Response

12.19.12

Beinart Has Me Wrong

Hi Peter,

I noticed this morning that you wrote something about my latest column on your Daily Beast blog. There’s no point in getting into an argument over the substance of my column or your rebuttal to it. But I am nonetheless struck by the remarkably gratuitous and demonstrably false claim you make in your first sentence, when you write: “When it comes to identifying prejudice against African Americans, Hispanics, Arabs, Muslims and gays, Bret Stephens is remarkably restrained.”

Let’s see. Here’s E.J. Dionne writing about a column I wrote some time ago on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

But there are at least some profiles in courage on this issue, and I want to salute Bret Stephens, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, for trying to persuade Republicans to join the equal rights cause. He made a strong political case to the GOP -- but also the central substantive case:

… it's worth noting that there are an estimated 48,000 homosexuals on active duty or [in] the reserves, many of them in critical occupations, many with distinguished service records. If they pose any risk at all to America's security, it is, paradoxically, because DADT institutionalizes dishonesty, puts them at risk of blackmail, and forces fellow warfighters who may know about their orientation to make an invidious choice between comradeship and the law. That's no way to run a military.

Stephens is exactly right. Some day, many of his fellow conservatives will join him. DADT will be a thing of the past, and the United States will join its many allies who reject this foolish barrier to the patriotic service of Americans who are gay or lesbian. It's too bad the first step could not be taken today.

Here’s are two excerpts from my column of last month touching on the question of GOP attitudes toward gay issues and illegal immigration.

Fellow conservatives, please stop obsessing about what other adults might be doing in their bedrooms, so long as it's lawful and consensual and doesn't impinge in some obvious way on you. This obsession is socially uncouth, politically counterproductive and, too often, unwittingly revealing.

Also, if gay people wish to lead conventionally bourgeois lives by getting married, that may be lunacy on their part but it's a credit to our values. Channeling passions that cannot be repressed toward socially productive ends is the genius of the American way. The alternative is the tapped foot and the wide stance.. . .

And:

On the subject of idiocy, can someone explain where's the political gold in demonizing Latin American immigrants? California's Prop 187, passed in 1994, helped destroy the GOP in a once-reliable state. Yet Republicans have been trying to replicate that fiasco on a national scale ever since.

If the argument is that illegal immigrants are overtaxing the welfare state, then that's an argument for paring back the welfare state, not deporting 12 million people. If the argument is that these immigrants "steal" jobs, then that's an argument by someone who either doesn't understand the free market or aspires for his children to become busboys and chambermaids.

And if the argument is that these immigrants don't share our values, then religiosity, hard work, personal stoicism and the sense of family obligation expressed through billions of dollars in remittances aren't American values.

Here’s an excerpt of a column I wrote last year about Shehrbano Taseer, daughter of the slain Punjabi governor:

For months, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have braved imprisonment, torture and often death to register their objections to the Assad regime. Dissidents in Iran have been doing as much for decades. They are exercising the virtue of courage as Aristotle would have understood it. And they are a rebuke to cultural pessimists in the West who often feel vindicated by the perfidies of the Muslim world but could stand, on occasion, to be humbled by examples of its courage.

It is, increasingly, the received wisdom in the West that nation building is a fool's errand. Maybe. But it would also be wise to make sure that people like Ms. Taseer and the cause she represents get all the support we can offer them. Who builds Pakistan 20 years from now is something to which only a fool could be indifferent.

I could go on at greater length and with further examples, but I think I’ve made my point. You’re welcome to post this note, in full, on your blog. And, in the spirit of the season, you’re welcome to kiss my ass, too.

Bret Stephens