The Week: Most Recent from Damon Linker recent posts.en-usFri, 31 Oct 2014 06:06:00 -0400http://theweek.com Recent from Damon Linker from THE WEEKFri, 31 Oct 2014 06:06:00 -0400What if Leo Strauss was right?<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Maybe it was Irving Kristol's fault.</p><p>When the intellectual godfather of neoconservatism pointed to Leo Strauss as a seminal influence on his thinking, the stage was set for a seemingly endless season of journalistic silliness.</p><p>I can just imagine how it started.</p><p>"Why are the neocons in and around the Bush administration so intent on overthrowing Saddam Hussein?" asks an intrepid reporter some time during the fall of 2002. "I just don't get it."</p><p>"Hey, look at this: Bill Kristol's father refers to Leo Strauss in this 1995 memoir," a colleague in the newsroom responds. "I've heard that Strauss...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Fri, 31 Oct 2014 06:06:00 -0400Imagine: The Democratic States of America<img src="" /></P><p>I have a confession to make: I'm prejudiced against the South. You might even call me an anti-Southern bigot.</p><p>I'm not proud of it. It's just a fact. I grew up a liberal, secular Jew in New York City and southern Connecticut &mdash; a Yankee through and through. The thought of "my" America being yoked together with a region that fought a bloody, traitorous war to defend the institution of slavery and a way of life based upon it &mdash; well, it just felt morally grotesque. That this same region persisted in <em>de jure</em> racism (backed up by brutal violence) right up through the decade prior to my birth...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Wed, 29 Oct 2014 06:07:00 -0400The culture war finally comes to the Catholic Church<img src="" /></P><p><em>New York Times</em> columnist Ross Douthat is no one's idea of a radical. In the five and a half years since joining the op-ed page of the paper, he's proved himself to be a thoughtful, measured, and nuanced social-conservative commentator on political and cultural events.</p><p>That's why I was surprised when six months ago Douthat responded rashly to reports that Pope Francis had told an Argentine woman that she could receive the sacrament of communion even though she was married to a divorced man. Roman Catholic Church doctrine holds that the woman's marriage is adulterous unless the man's original marriage...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Tue, 28 Oct 2014 06:08:00 -0400Let us now praise Billy Joel<img src="" /></P><p>Twenty-one years after releasing his last pop album, 15 years removed from his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, nearly a decade since his last stint in rehab for alcohol abuse, four years after undergoing double-hip-replacement surgery, Billy Joel, at 65, is enjoying an exceedingly rare moment of critical adulation and respect.</p><p>He deserves every bit of it.</p><p>One of the biggest acts in pop music history, selling something on the order of 150 million albums, Joel has been a punching bag for rock critics from the start. As Nick Paumgarten reminds readers in an admiring 10,500-word Joel...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Fri, 24 Oct 2014 06:12:00 -0400For the GOP, gay marriage could be the most important issue in 2016<img src="" /></P><p>Almost as soon as the GOP cleans the Democrats' clock in the midterm elections on Nov. 4, attention will turn full force toward the next presidential race.</p><p>Will Hillary Clinton run unopposed? Or will someone else &mdash; Elizabeth Warren, Jim Webb &mdash; try to tap into Democratic dissatisfaction with the prospect of a no-sweat campaign by the Queen of the Centrist Washington Consensus?</p><p>On the Republican side, we'll soon be swamped with analysis about what kind of candidate will successfully woo the fractious base of the party. Will it be a centrist (Chris Christie, Jeb Bush)? A libertarian...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Wed, 22 Oct 2014 06:08:00 -0400The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion<img src="" /></P><p>If you're looking for someone to hurl sweeping, ill-informed insults at the deeply held beliefs of hundreds of millions of people, the so-called New Atheists are always happy to oblige.</p><p>In the most recent of a long line of examples, talk show host Bill Maher and guest Sam Harris got into a heated exchange with actor Ben Affleck and <em>New York Times</em> columnist Nicholas Kristof about whether Islam deserves to be denounced by secular liberals as (in Harris' words) a "motherlode of bad ideas."</p><p>But that wasn't the end of it. In the more than two weeks since the segment aired, Harris has continued his...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Tue, 21 Oct 2014 06:05:00 -0400Ebola and America's epic institutional fail<img src="" /></P><p>"The word that keeps coming to mind is 'disgrace.'"</p><p>That's how a Facebook friend responded to news that a second nurse at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas had been diagnosed with Ebola.</p><p>I think my friend speaks for a lot of Americans this week &mdash; and that doesn't bode well for our nation's health.</p><p>I don't mean our physical health. Ebola remains far less contagious than measles, influenza, and tuberculosis. Unless you encounter the bodily fluids of a symptomatic Ebola patient, you're not going to catch the disease.</p><p>I'm talking about our civic health.</p><p>Liberal democratic government...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Fri, 17 Oct 2014 06:08:00 -0400Pope Francis' Machiavellian strategy to liberalize the Catholic Church<img src="" /></P><p>Maybe you can help me. I'm confused.</p><p>The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares as a matter of binding doctrine that homosexual acts are "acts of grave depravity," "contrary to the natural law," and "intrinsically" as well as "objectively disordered." "Under no circumstances" can those acts "be approved." Although people who feel same-sex attractions "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity," they are called by the church to take up "the Lord's cross" and embrace a life of "chastity" through "self-mastery" of their desires. That is the only way for them to "gradually and...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Wed, 15 Oct 2014 06:04:00 -0400Who are you calling a moral relativist?<img src="" /></P><p>Political denunciation is an art form too rarely analyzed.</p><p>To be effective, a rhetorical attack must be sharp-edged and clever enough to wound, but also accurate enough to reveal something true about the object of scorn. Otherwise, the epithet is just empty name-calling that won't have any lasting impact.</p><p>The classics of the genre fit this description precisely. Think of liberals denouncing conservatives as "the stupid party." Are all conservatives stupid? Of course not. But the right does embrace a populist rhetoric fueled by suspicion of "experts," and it tends to rally around politicians who...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Tue, 14 Oct 2014 06:07:00 -0400The myopic folly of demanding a new constitutional convention<img src="" /></P><p>Americans have a thing for starting over. We love the idea of breaking from the past, beginning from scratch, getting a new life, setting out on a fresh path.</p><p>No wonder, then, that some of us seem to be taken with the idea of solving our political problems by calling a constitutional convention to craft a new founding document &mdash; one that is less&hellip; well, it sort of depends on what you find intolerable about the present system.</p><p>Conservatives spend their days dreaming of a balanced budget amendment, term limits for Supreme Court justices, and special protections for the free enterprise...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Fri, 10 Oct 2014 06:07:00 -0400Why do so many liberals despise Christianity?<img src="" /></P><p>Liberalism seems to have an irrational animus against Christianity. Consider these two stories highlighted in the last week by conservative Christian blogger Rod Dreher.</p><p><strong>Item 1:</strong> In a widely discussed essay in <em>Slate</em>, author Brian Palmer writes about the prevalence of missionary doctors and nurses in Africa and their crucial role in treating those suffering from Ebola. Palmer tries to be fair-minded, but he nonetheless expresses "ambivalence," "suspicion," and "visceral discomfort" about the fact that these men and women are motivated to make "long-term commitments to address the health problems...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Wed, 08 Oct 2014 06:06:00 -0400How pathetic is ISIS?<img src="" /></P><p>ISIS has gruesomely beheaded yet another Westerner &mdash; this time, British aid worker Alan Henning. When I heard, my first reaction, as always, was to be furious at the group's barbarism. But about two seconds later, something else popped into my head: Boy, these ISIS guys sure are a bunch of pathetic losers.</p><p>That is not to minimize the horrific violence inherent in the act of beheading, or the terrible tragedy this is for Henning's friends and family. But think about the bigger picture: The United States is firing hundreds of hugely expensive, technologically sophisticated missiles at ISIS...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Tue, 07 Oct 2014 06:08:00 -0400This abortion opponent wants to execute women who have abortions. Don't act so shocked.<img src="" /></P><p>How strange it is that at the very moment when the left is routing the right in the culture war, the battle over abortion seems more polarized than ever.</p><p>On one side, supporters of abortion rights increasingly (and unconvincingly) deny that having an abortion is a moral issue at all &mdash; that terminating a pregnancy is nothing to be ashamed of, and maybe even something to be proud of.</p><p>And on the other side, there is, well, Kevin D. Williamson. A writer for <em>National Review</em>, Williamson likes to be the guy who will brashly express the crudest (and sometimes cruelest) version of his own team's...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Fri, 03 Oct 2014 06:09:00 -0400Why every major 2016 candidate will embrace America's perpetual war machine<img src="" /></P><p>If the 2016 general election campaign were truly underway today, the debate about foreign policy among the mainstream presidential candidates would extend only from support for President Obama's war on ISIS to criticism of the plan for not being aggressive enough. You wouldn't hear a word of criticism charging Obama with being overly aggressive.</p><p>Of course, the president's plan will look very different after 24 months of bombing (and possible counter-attacks) than it does today. But will the range of policy options be wider than it is now? I wouldn't bet on it. The American people briefly flirted...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Wed, 01 Oct 2014 06:05:00 -0400How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest<img src="" /></P><p>You should really care that the German Ethics Council (a government committee) has pronounced that Germany's laws banning consensual incest between adult brothers and sisters ought to be abolished.</p><p>Now, it's not because Germany's laws directly affect the United States; they don't, of course. And even within Germany itself, the ruling party of Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated that it doesn't plan on following the council's recommendation.</p><p>The reason why Americans &mdash; and especially American liberals &mdash; should care about the council's ruling is that it gives us a glimpse of America...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Tue, 30 Sep 2014 06:04:00 -0400Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea<img src="" /></P><p>Ideas have consequences &mdash; and bad ideas have bad consequences.</p><p>Just how bad the consequences turn out to be depends to a large extent on the precise character of the bad idea. A bad idea that influences no one isn't really that bad. It's just stupid, and instantly forgettable. But a bad idea that lodges in people's minds, fires their imaginations, inspires them to persuade others of its wisdom, and motivates them to make bad decisions in the world &mdash; that idea is truly bad.</p><p>Some bad ideas inspire world-historical acts of evil. "The Jews are subhuman parasites that deserve to be exterminated...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/damon-linker" ><span class="byline">Damon Linker</span></a>Fri, 26 Sep 2014 06:05:00 -0400