My latest post on GOPinsantity, the news aggregator blog, a watchdog against nutty “conservatives” (quotes intentional) who are wrecking the once respectable conservative movement. Did you know that some actual conservatives see the hypocrisy in the the party’s current rhetoric about budget deficits?
Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan’
My second installment at POLITICO co-authored with my friend and conservative veteran Scot Faulkner, on the total disappearance of anything resembling a conservative movement or conservative leadership. Scot and I share different political viewpoints, but have been coming together to address what we both view as a failure of governance on the national scale.
Senator Marco Rubio was in Raleigh tonight, promoting his autobiography at one of our independent bookstores, Quail Ridge. It was an interesting choice for a Republican who has confounded conventional wisdom on a number of fronts, notably his independent stance on immigration policy. In the press gaggle after his book signing I asked him about what he thinks independent voters in North Carolina should take away from his policy views, especially considering the high number of undocumented workers here. His answer was more nuanced than the man at the top of the GOP ticket, emphasizing the need for a “temporary” or “guest” worker program (no talk of “self-deportation”) — alongside his message about the need for the United States to not be the “only country that does not enforce its immigration laws.” The problem, of course, is that our immigration laws are broken.
In a broader sense, Rubio is positioned uniquely as someone who appeals both to the Tea Party wing of the GOP (which he praised tonight as a movement of “principle”), and the longer, more established traditional intellectual conservatism represented by groups like the Federalist Society, where he is equally popular. Not only immigration, but other controversial policy issues like health care lie at the heart of this internecine conflict among the fractured conservative movement; the Supreme Court vote on the Affordable Care Act — a/k/a Obamacare — has laid this bare: how did we find one conservative, Chief Justice Roberts, so at odds with his fellow Republican nominees Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito? I wrote recently about this recently at POLITICO; while some on the right have been attacking the Chief Justice for his vote, I think what it really represents is a different strand of thought, more in line with traditional conservatism: one that rejects ideology as the only way that a candidate, or a judge, should be held to account. After all, it was leftist socialism that modern postwar conservatives rejected for its party-line mentality, in favor of a reflective, historical, intellectual mentality. Conservatism, properly understood is a “state of mind,” not an ideology, in the words of the conservative philosopher Russell Kirk. Those who criticize Rubio’s different views on immigration might revisit this older generation’s thinking about what it means to have the conservative state if mind.
What is fascinating about Rubio — and thus far a testament to his political acumen — is his ability to bridge this divide on the Right. He is equally popular with both audiences, at Tea Party rallies or the Federalist Society or CPAC and other more intellectual, traditionalist circles. This is key to his appeal as a vice presidential contender, and to his future as someone who has the potential to revive the hybrid conservatism forged over the last 60 years. The conservative movement was always a fusion of populists and intellectuals, and it took leaders like William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan to make it possible. The coalition has come undone in recent years. Many see Rubio as a successor to this longer legacy, and only time will tell what those expectations hold.
Political analysis from a different perspective, with John Barron @JohnBarronABC of the Australian Broadcasting Company. My segment, discussing the Buffett Rule and Ronald Reagan’s speech in 1985 in which he made Obama’s cases for fairness, begins about halfway through. It’s preceded by insightful comment from my friend Scot Faulkner, a former Reagan and Gingrich aide who has written extensively about the failures of the modern conservative movement.
This is a case of letting things speak for themselves: Ronald Reagan here in 1985 essentially makes the case for the “Buffett Rule” now being advocated by the Obama administration. Advocates — including the President himself — would be wise to capitalize on this. It shows how far the Republican Party has drifted. Reagan here makes the case for fairness in taxation, including the specific point about a bus driver not paying a higher rate than a millionaire.
To all those GOPers claiming the Reagan mantle: how can you respond to this?
Posted in Conservatism, Political Rhetoric, tagged Barack Obama, Buckley, Conservatives, Diane Rhem, Framing, Franklin Roosevelt, Liberalism, Populism, Republicans, rhetoric, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, tea party, Thomas Frank on January 9, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Thomas Frank, author of “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” had a fascinating appearance today on Diane Rehm program. I’ve had my objections to his theories in the past, namely that there is a fundamental flaw, from a political and rhetorical standpoint, with the premise that there is something wrong with Kansas. As one teacher of mine put it, the smartest thing conservatives might have done after Frank’s book premiered would have been to offer (via National Review, perhaps) a free copy of the book. The accompanying advert would blare: “See, here come those liberals again, telling you you’re not as smart as them, that–literally–there’s something wrong with you.“
My addendum to this argument would be that there’s nothing really wrong with Kansas; there’s something wrong with the progressive/Democratic response to the conservative/Republican arguments being made to the people of Kansas. The problem, if you are a Democrat, is that conservatives are persuading people in Kansas. The solution lies not in “fixing” what’s “wrong” with people, but in persuading them that your ideas are better than the ones they have come to subscribe to.
Frank has a new book out, “Pity the Millionaire,” which he discussed in the Rehm interview, and he seems to be coming around to the position that there’s not as much wrong with Kansas as there is something wrong with the arguments being made by Democrats. I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve read the new book–but based on the interview, Frank and I may be more on the same page this time. His project traces the evolution of populism since its real inception during the Depression years. How did FDR’s political victories, built on the successes of the progressive labor movement, get co-opted a generation later by Richard Nixon’s Silent Majority and the current tea partiers? Frank’s analysis focuses on several factors, among them a failure to embrace the importance of rhetoric in maintaining movements. Frank rightly points to FDR a great political wordsmith who persuaded the nation on the rightness of his policies. Those fireside chats meant something. Liberalism in the postwar years drifted away from FDR’s vigorous rhetorical engagement and towards a more institutionalized, polite, managerial style. Adlai Stevenson vs. William F. Buckley. No contest.
As Rehm pointed out in her interview with Frank, by the time to cultural turmoil of the 1960s came around, the Right had moved in for full populist capture (Rick Perlstein’s “Nixonland” is vital reading here.) The white working class (and even a good percentage of the black working class) supported Richard Nixon in 1972. Reagan Democrats were emerging as a political cohort, successors to Nixon’s Silent Majority. I look forward to Frank’s analysis of how this trajectory led us to the tea party and today’s populist anger on the right.
Frank notes that one of his criticisms of the current political left is what he calls “the silence of the technocrats.” He is dead on. In a conversation with a similarly minded friend just yesterday we found ourselves echoing this very theme. Why didn’t the President and his allies make better arguments about their policies, such as health care reform? Why didn’t they articulate them in ways that would persuade, and respond to the phony criticisms from the Right? “They always fall back on expertise,” was Thomas Frank’s reply today. “That’s not how Roosevelt did it,” he said. “You don’t say you’re doing it because the economists told you so.”
Posted in Campaign Trail, Conservatism, Political Rhetoric, tagged Barack Obama, Conservatives, Debates, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Republicans, rhetoric, Rick Perry, Ronald Reagan, twitter on October 12, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Continuing our increasingly popular GOP debate tradition, tonight’s awards upon the conclusion of the Dartmouth debate. Notably, we offer for the first time our…
Actual Debate Strategy Award: Herman Cain. The story here is not simply that Cain got plenty of mentions of the 9-9-9 plan into his and everyone else’s answers (20, by my count). The debating success was that over the course of the session he was able achieve the rhetorical equation of his plan with himself as candidate. Hence when 9-9-9 was mentioned–not necessarily Cain by name–Cain was given a chance to respond. Cain now is 9-9-9. Thus he dominated and was given large amounts of time to explain and amplify his message. #999 emerged on twitter as its own hashtag, and when people were tweeting about #999 they were also tweeting about #HermanCain. The next messaging challenge is for Cain to attach positive values to the Cain999 brand; he rolled these out tonight: Fair, Neutral, Visible, Simple, Transparent.
Lorne Michaels Thanks You/Saturday Night Live You-Can’t-Make-This-Up Award: Tie, Rick Perry for apparently napping through the entire debate (paging Alec Baldwin); and Michele Bachman (paging Dana Carvey, who better get busy dusting off his Church Lady costume after the Congresswoman suggests the 9-9-9 plan is an inverted Mark of the Beast. Could it be….Satan?)
Remember the Maine! Historical Obscurity Award: Michele Bachmann, for referencing the Spanish-American War Tax. Close second to the questioner from Bloomberg who cited the costs of building the Erie Canal.
Tim Russert Is Rolling Over Award: Shared by all panelists. After playing a damning clip of Ronald Reagan clearly endorsing the principles of Obama’s so-called “Buffett Tax” on the wealthiest Americans, the moderators allowed every respondent to dodge, bob, and weave; Mitt Romney even appeared to say he preferred the tax policies of fellow Massachusetts Democrat John Kennedy to the president we otherwise would be led to believe was the greatest Republican of the century. Russert would never, ever, have let this slide.
Senator Fred Dalton Thompson Unfortunately High Expectations Award: Rick Perry. ‘Nuff Said.
John Williams Best Versatile Soundtrack Award: Bloomberg News. Musical interludes during the fade ins and outs to commercials included a potpourri of bongo war drums befitting Rick Santorum’s battle cry against China; a Philip Glass-like serialist electronic rhythmic figure suited to Rick Perry’s peaceful absence; an Ennio Morricone thriller passage capturing Herman Cain’s vigor and insurgence.
Admiral James B. Stockdale Memorial Who Am I, And Why Am I Here Award: Jon Huntsman. An earlier recipient of the Your Twitter Feed Is Making Me Sad Award, Gov. Huntsman (whose twitter feed is still making me sad) now seems completely irrelevant. Please, just let it go.
Barry Goldwater Memorial This Isn’t a Conservative Movement I Recognize Award: Rick Perry. One of his three Reagan references was to the President’s bombastic, radically conservative son Michael. We consulted the experts at ReaganCount.com, who sadly denied credit for this junior-Reagan mention. But after listening to every single candidate engage with the real Reagan on his centrist position on taxes and fairness, it was less than encouraging to hear Michael Reagan invoked by a leading candidate for his father’s party’s nomination.
Justin Bieber Twitter Team Award: Rick Perry. Within 30 seconds of a bumbling answer on “opening up our energyexploration areas” his team had two nicely worded, succinct tweets out on energy independence. Go interns!
Posted in Campaign Trail, Conservatism, Media Criticism, Political Rhetoric, tagged Conservatives, Jon Huntsman, Jon Stewart, Michele Bachman, Mitt Romney, Republicans, rhetoric, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Ronald Reagan, tea party, Wolf Blitzer on September 13, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
The Jon Stewart Media Criticism Award: Wolf Blitzer and CNN. Stewart is not always on point, but his recent critique of the media coverage of the GOP field is spot on. It certainly seems like someone, somewhere in the editorial halls has decided this is a race between Romney and Perry. Tonight’s debate was taken up overwhelmingly with the Mitt and Rick Show, as they repeatedly exceeded and ignored time limits in going after each other on Social Security, jobs, immigration, health care, and so on. Here is Stewart’s critique from the last round; I’m sure he’ll be on it again tomorrow.
Can I Get An Amen? Award: Tie, between Rick Perry, with two Amens, and Al Sharpton for his Tweet responding to the audience’s reaction to a question about whether society should allow a sick person should to die, if they have no insurance. @TheRevAl “Let people die is cause for applause.”
Adlai Stevenson Highfallootin’ Rhetoric Award: Mitt Romney. Primarily for “patina of legality” (referring to illegal immigration) and “beneficence” towards immigrants. Confusion on Twitter about what this latter word means, or whether it was a mangling of “benefits.”
Very Odd Kurt Cobain Memorial Award: Jon Huntsman. For a Nirvana reference (“All Apologies”). Completely lost on the audience. Who, I say, is writing this poor man’s speeches?
Your Twitter Feed Is Still Making Me Sad Award: @JonHuntsman.
Senator Robert C. Byrd I Have the Floor Award: Newt Gingrich. Up against the moderator’s choice to allow the Mitt and Rick Show to dominate the entire debate, the Speaker showed he can still get the rhetorical wheels rolling at top speed. Newt simply keeps talking. He wasn’t necessarily going after anyone else on the stage; he just…likes to keep talking.
Bernie Madoff Award: Rick Perry. He’s not backing down on the Ponzi Scheme, and he’s probably got research on it. And it’s probably because people think he’s on to something.
Jackpot Award: Close finish, Herman Cain narrowly edging out Rick Perry, who was dealt four aces by Mitt Romney. The Herminator kept hitting the 9-9-9 straight jackpot. And he wants America to be less uptight.
Block That Metaphor Award: Mitt Romney. Please. Stop analogizing the economic disaster to putting quarters into a pay phone. It. Makes. No. Sense.
Amazing Shrinking Candidate Award: Michele Bachmann. Aside from her brief salvo at Rick Perry and the HPV vaccine, she was a nonfactor. Marginalized by the moderator, but also nonassertive. Even Santorum interrupted more.
Remember the Alamo Award: Ron Paul. The man may be fighting a losing battle, but he won’t quit–even taking the boos in stride. He was the only candidate (yet again) to address costs of military interventionism and its lack of a fit with traditional conservative principles.
Missing Man Award: Ronald Reagan. Apparently now a RINO, at least with this particular crowd. Mentioned once, by Newt Gingrich. One might consider why.
Posted in Conservatism, Political Rhetoric, tagged Abortion, Conservatives, Donald Trump, George Allen, Israel, John Huntsman, Mitt Romney, Ralph Reed, Republicans, Ronald Reagan, tea party, Tim Pawlenty on June 4, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
First day of Twitter complete, and for those of you not yet online with me there, here are the highlights of today’s events at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition event. Although billed as a workshop of sorts, it was more of a traditional conference, with a stellar GOP speaker list and breakout panel sessions. Tea Party presence was high, and indeed this is the evangelical Christian base that Reed knows so well. He’s back, and the turnout today shows it. Most major GOP candidates and would-be’s were here to recite the social conservative/tea party mantra: Cut spending, stop abortion, stop gay marriage, support Israel without reservation. Pulsing through it all was an idealized worship of the founding period, Ronald Reagan, and the need to “take our country back.”
The full event is available on C-SPAN streaming.
Beyond that formula, employed by virtually every participant, these items:
-Michelle Bachman brought the house down. Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Romney paled by comparison. Her speech was effective, energetic, and improved from past performances. She’s for real, and she’s getting much better at this. These are her people, the base. She’s running. As Jon Stewart would say, she could win the Republic of Base-istan.
-The Donald. Still a player, and still the (would be) candidate with cojones. Did not mention 3rd party run tonight, but still…why was he here? The speech was funny and interesting. The only participant I heard today to go off script; he pivoted from applause lines about the deficit and spending on Iraq to Eric Cantor’s statements about not paying for Tornado relief without budget offsets. Trump finds this unconscionable. Cantor can do no evil with this crowd. Trump does not care. When the pins started to drop he pivoted to stand-with-Israel. All good. Suggests forged birth certificate and uses first reference to “Barack Hussein Obama” I’ve heard in a while.
-Best Reagan reference. HuffPo and I were both keeping Reagan tallies. Results differ as it got hard to keep track. But as to the best invocation, Huntsman scores for odd, Pawlenty for vivid. Huntsman quoted Reagan (from the new book The Notes) who quoted Sam Adams who in turn was quoting an unnamed French philosopher, probably Montesquieu. You follow? Pawlenty, alternatively, paints the picture of the 1981 inauguration. Cloudy skies. Reagan places hand on mother’s Bible. Clouds part. Ray of sunlight on Reagan’s shoulders. T-Paw begins reciting the scriptural passage on the opened page. The audience begins reciting along with him. Am I at church? (Also this crossed my mind when Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni, who was announcing the end of the nation as we know it in a panel on the tea party, asked all present to turn to someone beside them and thank them for saving our country. This was the Catholic version, of course. Awkward.)
-Scheduling fail of the day: Mitt Romney introduced by his wife following a bravado barnstormer by right wing legal crusader Jay Sekulow. Sekulow, who is in front of the Supreme Court all the time on behalf of his side’s causes, knows how to rouse and audience. It was all Israel and abortion all the time, and he was in full voice, raising a rallying cry over repeated standing ovations and cheers. Enter Ann Romney. Poor Ann Romney. Who declared, politely, that Barack Obama had better watch out because “we are going to get him.” Her final line, introducing hubby: “It’s up to you, sweetie!” Why, why did they do this to her? Mitt was Mitt, soldiering through gladly but like Huntsman and Pawlenty seeming more as though he was there to recite the rite than to connect. I told Sekulow later that there were probably a lot of people in that room who wish he was running.
-Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. Attempts to reinvent self also failing. To connect with the social conservative base, rhetorical solution is clear: Add adjective “moral” to issues. Moral deficit crisis. Moral jobs crisis. And in the speechwriting fail of the night, the oddest folksy-family tale I’ve ever heard. Talking about his dad, another repeated GOP presidential contender, he described George Romney’s carpenter skills, specifically the ability to stuff his mouth full of nails and spit them out one at a time, point first, into lathe boards, and then hammer them in. People in the crowd were looking at each other confused. Mitt, we know you’re trying. But spitting nails? I saw this is a bad horror movie recently. Who on earth is writing this man’s speeches?
-Frank Luntz was a no show. I was gravely disappointed at missing the chance to hear the old boss advise these good folks. I informed several members of the press and crowd around me that they should not be surprised at a Luntz late appearance, or non-appearance. “What was it like working for him?” “Often like this.” Grover Norquist reported no knowledge of his pal’s whereabouts. Grover Norquist not seen smiling all day. Grover Norquist refers to Republicans who vote for tax increases as rat heads floating in Coke bottles. Soldier on, Brother Grover. Perhaps though you are not the smiling optimistic messenger Ralph Reed kept telling the audience the conservative movement needs.
-George Allen says he’s sorry for Macaca. First time. “And during my last campaign, I never should have singled out that young man working for my opponent, calling him a name. He was just doing his job. I was wrong to do that to him.” He went on further. I was genuinely struck; I’ve heard plenty of phony apologies from pols and this was not one of them. He said he’s had five years to reflect. He’s right. His demeanor seemed more seasoned overall. I was far more impressed by this George Allen (and not just because of the apology) than the Allen I cheered Jim Webb on against.
-John Boehner gets tearyeyed, again. Right on cue. Talking about his high school football coach and the greatness of America. Really? Really??? Yup, really.
Signing off, with sore hands from all this Twittering.