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Katherine Kersten on conservatism and religion

Katherine Kersten
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Katherine Kersten: "There are fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives in the assumptions they make about how the world works and about human nature."

Part One: Katherine Kersten on liberals, same-sex marriage and life at the Star Tribune

Here's the second installment of my interview with columnist Katherine Kersten. I asked her about where conservatism is headed, President Obama and the role religion plays in her world view.

 
MinnPost: What do you think is the future of conservatism?

Katherine Kersten:
I think it's pretty encouraging that the latest polls show significantly more people describing themselves as conservatives. In a recent Gallup poll, 40 percent of those polled called themselves conservative, versus 36 percent who called themselves moderate and 20 percent who called themselves liberals. What we are seeing is a spontaneous uprising against the profoundly illiberal people who are currently running the country.

The same is true of polls asking people about their party affiliation — more and more people polled by Rasmussen and Gallwup are swinging to the GOP. I think this switch is one of the reasons that the Democrats are making this incredible health-care push now. If Obama and company can create a huge, new middle-class entitlement of the kind they're pushing over the objections of the majority of the American people, I suspect they think they can create a base that will not desert them for decades. If their health care plan passes, they will have their fingers deep into the middle class in a way they haven't had before. This will be very difficult to overturn. It will make many Americans new wards of the state, or at least begin a move in that direction.

That said, I think it's heartening that the majority of the people in Maine, of all places, turned back an attempt to legalize same-sex marriage — despite the incredible pressure of political correctness….

MP: Conservatives can be found in both political parties, but they seem to have found a more welcoming home in the GOP. Do you think the party is having problems being identified as "too conservative"? More precisely, to you think the GOP isn't as inclusive as we might wish it to be? 

KK:
It depends on what you mean by "inclusive." "Inclusive" is the left's word, and it presumes a whole worldview.

I think most conservatives would agree that it's not good that, demographically, 95 percent of black Americans voted for Obama, and 90 percent of blacks consistently vote Democratic, or that Hispanics also tend to vote for Democrats. I would agree with the idea that we need to be populists in the sense that we overcome the stereotypical notion of what a Republican is, or what a conservative is.

On the issue of gay marriage, for example, there is fundamental agreement among black Americans and conservatives — and that put [Proposition 8, the Defense of Marriage Act] over the top in California [in 2008]. The pro-gay marriage folks might have won there, had not so many black Californians come out to vote on the issue. That's one area of agreement between conservatives and black voters, and you see the same thing — potentially — with many Hispanics and school choice.

I think a lot of black Minneapolis residents are very much in favor of having the chance to get their kids out of failing inner-city schools by sending send them to charter schools. And they certainly opposed race-based busing, which was a great crusade of the left. These are the folks who had to pay the price for that utopian scheme, which did nothing to improve black academic achievement — and everything to gut our central cities of the middle class.

We conservatives have to keep reminding people of what our world view is all about — its fundamental principles, including the idea that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. We have to remind people to look at the language of the founding documents to accurately discern what is meant by the term "rights," and the fact that with rights come responsibilities — something that is rarely discussed.

MP: There are nine GOP gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota so far, all of whom call themselves conservatives. Has anyone particularly impressed you? 

KK:
At this point I'm just watching. It's so early. I think we need some time to see how the candidates develop their programs. I do think it's interesting how we hear from the media how conservative and right-wing the Republican candidates are. That's a typical kind of ploy, a sort of sleight-of-hand that they [the media] often use. I see this happening with [Gov. Tim] Pawlenty. We're hearing now what a right-wing guy he is. In fact, he's done a number of things that have upset conservatives.

MP: Can you be specific?

KK:
I love Tim Pawlenty and I support him strongly. But take his push for ethanol, or his support for drug importation from Canada. Many conservatives took him to task for these things. But talking up "green energy" is the kind of thing that a lot of people say you have to do to get elected in an agricultural state. On balance, Pawlenty is a wonderful fiscal conservative and a staunch social conservative.

MP: How would you rate the Obama presidency so far? And where do you think he's trying to take us?

KK:
He's a guy who has minimal experience outside of Chicago politics — and people were saying Sarah Palin was inexperienced and unqualified to lead the nation!

Obama's voting record was the most liberal of any member of the Senate. It's no surprise to me how quickly his popularity has plunged. People are seeing who he is. He's at the left end of the liberal spectrum, certainly. He is an elitist, he is somebody who doesn't know what it's like to, say, run a mom-and-pop restaurant. He doesn't know many ordinary people, he basically knows people like himself — the chattering classes, the intellectual and political elite. These are people who think they are entitled by right to run the country, because they're smarter and more "caring" than the rest of us. 

I think it's astonishing how out of touch Obama and the Democratic leadership are with ordinary Americans. The fact that we are in such dire straits with unemployment, that so many families are truly suffering, you would think this would move a person like Obama, who likes to talk about empathy and compassion and social justice — the usual train of buzzwords that we hear from him. His policy priorities suggest that it doesn't. 

What have we gotten so far from Obama and company? We got the unbelievably expensive stimulus — which has done little or nothing to address our unemployment problem, and we got tax and health care policies that are making our economic problems much worse. Does anyone really think that, with this record, Obama and the feds are qualified to run our health care? 

Job creation — real jobs, not government-sponsored jobs — is on the back burner while the Democrats ram through a government-directed health plan, never mind that two-thirds of all Americans say they are pleased with their current health care. The Obama plan entails huge tax increases that will be disastrous, and will create a terrible drag on the economy. All this will make it harder to increase genuine employment in the coming months.  

MP: What do you think an Obama presidency will be like if health care does not materialize?

KK:
I have a lot of friends who thought that the messiah had come when Obama was elected.  I don't see that same level of enthusiasm among them now. I think people are disappointed, even people on the left. Obama is not a leader in the sense that he's not out in front shaping this health-care bill, at least not visibly. I think that weak, waffling leadership has been one of the hallmarks of his presidency. He's allowed congressional leaders to shape the debate. Maybe that's calculated. On the other hand, he certainly plays rough politically. He takes no prisoners.

I think people are now getting a better idea of who Obama's compatriots really are --- the Rahm Emanuels of the world, the really rough players. Obama rewards his friends and punishes his enemies — and he and his buddies are old hands at using what Saul Alinsky, the radical political activist, called the "politics of personal destruction."

MP: One sees liberal luminaries flocking to people like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or celebrating Che Guevara or Trotsky — the president's own communication director allowed as how she is particularly impressed by Mao Zedong. What is it about the liberal mind that opens itself so readily to this totalitarian impulse?

KK:
That is a very interesting and complicated question. It's a question that's addressed by Paul Hollander in his book, "Political Pilgrims."  Hollander is a Hungarian; a man who saw what life was like under Communism and fled as a young person in 1956. He's now a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Thomas Sowell has written about this question, too, in his fantastic book, "The Conflict of Visions."

I think the illiberalism you're talking about results from a combination of several things. In reality, the world is what you might call a tragic place. Human beings are limited in their abilities, they are greedy, they are lustful. They have violent tendencies. Yet the left tends not to see this, to be utopian in its assumptions about how fully we can eradicate evil and solve social problems. Folks on the left tend to think there's evil in the world because other people — who aren't as well-intentioned as they are — have chosen NOT to do anything about it. Leftists think they know how to end evil in the world, and so the fact that it still exists means that the rest of us just don't have the will, or the good intentions, to solve these problems.

From my perspective, we must face the fact that evil is endemic to the human condition. As a result, we have to celebrate the institutional structures and the cultural beliefs — Judeo-Christianity, for example — that allow us to rise above it and to limit it in certain ways.

Folks on the left would say, all we have to do to solve our problems is "educate" people properly. Obama is a good example. He seems to think, for instance, that we have disagreements with Iran simply because there are misunderstandings between them and us. If only we could talk — use diplomacy — eventually we'd come to an understanding that would satisfy all parties. I say, baloney! The world contains evil people who desire power. You have to have military might — and be willing to consider its use as a last resort — if you want to negotiate successfully with a Saddam Hussein or an Adolf Hitler. 

There are fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives in the assumptions they make about how the world works and about human nature. But I think many on the left also have a profound will to power. They cloak it behind terms like "social justice" and "egalitarianism." Well, we know where that can lead. The will to power — no matter how ostensibly pure the motives behind it are — can lead, in the end, to the sort of utopia that Lenin and Stalin created….

MP: With the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas fresh in our minds, what do you think about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan?

KK:
He's an example of the kind of threat that we must be very concerned about. We still don't have all of the details, but we do know that political correctness got in the way of assessing the threat he posed. There were many warning signs of his Islamist beliefs, and essentially nothing was done. As a result, 13 people lost their lives and 29 were injured. 

It's true, of course, as the military brass have pointed out, that you certainly don't want to tar all Muslim soldiers. We need Muslim soldiers among the brave Americans fighting for our security. We need native speakers of Arabic, and Farsi, in the military. But when you have a clear trail of warning signs, as in Hasan's case, you must absolutely act on that. 

This was a man who was heavily influenced by Islamic extremism, who planned this attack, who shouted "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is great!" before he opened fire. He clearly raised questions on the part of his colleagues and others for many years, and nothing was done. Apparently for reasons of political correctness. 
 
MP: We've talked of different world views in different contexts. What is yours?  

KK:
Well, I believe that truth exists. This is probably the biggest difference between me and some of the liberal — in fact, illiberal — folks we're discussing. They live in a world of relativism. Unlike them, I think that truth exists, and that our lives should be focused on pursuing that truth. I think that good and evil exist, though sometimes there are gray areas. Anybody who fought on Okinawa or helped to liberate Buchenwald can articulate what true evil looks like.

I think human civilization is fragile. Today, many of us are not mindful of that. We forget it easily because we live in a place that's been so stable and prosperous for so many years. I think we should feel terrific gratitude toward those who came before us. Everything we have is a result of their sacrifice, work and discoveries. Here, I guess I'm a populist, as well.  I believe in common sense. I agree with Bill Buckley that we are better off being ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the Harvard faculty.

In my view, one reason that Obama's political class — the political and cultural elite — has the power it does is that we live in a media-dominated world where articulate people have great power. The average person doesn't have that sort of ability — or public opportunity — to express himself. What he does have, however, is prudential wisdom, a knowledge base that comes from his experience, from tradition — or what has been called the "democracy of the dead."

MP: Religion is a constant theme in your writing and your conversation. How have your beliefs shaped the way you think?

KK:
There was a sort of Catholic presence in my family, but not much more….

It wasn't until I went to Notre Dame that I really began to see the value of my religion. I had grown up hearing that religion is a crutch, that it's for people who can't face the world. In other words, for people who aren't very smart, aren't very strong. But when I got to Notre Dame, I found that the smartest people I met there were thinking Christians. I came to see that the Catholic Church is about faith and reason, and the way these two complement one another; how faith is informed by reason, and how reason uninformed by can be dangerous.

When I say dangerous, I'm thinking of the Nazi doctors who experimented on concentration camp inmates, and of Lenin. These are people who did terrible things in the name of reason and of science….

My religion also helps to shape my view of the human condition, what Thomas Sowell has called "the tragic vision." Christianity teaches about the Fall, about Original Sin, and that's a way of saying we human beings are limited in our abilities, that we must struggle constantly to overcome our negative impulses. Natural Law is an important sub-stratum of my thinking. I believe that life has purpose and meaning, and that it is not an accident. If it were an accident, why should anyone care about doing — or discerning — what is right? How could you even think in terms of good and evil? Those words make no sense if you believe that the world, the cosmos, is here by accident.

My Christianity shapes my view of man, of what he is capable. We have the capacity to reason, a desire for wisdom. At the same time, though, we have the capacity for selfishness, for self-delusion. I think this is one of the differences between people on the left and those of us on the right: We tend to think that our opponents are mistaken, that they are well-intentioned but wrongheaded. They, however, tend to think of us as not just wrong, but evil — of having bad intentions or, at best, being uncaring. You certainly see that in some of the comments about my recent same-sex marriage column….

I believe in the importance of hope. From a Christian perspective, human beings are pilgrims, we are on a journey, and we don't need to invest too heavily in the problems of the day because our hope is an eternal hope. Hope can be immensely helpful in virtually all situations. I came to understand that more fully when I read "The Lord of the Rings," which I think is an extended treatise on the virtue of hope. The book makes clear the value and importance of hope, and the importance of resisting despair. It also demonstrates that hope is a form of humility. In other words, the way things turn out doesn't depend on me, doesn't all ride on me, but that there is something greater.

Part One: Katherine Kersten on liberals, same-sex marriage and life at the Star Tribune

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Comments (37)

Just for fun and the sake of harmony, today I'm going to list a few things I agree with Kersten on.

1) There is truth. Liberals get sunk in the relativism thing too much.

The difference is, Kersten thinks truth was dictated by God and can be learned by reading an inconsistent work of fiction written by itinerant goat-herders two thousand years ago. I think truth is the end result of rational thought based on empirical measurements of the natural world when possible.

2) There are times when Islam needs to be critiqued. There are aspects of it that can encourage bad behavior for some people. Oh, and it's simply not true.

The difference is I believe this because I'm an atheist and see that Kersten and fundamentalist Muslims are just two sides of the same coin.

3) Lord of the Rings is awesome, and I think her comments about it are totally reasonable.

Michael Bonafield claims that Anita Dunn the White House comm. director admires Mao.

Mr. Bonafield, I hope u realize this is not the Glenn Beck show. Anita Dunn quoted Mao and juxtaposed with a similar quote by Mother Teresa.

This interview by Mr Bonafield was like watching Pat Robertson being interviewed on the 700 Club.

I think he meant Hugo Chavez, not Cesar. But I only know that because I am in charge of the local communist party's subsection on the compulsory memorization of all great leader names. Our plan is to implement memorization of all socialist heroes at the primary school level, hopefully by early next year at the latest. We are currently destroying all textbooks that mention Ronald Reagan. Cesar , Hugo, what's the difference...Kate seems to have been too busy formulating her next generously expository answer to notice.

It is interesting that Ms Kersten believes in the importance of hope because she has the effect of zapping the hope right out of me. I, too, canceled my subscription to the Trib because I did not want to be party to such bigotry. I don't think this is journalism but was really just providing an unquestioning forum--not very thoughtful at all. Why not, for example, ask Ms. Kersten about some of her questionable use of sources? Why not ask Ms. Kersten how she rectifies in her mind, her "love" for Mr. Pawlenty, his cutting healthcare for the needy, and her much talked about faith?
So, I guess I will keep searching for the right place to get my news from, it won't be from this Web site any more. Really that is what most of us want, just the straight news. I am not sure why writers in today's journalism think providing stark points of view is journalism.

Wow, I get the first post. Here's a few quick points.

In assessing the Obama presidency she ignores that fact that the economic crisis started under the Republicans and is rooted in the conservative idea to leave hands off the marketplace and let the people, who she admits are flawed, fallen and selfish rule our economic life unfettered by government control.

She says the public is overwhelmingly opposed to health care reform. On what planet? Dispite all the right wing efforts to whip up hysteria with death panels and other distortions, the public wants and needs reform. She hit the nail on the head on one thing though. What the Republicans really fear is that if the Democrats pass health reform, the public will love them for it and that will entrench Democratic control. For the right this is a control issue.

On one hand she talks about the fundamental flawed, selfish nature of human beings, a point I agree with in great degree, but on the other hand she is opposed to almost every government effort to protect the weak from the powerful, something I think her savior would support since he certainly talked about it more than he talked about gays.

Once again I would like to here her address domestic partnerships for gays. Ok or not Ok? Is she trying to save marriage, which straight people have done the most to destroy, or is she just opposed to any rights for gays. That isn't really my fight but I sense a great hypocracy in her stance on that and other topics. She likes to blame the left and the nonreligious for the weakening of marriage and the rate of divorce but I'm willing to bet the divorce and adultery rates are as high among Catholics and conservatives as among the humanists and liberals.

Kersten says: "We [conservatives] tend to think that our opponents are mistaken, that they are well-intentioned but wrongheaded. They [liberals], however, tend to think of us as not just wrong, but evil — of having bad intentions or, at best, being uncaring."

So, when she compares liberals to Nazis, Lenin, Mao, etc. -- as she did several times in this very interview -- she's NOT calling her opponents evil?

Kersten is a walking, talking mess of inconsistency. (Note that I did not call her evil.)

Does anyone really think that, with this record, Obama and the feds are qualified to run our health care?

I don't know. Why don't you ask someone currently or formerly enlisted in the military. Or perhaps, ask someone over 65 (mother? father) on Medicade.

Oops! My bad. I apologize to everyone, but I inadvertently typed "Cesar" Chavez when I meant "Hugo" in my question to Katherine. An embarrassing mistake, but it's been fixed.

Kersten says: "I think people are now getting a better idea of who Obama's compatriots really are --- the Rahm Emanuels of the world, the really rough players. Obama rewards his friends and punishes his enemies — and he and his buddies are old hands at using what Saul Alinsky, the radical political activist, called the "politics of personal destruction.""

I wonder what her opinion of Karl Rove is? Does she think he's a huggable, fluffy bunny? Maybe, if she would take off her ideological blinders, she would see that Rove was also quite adept* at the "politics of personal destruction."

* Understatement of the decade

Oh, who am I kidding. If a conservative does it, it's good, and if a liberal does it, it's bad.

As of now, there are 74 comments on the first post, only six of which were made by women (maybe one more ... not sure about the commentator named PJ).

Right on track, this post has seven comments, only one of which was made by a woman.

Wonder if the ratio would be the same if KK were male.

Thanks MB for a wonderful interview!

Weird point there Adam Minter.

Thank you for this illuminating interview. I used to think that Kersten was someone with opinions different from my own, but now I can see that she in fact has no idea what she's talking about, even when it comes to articulating her own viewpoints.

A couple highlights for me:

"Lenin ... did terrible things in the name of reason and of science."

You're thinking of Stalin, most likely. If you mean the Red Terror, that was Lenin's admittedly misguided attempt to rid the country of the entrenched elite--which come to think of it sounds more like what Beck and other right-wing ranters are calling for.

"This is probably the biggest difference between me and some of the liberal ... folks we're discussing. They live in a world of relativism. Unlike them, I think that truth exists ... I think that good and evil exist ..."

This is maybe my favorite part, because here's something she says later:

"We tend to think that our opponents are mistaken, that they are well-intentioned but wrongheaded. They, however, tend to think of us as not just wrong, but evil."

Wait a second: I thought your opponents were relativists, and that they didn't believe in good and evil. I thought you believed in good and evil and held exclusive rights to determining what that was. So what you're saying, really, is that someone else you don't agree with has an idea of what's good and what's evil and that it's wrong of them to foist that notion onto your own notions of good and evil? Glad we got that cleared up.

And then there's that part about "I think that good and evil exist." No proof is given for that statement, and then the above contradiction undercuts her viewpoint, but then she says, "I believe that life has purpose and meaning, and that it is not an accident. If it were an accident, why should anyone care about doing — or discerning — what is right? How could you even think in terms of good and evil?"

A brilliant bit of circular logic. Since Kersten's loves using big Latin terms like ad hominem, I'll tell you about this one: it's called petitio principii or begging the question. She posits that good and evil exist, then uses that statement to prove that life has meaning, that there was Original Sin and a Fall, and all kinds of stuff.

Amazing that even being lobbed softball questions like these, Kersten still manages to trip herself up in the answers. I guess if you give someone enough rope ...

From this interview, I have learned that KK is a fan of "The Lord of the Rings." As a fellow fan of the book myself, I have newfound respect for the columnist.

I can't help wondering, however, if one of us is secretly rooting for Mordor to win...

I'm going to go out on a limb here, Mr. Minter, and say ... yes? Or maybe even more men?

I don't get your thesis.

Look out Minter! The only woman on this series of posts said she's going to stop reading here. It wa already 14 to 1 in male/female posts and now this! I vote for you as least relevant poster.

Besides if Kersten is a good Catholic as she implies, then she surely knows that the man is the head of the household and women should wear scarfs and keep their mouths shut. After all Jesus and the 12 disciples were all men and the Bible clearly refers to God as he.

"What is it about the liberal mind that opens itself so readily to this totalitarian impulse? "

Congrats, MinnPost. Two years spent building up credibility, and a bunch of it gets totally shot in one puffy interview.

This is a puff piece. Was it the editor here or Kersten who determined that it would be so? I agree with many other that this is discouraging and I'm glad I didn't become a member. I don't mind hearing her views but there was no rigorous debate here, just a forum for her usual opinion.

I have been reading this web site for a few months and enjoyed it. Also I am a sucker for getting caught up in these big debates like this one and the long string of posts on the stadium controversy. But I didn't come here to argue.

Had the questioner not been one of her fans but an intelligent, but respectful opponent, we could have had a great story. Here it's just fuel for the usual political fires.

There's nothing new in this interview if you've read Kersten's body of work elsewhere. Pronouncements of the death of MinnPost's credibility are overwrought hyperbole. If they hire Kersten as a regular columnist, I'll join you.

Note to Adam Minter: We'd really have to look at the overall gender proportions of commenters (overall and specifically on MinnPost.) I would guess that both of these samples lean heavily male, regardless of the subject.

No Mr. Bonafield, I would say your mistake has been one of turning liberals into hoary cliches, making them into fans of Trotsky, Mao, Hugo Chavez, etc. I can't wait to try out the reverse of your interview question sometime with a straight face: "One sees conservative luminaries flocking to people like Pinochet in Chile, or celebrating Mussolini or Nixon — the governor's own communication director allowed as how he is particularly impressed by Attilla the Hun. What is it about the conservative mind that opens itself so readily to this dictatorial impulse?

The delusional interviewing the delusional.

This all reminds me of the current film Flame and Citron about 2 Danish resistance fighters. There is a standoff between 2 opponents and one delivers something to this effect. "Some join the military for career advancement, some join it for love of country. That soon passes those who join it for the battle, for hate those are the good fighters."

Michael Bonafield did a real puff job on KK. But then one can make a pretty safe guess that KK would not have agreed to anyone else interviewing her. Thats like Sarah Palin. She only gives "detailed" interviews to Fox.

A year or two ago KK went on a twin cities rant about how political correctness was being shoved down the throats of students in Universities. Coincidentally the biggest story in the news at that time was how the evangelicals in Colorado Springs were having a field day at the Air Force academy. It was a national story. But from KK's mouth. Not a word about it.

These two pieces on Kersten greatly illustrate just one thing. If you put someone in a medium -- newspaper, TV, website -- who says incorrect and outlandish things, people will comment on it. Therefore, news media should move more toward outlandish statements rather than real news because readers are the single most important thing.

Well, at least those that haven't already done. Which up until Wednesday pretty much was MinnPost and the New York Times.

I give MinnPost credit for trying to explain the inexplicable, though.

"He is an elitist, he is somebody who doesn't know what it's like to, say, run a mom-and-pop restaurant. He doesn't know many ordinary people, he basically knows people like himself — the chattering classes, the intellectual and political elite."

Really? This is what turns off so many people, not the fundamental differences between the parties. How is it that Ms. Kersten can express with such certitude that President Obama doesn't know many "ordinary people"? And how exactly is it decided that someone is "ordinary" as opposed to being "elitist"? Is he an elitist simply because he is smart and articulate?

The usual drivel.

Woman alert! Woman alert!!

It seems to me that Katherine Kersten lives to be incendiary, not to inform. I said a variation of that on the earlier post.

And I will say again that because the noise from the radical right is so extreme, the left has two choices (selected for them by the right): (1) raise their own volume in order to be heard; (or) (2) STFU.

You may be certain that (2) is not an option.

Has it occurred to anyone yet that if the people ever back away from the noise and start talking to/listening to each other, much might be accomplished? That is the greatest fear of the fear-mongers. It is why they keep stirring the pot. To keep us from rational, civil conversation with each other.

Kersten is an especially interesting pot stirrer because she says completely outrageous things in grammatically complete sentences, which is not the modus operandi of most radical right extremists.

I read her writing occasionally in much the same way I used to ingest cod liver oil as a kid. Wretched stuff, supposedly good for us (balance, you see), and no one can be proved to have died from it. Yet.

And btw, piling on Minn Post is killing the messenger.

This series was a truly infuriating read. It seems as if each and every sentence requires some sort of response. Kersten's poor reasoning, dogmatic thinking and mean-spirited, passive-aggressive attacks on people or institutions with whom she disagrees are extremely unattractive.

But I believe that to be the point of her public persona. And so I will not expend any further portion of my existence singing into this particular darkened hallway.

As a final word, let me say that it is her deep-seated need to divide the world into two opposing camps that I find most disheartening. Must everyone be regarded as an "us" or a "them"?

There is some evidence that this type of need is built right into our species and has served us well in terms of natural selection. But it is also one of the least attractive aspects of our nature, and therefore one which our aspirations for betterment should lead us to minimize or avoid altogether.

Kersten claims in this interview to have friends who disagree with her. For their sake, I hope they realize the depth of her contempt for them.

And my hope would be that she can find a sports team to root for, thus freeing her to seek genuine ways to bridge such rigid and harmful divisions in the rest of the world.

Kersten says: "But when I got to Notre Dame, I found that the smartest people I met there were thinking Christians."

Did the women at Notre Dame do any of that thinking? If so, the Bible says that was a no-no: "Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings." 1 Corinthians 14 34:35

Yeah, the Bible says homosexuality is a no-no, and Kersten and others use that to justify their opinions on the matter.

But the Bible say a lot of crap, including the extremely sexist passage I quoted that clearly states that Kersten and all other women should "be submissive, just as the law says."

The trouble with using biblical inspiration to justify one's opinions is that this leads to some pretty abhorrent beliefs, such as submissive women, stoning adulterers to death, keeping slaves, killing people who work on the sabbath, and denying equal rights to gays.

As my mother used to say, "Love me, hate me, but don't ignore me." The day when pseudo thinkers like Kersten with their thinly veiled hate-spewing nonsense will go away is when no one cares what they have to say. Don't take the bait and don't engage, because that's exactly what she and the folks who giver her a forum want.

I would welcome the opportunity to have a real exchange with conservatives who are interested in dialogue. Kersten is clearly not one of them. A waste of time.

I must say that I find "opinion writing" fascinating. No where in this article, either part one or part two, is there a single fact substantiated by a source. No where in the long series of posts made in response to these articles is there a single substantiated fact. No debate is present with torts and retorts, just a loosely connected series of pronouncements.

"Nice work if you can get it," as the lyric goes, but not helpful in advancing civic dialog.

Mr. Pease, please give an example to substantiate your contention that noone has presented facts to prove their points. This would seem basic to substantiate YOUR comment.

As for the lack of women responding with comments: I have noticed the same phenomenon and also wonder why that is so. (I can prove that by counting!)

Wow.. where to start.. What a horrible interview.. Michael J. Bonafield should be ashamed of himself.. what a fluff piece

#1 - The stimulus bill was put in motion by Bush, and passed under Obama.. it was only necessary because of the lack of governence that was stripped away in the past 8 years by the republicans. It should have been passed well before Obama took office, but just like Katrina, Bush was too busy clearing brush or reading books about pet goats to give da*n about anyone else.
#2 - I agree that T-Paw has been uber conservative when spending money.. but he's left this state in shambles. Basically, he's stopped spending money on everything.. Infrastructure, schools, local counties.. everything is bankrupt.. he's even pushing off the budget problems from this year to the next governor.. If this is what you call fiscal responsibility, then I want nothing to do with it.
#3 - Why does every political right-wing nut job have to involke the imagery of Nazi's or Hitler?
#4 - Why do the conservatives think you have to run a business, or in KK's words "run a mom-and-pop restaurant" to be a successful President?
I've owner two businesses, and I in no way feel qualified to run the country.. In my mind there is a considerable difference. In fact, given our last President, I'm pretty happy having a constitutional lawyer in the office.
#5 Quote: "What have we gotten so far from Obama and company? We got the unbelievably expensive stimulus — which has done little or nothing to address our unemployment problem"--Did you not see the Oct 30th report that states a conservative estimate of 650,000 jobs were created and/or saved? WTF-Do you not read the news?
#6 Quote: "I think it's astonishing how out of touch Obama and the Democratic leadership are with ordinary Americans." -- so, who from the Republican party do you consider to be in-touch with Americans? George W. Bush who took a limo to school everyday? Do you think he understand's what it's like to work 60-80 hours a week, and still worry about more layoffs at work? Of course not, out of his first two terms he spent over 1200 days either at Camp David, or at his ranch in Texas.
#7 Quote: "If Obama and company can create a huge, new middle-class entitlement of the kind they're pushing over the objections of the majority of the American people, I suspect they think they can create a base that will not desert them for decades." -- Yeah, that's it.. it's a conspiracy to get people to vote democratic for the next 10 years.. It's not because people are dying in the US everyday from not having proper healthcare; while corporatations make billions of dollars. Talk about being out of touch with reality.. KK, do you pay for healthcare? Do you know how much it costs to insure a family--and how little it really covers? The "left" is not doing this to get re-elected.. they are doing it becuase it's the right thing to do..
#8 Quote: "We conservatives have to keep reminding people of what our world view is all about — its fundamental principles, including the idea that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights." -- So you endorse what former President Bush did to our rights?
#9 Quote: "Folks on the left would say, all we have to do to solve our problems is "educate" people properly. Obama is a good example. He seems to think, for instance, that we have disagreements with Iran simply because there are misunderstandings between them and us" -- KK really doesn't understand this basic concept: We need to start making inroads in these countries and start doing business with them. It's much harder for people to demonize each other and fight when them when you have an open dialog and can converse. You don't just go around calling people an "Axis of Evil" and then make up reasons to go to war with them (ok, well maybe some of us do)

#10 Lastly, quit using "My Christianity"; it's not yours.. you don't own it... and you certainly don't represent either myself or my faith.

What Cory Mattson said above. Plus this:

11. How can someone smart enough - Mrs. Kersten - to earn an advance degree from Yale and a law degree from the Univerity of Minnesota, imply that Sarah Palin is as qualified to lead the nation as the articulate constitutional lawyer now doing so?

12. Mrs. Kersten chides "people on the left" for demonizing "people on the right" like her.

I'm certainly not the judge of Mrs. Kersten herself, but I believe there is something approaching evil in the intellectual dishonesty that smart people like herself and Bill Buckley traffic in.

The Buckley quip she cites - "that we are better off being ruled by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone directory than the Harvard faculty" -is cute, but a ridiculous fantasy; typical of so much that Buckley said. Buckley had to know it. So must Mrs. Kersten.

I'm confused. Mr. Bonafield says, "I inadvertently typed 'Cesar' Chavez when I meant 'Hugo' in my question to Katherine."

So did he "interview" Kersten or did he engage in a typed correspondence with her?

Mr. Bonafield: Please see www.cepr.net for the 8 years' worth of columns in which Mark Weisbrot demolishes the lies of the Bush administration one by one as they are issued, including the US-supported coup attempts which failed to get Mr. Chavez ousted from office.

Check out, too, corporate/IFM/World Bank thinking of Latin America as ours to exploit by sucking dry their natural resources, polluting their environments and underpaying their workers. This is what is making life hard for the leaders of countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador as we continue to favor wealthy elites over indigenous populations.

Honduras is but the latest example. We seem to have accepted Micheletti's decision to leave the country during the election so as to let the election proceed without fuss. In reality, he is leaving his US School-of-Assassins-trained administrative goons and military in charge of every ballot box and voting place and the US should be letting Micheletti know right now that we will not accept the results of an obviously controlled election.

Your question about liberals who admire South American leaders is very obviously not just conservative but as right wing as it can be.

The answer to Charles Quimby's question: Mike did a face-to-face interview and taped the conversation. He later mistyped the name when transcribing the tape.

"What is it about the liberal mind that opens itself so readily to this totalitarian impulse?"

And what is it about the conservative mind that feels so compelled to falsely associate political enemies with boogeymen like Chavez and Mao? Could one also ask a similar question about Pat Buchanan's love for Hitler, arguing that this proves some kind of "totalitarian impulse" among conservatives? This is the most laughable question I've ever seen.

And, Ms. Kersten, are you actually trying to say that Nazi doctors and "Lenin" prove that "reason uninformed by faith can be dangerous"? You must be joking, right? Have you no recollection of the faith-based atrocities committed during, say, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, and literally thousands of other instances of torture, murder and other abuse committed against Jews, heretics and nonbelievers in the name of "faith," particularly in the name of your beloved Catholicism? How do we explain these away? Can we conclude, then, that faith is dangerous? The fact is that secular men and women who stand up for the rights of all have a much longer and stronger track record of doing good than any religious group.

As if it hadn't already been proven over and over again, this pathetic interview proves once and for all that Kersten is so delusional, so disconnected from reality, as to have no shred of credibility among thinking people.