It is getting the attention it deserves in avowedly conservative circles, but Ramesh Ponnuru’s fine book The Party of Death is being assiduously ignored by the people who most need to engage his arguments. Ross Douthat has this to say over on The American Scene :
The official line, so far as I can tell, is that Ramesh’s book is beneath contempt because it includes a blurb from Ann Coulter, because Regnery played up the Democrat-baiting in the promotional materials, and because the title is impolitic enough to suggest that people who support the deliberate, legally-sanctioned killing of human embryos and fetuses (and the suicide of the elderly and the ill) do so not only out of anguished necessity, but because they think a “choice for death” is often the right choice to make. But of course the mainstream media doesn’t really think that Ann Coulter is beneath contempt, since no less an organ than the New York Times reviewed two of her last three books. Nor does anyone in the press seem to have a problem with inflammatory titles; why, Kevin Phillips lumped a third of America in with Khomeini, Bin Laden, and Oliver Cromwell, and the Times rewarded his hysterical, half-baked, badly written advertisement for his own intellectual decline—which I just had the misfortunate of slogging through—with a favorable, front-page review in the Book Review .
Ponnuru’s The Party of Death is a very real service. For those who have for years been following the battle over abortion and related life issues, it pulls together the history that brought us to where we are. It is perhaps understandable that those who have qualms about abortion and maybe even about the destruction of embryos for research purposes don’t want to think through the implications of their reluctant acceptance of a little murder of the very little. Thinking through what we are doing—on a scale that is not little but massive—is precisely what Ponnuru asks the reader to do.
The book offers an incisive review and critique of the legal, cultural, religious, and political dynamics of a controversy that, more than any other, has brought about a dramatic realignment of forces in our public life. And yes, the Democratic Party is, with relatively few exceptions, “the party of death.” Ponnuru explains how the Democrats painted themselves into that dark corner, and what they might do to get out of it. Especially helpful is the final chapter, “Life after Roe .” Not all pro-lifers will agree with Ponnuru’s assessment of what could be done once the “life questions” are returned to the political process, but both they and their opponents will benefit by letting Ponnuru guide them through some possible scenarios.
It is yet another sign of how the naked public square has become the nasty public square that in this moment of polarized partisanship so many are unwilling to engage the facts and arguments lucidly set forth in Ramesh Ponnuru’s The Party of Death .
In addition to which :
Father Neuhaus will be discussing his new book, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth , at a book signing on Thursday, June 8, at 7:30 at Barnes & Noble, 720-30 Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He says he would be delighted to see you there. For information, call 610-520-0355.
Of course we must work, and work assiduously, for better understanding of Islam and with Islam. But that better understanding begins with a relentlessly honest appreciation of the obstacles to anything like peaceful coexistence. Helping us to make that beginning is the great contribution of “Islam and Us” by George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia. “Islam and Us” is among the compelling and informative articles in the June/July issue of First Things . Isn’t it time for you to subscribe to First Things ?