David Brooks, New York Times columnist and author, was the featured speaker at the opening dinner, Sunday, April 30, of the 2006 Hoover Spring Retreat.
In his talk, "What's Happening to the Republican Party," Brooks said he believes that the differences between entrenched Washington, D. C., policy wonks and elected conservatives from other parts of the country have made it difficult for them to work with one another. President George W. Bush has many good ideas, he said, but there are problems, not only with the war, where mistakes have been made, but with domestic policy. The president, he believes, has never learned to engage the people in Washington, D.C., who exercise authority. "So there is this problem of translating ideas into policies that work that has been one of the biggest problems for the conservatives," Brooks said. "These are failures of government, not ideas." He concluded by saying that he believes that the Republican Party is intellectually strong.
Welcoming remarks were made by John Raisian, Hoover director, and Peter Bedford, Hoover board chairman.
In "Earthly Powers and Sacred Causes: Godless Europe?" British historian and author Michael Burleigh noted that politics and religion have long been contentious in Europe. He lauded the advantage of a separation of church and state in the United States but cautioned about the growing complication of rising Islamic extremism around the world. He said he believes the virtues of Western civilizations need to be reinforced in education and in daily life.
He spoke before dinner on Monday night.
Burleigh specializes in the history of Europe since 1789, especially the history of ideas, politics, and religion. He also studies the psychology and culture of terrorism. Formerly on the faculty of Cardiff University and a visiting professor of history at Stanford in 2003, he is the author of numerous books including The Third Reich: A New History.
This year's retreat featured speakers who examined U.S. policy directions, upcoming elections, and ongoing conflicts from varied points of views.
On Monday, May 1, Hoover senior fellow Michael McFaul appraised the central tenet of President Bush's foreign policy, that of spreading democracy around the world, in his thought-provoking talk, "Promoting Democracy: Should We? Can We?" He noted that many people are opposed to this doctrine but that he believes it is the right approach. Democracy, he said, is the best form of government we have; people living under democratic governments are treated better; and having more democratic countries is in the national security interests of the United States. McFaul warned, though, that promoting democracy will not be easy.
In "Traffic Jams, Slang, and the Value of Your House: The Economics of Intended and Unintended Consequences," Hoover research fellow Russell Roberts explained why public policy doesn't always turn out as expected. "The fundamental reason," Roberts said, "is a misunderstanding of the process that creates the problem." Many people view the solution to problems in much the same way they view music played too loudly by teenagers; they want to find the knob and turn down the volume. However, Roberts pointed out, not all problems have a knob or someone to blame. It's not a person who decides traffic patterns, language usage, or home values, it's the market.
Fox News reporter Major Garrett asked the question "Are Democrats Primed for a Revolution Like the GOP Revolution of '94?" In his remarks he noted that in the upcoming election the Democrats need 15 seats in the House of Representatives to regain control. He noted that some Democratic leaders have expressed to him that they would be satisfied to pick up fewer seats, which would leave Republicans in control but unable to act.
"We live in an instant world," Stephen Bainbridge said, "after Enron we got instant legislation." In his talk "Sarbanes-Oxley: Legislating in Haste, Repenting at Leisure." Bainbridge, professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, discussed how recent legislation enacted following business scandals such as Enron is impeding business development.
Left to right: Hoover senior fellows Michael McFaul, Stephen Haber, and Victor Davis Hanson.
The author of A Wealth of Ideas: Revelations from the Hoover Institution Archives, Bertrand Patenaude, also a Hoover research fellow, spoke about his book. A Wealth of Ideas draws on the extraordinarily rich collections of the Hoover Institution Library and Archives to illuminate and illustrate some of the most important ideas, individuals, and events of the twentieth century.
The mind-sets and worldviews of terrorists were discussed by Shmuel Bar in "The Islamic Conflict with the West: Fatwas and Strategies." Bar, who recently published Warrant for Terror: Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty of Jihad (Hoover Studies and Rowman and Littlefield, 2006), explained that fatwas provide legal and moral dispensation for acts of terrorism that are deemed to fulfill the duty of jihad. The goals of jihad, he said, have evolved from liberation to ruling the world under Islam.
In his talk "Mexican Immigration, the Mexican Economy, and U.S. Policy," Stephen Haber, Hoover senior fellow, examined the pros and cons of the current situation. In his discussion he noted that there are facts to support those who are for immigration and those who oppose it. Whatever is decided, though, not only affects the United States but Mexico as well, he pointed out. Closing the border to between the two countries would, in Mexico, increase poverty, increase crime, decrease economic opportunity, and increase frustration, especially among the young. "In what scenario," asked Haber, "is a politically and socially less stable Mexico in our interest?"
Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover senior fellow, recently returned from the Middle East, spoke about his views in his talk "Iraq: What Went Right." Overall, he believes that the region is better off now than it was before the invasion by the United States.
Left to right: Fox News reporter Major Garrett, UCLA professor of law Stephen Bainbridge, and Hoover research fellow Russell Roberts.
The retreat concluded with a panel discussion "Domestic Policy Agenda in the Short and Long Term: Is There a Reason for Optimism between Now and 2008?" Panel participants were Hoover senior fellows Michael Boskin, John Cogan, John Shoven, and John Taylor. The panel was moderated by Hoover director John Raisian.
In addition to the plenary speakers, Hoover fellows and guest speakers presented conversations on a variety of topics. The first set of conversations included Peter Berkowitz, Hoover senior fellow, "Sharon's Party and Israel after Sharon"; Russell Berman, Hoover senior fellow, "Europe's War of Ideas: Religion, Terror, and Immigration"; Peter Robinson, "DUBYA and the GIPPER: What the 43rd President Learned from the 40th—and What He Didn't"; and Kori Schake, "How to Confront Iran."
The next set of conversations included Annelise Anderson, Hoover research fellow, and Martin Anderson, Hoover senior fellow, "Reagan: A New Biography"; Kenneth Jowitt, Hoover senior fellow, "Potential Movements of Rage: Latin America"; Abraham Sofaer, Hoover senior fellow, "Should Israel Continue the Disengagement Process?"; and Tunku Varadarajan, Hoover distinguished visiting fellow and editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal, "What on Earth Is 'the World'? A Radical Reinterpretation of Foreign News (as seen by the Wall Street Journal)."
The final set of conversations included Lawrence Chickering, Hoover research fellow, "Strategic Foreign Assistance"; David Davenport, Hoover research fellow, "Higher Education: A Diversity of Everything but Ideas"; Alvin Rabushka, Hoover senior fellow, "Taxes: Present, Past, and Future"; and David Satter, Hoover research fellow, "The Decline of Democracy in Russia."