn’t predominate.

    I tend to be of the John Donne point of view. Do not send to ask for whom the bell tolls, etc., for it tolls for us wherever it is.

  28. Ralph Hightower

    I think it would be a hoot if Lisa Murkowski won back her Senate seat as a writein that she lost in the Alaska GOP primary. Palin and probably Demint supported her opponent, Joe Miller.

    Now Joe is filing suit that any writeins that misspell Murkowski should be thrown out.

  29. Tom Fillinger

    Defining terms requires a standard. As long as all contributors to this or any other BLOG apply differeing standards, differing definitions of terms, there will never be consensus.

    I have proposed numerous times that it would be exceedingly beneficial if we made some attempt to articulate a worldview with ontological and epistemological absolutes. Then and only then will our deliberations have true meaning and positive contribution to our mutual endeavor to make progress in policy and governance.

  30. bud

    I guess it (isolationism) depends on how it is used. In military matters I regard myself as mostly isolationist but in matters of economics I firmly believe in free trade, open borders and close cooperation with all the nations of the world. I just don’t believe our military has any roll in enforcing that role through force. If a nation chooses not to sell us oil or some other comodity, so be it. It’s their stuff.

    But over the last 50 years we’ve attempted to ensure the free flow of oil from the middle east by a variety of intimidating and often hostile acts. And that is an important, and often ignored, reason for the rise of the militants in the region. It’s time we allow these people to run their affairs as they see fit. If that makes me an isolationist then I’ll wear that label with pride.

  31. Brad

    Tom, your comment reminds me of this exchange in “Love and Death:”

    BORIS: Sonja, what if there is no God?
    SONJA: Boris Dimitrovitch, are you joking?
    BORIS: What if we’re just a bunch of absurd people who are running around with no rhyme or reason?
    SONJA: But if there is no God, then life has no meaning. Why go on living? Why not just commit suicide?
    BORIS: Well, let’s not get hysterical. I could be wrong. I’d hate to blow my brains out, then read in the papers they found something.
    SONJA: Boris. Let me show you how absurd your position is. Let’s say there is no God, and each man is free to do exactly as he chooses. Well, what prevents you from murdering somebody?
    BORIS: Murder’s immoral.
    SONJA: Immorality is subjective.
    BORIS: Yes, but subjectivity is objective.
    SONJA: Not in any rational scheme of perception.
    BORIS: Perception is irrational. It implies imminence.
    SONJA: But judgment of any system or a priori relation of phenomena exists in any rational or metaphysical or at least epistemological contradiction to an abstracted empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.
    BORIS: Yeah, I’ve said that many times.

    No, I didn’t have any point in quoting that; I just wanted to because I enjoy it… Forgive me my silliness.

  32. Tom Fillinger

    Brad, Silly is good (and essential from time to time). I still stand by the appeal and I am certain it has merit. All morality is codified. It just depends on who does the codification and what standard is applied.

    Without the application of an Absolute, the circus carosel goes round and round endlessly, the music playing, but no one is riding and why would they want to get on when it is going nowhere?

  33. Mark Stewart

    Ontological and epistemological?

    Even if I look them up, I’m pretty sure I won’t be anymore enlightened.

    I am cautiously suspicious about this standards thing as well; although it is very true that things really get mashed up when one group hijacks another’s language to corrupt and redefine it. That’s always a sure sign of moral turpitude in my mind. But that’s probably just me.

  34. Mark Stewart

    While bud can be an isolationist to his heart’s content, I believe that this perspective has historically often caused more problems than it has solved.

    Countries are corporal. They do on occasion collide. Mostly they say “pardon me”, occasionally they turn a stiff shoulder and rarely, but necessarily, they lead with a fist. That’s the world. Those who are willing to judiciously use that force insure their continued survival.

    On the other hand, bud is absolutely correct to question whether our ongoing policing of the Mideast is advisable.

    My bigger concern is, like with this DeMint/Inglis dustup, that we become myopic about the world and therefore find ourselves unprepared to deal with the unknown that will surely follow. Not every war will involve an insurgency-type mission. Some, like containing and marginalizing DeMint’s puritanism, are pitched battles.

  35. Greg Jones

    @ Phillip
    I should have said,
    “If you believe in God…”
    I believe the framers expected God to be involved, but did not mandate it.
    I also believe it is freedom of religion (whatever religion, or lack thereof you choose), not freedom from (someone else’s) religion.

  36. jfx

    Errr….Tom F….where have you been for the last 50,000 years? Humans have plopped one after another absolutist worldview on existence since we could first circumscribe the sky with our fingers. It’s only very recently that some numbers of us have finally been able to breathe a bit of secular air, without being burned or boiled for it. I understand that living in a reality more vast and complicated than we can readily comprehend might make one a bit squeamish, but burrowing into an ideological trench probably isn’t going to help that situation.

  37. Kathryn "Blue" Fenner

    Ontology–deals with questions of existence.
    Epistemology–deals with questions of knowledge (how do we know what we know)?

    Love and Death–back when Woody Allen made great films!

  38. Brad

    FYI — Kathryn and others have frequently asked for an editing function for comments. I don’t know how to do that with my present site, and I don’t have time right now to tackle that redesign I’ve wanted to do for some time (but hope to do so before too long).

    But in the meantime, I just did something I’ve generally been loathe to do: I corrected a couple of typos that were obviously mere slips of the fingers by people who knew better: Tom mistyped “epistemological” and Kathryn did the same with “questions.”

    I’ll will try to do this when the mistakes jump out at me, but no promises. (In fact, one reason not to do it at all is that people will then expect ALL comments to be clean, and I just can’t spare the time for that — especially since some of y’all, while being good, smart people, are lousy spellers. So all I’ll promise is that I will do SOME tidying up…)

  39. jfx

    Tom – I wasn’t aware that I had made such a proposition. If I were to propose anything concerning altars, it would be this: Stop bowing at them!

    Brad – I have seen a useful function in the comments section of other blogs that gives a timed editing functionality…like, say, 5 minutes. After you submit a post, there is a small clickable “Edit” tag beneath the comment, and a timer running behind the scenes. If you click to edit, your time left to modify the post is displayed. When it hits zero, the post is frozen for eternity. Allows for editing typos but disallows historical revisionism.

  40. Mark Stewart

    Kathryn and Tom,

    I for one was Just popping off about that absolutist stuff. I believe jfx was quite articulate on the point. While Tom raises an interesting viewpoint worthy of consideration; it is equally true that once considered it may safely be rejected.

    I heard an interesting story on NPR driving home: Israel is now rejecting Jews as not Jewish enough to emigrate. It seems the Ultra-orthodox have decided that Reform converts shouldn’t be considered true believers. That sounds like Tom and Tom to me.

  41. Tom Fillinger

    jfx – Every man has an altar. Your is, as Robert Belah stated in “Habits of The Heart (1983), “Ontological Individualism”. The only perspective that could possibly be correct is yours, the ‘sovereign individual’.

    Here is a bit of news for you -There is Ultimate Authority in our world and you are not it.

  42. Mark Stewart

    It’s interesting to see that a Bedouin is called a Muslim Bedouin by the Israeli press. As the first group conquered by Muhammad’s consolidated monotheistic Islamic Arabs, I would have thought that all Bedouin’s have been Muslim for thirteen hundred years.

    How do we square one group’s ontology with another’s? It seems not unreasonable to me to group all three related religions together – Jewish, Christian and Islamic. All worship the same God. Perhaps there exists more than one true path to “enlightenment”? What if it’s Buddha’s instead?

    Certainly, the specific alter that one worships at is of less than tertiary concern, no? Because where does that end except in a total splintering breakdown? To use the DeMint/Inglis article as a basis, one can see the waterfall effect – it’s not enough to believe in God, one must be a Christian, then that’s not enough so one must be a reformer, then a Presbyterian, and then that’s not codified enough still and so one must be PCA. And then people continue to fight amongst their own co-believers anyway in this battle for righteous purity. That’s why my eyes just glaze over at the stuff that Tom Fillinger keeps bringing up.

    We are all much more alike than we are different. That’s my epistemology for today. And why I seriously question Jim DeMint’s myopic, didactic, self-aggrandizing worldview. His is not leadership.

  43. Tom Fillinger

    Mark – I do appreciate your perspective. However, I did NOT MENTION any denominational affiliation – you raised that spectrum. There is a vast difference between denominationalism and historic Christian Theism.

    Using your logic (sic), we end up in the ditch on the other side of the road. Whose political nuance is superior to the others? As I have stated previously, there is a Standard. The question is -WHOSE?

    James Davidson Hunter addresses this issue at length in his recent title “To Change The World”. A good read and I highly recommend it for your reading pleasure.

  44. Mark Stewart

    Tom, you are correct. I was referring to the actual NYT story.

    What to say? There is such a gulf in our world views. I could say my view is expansive, but that would make yours narrow. You could say you know the one universal truth, but that would make me an infidel.

    Its a big, complicated, interconnected world out there; and clearly diversity rules all across the universe. That must be by God’s design. I thing we all need to be respectful of that – including DeMint, who seems to be taking the definition of idealogue to its basest, most destructive conclusion.

  45. Barry

    @ Brad – One problem- I don’t think most people (including those on here) have ever met some real insider type party loyalists.

    A few years ago I met a Republican campaign type person at my church (one of these guys that’s slick and polished and has worked on about 4-5 campaigns). He was there as a guest of someone else and was in town for only a few days.

    I got into a 15 second conversation with him and I was blown away by the pure contempt he had in his voice about anyone that disagreed with his way of thinking. You could almost see the hate in his eyes. (and obviously that hate is in the eyes of the opposite end of the political spectrum as well).

    The Bob Inglis types are going away – and we’ll all suffer for it eventually.

  46. Kathryn "Blue" Fenner

    Barry– I agree with you about some insiders. Others are just gamers, who care about winning for the team. Pat Buchanan and the Southern Strategy wasn’t about his personal racist beliefs, but about how to exploit others’ racism for party gain, damn the consequences to society at large.

  47. Barry

    @Kathryn – totally agree.

    You nailed it. For many it’s just about winning.

    The guy I was speaking to was in it to win. I doubt he beleived even half of what the candidate he was working for at the time espoused. It was just a game.

    The good ones convince you they really believe it.


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