Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Clash Of Civilizations. Settling Scores.

Two of my favorite commentators (and by favorite I mean least favorite) are Tom Pauken and Rod Dreher. Pauken is a frustrated Goldwater conservative who was sidelined by Bush/Rove in Austin in the 1990s and hasn't gotten over it yet. Dreher's conservatism goes back even farther (medieval Rome, say, or Constantinople). What Pauken and Dreher share is a calling to rally Western Civilization to stand against the expansion of Islam and a belief they know what ails modern conservatism.

After the jump, why they are both worth reading this week.

Dreher, who once sounded the clarion for the faithful from the editorial offices of The Dallas Morning News, lately has been pondering big questions at the John Templeton Foundation blog, Biq Questions Online. We can only hope that Templeton's tolerant attitude is mellowing Dreher. This week, he offered a column titled, "Clash of Civilizations." I was prepared for a rant about how putting footbaths in university student housing amounted to surrender to radical Islam (thanks, PeterK, for bringing it up when Dreher did not -- by which I mean of course, no thanks). Instead I was pleasantly surprised to read a very serious attempt to understand the viewpoint of Muslims. An outsider might wonder why it's so difficult for a Christian fundamentalist to understand a Muslim fundamentalist, because they are so alike, but that's just the way it is. Here, Dreher makes an honest attempt:

"What the West offers is, to the pious Middle Eastern Muslim in a place like Yemen, corrupt and evil. Obviously we in the West don't see it that way, but we are fools if we don't understand what we expect of these people: to adopt our way of seeing the world as normative, and to give up their own. How would we feel if the power-balance shoe were on the other foot, and one of our poets was able to write, with real justification, 'The more we try to be American, the more Muslim they make us'? Believe me, I'm not arguing for cultural relativism, but I am arguing that if we are going to keep this up, we have to understand that people like the Yemeni Muslims aren't all secretly waiting for their inner American to be liberated -- that in fact, what we in the West offer is not liberation to them, but enslavement. I, personally, believe they're wrong, but I do know that if they tried to impose their radically different cultural norms onto us, many of us would fight back, and fight back hard. And we'd think ourselves patriots for so doing."

Like Dreher, Tom Pauken also has an obsession with the purported threat of Islam (not just radical jihadist terrorists, but the religion Islam itself). Pauken used his platform at Dallas Blog to regularly point out every case of Muslims doing anything anywhere that could be construed as Christianity somehow being supplanted by Islam. Usually this was in the US and UK, but he scoured the news for events in France or Germany or even Malaysia or Indonesia that suited his thesis. So, when I saw that The Daily Beast published an interview of Pauken by Lloyd Grove, I half expected another sky-is-falling rant about the fall of Western (i.e., Christian) Civilization. Instead, we were treated to a tirade on Pauken's second favorite subject -- how George W Bush and, especially, Karl Rove, screwed him and the true/real/Reagan conservatives. Pauken was head of the Texas GOP party in the 1990s when Rove was scheming to get Bush into the governor's mansion and later, the White House:

"When he chaired the Texas party, Pauken says, Rove would frequently phone Republican headquarters to blister Pauken's staff for one act of perceived disloyalty or another.
"Pauken goes on: 'Unfortunately, the Republican Party in the post-Reagan period got hijacked by a group of people who claimed they were conservative but were really Machiavellian pragmatists like Rove. ... They did a lot of damage in the name of conservatism.' "

The Pauken interview is worth a read not because his bitterness is anything new. No, it's worth reading because of the extent of his criticism. He's nursing old grievances here. He's settling old scores. But he carries his criticisms into the present. Besides Bush and Rove, other targets at whom Pauken takes aim include Pete Sessions, John Cornyn, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney. This time, Pauken is worth a read just to see what bitterness can do to a man.

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