It isn't that they're simply obdurate, or hunkered down behind a wall of Rovian bluster. The president, his inner circle, and the coterie of worshipful conservatives who have yet to abandon them, still inhabit a fully-developed culture; they continue to view themselves as creative agents whose ideas have relevance and validity. But it's a dying civilization, this world of neocons and "compassionate" conservatives. Their bizarre orgies of self-congratulation - as documented, for instance, by Glenn Greenwald - take place amidst the last glowing embers of a once-impressive edifice. Reading the accounts in this week's conservative organs, you can't help but be struck by the political decadence unfolding in the White House, tinted by the atmosphere of a better age.
Among other things, Bush and Roberts talked about the decline of Europe and the role in this played by the shrunken influence of Christianity. By the time they broke for lunch, the president was "revved up," an aide says. His fervor was infectious. "Roberts is more conservative than I am!" a pleasantly surprised White House official exclaimed.This "revved up" Bush has been able to take a "combative approach" towards the Democratic Congress, and his staff - who lobbied extensively to defeat the anti-war resolutions, are "fired up on Iraq." It's unclear whether Barnes means to imply that there was ever a point at which the administration was not combative with regard to its opponents, or fired up on the war.
Bush and his aides are listening to Republicans as well at the president's regular meetings with bipartisan leaders in Congress. Republicans found that Democrats had a bigger voice at the sessions. So, with White House approval, Republican leaders decided to convene the day before and decide on a plan for the bicameral meeting.Certainly it would be unseemly for Democrats, who were chosen by the American people to have a bigger voice in Congress, to have a bigger voice in Congress's meetings with the president.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Libby conviction scarcely fazed the president's staff. Aides were saddened but not surprised. The expectation was that, even if Libby had been acquitted, he wouldn't be returning to the White House. Besides, the jury's verdict was "an individual judgment, not an institutional judgment," an official says. In other words, the conviction applied only to Libby's conduct and not the White House's. That may sound like a cold appraisal, but it's true.Rest assured, fellow citizens: there's nothing more to see here. And the blithe self-satisfaction extends to the administration's outlook on the war:
Now the president believes "progress" is being made in Iraq. And if he's hopeful, so is everyone else at the White House.So must we all be.
My theologian friend [Irwin Stelzer "himself"] noted that this formulation not only abandons the orthodox Christian tradition (Catholic and Protestant) since St. Augustine, but is a total inversion of it. Augustine reasoned that there is an absolute good, namely God, in all His radiance and power; whereas evil has no ontological existence on its own at all, being no more than a defective good or a perversion of the good.Our Mr. Novak, it seems, farted in church:
To my mind, the context here was solely about human beings, not God. And I was, without saying so, alluding to a point made by Reinhold Niebuhr, about the irony of American history: America serves a noble, good principle, but yet often does so through flawed men and flawed policies (such as slavery). "In my good, there is always some evil," I was thinking.Thus Novak's column - written, perhaps, after a hard night's sleep on the couch - attempts to undo the damage. Luckily for Novak, the president and his guests "batted [the question] around," and figured it all out: people aren't necessarily good, but "There is today an intense battle between good and evil principles."
However, I was trying to instruct neither my fellow guests nor the president. Many (including my wife, she told me later) did not like my formulation. Some, pre-occupied with the threat from relativism, made fun of the left-wing fetish for limiting speech to various shades of gray.
Bush won't be able to "stay out of it." Others will continue to place his White House at the very heart of it, as the Libby appeals move forward. After all, Libby's lawyers foolishly (or perhaps desperately) introduced at trial the notion that Libby was a "fall guy"--which would seem to legitimize the notion there was a conspiracy, of which Libby was a part, though a less important part than others. Each time a legal paper is filed, a new anti-Bush news cycle will erupt. So if the White House wants to minimize opportunities for fresh speculation about how the Libby case is part of some broader conspiracy, the president should act now.Kristol insists that Bush's opponents (devious Democrats) will spend the next two years speculating about a pardon anyway, so he may as well get it over with - which would also have the beneficial effect of "reinvigorating" conservatives who are "demoralized now by Libby's conviction." The quality of conservative mercy, it seems, is just a little bit strained.
[I]f the end goal of Islamist terrorists is to obtain a nuclear weapon, it seems as though they have a better chance of doing so by taking over a nuclear-capable Pakistan, rather than making an Islamist Iran nuclear-capable.Also, after weeks of conservative assurances that the economy was doing Just Great!, Irwin Stelzer moves the goalposts and suggests that, whatever, it's not as bad as it could be.
is unveiling what its leaders are calling the American Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The initiative, which will be introduced with a press conference today and will continue to be unveiled with a series of grassroots events across the country, is meant to focus the country, and especially the Republican candidates for president, on the nation’s fiscal crisis and Congress’s epidemic of wasteful spending.The thing is, said American TABOR doesn't really seem to amount to very much. There is one proposed constitutional amendment - Phil Gramm's Balanced Budget Amendment - but two of the other three "pillars" of the plan ("reduce wasteful spending" and "reform social security,") apparently amount to little more than extending the moratorium on earmarks and instituting Al Gore's social security "lock box," respectively.
The RSC proposes legislation to sunset the nine-million-word IRS tax code on January 1st, 2011, which is the day that all of the Bush tax cuts expire. “It’s important for people to focus on what kind of tax burden they’re going to be faced with in the next few years,” Hensarling says. “Just with the government programs that are in place today, not programs that are dreamed up tomorrow, the next generation will be looking at a tax increase somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 100 percent. That’s unconscionable.”Of course, a progressive income tax can be just as simple as a flat tax - you just need to abolish all the loopholes. But keep your eye on this 2011 date. Right-wing Congressman Paul Ryan hinted at this during the conservative summit in January: the idea that conservatives were planning to force a major debate on the tax code that year. The next president we elect will have to deal with this. We need to be ready.
As for what might replace the tax code, House conservatives are less sure. Some favor a national sales tax, while others favor a flat tax. But this leg of the RSC’s proposal is meant to move past those differences, Campbell said on the conference call, and to put the focus on the need for a simpler code.
Imagine if Gingrich and Bisek had been discovered, say around October 25, 1998. The resulting hypocrisy bomb would have rattled every American from Seattle to Key West. Struck by flying hubris, voters overwhelmingly would have punished Gingrich’s fellow Republicans for prosecuting Clinton while America’s most prominent Republican was entangled in conduct way to close for comfort. Accurate but legalistic pleas that Clinton committed adultery plus perjury, while Gingrich never lied under oath about his infidelity, would have elicited enormous laughter, if not outright scorn — fairly or unfairly.What might have been. Sigh...
Rather than chop the GOP’s majority from ten seats to five, as happened anyway, Democrats likely would have recaptured the House. All rise for Speaker Dick Gephardt (D., Mo.). Rather than battle Republicans to a draw, Democrats could have taken the Senate with a five-seat net victory. That would have made then-Senator Tom Daschle (D., S.D.) majority leader. With Democrats once again controlling Capitol Hill, Clinton could have spent his last two years building socialism [sic - for God's sake, this is getting so old - is there any conservative writer out there with the ability and the honesty to distinguish between centrist Keynesianism and socialism? Deroy Murdock! I know you're out there, like every other writer, Technorati-searching yourself! Why don't you stop by and tell us how Clinton - the conservative Democrat, the only president to have abolished an entitlement program - was "building socialism." If Clinton was a socialist then Dubya, who was responsible for the largest expansion of entitlement spending since LBJ, must be a straight-up Marxist-Leninist. C'mon, Deroy, explain it to us! I'll even put your name as a Technorati tag to help you find this! Somebody's gotta sort this out - ed.]. With that added momentum, then-Vice President Al Gore might have tipped the skin-tight 2000 election thismuch in his direction, prompting his — not G. W. Bush’s — inauguration.
It is entirely possible, if not probable, that much or all of this would have transpired, simply because Newt Gingrich got his brain caught in his zipper.
[P]ro-lifers should think long and hard before they work to nominate and elect a Republican with an abortion record virtually indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton's.Yeowch!