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I recall another candidate for the Republican nomination who once wrote, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man.” These came from notes on a lecture he gave years before the presidency. Something he thought, and wrote, deeply about if one sees quite clearly by reading his correspondence.

I had the honor of studying with a great Lincoln scholar, William Lee Miller, at the University of Virginia, from whom I learned much about our perhaps greatest president, and so think I may have some remote credibility to say that our first Republican chief executive would have wanted nothing to do with this man. We can’t go back in time and ask, but we can compare notes. Historians know this; it’s the best we can do at offering advice from our perspective. While working with Miller at the U.VA.’s Miller Center, I had colleagues including Tim Naftali, who were working on deciphering tapes of President Kennedy during moments of crisis.

Rereading Lincoln’s notes from 1850, or other years in which Dr. Miller and I studied his speeches, is no more or less a historical task than trying to figure out exactly what Richard Nixon was saying in 1973 on his taping system, as Dr. Naftali, or John Dean — who was often there in the room — can attest. We can’t hear voices from 1850, but we can hear messages.

A question I, and many of my friends in the conservative movement have is: Let us agree that Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with the current GOP nominee for president.



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Four years ago, I ran a blog dedicated to Donald Trump running for the presidency — in part because it was such a shot that only a few of us who study conservatism though he was worthy of any attention. Four years later, here we are. I have written about Trump, sometimes with conservatives friends and coauthors, in articles posted in this blog. I am not affiliated with any movement. I post the Trump MSNBC mostly here as a matter of satire. We laugh so we cannot cry. The great Republican Party is being highjacked. I don’t know how it will work out in the end, if there is a contested convention, and neither do any of the other pundits. I’m a professor. So watch this and see what it makes you think. Thanks John Heilemann (and your editor) for sending this along.


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My latest op-ed is at The Washington Examiner, considering the rather serious implications of a Trump nomination for the conservative movement. Not just its recent incarnation, but the entire postwar conservative intellectual project. My co-author, David Frisk, is biographer of William A. Rusher, Bill Buckley’s longtime partner at National Review. 

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My latest at Real Clear Politics, co-authored with conservative historian David Frisk.

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My latest here in POLITICO on the GOP crackup, with my collaborator Scot Faulkner.


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The Cliff
(with apologies to E.A. Poe, and Calvin Trillin)







Once upon a cliff most dreary

Came a Congress o so weary

To avert the cliff financial

Fearing fiscal failure, leery

Of the voters searing, fearing, nearly tearing urgent wrath.

Enter Simpson, of Wyoming

In his Gangnam Youtube Styling

Dancing, with petitions mounting

Frustrated with Tea Party pouting

With Erskine Bowles he did the counting

Counting, counting, evermore!

The cliff! The cliff! Can be averted

If only reason be asserted

Not taken, taken, and perverted

By forces far of left and right

Who throw about frustrated might

Would delve us in to bankrupt night!

Of rates and loopholes much is made

The cause of compromise may fade

Unless good Simpson, Gangnam style

Undoes the gridlock with a smile

Reminding those in both high bodies

Their need to break with rank and file.

Simpson, Bowles, now resurrected?

Their reforms not first effected

But strangely now back from the dead

Parties both see what’s ahead

Rejecting pledges, statements sore

Raising rates an option, and what’s more?

The cliff it is still looming, looming

El Rushbo, still a’fuming, fuming

Frothing at John Boehner’s door

But this cliff need not be dooming

Looming at John Boehner’s door

Simpson’s path may guide you o’er.

Quoth the Norquist, nevermore?

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When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969, he uttered what will likely remain one of the most famous sentences in human history: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”


On its face, the sentence makes little sense. What is the difference between “man” and “mankind”?


Armstrong addressed the rhetorical misunderstanding  immediately upon return. The transmission had been garbled; Armstrong actually said “One small step for a man.”


But no one seemed to care. “One small step for man” it was, and likely ever will be. Armstrong is said to have preferred putting the “a” in parenthases. The Associated Press, in its obituary, went with brackets.

“That’s one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.”






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