Right Man's Burden


Speaking of the precocious Weekly Standard's 10-year anniversary, the in-flight magazine of Air Force Two has just come out with a special issue asking its contributors: "On what issue or issues (if any!) have you changed your mind in the last 10 years—and why?" The results, which run from the triumphalist to the despairing, are an interesting window into the unique burdens of being on the winning political team. And I've read it, so you don't have to. A highly partial selection:

  • Christopher Caldwell: "My portfolio of political beliefs has changed little, aside from a major sell-off of libertarian absolutism, which this decade has exposed as overvalued."
  • Eric Cohen: "By dying for the freedom of others, Americans might recover an understanding of the public burdens of freedom as well as the private opportunities."
  • Robert Kagan: "We were asked what issues we've changed our minds about. My father recalled for me a line from Thucydides, which Pericles delivered to the Athenians in the difficult second year of the three-decade-long war with Sparta. 'I am the same man and do not alter, it is you who change, since in fact you took my advice while unhurt, and waited for misfortune to repent of it.'"
  • David Brooks: "Over the past decades, conservative thinking has evolved and its center of gravity has shifted. From a movement that once emphasized economic freedom, it is now a movement emphasizing that economic freedoms must be embedded in a strong society. From a movement that once lauded individual choice, it is now a movement preoccupied with family stability, civil society, and national cohesion."
  • Tod Limberg: "Yes, for our own sake, we do indeed need to face down those violently opposed to our liberal order. We must defend ourselves. But that's not enough. We need to attend also to the needs of those who do not have the advantage of living in societies like ours."
  • P.J. O'Rourke: "Politics is evil. Ten years ago I thought politics was misguided. But the events of the past decade–indeed, of the past 10 or a dozen decades–have proven me wrong."
  • Andrew Ferguson: "Most conservative books are pseudo-books: ghostwritten pastiches whose primary purpose seems to be the photo of the 'author' on the cover. What a tumble! From The Conservative Mind to Savage Nation; from Clifton White to Dick Morris; from Willmoore Kendall and Harry Jaffa to Sean Hannity and Mark Fuhrman–all in little more than a generation's time. Whatever this is, it isn't progress."
  • William Kristol: "Which ultimately speaks–if I may be forgiven a pseudo-Platonic moment–to the weekliness of weekly journalism. A weekly comes out every week. A weekly has to come out every week."