Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Skepticism and sifting

James, the Snooker Kid, at the Conservative Club; London, 1997. From Fast Mikey's Pool Page.
The Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, Mgr. Ross Douthat:
Like so many members of that class, Bloomberg combines immense talent with immense provincialism: his view of American politics is basically the famous New Yorker cover showing Manhattan’s West Side overshadowing the world, and his bedrock assumption is that the liberal paternalism with which New York is governed can and should be a model for the nation as a whole.

It’s an assumption that cries out to be challenged by a thoughtful center-right. If you look at the specific proposals being offered by Bloomberg and others, some just look like reruns of assault weapon regulations that had no obvious effect the last time they were tried. Others still might have an impact on gun violence, but only at a cost: the popular idea of cracking down hard on illegal handguns, for instance, would probably involve “stop and frisk” on a huge scale [....] But instead of a kind of skepticism and sifting from conservatives, after a week of liberal self-righteousness the spotlight passed instead to ... Wayne LaPierre.
So the Monsignor thinks LaPierre is a clown, and he's wondering how the right can come up with a dignified opposing partner to that leftist Bloomberg—more cosmopolitan than our bumpkin mayor (who lives on the East Side, thanks very much), with his Massachusetts accent, and equidistant from that imaginary center. He's not exactly sure what's called for, but he has an idea how it smells: "skepticism and sifting".

It's the urbane conservatism of yore! Remember? Brandy and cigars after dinner, and gossip about poor people, blacks and Jews, racehorses and actresses. People are savages, what can you do? Take away their guns and they'll kill each other with tire irons.

Your vulgar new-money conservatives seem to be all about doing things all the time; they didn't quite get the message that government is the problem. It'll be a terrible idea—build moats around all the schools, with alligators!—but an idea nevertheless. Your true clubbable conservative knew better: the job of the rulers is to cover their mouths while yawning, and be mildly amused.

But then some feel that when a bunch of little kids are murdered, mild amusement is not the appropriate response. Indeed Rabbi Jesus himself says something of the sort.

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