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Justice Alito and Eight Dissenters: The Court Backs Into Relativism

From Web Exclusives

Our friends at the Wall Street Journal have just celebrated the decision of the Supreme Court this past week for vindicating “Free speech for Jerks”: The Rev. Fred Phelps and his merry band have drawn the attention of the media as they have gone about staging demonstrations at funerals, and using those occasions as platforms for denouncing, in raw terms, homosexuals, the Catholic Church, the military, and American interventions abroad… . Continue Reading »

One of the Two Philosophers Responds

From Web Exclusives

I came to discover only late that, thanks to the exertions of Micah Watson in his “A Tale of Two Philosophers,” published here last Friday, the readers of First Things were given an account of this interesting exchange I had with my young friend, Matthew O’Brien, taking up the vocation of philosophy. What seemed to rage, though, in the comments attached to the piece were rather emphatic comments, some in criticism and some in support, by people who evidently had no idea of what I had actually said in those pieces, written in that exchange with O’Brien… . Continue Reading »

Pastor Jones and The Law as it Used to Be

From Web Exclusives

That dramatic event in prospect, the burning of Korans by Pastor Terry Jones and his merry band, became far larger as a story than it could ever have been as a real happening. That pseudo-event has now been canceled. But it is still worth reflecting on, because it reminded us of the rather unlovely shaping of the law, by conservative as well as liberal judges, over the past forty years… . Continue Reading »

Mr. Justice Breyer Writes a Dissenting Opinion

From Web Exclusives

On June 28, the Supreme Court released the decisions that finished the business of the year. Notable among them was the judgment handed down in McDonald v. Chicago on the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Just two years earlier a slim majority of the Court affirmed for the first time that the plain words of the Amendment meant, in fact, what layers of long articles in the law reviews could not quite explain away… . Continue Reading »

Vast Dangers—Confirmed

From Web Exclusives

The Supreme Court convened on Monday in its final session of the term and released its judgments on a number of cases that have drawn deep interest”and stirred high anxiety. One of the judgments was the case of the Christian Legal Society at the Hastings Law School in California (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez). I wrote on this case in our issue of June/July (“Vast Dangers in a Small Place”), and I regret to report that the outcome turned out to be quite as grievous as the one I anticipated in that piece… . Continue Reading »

Empathy & Apathy

From the Aug/Sept 2009 Print Edition

During the presidential campaign Barack Obama declared, with no inadvertence, that among the furnishings of mind he would seek in an appointment to the Supreme Court is a keen sense of empathy for the less privileged in this country. And sure enough, now that he is president, his nomination of . . . . Continue Reading »

Newt Gingrich’s Coded Speech, Telling Omissions

From Web Exclusives

I don’t know how you feel about Newt Gingrich, but every time he is on, I’m drawn to watch him. He always has a different angle, always has something substantive to say. And that, more than anything else, explains why, with all of the turmoil and embarrassments in his personal life, a party filled with conservative people still want to hear him.

It was no small tribute to him then that even out of office he was selected to give the keynote address on June 9 to the major fund-raising dinner for the Republicans in the Senate and the House. George W. Bush gave that address when he was in office, and when a Republican isn’t in the White House, the privilege flows to one of the highest-ranking Republicans in office or the titular head of the party. Newt gave a stirring, summoning talk that night. The passion was modulated, the fires damped down only because Newt, with his bent toward the systematic, delivered himself of a lecture. He aims for the comprehensive. And along the way he spoke some telling lines. The most memorable, catching the central truth of the moment was this one: “[T]hat [Ronald] Reagan used his rhetorical skills to shine light on truths and fundamental facts. Obama uses his rhetorical skills to hide from fundamental facts.”

But past the lines that hit home, and past the evident move to be sweeping and comprehensive, he revealed in the design of his talk the omissions that were quite telling… . Continue Reading »

First Things First

From the April 2009 Print Edition

For his friends this is the kind of loss that tilts the world on its axis; for so many things marking the world around just cannot be the same. How could it be that we’ll never have those evenings again in the townhouse in New York, with the wine and cigars, and Richard John Neuhaus presiding . . . . Continue Reading »