Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan’

Time CoverMy 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.

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Upside-down-GOPMy 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?

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My latest here in POLITICO on the GOP crackup, with my collaborator Scot Faulkner.


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boehner6My 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.

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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.

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ImagePolitical 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.

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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?

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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.”

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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!

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Following the Ames Awards, the next round of special recognitions for the GOP candidates.

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.

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