Daniel Larison, Talking Sense

Monday, December 14, AD 2009

I’ve written about this before, but it’s nice to see Daniel Larison making the point with characteristic clarity in an interview with The Economist:

Iraq was also the policy that turned the public so sharply against President Bush prior to the 2006 mid-term elections, and those elections were and were correctly seen as a rejection of the war and Mr Bush’s handling of it. The war was the main issue of those elections, and the GOP lost control of Congress because it had identified itself completely with the war and its members in Congress continued to be its most vocal defenders. By national-security conservatives, I mean those members of the conservative movement who have a primary and overriding focus on foreign policy and national-security questions, and who typically take extremely hawkish positions. They were the leading advocates and cheerleaders for the invasion. Most movement conservatives supported the policy, but it was the national-security conservatives who drove the party into the ditch while the others went along for the ride.

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14 Responses to Daniel Larison, Talking Sense

  • Well, Larison was certainly wrong about the surge which he vehemently opposed and predicted would fail.


    The war in Iraq was quite popular until the casualties began to mount and the Bush administration appeared to have no plan to win the conflict. That is death for popular support of a war. After Rumsfeld was finally dumped, Bush listened to Petraeus and carried out a war-winning plan, but by that time it was too late. I do think however that Republican unpopularity in 2006 had more to do with the accurate perception that Republicans had been profligate in spending in Washington. The Iraq War was a major secondary factor in 2006, but I do not think it played much of a role in 2008, an election in which the economic meltdown in September was devastating to Republicans. Then the Democrats took over the White House with broad majorities in Congress and demonstrated to the Republican amateurs how true pros in wasteful and feckless spending went about things.

  • I have a hard time accepting the idea that deficit spending was a significant factor in 2006. For one thing, the deficit spending was basically half of what it was in 2004 when Bush won re-election, and it was trending downwards in 2005, 2006 and 2007. As the deficit picture was improving, Bush’s approval ratings were sliding.

  • The Iraq War was probably the main reason for the GOP losses, but there were so many factors – scandals, deficits (yeah, they were going down, but the Bush-led GOP was seen as no longer living up to conservative principles economically), an unenergetic base (thanks to the previous point), fall-out from Katrina (which ties in with administrative incompetence in Iraq as well), etc.

  • The problem with blaming Republican defeats on excessive spending is that such spending went on for years and no one really cared. It was only when the party was already hurting because of Iraq that it became an issue.

  • The Republican Party never had but quite modest pluralities in both houses of Congress. With few exceptions, it is the norm for the President’s party to lose ground during midterm elections, most particularly during midterm elections held during a second presidential term (for whatever reason). It would have been a historical oddity had the Republicans retained Congress, without regard to the ambient concerns of the electorate.

    The article to which Mr. McClarey links is instructive. Unless I am mistaken, Mr. Larison’s time in the military approximates that of Madonna Ciccone. All of his formal education has been in pre-modern history or in the liberal arts at an institution which (as we speak) offers one (1) course in either military history or national security studies. The guy must be a hell of an autodidact. I see has been adding to his portfolio skills as a diviner of public opinion as well (and the results of his dowsing are that the general public’s irritation is a precise replica of his own – Frank Luntz, your consulting business is in danger).

  • “The problem with blaming Republican defeats on excessive spending is that such spending went on for years and no one really cared. It was only when the party was already hurting because of Iraq that it became an issue.”

    Much of the Republican base has always cared. Ross Perot used that to devastating effect against George Bush in 1992. George Bush with his “compassionate conservative” spending programs exacerbated the problem. Contra Larison the response to 9-11 and the seeming victory in Iraq in 2003 helped mask this problem in the 2002 and 2004 elections. When Iraq went South, disgruntled Republicans over spending saw no reason to turn out in 2006, and there was great dissatisfaction with McCain in 2008 and his support of the Bailout Swindle of 2008. The tea parties are merely an outward manifestation of a growing concern with fiscal folly that has been building for well over a decade. Republicans ran in 1994 as the party to bring fiscal sanity to Washingon, and initially they did to some extent. The years under Bush convinced too many Republicans that there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the parties on the issue of government spending. The Democrats this year have convinced many of those same Republicans that they were wrong.

  • Find me two people who voted Democrat in 2006 because the Republicans were spending too much.

  • Find me two people who voted Democrat in 2006 because the Republicans were spending too much.

    More likely, it would be people who abstained and added to the plurality of the Democrats by default.

  • Again, I don’t know that it was deficits per se, but rather a feeling that the GOP had lost its way generally on economics issues. As Art Deco noted, the primary impact there was influencing core GOP voters to stay home.

  • Well, maybe, but my guess is that it deficits were more of a second order effect. By 2006, Bush’s approval ratings had tanked, primarily because of Iraq (and Katrina). To say that deficits were the real problem or even a major one requies an explanation for

    1) Why Republican voters did turnout in 2004 when deficit spending was much higher, and why reductions in deficit spending between 04-06 convinced those voters to stay home.

    2) Why Republican voters were so different from the rest of the electorate that it wasn’t Iraq, Katrina, etc that depressed turnout when it pretty clearly was what drove most of the rest of the country.

    There’s not any way to prove this one way or the other, of course. But I think the fiscal irresponsibility account is pretty implausible as a primary driver, even if it undeniably is a first order consideration to a vocal but small contingent on the right (like, for instance, Ron Paul supporters). Most people don’t pay attention to politics much, and that’s certainly true of the deficit.

  • I have a feeling it was more of a “Change” election in 2006 than any one factor. It happens. It does nto seem fair but it is what it is.

    We should also recall in 2006 that “Joe” Lieberman” was target number one over the Iraq war and he won.

    What the various branches of the GOP and the conservative movement really hate to admit is that they were too busy fighting each other and calling each other RINOS. They seemed to have forgot there were democrat challengers. This nasty counterproductive scorched earth policy started happening around the Dubai Port controversy and just got worse. Add to that a few unfortunate scandals and the Washington Post making all out war on the VA GOP Senator and it was a bad day.

    Also another point. WE lost a ton of hispanic vote largely because we could not police our own on a highly emotional debate.

    Did the Iraq war play a role in some places. Perhaps but when I look at some blue dog victories that occured in other places the ansewer is no there.

  • Regarding fall out from Katrina. I really wonder how much that was a factor. I think on the whole the public was much more sophisticated about that. In Louisiana the GOP did not suffer for it from what I can tell. It did not show up in the Congressional races in the last two cycles

  • Larison’s argument assumes that the fiscal and defense conservatives are two separate teams.

    “Most movement conservatives supported the policy, but it was the national-security conservatives who drove the party into the ditch while the others went along for the ride.”

    That sounds like scapegoating. If all the hawks jumped off a bridge, the movement conservatives shouldn’t have followed them. In reality, hawks are movement conservatives. There may be some conservatives who promote military strength, fiscal soundness, or traditional social values more, but there’s too much overlap between their policies to identify many of them as single-issue conservatives.

    Furthermore, the invasion of Iraq didn’t harm the Bush Administration. The apparent failure in Iraq, along with the Mark Foley scandal, added to the natural midterm loss for the president’s party.

    The lack of Republican fiscal high ground was a major cause of their losses in 2008. And again, there weren’t economic conservatives who lost their way, or who are trying to spin old military failures to their advantage. The Party lost its way fiscally.

  • Y’all keep referring to Republican voters and who they voted for, I don’t get it. Republican voters always vote for Republicans. Republicans lose because non-Republican voters who tend to vote for Republican candidates may or may not vote for them depending on what they actually do.

    Iraq could have been over in 18 months if we fought it right. The problem was Rumsfeld and the liberal neo-cons that were extending the conflict for nefarious purposes. Compassionate conservatism was code for spending like Democrats to sway the liberal-leaning Hispanics because they are seen as the future of the party, since it is a forgone conclusion in Republican circles that blacks are lost to the murderous Democrats (responsible for the murder of a third of all conceived Negros over the last 40 years!). ANd white voters are being overrun by brown immigrants and lack of reproduction. This is all conventional thinking and it is wrong.

    Republicans only win by default because they are less bad than the Democrats. Of course a charismatic leader, an orchestrated economic crisis and non-conservative Republican stooge makes for a great way to intentionally lose an election and keep the money rolling in to ‘win’ next time. Gimme a break.

    There is hardly a difference between the two parties and most Americans are so ignorant of the purpose and intent of government that they will vote for the jerks that promise the most stuff or the idiots who promise not to let them, but let them anyway.

    This is a dying system, if it isn’t dead yet. How do the Republicans recover?

    Oddly enough it will be the same way the Church will. Ditch the lying, sniveling, liberal relativism and honestly stick to principles of truth and Truth. Do the right (pun intended) thing especially when it is unpopular. And be doers of the conservative principles.

    Republicans have the same choice to make as the two sons from yesterday’s Gospel reading. Are they going to keep saying the are conservative and act like slightly less liberal Democrats, or are they actually going speak moderately and behave in a principled, conservative manner?

    Republicans lose because they lie, Demoncrats win because they will double your freebies if you vote for them within the next 15 minutes. Call now for more free crap.

Which Comes First, the Church or the Party?

Wednesday, September 2, AD 2009

Well, I’ve read and talked more than I ever cared to about Ted Kennedy recently, may he rest in peace. And Darwin has already ably responded to this defense of the late Senator Kennedy from Michael Sean Winters. But something about Mr. Winters response has been ringing in my ears, and I think it’s because it summarizes in a few sentences what I perceive to be the tragedy of Catholic Democrats in the U.S.: they could have taken a stand for unborn life but were unwilling. As a result, faithful Catholics have either been driven into the Republican Party, become independents, or become disconcertingly comfortable with the status quo on abortion. Currently I think both the first and last options are incompatible with Catholic thought – at least without substantial departure from party orthodoxies. Where familiarity (with both parties) should have breed contempt, it has instead yielded unconscionable familiarity and acceptance. And Mr. Winters’ post provides a clear illustration of this reality:

To dismiss his [Senator Kennedy’s] career because of his stance on abortion is to be ignorant of the complicated way the issue of abortion manifested itself in the early 1970s: I think Kennedy got it wrong but I do not find it difficult to understand why and how he got it wrong.

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5 Responses to Which Comes First, the Church or the Party?

  • Well said. I think your argument is strengthened by the fact that for over thirty years, Sen. Kennedy had ample opportunity to reevaluate his position in the light of advances in prenatal medicine. He had the opportunity to take firm stances against the pro-abortion absolutists’ increasingly irrational demands. He appears to have done very little in this way, though I will give him credit for his efforts on behalf of handicapped children.

    The tendency to appoint oneself theologian-in-chief is, sadly, far too common. Not only did Kennedy succumb to this failing, he seems at a critical decision point to have surrounded himself with members of the clergy suffering from the same disorder.

  • I appreciate the analysis but I wonder if we are creating an unjustified distinction in favor of Sen. Kennedy’s interpretation of social justice.

    It was, for me, far more than his stance on abortion that offended me. Sen. Kennedy evoked a viscoral reaction whenever I saw or heard him. The root cause was that the “social justice” that he spoke so eloquently for was coupled with an hypocracy and a complete disregard for the effects of social liberalism, as opposed to social justice, on American society in general and American Catholicism in particular.

    As to the hypocracy, it was far more than his lack of remorse about leaving someone to die, though I admit that his lifelong denial of substantive responsibility colors my perception of the rest. Plainly stated, he remained an unrepentant, vice-ridden person his whole public life and saw no responsibility to act as an example to others. Born into a life of privelege, power, and wealth, he made no continuous efforts to bolster charitable giving of time or talents. He could have championed causes of every stripe that involved individual charity and concern. Instead, he championed only government intervention. In my opinion, no Catholic can take credit for what the state compels him to do, however just or right, so this utter failure to call others to charity or to engage in its himself stacks strongly against him. The hypocracy comes from his unceasing lectures to others for their individualism and failure to support Statism.

    Finally, in a related vein, he advocated far more than abortion – even though abortion would be enough to show him as having excommunicated himself in my book. He drew heavily from Catholic roots and used that tie-in to preserve political power and to use it in advancing others who directly opposed Catholic values. To advance those who furthered gay marriage, abortion on demand, no-fault divorce, euthenasia, sex-ed sponsored by Planned Parenthood, and other causes directly opposed to our beliefs surely invalidates his claim to being a Catholic in other than name only.

    At the end of my analysis, I must conclude that his Catholicism was merely a cloak to hide grave evil. Whether he saw it that way or not is between him and God. However, that he was little more than a well-hidden cancer is not, to my mind, in doubt.

  • G-veg,

    I agree with your assesment of Kennedy’s viewpoint on social liberalism, and I agree that it is in error. I think we need to be cautious with other than black and white issues such as abortion and euthanasia. What I’m saying is, no matter how much I believe modern liberalism is completely opposed to the Church, the Church has not spoken such and so I merely “speculate”.

  • The problem with not being more explicit about what we, as Christians, oppose is that the other voices advocating for a better way of living, like the Mennonites, Hassid, and LDS, NEED all the support they can get.

    For example, school has started this week and the alley beside my house is a major thoroughfare for kids going to our public high school. Frankly, many of the girls are dressed like tramps and the boys’ behavior is atrocious: rude, unseemly, and unkind. We should be calling such behavior what it is – unChristian.

    I have been reading a lot about the early Church and am struck by the ability of so few to affect so many simply by living well and stating the truth loudly. It is more than their evangelization – though the power of seeking out the lost and inviting them to find community is a resounding lesson worth applying to a world so lost in the false claims of modernity – it is also the social norms that so impressed the heathen communities where they were established: standing apart from the rituals and sinfulness of the world around them.

    How can we call ourselves Catholic while sending our daughters out for Halloween dressed sexily? How can we call ourselves Christian while allowing our sons to taunt and abuse the weakest among them?

    More to the point of the post above, how can we allow public figures to call themselves Catholic and derive power from their warped association with the faith without calling them on it when they act in a distinctly un-Catholic way?

    Yes, Kennedy and Pelosi, among others, have probably excommunicated themselves and there is no need for the Church to take such formal actions. However, their crimes were and are well known and it creates confusion and scandal for our Bishops to ignore it in them and speak eloquently to the rest of us.

    By making oneself a public figure, you invite comment on your life and forgo the right to protest that your Christian identity is between you and God alone.

    “To those to whom more is given…”

  • Finally! This is the first article that I believe was well, and thoughtfully written! I admit I am new to The American Catholic, so I haven’t seen many articles – I have mostly seen rants and blind partisanship in many of the posts – but this one actually gets to some important issues and even though I disagree with some of the opinions, this one at least gives a foundation for discussion that I think can be useful.

Cultural or Political Axis?

Saturday, February 14, AD 2009

Donald linked below to a discussion of the death of “liberaltarianism”, which led many to ask what exactly that is.  As it so happens, I’d been reading about this seemingly contradictory phenomenon on Ross Douthat’s blog the other day.  It seems all this goes back to a piece Brink Lindsey originally wrote for The New Republic a couple years ago in which he complains:

Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.

Though he admits there’s not been much real movement on the part of Democrats to please libertarians, he cites a few things:

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6 Responses to Cultural or Political Axis?

Trust Us, We Were Lying!

Wednesday, December 3, AD 2008

One of the arguments I’m starting to get very tired of is that when Senator Obama addressed Planned Parenthood and promised that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (thus cementing a more drastic pro-abortion regime than has ever existed in the US to day) he was obviously just scoring partisan political points, and that Catholics are not only ill advised to worry about FOCA passing and being signed but that if they do so they are actively behaving in bad faith by accusing Obama of supporting something he never really meant to do.

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that politicians often pander, and to anyone who doubted it in the first place it’s increasingly clear that the only difference between Obama’s “new politics” and the old kind of politics is that the “new politics” involves Obama being president. But even if it’s common knowledge that one of the good ways of knowing that a politician is lying is to see if his mouth is moving, I don’t see how we can even discuss politics if we don’t assume that the promises which a politician expressly makes on the campaign trial represent something which the politician at least thinks would be a good idea.

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9 Responses to Trust Us, We Were Lying!

  • It is an odd phenomena. A candidate makes a campaign promise, the promise is cited, and then the people citing the promise are accused of dishonesty for repeating the promise.

    At the same time, I would say there is a hierarchy of plausibility in campaign promises, and the promise to sign FOCA is on the lower end of that spectrum. It was made 1) To a particular interest group once (rather than repeatedly), 2) When Obama still was scrambling for the nomination by running to Hillary’s left. Additionally, Obama, as far as I can tell, is a pragmatist. He wants to be re-elected, and knows that whatever marginal increased appreciation from his base he received from signing FOCA would more than likely be outweighed by a backlash among moderates.

    BTW nice turn of phrase about the ‘new politics’. I’ve thought the same thing but hadn’t seen it phrased that way.

  • I agree that FOCA is probably fairly unlikely to pass. Now that Obama is out of the left-wing bubble, he’s having to find ways to please more than just the sort of activists one runs into in Chicago politics.

    I’d see the most likely situation for it doing so being a situation in which flagship administration priorities are going down and it finds itself in need of shoring up its base. Then we could potentially see a certain amount of cultural left stuff rammed through.

    But it was a massively stupid promise to make in the first place. (I have difficulty thinking of a GOP example extreme enough to give a comparison, but I think the “Pure America Act” suggestion comes close.) I suppose now that we’re stuck with him as president we must hope that he’s gaining wisdom, but color me unimpressed.

  • Start the betting line in Vegas- which bishop is first to close the Catholic health care institutions in his see. Chaput is always a favorite. Brusky of Nebraska, natch. I could even nominate our Cardinal Rigali of Philly- got on phone with City Council in a flash over some meaningless Pro-Choice City Proclamation, removed next session. Been reading that our hospitals constitute one-third of U. S. of A. health care institutions. Would not be a good idea to institute nationalized health care with swamped public and other E.R.’s. Ball’s in your court, Mr. Obama. FOCA or hospitals- choose.

    (Also- can’t wait for first video of bishop dragged off to jail on FOCA protest charges- at hospital, abortuary, etc. Can cut to sound of air flying from balloon, signaling end of Obama Presidency if it occurs.)

  • I’d say the election in Georgia makes passage of FOCA much less likely, and not just because there is one more vote to sustain a filibuster. A President is never stronger than after he is first elected, and the defeat by a wide margin of Martin in the Senate runoff makes the election of Obama seem a bit less like a realigning election and a bit more like a fairly natural party switch after a two term presidency, especially with the economy in the tank. As a President is perceived more as a conventional politician and less like a political tidal wave, his influence diminishes. However, I do think there will be an attempt to pass FOCA, even if it appears unlikely to prevail, and I do anticipate that the Obama administration will always be a staunch foe of the pro-life movement, as they will amply demonstrate by Obama’s judicial picks. The election of Obama was a disaster of the first magnitude for the pro-life movement, and pro-lifers who voted for Obama obviously have, for them, much higher priorities than seeking to stop the legal slaughter of children within the womb.

  • The promises we make speak of who we are.

  • Appointments matter – to the S. Court and lower courts obviously, but also throughout the federal branch. There are a whole host of policies that need advancement and protection…notification, military bases, wait periods, federal funding, forcing clinics/professionals to do or provide x or y……

  • You cite a blog I write for, I would hope you would honest about us.

    I have always admitted that Barack Obama is pro-choice and that I disagree with him and consider it a legitimate reason not to vote for him.

    I am all in favor of opposing pro-abortion legislation and supporting pro-life legislation.

    You make the statement “FOCA is probably fairly unlikely to pass.”

    That is all I have said as well. And certainly there have been others who do not agree with us and make claims that passage is days away.

    Equally there is no right to lie about what FOCA would do. The great bluster was by the bishop of Arlington suggesting civil disobedience. To do so would first require his diocese to actually open a Catholic hospital, a ministry he has heretofore not maintained in his jurisdiction. Second, using the most extreme possible understanding of FOCA, he would have to file false Medicaid claims. Really, not the TV action that is suggested.

  • Kurt,

    So tell me again why you support Obama (and vote for him)?

  • Obama just signed today a reversal of the abortion policy, now forcing our tax money to fund international abortions. So, the Obamanation has sadly begun. And sure, I’ll bet Hillary will make it a pre-condition that countries seeking aid be willing to provide this murder service. God have mercy.

Tribalism and Politics

Friday, October 10, AD 2008

[This is a very slightly modified reprint of a post from my personal blog from several months ago, but one which I thought relevant to build upon as we seek to lay the foundation for a principled and polite discussion of politics from a Catholic perspective.]

Two and half years ago, when the situation in Iraq was pretty much at its worst Bush’s popularity was already headed steeply down (though not yet as low as it is now), I was talking to one of my very liberal friends, and he commented: “You Republicans enjoy it now.  We’ll take back congress at the next election, and there is no Republican on earth who could win the presidency after eight years of Bush.  He’s destroyed your party for a generation.”

“What if we nominate McCain?” I asked.

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7 Responses to Tribalism and Politics

  • This coming from the guy who pushes the Palinite/ McCarthyite Other-ing of Obama as legitimate maneuvering in the arena of public discourse…

    Try again…

  • This tribalism is indeed a powerful driving force in politics, and it is very easy to sink into. As a Republican myself, I fall into this trap from time to time. We get into the habit of seeing people not as people, but as mindless drones of a particular institution. Thus a Democrat has to be bad because he’s a Democrat. Because of the label, he must be a pot-smoking, baby-killing, soldier-reviling, tree-hugging socialist. But this is far from the truth. The Democratic party contains a huge number of disparate interest groups, many of which are in conflict with each other, whether they realize it or not. The abortion lobby is one aspect; the environmental lobby another. There is still plenty of good to say about liberal values, especially in terms of trying to look out for the little man, quenching the last vestiges of racism, and ensuring that people in general are treated as people. Similarly, in general Republicans aren’t the corporate-loving, environment-destroying, science-belittling, backward hicks Democrats make them out to be. But because we see prominent members on each side as fitting these molds, it becomes imperative to have “your guy” win just so that the “other guy” doesn’t swing the balance of power back in favor of the “wrong” party.

    For example, back in 2006, fearing that Republicans would lose their majority in the House, I supported Barbara Cubin, despite the fact that she has been a poor representative of Wyoming, and her opponent (whose name I can’t even remember now) would have made a great replacement. Keep in mind, in Wyoming even our Democrats are pretty conservative, so it isn’t like conservatives would suffer greatly from having a “liberal” represent us. Yet the tribalism machine said that Cubin had to win, if only so that Republicans could maintain power.

    So I’m guilty as charged.

    And sometimes we forget about general charity, especially in regards to the eighth commandment: thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. We have a tendency to decry the dirty tactics of the “other” side, while whitewashing the dirty tactics of our own. And yet we must remember: smears, regardless of who makes them, are a violation of the eighth commandment. Misrepresenting someone’s voting history, inflating statistics, and yes, crying guilt by association are all deplorable.

    McCain has said some things that I find inexcusable. But that doesn’t whitewash Obama in the slightest. Obama has made misrepresentations, made accusations that bear no weight whatsoever, and has not been innocent in the realm of smear tactics. But that doesn’t excuse McCain or make his dirty politics commendable.

    I would not say, though, that questioning a candidate’s history or association is beyond the discourse of political debate. History matters. Thus it is valid to investigate Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers. But as unrepentant as Bill Ayers is, Obama is not guilty for having associated with him. You can associate with all kinds of scum. I know the comparisons to Jesus are really wearing on Catholics, but Jesus associated with all manner of sinners. Thus it is completely outrageous and wrong to suggest that Obama supports terrorism or is a friend to terrorists because of his association with Ayers. There is a second part to this, though. We cannot point to guilty by association, but we can point to guilt by collaboration. If there is any substance to the charge that Obama’s educational policies are lockstep with Ayer’s radical notions, if there is any substance to the charge that the two have been collaborating for years, that’s a different story.

  • What, Mark?

  • He is not a principled conservative, or indeed an adherent to any intellectually defined political or economic philosophy.

    This is definitely something that frustrates me about McCain… I was telling a friend the other day that I don’t even know what his agenda is. Her comment was along the lines of what you followed the quote above with, DC… “he is clearly a firm believer in honesty, honor, and service to the Civitas.” But to me, that equates with a reactive presidency, i.e. someone who is — probably ably — responding to things as they come up instead of actively promoting something. In other words, a defensive stance rather than offensive with regard to public policy.

    Not my preference.

  • Chris,

    Read the posts below…Particularly, Mr. McClarey’s Ayers post and Darwin’s sliy response therein.

    To be quite honest,I am surprised you are here.

    Hopefully, you pull the discourse up…

  • Ryan,

    Very good points.

    Your discussion of the state rep race in your area brings to mind one of the elements feeding tribalism especially at our present time: because there are so many heavily loaded moral issues at play these days, we often are tempted to attribute them even to those who do not hold the views offense to us. For instance, I suspect that pro-life Democrats sometimes suffer from a tribal assumption that all Democrats are “anti-life” — and similarly pro-choice Republicans sometimes get more of a pass than they should.


    I recognize that you and I differ as to whether Ayers is a sufficiently unsavory (perhaps I may even say “despicable”?) personality to suggest that Obama had very questionable judgement in associating himself with him. But I’m unclear how that bears on whether my assessment that politics is often tribal in tone is accurate?

    Indeed, if anything, our differences might underline both of our tribal tendencies.

  • DC,

    About your post here. Perhaps if Mr. McCain did not backtrack on everything that made him so mavericky…

    About Palin-McCain-Ayeyrs, I side with my old hero, George Will:

    “This, McCain and his female Sancho Panza say, is demonstrated by bad associations Obama had in Chicago, such as with William Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist. But the McCain-Palin charges have come just as the Obama campaign is benefiting from a mass mailing it is not paying for. Many millions of American households are gingerly opening envelopes containing reports of the third-quarter losses in their 401(k) and other retirement accounts — telling each household its portion of the nearly $2 trillion that Americans’ accounts have recently shed.

    ….In this context, the McCain-Palin campaign’s attempt to get Americans to focus on Obama’s Chicago associations seem surreal — or, as a British politician once said about criticism he was receiving, “like being savaged by a dead sheep.”

The Scary Thing Is: We Really Mean It

Wednesday, October 8, AD 2008

In Peggy Noonan’s weekend Wall Street Journal column she congratulates Gov. Palin on what she judges to have been a strong (though not substantive) debate performance. At the same time, however, she still sports bruised feelings from the reception that she and other “conservative critics” of Palin received in recent weeks:

We saw this week, too, a turn in the McCain campaign’s response to criticisms of Mrs. Palin. I find obnoxious the political game in which if you expressed doubts about the vice presidential nominee, or criticized her, you were treated as if you were knocking the real America—small towns, sound values…. As for the dismissal of conservative critics of Mrs. Palin as “Georgetown cocktail party types” (that was Mr. McCain), well, my goodness. That is the authentic sound of the aggression, and phony populism, of the Bush White House. Good move. That ended well.

Well, I’m sorry that her feelings are bruised, and its true that cultural slights can be rather cutting, but there’s a disagreement of principle at play here as well as simple payback. (And there is payback. Don’t imagine that all those middle-American conservatives haven’t noticed how the “Georgetown cocktail party types” talk about “Rush Limbaugh conservatives” or “talk radio crazies”. Some of this is simply a matter of people enjoying the chance to see the shoe on the other foot.)

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30 Responses to The Scary Thing Is: We Really Mean It

  • Palin is a conviction politician and she has superb political skills. Since most politicians have only one true conviction, holding office beats working for a living, and since most of them at best have mediocre political skills, they of course look askance at Palin.

  • Well said.

    I have always liked Peggy, but she has shown her true colors during this election like a lot of other elite conservatives… this has been an interesting political year.

  • I’m grateful Palin has the convictions. In terms of applying those convictions, however, do you believe that Palin would be an effective champion of the social issues either as vice president or president?

  • I do Kyle. The focus on special needs kids alone, especially Down’s Syndrome kids who are being aborted into extinction, would be a powerful pro-life statement. I believe the pro-life cause would be Palin’s special “brief” in a McCain administration.

  • I think Peggy has to get some gratuitous “digs ” at the Conservatives. She seems almost embarrassed when she excoriates Democrats and tries to “even” the score by doing likewise to the GOP.
    I would like to see the elite commentators just express true Conservative sentiments instead of playing to the liberal left.
    It is a complete waste of time and effort to do so. They hate us and always will.

  • I do think Palin will be effective, for the same reason she has been effective in Alaska, and the same reason she is attractive . As the article states ‘she says what she means, and means what she says.’

    Noonan’s ‘feelings’ are irrelevant to the vast majority of conservative voters. They are irrelevant to the success of the next gov’t, and the future of America. Irrelevant, self-centered and unhelpful. Hope that wasn’t too harsh.

  • Do you guys think that Palin is winking personally at you too, as does R. Lowry (sic?) over at NRO?

  • I think some of the backlash or hurt feelings that may have resulted from said backlash were more the result of Noonan’s hot mike comments disparaging Mrs. Palin the same day she wrote a column talking about how people in the media elite don’t get her because they are trapped inside the “media bubble.”

    I always appreciated her as a good writer whose commentary seemed to reflect the way I look at things. My challenge with her since has been whether I’m reading what she thinks or what she wants us to think that she thinks.

  • Yeah Noonan shocked me when she floated Hutchinson. I think she’sevolving leftward”, sort of the way David Brooks has although Brooks was never a social conservative. Go figure.

  • When Sarah says “it’s time to take the gloves off and put the high heels on”, do you guys get all excited, like all the other conservative males I read who haunt the blogosphere and sing her praises?

  • Mark DeFrancisis,

    We just implemented a Comments Policy and you may have not read the warning on your previous comment.

    Any more unconstructive and ingenuous commenting on your part and you will be moderated. If you continue, you will be banned from commenting on this blog.

  • I confess that I, too, have a “He’s so good — too bad he’s not ours” attitude towards Obama.

  • Mark,

    No, she’s just a talented politician we happen to agree with. One of the great vices of partisan discussion, which I’d advise you beware of if you don’t want to find yourselve both becoming tiresome and having your comments edited, is assuming that one’s opponents must necessarily be stupid, evil or base.


    I guess I both understand and don’t understand that reaction to him: I do wish that we had a conservative star who was both intellectually rigorous and charismatic in bringing his (or her) ideas to the people — both of which I take it to be characteristics that people judge Obama to have.

    The thing is, he doesn’t actually strike me as all that thoughtful or intellectually rigorous, though he does stike me as thinking himself to be so. In many ways, he strikes me as having a very standard set of aquired beliefs of the sort one easily soaks up by osmosis in an environment full of liberal Ivy Leaguers.

    So while I wish that we had someone conservative who possessed the virtues that progressives seem to think Obama has, I’m not all that clear that he has the virtues he’s purported to.

  • TSO,

    When Peggy said that about Hutchinson, I was shocked. I was thinking to myself; Peggy doesn’t get it. I remember that column (the one where she asked why not Hutchinson as VP) describing the inside the beltway mentality, and at the same time – she was expressing the beltway mentality. And I didn’t think Peggy was one of those Rockerfeller Republicans.

    That is why i stated it has been a very interesting election cycle in the sense – Conservatives really never had a candidate in the primaries or one that could get the conservative base excited.

    Palin does this… it is one of the craziest things I have seen.

    Man, I hope she wins the VP.

  • PS – how do I get a picture to represent me…

    Tito, if you can do that… I would like Charles V or Henri de la Rochejaquelein or Reagan


  • Darwin,

    While Obama may or may not be intellectually rigorous or thoughtful in some absolute sense, compared to other politicians I’d say he measures up pretty well.

    In any event, while intellectual rigor is nice, it’s not the most important attribute a politician can have. Given the choice between a candidate who has a high level of intellectual rigor but who is not “charismatic in bringing his (or her) ideas to the people,” and a candidate who lacks intellectual rigor but who is effective in explaining his political ideas to the public in a compelling way, I’d much prefer the latter.

  • Bret,

    You just need to sign up for WordPress. There you can create an identity where you can choose or create (add) your favorite pic.

    Here’s the link: http://wordpress.com/


  • Blackadder,

    That’s where I basically have to say that I don’t have the objectivity to judge. Admittedly, I mostly read Obama’s speeches — I’ve only ever heard his convention speech and debate performances — so maybe I lose something that comes with the delivery, but mostly he strikes me as putting out really inane progressive platitudes. However, I recognize that it could well mainly be that I disagree so stongly with his worldview and policies that what may be an “inspiring” presentation just doesn’t appeal to me.

  • Well, Darwin, you could probably go find some of Obama’s speeches on youtube, and see both his charismatic, eloquent moments and also his moments of stuttering. For the most part, his delivery is excellent yet as you say, his content leaves something to be desired.

    So, I can see where Blackadder is coming from: Obama’s eloquence (for the most part) is appealing and stirs something inside people. Kind of reminds me of a snake oil salesman. Indeed, he is very polished.

    But this polish really tends to rub me the wrong way. Slickness tends to be a red flag in my mind. On the other hand, Mrs. Palin strikes a chord with common people, whether they agree with her policy stances or not. They recognize her authenticity. The folksiness of her delivery is somewhat charming, in my mind. She speaks like we speak, albeit with a different accent. I was particularly taken with her “There you go again, Joe” retort. So what if she is winking at me?!

  • Have you noticed something else about Sarah? She goes completely out of her way to avoid using profanity. She says things like “gosh darnit” as if long accustomed to avoiding its more colorful substitute. A lot of “bible-believing” Christians are this way. Back where I come from, I’ve met those who would even consider “gosh darnit” to be a little over the top, at least around the children. I’m not kidding about this. I’m not saying she is without fault. She got where she is by being a very shrewd woman. Maybe a little too shrewd on occasion. But all told, I suspect Washington could use a breath of fresh Alaskan air.

    I just hope she affects the status quo before it affects her.

    (Are you guys sure that wink isn’t just a nervous tick or something?)

  • (Are you guys sure that wink isn’t just a nervous tick or something?)

    No, nor was she intimating a deeper relationship with any viewer(s). She was challenging her opponent, you know, the one with such depth and character, to attempt the same thing. Sort of mean spirited of her, I admit. Botulism poisoning is nothing to laugh at, even if it’s self-induced.

  • “Botulism poisoning is nothing to laugh at, even if it’s self-induced.”


  • As I ex-Republican, I think David Brooks hit it bulls-eye today:

    “[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn’t think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I’m afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices. ‘

  • David,

    Botox is the Botulism bacteria, it essentially paralyzes the areas injected. Poor joke apparently, sorry.

  • I’ll take Ed Koch, former mayor of New York and an Obama supporter, over turncoat David Brooks any day. Here is a link to his opinion of Sarah Palin.


  • I am neutral to slightly positive about Palin. She can communicate well (when she has something to communicate), and that’s one of the most important skills a politician can have. At the same time, she seems woefully unprepared for national office. I know the VP primarily just needs to be able to sit politely through the funerals of foreign dignitaries, but her interview answers on the bail-out and Alaska’s proximity to Russia were atrocious, and, like Obama, she does not have the experience a P/VP should have.

    I think she is smart, but I am not sure she has a coherent political philosophy, or has much knowledge about the issues with which she should be familiar. It has been a strange 6 weeks since she was selected. I was initially happy with the pick because of her record and personal story, then shocked/outraged by the backlash against her, then happy with the convention speech, then horrified by the interviews. Now, I don’t know what to think about her. I am not impressed by her message, but that is probably the McCain campaign’s fault. I don’t understand the folk-hero status she seems to have with conservatives, but I understand even less the contempt and scorn which she attracts from most of the media.

    To bring this back to Noonan, I think (although I coul be wrong) Noonan feels (as I do) that Palin is both talented and unready. She wouldn’t agree with David Brooks that she’s ‘a cancer’, but she can’t say honestly that Palin is an ideal candidate for VP.

  • Well I am not disappointed….

    I think Sarah ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I also wanted to test out my avatar.

  • Kinda disappointed about my avatar though

  • Darwin,

    With any luck, Jindal will be ripe by the next election. He’s wonkish, well-spoken, competant, and a true conservative.

    I really admired his handling of the hurricanes this season – he demanded excellence from his staff, held frequent press conferences fresh from his own briefings, and worked well with federal, local, and private agencies. …If it comes to 3 AM phone calls, I think this nation would be in good hands.

    Anyway…that’s who comes to mind when I hear people say they wish conservatives had ‘an Obama on our side’. And unlike Obama, if Jindal runs in a future election he will actually have executive experience to point to.