- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

‘Despotism of reason’

“In works like the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and the Bill of Rights, men like Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and Jay combined deep theoretical learning with practical experience to secure a political order that maximized individual liberty while granting a respectable place to religion and virtue in the public sphere. [Gertrude] Himmelfarb quotes from Washington’s Farewell Address with approval as a model of American Enlightenment: ‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’

“This claim should be contrasted with the anticlerical, even antireligious, tone of the more radical voices of the French Enlightenment. Abstract and undisciplined, leading French philosophers like Diderot and Voltaire, Ms. Himmelfarb argues, displayed a hatred of Christianity and a contempt for the common man, longing secretly for a despotism of reason that would bring their enlightened fantasies into being. In the awful upheavals of the French Revolution, she catches a glimpse of just how terrible such fantasies could be.”

Darrin M. McMahon, writing on “The Roads to Enlightenment,” Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal

Gray Lady jitters

“Judging by the hysteria spilling from the New York Times during the run-up to the Republican convention in the city, you’d think that George W. Bush was thrashing Sen. John Kerry by 10 points in every single snapshot poll. … This is not rational, but then the Times (in almost every section of the paper), is rapidly losing its grip on reality. In fact, the winner of November’s election is a mystery today and will likely remain so until after the debates between Bush and Kerry, or if some unanticipated catastrophe should occur.

“I’m as jaded about the Times’ de facto coordination with the Democratic National Committee as anyone … but the daily’s lead editorial on Aug. 29, ‘Abolish the Electoral College,’ gave cause for a double-take. … I understand that ‘every vote counts’ is a mantra hummed by both parties, and in Democratic circles simply code for ‘No More Floridas!’ but why did the Times choose this particular time to oppose the most basic rule of presidential politics?

“Obviously, the paper’s owners and editors are terrified that Bush might be re-elected.”

Russ Smith, writing on “What If Bush Wins?” Wednesday in the New York Press

Liberal dilemma

“I expected the Republican National Convention to provide some teachable moments for my 9-year-old son — especially since we live in Greenwich Village in downtown Manhattan. But I didn’t anticipate that it would teach him some new words. …

“[M]y desire to raise a good liberal Democrat has run smack into my desire to raise a well-spoken gentleman. …

“I’ve been wearing my Kerry button all week. … But it’s a shock to my liberal core to find my parental impulses at odds with my political ones.

“Take the nude activists who walked out onto Eighth Avenue and bared all to call attention to the criminal lack of funding for AIDS treatment around the world: There wasn’t nearly enough pixilation to disguise them on the 5 o’clock news.

” ‘Mom, what would you do if I went out in the street and took off all my clothes?’ my son asked. …

“And when the pro-choice rally came marching over the Brooklyn Bridge chanting … I took a deep breath and began what I suspect will be a very long discussion about reproductive rights.”

Ellen Neuborne, Tuesday in Salon at www.salon.com

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