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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thanks and farewell [to HH.com] from Beldar

This, in all probability, is the last of my teaser posts here noting a guest-post of mine at HughHewitt.com.

It's been great to have the traffic at Hugh's place. It's been frustrating to have no control over the comments there, however, which are sometimes indistinguishable from things you'd read from the more immature posters and commenters at dKos.

I'm grateful to Hugh for the chance to guest-post there, but it's good to be "home." Thanks to those of my regular readers here who've read what I wrote there, and by all means, I encourage you to continue visiting there for Hugh's views too. To anyone who's visiting here for the first time, by all means put up a bookmark, syndicate my XLM feed in your aggregator if you'd like, and pull up a chair.

[Copied here for archival purposes on November 6, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

I first became personally acquainted with my gracious host here, Hugh Hewitt, during the 2004 presidential campaign as part of the exposure of the phony Killian Memos relied upon by CBS News' "60 Minutes" program during Rathergate. CBS executive vice president Jonathan Klein had derided the bloggers who were writing daily about the forgeries and CBS News' then-still-ongoing efforts to defend the indefensible — famously saying that "you couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances [at CBS News and "60 Minutes"], and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks."

I was another one of those pajamas-wearing bloggers, and Hugh appreciated the irony that CBS News had nevertheless thought enough of me some years earlier to employ me (without pajamas) as its own lead counsel before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, when I successfully defended a summary judgment in CBS News' favor in a defamation lawsuit based on another of its national broadcasts. That led to Hugh and me trading some emails about common judicial clerkship and law firm experiences, plus a couple of occasions on which I was a telephonic guest on Hugh's show, and we've stayed in touch by email at least occasionally since then.

Still, I was very surprised when Hugh asked me in September of this year to guest-blog here through the election. He offered, and I accepted, because this blog would put my writing in front of more eyeballs. And we both had hopes that that might, in turn, do some good for our side in particular, and for the country in general — especially given my early interest in, and consistent support of, Gov. Sarah Palin on my own blog. This has been a volunteer effort, motivated by mostly by principle (and just a little by ego, since even those of us who blog in our pajamas like to have our stuff actually read by more people).


Despite the outcome of the election, I'm personally satisfied that I did all I could to try to counter the relentless and unconscionably vile smears against Gov. Palin that were made by the Obama campaign, its allies on the Hard Left, and their allies in the mainstream media. My only regret, in fact, is that I spent more than a week pondering Hugh's invitation before accepting it — and then Hurricane Ike left me without power and internet access for another week almost immediately after I had started guest-posting here.

The reason for my delay in accepting was simply a desire to maintain absolute editorial control over everything I wrote, without even an appearance of being beholden to any one else's view. And although I've had other, similar offers from high-traffic sites that I also admire and respect, I knew from being a regular reader of this blog over the last several years that Hugh's views and my own naturally run parallel most of the time anyway. Hugh is a partisan, of course, but a joyous one rather than a bitter one. I shoot for that same quality, although with less consistent success.

I knew that I could take Hugh at his word that he wouldn't edit or otherwise attempt to influence what I wrote, and he's kept his word most scrupulously. It ought to go without saying (but in lawyerlike fashion I'll not neglect to say again anyway) that everything I've written here should be taken as representing my own views, and ought not necessarily be imputed to Hugh or the fine folks of Townhall.com just because they've made it possible for you to read my views here.

In hindsight, I wish I had had the benefit of the higher traffic here during the first days after Sen. McCain announced that he had chosen Gov. Palin, because I think that's when a lot of the lies and invective against her first began to stick. But I've only myself, and then a hurricane, to blame for the delay.

Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, Sen. McCain would have secretly made his pick back in late June or July. His aides could have started helping Gov. Palin prepare for a more aggressive, less defensive national roll-out on the QT, and we'd all have been better able to respond more effectively to the tsunami of lies that were unleashed against her. But we don't live in the best of all possible worlds, and I am confident that given her success in Alaska, her fabulous speech at the GOP convention, her performance at the Veep debate, and her strong finish in the campaign, Gov. Palin's future in national politics remains very bright indeed.

(Were I advising her, then assuming the GOP holds on to Ted Stevens' seat and his motion for new trial is denied, forcing his resignation, I'd advise Gov. Palin to appoint a short-term replacement who has disclaimed any intention to run in the resulting special election, and then to run herself for that seat. That would be better than appointing herself, which would likely not sit well with Alaska Republicans who are still upset that Gov. Palin's predecessor, Frank Murkowski, appointed his daughter Lisa to his own seat in December 2002. Lisa was re-elected in her own right in 2004, but changes in Alaska law since then, as a direct reaction to dismay over this appointment, now require a special election within 90 days after a temporary appointment by the governor. Besides striking another blow in the ethical clean-up of Alaska, Gov. Palin taking over Stevens' seat would put her in a better position for a national campaign in 2012.)


Of the future of conservatism and the GOP, I'm skeptical of too-glib arguments too close to this electoral defeat. However, I'll hazard a few points anyway:

Of the five major GOP candidates in the primary, Sen. McCain was my fourth choice. I disagreed with him on a great many issues, and there were times throughout the campaign that I nearly bit off my own tongue to hold back a snarky criticism. But he's always had my respect for his service to this country, and he earned more of it with this campaign (in particular, with his selection of Gov. Palin). Although, as he is the first to concede, he made his share of mistakes in this campaign, I am grateful to him for his efforts.

I do not think that we necessarily need a whole-scale reform of the current GOP primary system, which is front-loaded to produce an early winner and to avoid the kind of sturm-und-drang that afflicted the Democrats until June because of their dreadful proportional voting and caucus schemes. It's unfortunate, but true, that the race for the 2012 GOP presidential primary started yesterday. I think it's unlikely that we'll have such a splintered field by the time the primary votes start coming in.

I'm also of the strong view that we need a committed conservative at the top of the next GOP presidential ticket. Nominating a "centrist" lets the Democrats morph into whatever they need to be in response, which is how Barack Obama — of all people, Barack Obama! — was able to campaign credibly (at least in the eyes of the gullible) as a middle-class tax-cutter. We cannot become the party of political triangulation, because the Dems already have a corner on that market, and it would corrode our hearts anyway. Let them either compromise their principles to campaign more effectively against us, or better yet, let them run on their own real principles (tax, spend, and run-away-home) and let the American people have a clear choice.

That said, I'm equally persuaded that we cannot become rigid and intolerant as a party or a political movement, particularly with respect to hot-button social issues. I will give you a specific example of where we need to be on that:

The first veto that Gov. Palin exercised after being elected was of a law passed by the Alaska Legislature that would have attempted an end-run around an Alaska Supreme Court decision which compelled the state to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners equal to those the state offered to opposite-sex married couples. Gov. Palin disagreed with that court decision, and indeed, she had said she would support an amendment to the state constitution to overturn it. Although she opposes social bigotry toward gays and is personally tolerant toward them, Gov. Palin had also campaigned in 2006 as opposing either legislation or a state constitutional amendment that would permit same-sex marriage. But she was unwilling to subvert the Rule of Law and separation-of-powers doctrine to reach a politically and socially conservative result by signing into law the Alaska Legislature's disingenuous end-run of the state supreme court ruling, even though (quite arguably anyway) the court had overstepped its own bounds in its interpretation of the state constitution to reach the politically and socially liberal result.

Clear and consistent on our own principles; committed to democracy and democratic institutions operating within their proper spheres; unwilling to rig the game just to reach desired results; and personally tolerant and respectful of those with opposing views. That's complicated conservatism, perhaps, but it's not squishy or internally inconsistent or driven by political expediency.


One of the ironies of my profession as a courtroom lawyer — a/k/a my "day job" — is that things that are awful for my clients sometimes, quite perversely, turn out to be great for me personally. So it is with this election: I'm convinced that without Gov. Palin on the ticket, Barack Obama might well have even carried the State of Texas, because his energized supporters certainly turned out in large numbers in the state's more urban areas. And as a direct result, almost all of the incumbent GOP state-court civil and criminal judges in Harris County were narrowly defeated. The GOP nominees held on in the state-wide races, so the Texas Supreme Court's philosophy isn't likely to change. But tort reform is effectively dead at the trial court level in Harris and Dallas Counties, and although I'm more often on the defense side (typically representing small businesses) than otherwise, my profession is likely to see boom times soon as a result.

So while I'll return to blogging at my own site, beldar.org, it probably won't be with the frequency that I've written here in the last several weeks, and I'll likely also return to writing somewhat more often about legal and non-political topics. By all means, feel free to visit me there. (Maybe Hugh will even see fit someday to add me to his blogroll, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) My regular audience there is much smaller, and dissenting views are welcome in the comments — although I don't permit as much incivility and subject-changing as the folks who moderate comments at Townhall.com. Mine is a simple, noncommercial site and I pay for the bandwidth, so I refuse to subsidize those whose main goal is to make personal attacks on the host (me) or other commenters.

To all who've taken the time to read what I've written here, whether you found it persuasive or not, and especially to my gracious and generous host, Hugh Hewitt — thanks very much.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 10:31 AM in 2008 Election, Politics (2008), Weblogs | Permalink


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(1) Dante Explorer made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 11:02:42 AM | Permalink

Been reading you at HH. Enjoy your posts a lot, very civil. Guess I'm gonna follow you here!

(2) slarrow made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 11:17:57 AM | Permalink

You did a fine job over at HH, Beldar, and your posts about Sarah Palin before the move kept people like me excited and confident that all the charges against her were false mudslinging attempts. Cheery, excited, informed commentary has been pretty scarce this cycle, but you've provided a lot of it. Congratulations on a fine job, and it's good to see you settling back in at BeldarBlog.

(3) Cat made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 12:00:53 PM | Permalink

Well done, Beldar and Hugh!

In response to your hope that Sarah enters the Senate - The Senate would be a cemetery. Today only Democrats can successfully exploit Senate service for national office. Sarah would do better to remain the successful Governor of Alaska with a record of common sense achievement that will probably compare favorably with Washington's.

Another point - Everyone wonders where Conservatism goes from here. "Limited government" is not a lyrical refrain except to people like ourselves and there are not enough of us to win elections. Almost all my Pennsylvania relatives are Democrats. They see a role for government in programs such as the GI Bill. They think that Conservatives want to do away with ALL programs and that they enjoy tossing out the baby with the bath water.

I believe that Conservatives need to make the argument that government exists to defend us, to uphold the rule of just law and, where necessary, to support programs that help Americans help themselves - The GI Bill being a case in point. Conservatives share the goals of Americans - but they have a very different way of achieving them. Along with explaining why hand-outs don't work, Conservatives should forcefully oppose big government hand-outs to big business.

If the Republican Party is going to survive, it needs to go back to its roots in Lincoln and the Civil Rights era. Why hasn't it told that story to children? And why hasn't it backed up that story by disciplining Republicans in Congress? If it is so hard for the Republican leadership to discipline Ted Stevens, could Republicans nationwide do it?

What about the porkmeisters in Congress? Could Republicans in Congress explain why earmarks offend American principles? Could they forswear an ethanol subsidy here, a ethnic museum there, and unite individual earmarks into one coherent national energy plan?

Can new thinking transform Republicans?

Here's hoping we will read more about all this on your websites. Cheers!

(4) CR made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 12:18:52 PM | Permalink

You did a great job blogging on Townhall.com - Good Luck to you, sir.

(5) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 1:56:55 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: I agree you did a fine job blogging, but the comment section on Hugh's blog is nauseous. You must have had to shower five times a day when you were posting there.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(6) ketchikan made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 3:13:08 PM | Permalink

Belar, Palin is stupid. She doesn't even know Africa is a contintent, she doesn't know what the Vice President's duties are and she can see Alaska from her house!!.

So say the people who don't want her to succeed.

You and I know the truth. She is a voracious reader, was on the honor roll, and has accomplished amazing things in Alaska.

If her supporters don't start NOW to define her the misinformation will stick in the average persons mind, the talking class (both left and right) and in the press.

They are doing to Palin what they did with Regan,Bush and Quail.

We must mount a unified effort to be sure she is permantly defined for the average voter as the smart, accomplished person she is.

Every time there is a negative item about her it must be countered strongly and repeatedly with the truth.

(7) Paul_In_Houston made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 3:22:04 PM | Permalink

"It's been frustrating to have no control over the comments there, however, which are sometimes indistinguishable from things you'd read from the more immature posters and commenters at dKos."

As usual, you're being polite Sir.

Some of them are indistinguishable from writing on Men's room walls.

Wading through them was often an act of masochism.

Welcome back.

(8) nuclady made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 4:11:15 PM | Permalink

Beldar: Welcome back home! I loved reading your prolific and insightful analyses at HH. I agree re: commenters over there - I won't even read them anymore; most are disgusting.

Looking forward to more!

(9) Milhouse made the following comment | Nov 6, 2008 5:37:40 PM | Permalink

Beldar, welcome home.

As for Palin, she should keep well away from the Senate. Let Sean Parnell run for that; she should come into the 2012 campaign as a sitting governor. A more interesting question is what Jindal should do. The convention is that candidates for governor or senator claim not to be interested in running for higher office, and the public pretends to believe them, even when the truth is quite obvious to everyone. But by the time Jindal's term ends, in 2011, he will surely already be on the campaign trail, and won't be able to even pretend that if reelected he'll serve out his term. I don't know the answer to that.

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