1. Thanks to Kate for the comments on Aurora. I can’t say anything yet.
2. Just back from the ISI Honors Program. One political fact: Couldn’t find anyone who’s enthusiastic about Romney. But fact no. 2: In 2008, there’s was a lot of self-indulgence about sitting the race out to punish the Republicans for their corruption and incompetence and even significant Obamaconism, but this year the general attitude among conservatives of various stripes is all about resolutely doing your somewhat distasteful duty. The main reason among the ISI crowd: religous freedom. The Mormon issue doesn’t seem to move anyone one way or the other, although young people certainly have a lot of curiosity about what Mormons really believe.
3. ISI students tend to be someonewhat more “neocon” in foreign policy than ISI faculty. But in neither group can you find any defenders of the Iraq intervention or Bush’s second inaugural. So one reservation about Romney concerns foreign policy. But to be fair, the reservation about Obama on that front is much more fundamental.
4. There was a lot of interesting discussion about whether America is a Declaration country and whether that’s a good thing. Brad Watson, with his West Coast spirituality, said yes and a very good—maybe perfect—thing. Pat Deneen’s answer to the two questions: yes and it’s a bad thing. The more typical answer: It’s not and that’s a good thing. One speaker said Chesterton says yes and that’s on balance a bad thing. That answer is plain incorrect—Chesterton really says yes and on balance a good thing. The speaker actually acknowledged in the question period that Chesterton was too naive about how “creed” can have the effect of decimating “culture.” My own view is that “the typical European criticism of America” misses how multicultural on the big issues America has been.
5. It was a really great week overall—the students were more impressive than ever. There’s literally nothing else in America remotely like that “experience.” Most impressive were the seekers and searchers, about whom I will say more later. Inspired by the conference in a way, here are my over-the-top comments on conservatives and intellectuals.