Christie’s speech—not just clichés, but a significant political statement

I’ve now read Christopher Christie’s Reagan Library speech and I disagree with James Capua’s dismissive summary of it in American Thinker. While the speech is establishmentarian, it is not just a collection of establishmentarian clichés as Capua would have it; it is a coherent, even stirring meditation on leadership, and without question the political expression of a man aiming at the presidency.

My compliments don’t mean that I like it; I don’t. Here basically is what Christie is saying:

(1) America needs decisive, effective, Ronald Reagan-style—and Chris Christie-style—leadership at home. (Other than the goal of ever-greater prosperity, however, what sort of values and ends this leadership should serve is notably obscure in Christie’s treatment; the leadership he lauds is a matter of process more than substance.)

(2) If America has strong leadership at home and a resulting strong domestic policy, other countries will respect America once again and America will be able to lead the world.

(3) The object of America’s leading the world is to spread democracy and freedom and the belief in American exceptionalism.

The speech, then, is Son of National Greatness Conservatism, especially in its evocation of leadership for the sake of leadership, of power for the sake of power, at least on the domestic level. On the international level the power is aimed at the substantive end of spreading democracy. We could think of it as a Christie-esque variation on the neoconservative agenda: America as a kind of well-organized void leading the world in the direction of more and more freedom. No wonder William Kristol is among the GOP insiders pushing a Christie candidacy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kristol had some input in the writing of the speech.

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Matt writes:

“…a kind of well-organized void…”

What a pithy way of describing the weird (but pervasive) notion that America isn’t the national community of a particular people with a particular shared history and territory, but rather is a “nation dedicated to a proposition”.

LA replies:

Speaking of this, I recently saw a video statement by noted Catholic conservative thinker and Princeton professor Robert George, and it was pure Propositional Nation all the way. America is nothing but an idea, the idea that our rights come from God, and anyone who believes that idea, wherever he comes from, is an American in the true and “robust” sense. There is no country and people here, just an idea. George, whom I had thought of an intellectual, went on at length speaking nothing but neocon cliches and sounding like Jack Kemp. I was just appalled.

Anna writes:

In today’s world, anyone who seeks the presidency of the United States must fit two criteria:

1) The support of those with money;

2) The support of those without money.

Unlimited immigration supports both those needs. The idea of nation state is passé.

Matt writes:

There is a whole cadre of Catholic intellectuals—George Weigel comes immediately to mind as another—who appear to be dedicating their lives to the project of reconciling Catholic theology with American neoconservatism. Their project is helped along by the fact that Roman Catholicism expressly disavows, in major Papal encyclicals (e.g. Immortale Dei), endorsement of particular philosophical or political systems. In that sense Catholicism has a kind of anti-Sharia built into it: there is plenty of room to argue that this or that philosophy or conception of politics is compatible with Catholicism. Only a few, like socialism (see Rerum Novarum), have come under outright explicit condemnation.

I personally think that political neoconservatism is just obviously an insane lens through which to view the world, and your “well-organized void” statement is a very pithy way of expressing the willful insanity at neoconservatism’s core.

Alan A. writes:

“Speaking of this, I recently saw a video statement by noted Catholic conservative thinker and Princeton professor Robert George, and it was pure Propositional Nation all the way.”

This, I think, is a text version of the video you referenced:

I didn’t read it all, I get his drift, I’ve read so much similar garbage.

Daniel S. writes:

You spoke recently of Dr. Robert George, the Catholic political philosopher, and his neocon worldview. It should be noted that he is also an a dhimmi who has equated critical statements of Islam and Muslims with religious discrimination, and thus un-American. This is the typical sort of mindless right-liberalism that one has come to expect from establishment Catholic neoconservatives.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 02, 2011 10:35 AM | Send

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