A few years ago NRO’s Jonah Goldberg coined the term Conservatives in the Mist to describe what happens when liberals set out to explain conservatives to liberals. Recently, we’ve seen The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza engage in egregious and hopefully painful self-beclowning while attempting to explain garden variety Christianity to his neo-pagan readership.
Now the Washington Post’s one-man Fifth Column, the absurd Dana Milbank, undertakes the task of using the Conservatives in the Mist methodology to explain to Republicans why Texas Governor Rick Perry is on the fringe. His killer argument:
Yes, Perry is passionately anti-government, or at least anti-this-government. But the man who suddenly tops the Republican presidential polls is no libertarian. Rick Perry is a theocrat.
I didn’t realize that Rick Perry had ever claimed to be a libertarian.
Like most Republicans he holds some libertarian beliefs as part of our general adherence to Ronald Reagan’s “three legged stool” of conservatism: national security, fiscal restraint, and social traditionalism. Though Reagan paid homage to the idea of libertarianism in his oft misappropriated quote about libertarianism being the "heart and soul of conservatism", he was quick to point out that government was necessary and that he didn’t think much of political libertarians.
So while someone might have thought Governor Perry was a libertarian -- and you can find some number of people who hold any possible belief -- I suspect those people could caucus in my garage… comfortably.
Milbank’s real problem with Perry is that he’s an unabashed Christian who holds very mainstream Christian views and doesn't run from those beliefs.
One of the quotes that drives Milbank crazy is from Perry’s book Fed Up. This book has done more to cause bedwetting among liberals than any unresolved conflict with the father that rejected them. To wit:
In the book’s most talked-about passage, he likens homosexuality to alcoholism. “Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink,” Perry writes. “And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she will makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.”
Imagine those words crossing Bush’s lips [Ed note. This is part of the strange new respect for George Bush and his presidency]. Or these: “The radical homosexual movement seeks societal normalization of their sexual activity. .?.?. They must respect the right of millions in society to refuse to normalize their behavior.”
As a Roman Catholic, I find this opinion to be completely orthodox and unremarkable. Perry’s statement could have as easily appeared in a bishop’s pastoral letter. Note what it says – that as a society we are under no obligation to normalize deviancy. Note what it does not state or infer: that homosexuals should be the object of discrimination. If you've ever been near a Gay Pride parade you fully understand Perry's comment about society not being under an obligation to accept homosexuality as a norm.
Milbank goes on to attack Perry for having the temerity to actual believe in his religion:
Perry’s politics are religious in a way not seen before in modern-day mainstream presidential candidates. “Either faith in Christ can cleanse all people of their sin, or none, but not some,” he writes. “The truth of Christ’s death, resurrection, and power over sin is absolute. .?.?. What we believe about it does not determine its truthfulness.”
Perry has no use for those who “want to recognize Jesus as a good teacher, but nothing more.” Of those non-Christians, Perry asks, “why call him good if he has lied about his claims of deity and misled two millennia of followers?”
Again, as a Christian this seems little more than a restating of St. Paul from 1 Corinthians:
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
I find it difficult to conceive that anyone can believe that hypocrisy is preferable to faith, yet that is precisely Milbank’s position. He’s fine with that yucky Christian stuff so long as no one believes it. If you believe it, you’re a theocrat. I don't know what, if any, religious beliefs Milbank holds though he seems to be very devoted to douchebaggery, but I suspect that were Perry any other religion that Milbank would not have written this screed nor would his editors have allowed it to be published.
From that point Milbank goes on to attack some very self evident observations Perry makes about society. I think most of us would take these as missives from Captain Obvious, but Milbank finds them troubling.
Among the things Perry “deems” harmful: universities (students “have been taught that corporations are evil, religion is the opiate of the masses, and morality is relative”); human rights commissions (“often nothing more than a front for attacking institutions that teach traditional values”); and evolution (he says “the weight of evidence” supports intelligent design). Perry polishes the old “war on Christmas” chestnut and finds a way to cast Mitt Romney (now his rival for the nomination) as a defender of gay scoutmasters.
I find little there to disagree with. Outside the inevitable food fight that starts when evolution is discussed the other assertions are empirically true.
So where does the “theocrat” come in? Who knows? Nowhere in Perry’s book, or in his actions as governor, does one find any indication that he wants to substitute the Ten Commandments for the Constitution which should be the sine qua non of theocracy. Quite to the contrary, his book is an exposition on how the current federal behemoth has run roughshod over the Constitution.
Contra Milbank, arguing for a moral and ethical government is neither arguing for theocracy or a big government. It is arguing on behalf of the nation that was founded in 1787.
The 2012 election promises to be a watershed election for the nation. On the one hand we have an incumbent who has carried out a successful single-handed war against our economy, the rule of law, and our international standing. On the other we will have someone who believes in the greatness of America whether that be Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, or Michele Bachmann.
What Perry has done is draw bright contrasts between what he believes and the relativism and nihilism of the left. It scares Ryan Lizza, It scares Dana Milbank.
I can’t think of a more powerful endorsement for any candidate.