THE WANDERER, MARCH 15, 2007

JOSEPH SOBRAN'S
WASHINGTON WATCH

The Horror of Hillary?

     Well, now what?

     Granted, the current crop of presidential candidates 
in both major parties may seem pretty dismal, and in a 
sense that is true. But just what did we really expect? 
Even Ronald Reagan was far from the paragon so many 
conservatives remember him as being.

     On the other hand, while we should reject optimism, 
the child of fantasy, there is no reason to despair. 
Despair is a fault; so is optimism. The corrective to 
both is hope. True hope is realistic, an act of will and 
reason. Optimism is the mere passive expectation that 
things will improve, whatever we do.

     ("If chance will have me king," says Macbeth, "why, 
chance may crown me, Without my stir.")

     I must confess that this winter I was close to 
despair. My political outlook was grim; I was also on the 
verge of quitting writing. The future looked dark, darker 
than ever before in my life.

     Meanwhile, many friends, some I knew and some I'd 
never met, were working and praying for me. Then miracles 
happened; or more precisely, I began to recognize that 
they had been happening all along. It was just that I was 
starting to notice them now. And I was laughing at my own 
blindness to them. I'd been like a billionaire worried 
about starving.

     My mind came back with hope; I could write again. I 
really wanted to write, and I enjoyed it more than ever 
(though my fingers still can hardly find the keys). My 
body was old, but I felt years younger. "Positive 
thinking" may sound corny, but it's very practical and 
doesn't mean denying sin and evil. It means learning to 
rejoice and not fear -- which may mean unlearning a 
lifetime's bad habits.

     Lately I've been thinking a lot about Michael 
Oakeshott, the noted British philosopher of conservatism, 
who used to say he voted for the Tories because "they are 
likely to do less harm." There is great wisdom in that 
remark.

     Can we even be sure which of our two major parties 
is "likely to do less harm"? After more than six years of 
Bush the son, I don't even know how to identify the 
lesser evil with any assurance. My inclination is to 
abstain from politics and leave it all to Heaven.

     Imagine you are a first-century Christian in Rome. 
Whom do you prefer for the next emperor? The 
law-and-order man favored by most Romans, who view 
Christians as a threat? Or (supposing you have any 
influence at all in the matter) the laziest, most 
self-indulgent candidate, who will be the least effectual 
persecutor of the faith? It's a matter of knowing what 
you can realistically hope for when the whole society is 
anti-Christian. (As it turned out, converting the whole 
society was a realistic hope, though not in the short 
run.)

     Or think of secret Christians in the old Soviet 
Union. Would they want the "best" (that is, strictest and 
most principled) Communist to rule, or might they prefer 
a bit of a slacker, even a "corrupt" -- and therefore to 
some extent humane -- ruler?

     A Russian Christian once told me of the devious 
methods his people had learned to use while appearing 
loyal to the regime. For example, many ostensible attacks 
on Christians in the official press were actually written 
by Christians for Christian readers! In this way they 
could smuggle bits of news camouflaged by a shrill tone 
which those readers could disregard. No wonder the 
Communists could never extinguish religion. "Therefore be 
wise as serpents, harmless as doves."

     Put that way, the situation begins to look a little 
different, I think. We face a government essentially and 
practically hostile to the Church, and nearly all the 
candidates threaten to make it worse if they can. Maybe 
the worst choice would be to support a nominal Catholic 
like Rudy Giuliani, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-big 
government, but "good" on a few issues dear to Republican 
hearts (to say nothing of his shabby personal life). Much 
better, perhaps, a Hillary Clinton, hated by the Left for 
compromising and "pandering to the Right," than a 
Giuliani, who has made a profitable career of betraying 
his fellow Catholics.

     Which of our enemies would hurt us least? You never 
really know; but there is something to be said for the 
liberal whom other liberals can't trust. After all, the 
other side has its Giulianis too.


The Parties of Death

     These must be confusing times for those I think of 
as theological Republicans, the sort who send "be ye 
accursed" messages to those of us (ahem!) who now and 
then say something that might conceivably give aid and 
comfort to Democrats.

     But I understand how they feel. For many years, 
after the Democrats decided to define themselves as the 
Party of Death, a/k/a "choice," I found it irresistible 
to root for the GOP as the Lesser Evil. Until recently, 
that satisfied me. But it's now all too clear that the 
Republicans are far from being a Party of Life. Yet there 
is Nancy Pelosi, said to be a devout Catholic, 
uncompromisingly promoting abortion and sodomy, while 
(more or less) opposing a war even conservatives 
increasingly see as unjust.

     As Whittaker Chambers once wrote to Bill Buckley, 
"To live is to maneuver." How true. Just how does one 
weigh the evils of these two parties against each other 
now? I still think abortion, the killing of one's own 
children, is even worse than aggressive warfare; but I 
admit I'm baffled. And after all, legal abortion is going 
to be around for a while, and the Iraq war, whatever you 
think of it, is urgent right now. We seem more and more 
beset by insoluble problems. I hardly know how to 
formulate the questions, let alone answer them.

     All things considered, I'm grateful I wasn't called 
as a juror in the Scooter Libby trial.


Naughty Words

     Ann Coulter has done it again, causing an uproar by 
referring to John Edwards as a "faggot." (News footage 
decently bleeped it out.) She explained that she was only 
using the word as a "schoolyard taunt," not as an 
assertion about his behavior. Still, of course, her quip 
is being censured as "homophobic."

     Which raises a question I've never seen addressed. 
We speak of certain disapproving terms as "slurs," but we 
lack, and need, some term for their counterpart: words 
like "gay," which approve and encourage fashionable vices 
no longer recognized as vices.

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                                        --- Joseph Sobran

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