More evidence that the Bush policy of encouraging democracy in the Middle East is beginning to bear fruit. My own take on the slow, but real, progress in Iraq can be read here. Yes, Bush deserves as much credit for his steadfastness as he deserves criticism for his mistakes.

THE EVANGELICAL TEMPTATION: No, I’m not referring to evangelical Christianity as a religious force. I’m referring to the conflation of such religion with conservative politics. Money quote from Jeffrey Hart, no sane person’s idea of a liberal:

The Bush presidency often is called conservative. That is a mistake. It is populist and radical, and its principal energies have roots in American history, and these roots are not conservative… If we recall Leo Strauss’s formulation that “Athens and Jerusalem” — science and spiritual aspiration — are the core of Western civilization, American Evangelicalism is a threat to both, through ignorance of both.

Sooner or later, real conservatives will actually fight back against the damage this administration has done to conservatism.

BROOKS’ PARADOX: David Brooks, in another smart column, points out that from the beginning of the 1990s, we have seen a sharp decline in all sorts of anti-social behavior: crime, abortion rates, teen pregnancy, and so on. At the same time, the last fifteen years have been marked by the high watermark of gay visibility and activism. If the assumptions of many social conservatives are true – that there is a direct relationship between culture and society, and that gay visibility is a sign of moral decline – then none of this should have happened. But it did. In fact, I think the two phenomena are linked. At the same time that teen pregnancies and abortion rates were falling, the gay rights movement moved toward the goals of social responsibility, i.e. the right to serve one’s country and the right to marry the person you love, with all the responsibility that entails. If any other formerly liberal minority group had embraced those goals, conservatives would have rejoiced. But gays cannot win. If we embrace counter-cultural leftism, we are a threat to society and the family. If we embrace conservative social values, like marriage and military service, we are a threat to society and the family. The bottom line social policy toward gay people embraced by social conservatives is that gay people simply shouldn’t exist. And if they do exist, society has to pretend they don’t. When was the last time you read an essay in, say, the Weekly Standard or National Review, making a case for how gays actually should fit in to society? Or how gay culture could be improved? David Brooks is one of those conservatives who actually asks himself what a sane conservative social policy should be toward homosexual citizens and family members. (The obvious, glaring, simple answer is: encourage stable relationships.) That’s why Brooks is a real conservative. And why those who want simply no social policy toward gays – except a vague disdain and loathing – are better understood as reactionaries and soft bigots rather than as actual conservatives.