State of the Union

Not One, But Three Tea Parties

Having looked at the swelling of the Tea Party, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a uniform movement.  There are at least three different movements trying to give the impression of being one. The most influential of these movements is the one that fits most easily into the GOP. It is associated with Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and other Republican regulars appearing on Fox. It emphasizes what Dick Morris describes as “economic issues exclusively,” and those issues can be summed up as Obamacare and some of the ill-considered bailouts passed by the Democratic Congress since 2008.

These protestors against the Democrats are by no means hardliners, and they already enjoy places of honor at the GOP table. These spokespersons for “smaller government” are not asking for much that the party can’t give them. Or else they are asking for what GOP leaders might claim they would give them if the media and Democratic politicians allowed them to do more. Such Republicans have made it a practice to scream loudly at the Dems. But they also tend to fall meekly into line once their party returns to power.

In 1994 after the great Republican congressional sweep, the late journalist Robert Novak urged the new House Speaker Newt Gingrich to abolish government-promoted quotas for minorities. Gingrich is reputed to have explained to Novak that there’s no reason to drive away blacks, women, and Hispanics by doing anything risky. In any case Republicans would vote Republican, no matter what. Gingrich was of course right.

What the Speaker might have also mentioned was that the 1992 Civil Rights Act, which re-institutionalized quotas after the Reagan administration had backed away from them, was mostly a Republican achievement. President G.H.W. Bush and Senate Minority leader Robert Dole had strongly backed the bill and induced Republicans in Congress to get behind it. Only heaven knows why a Republican Congress, once back in control, would have bothered to rescind it. Their voters were happy simply having their party win elections.

This group of Republican non-insurgents often shares the stage with another bunch of Tea Party activists. Although this second group may applaud the ungrammatical platitudes and gesticulating of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, it seems driven by something more than fear of Obamacare or anxiety about losing Medicare payments. This group senses that something was wrong with the government long before John McCain lost the presidential sweepstakes in 2008. Read More…

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Victory for the Party of No

The polls and pundits are all in alignment now.

The Republican Party is headed for a victory Tuesday to rival the biggest and best of those that the party has known in the lifetime of most Americans.

In 1938, the GOP won 72 seats in the House.

In 1946, Republicans swept both houses and presented Harry Truman with a “fighting 80th Congress” that contained three future presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

In 1966, Republicans picked up 47 House seats to set up the comeback of Nixon, who had led the party out of the wilderness of Goldwater’s defeat.

In 1994, the Republican Revolution added 52 House seats and captured both chambers for the first time since Eisenhower’s first term.

Looking back on those Republican triumphs, and forward to Tuesday’s, what do these Republican off-year victories have in common?

In all four — 1938, 1946, 1966, and 1994 — the GOP won not because of what the party had accomplished or the hopes it had raised, but because Republicans were the only alternative on the ballot to a Democratic Party and president voters wished to punish. Read More…

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The American Conservative Returns to Print

And not a moment too soon. With the Republicans on their way back to Congress, a thoughtful conservatism — as an antidote to the war-and-debt neoconservatism on offer elsewhere — is needed now more than ever.

Over the past three months, readers have been unstintingly generous in contributing to bring the magazine back into print.  Your support has been a tremendous moral as well as financial boost. Now TAC is back. The new issue will begin showing up in bookstores and subscribers’ mailboxes over the next two weeks. And it features some superb material, including Justin Raimondo’s cover story on how Obama’s abandonment of his antiwar activist base doomed the Democrats; Ed Warner on Mexico’s narco-violence crossing the border into Arizona; Jim Antle on the Paul/Frank effort to cut the Pentagon budget; George Scialabba on the political and economic thought of T.S. Eliot; Paul Gottfried on Glenn Beck’s revisionist history; columns from Pat Buchanan, Bill Kauffman, and Bill Lind; and much more.

Needless to say, this is a good time to subscribe — and to give a gift subscription to a friend.  You can also help by making a tax-deductible donation. We still greatly need, and appreciate, your support.

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A Sensible Senator?

Understandably, anti-war libertarians and traditional conservatives watching the Senate races have focused on Kentucky’s Rand Paul. But there are good reasons to look at Oregon’s Jim Huffman as well. He’s a law professor and served as Dean of the Lewis and Clark school of Law, where he taught Constitutional Law.

He has given reasons for conservatives to feel slightly uneasy. He is a moderate on social issues: he is pro-choice and supports same-sex civil unions. On immigration he supports funding efforts to enforce current immigration law, but also a guest-worker program. And he is wary of the populist turn in the conservative movement. He told FrumForum, ““My campaign people, when I started, wanted to turn me into a tub-thumping firebrand, and that’s not just in my personality. Nor do I like where that ultimately takes us.”

But in his last debate with the incumbent, Senator Ron Wyden, Huffman was asked about spending on the National Guard and and the military generally. He responded this way:

I, too would be a strong supporter of the National Guard, I think it’s a very critical part of the community and of the state. As for funding I think it has to be part of a larger examination of military funding in this country. I think it’s a mistake as we found way back we found before the base closure act to have members of Congress constantly lobbying to keep bases open or military installations open or funding in their states just because its funding in their state, it needs to be part of a comprehensive national review of how we spend money in defense. I have no doubt there’s a vast amount of money wasted in defense, but at the same time I think it’s the most important thing the federal government does, and it has to be something it does all over the country. So I would be a very strong supporter of the National Guard but I’d also take a very sharp pencil to looking at the defense budget, because I think Dwight Eisenhower was right when he said there was a military industrial complex, and this continues to be a problem we have to deal with.

Huffman’s answer demonstrates the best of the conservative tradition, and the Republican one as well. He acknowledged that defense is the most important function of the federal government. But he seemed to recognize what TAC contributor Andrew Bacevich calls “the limits of power.” It is vital for traditional conservatives to recognize that pork isn’t just about bridges and statues, but military bases and war spending as well.

Whereas other Republican candidates are playing up fears of faraway threats in their campaign materials, Huffman’s stated foreign policy positions are about restraint. He says military interventions should be undertaken “only where serious American interests are at stake, and only with the advice and consent of the Senate.” He mentions words like sovereignty and independence, two concepts overlooked by the right’s internationalists, but that should be the twin pillars of a sensible conservative foreign policy. Traditional conservatives should encourage Huffman to keep up this line of thinking.

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With Friends Like These, II

Some supporters of Israel see in the latest Wiki-leak the opportunity to bury  the Goldstone Report (PDF)  and attendant international criticism of Israel’s war in Lebanon. Israeli MK Michael Ben Ari, of the Kahane strain, would bury along with it those former (and no longer useful) American high officials whose expenditure in American blood–largely to rid Israel of a hostile neighbor–continues:

On Monday, Israeli lawmaker Michael Ben Ari said he filed a formal complaint with the UN, calling for war crimes investigations of senior American politicians and “international arrest warrants for US government leaders.”

The neocons have the friends they deserve.

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Why NPR Must Go

On June 30, 1972, two weeks after the Watergate burglars were taken into custody, Richard Nixon vetoed a congressional bill to double and treble federal funding for public broadcasting.

Nixon’s stunning veto was sustained. Yet he had only “scotched the snake, not killed it,” in the words of MacBeth.

Having escaped the ax, PBS and its little sister, National Public Radio, with their consistently leftist bias, grew fat on 40 years of federal money.

Nixon would express regret he had not followed the advice of those who urged him to terminate taxpayer funding and force public television and radio to compete fairly with private broadcasting.

Early in 2011, a Republican House and a more Republican Senate will have a second chance to succeed where Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush I and II failed to try — to terminate tax funding of PBS and NPR.

This vote will be an early test of the GOP’s claim that, having been burned in 2006 and 2008, it has learned its lesson, that Big Government conservatism was a fatal attraction and remains an oxymoron. Read More…

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Bottum Out at First Things

Rumors of turnover at the religiously ecumenical, politically right-of-center journal have been circulating for over a week. Its website now offers tacit confirmation: in place of Jody Bottum as editor, the masthead lists James Nuechterlein as interim editor.

Bottum was known for pieces like “The New Fusionism,” which proposed that pro-lifers should make common cause with pro-war neoconservatives. “There may be several ways to convince Americans to reject Roe v. Wade–but one of them is by remembering that the nation’s founding ideals are true and worth defending against the enemies of freedom around the world.” A silly idea, considering how many Americans believe that abortion rights are consistent with those “founding ideals”; also an evil idea, since an unjust war cannot be excused on account of any salutary developments it might foster at home. Consider the case from the other direction: would Bottum or any other pro-war pro-lifer say that abortion was justified as long as it helped prosecute the War on Terror? Until the justice of a war is determined, there can be no question of religious pro-lifers joining the bandwagon.

First Things has published some good pieces over the years, and lately several of its contributors have taken a turn against interventionism. A new editor could give the journal a clean break from the errors of the Bush years. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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Clear on Religion

Occasional TAC contributor Jeremy Lott has an interesting new gig — he’s heading up the latest expansion of the RealClearPolitics franchise, RealClearReligion. Well worth a look.

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Joe Klein does America

Joe Klein emptied what’s left of Time magazine’s expense account in order to engage in a cross country journey from coast to coast to find out whatAmericans are thinking this election season.

It’s a classic journalistic trope, the road story, a journey to find out what makes Americans, Americans. While it’s no “On the Road”, one appreciates Klein for getting out of the Beltway and finding out this littlenugget of information:

“I’ve covered more than a few midterm campaigns, but this one seems particularly fraught. That was made clear by the next speaker, a Republican public-relations consultant named Kurt Davis, who agreed with much of what Woods had said about “the far left undermining American values.” But, he added, “when the middle class looks to the right and sees how free trade has sold them down the river, exporting millions of jobs … they feel whipsawed, pissed off at both sides. I can’t tell my kids that they’ll be able to get a good job with a good company, work there for 30 years and retire with a good pension. I’d be lying. People know that doesn’t exist anymore, and they’re angry about it. That was the anger that elected Obama. He was the anti-Establishment candidate — and John McCain was anti-Establishment too. And so was Bill Clinton. But none of them did anything to change the reality that’s making people angry.”
Congratulations Joe! You figured out that free trade isn’t the nirvana elites have been making it out to be all these 30 years. You ventured out from your glass towers and saw the damage for yourself, 30 years later but nonetheless you made the effort to find out what was really going instead of penning anonymous novels about Presidential candidatespeccadilloes.

But alas, a trip is just that, a trip. You’ll be back in the Beltway and back in the echo chamber in no time. One can explore and report back, but in order to really understand one has to live in places one drives through on the interstate or flies over in the jet plane.

So here’s my invitation to Klein and other national political reporters and pundits that you might be better served and write better articles the further away from Washington you live. Why not? Technology allows for one to keep in touch even in some remote areas. In fact I can find a realtor here in Pepin County, Wisconsin where and find a decent and cheap home to live (compared to Georgetown real estate market). And maybe Tom Friedman can join you and find a place to settle down, maybe in my ancestral homeland of southwest Wisconsin near Plain. And maybe MaureenDowd can join us as we find her a lake home in western Minnesota (then again, maybe not).

In any case perhaps Klein’s article can spark a sort of reverse Free State Project where the elite and political class sign up and pledge to spread themselves out across the hinterlands and light out for the territories in order to better their writing and reporting by being amongst the people. They certainly can’t do much worse.

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Pentagon’s Biggest Lie? “No Surprises” Expected from WikiLeaks

The pre-leak spin by the Pentagon is that  they have already disclosed everything important that will be revealed in the next WikiLeaks document super-dump.

Obama’s Pentagon apparently believes that Americans are as gullible  – if not mutton-headed – as the Bush Pentagon believed.

No surprises expected in WikiLeaks Iraq war dump: Pentagon

 WASHINGTON | Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:21am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Friday it does not expect any big surprises from an imminent dump of as many as 500,000 Iraq war documents by the WikiLeaks website.

“In terms of the types of incidents that are captured in these reports, where innocent Iraqis have been killed, where there are allegations of detainee abuse, all of these things have been very well chronicled over time,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said.

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