This hilarious post, in which the War Party’s erstwhile gatekeeper frets about the significance of Rand Paul’s landslide primary victory for those concerned to defend fiscal irresponsibility and completely insane foreign policy agendas “strong national defense and rational conservative politics”, is bound to warm your heart. My favorite bit comes at the end:
How is it that the GOP has lost its antibodies against a candidate like Rand Paul? In the past few months, we have seen GOP conservatives rally against Utah Sen. Bob Bennett. There has been no similar rallying against Rand Paul: no ads by well-funded out-of-state groups. Some senior Republicans, like former VP Dick Cheney, indicated a preference for opponent Trey Grayson. But despite Paul’s self-presentation as “anti-establishment,” the D.C. conservative establishment by and large made its peace with him. It is this acquiescence – even more than Paul’s own nomination – that is the most ominous news from tonight’s vote.
Ahh, yes. Frum remembers how it was done in the old days, though unfortunately for his sake the targets of movement conservative purges are at least as likely to be faux-prophetic “moderates” as critics of the surveillance state and irresponsible foreign wars. Voter priorities seem to have shifted a bit, and it turns out that that boot doesn’t feel so comfortable when you’re not the one doing the kicking.
I’m not much of a fan of the Tea Party so far, but give us a few more Rand Pauls and that might start to change.
P.S. Daniel makes some related points:
The time was when someone espousing Rand Paul’s views would be pilloried and attacked by mainstream conservatives with even greater intensity after a strong electoral showing. The difference in treatment this time has to do with the fact that Paul will be just one Senator among forty-odd Republicans, and so his primary win doesn’t frighten his critics nearly as much as it would if he were to mount a credible presidential bid. It could also be that there is a growing recognition on the part of people who tried to defeat Paul that he represents a sizeable part of the GOP in many ways and that they don’t want to be on the wrong side of this constituency.
Yes; I seem to remember some people like that. Funny how the shoe fits less comfortably when it’s on the other foot.
Last Friday, Jonah Goldberg wrote a post at The Corner arguing that there is something “unlibertarian” about opponents of drug prohibition who use claims about the drug war’s disproportionate effects on blacks in an attempt to demonstrate its injustice. This post prompted a lengthy response from Reason’s Jacob Sullum, who helpfully showed up Goldberg’s claim that blacks are disproportionately affected by the drug war simply because they are “disproportionately in this line of work” for the falsehood that it is, concluding that especially in conjunction with the troublingly racist history of drug prohibition in the U.S., the disproportionate harm that the drug war inflicts on black Americans does indeed suggest an injustice that goes beyond that which libertarians would recognize in the war on drugs even if its effects had an equitable racial distribution.
Perhaps this is one of those not-infrequent occasions on which it is prudent not to give Damon Linker any more attention than he absolutely requires, but his response to Prof. Bacevich’s articulation of his hopes for the future of conservatism seems to me to have even less going for it than Daniel and Patrick Deneen are willing to credit. What begins as a call for individual financial responsibility, cultural calls for “self-restraint and self-denial”, and an appropriately modest realism in international affairs becomes in Linker’s hands a deeply reactionary call for outright authoritarianism, a rejection of “nearly everything about modern America”, and a demand for “an almost total overthrow of the status quo in favor of an alternative reality”, “a culture in which fixed limits on human choice are set by absolute political, spiritual, and moral authorities”.
But of course this is nonsense, since nowhere in Bacevich’s essay does he call for limits on human choice to be “fixed”, nor does he insist that those limits need to be “set” by any authorities other than the choosing persons themselves. The task of conservatism, on Bacevich’s analysis, is fundamentally one of critique, a primarily apolitical (and admittedly quixotic) enterprise that encourages people to get their own lives in order, to recognize and live within the inescapable limits on what can and can’t count as responsible human behavior. Nowhere here do we find, to use what is perhaps the most ludicrous of Linker’s phrases, calls for the establishment of an “authoritarian culture”; rather, the hope is that it is precisely in the achievement of a culture of self-restraint that the culture of authoritarianism can be avoided. It is simply false, then, to say as Linker does that Bacevich finds no value in “consent and individual choice”: instead, the fundamental motivation behind Bacevich’s calls for personal responsibility is the conviction that only such responsibility can provide the sort of background conditions against which the powers of consent and choice can actually be exercised in the first place. Scan the text repeatedly and squint as you might; the authoritarianism of Bacevich is nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, in what has become a frustratingly familiar trope, Linker embeds his criticism of Bacevich’s essay within a broader critique of a more widespread menace, a “paleoconservative sentiment that has growing numbers of champions online and may gather force over the coming years”. And so, having name-checked Burke and de Maistre (but why not MacIntyre and Wendell Berry?) and attempted to link paleoconservative “authoritarianism” and its demand for the “suicide of the critical intellect” with the phenomenon of sexual abuse among the Legionaries of Christ (no, really), Linker goes in for the kill: Read More…
Somehow our leading representative of the anti-anti-McGovern coalition failed to link to this Washington Post op-ed (H/T Lee McCracken), in which the ex-Senator pleads with our new President to hold off on his promise to use the U.S. military to remedy things in Afghanistan:
I have believed for some time that military power is no solution to terrorism. The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East — our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel — that drives the terrorist impulse against us would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere. We also need to close down the imposing U.S. military bases in this section of the globe, which do so little to expand our security and so much to stoke local resentment.
And what to do then? McGovern goes on:
As you have noted, Mr. President, we take pride in our soldiers who conduct themselves bravely. But as you have also said, some of these soldiers have served two, three and even four tours in dangerous combat. Many of them have come home with enduring brain and nerve damage and without arms and legs. These troops need rest, rehabilitation and reunions with their families.
So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war — unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?
During that interval, we could work with the U.N. World Food Program, plus the overseas arms of the churches, synagogues, mosques and other volunteer agencies to provide a nutritious lunch every day for every school-age child in Afghanistan and other poor countries. Such a program is now underway in several countries approved by Congress and the United Nations, under the auspices of the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Act. (Forgive the self-serving title.) Although the measure remains painfully underfunded, with the help of other countries, we are reaching millions of children. We could supplement these efforts with nutritional packages for low-income pregnant and nursing mothers and their infants from birth through the age of 5, as is done here at home by WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Is this proposal pie-in-the-sky? I don’t think so. It’s food in the stomachs of hungry kids. It would draw them to school and enable them to learn and grow into better citizens. It would cost a small fraction of warfare’s cost, but it might well be a stronger antidote to terrorism. There will always be time for another war. But hunger can’t wait.
A tad idealistic? Perhaps, but then again so is the notion that the American military can succeed in a region where those of so many other great powers have failed so miserably. In any case, the whole thing is worth reading, and while McGovern’s talk of “sending our youth into needless conflicts that weaken us at home and abroad, and may even weaken us in the eyes of God” doesn’t quite rise to the level of the famous “damnable war” speech that Dan excerpted in his essay, it’s certainly the sort of rhetoric that American conservatives could do with a bit more of.
Writing in the Huffington Post to clarify rumors that his family would be supporting Obama in the 2008 election, Barry Goldwater, Jr. explains that that just ain’t so:
Barry Goldwater was one of the icons of the Republican Party and, yes, would be unhappy with many of the recent failures from within. I speak about this all the time and how mad I am that Republicans have lost their way. However, we do not find our way back by sheepishly going over to the other side. My father worked to rebuild the party in 1964 by taking it back from the liberal Establishment. He would work to do the same thing today.
Culture11′s Ericka Andersen interprets this as an attempt to bestow the senior Goldwater’s postmortem endorsement on John McCain, though in point of fact the great man’s son never says any such thing, and indeed insists that “[w]hen I speak, I represent my own thinking and never imply I speak for anyone else”. And so while Goldwater, Jr. does come right out and say that he’s voting for the Arizona senator, he says only this to clue us in to the likely position of his father:
My father would never endorse a candidate or a party that wanted to grow government, raise taxes or in any way step on our freedoms.
Sounds like a third-party voter if ever there was one.
Kudos to Jesse Walker for making appropriately quick work of this ridiculous Salon report on Sarah Palin and the Alaskan Independence Party, which Andrew “Why are they talking about William Ayers when there are unresolved questions about Sarah Palin’s uterus?” Sullivan linked in his predictably breathless style yesterday morning. No doubt the AIPers are an odd bunch, but as Walker points out there’s something … well, rather McCarthyist about about attempting to identify the “real” Sarah Palin by way of her earliest political associates – and it’s very convenient, of course, to highlight the AIP’s alliances with secessionist movements including “white supremacists and far-right theocrats” without mentioning its history of working quite well with far-Left Vermonters, too. (Or is that just evidence that Palin’s politics are very, very confused?) Guilt by association, it seems, is sauce for the goose alone.
Then again, the Blumenthal and Neiwert article is hardly exceptional in its shrill and innuendo-laden take on secessionism: this Southern Poverty Law Center “report” on the closet racism of the Second Vermont Republic – did you know that Thomas Naylor was born in Mississippi?! - brings the genre to perfection, and is well worth reading if only for the quote from Naylor that it includes toward the end (“I don’t give a [expletive] what you write,” he tells the interviewer: “If someone tells me that I shouldn’t associate with the League of the South, it guarantees that I will associate with the League of the South”). If only Palin had been willing to adopt a similar sort of attitude when Kristol & Co. took up the task of making her into the nation’s most well-known hockey mom imperialist.
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times on my personal blog, I’ve been writing an article for TAC on American secessionist movements. One of the organizations I discuss is Thomas Naylor’s Second Vermont Republic, which as it happens is the subject of a terrific essay by Matthew Cropp in this morning’s edition of Culture11. Here’s a snippet:
Should the secessionist movement in Vermont continue to grow and push the state towards successful locally based solutions to the issues facing our society, it would have the potential to undermine the legitimacy of the Democratic and Republican parties. Why should billions of dollars pour through the Department of Education if tiny towns can quite competently manage making sure their children get good educations without worrying about No Child Left Behind? And surely the average Vermonter would be far safer should the legislature withdraw the state from the National Guard system, and instead fund and equip the Vermont State Guard, which would not be required to participate in overseas wars without the express mandate of the legislature.
In researching my TAC article I spoke with Naylor about these sorts of issues, and the one thing he pointed me to as perhaps the biggest source of resistance to the SVR’s goals was what he called “Bernie Sanders Syndrome,” or the willingness of Vermonters to trust the federal government so long as they’re able to send the “right” people to it. (During the months before Vermont’s presidential primary, he told me, support for the SVR cause actually went down from the 13% that Cropp cites to something more like 11.5%: “All those left-wing liberals know,” he observed, “that Obama is the second coming of Jesus Christ, that he walks on water and can solve everything” – but as the campaign has gone on and Obama has capitulated on one issue after another “a bit of reality is beginning to set in now.”) Here’s what Naylor writes about this attitude in Secession, a new book just out from Feral House: Read More…
What’s the biggest reason to object to the $700 billion bailout? No, it’s neither the upfront cost, nor the plan’s immense unpopularity among experts and rubes alike, nor the several sides of bacon that the now-signed version carried along with it, but rather the clear precedent that it sets for similar sorts of hurried and large-scale government intervention down the line. All along we were told that the reason the Paulson plan needed to be passed was that the reactive, one-crisis-at-a-time strategy that had been at work over the preceding months wasn’t doing enough: something big needed to happen, and happen quickly, to liquidify those assets and loosen up the flow of credit. But by all accounts, even to the degree that Paulson’s strategy turns out to be effective it’s not going to be enough on its own to halt the economic slowdown: and since we all now understand that the government’s job in such circumstances is to step right in and “do something”, there’s every reason to expect more of the same in the months and years to come. Oh, and if it isn’t effective? Well, then we’ll blame the stupid Bush administration (such fools, they, as of course we knew from the beginning) and try, try again. David Brooks’s technocratic dream is America’s new reality – it’s worked out great so far; who are we to question the wisdom of the establishment?
Watching Conor Friedersdorf wade calmly into battle with hordes of angry RedStaters has been terribly amusing, though along the way it’s also given me some painful flashbacks. That said, I find it immensely difficult to believe that having Sarah Palin withdrawn from the ticket could actually give a boost to John McCain’s chances for victory: not because her presence isn’t likely to prove a net negative at the end of the day, but rather because (as the insane response to Conor’s argument from those who are “on the team” has already made clear enough) the sort of chaos that would result from showing her the door would likely do him even worse. (Can you imagine where the folks at SNL would go with that?)
More fundamentally, though, it’s hard for me to see why a serious conservative like Conor should care about the fate of Senator McCain’s presidential bid in the first place. On taxes, spending, energy, and pretty much every other aspect of policy that doesn’t involve getting us into foreign wars, the man presently at the top of the Republican ticket appears every bit as incompetent as the woman at the bottom – and when it came to the Bush administration’s proposed guest worker program, whose defeat Conor highlights as one of the most important conservative victories of the Bush years, McCain’s views were squarely aligned with the policies that Conor deplored. The same goes for what he rightly tags as the hollowness of Palin’s appeal to “tax cuts, religious faith, and the empty claim of an outsider’s perspective” as the reasons to vote for her – just switch POW status in for the second of these, and tell me how it is that the case for John McCain fares any better. The awfulness of the “awful choice” that the Republican ticket presents to conservatives does not, in other words, reside only in one of its halves: pretty much everything Conor says makes it clear that it’s McCain, and not just Palin, who needs to go if the option of voting Republican is going to be palatable.
Conor rightly insists that “relevant experience, demonstrated competence, and an ability to articulate and defend conservative principles” should be demanded of a president-in-waiting, and no doubt he is right about that. But – aside, of course, from his much-touted experience – why exactly should we think that John McCain meets these criteria? And why should we care who his running-mate is if he doesn’t?
I think I’ll take a mulligan.