Archive for November 7th, 2008

November 7, 2008

‘Compassionate’ idiocy

Dick Armey suggests that conservatives get out of the “compassion” racket:

Parties are all about getting people elected to political office; and the practice of politics too often takes the form of professional juvenile delinquency: short-sighted and self-centered.
This was certainly true of the Bush presidency. Too often the policy agenda was determined by short-sighted political considerations and an abiding fear that the public simply would not understand limited government and expanded individual freedoms. How else do we explain “compassionate conservatism,” No Child Left Behind, the Medicare drug benefit and the most dramatic growth in federal spending since LBJ’s Great Society?
John McCain has long suffered from philosophical confusions about free markets, and his presidential campaign reflected as much. Most striking was his inability to explain his own health-care proposal, or to defend his tax cuts and tax reform. Ultimately, it took a plumber from Ohio to identify the real nature of Barack Obama’s plan to “spread the wealth.”

Amen, Brother Dick. This is a point I made about “the triangulation of Hope” — if people don’t know what “conservative” means, how are they going to know a liberal when they see one?

November 7, 2008

Sarah Palin to speak at CPAC

Just got off the phone with Lisa DePasquale, director of the Conservative Political Action Conference, who tells me that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is confirmed as a speaker at CPAC 2009, Feb. 26-28 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.

REGISTER NOW FOR CPAC 2009! To register by phone call 703-836-8602.

November 7, 2008

More from the conservative summit

CNN follows up on yesterday’s meeting of conservative leaders at Brent Bozell’s: 

David Keene of the American Conservative Union also said the idea of the Republican Party as the party of smaller government was undermined by the rapid increase in government spending over the last eight years.
“Republicans in Congress began to act like the Democrats they’d gotten rid of in the ’90s. The president began to spend money like he was Lyndon Johnson, and the result was that voters began to get very upset,” Keene said. “So, yes, you have to go back to your basics.”

And Tony Perkins of the Christian conservative Family Research Council says:

“What has made the conservative movement strong is when you have social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and foreign policy conservatives working together,” he said. “This was the first step in what will be a long journey in rebuilding that communication and that common vision.”

I would suggest that Perkins and his social conservative colleagues need to work to get conservative pro-lifers to better understand the morality of markets and the benefits of limited government. “Compassionate conservatism” and “Huckabeeism” are not the answer.

UPDATE: Another good point:

“The Republican brand of politics worked in the 1980s world, but it needs to be re-configured for 2010 and 2012,” said Rich Galen, a party consultant and a former adviser to Newt Gingrich. “We had a 20th-century message that we were trying to bang into a 21st-century world, and it clearly did not work.”

The Old Guard needs to reach out to the Young Turks and talk about the generational/cultural factors involved in the Democrats’ dominance of the under-30 demographic.

November 7, 2008

Palin defended by aide

About time somebody put their name on record and ended this anonymous “sources say” crap:

[L]ongtime Palin staffer Meg Stapleton is lashing back at anonymous critics within the McCain-Palin presidential campaign, telling ABC News they are attacking the former vice presidential candidate with distortions and blaming her for the Republican National Committee’s own missteps. . . .
Stapleton told ABC News the Fox News report on Africa and NAFTA was taken out of context. She explained that during a briefing session, someone asked Palin to explain the McCain-Palin stance on an issue, and as she was responding, “in the middle, she said ‘country of Africa’ and somebody instantly wrote it down and said, ‘Oh, my God, she thinks it’s a country.'”
But “she knows it’s a continent,” Stapleton said. “It was just a human mistake, just like Obama saying 57 states. I don’t think anyone ever doubted that Obama knows there are 50 states.”
Regarding the $150,000 worth of clothing, Stapleton claimed it was the campaign that said, “This is what you need as a VP candidate, and it was the campaign and/or the RNC [Republican National Committee] — but it wasn’t the governor — saying this is what she needs.”

Randy Scheunemann also puts his name on record:

One top McCain aide came to Palin’s defense today. Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, who helped prepare Palin for her vice presidential debate, praised Palin’s campaign effort and intelligence.
“I’ve been working over 20 years in Washington and I’ve been around literally dozens and dozens of politicians. She is among the smartest, toughest, most capable politicians I’ve ever dealt with,” Scheunemann said. “She has a photographic memory.”

And she’ll be the No. 1 fundraising speaker at Republican Party events in 2009. I assume that she’s already formed a PAC. Her smart move would be to raise $40 million to help GOP candidates in the 2010 cycle, and campaign relentlessly for candidates endorsed by the Club for Growth.

November 7, 2008

Quitters never win

The revelation that McCain campaign staffers knew by Oct. 12 that the election was over prompts George Neumayr to observe:

That the staffers had given up by October also explains why the most potent attack on Obama came not from the campaign but from pure happenstance outside it: Joe the plumber’s accidental meeting with Obama.
McCain acted like that was the first time he had ever heard Obama’s thoughts on economic redistribution. Had the campaign exhausted its opposition research budget at Neiman Marcus?

What did Joe the Plumber bring to the campaign? Common sense and authenticity. He wasn’t just another Republican Party hack, not just another “strategist” on Fox repeating the familiar talking points. He expressed a basic conservative message in layman’s language.

More plumbers and hockey moms, fewer Nicolle Wallaces, please.

November 7, 2008

Some ‘veteran’

As Allah says, “useful background”:

Palin was being handled by Nicolle Wallace, a veteran of the hardball politics of the Bush-Cheney campaign (she had been a press-bashing director of communications). Recruited by Schmidt, Wallace had come from a stint as a commentator at CBS. She had the disastrous idea of making Palin available only for a series of high-profile media interviews, and then overprepared her with a cram course of talking points.

In other words, Wallace decided that the campaign should screw over the poor shlubs in the press corps — why should those no-name losers get to talk to the candidate? — so that the multimillionaire anchors could get first shot at the target.

Yeah, that really worked out nice for you, didn’t it Nicolle? Notice you’ve got no friends in the press corps now. And everybody in the Republican Party hates you, too.

November 7, 2008

Will Wilkinson vs. Matt Yglesias

My advice to Matt: Never argue with Will. He can win any argument with a simple retort: “Yeah? Well, if you’re so smart, how come you’re not dating Kerry Howley?”

This is known as the argumentum ad hottie.

November 7, 2008

Sully vs. McCain vs. Palin

Not to endorse “Trig trutherism,” but Andrew Sullivan deserves to be linked for this:

[McCain campaign staff] couldn’t admit a mistake because it would have killed their campaign, destroying our impression of McCain’s judgment and management skills. So they kept this farce alive for two months, putting the country at potentially great risk to massage their own careers. Now they are doing all they can to dump on her. But the dumpage goes both ways. The McCain camp picked Palin and stuck with her far longer than any people who put country first would have. Every reason why she should not have been picked is a reason why McCain should never have been president.

Now, I am stoutly pro-Palin and believe that she is being unfairly scapegoated. But when Sully says that the first priority of these professional GOP operatives is “to massage their own careers,” he hits the nail on the head in terms of what’s wrong with the Republican Party.

As a class, Republican political operatives are adept at portraying their cynical careerism as ideological conviction. Thus, ideology becomes a tool of ambition. Rival operatives are attacked as lacking the True Faith, of being the Wrong Kind of Republican. There is a push for conformity, and honest criticism becomes a potentially career-destroying risk. Toadies and sycophants are rewarded; independent thought is excluded.

This is a problem of organizational dynamics. Any organization that rewards and promotes arrogant assholes will attract more arrogant assholes, until eventually being an arrogant asshole becomes a prerequisite for membership. Spend a little time around GOP operatives, and you see how this tendency works. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if Tucker Bounds and Nicolle Wallace are the Republican Party, why would any sane person wish to become involved in the Republican Party?

Furthermore, understand this: A campaign consultant, an adviser, a speechwriter, a manager — these people get paid the same whether the client candidate wins or loses. Although operatives obviously try to win, because winning enhances their income potential, it is often the case that candidates win despite the advice and actions of their operatives. And a shrewd operative knows how to take credit for victories while finding scapegoats for defeats.

Go back to last year. John McCain raised $20 million in the first six months of 2007, but by July he was broke. Terry Nelson and John Weaver got paid for accomplishing that remarkable feat — and they didn’t resign as long as there was any prospect they could continue to get paid.

By some miracle, Rick Davis managed to revive the campaign enough to win the GOP nomination, but after effectively clinching Feb. 7 (the day Mitt Romney quit) the campaign languished until June, which Steve Schmidt took charge. Schmidt was effective at injecting a combative spirit into the McCain campaign but . . . look, anybody who ever thought it was a good idea to nominate a 72-year-old bald guy just doesn’t know anything about politics. To nominate a 72-year-old bald guy who’s spent the past 10 years in a bitter feud with his own party’s grassroots base? That’s just crazy.

The Palin pick has been called a “Hail Mary pass,” and the metaphor is apt. You can’t look at the exit polls and deny the severity of the GOP brand-damage/Bush-fatigue factor in this election. By the time the McCain campaign made the call to Anchorage, they were already in need of a miracle touchdown, and Palin was it. (See my articles of Sept. 8, Sept. 10, Sept. 15 and Oct. 31.)

Had it not been for the financial crisis and McCain’s botched reaction to that crisis . . . well, if a frog had wings, eh? But God only knows how much worse this defeat would have been without Palin.

As far as I’m concerned, the Palin pick was the only good decision John McCain made during this campaign. Any attempt by his campaign staff to make Sarah Palin the scapegoat for their failures is a disservice to truth. Even if you believe the worst about Palin (as Sully does), she wasn’t in charge of that campaign. And hockey moms from Alaska aren’t what’s wrong with the GOP.

The hired help have taken over the party. The Republican Party doesn’t need anything as much as it needs to teach its employees something about the basic principles of customer service and value added. If they end up working at Burger King, maybe they’ll learn.

November 7, 2008

The triangulation of Hope

Barack Obama’s vague campaign of Hope and Change has created contradictory expectations for his administration. Rasmussen Reports found that 61 percent of Republican voters expect their taxes will go up, compared to just 17 percent of Democrats. While 39 percent of white voters expect to pay higher taxes under Obama, while 39 percent of blacks say they’ll pay lower taxes.

Obama’s repeated promise that 95 percent of Americans will receive tax cuts — at the expense of the richest 5 percent — created an unusual perception: A tax-cutter who’s also a redistributionist. If he fails to keep that promise, Republicans will batter him as a liar. If he keeps the promise, however, Obama will add to a budget deficit already swollen by $1.1 trillion in bailouts (with perhaps more bailouts to come). And Obama’s budget math won’t benefit from any Laffer-curve effect, since his neo-Keynesian formula is the exact opposite of the reductions of top marginal rates favored by supply-siders.

Karl Rove noted today that the self-reported ideological affliation of the electorate remains unchanged from 2004 — 34% say they’re conservative, 21% liberal and 45% moderate. Nonetheless, they elected as president the most liberal member of the Senate, with Obama getting the votes of 20% of self-described “conservatives” and 60% of “moderates.

What does this mean? It means that two decades of rhetorical fudging and policy incoherence have obscured the meaning of our political lexicon. George Bush the elder promised a “kinder, gentler” conservatism, raised taxes and signed onto a minimum-wage increase. Bill Clinton cleverly (and duplicitously) “triangulated,” promising a middle-class tax cut he never delivered, vetoing welfare-reform twice before signing it, taking credit for a balanced budget that was mostly the result of a reduced military and Republican opposition to his spending proposals. The “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush has introduced still more confusion. In what sense are the No Child Left Behind Act and Medicare Part D “conservative” policies?

Considering that the Republican 2008 candidate, John McCain, had opposed tax cuts, collaborated with Russ Feingold on campaign finance regulation that helped Democrats achieve a decisive fundraising advantage, and collaborated with Ted Kennedy on an amnesty bill that infuriated conservative voters, it isn’t hard to see why Obama so easily veiled his liberalism behind vague platitudes.

Philip Klein’s report from today’s gathering of the conservative movement’s senior leadership indicates that these leaders understand how Republicans have squandered the ideological clarity of the Reagan era. Clearly, Obama has succeeded by inspiring unrealistic notions of what he (or any president) can accomplish. Mixed messages from Republicans made it easier for Obama to convince Americans that he is a moderate — what does “moderate” mean, if “conservative” has lost its meaning?

Beginning Jan. 20, Obama must stop promising and start delivering, and with his army of online “progressive” activists demanding that he and the Democratic Congress enact liberal policies, what he aims to deliver won’t be easily mistaken as “conservative.” Republicans have triangulated themselves into the wilderness, and they’ll stay there a long time, if they support Obama’s radical agenda.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

UPDATE: Linked by Instapundit. Thanks, Professor!