PowerLine -> The new Al Franken + Kudlow speaks

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PowerLine -> The new Al Franken + Kudlow speaks

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Daily Digest


  • Kyle Duncan addresses Sen. Kennedy’s concern
  • Conservatives and Higher Education
  • The new Al Franken
  • Another “crowded & chaotic situation”
  • Kudlow speaks
Kyle Duncan addresses Sen. Kennedy’s concern

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 12:46 PM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)Kyle Duncan, President Trump’s nominee for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday (along with Justice David Stras, a nominee for the Eighth Circuit about whom more in another post). I watched a portion of the proceedings and found both nominees to be excellent. You can watch here and judge for yourself.

Sen. John Kennedy of Duncan’s home state of Louisiana has been critical of Duncan’s nomination, though not of Duncan himself. As I discussed here, Kennedy’s concern is that Duncan practices law in Washington, D.C., not in Louisiana. Duncan is from Louisiana and has strong ties to the state, but is not as strongly connected to the state’s legal community as others the president could have nominated (e.g., a Louisiana judge).

At the hearing, Sen. Kennedy expressed this concern candidly and reasonably. He asked (at around the 1:22 mark) what he should say to well-qualified candidates for the court of appeals who call him and ask why, instead of picking them, the president picked someone in Washington, D.C.

Duncan’s answer was strong and, I hope, satisfies the Senator (even if not the candidates who called him). After citing his connections to Louisiana, Duncan explained to Kennedy (and to Sen. Jeff Flake in a follow up) that he spent a prime part of his legal career, and staked his reputation as a lawyer, defending Louisiana’s interests and its laws in tough cases where they were challenged. He mentioned Connick v. Thompson563 U.S. 51 (2011). Duncan was referring to his service as appellate chief of the Louisiana Department of Justice.

Duncan could not complete his answer because Kennedy was running out of time under the “five-minute” rule, and I couldn’t tell what Kennedy thought of the response. I hope it satisfies the Senator. Duncan showed that he has experience defending Louisiana’s interests that make him an outstanding candidate, from a Louisiana perspective, to serve on the Fifth Circuit.

  

Conservatives and Higher Education

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 12:26 PM PST

(Steven Hayward)I am long overdue in delivering a World Wrestling Federation-style smack down on Damon Linker, one of my favorite liberal writers, for a column he wrote in The Week way back in August on “The Real Reason There Are So Few Conservatives on Campus.” The piece is still prompting discussion—a rare column with a long half-life—such as Warren Treadgold’s response in Commentary recently.

Let’s take Damon’s second major claim in the piece first. Conservatives, he says, are less interested in breaking “new knowledge” that is the mode of operation for universities these days, even in the humanities. In other words, conservative academics are like baseball players trying to play in the NFL—it’s just a different game. There is something to this criticism, but only because it accepts as its premise that breaking “new knowledge” is the sole function of a university, rather than being partly a repository for conserving and passing along the knowledge capital of our civilization. Perhaps it might be said that small liberal arts colleges are where that older kind of function should go on, but most liberal arts college has followed the big public and private research universities in emphasizing “new knowledge” over conveying the traditions of our civilization.

This problem was understood by some leaders of higher education when our universities were deciding to emulate the German research-university model in the late 19th century. One of the presidents of Harvard at the time (I forget which, but as I’m on an airplane at the moment I can’t check Louis Menand’s account of this) thought it might be necessary to have two faculties at Harvard—a graduate research faculty, and a purely teaching faculty to carry on the older mission of being the transmission belt of our heritage, unburdened with the task of grinding out endless journal articles that almost no one will read.

So it is true that most conservatives in the humanities are wholly alienated from the mode of humanities instruction in universities today. Linker and other liberals should ponder that the number of majors in humanities and social sciences (excluding economics) has fallen by two-thirds over the last 30 years even at our most elite universities, corresponding precisely to the transition in the humanities from the old style to the “new knowledge” style. By contrast, note that the scarce conservative professors and their courses are often very popular with students (my courses all have long waiting lists, while the radical left courses—most that I check on are barely half full; also, check out the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Great Texts at UT/Austin—it’s ragingly popular with students). Maybe there’s a lesson here?

Besides, even conservative keepers of supposedly “old knowledge” have relevant challenges to make to the so-called “new knowledge.” For one example, just think of the vigorous debate to be had about Machiavelli between Harvey Mansfield and Quentin Skinner. With no Mansfield around, students will not know that there is an alternative way of thinking about Machiavelli.

Second, most of the so-called “new knowledge” in the humanities is, simply put, crap. And the increasing narrowness if not irrelevancy of large swaths of academic social science (including, sadly, economics in too many cases) is leaving students cold. (See: Any of my “academic absurdity” posts here, which I could file on an hourly basis if I wanted to.)

Which brings me to Damon’s first claim in his article. Damon says that “conventional wisdom holds that the source of the [ideological] imbalance is flagrant ideological bias on the part of the faculty members and administrators who make hiring decisions,” but that this view is “almost entirely wrong.”

Let’s see about this. Consider this following current and the entirely too typical job announcement for a position in political theory in Cal State Long Beach—a field where there are many qualified conservatives:

College of Liberal Arts, Department of Political Science, Tenure-Track Position Opening

POSITION: Assistant Professor of Political Science (Political Theory)

EFFECTIVE DATE: August 20, 2018 (Fall Semester)

SALARY RANGE: Commensurate with qualifications and experience

DESIRED/PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS:
• Evidence of broad training in the canon of Western political theory.
• Evidence of ability for excellence in teaching and research grounded in political theory and focusing on topics central to the discipline at large: e.g., ancient, modern, and contemporary theories; democratic theory; critical race theory; immigration; the carceral state; postcolonial theory; identity; hybridity; intersectionality; queer theory; deconstruction’s focus on alterity; globalization, and neoliberalism.

The subtext here is pretty clear: Conservatives need not apply. It is a certainty that no conservative will be hired. I doubt they any conservative will even get an interview. This is not a position that will be breaking “new knowledge,” except new ways of spinning out jargon-laden ideology. Such job ads are surprisingly common, making it hard to see how Linker or anyone can say that there isn’t “flagrant ideological bias” in higher education.

By contrast, see these two job listings from Arizona State University’s new School for Economic Thought and Leadership, which has been set up by conservatives:

Assistant Professor, Classical and Medieval Political Philosophy 

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University invites applications for a full-time tenure-track faculty position as Assistant Professor, in Classical and Medieval Political Philosophy, with an anticipated start date of August 2018. . .

Required qualifications include: a doctorate in political science, history, or closely related field by time of appointment; dissertation or research focused on Classical Greek, Roman, or Medieval political philosophy, or the intellectual history of Classical and Medieval Political thought; an active research program with clear potential for excellence in research activity and publications; evidence of university teaching experience. Desired qualifications: interest and ability to teach courses that span Western political theory and some comparative theory; interest in civic education and leadership; interest in study, teaching and discussion of civic education and leadership as well as the great texts and debates of the Western tradition and liberal education; demonstrated success meeting the needs of diverse student populations and/or reaching out to diverse communities.

Assistant Professor, American Constitutionalism and Political Thought 

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University (https://scetl.asu.edu/) invites applications for a full-time tenure-track faculty position as Assistant Professor, in American Constitutionalism and Political Thought with an anticipated start date of August 2018. . .

Required qualifications include: a doctorate in political science, or closely related field by time of appointment; dissertation or research focused on American constitutionalism and institutions, and American political thought; an active research program with clear potential for excellence in research activity and publications; evidence of university teaching experience. Desired qualifications: expertise and interest in the American presidency with a historical focus, and in civic education and leadership; interest in the study, teaching, and discussion of civic education and leadership as well as the great texts and debates of the Western tradition and liberal education; demonstrated success meeting the needs of diverse student populations and/or reaching out to diverse communities.

Rather easy to spot the difference, no? There are no ideological code words of signifiers of bias in these job descriptions. And which program would you rather send your kids?

In sum—the Missing Linker showed up with a rare miss here: he usually gets the problem of identity politics leftism just right.

Note to Arizona Power Line readers: Now I know what you’re thinking. Yes, it’s very tempting, but no, I won’t be applying, as much as I love those guys at this terrific new program.

NB: For my longer thoughts on this subject, I refer interested readers to my New Criterion article from 2014: “Conservatives and Higher Education.” If Damon had read this, it would have saved him from making a left turn against traffic on a one-way street.

  

The new Al Franken

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 08:33 AM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing yesterday on President Trump’s nomination of Alex Azar to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Naturally, Azar received hostile questions from the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray. In the hour or so that I watched, the nominee, a strong conservative, acquitted himself very well.

During the time I watched, Al Franken questioned Azar (at the 2:43 mark of the video at this link). He looked terrible, a few years older than the last time I saw him (and why not?).

Franken didn’t sound good, either. He struggled to explain something as basic as the subsidy logic of the Affordable Care Act. He seemed sleepy and looked distracted. At times, he had trouble finding his words. His heart wasn’t in it. This was a tame, subdued performance.

It’s news any time Franken doesn’t call a Trump administration nominee or a strong conservative a liar. Franken didn’t call Azar a liar (Elizabeth Warren pretty much did, though, in the lively performance that followed Franken’s tired one).

If this is the new Al Franken, I’m for it.

  

Another “crowded & chaotic situation”

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 07:52 AM PST

(Scott Johnson)Emerging today from the “crowded and chaotic situations” in Al Franken’s past is Stephanie Kemplin’s story, related by CNN’s MJ Lee. It involves another grope by Franken while he and Kemplin posed for a photograph on a USO tour in December 2003. The photograph itself is innocent. Kemplin says the grope took place just before the photograph was snapped.

Lee reached out to Franken’s spokesman for comment. I think I could have phoned this response in on Franken’s behalf myself: “Sen. Franken made clear this week, he takes thousands of photos and has met tens of thousands of people and he has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct. He remains fully committed to cooperating with the ethics investigation.”

The first link above is to my reading of Franken’s interview with CBS Minnesota’s Esme Murphy in Washington this past Sunday. “Crowded and chaotic situations” is a phrase that functions in Franken’s case something like “lithe and fierce, like a tiger” used by the conspirators portrayed in the film Z. It’s getting awfully crowded and chaotic in here.

Like the investigating magistrate in Z, Murphy pierced the verbal fog. Anyone seeking to understand the reality of Franken’s situation may want to check out the video along with the quotes and comments in my post “Just very, very sorry.”

UPDATE: As I say, it’s getting awfully crowded and chaotic in here.

  

Kudlow speaks

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 07:38 AM PST

(Scott Johnson)Politico Money’s Ben White interviewed Larry Kudlow this week for the podcast embedded below. White noted the interview yesterday in his Morning Money column. In the interview, they discussed Kudlow’s role in shaping the Trump tax plan and the wayward course it has taken on the individual side. It is a wide-ranging interview; White also asked Kudlow to recount his struggle to overcome cocaine and alcohol addictions in the early 1990’s. In the course of a five-month stay at Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota, he prevailed.

I greatly enjoy listening to Kudlow, but I am posting this podcast because of the discussion of the tax bills making their way through Congress. I found the discussion illuminating. This is an excellent interview.

Quotable quote: “If we could take the entire individual side of this, throw it in the trash can and take it directly to the incinerator, I would be thrilled. But I’m willing to swallow the individual side, which to me is not what it needs to be, to get the business side as long as we’re not increasing deficits.”

  

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