My latest at Real Clear Politics, co-authored with conservative historian David Frisk.
My thoughts here, not on the legal or Constitutional questions of Watergate, but the cultural impact of how our conceptions of privacy changed 40 years ago. With all of those Expletives-Deleted….was Richard Nixon our first Facebook president?
The Tar Heel State had a GOP Senate primary last week which served as a nearly perfect proxy war for the internal conflict in the national party: Establishment vs. Tea Party vs. Evangelicals. Guess who won. Read my op-ed in the Raleigh News & Observer here.
My piece published in POLITICO yesterday considers the importance of the tea party’s choice of Utah Sen. Mike Lee to be their official respondent to the President’s State of the Union Address — while tonight’s speeches may or may not matter much to anyone outside the Beltway, and the same might be said for the various responses from his opponents,they are important symbols and indicators of how the political landscape is shifting. This year, I think the tea party choice was as much about style as substance (both matter) and particularly found it noteworthy that Ted Cruz was not chosen to give the response. Lee presents a rhetorical study in contrast.
My latest article, published today in POLITICO Magazine, coauthored with historian David Frisk — biographer of the late William A. Rusher, Buckley’s longtime colleague and the publisher of National Review. We explore the parallels between not-so-long-ago troubles in the GOP, and Rusher’s effort to creat a conservative third party in the 1970s, in particular reacting to the policies of the Nixon administration. Those efforts failed, as did other past GOP efforts at ideological “purification.” We see some lessons for the Tea Party here, and lament the lack of sensible conservative guidance that benefited earlier generations. David and I were both fortunate to have know Rusher, and in my case he served as an amiable debating partner and correspondent — always eager to debate politics and what “conservatism” was really all about.
My recent column in The Hill, co-authored with conservative veteran Scot Faulkner, drew ire on the twitterverse from the Tea Party crowd, including a distant relative named Dan Riehl who is popular and followed among these folks. In reaction to my original column on Ronald Reagan I was called everything from a “half-breed” to someone who had been “dropped on his head” — a old Jersey saying….plug the terms into twitter and you will see what we are speaking about. In good favor I passed this on to my dad (a Reagan Democrat, who voted for RR twice); what I was originally writing about was the misconstruing of Reagan’s legacy. The twitter fury only serves as further evidence, with its lack of thoughtfulness. The Dan Riehl we write about below, in my dad’s comments, is my uncle Dan — not Dan Riehl of Tea Party fame.
Here is what my dad wrote:
“As Jonathan Riehl’s father, I can assure you that he was not dropped on his head as a child. He was raised on a diet of Walter Cronkite and Ronald Reagan. Indeed when in kindergarten, the kids were talking about Star Wars he thought they were talking about President Reagan’s space program!
Pope Francis has been making waves even after his first few months as leader of the Catholic Church — as much for what he is saying as what he is doing; while some critics point out that there’s nothing “technically” revolutionary about his statements, the cardinal rule of rhetoric has never applied with more force: It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Indeed, a large percentage of the reaction to Francis has had to do with the nonverbal aspects of his rhetoric.
Item 2: The popemobile. First he rode the bus to work. Then got rid of the bulletproof glass on the Benz. Then he started driving a Ford Focus. Deciding even that was too snazzy, he recently accepted (as a gift) a 1984 Renault with 186,000 miles on it.
Item 3: The chair. Compare Benedict’s throne to Francis’s seat of choice.
To be sure, it’s also about what he’s said, including his first appearance before the faithful, where he pretty much said “Hi folks, here I am!” And then all of the comments about how the Church needs to stop “obsessing” over homosexuality, abortion, and birth control. He even seemed to say that he’s OK with atheists. His wide-ranging interview with the Jesuit magazine America triggered raised eyebrows as well. (Needless to say, this caught Bill Maher’s attention…)
Some observers have suggested that Francis’s words (and actions) could even have implications for American politics — threatening to peel off typically conservative Catholics from the rest of the (increasingly extreme) religious right.