When the name “Ratzinger” resounded from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to indicate who would be the next supreme pontiff of the 1.1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, elation burst out in many nations. Across Western Europe and in the U.S., though, particularly among progressive and liberal Catholics, a nearly audible groan could be heard.
That’s how the Los Angeles Times review of John L. Allen’s new book on the election of Benedict XVI begins. Do you need to read anymore?
In case you have any doubt, the first paragraph of the review ends with this sentence: “His election, for many, initially looked like a move back to the Dark Ages.”
Faced with plummeting circulation and management upheavals, the Times still fails in ways large –and in this case small– to see how ever day it sends message after message of contempt for the vast population of California that holds ordinary views of things like religious belief. The Dark Ages? Really? Outside of media elites, who, exactly, believed such nonsense. And who but the Times’ editorial staff could fail to grasp the offense –unnecessary in every way– that such sloppy throw away lines gives to devout and not-so-devout but loyal Catholics?
Tony Blair talks a good talk, explaining the rationale for war far better than President Bush. But he now needs not just to talk but to act. In France, the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, has just expelled another dozen Islamists. By contrast, Mr Blair seems paralysed. In the weeks after 9/11, Mr Bush rethought 40 years of US policy in the Middle East. The Prime Minister has a more difficult task: he has to rethink 40 years of British policy in Leicester and Bradford and Leeds and Birmingham.
He has to regain control of Britain’s borders from the EU and of Britain’s education system from the teachers’ unions and of Britain’s welfare programmes from wily Somalis and others. In 20 years’ time, no one will remember whether Tony Blair abolished the House of Lords or foxhunting: that’s poseur stuff. They’ll judge him on whether or not he funked the central challenge of the times. If “the images of ruin and destruction” come to pass, it will not be because of the bombers but because of a state that lacked the cultural confidence to challenge them.
The Democrats in the U.S. are flunking “the central challenge of the times,” and Daniel Henninger suspects the voters will remember.
Off to D.C.