Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Mark Steyn is Wrong about Newt

Yesterday, Mark Steyn subbed for Rush Limbaugh.

Don't get me wrong, I think Steyn is a terrific radio host, a superb wit, a true Conservative and the kind of guy who I'd like to call a friend. In fact, as it turns out we do have mutual friends. Maybe some day I'll get to meet Mark. I'd like that.

But yesterday he ranted on an on about Newt Gingrich, asserting that the large majority of the ideas that have caused Newt to be credited as a great thinker are horribly flawed beyond redemption. To hear Steyn tell it, if we weren't being seduced by Gingrich's debate style we would see right through these awful, convoluted, contradictory, Escher-like visions for a Gingrich world.

Mark may be right on all counts - but he has missed the point entirely. It's all about Newt as a quintessential American.

A few years ago I engaged in a political discussion with some friends in Madrid. My Spanish isn't that good so it was difficult, but I knew what they were saying. They were trashing George W. Bush over the war on terror, which at that time had progressed to Shock and Awe and no further. The discussion turned to generalizations about the people of America and their character. How could we, for example, not revolt when there was such an opposition of clearly strong, well verbalized and very public dissension, shared to a great an extent by these Spaniards, who had just elected Zapatero and had not yet seen their friends carved up by shards of what used to be a commuter train.

I did not get into the weeds with them. I just asked them if they understood us, if they knew what was the essence of America. They did not, they didn't even know how to approach an answer. I explained, "America es una idea." That's it. That's why Steyn was wrong about Newt and why he thinks we're being lulled into embracing a dreamer of labyrinths.

The reality is that America, as an idea, is itself horribly flawed, very high maintenance, completely entropic, and overly complex to the highest degree possible without ceasing to exist - and yet it does. It continues to, I would submit, thrive. Yet, as Americans, we no more expect perfection from an idea than we expect sinlessness from Christians. It is only in the marketplace of ideas where American Conservatism values the effort even more than the outcome. We will invest our lives and our fortunes in a good idea and it has been that way from the beginning.

Because in the DNA of every American we have a reverence for ideas, we respect them, we cherish them, we spend our fortunes to nurture them. We name them; Mac, light bulb, TV, assembly line, Windows 7, movies, Blues, Rock 'n Roll, telephone, iPhone, MRI, One small step for man, cheeseburger, cowboy, oil well, Mach one, basketball, New York, LA, Peoria.

The earth is fertile here for the growth of ideas. So much so, even the seasons anticipate the harvest. We knew that each summer solstice brought with it a new iteration from the mind of Steve Jobs, for example. Yes, ideas grow very well, that's why some of our best traveled from somewhere else to be planted in our soil, traveling by Einstein, Tesla, Marconi, de Tocqueville among them. Okay, even Cowell.

Mark, when we look at president Obama, we see no ideas, we hear no plans, we gain no insights. He imbues within us no anticipation of an American Spring because he has no ideas. Ideas are so fundamental to American leadership that his lack of vision only gives life to the questions concerning his citizenship. What was the last great Kenyan idea?

But despite the fact that nothing has grown, we look forward to the fall harvest. We will pull out this weed, we will throw it on the compost heap, we will put it from our minds, we will briefly lament the lost season and then we will lovingly, respectfully, honor the idea that we are endowed by our Creator with the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and then we will repeat the process until we get it right.