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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

The Horror of Hillary?

(Reprinted from the issue of March 15, 2007)

Capitol Bldg, Washington Watch logo for 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.

Read Joe Sobran's columns the day he writes them!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.

Regime Change Begins at Home — a new selection of my Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian — will provoke thoughts and smiles. If you have not seen a copy of SOBRANS, my monthly newsletter, yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.

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Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission

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