A number of commenters found, as did I, that Bryan’s conservative missionary statement was quite powerful. (I’ll give my own criticism or two in a later post but that’s not what I want to focus on here.) The question is: why was it powerful? I’m not inside Bryan’s brain but I know him reasonably well and here’s why I think it was powerful.

Because Bryan is not a conservative but a libertarian, he asked himself, “What arguments would have the maximum probability of convincing me to doubt my libertarianism in favor of conservatism?”

I first saw the power of that approach in 1983 when I was working in the White House at the Council of Economic Advisers. A friend of mine, Lance Lamberton, was working in the White House Office of Policy Development under Ed Meese. School prayer in government-run schools was a hot issue at the time and a newspaper had asked Meese for an op/ed in favor of allowing school prayer. Lance was assigned the task of writing it. I knew none of this until I got a call from Lance asking if I could look his piece over.

Me: But I’m against prayer in public schools. [Only later did I start calling them, more accurately, government schools.]
Lance: So am I.
Me: So what’s the issue?
Lance: You’re my friend and I need this.
Me: OK.

So he came up to my floor and showed it to me. I read through it and then said to him, “Lance, this is the best thing you’ve ever written. You still haven’t convinced me, but you’ve come closer than anyone has in years. Whatever you did to write this, I think you should keep it in mind for all of your writing. What did you do?”

Lance answered, “I’m against prayer in public schools. So I wrote it to handle the issues I have with it. I wrote to convince someone like me.”