Daniel Davies at Crooked Timber (surprised?) defends their perception of some historical events, he just thinks they were good things! At around the same time, Christian conservative Ryan Mauro was upset that the upcoming CPAC will be sponsored by the John Birch Society. As I’ve said before, I’m sympathetic to the JBS and think the political right could have benefited from more of their skepticism of the government. A little (hell, a lot!) of paranoia is a healthy thing. I don’t think the top levels of government were literally communist agents, but as Robert Conquest said in his Third Law, “The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies”. Most people don’t take Davies or Mauros’ step of explaining why the JBS was bad, it’s assumed to be so and used to tar people by association. We currently see this occurring with the denunciation of “progressives” like Jane Hamsher for concluding that the Tea Partiers are right about the awfulness of the health care bill. Nobody actually defends the bill, they just attack the Tea Partiers and then critics-from-the-left by association. Like the antifederalists, such critics get no respect because Americans love a winner.
On to something completely different: I’ve just started reading Gene Healy’s “The Cult of the Presidency”, and liking it though I’m annoyed by his use of the term “unitary executive” (strictly speaking it says nothing about what actual powers are possessed, just how they are distributed). Healy does cite Cass Sunstein and note that more literal view of the term, but he proceeds to use that phrase as well as “unitarian” anyway. Perhaps “Article II supremacists”, “imperial executive” or “unbounded executive” might be better terms for Yoo and company. Near the end of the first chapter Healy notes that Woodrow Wilson was a fan of Thomas Carlyle and inspired by his view of heroic “great men”. Sheesh, with Wilson, Hugo Chavez & Hitler, Carlyle must be one of the most harmful inspirations of all time!