Category: The Bare Bodkin

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Calling Dr. Johnson

The Dear Leader of the United States reminds me of Robert Frost’s quip that a liberal is a man who won’t take his own side in a fight.  More precisely, his own country’s side.

Barack Obama seems to hate calling


A Few Simple Queries

If I could ask our young President a few questions, they would run something like this: “At what point would you say, ‘There.  We finally have as much government as we need.  To give it any more power would be


Land of Obama

“A corrupt society has many laws,” observed the Roman historian Tacitus.

The Founding Fathers knew this aphorism, and their work reflects it, from the Articles of Confederation to the Federalist to the Tenth Amendment.  They designed these documents to save


The Eclipse of the Normal

Nearly a century ago, G.K. Chesterton wrote of “the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal.”  Today the very word normal is almost taboo.  Perish the thought that there is anything abnormal—let alone sinful, vicious,


Deal With the Devil

For several months after last November, the American media raved about Barack Obama’s achievement in becoming the first African-American president of the United States.  I didn’t—and couldn’t—join in the jubilation, for several reasons.

First, it had always seemed to me


Scarlett and Michael

The other night, while watching The Godfather on television for roughly the 50th time, I was struck by a parallel that had never occurred to me before.  The movie’s sentimental musical score reminded me of “Tara’s Theme” in Gone With


Shattering Lincoln’s Dream

I just got a copy of a thoughtful new book, Vindicating Lincoln: Defending the Politics of Our Greatest President, by Thomas L. Krannawitter.  The book mentions me a couple of times, in polite disagreement.  Krannawitter, now of Hillsdale College,


Media Bias Revisited

Complaints about “media bias” usually boil down to uninteresting charges that the news media tilt their reportage in favor of one party—usually, but not always, the Democrats.  So say the Republicans, with some justice, but put this way the indictment


Words and Power

Most American presidents, unless they leave office in disgrace, are honored by having airports, schools, libraries, streets, and even whole cities named after them.  The city of San Francisco has saluted President George W. Bush in a singular way—by naming


Pickwickian Popery

I’ve been reading Garry Wills for more than 40 years now, with mixed admiration, delight, and alarm.  In the early 60’s he wrote for National Review, the youngest of its many brilliant contributors.  He then seemed to be an


The Future of Tyranny

My mother, an incurable Democrat, God forgive her, adored Adlai Stevenson.  To her mind, he and Richard Nixon offered the extreme and opposite poles of spiritual reality, like Saint Michael and Lucifer.

Among today’s politicians, Sen. Barack Obama inspires the


Jesus’ Simple Message

When you get intimately familiar with any artist’s work, you become delightedly aware of the development of his style.  I was reminded of this lately while working on a book about Shakespeare; more than ever, I was impressed by the


Defending the Normal

Conservatism is usually defined as “opposition to change,” “adherence to the old and traditional,” and so forth.  But, of course, in the Bush-Cheney era, we all feel these familiar tags to be seriously inadequate, even wholly beside the point and


The Atheist’s Redemption

In my last appearance in this space, I wrote erroneously that Christopher Hitchens had favored both Anglo-American wars on Iraq.  In fact, he strongly opposed the first one, back in 1991.  I remember this so vividly (I was delighted with


The Atheist Renaissance

Atheists are feeling their oats these days.  Three militant unbelievers—Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens—have recently hit the best-seller lists and talk shows.  Not since Bertrand Russell have we seen atheism so prosperously married to celebrity.  Why now?



Was George Will Wrong?

If Rush Limbaugh can pass for a conservative these days, it’s no marvel that George Will can, too.  Unlike Limbaugh, he at least reads books, especially Victorian ones.  (He even named his daughter Victoria.)  But he shares with Limbaugh an


Hitchcock Without Stars

Alfred Hitchcock now enjoys a high and even, some would say, an exaggerated reputation among Hollywood film directors.  Certainly, he is among the most influential, if only because with Psycho (1960) he created the mother, as it were, of


On Being “Right Wing”

As I write these words, just after the November 7 elections, liberal Democrats are enjoying a well-earned gloat on their victory over the right wing.  Just one question: What does right wing mean?

I’ve puzzled over this question for


Aaron’s Tormentors

This summer, as the odious Barry Bonds advanced toward Henry Aaron’s home-run record, I told a friend: “I’m going to write Bonds a letter.  And it’s going to be even more vitriolic than the one I wrote Aaron 30 years


Holmes & Sons

During a recent bout of infirmity, I turned for solace to the greatest storyteller of modern times, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930).  If this sounds like excessive praise, I ask you—no, I defy you—to name his superior, or even his


The Big Word

What is culture, anyway?  It’s one of those baffling words that at first seem to mean a narrow range of things (stuff such as “grand opera”) and then turn out to cover just about everything—even the New York Post


The Way We Were

I am not by nature, I think, a grumpy old man.  But, at the age of 60, I feel entitled to comment on some inescapable facts about the younger generation.  If my judgments seem harsh, I can only invite the


The Bush Legacy

Does anyone really remember what sort of president Bill Clinton was? Have we all forgotten his amazingly sordid character so soon?

He disgraced the Oval Office like no president before him; he was only the second to be impeached; he


Conservatism’s Ancient Mariner

In November 2005, Bill Buckley observed his 80th birthday, and his magazine, National Review, its 50th.  Both anniversaries were rather fulsomely saluted, George Will remarking that, thanks to Buckley and his magazine, the phrase “conservative intellectuals” had “ceased to


What Was a Chaperone?

I confess it: My television is always on.  I seldom watch the news, the talking heads, the public-spirited uplift, Masterpiece Theater, or the educational stuff.  No, I watch old movies.  Constantly.

I watch them because they bring back the


Chesterton and the Gentile Problem

In 1961, Garry Wills published his first book, a penetrating study of G.K. Chesterton.  It wasn’t a huge success, and it soon went out of print.  Later, after swinging fashionably leftward, Wills would write best-sellers and Pulitzer Prize-winners.

Now his


Creeds and Values

The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon may have jarred American self-confidence, caused coast-to-coast panic, and even (we shall see) ignited World War III, but so far they have failed to put a dent in



At the end of the recent remake of Planet of the Apes—turn the page now if you still plan to see it—the hero escapes from said planet and its monstrous chimp-tyrant, General Thade. Returning to Earth at night, his