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Prof. Harry V. Jaffa, Founder of Modern American Conservatism
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Last week the death of Harry V. Jaffa at age 96 was met by exuberant detailed tributes in sources extending from the New York Times and Washington Post to the major organs of the Murdoch media. Jaffa was hailed as an influential conservative theorist, the founder and driving force behind the heavily endowed Claremont Institute, and the author of widely read works on Abraham Lincoln, the American Founding, and the concept of equality. Although I could not imagine a single issue on which the deceased and I could possibly have agreed (except that Hitler and Stalin were not particularly nice men), I fully agree with all the tributes stressing Jaffa’s contribution to what is now considered the American conservative movement. This present movement would have been far less substantive without Jaffa’s rhetorical and conceptual contribution.

Indeed when such journalists as Rich Lowry casually observe that Jaffa may have been the key thinker for their movement and when they rate his book on Lincoln as the single most significant book in molding their ideas, the compliments are fully justified. All other contemporary thinkers pale into insignificance, beside Jaffa, thanks to his exposition of equality as the prime “conservative principle.” More than forty years ago I stood with Russell Kirk in front of his library as he showed me an anthology on conservative voices (put out by WFB) which included Jaffa. “This man shouldn’t be here,” remarked Russell with obvious irritation. In point of fact neither Russell nor I would belong to the future of a movement that became closely identified with Jaffa’s thinking and which by the 1970s had come to reshape the thinking of the founder of National Review.

In comparison to Jaffa’s emphasis on America as a permanently revolutionary society based on human rights and dedicated to spreading its founding principles and its example as a propositional nation, all other statements of conservatism since the 1950s have hardly counted. Such Jaffaite god terms as “democracy,” “equality” and “universal rights” now dominate serious conservative discourse, that is any discourse on the official right that reaches beyond such phrases as “let’s fix Obamacare!” or “Obama doesn’t really believe in American exceptionalism.” It would be no exaggeration to describe Jaffa’s formative role for the present conservative movement as being comparable to that of Marx as an architect of communism.

Having sounded my hymn to Jaffa’s achievement, it may be necessary here to admit that I can find nothing even remotely conservative about anything he taught. In fact as the late Sam Francis and M.E Bradford both pointed out, there is nothing in Jaffa that is not quintessentially leftist. What Jaffa and his acolytes have done is rearrange labels so that what was historically associated with the Left has now been renamed “conservatism.” At the same time figures who identified themselves as leftists, like Martin Luther King, have been assigned conservative bona fides, and groups like antebellum Southern landowners have been attacked as either similar to the communists or as value relativists. What started out looking like a word game was turned by Jaffa and his disciples into something far more cataclysmic. It was a total remaking of the Right into a subgenus of the Left, combined with certain biographical peculiarities that may have been drawn from Jaffa’s New York Jewish background, for example a hyperbolic Zionism, revulsion for the Germans and Russians, and a commitment to America as a society bottomed on universalism and equality.

What linked this faux conservatism to an older post-World War Two tradition was Jaffa’s attempt to make the Left identical with value relativism. Having written widely on this subject, I can find no evidence for the supposition that leftists are “value relativists” as opposed to moral fanatics. But since Jaffa picked up his value position from his teacher Leo Strauss and seems to have tenaciously held on to it, it was dragged into the mix that came to characterize his new, winning brand of “conservatism.” Presumably those who disagreed with Jaffa, including traditional European conservatives, were or are moral relativists or (Heaven forfend!) “historicists,” that is, people who presume to look at historical situations in understanding political and cultural institutions instead of trying to inflict the Jaffaite Bed of Procrustes on the entire human race. Although neither Jaffa nor I care much for Woodrow Wilson, our reasons for this dislike are utterly dissimilar. Unlike Jaffa, I lament Wilson’s foreign policy and crusades for democracy; Jaffa and his followers, by contrast, deplore the one thing about Wilson I respect, namely, his attempt to understand rights as historic accretions rather than as attachments with which individuals everywhere enter the world, and which American journalists and politicians are presumably equipped to enumerate.

Moreover, since Jaffa also maintained intermittently that America’s uniquely revolutionary society had roots in ancient and medieval sources, particularly the Old and New Testaments, Aristotle and Aquinas, it was possible to present him as a selective perpetuator of the past as well as an advocate of a global democratic revolution originating in the US. Certain ambiguities and interests in his writing have been useful in widening the appeal of his doctrines. Those followers of Jaffa I’ve come across over the years have been mostly observant Roman Catholics; and when they oppose gay marriage and abortion, their stands may have more to do with their religious backgrounds than their Jaffaite credo. But taking these stands has certainly not hurt their membership in the club, providing they also embrace Jaffa’s American ideology and certain indispensable positions, like “being good on Israel.”


The success of this school of thought, quite broadly understood, may have more to do with its timeliness than its philosophical coherence or historical objectivity. It offers narratives and positions that fit the practical needs of GOP operatives who are eager to exhibit their sensitivity to minority issues and who wish to identify their “conservatism” with onetime standard left-of-center views. Such people hope to present their stands, even while shilling for multinational corporations, AIPAC, and the defense industry, as being fully consistent with universal rights and the principle of equality. GOP journalists also want to coexist with a leftist media establishment, at least to the extent that they are not treated, like Marine Le Pen and Pat Buchanan, that is, as moral lepers. What better way to do this than to affirm “conservative values,” which are really leftist ones in differently wrapped packages.

The last thing I wish to do is understate what Jaffa did to fill the needs I’ve described. I could not imagine myself doing anything even as remotely ingenious as what Jaffa has achieved as a purveyor of ideas. This thinker or myth-maker (he was both) has made good on a claim he once divulged to his boyhood friend from the Bronx, the late Francis Canavan, S.J. Jaffa told the then already eminent theologian and Burke-scholar in a moment of candor: “Frank, I’m inventing a myth and I’ll make people believe it.” I learned of this story while Father Canavan and I were attending a Burke conference about twenty years ago. The Jesuit scholar mentioned it not to disparage Jaffa but to express admiration for someone who achieved what he said he would do when they were both much younger.

Finally it would be misleading to try to view Jaffa simply as the head of a particular group of Straussians, who were located in the Southwest part of the US. Contrary to what the mainstream Straussians tell us, Jaffa and his disciples are not merely a cluster of sectarians who broke off from the main body of Strauss’s followers, that is, from those who branched out from the University of Chicago and who are identified with such celebrities as Allan Bloom, Walter Bern, Harvey Mansfield, Thomas Pangle and Michael Zuckert. Whatever the hermeneutic differences between these schools, and as an outsider looking in they seem to me piddling, the groups often publish in the same places and praise each other’s work.

More to the point, the Jaffaites are more tightly organized than other Straussians and come together almost ritualistically to adulate their founder and leader. While in attendance at one of their gatherings, I noticed the absence of females, the predominance of military types, and the conspicuously robot-like behavior of most of the attendees. Those meetings of far left groups I attended as a graduate student were lively, spontaneous affairs in comparison to the “informal” collection of Jaffa’s followers I wandered into during an American Political Science Association gathering. Anyone who can elicit such submissiveness from his followers, once having organized them on the basis of leftist myths, has achieved a remarkable success as a cult-leader.

Moreover, no other disciple of Strauss has achieved such a hold over the conservative movement (no, not even the best-selling author Allan Bloom). Nor is the fact that Professor Jaffa contributed to the speech that Barry Goldwater delivered as Republican presidential candidate in 1964 in any way responsible for his mesmerizing effect over the Beltway Right. Jaffa rose to prominence in the conservative movement in the 1970s, when the time was ripe for his ideology. Presumably he was not the only figure selling equality and human rights as “conservative principles.” The fact that his formulation worked so well for “conservatism’s” shakers and movers speaks volumes about his abilities and persistence. For all our differences, I admired his energy and charisma, and if anyone with his views was destined to redefine “movement conservatism” it might as well have been Harry Jaffa.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Conservatism, Harry Jaffa 
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  1. I’ve noticed that how influential any given ideas are tends to have a lot to do with how much money is promoting them. There was Big Money behind Jaffa, just as there is Big Money behind the “libertarian movement”, a movement which turns out to promote most of the same ideas Jaffa did. National Review has likewise drifted steadily and inexorably to the left over time under the gravitational pull of Big Money.

  2. the liberal party demonizes whites and pushes most of them away and into the arms of the GOP.

    The GOP pretends to stand up for them but is lying.

    Conservative is another word for liar.

    Liberal is another word for brainwashed.

    The only people who are not brain-dead are the independents and the non-voters.

  3. TomB says:

    First off I think it ought to be noted that this is a great piece by Professor Gottfried. Generous of spirit, as lucid and astute concerning his and Jaffa’s views as can be imagined, and just generally beautifully written.

    That said—and not at all really criticizing it for not going where it wasn’t designed to go—I’d note two fundamental areas of thought that the piece provokes:


    For all of the Professor’s notation of the divide between him and Jaffa note what I at least see as their far more important similarity: While for differing reasons both essentially accept not just the desirability but the need to go about social engineering this way and that. Roughly speaking, for the Professor the desire and perceived need to remain true to societal/civilizational/cultural traditions; for Jaffa for “equality.”

    And then note further the similarity between this line of thinking and that of liberalism/Leftism with its social engineering impulse (if not fetish) just simply one-upping Jaffa’s idea of (attempted artificially manufactured) equality of opportunity to being (equal artificially manufactured equality of results.

    And this similarity seems to me to be more important than all the other differences that arise between them. They are, quite simply but equally either the champions or enablers of the social engineers who have gotten us to where we are.

    But of course there’s another line of thinking entirely whose prime coordinate is liberty, with a moderate version of such libertarianism being that which would attempt to eschew as much social engineering as possible that wasn’t clearly and strongly demanded by the public. (Which I suspect would be relatively little when the frame of the debate is indeed put in terms of social engineering and all its failures and inefficiencies versus “the blessings of liberty.”)


    Moreover, note what seems the pretty undeniable fact of the modern failure of either Gottfried’s preferred politics or Jaffa’s when it comes to combatting liberal/Leftism, with there have been plenty of “conservatives” of both stripes offering same.

    And this is despite what is also fairly undeniable which is the failure of so many nostrums of the winner in all this which has been liberal/Leftism. All those social engineering programs, that is, that nobody but nobody really believes are anything but wasteful and liberty-infringing, for excellent reason.

    By its very definition politics of course involves (if is not absolutely defined by) power, and so one can understand why the vast majority of those draw to politics have a vast common interest in pretending that there is no alternative to them having power. And then there are those who just unconsciously accept the historical reality created thereby of eschewing liberty and vesting power instead in the hands of politicians.

    But, I believe, the contradictions and flaws in that idea are becoming more and more obvious and acute every day. No matter who is touting or effectuating same, and no matter what basis they are doing so upon.

    The public, it seems to me, even without being argued about the benefits of liberty, is ever more clearly rejecting both liberalism/Leftism as well as the two forms of conservatism represented by Gottfried and Jaffa.) Such is the rejection of George Bushism, and such too is the rejection of Obamaism.

    Or, it might be said merely differently, such is the rejection of failurism.

    • Replies: @Greenstalk
  4. Curle says:

    Jaffe’s preposterous proposition that the Declaration of Independence was somehow incorporated into the Constitution turns hundreds of years of Anglo jurisprudence on its head. Bork, correctly, mocked it. And, of course, Jaffe was no jurist and not a particularly competent historian. Donald Livingston’s work is much better both on the philosophy and the history side.

    “Bork and legal scholar Lino Graglia have, in turn, critiqued the Declarationist position, retorting that it is single-mindedly obsessive over the Dred Scott decision and resembles a theology rather than a legal doctrine.”

    • Replies: @leftist conservative
  5. With due respect to TomB , who came not only to praise me but to note presumed similarities between Harry Jaffa and myself, I do not favor “social engineering” for the US, and certainly not in its present state of anarcho-tyranny. I am a strong advocate of a radically decentralized American government that would allow different regions to govern themselves according to their own principles and predilections. This country has become too large and diverse and too oppressively controlled by leftist social engineers, largely indistinguishable political parties and a sprawling administrative class for Jaffa’s propositional nation or great political experiment to continue in the direction in which it has been going–and is likely to move even faster in the future. Although I am not against powerful states as a matter of principle, I find nothing in the present American ruling class that is worth holding on to.

    • Replies: @Thomas O. Meehan
  6. @Curle

    The Declaration of Independence was straight-up propaganda from the best propagandist of the upper class–Jefferson.

    Madison was the evil plutocrat who designed the best tool of the upper class-the federal constitution. In madison’s words, it was designed to cripple democracy and thereby “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” Who was the minority of the opulent? Well, Madison (who was worth about 100 mill in today’s dollars once he got his inheritance), Washington, Morris, and most of the rest of the Founding Plutocrats.

    “A republic if you can keep it.”

    LOL. Translated, that means, “a pseudo-democracy, if you can keep enough citizens brainwashed.”

    They have definitely succeeded so far….

    • Replies: @Maj. Kong
  7. Never heard of Jaffa.

    This overview of his work gives me the impression he tried to square circles; to speak with Straussian obscurity.

    I can’t respect that approach because it does not respect the reader’s/listener’s ability to apprehend what is really being advocated. The approach of ‘discourse by obscurity’ lacks courage; it’s sneaky, and somehow guilty without taking full responsibility for what it advocates.

    Don’t piss on me and try to convince me it’s the gentle drops of rain of the quality of mercy.

    Here’s an example of commentary I CAN respect, from a 2012 article titled How Chanukah Became an American Myth by Rabbi Ben Hecht:

    I do not mislead myself into thinking that tolerance was the battle cry of the Maccabees. They were not fighting for the American value of freedom of religion; Chanukah is not a celebration of the victory of such a battle. That is an American myth. The holiday actually marks a war between two theological and/or philosophical entities, each wishing to be victorious and to establish their system as the singular base of their shared society.

    What Judaism celebrates with the holiday of Chanukah is that the Jewish side won, not the American myth of a victory for the cause of generic religious freedom. . . .

    Judaism is not Roman Catholicism and Roman Catholicism is not Judaism.

    Hyphenating god, a la “Judeo-Christian” makes as much sense as painting a wall Black-White. They are different. I can respect differences. I reject the attempt to redefine and thereby conflate and confuse what I believe in terms of what another believes. Shame on Fr. Canavan.

    • Replies: @Tony
  8. Wally says: • Website

    [This is your FINAL warning against endless sock-puppetry, i.e. posting comments under a huge variety of different names. Henceforth any of your sock-puppet comments I happen to notice will be summarily trashed]

    — Ron Unz

  9. I have no idea why the last blogger, after making a number of sound observations, ends his comments with the mystifying words “Shame on Fr. Canavan.” The late Fr. Canavan, to my knowledge, never expressed views that indicated that he agreed with Jaffa’s myths. He simply acknowledged his childhood friend’s skill in producing certain narratives and making others accept them. From his remarks to me, I presume Fr. Canavan viewed Jaffa’s skill with a certain condescending amusement.

    • Replies: @solontoCroesus
  10. @TomB

    TomB, you cannot have any society without there existing some degree of what some people will call “social engineering”. The libertarian system, which is heavily dependent on judge-made law, requires just as much “social engineering” as any other, and more than some.

    One of the dangerous aspects of Jaffaism is its reliance on a vaguely defined “natural law” which is presumed to override democracy, republicanism, and constitutions. In this respect Jaffa is more similar to the libertarians than to the conservatives.

    Many Christians seem to latch on to Jaffa’s mentioning of Aquinas and natural law as a sign that he’s on the Christian side. In reality all Jaffaism provides is a system, one in which decisions are made by a small elite pronouncing on what “natural law” requires. This elite is just as likely, or probably a lot more likely, to “discover” a natural law right to gay marriage as they are a natural law right against abortion.

  11. Maj. Kong says:
    @leftist conservative

    Howard Zinn, I presume?

    Oligarchy isn’t a bad thing, the problem is the values of our oligarchy. Would had Harvard remained as true to Calvinism as BYU to Mormonism, we would be better off.

  12. @paul gottfried

    Joseph Campbell distinguished “myths” from lies.

    In Campbell’s formulation, which I find meaningful and important, myths hold cultures together. Epics, such as Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Shahnameh, provide the common frames of reference for the peoples whose story they tell and whose values they elucidate.

    It appears that Jaffa’s “skill” was not so much in creating Myths to Live By but rather, um, distortions of reality in order to bring about a destructive, er, ‘revolutionary’ goal.

    Phil Zelikow, guardian of the 9/11 commission report, specialized in myth-propagation (in the Jaffa sense, not the Campbell sense).

    My anger with Canavan is actually a displacement: I had just listened to Jeff Rutherford, of Wheeling Jesuit university (hence the Jesuit connection) discuss his book that focused on Germany’s 121st Infantry Division. In my opinion Rutherford suffers from HDS ™ , or merely sloppy scholarship. For example, he states that

    “When the121st I[nfantry]. D[ivision] [of Army Group North] moves into Pavlosk . . . One of the first things that happens is the town’s Jewish population is murdered. But the documents I looked at, it is not clear who did the murdering.
    But it is clear that SS units attached to Army Group North are in the town, so it’s fair to say they are the ones that carried it out.”

    I don’t think it is at all “fair to say” that Germans “carried out” the murder of Jews.

    1. Obviously, Russians and Bolshevik Russians were in the area, and it is well established that Russian Bolsheviks would not be averse to killing Jews or any other peasant Russian group, particularly if it could be blamed on Germans — see Katyn.

    2. This is startling, I know, but I’ve heard it twice in the past week or so, the first time in a speech by Michael Ledeen on Machiavelli and Leadership, and the second, from comments by Rabbi Daniel Lapin in a panel discussion titled Jewish Philosophy and Politics

    The passages will be quoted extensively to provide the full context and flavor. They are the words of Jewish and neoconservative leaders who have enormous influence over US foreign policy and over “mythologies” among the Jewish community.

    Here are their words and the sources for them:


    . . . from time to time people would actually say Why [are you writing a book about Machiavelli], and my answer was, Well, he reminds you of all these basic things that we’ve forgotten, like Moses killing all those Jews at Mt Sinai.

    And almost universally people would say, What are you talking about? Because this is the stuff that Machiavelli loves that most people have forgotten, having seen the movie instead of reading the book. [laughter]

    This is the scene, the golden calf — Most people think this is what happens: Moses comes down from Sinai, he’s got the tablets, this idolatry is going on, he throws a snit, smashes the tablet, they calm him down and after some period of time when he calms down he goes up and gets a new set of tablets and then they move on.

    Which is not what happens. What happens is he throws the snit, smashes the tablets and then says Kill them all. And the Levites , and I pay attention to this, being one, and y’know I’m proud of this particular passage, the Levites come and kill them all! All those people who were worshiping the golden calf. Except Aaron who somehow escaped because he had to preserve his DNA for the Lemda tribe in Southern Africa heh heh heh.

    So, and this scene of Moses killing Jews recurs several times in the Old Testament and Machiavelli pays close attention to it, producing one of his most favorite lines, which is, “Anybody looking carefully at Moses has to admit that in order to create a new state and a new religion had to kill countless people.” And he insists on this, that in order to create anything truly meaningful destruction is required because people are not inclined to go for that.

    I mean, Consider the Exodus, that’s topnotch leadership, Moses and god, hard to imagine better leadership than that, plus proven results every step of the way: plagues, parting of the red sea, lights at night across the desert, manna from the skies when you’re hungry. Everything possible.
    And what’s the reaction from the Jews? Always, at the first opportunity they’re ready to go back to Egypt. That happens repeatedly.

    when they get, finally, to the boundaries of the promised land — and I like to remind people of this because it’s the model of today: Everybody is very annoyed today that these formerly Communist countries, are taking so— they don’t seem to get it, about capitalism and democracy. why can’t they understand freedom? well that’s what exodus is all about —

    What happens – they get to the boundaries of the promised land, they organize an espionage operation, Joshua and Caleb and 38 other people go in and snoop around and come back and report good news and bad news: The good news: it’s even better than god said, milk and honey all around, …fabulous, a dream …. Bad news, these people are bigger than we are, superbly well defended and there is no way that we’re going to beat these people.

    And they riot and there’s the usual insurrection against Moses and they demand proper leadership people who will take them back to egypt .

    at this point god says to Moses, Well, I can’t take this anymore, I’m going to kill them all. I’ll take you and joshua and couple of the other guys who seem to be all right and we’ll start all over again. because with these people it’s hopeless. . .

    And Moses talks god out of it as usual and god says Ok, BUT, but not one of these people is going to set foot in the promised land . We’re going to wait for them all to die.

    Rabbi Lapin is a member of a panel headed by Irving Kristol that is discussing the foolishness of Jewish liberalism and the advisability of Jews joining conservative movements and groups. Lapin’s comments arise as the panel — actually, Irving Kristol — responds to a question from the audience, “So how do we solve the problem of liberalism vs. conservatism?”

    Kristol say, “Kill all the liberals. … Kill all the conservatives.”

    Kristol speaks in jest, and everybody laughs.

    Then the rabbi says:

    inasmuch as we are still in the period of post-Passover thinking, I think we can look at Mr. Kristol’s suggestion and vary that just slightly and keep most people happy.

    I don’t think we should kill off all the liberals.

    However, when the Jewish people exited from Egypt and had to make this transition from slavery, which is essentially the ultimate in socialism, if you think about it: you’re slaves to the state; you work so that almost all your income is taken by the state and in return the state will take care of all your needs and it’s just another word for slavery.

    As we moved away from the ultimate of Egyptian based socialism to the freedom of an Israel-based free market economy 3300 years ago it was understood, sadly and tragically but it was understood that we did have to wait for an entire generation to pass away.

    and i think that may be what mr kristol was somewhat lightheartedly addressing.

    (nb: I take serious issue with Ledeen’s version of Machiavelli. That’s beside the point. What Ledeen is talking about is Moses and methods and mythologies from the Jewish tradition. As Ledeen concedes, in Machiavelli’s time nothing like the Levitic destruction of a massive number of people, nor the extinction of an entire generation, was carried out. According to Ledeen, however, such was carried out by and among Jewish people.)

    One of Rutherford’s major theses is that the German leadership acted out of ideology — an ideology of hatred of Jews just because they are Jews. Presumably Jaffa knew that for Aquinas, one of the proofs of god was that he was an uncaused cause. Rutherford asserts that German animus toward Jews was an uncaused cause, but he does not sustain that assertion but merely posits it while eliding and ignoring significant harms that Germans endured either directly as a result of actions of influential Jews; or while Jews among them did not endure the same harms (such as starvation deaths during WWI); or as a consequence of influential Jewish persons pursuing goals of particular and exclusive benefit to Jews at the expense of Germans.

    Presumably, based upon Rutherford’s conviction that Germans acted against Jews out of ideological hatred of them, he is able to persuade himself, absent any evidence, that “it is fair to say that Germans killed Jews in Pavlovsk.”

    However, Rutherford recounts, “later on in the same year ten people in the town are executed for cutting communications cables.”

    Aha. Ten people in Pavlovsk were executed for a reason; a cause, not out of ideological motives.

    On the other hand, as Ledeen and Lapin informed us, in the Jewish myth system, “Anybody looking carefully at Moses has to admit that in order to create a new state and a new religion had to kill countless people. . . . in order to create anything truly meaningful destruction is required because people are not inclined to go for that.”

    For Ledeen and Lapin, mass killing, or awaiting the extinction of an entire generation, is a key part of a defining Mosaic mythos; an ideological imperative.

    The Rutherford – Jesuit linkage is part of what went into my annoyance with the blasé attitude of Fr. Canavan (RIP).

    • Replies: @SFG
  13. Joe Webb says:

    thank god I missed this stuff when I became a racialist conservative. Just bunk, propositional or credo nations…pure vacuous abstractions.

    Race is real, biology is real, evolution is real, genetics are real ….see the Minnesota Twin Study which includes identicals separated at birth and raised differently, and turning out just the same , and the same as identicals raised in the same home.

    Nations largely are ethnic groups that have been separated from other groups over thousands of years and thus have evolved differently due to long-term environmental factors, foundational factors, and genetic drift.

    Finally, the Global North is the home of smart people and the global south is the home of dummies, and all the folks in between are progressively smarter of dumber depending on whether you start from the South or the North.

    This is not just about intelligence, but the Global South vs. Global North, like the identical twin studies, show the effects of genetics.

    I wonder why so many folks just gobble on as if DNA studies, etc. are showing the race factor as huge, if not everything.

    Culture, creeds, abstractions, etc, whether in politics or personal life are just bulldozed by genetics. Anybody who has had children can see this.

    Ideas largely are incorrect ideas, fueled by passions of various types. Start with Evolution, race, biology…and you will start to understand the stuff of politics, human relations, psychology, and your own Self.

    With regard to the self, as we get older we shed identities that have ben culturally programmed by propaganda, various funny ideas of a personal origin, or family origin, and we start listening to our genes. What Feels Right. No Shoulds. No catechisms. Just the long sorting out of myriad stimuli and a consequent arrival at Ripeness, King Lear department.

    We are living under Communism Lite, or Liberal Totalitarianism. Equality is a childish game, but also an important support for Global Liiberalism, the international marketplace,etc. and The Great Homogenizers for Capital. We are All The Same, Equal. This is just marketing and the liberals do well by doing good, of course wrecking the planet ultimately.

    We are standardized parts, ready to be plugged into any economic unit. This brand of Conservatism is a fraud, and I wonder what Jaffa was up to with his Myth. More jewish ignoble lies for Jewish Power?
    Please, just totally worthless junk, except for a Jewish Prince maybe

    Conservatism is race, country, neighborhood, national economy, family, friends and separation of public from private.

    When the history of out times is written…historians will be astonished at our madness and especially the Jewish madness. When in college at Cal back in the 60s, I had three great Jewish profs. One of them Sheldon Wolin, and his book Politics and Vision, which I still have and consult from time to time; Wolin made short work of Jewish tradition and simply stated that it was of no account for Western Political theory. A total non-entity.

    So the Straussians and this guy Jaffa, just pollute the conservative tradition of Europe with Equality, a sure design of destruction for any polity.

    Joe Webb

    • Replies: @Jay B
  14. SFG says:

    Those aren’t random Germans, those are SS.

    The Wehrmacht did its fair share of war crimes, but they weren’t picked for their loyalty to the ideology. I’m sure there were quite a few draftees who were hoping to get through the war alive so they could go back to their wife and schnitzel.

    Honestly, I kind of wonder how useful Nazi comparisons are to the modern day. Very few extant nations are that degree of bloodthirsty, apart from North Korea.

    • Replies: @solontoCroesus
  15. Or, it might be said merely differently, such is the rejection of failurism.

    Please define “failurism” and outline your alternative.

  16. rod1963 says:

    Fascinating article.

    Scratch a GOPer and you find a Straussian.

    The fact that the GOP establishment lionized this gamey character at his expiration ought to give any rank and file member something to worry about. As they don’t do so for those who don’t belong to their club of insiders.

    What I can see, was that Jaffa was a master manipulator who helped reshape the GOP or should I say help it adopt a more PC/MC patina and cover. This bit from the article sums it up nicely.

    “It offers narratives and positions that fit the practical needs of GOP operatives who are eager to exhibit their sensitivity to minority issues and who wish to identify their “conservatism” with onetime standard left-of-center views. Such people hope to present their stands, even while shilling for multinational corporations, AIPAC, and the defense industry, as being fully consistent with universal rights and the principle of equality. GOP journalists also want to coexist with a leftist media establishment, at least to the extent that they are not treated, like Marine Le Pen and Pat Buchanan, that is, as moral lepers.”

    That’s quite a feat to pull off. More importantly to convince white middle-class conservative voters that the GOP actually gives a rats ass about their needs while in reality just giving them lip service and letting them swing in the wind when it comes to actually doing anything.

  17. @SFG

    That’s a fact, SFG, and the core of Rutherford’s argument in “Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front;” namely, that the 121st, 122nd and 123rd armies were “ordinary Germans” who occasionally treated the Russian people in places they occupied with respect and even compassion and collaboration.

    The SS was a rigorously trained and disciplined corps, composed of volunteers not just from Germany but from numerous (ethnicities) and states throughout Eurpoe and North Africa. The NSDAP notions of “racial purity and Aryan superiority” have been dishonestly misconstrued — “mythologized,” in the Jaffa sense — the SS was the most racially diverse of any army that fought in Europe, in contrast to the segregated US Army. Officers trained as rigorously as soldiers, and officers led their divisions into battle — half of all division commanders were killed in action.

    The SS was Germany’s Navy SEALs — Would you characterize Navy SEALs as “bloodthirsty?” Or as highly disciplined trained killers? Does the distinction make a difference?

    The idee fixes with which Hitler charged the SS was to wipe out Communist Bolshevism, which was perceived by Hitler and the German leadership as a threat to all of Europe. From ~1918, when Wilson sent troops to Siberia in an attempt to destroy Bolshevism, through the Cold War, the US shared that idee fixes and fought to eradicate Communism — except for that era when it co-opted Stalinism to destroy Germany.

    Michael Ledeen’s commentary here (~ 24 min.) details how the Mosaic principle — ideology, if you will — of mass destruction and the obliteration of an entire generation in order to create a “new world order” was imposed on the German people, at the insistence of Jewish and other Allied leaders — and bankers & profiteers.

    The mission of the SS was not to destroy Jews just because they are Jews but to destroy Bolshevism, whose leadership and forces were heavily weighted with Jewish persons, because it was an enemy to Germany and Europe. If Hitler had set out to destroy Jews “just because they are Jews” he would have forced Jews to remain in German cities where Allied firebombers targeted and killed 600,000 German civilians and “de-housed” 7 million Germans. How many Jews died in Allied firebombing raids over Germany? Do Holocaust museums memorialize the deaths of Jews killed in Allied firebombing raids?

    Rutherford says that “Jews were murdered in Pavlovsk” and, despite there being no evidence to support the conclusion that Germans did the killing, he asserts that it was the Germans who did the killing because the SS was there. To bolster that evidence-free conclusion, Rutherford cites the case in which SS executed ten villagers from Pavlovsk who had been caught cutting communications lines. That is to say, in the context of war, the Ten were executed for a reason. The Ten were not identified as Jews, nor does Rutherford state that the Ten were killed “just because they were from Pavlovsk,” their deaths were a “military necessity”.

    Several days ago Israel’s IDF killed the Iranian leader of Hezbollah forces near the Golan. They were not killed “just because they were Iranian,” (although the Israelis have, from time to time, reached into Iran and killed young Iranian scientists and other leaders “just because they are Iranian”) but because they were Iranians who were leading a military mission to resist the predations of Israeli occupiers and oppressors. Would you characterize the Israelis as “bloodthirsty,” as “highly trained” — like Navy SEALs, or as ideologues on Ledeen’s Moses-mandated genocidal mission?

  18. Jay says:

    Harry Jaffa was one of my academic advisors at Claremont Men’s (Now: McKenna) College where I majored in Political Science, and graduated in 1971. And yes, I even had a lecture or 2 from Leo Strauss, believe it or not. Sorry, I remain unimpressed, although each did add to my understanding of the creation of the ideology of the Republic. The lesson I drew was (and is) that humans create their own value systems based upon a complex set of psychological factors, and the ideology that is most successful is so because of the power of its followers to spread the message. Further, a successful ideology must in some way lead to further successes, otherwise said ideology will collapse, either from within or from pressure without, such as was the case with National Socialism or Soviet “Communism.” The truth is, I learned more from Sartre and Camus, oh the horror of it!

    • Replies: @Joe Webb
  19. Joe Webb says:

    ” a complex set of psychological factors” is indeed true…but as I perseverate…those factors are primarily genetic.

    What allows Whites , especially myself, to go for “ideologies” of equality is our heavy dose of Altruism, compared to other races. It is called “pathological altruism” these days by the racialist community as it is harming Whites now. In the past, in our European context, it helped build societies/cultures of relative Trust and cooperation.

    This altruism was developed in an historical context of abundant resources, with little need to kill competitors, but to cooperate with them for survival in the ice and cold of the North.

    Other races did not enjoy such material conditions, which allowed or fostered biological traits of altruism. This is a condition that prevailed for, say, 40,000 years or so.

    I was a leftie, anti-communist variety, a personification of High Altruism Factor. But after a half life-time of Experience i started reading books from the Other Shore. If you never read a book, etc. from the Other Shore, you are not really a sane person.

    The best single book on Race today is Rushton’s Race, Evolution, and Behavior. If you want a history of Darwinism in the social sciences, Carl Degler’s, In Search of Human Nature, the Decline and Revival of Darwinism… in the social sciences is a good account of the last hundred years or so of race science. Degler moved from the left, to the right, but the Jewyorktimes recently claimed him (obit) as one of their own. That is another lie. Degler became a racialist.

    Sartre by the way, was a communist while Camus was a great anti-communist. His The Rebel has gone with the wind of Liberalism’s communism-lite, but should be read.

    It is virtually all genetic, and White (what I have expanded into) perverse, promiscuous, and pathological Altruism , PPPA, is the largest factor in the realm of the singular luv-everybodyism of Whites today.

    No other races bothers with such nonsense, but they do cash-in on our White Weaknesses. Especially the Muslims in Europe.

    Then, as Rod 1963 suggests, the Mosaic Straussian Noble Lie is a lie made in Israel for the Defeat of Whites. Simple really. Fill up the White countries with Others to make Jews safer.

    Joe Webb

  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Most of the comments miss the point, and so does Mr. Gottfried! One cannot effectively oppose an overbearing nation state with a number of regional governments, for that is the prescription for petty state rivalry; and there is no effective alternative to the nation state in the modern world of immense military power. Jaffa calls the U.S. “conservative” for the same reason that the founders regarded it as their duty to defend and perpetuate what they wrought. E pluribus Unum, not diversity, is the soul of American government and society. At the memorial service for Prof. Jaffa in Claremont last Friday, there were nearly as many women as men. Since when does “conservatism,” as Gottfried understands it, require quotas? Maybe it’s not surprising that Justice Department race quota fanatics rely on John C. Calhoun’s theory of concurrent majorities.

    • Replies: @Jay
  21. Jay says:

    I still like Sartre: Being or Nothingness. Jaffa wasn’t too sure about this, although I wrote my senior thesis about Camus and Sartre, showed it to Jaffa, to which he replied something along the lines of “Bull shit.” Hmm, at 21 years old, at CMC, that was funny.

  22. I am delighted that a self-described Jaffa student has been able to trace minority quotas back to a nineteenth-century sectionalist landowner, who was defending social hierarchy in the manner of Maistre and other European conservatives of the time. Until five minutes ago I was laboring under the misconception that the civil rights and feminist advocates who gave us special rights for putatively disadvantaged minorities were driven by egalitarian concerns. One learns new things every day. Perhaps the Jaffaite would offer proof for his or Harry Jaffa’s startling linkage. And I have nothing against the federal union in its original design, that is, the old one that American leaders accepted in the 1780s and 1790s. It is only what this regime has degenerated into, an oppressive centralized administrative state, which has smothered any national identity, that I reject. “Propositional nationhood” is neither national identity nor a source of national unity. It is an invention of a government and its media and educational allies which are imposing their own preferred fluid identity on a malleable, heterogeneous population. By the way, I am gratified to learn that women attended the memorial service for Professor Jaffa. I was only providing my own impression when I asserted that I never met a female Jaffaite and that the Jaffaites I’ve met (over the last forty years) mostly reminded me of robots. Presumably there are exception to these generalizations.

  23. S says:

    Great essay. Its always nice to learn something completely new. My favorite line – attachments with which individuals everywhere enter the world, and which American journalists and politicians are presumably equipped to enumerate

    • Replies: @Michael Soren
  24. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    P. Gottfried writes:

    (Jaffa) made good on a claim…divulged to boyhood friend…Francis Canavan… Jaffa told the…eminent theologian and Burke-scholar in a moment of candor: “Frank, I’m INVENTING A MYTH and I’LL MAKE PEOPLE BELIEVE IT.” I learned of this story while Father Canavan and I were attending a Burke conference… The Jesuit scholar mentioned it not to disparage Jaffa but to express admiration for someone who achieved what he said he would do when they were both much younger.

    Whatever J. Campbell says about differences between “myths” and lies, I too am underwhelmed by theologian and Burke scholar Canavan’s apparent “condescending amusement” toward former matey Jaffa’s lifelong mission to bring a “strong delusion” to whatever number of the teeming larvae living off the carcass of the “West” would interrupt their mastication for a drink.

    More usefully, C. S. Lewis and his friend Tolkien helped parched modern imaginations to see the unity of prosaic truth and true myths — myths which are symbolically true, the power of which is that of the Parable. Jaffa’s (and Jefferson’s) myth is a mere lie, with deadly consequences.

    Canavan, as a Burke scholar, might have encountered an obscure quote: “The only thing that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” He might have read also the conviction of Dante that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for… those who do nothing…much. As a theologian, Canavan could have bumped into a (throwaway?) line by Jesus: “I would that you were hot or cold, for the lukewarm I will vomit from my mouth.”

    One can be entirely sure that the last hundred years of molestations and cover-ups were enabled by the “lukewarm” — “good men” who did nothing, but utter an occasional expression of “condescending amusement,” then back to reading Burke, Dante, Moses, St. Paul, Christ…

    My mention of “delusion” above, refers to multiple Old and New Testament passages warning that Divine accommodation is reluctantly made for such as take pleasure in falsehood. What kind of Burke scholar, priest and theologian could fail to go well beyond casual “condescending amusement” of Jaffa’s life-long mission to concoct a false myth and to be “a lying spirit in their ears”…?

    And here I get to my main point. Only in the extreme moral vacuum of what was not long ago the non-leftist majority could such perverse schemes as that of Jaffa, or Marx, or sodomy Stalinism, or gyno-Nazism, succeed. The vacuum has been the absence, across the political and religious sprectra, of anything like “virtue,” in the original sense. “virtus” being specifically masculine moral strength and valor, as “vir” in Latin is “man” but distinct from mere “homo” in that a slave is “homo,” but is not expected to have virtue.

    As vile as the left is, I find nothing very manly whatsoever in any strain of “conservatism,” and neither the racialist, nor the Jaffa-iste, nor any other formula can conceal the lack of manly “virtus” by recourse to pointing over at threats elsewhere.

    I doubt that any of us have observed any remotely useful role models in this regard, though it’s almost impossible for us to acknowledge that. The “men of ideas” in ivory towers and the men of “faith” have failed us grievously. However they might persevere in stoically re-articulating Jaffa, Jefferson, Locke, Burke, Moses, Paul or Christ, they lack valor, virtus. Cleric and Scribe alike are impotent and everyone knows it.

    We are left to pretend to one another that “if only” we were a more “conservative” society — either in the mold of leftist radicals like Locke, Paine, Jefferson and Jaffa who cynically mangled Christian concepts into the vocabulary of their false myth and “made people believe it,” OR alternately, “if only” we were far more racially homogenous population…

    The coming race war will not make a man, “vir,” of anyone. It will merely loose the animal instincts of the racialists and the Jaffa-istas alike. It takes rather more than a gun and an attitude to make a slave into a man, homo into vir.

    Muggeridge has been quoted as saying “We (slaves) don’t believe political lies because they are believable. We believe them because we want to. “

  25. JohnHaskins says: • Website

    I wanted to add a final comment as I sent the comments above, but failed to retrieve it in time. It is this:

    An ancient being tortured by forced observation of any faction of the self-styled “right” (also in the ” churches” or the family, such as they are today) from the perspective of either the Ancient pagans (at their best) or of either Biblical Testament, might use the Latin vir vs. homo distinction and vocabulary of manly virtue and courage and say with unamused condescension “They’re all a bunch of homos.”

    Non-virulent homos. The common thread of all “conservatisms” is the doctrine of non-virulence.

    If you get my meaning…

  26. Tony says:

    solonto, while it is perfectly true that Judaism is not Christianity, it is also perfectly true that Christianity is simply the unfolding fulfillment, with and after Jesus Christ, of the very same religious foundation that Judaism started with. Judaism and Christianity diverged from each other in the first century from the SAME root. That divergence was, in the case of Judaism, the result of at least partially conscious decisions to not be like those darn Christians, to separate themselves from what could have been simply “the other way of understanding our Abrahamic and Mosaic and Davidic tradition.” There is indeed a real sense to the term Judeo-Christian, looking at Judaic thought and practice before the cusp at which they diverged.

  27. Jay B says:
    @Joe Webb

    Hello. I would direct you to the song “God Bless America” written by the NY Israelite songsmith and musical entrepreneur Irving Berlin. This song can be intetepreted in the standard Neocon Way “America, Power, Great” or the Paleocon Way. Now it is not an ethnic nationalist song, which isn’t necessary, since limited groups of immigrants joining the native population, while undesirable to the Klan which hated this song for obvious reasons, is not the same as the fairly recent multiculturalist demographic region cleansing of the Anglo-Scotch West, it respects the native people and is ACTUALLY nation-alist by virture of its homage to the real, organic “Mountains, Praries, and Oceans” of the Midwest to the East. This is by no means showing Berlin as a ethnic nationalist of your type, but the song should be soon as rooted to a sort of nationalism of the non-propositional insanity of the neocons. Berlin obviously thought immigrants and rooted organic nationalism were not incomparable, which you and the neocons equally think. Thank you.

  28. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I never finished my PhD in political science and chose a different career path. But I remained close to my father, Harry Jaffa. We probably talked 4 or 5 times a week for a span of more than 40 years. He would call me and read me what he had written that day, and send me copies of what he had finally decided to publish. We had thousands of hours of conversation on many topics, including many that were not for publication. Paul Gottfried has attributed words to my father — that he was deliberately creating a myth about Lincoln — based on a conversation that he said that he had with a man who is now dead (Frank Canavan) — and therefore cannot be verified.

    It is hard to imagine anything more unscholarly, unprofessional, and unethical.

    My father never expressed any such views with me … and I am quite certain that he never expressed any such views with Frank. There are two possibilities here: one is that Frank Canavan made this up; and the other is that Paul Gottfried made this up.

    When I was about 12 years old, my father observed to me that, if he knew he was going to die tomorrow, and there was no one in the family to care for his children, he would rather pick someone at random by sticking in pin into the Columbus, Ohio telephone book than choose a member of a college faculty.

    Thank you, Paul Gottfried, for reminding me of this.

    Philip B. Jaffa
    [email protected]

  29. @S

    My favorite is “America as a society bottomed on universalism and equality” (emphasis added). Much more accurate than founded. A stronger, though more vulgar, alternative might be assed.

  30. […] I received an e-mail from Paul Gottfried a while back, in response to one I sent him. I don’t know Professor Gottfried and he does not know me. I doubt he knows of this blog. Today, no one thinks twice about firing off an e-mail to a stranger and I’m no different. I sent off my query after reading this column. […]

  31. […] was the heart of the celebrated disputed between neoconservative, Harry Jaffa, and paleoconservative, M. E. Bradford, carried out in the pages of Modern Age in the 1970s. […]

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