Sunday, May 03, 2009
Another well-crafted but foolish paragraph of Peggy Noonan's with which I disagree
Peggy Noonan can surely do better than allusions to '70s soft-rock hits like this one, even when she's right on the substance:
... [Obama's] presentation [during the past week] was low-key, authoritative, and had the look and feel of moderation. When you can give this impression while some of your decisions—for instance, on the legitimate cost and reach of government—are not, actually, moderate, you are demonstrating a singular political talent.
He is subtle and likes to kill softly. As such, he is something new on the political scene, which means he will require something new from his opponents, including, first, patience.
Well, yes, patience is needed, because even the next congressional elections aren't until November 2010, and Obama's not up for re-election until November 2012. But preparation is needed too, along with patience. Where Ms. Noonan goes badly astray this time is this:
[Republicans] have had a hard week. Someday years hence, when books are written about the Republican comeback, they may well begin with this low moment, and the bolting of Arlen Specter to the Democrats. It is fine to dismiss Mr. Specter as an opportunist, but opportunists tell you something: which side is winning. That's the side they want to be on.
Oh, Ms. Noonan, you're far more out of touch than even Arlen Specter is! We don't know yet we must have patience to learn, but aggressively prepare to seize the opportunities to affect whether Pennsylvania voters will send a Republican or a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 2010. But dear Ms. Noonan, bless your heart and your woefully myopic east-coastal blue-state-infected viewpoints, the "side [which] is winning" for sure, the side which for sure caused Arlen Specter to betray his vows and defect to the Democratic Party, is the side of the true conservatives whom Arlen Specter recognized were certain to oust him in the GOP primary. He doesn't know, and no one yet knows, whether he can win the Democratic Primary, or the general election if he gets the Dems' nomination. But he knew we all know, Ms. Noonan! why don't you? that he was going to lose the next race in which he was scheduled to run, that being the GOP primary.
Can you not tell the difference, Ms. Noonan, between fleeing from a battle one is certain to lose, and instead fleeing to a side that is certain to win? No one yet knows which side will win, which is to say, no side is certain to win. But Arlen Specter was certain to lose if he accepted the verdict of his own party on his performance. How could you miss that? How can you expect us to take seriously any of your other advice for the GOP when you're that blind?
There is a certain breed of Republican which is convinced that to become more competitive, GOP candidates must become even "more moderate" than John McCain or Arlen Specter. We could call them Noonarians; we could call them Frumarians; we could call them Parkersonians. Or we could call them RINOs. I will continue to voice my objections to their blather and oppose their ideas, but I will not call them apostates, and if they return to the Reaganite Big Tent, I will welcome them upon their return. Some day, perhaps we will all laugh together when we re-read the ridiculous things they wrote while they were in the thrall of Obamamania, things like "The task for conservatives is not so much to oppose the president, but to help him see." They'll blush, I hope, but feel no greater pain. (Surely by then their therapists will have cured them of their mania to finger-comb their hair for chunks of vomit.)
But they must get a grip first. They must forswear despair and the compromise of desperation. They must adhere to at least a few first principles, among them a faith in fiscal conservatism, free trade, federalism, and a robust foreign policy unapologetic for American exceptionalism and devoted to the maintenance and support of the world's preeminent military (not for its own sake, but for what it ensures and protects).
Ms. Noonan, you once were wise enough to sniff out an impostor, a poseur, a fraud like Arlen Specter, and to recognize when a piece of political trash like him was moving in the wrong direction. The Specter defection is indeed likely to be remembered by posterity as a turning point, but it will be one in which conservatives will be seen in hindsight to have taken a deep breath, then exhaled to clear a foul and traitorous stench before patiently buckling down to battle, and ultimately defeat, Barack Obama and his Hard Left minions. Buckle down, Ms. Noonan. As Lady Thatcher famously said, now's no time to go wobbly in the knees.
Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Another well-crafted but foolish paragraph of Peggy Noonan's with which I disagree and sent a trackback ping are listed here:
(1) Michael Adams made the following comment | May 3, 2009 9:06:56 AM | Permalink
There are some incredibly pure ideologues out there. They sometimes get up and harangue us at Republican Club meetings. I surely don't want to try to crowd into their pup tent. However, the principles you and others have cited will do to define Conservatism or Classical Liberalism.
We may be, or may become, a minority in this country. Given the Social Democrat dominance of public schools, colleges, universities, many churches and, of course, most of the mass media, that is altogether too likely. However, I do not see why we need TWO leftward-leaning parties. If Republicans are forty per cent of the voters, and get forty percent of the legislative branch and less than that of the Electoral College, well, that's our cross to bear. What I do not understand is, if dissent is patriotic, why we ought not to have a dissenting party. We got John McCain as our nominee because Democrats crossed over in some early primaries, and knocked out more conservative candidates. They may have blessed us rather more than they intended, because there will come a time when blaming the previous administration will no longer serve to persuade the voters. I think it is likely that that time may come before the 2010 elections, which could bring an effective end to America's flirtation with Communism.
Still, whether that day comes or not, how can we possibly be served by having our party also under the control of Democrats-Lite?
(2) JS made the following comment | May 3, 2009 7:34:15 PM | Permalink
"...He is subtle and likes to kill softly..."
That is actually laugh out loud ridiculous. Subtle? Only if you find him "sexy", Ms Noonan. He is blasting ahead, with nothing whatsoever to require him to even pretend to be "subtle", because he has the nuclear power of a shield that is his race, and he has the MSM (which, lets face it, the vast majority of this ever more stupid country rely on when they aren't watching reality shows...) reporting to the masses just how awesomely awesome he is.
(3) Neo made the following comment | May 4, 2009 1:24:15 AM | Permalink
I get a lump in my throat when I get to hear or read the works of "Republicans" and "conservatives" that seem to have spent way too much time at parties and other social get togethers with way too many "Democrats" and "progressives" that they have taken on a politcal version of "Stockholm syndrome," having lost any political, moral, or ideological grounding in reality ... at least as it relates to US political parties.
They are usually easy to spot .. just look for the folks talking about a "purge" in the Republican Party.
Exactly who "purged" Arlen Specter from the party ? I believe it was Arlen Specter .. or was it his pollster ?
PA conservatives 'winning'? They've gone from having a candidate who would sometimes listen to them to a candidate who will toe the conservative line... all the way to defeat in November, that's a heck of a victory, Brownie.
And how is 'we don't yet know who will win' any different as saying the same thing in court even though every single ruling has gone against you and the jury has all but given you the finger as they go out to deliberate? None of the signs are positive, and while you may be pleasantly surprised in six months, the smart money is going with the other side.
Finally, you true conservatives don't really get the point... at least as far as situations such as with Specter. It isn't that GOP candidates have to move to the mushy middle, our argument is that it doesn't do the GOP any good to punish candidates because they aren't sufficiently conservative... especially in states and districts where a hard conservative can't win.
And as far as the national stage, true conservatives face two problems: there ain't enough of them to win without the other side screwing up so badly that they hand you the election, as the GOP did for Obama, and you scare the mushy middle whose votes you need to win (just as the left does). To win, a conservative candidate has to either convince all these voters that, despite everything they have come to believe, a conservative platform is something they'd like or that the candidate ain't that conservative (again, as Obama did in convincing voters he wasn't a radical liberal). The math doesn't work any other way.
The choice is rather simple: you can compromise and not only accept but welcome those candidates and voters who, while not pure, are closer to you than to the left and get 60% of what you want.... or you can stay pure... and irrelevant.
Steve (#4), with due respect, I suggest it's a bit early to start getting dogmatic about whether the GOP senatorial nominee in 2010 is definitely "going all the way to defeat in November." We don't know who that will be, nor who his Democratic opponent will be. It's looking like there will be a spirited fight in both primaries, and I'm far from sure that Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters will embrace Snarlin' Arlen to their bosoms.
The GOP holds a sizable majority in the PA state senate; the Dems hold the state house. The GOP has the lieutenant governorship at the moment (although that's due to a death); the Dems have the governor's mansion; but in the last couple of decades, the parties have split evenly in winning gubernatorial races. Rick Santorum, a principled conservative, won the state in 1994 and 2000. George W. Bush failed to carry it, but by only 4% in 2000 and 2.5% in 2004, both inside the margin of error of the polls. In short, Pennsylvania is a purple state — and there's no reason the GOP can't be competitive there with a candidate who holds true to conservative principles, and indeed there's every reason to believe that the Obama Backlash may make especially attractive those candidates with both an agenda and proven record of fiscal discipline.
I'm not seeking to "punish" anyone. There's no one I don't want to see pull the lever for GOP candidates.
As for "scaring" the voters in the middle, they damn well should be scared. Obama has just quadrupled an already enormous deficit, committing the nation to a spending spree that makes me very fearful indeed. Tack on the prospective nationalization of our health care system, cap-and-trade energy taxes that will (as Obama has not just predicted, but vowed) cause energy prices to "skyrocket," the systematic looting of disfavored (and more productive) Americans to accomplish a massive redistribution of wealth, a slack and dreamy foreign policy — yes, indeed, my friend, there is much to legitimately fear.
But there is a flip side to all those fears. And the GOP should run as the party committed not just to avoiding those disasters, but the party committed to a safe and prosperous America, an America of limited government that doesn't try to remake its citizenry according to some central plan but instead sets them free to build and keep their own lives according to their own dreams. You paint the GOP as the Grinch Party, and that's certainly the Dems' party line. But it's just not accurate. Reagan's campaign line wasn't "The Dems have made it midnight in America" — although it could well have been, given what Jimmy Carter had wrought — it was "Morning in America." And yes, that (plus the legitimate fears of what a Carter re-election would bring) was a winning approach. It can be again.
(6) steve sturm made the following comment | May 4, 2009 4:57:05 PM | Permalink
Let's analogize Specter to a free-agent pro athlete: no loyalty to the 'home team' and chooses a new home based his assessment of which team offers him the best chance of winning (and let's not forget the money, which however much he gets is more than he was going to get from the GOP side). It doesn't mean he will win nor that the team he abandoned can't win with the player taking his place. But give Specter credit; he was going to be waived, so whatever chance he has with the new team is more than he would have had with the GOP.
And a team in as bad shape as the GOP can't afford to be picky. It might be different if the GOP had 62 Senators and wanted to remake their lineup, but when you're scrambling just to field enough players to avoid a forfeit, you eagerly take the players willing to play on the team.
As for your nostalgia to Reagan's campaign, what was 'Morning in America' but a not-so-subtle jab at the malaise we had with Carter? What was 'are you better off now...' but an even less subtle poke at Carter? Reagan was no pussycat when it came to politics.
As for your prescription that the GOP focus on the positive is that they don't have a positive message to sell... and they don't have any credible politicians who can sell it. In a day when America wants nothing more than their problems to go away, what exactly has the GOP put up? Obama is promising to make housing prices go back up, to let people stay in their homes, to take away the fear that insurance companies will jack up prices and take away coverage. He's going to propose having the federal government pick up the tab for everybody's college. He's going to save the economy by saving Chrysler and GM? And the GOP responds with what? A vague promise to let people run their own lives? Wanting to preserve the sanctity of contracts and bankruptcy court? Wow, not exactly a crowd pleaser.
Steve (#6), my friend, being a senator or congressman is not like being a pro athlete. It's supposed to be about principle, about representing the American public as its fiduciary. You're right that Specter didn't ever see it that way. That makes him a jerk, not something admirable or even something inevitable. I don't understand why you can't see that.
There are indeed the Americans who can be fooled all of the time; they're the core of the Democratic Party, and I don't doubt that Obama will continue to fool them by promising everything to everyone -- and lying through his teeth in the process, e.g., the "95% of all Americans will get a tax break (unless, umm, they use electricity)."
But you underestimate the American public in its entirety. There's nothing vague about a promise to let people run their own lives, and it's an easy notion to contrast with the Dems' nanny-state programs. And while class-war populism has always attracted some politicians and some voters, it's never taken deep root. Obama's policies and the spectacular negative consequences that will flow from them will be sufficient to prove to enough Americans that their fears of tax-and-spend Dems with a flacid blame-America-first foreign policy were always well founded. And there will be new faces, new voices, to make the pitch.
(8) TB made the following comment | May 5, 2009 12:19:03 AM | Permalink
"It is fine to dismiss Mr. Specter as an opportunist, but opportunists tell you something: which side is winning. That's the side they want to be on."
That was the theory behind Vichy France, too. That doesn't make it right.
(9) DKH made the following comment | May 5, 2009 1:22:36 PM | Permalink
One problem that I'm foreseeing for the GOP will be attributing any potential worsening of people's lifestyle to Democrats. Politicians (of both parties, the Dems just happen to be in power) are professionals at hiding the costs of their votes and choices. So you get a bridge or park or recreation center with someone's name on it, and that looks good. But the hidden cost there is that everyone is paying for every congressman to build something with their name, at significant cost to each individual.
There are costs to bypassing or manipulating the Chrysler bankruptcy proceedings, or to limiting CO2 emissions via a cap-and-trade plan. There can be great difficulty linking these costs to government action. How hard was it this past election to convince people of the costs of restricting free trade? How long did it take people to realize that shifting large amounts of cropland to corn/ethanol production would raise food prices? Communicating these costs through a clear and cogent argument is a challenge the GOP (or any party opposite the Dems) must overcome.
(10) steve sturm made the following comment | May 5, 2009 1:47:18 PM | Permalink
While being a politician ought to be about representing the American public as its fiduciary, you and I are both old enough to know that isn't the way it works. Specter is not the exception, his maneuvering varies only in the specifics from what the rest of them do day in and day out... and regardless of whether they have a 'D' or an 'R' next to their name.
And I believe you overestimate the American public. At its core, the 'American Dream' isn't about working hard and getting ahead, it is a goal of today being better than yesterday and tomorrow being better still. The means of accomplishing this are less important than the end result. Given their druthers between being given the American Dream or having to work hard for it, I'd reckon 90% of the public would choose the former.
And that is why, given the choice between the Democrats promising them happiness and the Republicans offering only the opportunity to be happy (and along with it, the risk of failure), an awful lot of people are going to pick the former.
Anticipating the response that Obama will fall short, that people will be worse off, I'd like to counter by pointing out that while you are probably right, Americans don't read the fine print, we chase get rich quick schemes, we buy billions of dollars of lottery tickets and we're suckers for a good salesman... and Obama is one of the best to come along in a long time.
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