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The Good Old Days

In last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Dwight Garner looked at two books.  The first was Michael Crichton’s new novel, State of Fear which attacks the science behind global warming.  I haven’t read it, though I have read a remarkable speech Crichton gave that apparently took a similar tack.  Then Garner looks at The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.  I haven’t read that one either, but after the Garner review, I’m going to take a look at it, but not for the reasons Garner gives:

Woods, who teaches at Suffolk County Community College in New York,
argues that most American history courses these days teach kids only
”a series of drearily predictable cliches.”  He tries to right these
wrongs by explaining why the colonists were true conservatives, why the
Civil War wasn’t necessary to free the slaves and why Franklin
Roosevelt’s New Deal was a fiasco. (Woods goes on to skewer the Brown
v. Board of Education decision, Medicare, Medicaid and, of course, the
presidency of Bill Clinton.)  When Woods really gets going, he lets his
inner Scrooge fly with impressive brio: ”It is heartwarming,” he
writes, ”to recall a time in American history when programs such as
those of the New Deal were actually criticized on constitutional
grounds.” Ah, those were the days.

Woods evidently thinks that it’s a good idea that policy be based on the Constitution.  For Garner, this is evidence of the author’s ‘inner Scrooge.’  What’s the logic there?  There isn’t any.  So how do we explain what appears to be a purely ad hominem attack?  I think Garner means that anyone who opposed the humanitarian policies of the New Deal must be heartless.  And if only a bitter, warped person would oppose the New Deal,  Woods’s avowed concern about the Constitution must be a smokescreen.  Alas, Garner reasons, Woods’s opposition reveals that ‘inner Scrooge.’

Imagine if an historian in the future condemned the Patriot Act as being unconstitutional.  Will the Times reviewer mock that concern as a longing for the good old days?  Will the author be described as having an inner Scrooge or an inner something else that is equally despicable for caring about the Constitution?

America would be a better place if people on the left and the right did not view the Constitution as a pick-and-choose set of suggestions.  Abiding by and supporting the entire document, even (nay, especially) the parts you’d prefer weren’t there, is what makes America a republic rather than a mere democracy.


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