NOTE: The excerpts in the post below are from Jay Nordlinger’s National Review essay, “Colonel and Candidate”, which appears in the latest issue. (We haven’t gotten our snail mail copy, so I used the digital version. This is probably still behind the subscription firewall for the moment but since the magazine is a weekly it won’t be there long; non-subscribers can see as soon as the next issue appears.
Mr. Nordlinger says Republicans are “excited” about Col. West’s candidacy for Congress (for Florida’s 22nd District), and they have good reason to be.
…he’s a true-blue Reaganite: a free marketeer, a hard-liner in foreign policy, an unapologetic social conservative. And he is not short on charisma. A video of one of his speeches “went viral” — attracted millions of viewers — and he was a star at CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Conference — in February. In this new technological age, congressional candidates can have national followings. West has one.
Take a bow here, all you translators who had a hand in the viral spread of Col. West’s speech via our Rosetta Stone project. Practically speaking, will these many translations have an effect on Lt. Colonel West’s candidacy in Florida? No. However, his words have great impact and they inspire people everywhere who love liberty. The spreading of the word went much farther than Mr. Nordlinger could know. Nor could he have known of Col West’s gracious acknowledgement of each and every effort to send his words around the world. Viral, indeed!
Mr Nordlinger continues:
West was the Republican nominee in 2008, with very little money and very little national support. A highly snarky article in The New Republic, “Recruiting Scandal,” presented him as a great embarrassment to the GOP. The embarrassment finished strongly: with 45 percent of the vote in a big Democratic, and terrible Republican, year. He thinks that, with some money and the support of the national party, he just might have won in ‘08.
He has plenty of money and plenty of support this year. Fundraising has come easily, and the party has made him a priority.
An egghead who reads medieval Muslim history and the anti-socialist French thinker Frederic Bastiat in his spare time, West was on track for a generalship when his unit was assigned in August 2003 to interrogate an Iraqi policeman who had supposedly turned Benedict Arnold. The policeman refused to cooperate, so West dragged him outside, pushed his head into the sand, and fired a gun next to his face to get him to sing. “I’d do it again if I had to,” West tells me over tea and a doughnut in Plantation, Florida. “It wasn’t torture. Seeing Rosie O’Donnell naked would be torture.”
Gosh, I never knew West read Bastiat! My favorite French thinker, “anti-socialist” or otherwise (he learned from England’s lesson with the corn laws). Bastiat thought government was a necessary evil and was only not harmful when it wasn’t interfering in its citizens’ God-given rights. Unlike many Europeans of his time (he died young, in 1849), Bastiat thought the very idea of ‘rights conferred by the state’ was pernicious and could only lead to bad consequences. How right he was.
Well, whoda thunk that liking Bastiat makes you an “egghead”? One of the main problems for our congress creatures today is that so few of them have any acquaintance with Bastiat’s ideas, nor are they interested. Think of Obama as the anti-Bastiat. In fact, the majority of them are lawyers and such folk are too accustomed to work as being “billable hours” and spending other people’s money with abandon — e.g., charging you a hefty sum for xeroxing a page and sending it to you.
We need more representatives who’ve done their economic homework, or who have run businesses, or who have been leaders in other fields — outside of academia, the media, Wall Street, and political lobbying — you know, real jobs, the kind that are disappearing in this latest great destruction of our country’s wealth. I include military service within the category of “real jobs”.
Congress creatures have large, generally overpaid staffs, but how many actually have non-academic economists on their payroll in an advisory capacity?
It is exciting to realize that any Congressional district anywhere in this country is actually fielding a politician who thinks…I suppose that is the definition of “egghead”? Because you read Bastiat you’re an egghead? Sheesh.
As for the supposed “torture” of the Iraqi in order to protect his men, go read the snark at The New Republic link mentioned by Mr. Nordlinger. Lt. Colonel West voluntarily knowingly gave up his “track” to becoming a general when he intimidated that Iraqi, thus breaking our wimpy, p.c. “rules of engagement”, the very same rules that are also ruining our attempts in Afghanistan.
It takes great courage to go against the system and voluntarily surrender what you love in order to protect the people under you. As John Boyd said, for each officer who reaches West’s rank, there is a decision to be made: are you going to “be” somebody or are you going to “do” what is necessary? The former are groomed for the top tiers of leadership in The Building (as Boyd called the Pentagon). The latter, like West, take action and thereby surrender career for a greater good. So who’s the hero?
In a speech in April 2008, Defense Secretary Gates referred to Boyd, whom he obviously admires. He was speaking to Air War College students at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base.
… “If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted, and you may not get good assignments, and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself.”
The blogger extracting from Gates’ address notes how remarkable his willingness to publicly admire Boyd is:
For a defense secretary to quote a maverick colonel who left the Air Force as a pariah was a bold and risky step. But like the fighter pilot he quoted, he turned into the fight by describing Boyd as “brilliant” in his abilities “to overcome bureaucratic resistance and institutional hostility.” The secretary referred to Boyd as “a historical exemplar,” tracing his impact on our military from 30-year-old captain through to his continued intellectual contributions after retiring in 1975. And he praised Boyd for more than his intellect. He championed his character, quoting the colonel, who said, “One day you will take a fork in the road. … If you go [one] way, you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and get good assignments. Or you can go [the other] way and you can do something — something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself.
In Nordlinger’s essay, there is some background on West’s younger life in black Atlanta. He mentions something telling:
“Race is not a factor now,” says West. “People are looking for three things more than anything else: honor, integrity, and character. Dr. King spoke about the content of character rather than the color of skin. And we see right now that the Left is trying to use race as a means to suppress honest criticism of government.” He means, of course, that tea partiers and other Obama critics are broadly painted as racist.
The colonel and candidate was born in 1961, raised in the same neighborhood as King. West’s elementary school, Our Lady of Lourdes, was across the street from the Ebenezer Baptist Church. He was steeped in all things King — and he counts him as a personal hero today.
Obviously, West is either a black Georgia Catholic or he was educated in that milieu at Our Lady of Lourdes School. It is the same milieu in which Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was raised a generation earlier(in Savannah rather than Atlanta). I am personally familiar with black Catholicism in Georgia. They are a minority within a minority. At one time they were all conservatives, but whether or not that is still true I don’t know since I’ve lost touch with the people there. The same was true of Augusta, Georgia. At one time, Catholicism was a refuge for Georgia blacks. The nuns truly believed in equality. Perhaps as convents shrank and people drifted away from Catholic education that has changed? I don’t know. However, at one point to be a black Catholic Georgian was to be a conservative. None of the government crutches, thank you.
Nordlinger asks him if he ever had a “liberal phase”. Certainly that is common enough for people of his generation — though I would maintain less so for Catholic-educated black Georgians who knew their history and the price of slavery to the man, especially the government man:
I saw social-welfare policies failing — just look at Detroit, just look at any other urban center — and a new kind of plantation. They once enslaved the body, and now they were enslaving the mind and the will.” He decries programs that lessen incentive and responsibility and “group you into a collective.”
I’ve given you some of his views here, and only a hint of the breadth of his reading. The rest of the essay is well worth your while, even if you have to wait for it to appear next week. I’ll close with a final quote, a real zinger that goes to the heart of the matter regarding Obama:
“I struggle to find something to admire in him. I believe that his policies and vision are antithetical to who we are as a country. I think the two preeminent things he should be doing are protecting the fiscal security and protecting the physical security of the nation. And I think he’s failing at both.” West believes that the administration is making “more and more people dependent on government,” either as recipients of government checks or as government employees. And he is alarmed by what he sees as a refusal to face facts about the Islamist enemy: a refusal to speak of “Muslim extremism,” for example, or even of “terrorism.”
“There are two things that could lose us our country if we’re not careful,” says West. One is the relinquishment of individual responsibility; the other is political correctness.
Note to Mr. Nordlinger: My edition of spell check didn’t like your last name and suggested “Mudslinger” instead. I suspect a liberal bias in this Microsoft product… ;-] It didn’t like “Reaganite” either. Wanted to replace it with “reignite”. Hmmm…makes you wonder what they’d do with Margaret Thatcher.