A slice of life from The Corner:
Labels: The Corner
I'm sure we'll get a whole series of "official" announcements, but for now we'll have to settle for his minions' confirmation: Fred Thompson is running.
Labels: Fred Thompson
Ross Douthat has an excellent post on this New Yorker piece about Karl Rove -- I haven't read the whole article yet; there may well be more parts worthy of commentary, but Douthat singles out this passage:
“There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture,” [Rove] said. “One of them is the power of the computer chip. Do you know how many people’s principal source of income is eBay? Seven hundred thousand.” He went on, “So the power of the computer has made it possible for people to gain greater control over their lives. It’s given people a greater chance to run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur. As a result, it has made us more market-oriented, and that equals making you more center-right in your politics.” As for spirituality, Rove said, “As baby boomers age and as they’re succeeded by the post-baby-boom generation, within both of those generations there’s something going on spiritually—people saying it’s not all about materialism, it’s not all about the pursuit of material things. If you look at the traditional mainstream denominations, they’re flat, but what’s growing inside those denominations, and what’s growing outside those denominations, is churches that are filling this spiritual need, that are replacing sterility with something vibrant, something that speaks to the heart of the individual, that gives a sense of purpose.”Douthat suggests that Rove's two arguments here -- that Americans are getting more materialistic and that they are getting more spiritual -- don't add up:
It's hard to imagine a balder description of the essential contradiction at the heart of the GOP coalition, and yet Rove seems unaware that there's anything contradictory here at all.Of course, one could imagine both trends operating together -- your basic "Jihad vs. McWorld" dynamic. But that sort of thing tends to involve more instability and strife than the happy symbiosis Rove is positing (on the other hand, who's to say the right doesn't benefit from instability and strife?).
[I]t's by no means obvious that the Information Age's winners are natural Republicans (as opposed to, say, natural Clintonites or Spitzerians), and neither is it clear that the unfortunate externalities of skill-based technological change (growing social immobility, for instance) won't transform the Information Age's losers into disgruntled Lou Dobbs Democrats, rather than the Sam's Club Republicans whose votes were crucial to the fleeting Bush majority.I've been reading Jacob Hacker's The Great Risk Shift (I'll review it when I'm finished), which seems to me to be exactly based on reading the "unfortunate externalities" of the new economy, and understanding the pitfalls for ordinary Americans in a way to which Rove is entirely oblivious.
"Will President Bush speak out against the treatment Miss USA received in Mexico?"
This Daily Kos diary is interesting, in how its author channels his/her frustration over the Iraq funding vote through both a very important insight and a completely useless cliche.
Who do the Democrats fear?The diarist veers in the wrong direction with the next sentence, arguing that what the Democrats fear is something called "The Corporatocracy Gang of Which George Bush is the official Figurehead." Not that "coporatocracy" and "gang" are necessarily bad ways to describe the Bush administration. But the analysis is headed into the weeds. Let's bring it back on track.
Do they fear us? Obviously no. Not one stinking bit.
Do they fear the American people in general? Same answer, only with laughter.
People keep pointing out -- correctly -- that immigration is an issue that should divide Democrats as well as Republicans. Yet it's the Republicans who keep finding themselves on the pointy end of the wedge.
First and foremost, most Hispanics are Democrats.... The record shows that since the Second World War, the Hispanic community has supported Democrats for president ranging from a high of nearly 90 percent for their fellow Catholic JFK to a low of 60 percent for Mondale, McGovern, and Kerry, for an average of roughly 2 to 1 Democratic. So any amnesty plan will create more Democratic than Republican voters in the foreseeable future. It took the last wave of Catholic immigrants — from the Irish famine refugees of the 1840s and Southern/Eastern workers of the post-Civil War era — nearly a century to consider voting Republican for Ike in the 1950s. Now a similar scenario is being set up again.Morevoer, the issue divides Republicans and will undoutedly lead to more business support for Democrats. What does it all add up to?
The likely end result of this will be a nasty fight in the Republican primaries of 2008, an alienated business community, very few Hispanic Republicans, more Democrats, and a depressed GOP base. The textbook definition of a disaster is getting the worst of all worlds.Ross Douthat argues that Bush's strategists correctly diagnosed the GOP's major problem, but they've prescribed the wrong cure:
The GOP can build a political majority around the married, Middle-American middle class, but not if it remains a lily-white party: It needs larger percentages of the Hispanic and yes, the African-American vote to offset the growing Democratic advantage among white, socially-liberal Bobo voters who might have been Reaganites a generation ago.... Bush's insight in this regard was correct, but his strategy for winning a larger share of the minority vote rests on three wobbly pillars - gay marriage, which won him Ohio in '04 but won't be a national issue for much longer; the war, which worked until it became clear how badly he mismanaged it; and amnesty for illegal immigrants, which is aimed at precisely the wrong part of the Hispanic demographic. There's no evidence that middle-class Hispanics, the people the GOP needs to woo, are likely to reward the Republicans for legalizing millions of maids, dishwashers, and migrant laborers, and the migrant laborers themselves certainly aren't going to vote for the GOP anytime soon.And thus we arrive at the Big Question that seems to drive much of the right's internal debate over immigration: are Hispanics natural Democrats or natural Republicans? Douthat suggests that "they're like any immigrant population, natural Democrats while they're in the barrio and natural Republicans once they've reached the suburbs." Our anonymous satirist, on the other hand, argues that "even if Rove’s vision of middle class Hispanics eventually turning Republican is true, at best, they’ll be a swing vote replacing older whites in the Sun Belt who have voted 2-1 Republican in the last generation."
I'll leave it to better bloggers to explore, in depth, the ramifications of the Democrats' capitulation on war funding. But I will take the opportunity to suggest that we finally ditch the notion that any significant number of Republicans are ever going to "abandon" the president and turn against the war in any substantive way. Atrios and Yglesias have made this point with regard to the GOP's presidential contenders, none of whom -- Ron Paul aside -- are going to break with the current administration's pro-war line. Ever.
[I]t's worth noting that a significant faction of Democrats have persistently believed that the Bush administration was about to begin withdrawing from Iraq ever since 2004.One might add that even if the Republican contenders were inclined to go dove, they'd hold back from doing so simply because the Bush administration, weakened though it may be, still has plenty of power to meddle in the politics of the upcoming elections.
After three years of that forecast being perpetually wrong, it's now been displaced onto Mitt Romney or John McCain or whomever. Since this idea is so persistent, I think it bears mentioning that it's part of a pretty contradictory set of beliefs. The conventional wisdom, in essence, holds that running stridently against the war spells political doom for the Democrats. It also holds, however, that running stridently against the war is unnecessary because the Republicans will end the war anyway. Meanwhile, the Republicans are supposed to be doing this for political purposes.
These things can't, however, all be true. And, indeed, I think time has proven that the Republicans basically think the "doves are doomed" theory of politics is correct. They attribute their loss in 2006 to corruption and (hilariously) to "earmarks," attribute their wins in 2002 and 2004 to "toughness" and think that it always makes sense politically for the GOP to mark itself off as more militaristic and nationalistic than the opposition. My guess is that the persistent belief that Bush would end the war was driven by a fear that this theory is correct; it's a form of wishful thinking. But people should get over it. The war is, in fact, unpopular. The GOP is, in fact, determined to stay robustly to the Democrats' right on the war.
Apparently, cats playing the piano and homemade videos of soap stars and Harry Potter characters to the soundtrack of the latest pop love song are too…shall we say…liberally biased:The whole thing is eminently mockable in and of itself, but web-based projects like QubeTV and Conservapedia are excellent illustrations of the pitfalls of the larger conservative strategy of constructing parallel institutions. The point of something like YouTube is to share information and experience with the widest social network possible -- what makes it useful as a political tool is the fact that political speech (even if it's just self-produced propaganda) joins the same pool where millions of people are looking for American Idol clips or breakdancing 5-year-olds. It's an online agora, a form of civic sphere.The popular video-sharing Web site first debuted "Hillary 1984," which compared Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. to a Orwellian dictator, then-Sen. George Allen's career-altering "macaca" moment and the "I Feel Pretty" video that chided former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' good looks.For what it's worth, Michelle Malkin personally has 25 of her videos on YouTube and a site search yields 251 results, so she's hardly underrepresented. But that's just that pesky reality again. It's much more fun to embrace victimhood, even if it's a ridiculous lie.
But YouTube, which is owned by Google, has also been a favorite target of conservatives, who accuse the site of a liberal bias.
Railing against YouTube, two Republican White House veterans have launched QubeTV as a conservative alternative.
"The 2008 campaign will be dominated by video and in particular by user-generated video," says QubeTV founder Charlie Gerow, a former aide in the Ronald Reagan White House.
"There are a vast array of young conservative activists and operatives out there armed with cell phones or hand-helds that are going to capture the next 'macaca' moment or John Kerry bad joke and put them on Qube TV," says Gerow, whose Pennsylvania strategic media firm, Quantum Communications, created the Web site.
Gerow insists YouTube banned a video by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin about radical Islamists.
Responding to that incident, a statement on the Web site reads: "We fly the conservative flag here at QubeTV, and we will not be about banning or deleting conservatives."
On the subject of conservative meltdown, Vernon Lee makes a good point: what looks like a preordained crisis is really a factor of contingency. As much as I think that modern movement conservatism is unworkable and thus destined to find itself in crisis when forced to govern, Vernon's right that the "perfect storm" tearing through the conservative movement and its pet political party may appear to have been easier to forecast than it actually was. Or as Vernon puts it, "the obituaries written about the losers will retroactively cast them as inevitable losers."
One big X-factor is the possibly candidacy of Fred Thompson. He inspires the yearnings of Republicans precisely because he seems most likely to extend and renew the Dubya-era of a solid coalition between sociocons, paleocons, and fiscal (cough cough) conservatives.I'm still quite flummoxed as to what is really "the most likely outcome" -- I think we're watching a giant experiment in progress, a chance for primary voters to make a substantive decision about the direction of their party for the first time in decades. But you can see why they might choose Thompson, if they care for the unity of the conservative movement. It's a movement that maybe needs an actor at its head to pull off the illusion that all its many demands can be reconciled among themselves and then sold without dilution to the American public at large. It needs an actor to bring life to the conceit that conservatives can be both a distinct, even persecuted identity group, and the natural majority. It needs an actor to turn a record of failure into an image of success. It needs an actor to make the magic happen.
If Fred Thompson enters the field and wins the nomination, it's possible that this moment of crisis in the Republican party's coalition will quickly fade into distant memory. A Giuliani primary win likely be read as a stake driven through the heart of movement conservatism, and a chance to reset the playing field. A Romney nomination - which now seems the most likely outcome - will solidify the meme of desperate calculation.
Compare Max Blumenthal's excellent account of the rise of Jerry Falwell to Jeffrey Bell's curious little piece at the Weekly Standard.
[T]he swing in terms of partisan margin among theologically conservative white Protestants was a breathtaking 87 points--from a Democratic margin of 25 points in 1976 to a Republican lead of 62 points in 1984. By way of comparison, the margin swing in the electorate as a whole was 20 points--from Carter-Mondale's 2-point victory in 1976 to Mondale-Ferraro's 18-point defeat in 1984.So what, according to Bell, accounted for this shift? "Judicial elites" banning spoken prayer in school, for one thing. The hardening politics of abortion, too. And then there was the Carter administration's revocation of tax exemptions for "Bible schools."
These numbers might suggest that the entire GOP presidential gain between 1976 and 1984 could be accounted for by the striking change among the roughly 20 percent of the electorate classifiable as Bible-believing white Protestants. In pure statistical terms this is true, and much was happening in the campaigns of 1980 and 1984 to explain the shift in terms of social issues and the status of religion in American life.
For Falwell and his allies, the true impetus for political action came when the Supreme Court ruled in Green v. Connally to revoke the tax-exempt status of racially discriminatory private schools in 1971. At about the same time, the Internal Revenue Service moved to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, which forbade interracial dating. (Blacks were denied entry until 1971.) Falwell was furious, complaining, "In some states it's easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school."There is, of course, none of this in Bell's piece. It takes a pretty tight tunnel vision to ignore the reality of Falwell's history, so we shouldn't be shocked when Bell's piece ends with a reference to "the pivotal role of 'values voters' in the 2004 presidential election." The fact that Bell is just about the last person on Earth to believe this canard is hardly surprising, given the myopia at work in his article generally.
Seeking to capitalize on mounting evangelical discontent, a right-wing Washington operative and anti-Vatican II Catholic named Paul Weyrich took a series of trips down South to meet with Falwell and other evangelical leaders. Weyrich hoped to produce a well-funded evangelical lobbying outfit that could lend grassroots muscle to the top-heavy Republican Party and effectively mobilize the vanquished forces of massive resistance into a new political bloc. In discussions with Falwell, Weyrich cited various social ills that necessitated evangelical involvement in politics, particularly abortion, school prayer and the rise of feminism. His pleas initially fell on deaf ears.
"I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed," Weyrich recalled in an interview in the early 1990s. "What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter's intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation."
I know it's been a light couple of weeks here at A&S, and to be honest, I'm unlikely to be doing multiple posts every day for the foreseeable future. But it'll still be regular (should be around one a day, maybe two), and hopefully we'll maintain our reputation for sterling quality control (er, do we have a reputation for that?).
One dynamic forcing Republicans to new ground is the failure of the Bush presidency. This is leading liberals to insist that President Bush's tenure proves conservatism doesn't work, and conservatives to insist that Bush was never a real conservative (something they didn't say when his poll ratings were high).I agree with Dionne's last assertion, and on a general level I think he is seeing the same crisis in the conservative movement that I'm seeing, but I don't think he's getting the nuances quite right - and they're important nuances.
Something similar happened to Jimmy Carter in 1980 when conservatives attacked him as a liberal while liberals disowned him. Carter's defeat by Ronald Reagan was followed by an extended liberal nervous breakdown. Now it's conservatives who are panicking.
But Republicans also know in their guts that their old axioms don't work anymore because their constituencies are breaking up.
The obituaries this week for the Rev. Jerry Falwell often took the form of elegies for the entire religious right. Younger and suburban evangelicals may be more or less conservative, but they do not share the ideological fervor of the Moral Majoritarians. These new evangelicals care about issues other than abortion and gay marriage. They yearn, along with almost everyone else, for problem-solving competence. [...]
If conservative ideologues were the dominant force in Republican primary politics, Giuliani would not be at the top of the pack, Gilmore the Pure would be doing better, and McCain and Huckabee would not be placing bets on pragmatism and political reconciliation. Yes, every Republican still wants to be called a "conservative." But they are all feeling pressure to pour new wine into that old vessel because it's almost empty. And Democrats beware: A less orthodox Republican Party would be a lot more popular.
[T]he idea that the heresies (most of them minor) on display in South Carolina somehow represent the GOP candidates' efforts to rethink party ideology seems, well, wrong. For the most part, they're exactly what they appear to be: The candidates' efforts to deal with (and, wherever possible, minimize) their inconvenient political baggage.Let's consider Huckabee again. The former Arkansas governor is saying what he's saying about taxes precisely because he's on the defensive against enforcers of conservative orthodoxy. That's why he emphasizes the "94 tax cuts" claim; his refusal to renounce all tax increases comes across more as a self-defense strategy than anything else -- an attempt to avoid complete capitulation, which would make him look weak. In fact, I think Huckabee would have a sound strategy for success in a general election if he were to more strongly emphasize his disagreements with economic conservative orthodoxy, but as he well knows, the Club for Growth won't let him.
As Dionne notes, Huckabee may have raised taxes as governor of Arkansas, but he still pitches himself as a fiscal conservative who cut taxes "94 times." Giuliani has only embraced his pro-choice past because his earlier efforts to finesse it away were such an abject failure. As for Romney, he defended a federal role in education because he was specifically asked whether, in light of his many convenient ideological conversions (on abortion, gay rights, etc.), he'd had any conversions that might hurt him with the base. Defending No Child Left Behind seemed a better bet than admitting that he's a shameless, flip-flopping opportunist. Really, the only candidate who proudly defended his apostasy was McCain on torture.
Far from being characterized by the kind of freethinking, let's-reinvent-the-party spirit Dionne seems to describe, the GOP primary has thus far been a race to the right on almost every issue: McCain suddenly recognizing the advantages of tax cuts for the rich, Romney reeducating himself on fetal rights, and of course everyone (with the exception of fringe candidate Ron Paul) embracing a war that, while ever-more unpopular with the public at large, is still a rallying cry for the GOP base.
One could cut and paste today's New York Times headlines into a pretty instructive narrative about the state of American conservatism today. Something like this:
It all started when Paul was asked how September 11 changed American foreign policy. “Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us?” Paul answered. “They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for ten years…”Giuliani, of course, "lived through" the attacks of 9/11 much as I "lived through" them -- by being in the city at the time. The idea that he was some sort of hero that day, or in the days thereafter, is a myth. But it's not the myth that matters here -- it's the conservatives' need to believe in it. It appears to be all they have. And for its sake, they'll abandon the coalition that made them what they are today (or at least, what they were before last November's elections).
Questioner Wendell Goler, of Fox News, asked, “Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?”
“I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it,” Paul said. “They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there.”
Enter Giuliani. “May I comment on that?” the mayor said, interrupting the orderly flow of things for the first time in the debate. “That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.”
The audience loved it. As the applause built, Giuliani added, “And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.”
Paul didn’t back down, but by cutting in, Giuliani had scored some of the best, and perhaps easiest, points of the night.... Giuliani’s aides seemed genuinely happy with his performance Tuesday night, in contrast to the way they seemed to be faking their happiness in California. “He was better,” said Jim Dyke, a top Giuliani adviser. “9/11 is very personal to the mayor. You can’t coach something like that.”
A senior lobbyist at the National Association of Manufacturers nominated by President Bush to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission will receive a $150,000 departing payment from the association when he takes his new government job, which involves enforcing consumer laws against members of the association.Of course, you could argue that there is a principle at work here, and you wouldn't be wrong. There are more than one, I'd say. "Reward your friends, punish your enemies" is a principle that seems to crop up a lot in this administration. It's not much, as principles go, but it's a good general rule of thumb for, say, a street gang. On a larger level, there's "keep those meddling bureaucrats from messing with American business." That's a principle that could almost, if you argue it right (and conservatives are very good at arguing things right), derive from a legitimate philosophy, which is that "capitalism works better than government, so don't pollute capitalism with government." That's a numbingly foolish, short-sighted, and simple-minded philosophy, but it is a philosophy nonetheless.
As chairman of the commission, Mr. Baroody’s salary would be $154,600. With the severance payment and an additional lump sum of $44,571 for unused leave time, Mr. Baroody would receive $349,171 this year. That amount, which excludes Mr. Baroody’s pension and retirement payments, nearly matches the $344,607 salary that Mr. Baroody earned as the second-highest-paid executive at the association last year.
The nomination of Mr. Baroody, executive vice president at the association, has provoked heavy criticism from Democrats and consumer groups. He is the latest in a line of industry officials and lobbyists to be given senior jobs by Mr. Bush at federal safety agencies that oversee matters like workplace and mine safety and transportation as the administration has sought to roll back hundreds of regulations that businesses viewed as excessive.
So I was reading Michael Kinsley's review of Christopher Hitchens's new book on religion, and this passage jumped out at me:
The big strategic challenge for a career like this is to remain interesting, and the easiest tactic for doing that is surprise. If they expect you to say X, you say minus X.Ezra Klein noticed it, too:
Consistency is foolish, as the man said. (Didn’t he?) Under the unwritten and somewhat eccentric rules of American public discourse, a statement that contradicts everything you have ever said before is considered for that reason to be especially sincere, courageous and dependable. At The New Republic in the 1980s, when I was the editor, we used to joke about changing our name to "Even the Liberal New Republic," because that was how we were referred to whenever we took a conservative position on something, which was often. Then came the day when we took a liberal position on something and we were referred to as "Even the Conservative New Republic."
It's remarkable that prominent journalists will simply admit that an easy way to attract a reputation for intellectual independence is to engage in an endless series of ideological repositionings, and this does not appear to give them pause. All due acclaim to Kinsley for writing it, but this is actually a problem, not just an endearing quirk in a noble profession.Interesting that it was Kinsley who made this admission, since he has been one of the biggest enablers of this dirty journalistic habit. It's one of the major reasons why the New Republic under his guidance was so deeply irritating (the magazine is still struggling to escape from the pattern), and why Slate is so often annoying in exactly the same way. It's no coincidence, for instance, that Slate is the online home of Mickey Kaus, who has made a career of praticing this pseudo-contrarian schtick in one of its most obnoxious forms. The fact that writers like William Saletan and Hitchens himself have taken up residency at Slate is further evidence.
Ezra Klein's op-ed in yesterday's LA Times helps illustrate the way the Bush administration has effectively begun to turn the way Americans think about government -- and not in the direction it wanted them to turn.
Conservatives talk a lot about government failure, but over the last few years, it's really we who have failed government, depriving it of the revenue, the conscientious management and the attention needed for it to succeed. Undercapitalize a pizza joint and your customers will taste the poor ingredients, become frustrated by the long waits and grow repulsed by the grimy environs. Staff it with your unmotivated drinking buddies and the service will falter, as will the quality of the product. It's no way to run a pizza place, and it's certainly no way to run a government.Substantively speaking, the grand conservative ideological crusade "against" government has never been about achieving any real transformation of American political economy; it has been a mechanism for profiting politically from the periodic tax revolt, and it has been an excuse for a malign neglect of public services. There has never been a libertarian paradise on offer, just cynicism and deterioration (Rick Perlstein has been doing a great job of documenting that deterioration as manifested in unglamorous but critical areas like water infrastructure and food safety).
But that's exactly what we've done. With Proposition 13 and the famous California tax revolt, and with presidents whose entire domestic programs amounted to mindless tax-cutting, and with Congresses that have been happy to pass cuts and stack deficits, we have systematically deprived the government of the revenues it needs to provide basic services, even as we've come to need it to do so much more.
The Bush administration has only added to the problem.... Not only have we spent more than $500 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan and untold more on homeland security measures, but we've created, in Medicare Part D, the most expensive new entitlement since President Johnson signed the Great Society into existence. We've also increased education spending through the No Child Left Behind Act.
And during all this, tax cuts have robbed the Treasury of $200 billion in revenue; the need for a two-thirds majority in the Legislature impeded the flexibility of California to raise state taxes to compensate, while Proposition 13 continued to handicap our municipalities. All that money has to come from somewhere. And the "where" isn't the high-profile initiatives that the media is watching — the Medicares and Social Securities (although they may suffer too) — but from the smaller, less-noticed, but critically important programs and departments that millions rely on.
So Chuck Hagel is hinting at a third-party run. And NRO's Jim Geraghty wonders if the Nebraska Senator is sending coded messages to another favorite of the middle-of-the-road warriors, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg:
Chuck Hagel, fanning the flames of third-party bid talk:I can't exactly explain why, but the prospect of a Bloomberg-Hagel third-party ticket just depresses me right out of my skin."We didn't make any deals, but I think Mayor Bloomberg is the kind of individual who should seriously think about this," Hagel said. "He is the mayor of one of the greatest cities on earth. He makes that city work. That's what America wants." He said, "It's a great country to think about - a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation."Hm. He lists the "New York boy" first. Is this a way of pitching himself to Mayor Bloomberg as a running mate?
"I am not happy with the Republican Party today," Mr. Hagel said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "It has drifted from the party of Eisenhower, of Goldwater, of Reagan, the party that I joined. It isn’t the same party."Poor Hagel hasn't been getting the memos in quite a while: isn't the whole idea that party of Reagan is not supposed to be the party of Eisenhower?
No, I don't expect this to be a regular feature. I only want you to read the defense of Budweiser by Daniel over at Crooked Timber. I'll admit to flirting with beer snobbery, but I'm not above drinking Bud, either, especially if I'm watching people do sports things on the teevee (or at the stadium, since it's too much trouble to seek out the good brews at Shea). Anyway, here's a sample:
Budweiser is not “full of chemicals”. It does not comply with the German “Purity Law”, but this is because it has a non-barley grain in it (rice). The Rheinheitsgebot is a stupid law in any case, and was originally passed not to safeguard the sacred purity of German fluids (a concept that ought to be regarded as suspicious in its own right, as history has shown that when the Germans get keen on “purity” it is not always a wholly positive development) but to preserve wheat for making bread.And then there's this:
Budweiser does not taste like piss. Normal urine has a pH of 4.6 to 8.0. Budweiser, like most lagers, has a pH of around 4.0. Therefore, Budweiser is definitely more acidic than piss.If nothing else, you can look at it as a pretty good exercise in rhetorical contrarianism.
You have to admire conservative pundits. Faced with a considerable challenge -- how to keep defending their favorite candidate despite his having openly embraced a pro-choice position that should make him anathema to their party's base -- they're rising to the occasion:
So Rudy Giuliani has, we're told, decided to drop the tortured pretenses and run as an openly pro-choice candidate for the Republican nomination. Ross Douthat has a pretty good analysis of some of the implications:
I doubt that he can win the nomination like this, but it's not entirely out of the question, particularly in a frontloaded primary season where his weaker rivals may not have time to accept defeat, drop out, and allow the anti-Rudy vote to coalesce around a single candidate. (Though a brokered convention - the dream of pundits everywhere - might be a more likely outcome in that scenario.)In a larger sense, Giuliani's decision makes him a considerably more interesting candidate, since it clarifies his candidacy's role as a significant litmus test for conservative and Republican politics. Are there circumstances in which a candidate can win the GOP nomination despite openly rejecting the anti-abortion position that has been so important to the strength of the party's base over the past two decades?
The larger question is whether winning the GOP nomination as a down-the-line pro-choicer might prove to be a poisoned chalice. Frankly, if Giuliani being the Republican nominee doesn't prompt a third-party run by a pro-life candidate that cuts into his general-election support, then social conservatives ought to retire from politics out of sheer embarrassment.
The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger opines that what Republicans really want is a chance to "re-boot" their party. If the right's reactions to the first GOP debate were lukewarm, it was probably because that debate did little to clarify questions about where conservatives and their party might go from here. "What [Republicans] want," suggests Henninger, "is not so much Mr. Right as a clearer understanding than they've got now of what it means to be a Republican."
This isn't the kind of campaign that appeals to the pundit class, accustomed to dividing all life into A versus B or pollsters' percentages. There's no clear front-runner setting the daily agenda in either party. That exposes to view the fact that the parties themselves have become shifting inkblots with no meaning until one candidate wins the nomination and redefines the party, for awhile. The only people giddy about our current blank slates are the political scientists. Dial one up and he'll tell you that the muddle is the normal condition of the American political mind.There is indeed something "glorious" about that inscrutability, but that isn't how a movement activist should feel. Not that I mean to categorize Henninger himself one way or another. But when the pages of the Opinion Journal are given over to melancholic rapture about the shifting and non-ideological nature of the elecorate's views, one might suppose that we are beginning to see a change -- or at least a hesitation -- in the step of the army that once marched so confidently across the American political landscape.
And that's the rub: Political scientists have known for over 40 years, when detailed election data began to appear, that most of the millions of people who vote have no settled political ideology. You and your friends may watch all the political talk shows on Sunday morning. But most people don't.
The originator of the notion of politics as eternally wet cement was Philip Converse of the University of Michigan. His study, "The American Voter," with Angus Campbell and other Michigan colleagues, remains the basic starting point for all arguments over why people vote. It is why a John McCain or Hillary Clinton pay political professionals huge fees to lie awake nights trying to match the content of their candidate's next speech with what's tripping through the minds of 50%-plus listeners. In short, divining the collective mind of 121 million U.S. presidential election voters remains, gloriously, a deep and unsolvable mystery.
Been on vacation the last few days - tomorrow I'll be blogging for the Daily Gotham, live from the New York State Democratic Party's spring meeting. Here at A&S, things are likely to be quiet until Thursday afternoon or so.
Read this article in the Times about the emerging debate over Darwin within conservative ranks. It's not just about the fact that some of their leading politicians admit to not believing in evolution. It's about whether Darwin can be used to justify conservative social and economic policies. Some conservative intellectuals, apparently, are contending
that Darwin’s scientific theories about the evolution of species can be applied to today’s patterns of human behavior, and that natural selection can provide support for many bedrock conservative ideas, like traditional social roles for men and women, free-market capitalism and governmental checks and balances.One common tactic of creationists is to smear their opponents with the legacy of early-20th century Social Darwinists, as though they have anything to do with the teaching of evolutionary science. But perhaps it's a tactic that makes sense to the right-wingers, as it seems that it's their own allies who are, in fact, susceptible to to those very crackpot ideas.
“I do indeed believe conservatives need Charles Darwin,” said Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, who has spearheaded the cause. “The intellectual vitality of conservatism in the 21st century will depend on the success of conservatives in appealing to advances in the biology of human nature as confirming conservative thought.”
Having been smart enough to avoid drinking at every mention of Reagan's name last night, I'm sober and alert this morning (er, early afternoon) and ready to report on the right's reaction to last night's festivities.
Look, Rudy, you're not pro-life. But you're trying not to offend the Republican base. The best approach is to be honest. This is not an issue for obfuscation. And if you continue down this road, it will only get worse. [...]At Human Events, Nathanael Blake is feeling significantly less charitable:
Make the case for federalism and make the case for strictly limiting abortion. Mitt Romney, whose position has changed in the last two years (and good for him), and John McCain, who has done nothing in over 20 years in Washington to advance the pro-life cause (indeed, it wasn't that long ago when he was at war with Evangelicals) aren't standing on the firmest ground either. However, they've staked out their positions with clarity and can articulate them whenever called upon to do so.
[H]e's offering pro-lifers almost nothing. "Vote for me and I'll appoint judges who might rule that abortion isn't a constitutional right." Not an attractive proposition for pro-lifers who believe that abortion is murder and therefore the most important moral issue in our nation.Byron York reports on the "Crazy John McCain" angle:
Of course, Rudy might do quite well among those who aren't pro-life, but he's alienating those of us who are, and we're a majority in the GOP base.
“McCain looked like something out of The Shining, that part where Jack Nicholson goes GGGRRRRRR!” confided one adviser from a rival campaign.Kathleen Parker is a little more direct:
“McCain looked like that guy down the street who yells at you to get off his lawn,” said one reporter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Sen. John McCain’s surrogates in the Spin Room, preferred the word “passionate.” But the fact is, McCain did look a little overeager, or maybe overcaffeinated, at the beginning of the debate. But he was overeager and overcaffeinated in favor of tracking down Osama bin Laden, a position which, given that bin Laden is still at large more than five years after 9/11, seems unlikely to meet with much disapproval.
“He’s responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans,” McCain said of bin Laden. “He’s now orchestrating other attacks on the United States of America. We will do whatever is necessary. We will track him down. We will capture him. We will bring him to justice, and I will follow him to the gates of hell.”
Reading the transcript of the debate, the answer seems both solid and catchy. But the transcript does not show the strange little smile McCain made after he said “gates of hell.” Maybe he was relishing the prospect of getting bin Laden. Maybe he just liked saying “gates of hell” in a nationally televised political debate. In any event, like much of McCain’s performance Thursday night, it looked better in print than on TV.
McCain made me want to spirit valium to Simi Valley before he followed Osama bin Laden to the Gates of Hell. His answers and delivery seemed canned and cartoonish.Some people think he won, though.
If anyone stood out from the other candidates, in terms of looking polished and poised, it was clearly Mr. Romney. He got off some of the best lines of the night, partially because Chris Matthews gave him some oddball questions (I particularly liked: "I don't say anything to Roman Catholic bishops. They can do whatever the heck they want." [see: 8:38]). He, more than any of the others, managed to sound reasonable and assured no matter what he was saying. He's still got a major flip-flopping problem, and basically lied about it during his answers on abortion. But any casual observer of the debate (were there any non-junkies watching?) would probably have to view him as head-and-shoulders above the others.All this analysis probably overestimates the importance of a May 2007 debate, which was watched by a pretty small slice of the American electorate. Kevin Drum points to a Survey USA poll of California voters who think Rudy won -- he notes that the results appear to "mostly just track how popular the candidates were before the debate even took place."
The most praised person was, of course, Ronald Reagan. The candidates put as little distance as possible between themselves and Reagan. The debate may have been forgettable. Reagan wasn't.For better, as they say, or for worse.
Kevin Drum points out a major reason why Republicans, especially during a presidential election cycle, seem so desperately hooked on Reagan nostalgia:
After all, what choice do they have? Bush Jr. is radioactive; Bush Sr. was an apostate; Ford was an accident; Nixon was a crook; Eisenhower was practically a socialist by modern Republican standards; and Hoover was....Dubya was supposed to be the cure for this. He was supposed to be both conservative and popular, just like Saint Ronnie. But his war president schtick has evaporated, his approval ratings are stuck in the basement, and now Republicans are discovering ways to claim that he was never even a conservative anyway. Rather than building the future off the successes of their two-term incumbent president, conservatized Republicans are forced to go back to the only well they have.
Well, let's not even go there. The less said about Hoover the better. But the bottom line is that aside from Reagan, there's literally no Republican president in the past 70 years that Republicans really feel comfortable with. The unpopular ones (Hoover, Nixon, Bush Sr., Bush Jr.) are toxic and the popular ones (Eisenhower, Ford) are far too moderate for today's crew. So Reagan worship is in full swing because, really, they don't have any other choice, do they?
Advice for all you traders in political futures, based on first impressions:
The Shiavo question: should Congress have gotten involved? Romney says no, but it was okay for Jeb to do it. McCain says "we should've taken more time." But that doesn't answer the question, unless he means they should've waited for Frist to do another video diagnosis.
John, you're the most astute Rudy observer that I know, so a question: Tonight Rudy hasn't proven memorable, funny, or even—his usual strength—compelling. He's phoning it in. Is he really even running? Or do you sense that he's still at some level undecided?John Podhoretz promises to answer tomorrow in the NY Post.
Giuliani thinks a national ID card is "critical." He would. Remember, this guy is being supported by people who call themselves libertarians.
I'm sorry but Romney still comes across like a well-cast actor in a movie of the week about a guy running for president.I've said before, the guy reminds me of Martin Sheen on the West Wing.
Interactive question: is there anyone up there who doesn't believe in evolution? THREE CANDIDATES RAISE THEIR HANDS. I didn't see who they were. Anyone see?
I think the problem for McCain -- and I'm going to get really shallow here -- is that his tough-guy thing is undercut by his slightly ridiculous jowlyness. When he says things like "pork barrel," he sounds like a cartoon character.
More snap judgments from the Corner:
Mike Huckabee is really terrific. It's hard to know whether a debate watched only by a few million people can really launch someone, but I'd say halfway through that he is far and away the most likable and eloquent candidate on that stage.Giuliani's is tanking:
Rudy Is Getting Very Many Chances on Abortion Tonight...and he hasn't made any progress.
I hate to be premature here, but even without Fred Thompson here to destroy his star's lustre a bit, Rudy is doing it all on his own.
Another hour of this? Demoralizing.
McCain should hold his hand over an open flame — like G. Gordan Liddy — for the duration of each of his answers just to prove his steely resolve and his willingness to go to eleven in defense of America.Tweety, referring to immigration, asks "anybody want to take a strong view? Senator McCain?"
Huckabee: "We're a great nation not because government is great, but because people are great." See, he's slick. Oh, and he mentions Reagan again.
Oooohhh... interactive question for Giuliani: "did you learn anything about relating to African-Americans during your time as mayor?" Rudy seems thrown off by the question, firing a half-cocked version of his tough-love welfare thing.
Tweety asks Gilmore if Bush should shake up his cabinet. Gilmore responds by calling for engagement in the Middle East. Que? Also: another R-bomb.