Saturday, February 05, 2011

Reagan Reclaimed

By Steven F. Hayward
February 4, 2011 4:00 A.M

From the February 7, 2011, issue of National Review.

The news that President Obama decided to read a biography of Ronald Reagan during his Christmas holiday in Hawaii might be taken as a sign that Reagan’s triumph over liberals is complete. Can anyone imagine John F. Kennedy admitting he was reading a biography of Calvin Coolidge, or Jimmy Carter taking in lessons from Dwight Eisenhower? This represents the culmination of a remarkable turnabout in Reagan’s reputation, most notably among liberals, who might have been expected to do to Reagan what an earlier generation of partisan historians did to Coolidge. Instead, we have seen a raft of books from liberal grandees such as Richard Reeves and Sean Wilentz giving Reagan his due.

But while conservatives should pocket these unexpected concessions, they should also note that the admiration of Reagan in the media-academic complex is highly qualified and mostly limited to his role in the Cold War. (And even this story they get wrong.) About the domestic-policy Reagan, liberals are currently engaging in a clever two-step — either excoriating Reagan with recycled 1980s clich├ęs (favors the rich, hates the poor and minorities, reckless deregulation, and so forth), or making him out to be a crypto-liberal who tacitly set out to shore up the welfare state while cloaking himself in anti-big-government rhetoric. Ever so slowly, liberals are attempting a subtle revisionism. This revisionism is alarming not simply as an offense against historical accuracy, but also because the Liberal Revised Standard Version of Reagan will be used against the Tea Party and congressional Republicans in the months and years to come. We can expect to hear (and have already heard once or twice) that even Reagan didn’t attack entitlements the way Paul Ryan and today’s radical House Republicans propose to do.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Left has pulled off a historical Brinks job on a Republican whose achievements and popularity could not be destroyed with a direct attack. A hundred years ago, the leading Progressives appropriated Abraham Lincoln for their cause, even as they explicitly attacked Lincoln’s (and the Founders’) central political philosophy of natural rights. It culminated in the chutzpah of Franklin Roosevelt’s declaration in 1929 that “it is time for us Democrats to claim Lincoln as one of our own,” and in the early 1990s with New York’s ultra-liberal governor, Mario Cuomo, ostentatiously embracing Lincoln because “he’s reassuring to politicians like me.”

The liberal revision of Reagan has been unfolding for a while now, and at the center of it is the effort to separate him from his conservative beliefs. Joshua Green wrote in The Washington Monthly in January 2003 that “many of [Reagan’s] actions as president wound up facilitating liberal objectives. What this clamor of adulation is seeking to deny is that beyond his conservative legacy, Ronald Reagan has bequeathed a liberal one.” He raised taxes! He talked to the Soviets and reached arms agreements! Green’s article was provocatively adorned with a cartoon rendering of Reagan as FDR, complete with upturned cigarette holder. The late John Patrick Diggins, an unorthodox liberal who was a close friend of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s, argued in his 2007 book Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History that Reagan deserves to be considered one of the four greatest American presidents, alongside Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. His Upper West Side neighbors are still picking up their jaws off the floor. However, Diggins makes Reagan into a crypto-liberal: “Far from being a conservative, Reagan was the great liberating spirit of modern American history, a political romantic impatient with the status quo.…Reagan’s relation to liberalism may illuminate modern America more than his relation to conservatism.”

Jonathan Rauch offers the most complete case for Reagan as a crypto-liberal pragmatist. In a 2009 National Journal article entitled “Republicans Have Reagan All Wrong,” Rauch asserts that Reagan was not a Reaganite. He builds a purely circumstantial case. Reagan cut Washington’s share of GDP by only 1 percent, raised taxes several times, ran up huge deficits, and backed away from cutting Social Security and Medicare. The last item on Rauch’s list — entitlements — is his strongest. In 1986 Reagan abandoned Senate Republicans after they had passed cuts to Social Security and Medicare with great difficulty, and Rauch takes this as a sign that Reagan never wanted to cut the welfare state in any serious way. This overlooks that fact that Reagan did make a run at Social Security in 1981, got his head handed to him, and several months later had to be talked out of making a prime-time TV address to the nation to push the idea again. He expressed disappointment in his diary in 1983 when the Greenspan commission on Social Security came in with a conventional tax-hiking plan to keep the system alive. Under pressure in the 1984 campaign, Reagan promised not to touch Social Security, and part of his decision not to back Senate Republicans in 1986 stemmed from the simple belief that he ought to live up to that promise.

Reagan said after leaving office that his largest disappointment was not being able to control spending growth more effectively, and his budget record might have been better if he’d gotten more GOP support on Capitol Hill for several of his vetoes of big spending bills. He vetoed pork-laden water and transportation bills in 1987, but was overridden by a handful of GOP defectors. Reagan expressed scorn for timid Hill Republicans in his diary, often complaining more about them — “We had rabbits when we needed tigers” — than about Democrats. (One Republican who especially disappointed him on spending restraint was first-term senator Mitch McConnell.)

There is something passing strange about the way in which liberals now claim to understand Reagan better than today’s conservatives do, yet somehow were unable to make him out when he was right in front of them. And nothing belies the current liberal revisionism more than the trope that the Reagan years were a model of comity compared with today’s polarized climate. To be sure, Reagan could clink glasses and swap Irish jokes with Tip O’Neill, but they often argued bluntly in public and in private. We have forgotten, for example, this O’Neill attack on Reagan: “The evil is in the White House at the present time. And that evil is a man who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations of America, and who likes to ride a horse. He’s cold. He’s mean. He’s got ice water for blood.”

It should never be forgotten that the Left hated Reagan just as lustily as they hated George W. Bush, and with some of the same venomous affectations, such as the reductio ad Hitlerum. The key difference is that in Reagan’s years there was no Internet with which to magnify these derangements, and the 24-hour cable-news cycle was in its infancy. But the signs were certainly abundant. In 1982, the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London held a vote for the most hated people of all time, with the result being: Hitler, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Dracula. Democratic congressman William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was trying to replace “the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf.” A desperate Jimmy Carter charged that Reagan was engaging in “stirrings of hate” in the 1980 campaign. Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (now a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.” In The Nation, Alan Wolfe wrote: “The United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era.”

And in discussing Reagan’s greatest acknowledged achievement — ending the Cold War — liberals conveniently omit that they opposed him at every turn. Who can forget the relentless scorn heaped on Reagan for the “evil empire” speech and the Strategic Defense Initiative? Historian Henry Steele Commager said the “evil empire” speech “was the worst presidential speech in American history, and I’ve read them all.” “What is the world to think,” New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis wrote, “when the greatest of powers is led by a man who applies to the most difficult human problem a simplistic theology?”

There’s a larger point here for which liberals need to be held to account. The substantive criticism liberals made of Reagan’s foreign policy was that his confrontational approach to the Soviet Union would reinforce the Kremlin’s hard-line “hawks,” undermine liberal reformers, and maybe even lead to war. Reagan and his key aides (especially his second national-security adviser, William Clark) perceived the opposite to be the case, and were vindicated when the confused reformer Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985. Liberals who now laud Reagan’s Cold War statecraft should be made to explain why they were wrong and Reagan right, for it gets directly to liberalism’s sentimental view of human affairs — which affects current policy, from the War on Terror to crime and the welfare state. More broadly, they should be made to explain why they appreciate the virtues of conservatives only after they are gone from the scene (as we have also seen with Goldwater, Eisenhower, and even Nixon to some extent).

To be sure, Reagan’s political practices were idiosyncratic, and his conservatism was not fully recognized by many on the right who wish to emulate him today. This conservatism was not the “stand athwart history” kind, as is evident in Reagan’s love for a quotation that drives many conservative intellectuals slightly batty. As George Will put it, “[Reagan] is painfully fond of the least conservative sentiment conceivable, a statement from an anti-conservative, Thomas Paine: ‘We have it in our power to begin the world over again.’ Any time, any place, that is nonsense.”

Reagan’s invocation of Paine, as well as his quotation of John Winthrop’s “City upon a Hill” sermon, expresses the core of his optimism and belief in the dynamism of American society, a dynamism that can have unconservative effects. But he explained his use of Paine in conservative terms way back in his 1965 autobiography, Where’s the Rest of Me? “The classic liberal,” Reagan wrote, “used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny. That is now the conservative position. The liberal used to believe in freedom under law. He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything. He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom. The conservative now quotes Thomas Paine, a longtime refuge of the liberals: ‘Government is a necessary evil; let us have as little of it as possible.’”

Reagan’s mixture of the revolutionary or progressive Paine with the Jeffersonian limited-government Paine is a potent formula in American politics that liberals have abandoned. Regardless of the tensions in Reagan’s version, it exposed liberalism as a pessimistic and increasingly reactionary faction. It was telling that the Democratic party didn’t play FDR’s anthem “Happy Days Are Here Again” at its 1984 convention, not wanting to credit Reagan’s “Morning in America” theme. Rep. Richard Gephardt expressed their mood when he said, “It’s getting closer and closer to midnight.”

Above all, Reagan’s conservatism was rooted in constitutionalism, which is the aspect most closely connecting it with the Tea Party movement and the conservative challenge to Obama. Reagan understood that many of our problems descended from the decay of the Constitution’s restraints on the centralization of power in Washington. In one of his private letters, from 1979, Reagan wrote to a friend that “the permanent structure of our government with its power to pass regulations has eroded if not in effect repealed portions of our Constitution.”

The story of the Reagan administration’s attempts to revive constitutional limits on government power is too complicated to summarize briefly, but one aspect of it deserves notice today: the second-term initiative of Attorney General Edwin Meese to start a controversy over originalism and the Constitution. In launching this controversy in such a high-profile manner, Meese reopened a fundamental quarrel that liberals had thought was more or less closed. No prominent Republican had seriously advanced such an argument since Calvin Coolidge. The public fight Meese started over original intent, legal scholar Johnathan O’Neill wrote in 2005, “constituted the most direct constitutional debate between the executive branch and the Court since the New Deal.” Meese and his Justice Department compatriots were attempting nothing less than to wrest the Constitution away from the legal elite and return it to the people. The reaction of not only the usual suspects such as the New York Times editorial page but also two sitting Supreme Court justices and many prominent voices in the legal academy ensured that this issue would not wilt like a spring flower, and indeed it is still with us. It was a de facto declaration of war on the Left, and it contributed to the defeat of Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination in 1987. It looks in retrospect to be one of the most significant initiatives of the Reagan years, especially given the emergence of the Tea Party movement.

Mark Twain is credited with saying that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Reagan’s ascent coincided with the “tax revolt” of the late 1970s, and the tax revolt looks similar to today’s Tea Party protests. Liberals attacked the tax revolt in the same terms they use to attack today’s Tea Party. Sen. George McGovern worried that the tax revolt had “undertones of racism.” Byron Dorgan, then North Dakota tax commissioner and later a senator, said that a vote for California’s Proposition 13 (a property-tax cap the state’s voters enacted in 1978) was “a vote for latent prejudice.” The Washington Post’s Haynes Johnson said the measure was an “exhibition of widespread public mean-spiritedness.”

In the 1970s, Reagan spoke often of a populist “prairie fire” of resistance to big government, and he saw the tax revolt as the match igniting the fire that swept him to office in 1980. Yet the Tea Party makes the “prairie fire” of the tax revolt look like a small campfire by comparison. It is distinct from and superior to the tax revolt precisely to the extent that it represents a populist constitutional movement, challenging out-of-control government in a way that goes beyond arguments about tax rates.

It is exactly on this point that Reagan’s far-sightedness and his legacy become relevant. During the 1980s, there was little popular ferment behind Reagan and Meese’s campaign to revive constitutional originalism, but they pursued it anyway. When today’s liberals disingenuously invoke Reagan against the Tea Party or Republican attempts in Congress to restrain the government, Reagan’s constitutional views should be thrown in their faces. The tea partiers might well be considered Reagan’s children.

Several pundits suggested that the 1994 election, which delivered the first GOP House majority in 40 years, should be thought of as “Reagan’s third landslide.” If so, November 2 of last year could be regarded as his fourth. And if conservatives remain faithful to Ronald Reagan’s principles and practices, it won’t be the last. Happy 100th birthday, Mr. President.

— Steven F. Hayward is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counter-Revolution, 1980–1989. This article originally appeared in the February 7, 2011, issue of National Review.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Toward a Soft Landing in Egypt

The key is the military.

By Charles Krauthammer
February 4, 2011 12:00 A.M.

Mohamed ElBaradei talks to the media during a joint press conference with Saad al-Katatni, the parliamentary leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, after their meeting in Cairo on June 5, 2010.

Who doesn’t love a democratic revolution? Who is not moved by the renunciation of fear and the reclamation of dignity in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria?

The worldwide euphoria that has greeted the Egyptian uprising is understandable. All revolutions are blissful in the first days. The romance could be forgiven if this were Paris 1789. But it is not. In the intervening 222 years, we have learned how these things can end.

The Egyptian awakening carries promise and hope and of course merits our support. But only a child can believe that a democratic outcome is inevitable. And only a blinkered optimist can believe that it is even the most likely outcome.

Yes, the Egyptian revolution is broad-based. But so were the French and the Russian and the Iranian revolutions. Indeed in Iran, the revolution only succeeded — the shah was long opposed by the mullahs — when the merchants, the housewives, the students, and the secularists joined to bring him down.

And who ended up in control? The most disciplined, ruthless, and ideologically committed — the radical Islamists.

This is why our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy in which power does not devolve to those who believe in one man, one vote, one time. That would be Egypt’s fate should the Muslim Brotherhood prevail. That was the fate of Gaza, now under the brutal thumb of Hamas, a Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood (see article 2 of Hamas’s founding covenant).

We are told by sage Western analysts not to worry about the Brotherhood because it probably commands only about 30 percent of the vote. This is reassurance? In a country where the secular democratic opposition is weak and fractured after decades of persecution, any Islamist party commanding a third of the vote rules the country.
Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.

The House of Mubarak is no more. He is 82, reviled, and not running for reelection. The only question is who fills the vacuum. There are two principal possibilities: a provisional government of opposition forces, possibly led by Mohamed ElBaradei, or an interim government led by the military.

ElBaradei would be a disaster. As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he did more than anyone to make an Iranian nuclear bomb possible, covering for the mullahs for years. (As soon as he left, the IAEA issued a strikingly tough, unvarnished report about the program.)

Worse, ElBaradei has allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. Such an alliance is grossly unequal. The Brotherhood has organization, discipline, and widespread support. In 2005, it won approximately 20 percent of parliamentary seats. ElBaradei has no constituency of his own, no political base, no political history within Egypt at all.

He has lived abroad for decades. He has less of a residency claim to Egypt than Rahm Emanuel has to Chicago. A man with no constituency allied with a highly organized and powerful political party is nothing but a mouthpiece and a figurehead, a useful idiot whom the Brotherhood will dispense with when it ceases to have need of a cosmopolitan frontman.

The Egyptian military, on the other hand, is the most stable and important institution in the country. It is Western-oriented and rightly suspicious of the Brotherhood. And it is widely respected, carrying the prestige of the 1952 “Free Officers Movement” that overthrew the monarchy and the 1973 October War that restored Egyptian pride along with the Sinai.

The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months. Whether it does so with Mubarak at the top, or with Vice President Omar Suleiman, or perhaps with some technocrat who arouses no ire among the demonstrators, matters not to us. If the army calculates that sacrificing Mubarak (through exile) will satisfy the opposition and end the unrest, so be it.

The overriding objective is a period of stability during which secularists and other democratic elements of civil society can organize themselves for the coming elections and prevail. ElBaradei is a menace. Mubarak will be gone one way or the other. The key is the military. The U.S. should say very little in public and do everything behind the scenes to help the military midwife — and then guarantee — what is still something of a long shot: Egyptian democracy.

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 the Washington Post Writers Group.

After 16 Seasons, Goodbye to a Gamer

The New York Times
February 3, 2011

(Barton Silverman/The New York Times)
Andy Pettitte before Game 3 of last year’s American League division series against the Twins. His postseason record was 19-10 with a 3.83 earned run average.

Free agency is supposed to be the ultimate perk for a player, the chance to choose where to make your next fortune. Andy Pettitte hated it. He never wanted to let people down.

But then, Pettitte was always a little different, so sincere in his eagerness to please. He retired on Thursday after 16 seasons, all but three with the Yankees. He will hold a news conference at Yankee Stadium on Friday morning for the formal announcement. Knowing Pettitte, there will be tears.

Pettitte told the Yankees when the off-season started that they should not count on him to return. But he waited more than three months to make it official, suggesting the decision was hard. Pettitte lives in Deer Park, Tex., with his wife and four children, but staying there means disappointing the Yankees, who desperately wanted him — needed him — for their thin rotation. Surely that has gnawed at him.

Pettitte left the Yankees once before, after the 2003 season, when he chose his hometown Houston Astros as a free agent. The Yankees had made a lukewarm pursuit, but Pettitte still agonized over leaving. More than most, he recognized the downside of his decisions and performances. And he knew the inherent physical risks of his job.

The threat of a major elbow injury haunted Pettitte, who has said it was always in the back of his mind. Three times in his career, he was placed on the disabled list with elbow problems. Twice, he has acknowledged, he used human growth hormone to speed his recovery.

As it turned out, a groin injury ultimately knocked out Pettitte last season, spoiling an All-Star summer. He made one start after the break, left in the third inning and missed the next two months. The idea that he might have to repeat the tedium of rehabilitation could not have been enticing for Pettitte. He turns 39 in June and knows he could always be injured again.

(Suzy Allman for The New York Times)
Andy Pettitte starred for the Yankees for 13 seasons. “He’s a special guy,” General Manager Brian Cashman said.

Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, doubted all along that Pettitte would return. But Pettitte was always welcome, because his arm is still sound. He was 11-3 last season, and his 3.28 earned run average was his best since 2005. And while Cashman can be bloodless with Yankee player royalty — the bitter parting with Bernie Williams comes to mind — he understood what Pettitte means.

“He’s a special guy,” Cashman said last week. “I think the bottom line is that people don’t want to let him go.”

That is especially true now, with the Yankees’ patchwork rotation. They could not sign Cliff Lee, who took a lesser offer from the Philadelphia Phillies, and will choose from Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova for the last two spots in their rotation.

The Yankees would have given Pettitte perhaps $12 million or more to return. But he has made more than $125 million in his career, and it is hard to believe money matters much to him now.

Likewise, Pettitte has never seemed to care about building Hall of Fame credentials. His case is borderline. Voters would have to emphasize his postseason impact and his win/loss record, while playing down his H.G.H. admission, his E.R.A. (3.88, which would be the highest in Cooperstown), and his relatively low ranking in wins above replacement, where he places below Dave Stieb and Rick Reuschel, neither of whom is in Cooperstown.

Still, only seven others can match Pettitte for victories (240) and winning percentage (.635). They are Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Lefty Grove, Jim Palmer, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina. It is an impressive group, despite one complicated name.

That would be Clemens, Pettitte’s former workout partner and guru. Pettitte’s coming calendar includes an uncomfortable distraction in July, when Clemens’s perjury trial is scheduled to begin in Washington. Prosecutors plan to call Pettitte as a witness against Clemens, who has denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

Pettitte’s entanglement with Clemens and their former trainer, Brian McNamee, is a sticky part of his legacy. More important to Yankees fans are his five championship rings and reputation for coming through in the clutch.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)
Pettitte with, from left, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter in 2008 after the last regular-season game at the old Yankee Stadium

In that way, Pettitte is a lot like Derek Jeter: he played so many postseason games that his October performance mirrors his play in the regular season. Pettitte was 19-10 with a 3.83 E.R.A. in the postseason, a few clunkers mixed in with the classics.

The effort that might resonate most was not especially pretty. It was a rainy Halloween night in Philadelphia, after the Yankees and the Phillies had split the first two games of the 2009 World Series. The Phillies blitzed Pettitte for three runs in the second inning: a homer, a double, a bunt single, a bases-loaded walk to Jimmy Rollins. Pettitte was scrambling, yet somehow, he found a way.

Pettitte toyed with the Phillies’ left-handed hitters, and overcame an error, another home run and three walks. He even smacked a curveball for the game-tying single off Cole Hamels, and scored the go-ahead run. He lasted six innings and won.

It was tempting to think Pettitte’s experience helped him, willing him through a game he had no business winning. But that was not quite right.

“It’s hard to draw on, you know, past success or whatever, when you’re standing out on that mound and the ball is not going where you want it to,” Pettitte said after the game. “When Jimmy was up there, I was trying to throw the ball on the outside corner, and it just wasn’t going there. You know, it’s a grind when you’re out there and you’re by yourself. There’s not a whole lot of anything that can help you.”

The only thing to do, Pettitte said, was to keep battling, keep searching, keep trying. It was a simple game plan for an earnest man who knew how to execute it over and over. It is probably how Pettitte would like to be remembered.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


By Ann Coulter
February 2, 2011

Scene at Tucson shooting. Photo: AP

Fresh off of blaming Jared Loughner's killing spree in the Tucson mall on Sarah Palin, liberals are now blaming it on high-capacity magazines. They might as well imprison everyone named "Jared" to prevent a crime like this from ever happening again.

During the presidential campaign, Obama said: "I don't know of any self-respecting hunter that needs 19 rounds of anything. You don't shoot 19 rounds at a deer, and if you do, you shouldn't be hunting." It would have been more accurate for him to end that sentence after the word "hunter."

It's so adorable when people who wouldn't know a high-capacity magazine from Vanity Fair start telling gun owners what they should want and need.

In fact, high-capacity mags put a predator like Loughner at a disadvantage because they are so long, unwieldy and difficult to conceal. This may be why the Tucson shooting appears to be the first spree killing involving a high-capacity magazine. It would have been easier for Loughner to bring two guns.

On the other hand, for a homeowner who is a poor marksman, a large-capacity clip could be a lifesaver.

But after every multiple murder, liberals come up with some crackpot idea to "do something" that invariably involves infringing on some aspect of our Second Amendment rights.

The ACLU won't let us put nuts in mental hospitals and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik wouldn't lock up Loughner even after he had broken the law several times.

In an open society that includes Sheriff Dumbnik and the ACLU, deranged individuals may explode into murder and mayhem now and then. The best we can do is enact policies that will reduce the death toll when these acts of carnage occur.

There's only one policy of any kind that has ever been shown to deter mass murder: concealed-carry laws. In a comprehensive study of all public, multiple-shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, the highly regarded economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that concealed-carry laws were the only laws that had any beneficial effect.

And the effect was not small. States that allowed citizens to carry concealed handguns reduced multiple-shooting attacks by 60 percent and reduced the death and injury from these attacks by nearly 80 percent.

When there are no armed citizens to stop mass murderers, the killers are able to shoot unabated, even pausing to reload their weapons, until they get bored and stop. Some stop only when their trigger fingers develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

Consider just the school shootings -- popular sites for mass murder because so many schools are "gun-free zones." Or, as mass murderers call them, "free-fire zones."

At Columbine High School, two students killed 13 people before ending the carnage themselves by committing suicide. They didn't need high-capacity magazines because they were able to stop and reload.

At the Amish school shooting in 2006 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the deranged killer murdered five little girls and then committed suicide.

In 1998, two students in Craighead County, Arkansas, killed five people, including four little girls, before the killers decided to stop and attempt an escape.

And in 2007, a deranged student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech -- 30 of them in a very short period of time in one building. He didn't need high-capacity magazines because he had two guns and reloaded.

There was no one to stop him.

School shootings that have been halted were almost always stopped by the happenstance of an armed citizen on school property.

In 2002, an immigrant in Virginia started shooting his classmates at the Appalachian Law School in Grundy. Two of his classmates retrieved guns from their cars, forcing the killer to drop his weapon and allowing a third classmate to tackle him.

Three dead.

In Santee, Calif., in 2001, when a student began shooting his classmates, the school activated its "safe school plan" -- as the principal later told CNN -- by sending a "trained campus supervisor" to stop the killer.

Possibly not realizing that he was in a gun-free zone, the killer responded by shooting the trained campus supervisor three times. Fortunately, an armed off-duty San Diego policeman happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day. With a gun, he stopped the killer and held him at bay until more police could arrive.

Two dead.

In 1997, a student at Pearl High School in Pearl, Miss., had already shot several people at his high school and was headed for the junior high school when assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieved a .45 pistol from his car and pointed it at the gunman's head, ending the slaughter.

Two dead.

In 1998, a student attending a junior high school dance at a restaurant in Edinboro, Pa., started shooting, whereupon the restaurant owner pulled out his shotgun, chased the gunman from the restaurant and captured him for the police.

One dead.

See the pattern?

In response to Columbine, schools adopted "anti-bullying" policies; in response to Virginia Tech, eBay ceased selling magazines online; in response to the Tucson shooting, liberals want to ban the particular magazine Loughner used.

And then the next killer will come along with a different arsenal and a different motive, and the only way to stop him will be with an armed citizen with a gun.


Barack Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood

By Robert Spencer
February 3, 2011

Now that Barack Obama has given a green light to Muslim Brotherhood participation in a new Egyptian government, it is unlikely that the organization will be kept out of power. And since the Brotherhood is the largest and most ideologically committed group in Egyptian politics, most likely it will end up in the driver’s seat in any new regime, and set the nation on course toward becoming an Islamic state.

Obama almost certainly knows all this, and yet approved of Brotherhood involvement anyway. A look at some of his appointments, associations and activities shows that this should come as no surprise.

Starting in the earliest days of his administration, Obama showed an intense desire to establish friendly ties with the Islamic world, while showing little or no interest in examining his chosen partners in dialogue and targets for attempts at rapprochement for ties to jihad terrorism or Islamic supremacism. His uncritical stance toward Islamic organizations included American groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the Brotherhood’s stated goal of “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.”

Obama’s first attempt at outreach to Muslims came when he chose the head of a Muslim Brotherhood-linked group that had been named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case to give a prayer during his inauguration ceremonies. Ingrid Mattson, who was then president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), offered this prayer at the National Cathedral on Obama’s Inauguration Day – despite the fact that the previous summer, federal prosecutors rejected a request from ISNA to remove its unindicted co-conspirator status.

There is no record of Obama ever asking Mattson to explain ISNA’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. On the contrary: he sent his Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to be the keynote speaker at ISNA’s national convention in 2009.

Even worse, in April 2009, Obama appointed Arif Alikhan, the deputy mayor of Los Angeles, as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development at the Department of Homeland Security. Just two weeks before he received this appointment, Alikhan (who once called the jihad terror group Hizballah a “liberation movement”) participated in a fundraiser for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Like ISNA, MPAC has links to the Muslim Brotherhood. In a book entitled In Fraternity: A Message to Muslims in America, coauthor Hassan Hathout, a former MPAC president, is identified as “a close disciple of the late Hassan al-Banna of Egypt.” The MPAC-linked magazine The Minaret spoke of Hassan Hathout’s closeness to al-Banna in a 1997 article: “My father would tell me that Hassan Hathout was a companion of Hassan al-Banna….Hassan Hathout would speak of al-Banna with such love and adoration; he would speak of a relationship not guided by politics or law but by a basic sense of human decency.”

Al-Banna, of course, was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Terror researcher Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project has documented MPAC’s indefatigable and consistent opposition to virtually every domestic anti-terror initiative; its magazine The Minaret has dismissed key counterterror operations as part of “[t]he American crusade against Islam and Muslims.” For his part, while Alikhan was deputy mayor of Los Angeles, he blocked a Los Angeles Police Department project to assemble data about the ethnic makeup of mosques in the Los Angeles area. This was not an attempt to conduct surveillance of the mosques or monitor them in any way. LAPD Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing explained that it was actually an outreach program: “We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we can reach out to those communities.” But Alikhan and other Muslim leaders claimed that the project manifested racism and “Islamophobia,” and the LAPD ultimately discarded all plans to study the mosques.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a pro-Sharia group; and Obama’s chief adviser on Islamic affairs, Dalia Mogahed, is a pro-Sharia Muslim. In their Gallup survey published under the hubristic title Who Speaks for Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think, Mogahed and Saudi-funded dhimmi pseudo-academic John Esposito cooked their data to increase the number of Muslim “moderates,” counting as “moderate” Muslims who wanted Sharia rule, hated America, supported jihad-martyrdom suicide bombing, and opposed equality of rights for women. Mogahed also defended Sharia on a British TV show, saying it amounted to “gender justice.”

Mogahed’s defense of Sharia came on a show hosted by a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international organization that is banned as a terrorist group in many nations worldwide. Hizb ut-Tahrir is openly dedicated to working toward the imposition of Sharia and the destruction of all governments around the world that are constituted according to any other political philosophy — including Constitutional republics.

In light of all this, it is no accident that Obama specifically invited representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood to attend his notorious speech to the Islamic world in Cairo in June 2009. Nor should it come as any surprise that he is taking a sanguine view of the Muslim Brotherhood’s taking part in a new Egyptian government.

After all, Brotherhood operatives are in the American government and working closely with it, thanks to Barack Obama. Why shouldn’t the same situation prevail in Egypt?

Book Review: Looking for the King - An Inklings Novel

By Pieter Collier
5 November 2010

Title: Looking for the King - An Inklings Novel
Author: David C. Downing

Publisher: Ignatius

Publication Date: October 30, 2010

Type: hardback, 285 pages

ISBN-10: 1586175149
ISBN-13: 978-1586175146

Most readers of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books end up reading about the man himself. For some, and I am for sure one of them, the author ends up at least as interesting as the books that flowed out of his hands. Once you deepen yourself in the subject sooner or later you end up reading about the Inklings, an informal literary discussion group of which Tolkien was a member. You learn about the other remarkable persons that made part of the group like C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson and cannot but imagine how it must have been to follow their courses, how their meetings at the Bird & Baby must have been and how it would be to actually speak with them.

In the past I used to say that for me it would have been a better idea to make a movie about J.R.R. Tolkien and best to have left his works for people to imagine. Now I have to admit that I was wrong, not about adapting Tolkien’s books to film, but about making a film about J.R.R. Tolkien himself. Probably because next to J.R.R. Tolkien and books about him I nearly do not find the time to read much lately, and most of the time when I do I get deeply disappointed by the books I end up reading. So I had never thought of a book where Tolkien would take part, especially since I believed it would be impossible to recreate the atmosphere of lectures or meetings with any of the Inklings. Of course I have heard of the books by James A. Owen, fantasy novels where Tolkien, Williams and Lewis are protagonists - or so I have understood - but never felt the urge to read them. Then I received a review copy of Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel by David C. Downing and for one or another reason immediately felt invited to work myself through it. Maybe it was the cover image, maybe the subtitle, maybe the blurb, or even a combination of the three but within an hour of receiving the book I started reading.

What happened next was a big surprise - and this had not happened for a very long time - I was unable to put this book down and had to read until the end (despite of the fact that I should have been sleeping and that I had to work the next day). And now I know… it is not only possible to visit J.R.R. Tolkien, talk to C.S. Lewis and go to an Inklings meeting but you can also smell, feel and taste the atmosphere of Oxford in the 40’s. Now I believe that no movie would have been able to re-create the world I walked into and once again well written words triggered my imagination better then any moving image could. I can only say, thank you David C. Downing…

In Looking for the King we follow the American Tom McCord, a 23-year-old aspiring doctoral candidate, who is doing research on King Arthur and hopes to discover some historical evidence for the legendary king. Right in the beginning of the book he meets a girl called Laura Hartman, a fellow American staying in Oxford, who has been having mysterious dreams and visions that relate to the subject of research of Tom and so he hires her as his assistant. Aided by the Inklings they set out on a treasure hunt and leads in the end to much more then Tom and Laura were initially looking for.

In this amazing novel we follow Tom McCord on a visit to Tolkien’s house, to a course of Charles Williams, to a meeting with the inklings, a walk with C.S Lewis along the Thames (probably one of the most moving scenes in the book), a visit to numerous sites all across England, a treasure hunt for the Spear of Destiny, the search for the sleeping king in Laura’s dreams, the quest for faith and love. All this comes together in a very well written book that must be read by any person who likes J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams or a extremely good book!

To end my review of this book I just want to say that is one of the best books I have read in a very long time and I would give it a 5 star rating on Amazon and no I would advise anyone to read it. Wow... it was a long long time ago that I read a book that was so amazing that I could not put it down and that means something! To write this book the author David C. Downing must have done a lot of research and must be a brilliant academic (all quotes and references are added at the end of the book, which is a very good extra for those who want to learn more about the Inklings); but on the other hand he must have an amazing amount of fantasy and imagination to be able to make all these famous persons like Lewis and Tolkien come to live and see the countryside and buildings as they were 70 years ago; and next to that he is a remarkable writer who is able to describe it all so well: charachters, feelings & emotions and places. It all comes together in this wonderful book. The only sad thing was that the story ended after only 266 pages!

Catholic Novels: Looking for the King

By Dr. Jeff Mirus
December 07, 2010 5:43 PM

Picture of the corner of the Eagle and Child pub, en Oxford (England), where the Inklings met (1930-1950).

Joseph Pearce describes it as a “superbly gripping novel”. This is blatant hyperbole from a fellow Ignatius Press author, but the rest of his cover blurb is more accurate: “Lewis and Tolkien come alive.” So too says Thomas Howard: “All Inklings lovers will be highly delighted!” And Peter J. Shakel: “Fans of Lewis and Tolkien will love it.” All of this is praise for David C. Downing’s new novel, Looking for the King.

But why all this talk of Lewis and Tolkien and their informal club of literary giants, the Inklings? It turns out that Downing has given us “An Inklings Novel”, a story in which the hero and heroine discuss their mid-twentieth century quest for the relics of kings Arthur and Alfred with C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and other Inklings, and so come away with a deeper understanding not only of history and myth, but of religion and life.

The action revolves around two Americans, Tom McCord, a doctoral candidate looking for evidence to prove King Arthur was a real historic figure, and Laura Hartman, a recent college graduate visiting England to figure out a series of strange, repetitive dreams. The dreams revolve around King Alfred (he of Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse) and the Lance of Longinus which pierced the side of Christ. Inevitably, the two team up (both archeologically and romantically) in a quest to unravel Laura’s dreams and Tom’s motives in attempting to build his academic reputation.

Almost immediately, Tom finds that there are mysterious adversaries who don’t want him searching for history-changing artifacts. Meanwhile, in the normal course of his studies, Tom consults C. S. Lewis, who arranges a meeting with the Inklings generally. So here we have a classic mystery involving history, myth, archeology and contemporary thugs; and a classic romance in the midst of adventure; and it is all interwoven with the wisdom of the giants of twentieth-century Anglo-Catholic literature: Lewis, Tolkien and Williams.

Given this mix, it takes no imagination to see how this book could have been a colossal flop. The key to such an effort is that the author must not take himself too seriously. The plot is frankly constructed of stock elements, from its storied artifacts to its German villains. Overplaying the plot would have resulted in a very bad Indiana Jones story. Moreover, the injection of a Christian point of view through the Inklings must not be self-conscious or forced. Any overplaying here would have produced a sermon with very poor subject matter. No, everything must unfold naturally, with just a touch of authorial self-deprecation, and without controlling or contriving the story to fit things in.

Fortunately, Downing is very capable of keeping things light. The reader is aware of the standard plot elements, just as he is aware of the author’s purpose in making the mystery “an Inklings novel”. But the bar is not set too high, the main characters are well-drawn and engaging, and the Inklings themselves are as quirky in print as they must have been in life. Throughout the course of the novel, they even speak, effortlessly and in context, using words they actually wrote. On the whole, this is a deft package which successfully avoids the one thing most calculated to ruin it: pretension.

I don’t want to make out Looking for the King to be more than it is. It is not great literature, but it doesn’t try to be. The book succeeds because it unfolds very comfortably within its own constraints, relying on attractive characters, English history, and the fondness of its intended Catholic readers for the Inklings to move things along in a warm and congenial way. Perhaps the biggest weakness is that the recurring dreams of the heroine are critical to the plot; here the author succumbs a bit to the contemporary temptation to inject fantastic elements into an otherwise real-world setting. But Downing does put a possible explanation for the dreams on the lips of Charles Williams and, after all, these are dreams. We’ve all had them, and explaining them however one wants does not require a novel-wrecking suspension of disbelief.

David Downing is an English professor who has written several award-winning books on C. S. Lewis, but he has kept this first novel blessedly free of academic clutter. At the same time, he has perhaps failed to make the dangers of the quest quite as intense as one might like. But here again the book is simply comfortable with itself. From the almost comic villainy of the German agent-turned-treasure-hunter to the subtle but significant transformation of the hero from agnosticism to faith, Downing lets his characters rule the story. The results are best described as natural, unaffected and endearing.

In the end, Looking for the King works. If the author has exposed some deficiencies of craftsmanship, I would like to suggest that he remedy them through practice. Let him write a sequel.

Q&A with David Downing, author of "Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel"

by Nancy Piccione
Sunday, December 12, 2010

I was delighted to get the opportunity to interview David Downing, as his new novel, Looking for the King is one of my book recommendations in my Catholic Post column this month. For any fans of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Arthurian Legend, this book is intriguing and a fun read.

Q. I really enjoyed the book and the characters. How did you get the idea for the novel, and including the “Inklings” authors as characters?

My wife and I visited Somerset and Cornwall in 2005, and we were fascinated by all the Arthurian sites, the stories that Joseph of Arimathea came to England, perhaps bringing with him the Holy Grail and the Spear of Longinus. Around Glastonbury, one meets people who talk about "Old Joe" or "Big Joe" as if they just spoken with Joseph of Arimathea in a pub last week!

The following year I read Matthew Pearl's literary detective novel THE DANTE CLUB, in which a circle of American poets and scholars (Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell) help the local police solve a series of Dante-esque murders occurring in 19th century Boston. I enjoyed the unusual combination of mystery and literary biography, and I thought the Inklings would make an even livelier group to help some young adventurers on their elusive quest.

Q. Is this your first work of fiction? Can you tell me about your other books?

I have published short fiction before, but this is my first novel. Most of my other books are about C. S. Lewis:

PLANETS IN PERIL: A CRITICAL STUDY OF C. S. LEWIS'S RANSOM TRILOGY (University of Massachusetts Press, 1992)




Just to keep from getting into too much of a rut, I have also written a book on misconceptions and misquotations concerning the Bible (WHAT YOU KNOW MIGHT NOT BE SO) and a book on the Civil War (A SOUTH DIVIDED).

Q. What is your favorite of the three “Inklings” in this book & why?

I am going to have to beg off this question; I’m afraid it is a little like asking parents which one is their favorite child!

I will say that what I admire most about Tolkien is his epic imagination, as well as his equal devotion to work and to family, as he was very much involved in raising his three sons and daughter.

What I admire about Lewis is his versatility—not just his classic Narnia stories, but also his renowned literary scholarship, his Christian apologetics, science fiction, and even poetry. Yet in Lewis all these diverse literary interests and talents are united in service to his Christian faith and values.

For Williams, I am impressed by his intellectual energy and earnestness, his ability to combine intellect with Spirit, so much so that some of his friends considered him to be almost a living saint. Lewis said that Williams looked something like a monkey when you first met him; but when he began speaking, his face radiated so much joy and love, you felt as if you were listening to an angel.

Q. I’ve only recently learned about author Charles Williams (when our family made a trip to the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College). What would you recommend for the first thing to read by this author?

Williams was a prolific writer, producing nearly a book a year—novels, plays, poem cycles, histories, biographies, and books on theology. I think he is most remembered for his “supernatural thrillers,” novels in which characters come to learn that their everyday world is surrounded by a whole other dimension—what Williams like to call the “Arch-natural” world. Williams’ two best novels, or at least the easiest to understand, are probably War in Heaven (1930) and Descent into Hell (1937). Personally, my two favorite books of his are his short introductions to Christian theology and church history: He Came Down from Heaven (1938) and The Descent of the Dove (1939).

Q. What is your favorite work of the other two authors, and why? (C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien)

This question is easier to answer for Tolkien. His great masterpiece is his epic fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. I don’t think any of his other works compare to the project to which he devoted almost twenty years of his life. I think Tolkien’s most under-read and under-rated story is “Leaf by Niggle,” a charming self-portrait with allegorical overtones that suggests most directly Tolkien’s devotion to his Catholic faith.

For Lewis, I’m afraid I am going to have to “plead the Fifth.” He was such a gifted and versatile writer that asking me to pick out one favorite is like asking me whether I prefer chocolate or springtime. How does one compare?

I would once again like to nominate a book as under-rated and under-read, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. This was the last book Lewis wrote before his death, and so it is his “last word” on many of the topics he touched upon so often in his writings—grief and hope, faith and doubt, and, above all, love. The book also explores the role of prayer in shaping our lives in this world and preparing us for the next.

Q. What do you think of the movies made of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and currently the Chronicles of Narnia series? (with the newest one, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, due out this Friday)

I was skeptical about both projects, as earlier attempts to adapt Tolkien and Lewis for films and television have been consistently disappointing. But I was pleasantly surprised by Peter’s Jackson’s LOTR trilogy. He has an amazing knack for casting characters and portraying scenes as if they are projections from our own imaginations as we read The Lord of the Rings.

So far I have enjoyed the Narnia films, but I don’t think they have become classics in their own right, apart from the books that inspired them, the way Peter Jackson’s movies have. But I have faith in Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham, as guardian of Lewis’s literary legacy. So I am hoping that the Narnia films will just keep getting better and better.

Q. Do you plan a sequel or another “Inklings” novel of any kind?

Yes, I am already at work on a sequel. If you look at the end of LOOKING OF THE KING, you will notice that Tom McCord thinks he might be returning to England in uniform. And Laura Hartman wishes she could enroll in one of the women's colleges at Oxford. So, yes, I believe Tom and Laura will be reunited in a sequel, facing new dangers and again needing to call upon Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams for assistance!

I just discovered recently that female students were sometimes allowed to attend Thursday evening Inklings meetings to hear Tolkien read his unfolding Lord of the Rings epic. I am very optimistic that Laura will be granted that privilege!

Q. Anything else you would like to add?

I just wanted to mention the novel website,, which goes into more depth about the Inklings. It also includes a video trailer about the novel which is a work of art in itself!

There is a Facebook page, Looking for the King, with more articles and features about Lewis, Tolkien, and their friends. This site will also provide a forum for me to interact

A Look at David C. Downing’s New Novel "Looking for the King"

by Devin Brown

Anglophiles, mystery lovers (particularly those who prefer the brainy rather than the bloody type), and Inkling fans everywhere are sure to find something to truly enjoy in Looking for the King, the recent novel written by Lewis scholar David Downing.

Here’s how the description on the jacket flap begins:

“It is 1940, and American Tom McCord, a 23-year-old aspiring doctoral candidate, is in England researching the historical evidence for the legendary King Arthur. There he meets perky and intuitive Laura Hartman, a fellow American staying with her aunt in Oxford, and the two of them team up for an even more ambitious and dangerous quest. Aided by the Inklings—that illustrious circle of scholars and writers made famous by its two most prolific members, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien—Tom and Laura begin to suspect that the fabled Spear of Destiny, the lance that pierced the side of Christ on the cross, is hidden somewhere in England.”
Downing weaves a romance (of sorts), a mystery, and a quest with a series of conversations with Lewis, Tolkien, and Charles Williams and throws in a spiritual journey along with the mix. For anyone who ever wished they could have been a fly on the wall of the Eagle and Child during a meeting of the Inklings, Downing masterfully recreates what one of their gathering must have been like by using real quotes from their letters and essays as the basis for his dialogue.

Picture of the facade of the Eagle and Child pub, en Oxford (England), where the Inklings met (1930-1950).

I recently and had the chance to ask David a few questions about his delightful “Inklings novel.”

Brown: It’s probably safe to assume that most readers of Looking for the King will be Inklings fans. Still, there may be some for whom your book serves as their first introduction to this distinguished group of friends and writers. How did you first encounter these figures, and what was your own reaction?

Downing: I first read both Lewis and Tolkien during my college years. Someone recommended the Narnia Chronicles to me in high school, but I thought I was far too sophisticated and mature at the age of eighteen to be reading "kid stuff"! When I finally dipped into The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe one summer, I was so captivated that I read all seven Chronicles in a month. Then I sat down and re-read all seven of them again the next month.

I casually picked The Lord of the Rings one afternoon during my junior year of college. I must confess, I neglected my homework for at least a week or ten days, because I couldn't put it down. I recall reading in bed one night about 2 a.m. when Gandalf was pulled into the abyss by the Balrog. I almost had an anxiety attack, thinking, "Now we'll never find our way out of the mines of Moria!" Later in the story, when Gandalf reappears, I had a sense of relief and elation that seemed some small tincture of the joy of that first Easter morning.

Lewis said that Charles Williams had a special gift for portraying good characters. But I think that is equally true of Lewis himself and also of Tolkien. So many contemporary novelists excel in their portrayals of troubled people—selfish, neurotic, brutish, and downright depraved. But only a handful of twentieth century novelists, including the Inklings, have the power to show us what good people look like—characters with integrity, compassion, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice for others. I'm sure this ability to portray good characters convincingly is derived from their Christian worldview, a sense that ultimately, it is not evil or chaos, but Goodness that reigns in the universe.

Brown: Your cover tells us this is “an Inklings novel.” We quickly discover that (1) the Inklings themselves appear as characters, and (2) you drew upon their actual words in shaping their dialogue. Your character Laura Hartman, while not sharing the developmental arc we see in Jane Studdock or Pauline Anstruther, does have the visionary dreams they do. Are there other aspects of your novel which show this homage to the Inklings?

Downing: I think those are the most important dimensions of the story which make it “an Inklings novel.” Of course, the notion that the Spear of Destiny might be hidden somewhere in England calls to mind Williams’ War in Heaven, in which the Holy Grail turns up in an obscure country church north of London.

The character of Tom McCord suggests Mark Studdock somewhat, in that his worldly ambitions lead him to embark on a spiritual journey which he had not anticipated. Tom’s movement from spiritual lethargy to an awakening of faith is also intended to echo Lewis’s own pilgrimage in his teens and twenties. No one has commented on it yet, but I also embedded a hidden pattern in the names of several key characters in the story. That may or may not be in the style of an Inklings story, depending upon which critics you read!

Brown: How did you first come up with the overall concept for Looking for the King?

Downing: My wife and I visited Somerset and Cornwall in 2005, and we were fascinated by all the legends that Joseph of Arimathea (the rich merchant mentioned in the Gospels) had traveled all the way to England in the first century, perhaps bringing with him the Holy Grail and the Spear of Longinus (the traditional name of the Roman soldier who thrust his lance into Christ's side). Around Glastonbury, one meets people who talk about "Old Joe" or "Big Joe" as if they just spoken with Joseph of Arimathea in a pub last week!

That same summer I was re-reading the letters of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and thinking how often their perceptive observations and witty remarks in their correspondence would make for great dialog in a novel. Soon afterwords, I read Matthew Pearl's literary detective novel, The Dante Club, in which a circle of American poets and scholars (Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell) help the local police solve a series of Dante-esque murders occurring in 19th century Boston. I enjoyed the unusual combination of mystery and literary biography, and I thought the Inklings would make an even livelier group to help some young adventurers on their quest. So my interest in the Spear and my interest in the Inklings merged into one storyline.

Brown: You have stated that half the fun of writing this novel was looking through the primary documents for elements to use in creating the dialogue. What did you learn in your research that was new to you?

Downing: I had read all the standard biographies and collections of letters before. But my earlier readings had focused on the Inklings as thinkers and writers more than as people. Instead of looking this time at Charles Williams as an author, I began to pick up on details such as that he lectured so energetically you could hear the coins clinking in his pocket as he paced back and forth. And that when he waxed philosophical, he would look off into space, as if gazing at something beyond the screen of the physical world.

For Tolkien, I had forgotten that he was an expert horseman in his youth, breaking untamed beasts that no one else was willing to mount. (No wonder his portrait of the Riders of Rohan is so sympathetic and so convincing!)

For Lewis, the main thing I noticed this time around was his robust sense of humor. Lewis’s lifelong friend Owen Barfield says that too many critics overlook Lewis’s ever-present sense of fun, his ready wit and love of hearty laughter. I think it is easier to bring out that side of Lewis in a novel than in studying him as a “literary artist” or as a “man of ideas.” Lewis’s letters are full of one-liners that you could almost turn into a stand-up comedy routine if you had a mind to. (Though I don’t have a mind to! Lewis’s humor usually bubbled over during serious discussions, not simply to provoke a guffaw for its own sake.)

Brown: As the author of a number of scholarly books about Lewis, you have had to deal with the problem of including extensive quotations from his original works. Were there any permissions issues with using so many actual words of the Inklings, and, if not, how do you get around them?

Downing: Just to be on the safe side, I did vet this project with both the C. S. Lewis Company and the Tolkien estate. My actual quotations from Lewis, Tolkien, and others fall well within the limits of “fair use,” borrowing only a small fraction of quoted material from any one book. Both of these authors’ representatives are very concerned about novelizations that might invent new details or episodes far beyond the known facts as set down in their biographies. So I portray the Inklings mainly as consultants and mentors to my young adventurers. You won’t find Tolkien or Lewis themselves out hunting for lost relics or trying to elude Nazi spies.

Brown: You have said elsewhere that tensions among the Inklings are often overstated. This is a position which Douglas Gresham has also repeatedly taken. To what extent does your novel help set the record straight on this issue?

Downing: My novel is set in the spring and summer of 1940, which I believe was the beginning of the “golden age” for the Inklings. A few years later, Tolkien began to feel that he was being overshadowed somewhat by Charles Williams, whose encyclopedic knowledge, quicksilver mind, and saintly demeanor clearly made a deep impression on Lewis. But Williams was always a great supporter of Tolkien’s unfolding Rings epic, and Tolkien sometimes consulted with Williams on his own, apart from meetings when Lewis was present. So I wanted to portray the prevailing good will among these men, not to magnify this issue or that one.

In sensationalized journalism, the saying is, “If it bleeds, it leads.” That is, anything to do with controversy or conflict takes precedence over dull stories about friendship, lively conversation, or a community of shared faith and values. I think an imaginary scene, such as may be found in a novel, can sometimes offer a more authentic picture of a historical moment than the “factual” reconstructions of a biography or article that was written by someone with a tabloid mentality.

Brown: Finally, can you say something about the critical and commercial reception your novel has received; about what, if anything, you have been surprised by; and about your plans for a sequel or other future book projects?

Downing: Both my publisher, Ignatius, and I have been very pleased with the response to Looking for the King. The novel has received generous reviews, and it has nearly gone through its first printing in less than three months. Its Facebook site attracted over 2000 followers in just a few weeks. I think readers must enjoy imaginatively climbing into a time machine and getting a sense of what it might have been like to meet Lewis and Tolkien back in the early 1940s or to be a “fly on the wall” at an Inklings meeting.

As I was writing this novel, I began to get ideas for a follow-up story, so I made sure to leave room for a sequel. Near the end of the story, Tom McCord says that if he returns to England, he will probably be in uniform. And Laura Hartman says she hopes to pursue at masters degree, perhaps at one of the women’s colleges in Oxford.

I have already started working on a sequel, a tale in which Tom and Laura are reunited in Oxford, but are again menaced by sinister and secretive foes. Once again they must enlist the aid and counsel of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. I just discovered recently that Lewis sometimes sponsored informal discussion groups in his rooms at Magdalen College, occasionally inviting both men and women to attend. I am very optimistic that Laura Hartman will be granted that privilege!

I also have in mind a rousing debate between C. S. Lewis and a acid-tongued atheist at a meeting of the Socratic Club. But as Treebeard might say, “There, there. Let us not be hasty . . .”


Devin Brown is a Lilly Scholar and a Professor of English at Asbury University where he teaches a class on Lewis. He is the author of Inside Narnia (2005), Inside Prince Caspian (2008), and Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).


David C. Downing is the R. W. Schlosser Professor of English at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Downing has written four books on C. S. Lewis: Planets in Peril, The Most Reluctant Convert, Into the Wardrobe, and Into the Region of Awe. He serves as a consulting editor on Lewis for Christian Scholars Review, Christianity and Literature, and Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review. Downing's most recent book is Looking for the King, a historical quest novel in which Lewis, Tolkien, and Charles Williams figure prominently as characters. Visit Downing's college website (

'Looking for the King' - Book Trailer

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Today's Tune: Bobby Womack - California Dreaming/Across 110th Street (Live)

A Christian Business in the Left’s Crosshairs

It’s Chick-fil-A vs. the New York Times.

By Michelle Malkin
February 2, 2011 4:00 A.M.

Here’s a modest proposal for liberals who say they support job creation: Stop smearing successful, law-abiding private companies whose values don’t comport with yours. I’m looking at you, New York Times.

Chick-fil-A is an American success story. Founded by Georgian entrepreneur Truett Cathy in 1946, the family-owned chicken-sandwich chain is one of the country’s largest fast-food businesses. It employs some 50,000 workers across the country at 1,500 outlets in nearly 40 states and the District of Columbia. The company generates more than $2 billion in revenue and serves millions of happy customers with trademark Southern hospitality.

So, what’s the problem? Well, Chick-fil-A is run by devout Christians who believe in strong marriages, devoted families, and the highest standards of character for their workers. The restaurant chain’s official corporate mission is to “glorify God” and “enrich the lives of everyone we touch.” The company’s community-service initiatives, funded through its WinShape Foundation, support foster-care, scholarship, summer-camp, and marriage-enrichment programs. On Sunday, all Chick-fil-A stores close so workers can spend the day at worship and rest.

For the Left, these Biblically based corporate principles constitute social-justice high crimes and misdemeanors. Democrats are always ready to invoke religion to support their big-government, taxpayer-funded initiatives (Obamacare, illegal-alien amnesty, increased education spending, and FCC regulatory expansion, for starters). But when an independent company — thriving on its own merits in the marketplace — wears its soul on its sleeve, suddenly it’s a theocratic crisis.

Over the past month, several progressive-activist blogs have waged an ugly war against Chick-fil-A. The company’s alleged atrocity: One of its independent outlets in Pennsylvania donated some sandwiches and brownies to a marriage seminar run by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which happens to oppose same-sex marriage.

In the name of tolerance, the anti-Chick-fil-A hawks sneered at the company’s main product as “Jesus Chicken,” derided its no-Sunday-work policy, and attacked its operators as “anti-gay.” Michael Jones, who describes himself as having “worked in the field of human rights communications for a decade, most recently for Harvard Law School,” launched an online petition drive at “demanding” that the company disavow “extreme anti-gay groups.” Facebook users dutifully organized witch hunts against the company on college campuses.

Over the weekend, New York Times reporter Kim Severson gave the Chick-fil-A bashers a coveted Sunday A-section megaphone — repeatedly parroting the “Chick-fil-A is anti-gay” slur and raising fears of “evangelical Christianity’s muscle flexing” with only the thinnest veneer of journalistic objectivity. Severson, you see, is an openly gay advocate of same-sex-marriage equality herself and the former vice president of the identity-politics–mongering National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association.

In a bitter op-ed on gay-marriage laws’ not changing quickly enough, she asserted: “I don’t want the crumbs. I want the whole cake.” Severson has voiced complaints about her social and economic status as an unwed lesbian with a partner and child in several media publications.

None of this was disclosed in Severson’s advocacy-journalism hit job on Chick-fil-A. But therein lies the unofficial motto of the Gray Lady: All the ideological conflicts of interest unfit to print.

Progressive groups are gloating over Chick-fil-A’s public-relations troubles exacerbated by the nation’s politicized paper of record. This is not because they care about winning hearts and minds over gay rights or marriage policy, but because their core objective is to marginalize political opponents and chill Christian philanthropy and activism. The fearsome “muscle flexing” isn’t being done by innocent job-creators selling chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. It’s being done by the hysterical bullies trying to drive them off of college grounds and out of their neighborhoods in the name of “human rights.”

Remember: These were the same tactics the left-wing mob used in California to intimidate supporters of the Proposition 8 traditional-marriage initiative. Individual donors were put on an “Anti-Gay Black List.” Businesses that contributed money to the Prop 8 campaign were besieged by fist-wielding protesters. The artistic director of the California Musical Theatre was forced to resign over his $1,000 donation.

Message: Associate with the wrong political cause and you will pay. So much for national “civility.”

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies (Regnery, 2010). © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke basketball deserve respect, not hate

By Mike Wise
The Washington Post
February 2, 2011

Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the University of Maryland head coach Gary Williams greet each other prior to the start of their teams' NCAA basketball game in Durham, North Carolina January 9, 2011. (Reuters)

Fifteen years ago, in the left corner of Cole Field House, Ricky Price rose from the baseline and did in Maryland with a three-point dagger, a shot that very likely sent Duke to the NCAA tournament that season and sent the Blue Devils' bench into a state of pandemonium.

Except Mike Krzyzewski, who started to jump with glee before composing himself, walking toward Gary Williams at midcourt and shaking the hand of the coach who had suffered a wrenching loss. Afterward, Krzyzewski said he understood how big a game it was for both schools. "I could put myself in Gary's shoes at that moment and see myself in the same position," he said.

Still hate Duke?

Still reserve contempt instead of respect for Krzyzewski, whose kids nearly all graduate, whose program never smells of probation and whose only major crime is that he wins?

Eleven Final Fours, two fewer than Roy Williams and Tom Izzo combined. Four national championships, one more than Bob Knight, the coach for whom he played at Army in the late 1960s. In fact, Krzyzweski enters Comcast Center on Wednesday night 15 wins shy of Knight's 902, the record in major men's college basketball.

"When I go back to players that I coached over all the years that I coached, Mike is the best player that I ever coached to be able to go from what he was as a high school player to a college player for us at Army," Knight said. "He was a big scorer in high school but not a very good shooter. And yet, he came to us and became an extremely good guard, getting the ball to other people, controlling the ball. Not throwing it away. He was an exceptional defensive player.

"I think his ability to understand that when he started playing in college it was a different game is the key. He was required to play differently than in high school. Mike's ability to adjust to a different environment in college basketball is the key to his being the kind of coach he's been."

At 63, battling a legion of much younger coaches who often promise more than playing time to recruits, Krzyzewski is as old as he is contemporary.

"It's kind of incredible from my perspective," said Jay Bilas, who played on Krzyzewski's first national finalist team at Duke. "Think about it: The guy I had played for is still coaching at a game I'm analyzing [tomorrow] night.

"I hear people say, 'He's the same guy he always been.' He's not even close. He's so much better in every way. He's more engaged; he's got a reservoir of experience to draw from now."

The people who coached him and played for him agree his biggest strength is adapting to change.

"He treats every year as a new entity," Bilas added. "He doesn't look at this as a continuum.

"This year, he had a team that everyone thought was going to be good at the beginning. The moment [freshman sensation] Kyrie Irving went down, he realized and said pretty quickly, 'We can't be the team we envisioned being but we can still be very good.' And the team changed and grew."

In his spare time, Krzyzewski restored America's Olympic basketball pride, guiding Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to gold in the 2008 Games.

Still hate Duke? Still castigate all things Coach K?

"I don't claim to understand it," Bilas said. "But I know it exists. The fact is Duke is so visible. Maybe some people just get tired of it."

Like Derek Jeter and the Yankees, Krzyzewski and Duke might be hard to embrace because they always win, eclipsing their rivals in the process.

But after all the pain and misery they cause other teams and towns, a grudging respect is won.

It's why when students storm the court, as they did last March during Maryland's pulsating victory over Duke to grab a share of the ACC title, Krzyzewski doesn't view such celebrations as juvenile.

In his mind, if dumping Duke is that important, it means he and his kids have done a pretty good job of keeping the program running at a very high level.

"I know the NCAA doesn't probably want to hear this, but when I came out of high school in 1982, I didn't choose a college - I chose a coach," Bilas said. "It came down to three guys: Jim Boeheim [at Syracuse], Lute Olson [at Iowa at the time] and Coach K. He had the least amount of success and track record among them back then. He was the only one where you weren't sure whether his program was going to make it or not.

"But I trusted him. Something about him made me trust him. I've known him now for 30 years. He's gone from being my coach and my mentor to also becoming a trusted friend."

Did we mention Krzyzewski turned down some $40 million from Jerry Buss to coach the Lakers, his latest NBA suitor? He didn't want to mess with happiness and the job he has held for the past three decades.

Still hate Duke? Is there something deep inside that makes one root against Coach K and everything he is about?

If it's elitism or imperiousness - in essence, cheering against private institutions that require a lot of money, good grades and/or genuine athletic talent to attend - that's reasonable when it's about identifying with an underdog. More often, it's about pure envy.

Unless the disdain can be chalked up to pure rivalry, it's near impossible to root against Krzyzewski. You might as well root against integrity, loyalty and almost unparalleled success.

You might as well root against teachers, soon-to-be senior citizens and, while you're at it, America, which he will coach again at the 2012 Olympics.

Still hate Duke and its basketball coach?

Everyone's entitled to an opinion, but I've heard the rancor and felt the rage, and I'm still left asking: What's to hate?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Churchill Didn't Say That

The King's Speech is riddled with gross falsifications of history.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Jan. 24, 2011, at 12:20 PM ET

Colin Firth as King George VI in "The King's Speech."

The King's Speech is an extremely well-made film with a seductive human interest plot, very prettily calculated to appeal to the smarter filmgoer and the latent Anglophile. But it perpetrates a gross falsification of history. One of the very few miscast actors—Timothy Spall as a woefully thin pastiche of Winston Churchill—is the exemplar of this bizarre rewriting. He is shown as a consistent friend of the stuttering prince and his loyal princess and as a man generally in favor of a statesmanlike solution to the crisis of the abdication.

In point of fact, Churchill was—for as long as he dared—a consistent friend of conceited, spoiled, Hitler-sympathizing Edward VIII. And he allowed his romantic attachment to this gargoyle to do great damage to the very dearly bought coalition of forces that was evolving to oppose Nazism and appeasement. Churchill probably has no more hagiographic chronicler than William Manchester, but if you look up the relevant pages of The Last Lion, you will find that the historian virtually gives up on his hero for an entire chapter.

By dint of swallowing his differences with some senior left and liberal politicians, Churchill had helped build a lobby, with strong grass-roots support, against Neville Chamberlain's collusion with European fascism. The group had the resonant name of Arms and the Covenant. Yet, as the crisis deepened in 1936, Churchill diverted himself from this essential work—to the horror of his colleagues—in order to involve himself in keeping a pro-Nazi playboy on the throne. He threw away his political capital in handfuls by turning up at the House of Commons—almost certainly heavily intoxicated, according to Manchester—and making an incoherent speech in defense of "loyalty" to a man who did not understand the concept. In one speech—not cited by Manchester—he spluttered that Edward VIII would "shine in history as the bravest and best-loved of all sovereigns who have worn the island crown." (You can see there how empty and bombastic Churchill's style can sound when he's barking up the wrong tree; never forget that he once described himself as the lone voice warning the British people against the twin menaces of Hitler and Gandhi!)

In the end, Edward VIII proved so stupid and so selfish and so vain that he was beyond salvage, so the moment passed. Or the worst of it did. He remained what is only lightly hinted in the film: a firm admirer of the Third Reich who took his honeymoon there with Mrs. Simpson and was photographed both receiving and giving the Hitler salute. Of his few friends and cronies, the majority were Blackshirt activists like the odious "Fruity" Metcalfe. (Royal biographer Philip Ziegler tried his best to clean up this squalid story a few years ago but eventually gave up.) During his sojourns on the European mainland after his abdication, the Duke of Windsor never ceased to maintain highly irresponsible contacts with Hitler and his puppets and seemed to be advertising his readiness to become a puppet or "regent" if the tide went the other way. This is why Churchill eventually had him removed from Europe and given the sinecure of a colonial governorship in the Bahamas, where he could be well-supervised.

All other considerations to one side, would the true story not have been fractionally more interesting for the audience? But it seems that we shall never reach a time when the Churchill cult is open for honest inspection. And so the film drifts on, with ever more Vaseline being applied to the lens. It is suggested that, once some political road bumps have been surmounted and some impediments in the new young monarch's psyche have been likewise overcome, Britain is herself again, with Churchill and the king at Buckingham Palace and a speech of unity and resistance being readied for delivery.

Here again, the airbrush and the Vaseline are partners. When Neville Chamberlain managed to outpoint the coalition of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, and the Churchillian Tories and to hand to his friend Hitler the majority of the Czechoslovak people, along with all that country's vast munitions factories, he received an unheard-of political favor. Landing at Heston Airport on his return from Munich, he was greeted by a royal escort in full uniform and invited to drive straight to Buckingham Palace. A written message from King George VI urged his attendance, "so that I can express to you personally my most heartfelt congratulations. … [T]his letter brings the warmest of welcomes to one who, by his patience and determination, has earned the lasting gratitude of his fellow countrymen throughout the Empire." Chamberlain was then paraded on the palace balcony, saluted by royalty in front of cheering crowds. Thus the Munich sell-out had received the royal assent before the prime minister was obliged to go to Parliament and justify what he had done. The opposition forces were checkmated before the game had begun. Britain does not have a written Constitution, but by ancient custom the royal assent is given to measures after they have passed through both houses of Parliament. So Tory historian Andrew Roberts, in his definitively damning essay "The House of Windsor and the Politics of Appeasement," is quite correct to cite fellow scholar John Grigg in support of his view that by acting as they did to grant pre-emptive favor to Chamberlain, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter to you) "committed the most unconstitutional act by a British Sovereign in the present century."

The private letters and diaries of the royal family demonstrate a continued, consistent allegiance to the policy of appeasement and to the personality of Chamberlain. King George's forbidding mother wrote to him, exasperated that more people in the House of Commons had not cheered the sellout. The king himself, even after the Nazi armies had struck deep north into Scandinavia and clear across the low countries to France, did not wish to accept Chamberlain's resignation. He "told him how grossly unfairly he had been treated, and that I was genuinely sorry." Discussing a successor, the king wrote that "I, of course, suggested [Lord] Halifax." It was explained to him that this arch-appeaser would not do and that anyway a wartime coalition could hardly be led by an unelected member of the House of Lords. Unimpressed, the king told his diary that he couldn't get used to the idea of Churchill as prime minister and had greeted the defeated Halifax to tell him that he wished he had been chosen instead. All this can easily be known by anybody willing to do some elementary research.

In a few months, the British royal family will be yet again rebranded and relaunched in the panoply of a wedding. Terms like "national unity" and "people's monarchy" will be freely flung around. Almost the entire moral capital of this rather odd little German dynasty is invested in the post-fabricated myth of its participation in "Britain's finest hour." In fact, had it been up to them, the finest hour would never have taken place. So this is not a detail but a major desecration of the historical record—now apparently gliding unopposed toward a baptism by Oscar.

- Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution.


‘King’s Speech’: The Film to Beat and to Bad-Mouth-