The Ghost of Moderates Past

A wise historian once claimed, “those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. As I look at the results of the 2012 election, I am amused by the number of excuses why Mitt Romney lost this election. They range from the usual suspects, the TEA Party, the social conservatives, hard-line conservatives, a lot of dumb people who don’t know any better, to complete fantasies like Obama “stole” the election, Obama “bribed” the American people, and the Democrats hacked into Romney’s Orca GOTV system on election day, causing the GOP to lose Ohio. They never blame Romney and excuse all of his tactical and strategic mistakes; nor do they ever provide direct proof of their fantasies.

You see, many of these folks have no sense of reality and history. The GOP have nominated folks like Mitt Romney since Herbert Hoover and none of them have ever been elected. The one exception was Dwight Eisenhower. I doubt even the foolish of fools could compare Romney to Ike but I am sure some blonde will try. Even Nixon, who ran as a moderate in 1960, learned his lesson and became a “conservative” in 1968. Unfortunately, for the American people, Nixon left us a legacy of a greater bureaucracy with such acronyms as OSHA and EPA.

The problem is, the Republicans have slowly dismantled the Reagan coalition of fiscal, foreign-policy, and social conservatives.

The fiscal conservatives are frustrated. When the GOP did some very fine work ( thanks in large part to Bob Livingston) paring the budget during the 1990s, they were overshadowed by Newt Gingrich’s inarticulate sound bites. After the loss of Livingston from the GOP caucus, the GOP spent like drunken sailors during the Bush years. They abandoned fiscal responsibility and past bad laws like the Medicare prescription drug benefit (which is the largest new entitlement program since the 1960s) , and No Child Left Behind (which federalized our K-12 schools). They are also frustrated over the lack of respect and understanding what the midterm elections of 2010 meant. Since the election, John Boehner has signaled his willingness to work a deal with President Obama and some members of Congress want to break their pledge not to raise taxes. This will not sit well with the fiscal conservatives.

The foreign-policy conservatives are in disarray. On one hand, they embrace our venture into Libya and hope for intervention in Syria. On the other hand, they embrace the Muslim Brotherhood brokered peace plan between Hamas and Israel but they cannot articulate a good reason why.

As for the social conservatives, they are the most maligned of the Reagan coalition. They are the bogeyman of modern American politics. Yet, their influence within the GOP has greatly diminished since 1988. 1988 is the year when many either retired or were pushed out by the George HW Bush folks. They have also lost two of their most articulate spokesmen with the passing of Paul Weyrich and Father John Neuhaus.

I believe the seminal point for social conservatives was the passing of Terri Schiavo in 2005. Subsequently, they failed to vote in 2006, 2008, probably 2010, and in spite of exit poll data, I believe they failed to vote in 2012. As long as the GOP ignores the concerns of social conservatives, I believe the GOP will be relegated to, at best, mediocre candidates with inarticulate positions.

Mitt Romney could not articulate any position beyond creating jobs. He never discussed any specifics as to spending cuts. In fact, on several occasions, he took swipes at the Paul Ryan plan. It makes one wonder why he bothered making Paul Ryan his Vice President. Mitt Romney did not articulate the events surrounding the killing of our ambassador at Benghazi or the feckless response of the Obama administration in the aftermath. He could not articulate how the Obama foreign-policy, more particularly the concept of “soft power”, has been a disaster.

Most of all, Mitt Romney never used the C word to hammer the Obama administration; corruption. From ‘Fast and Furious’ to Solyndra, Romney wouldn’t make an issue of this administration’s ethical issues. In many ways, the last two debates seemed more of a love fest than a competition to be the next president of the United States. Mitt Romney failed to heed the advice of Ronald Reagan of “raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all the issues troubling the people”.

Mitt Romney now takes his place with other such GOP luminaries as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Bob Dole, John McCain; all ghosts of moderate past.

Spartan

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In The Long Run, We Are All Bained

This has been probably the oddest of political primary seasons. We have an incumbent President who is the mad combination of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Walter Mondale. Obama ran in 2008 with the promise of being a “centrist” but has ruled, not governed, this country with all the aplomb of a bull in a china cabinet.

In 2010, the people of the United States under the mantra of a Tea Party gave the President and his political party a shellacking at the polls. Not only did the House of Representatives change hands but so did over 20 State legislative bodies; some for the first time in over a hundred years. The momentum for 2012 appeared to be ready to oust Obama and the Senate Democrats. In response to the election results of 2010, did Obama and Harry Reid work to assuage the Tea Party momentum? No, they just doubled down.

The Senate has, in violation of law, not submitted a budget for over 1000 days. What Obama can not get from an unwilling Congress, he gets by bureaucratic fiat and regulations. The GOP momentum has been for all intents, neutered.

With this in mind, the GOP primary season began with a series of candidates who ranged from losers to wannabes to the never were. Missing from the race were formidable and vetted conservatives such as Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, and Paul Ryan. Now, the GOP is left with four candidates. From these, it appears two (Gingrich and Romney) are contenders, one (Santorum) is vying for VP, and one (Paul) is just trying to be an influence at the convention. Of these, I want to focus on Romney.

Mitt Romney has been running for president since he became Governor of Massachusetts in 2003. He was considered a weak and feckless Governor and for the last two years of his term, a running joke. Under his watch, RomneyCare was enacted and gay marriage was found to be constitutional by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Budget shortfalls were made up with increases in taxes and user fees. When outraged people of all political stripes demanded Romney do something to overcome the aforementioned Supreme Court decision, Romney did nothing. Yes, he decried the decision but he frustrated any effort to amend the Massachusetts Constitution. In the end, Romney fought for nothing and believed in nothing but himself.

During his first run for the Presidency in 2008, Romney had the backing of many conservatives who did not like or trust John McCain. Romney became for these folks the “Anyone But McCain” candidate. I watched in amazement as none of his rivals liked Romney. He was treated with disdain and contempt. It was assumed it was because of their contempt for his support. It was only later, we found out their frustration with Romney surrounded his attempts to destroyed candidacies through a sordid whisper campaign in the media.

In the race for 2012, the real Romney has emerged and it is not pretty. In the four years since he dropped out of the 2008, Romney has embarked on a takeover of the GOP political process.

First, states like IA and NH moved up their Caucus and Primary dates. FL also moved up their primary date; even at the price of half their delegates. VA, with their strict ballot access rules, made access to their ballot even harder to access. The beneficiary of all these moves was Romney. He has the money and organization to accomplish these moves. It is almost as if Romney had taken the Bain Model to co-opt the GOP primary process. His willing accomplices in the conservative media saw nothing wrong and remained quiet.

Second, get the polls to show Romney is the only one who can beat Obama. This is pretty easy when the narrative is pushed through the media (Mainstream and Conservative) by political operatives. The narrative is reflected in the polls and a front-runner is born.

Next, when anyone begins to threaten the frontrunner status, destroy the contender. When candidates like Herman Cain seemed to threaten Romney, stories of sexual harassment and marriage infidelity magically appeared. Cain, in a fit of pique, put all his troubles on other candidates; notably Rick Perry. When Newt Gingrich then became the contender to Romney, he was systematically destroyed in Iowa and Florida by a full frontal negative assault. Gingrich was also attacked in SC but still won that election. Once again, his willing accomplices in the conservative media see nothing wrong and remained quiet.

Lastly, create a relevant message and stick to it. In response to the horrid economy, Romney promises to create jobs by stating that only he knows what is needed to create jobs. To that end, he constantly points to his time at Bain Capital, a private equity financial firm. This is the proverbial “fly in the ointment”.

Bain Capital is a financial animal that is needed when private companies need an infusion of cash. It also comes at a high price. On top of the high fees, there is debt. Some companies survive, some companies do not. Bain is interested in making money, not creating jobs. When I think of what Bain does, I am reminded of the Henry Hill narration from the movie Good Fellas when the restaurant owner takes Paulie Cicero as a partner:

“Now the guy’s got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what. Business bad? F*** you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F*** you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? F*** you, pay me.”

Yet, when Rick Perry decried Bain Capital as “vulture capitalists”, a cacophony of conservatives accused Perry (and Gingrich) of being “anti-capitalists” and “attacking Romney from the Left”. The classic definition of a capitalist is someone who takes a long term risk to provide goods and services to the public. They invest their money, time, ideas, and expertise into the business while sacrificing everything to succeed. How is what Bain does any different than Paulie Cicero?

Romney’s mantra of knowing how to create jobs is belied by three other issues:

Romney’s support of a minimum wage tied to the rate of inflation.

One of the biggest criticisms of the minimum wage is that it causes unemployment, especially among Black youths. Conservative economists have decried the devastating effects the minimum wage has had on hiring. Yet, Romney pushes the idea.

The latest unemployment numbers.

The latest statistics from the government show 243,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate dropping to 8.3%. Romney’s response was basically he would have done this in quicker time. No where does Romney point out that 1.2 Million people have quit looking for work and that our labor force is at its lowest level since 1983. To be fair, even the vaunted Wall Street Journal says the 1.2 Million are likely retiring baby boomers. But as the blog Zero Hedge notes; as the labor force increased from 153.9 million to 154.4 million, the non institutional population increased by 242.3 million meaning, those not in the labor force surged from 86.7 million to 87.9 million. At this rate, the government should be able to declare unemployment at 6.5% by November. Romney is not prepared to face this challenge.

RomneyCare

RomneyCare is a huge problem for Romney. Ann Coulter can make three cheers for the idea but the consequences of RomneyCare are dreadful. Business owners will have some tough decisions to make. Either they do not hire or expand, or they shift the burden of paying the premium to the employee. All the insurance plans in Massachusetts have to be approved by the State. They are also expensive.

The real problem with Romney is that Romney wants a centralized control economy. RomneyCare not only accomplishes much of that but it drastically changes the relationship between the government and the people as the government dictates to us how we are to spend our money. If this concept is accepted as legitimate, there is no limit to the authority of the government over us. If you think the government will stop here, you are living in a fool’s paradise.

Romney ignores the collateral damage of his ideas, His ego is so large, he can not comprehend that any part or use of his ideas can and will produce disastrous results. Perhaps, his way of creating jobs is to have the government hire more bureaucrats with the purpose to go into each private business no matter how large or small to see if they running properly and at full capacity. These bureaucrats will be able to streamline jobs or demand more hiring by diktat.

Conclusion:

I believe Romney’s career at Bain Capital makes him uniquely unqualified to become President of the United States. If Bain were interested in and believed in the concepts of Free Enterprise, then why all the heavy tactics that result in the loss of Free Enterprise?

It was the entrepreneur who is the real capitalist. It is their sweat equity that grew our economy from the malaise of the Carter years, not the equity of Bain. If the nominees in November are Romney and Obama, it does not matter who wins. Romney’s accomplices in the conservative media still do not see anything wrong and remain quiet. They are willing to sacrifice their principles for power. Eventually, they will have neither because in the long run, we are all Bained.

Spartan

The Conservative Crack-Up Part II

Conservative Thinking in Today’s Politics and Punditry

The modern Conservative Movement has its roots in folks like Russell Kirk and William F Buckley. Their work was heavily influenced by the work of Edmund Burke. Like Burke, they sought to strike a logical balance between liberty and authority.

Kirk and Buckley were not alone. The Conservative Movement 50 years ago was a dazzling panoply of strategic thinkers, moralists, and idealists. It was a melding of a top-down/bottom-up movement. They built the foundation of the present Conservative Movement in an uncompromising fashion. They built the foundation for the rise of Ronald Reagan. While looking over the current political landscape, this foundation is being gutted by compromise and petulance. It is the sign of moral indifference and intellectual laziness.

I posit the Conservative Movement has broken into two significant groups: those who want to build/rebuild a conservative foundation on the local/state level and those who want to gain/maintain power in Washington DC. The former want change from the bottom-up. The latter promise a top-down change to begin from DC. It is the classic battle between the idealists and the status quo. This is inherently a battle of the Tea Party against the Establishment; where neither can co-exist without the other. The Tea Party won an impressive battle in the election of 2010. It not only helped the GOP capture the US House but also various state legislatures, state and local offices. It was a tremendous rebuke for Obama and the Democrats. The political future going forward looks bright. All that could change in 2012.

The presidential race of 2012 is extremely important for a couple of reasons; mainly, the continuation of the Tea Party and the end of the Obama rule by fiat. To that end, it is important that the right candidate win the GOP nomination.

For the most part, this primary race is between the contenders, the pretenders, and the never was. In many ways, it is a dog and pony show. At this moment, the presumed frontrunners are Gingrich and Romney. Both are technocrats; Gingrich being the governmental technocrat and Romney being the economic technocrat. Both are anathema to the interests of the Tea Party. Huntsman is a combination of both government and economic technocrat while the erstwhile Herman Cain was an economic technocrat. All four portray themselves to be ’outsiders’ and friends of the Tea Party but they are not. All four have promised change but their record is dismal to nonexistent. A nomination win by any of the four would be the end of the Tea Party. I will add that Michele Bachmann is nothing more than a Tea Party show horse with just as dismal to nonexistent record.

Yet, what interests me is the defense of Romney, Gingrich, Huntsman, and Cain by the conservative pundits. Romney is defended by the folks at NRO as the best hope for conservatism. We are told that we don’t understand the depth of Romney’s conservatism because he governed in a blue state and conservatives in a blue state govern differently from their beliefs. The problem with this kind of thinking is that nasty issue of RomneyCare; the impetus for ObamaCare. If it is so anathema to conservative ideals, why does Romney continue to defend RomneyCare. A hint: Romney is never, ever wrong.

Ann Coulter supports Romney as the only person who can defeat Obama. That alone is the reason we should coalesce around such a candidate. Let’s not examine whether Romney is truly pro-choice or pro-life; he is a multiple choice chameleon on all issues. Forget the flaws, full speed ahead. With such clairvoyance, it is amazing Ms. Coulter can not pick the winning lottery numbers on Saturday night.

Gingrich is a bit more interesting. He is a well-known commodity among conservative circles. He gets all the credit for the 1994 takeover of the House as well as all the blame from poor negotiating with Clinton over the budget to GOP election losses in 1998. There was an attempted coup to replace Gingrich as Speaker by the Conservative members of the House. Instead of being gracious and accommodating, Gingrich took to a whisper campaign against Bill Paxon, one of the ringleaders of the coup. It was a despicable act by a desperate man. This was the candidate who claimed the Paul Ryan budget was “right-wing social engineering”; only to walk balk on his statements later. The damage to Ryan was incalculable. As Ryan said, “with friends like Newt, who needs the Left,”.

Yet, there are folks rushing to the defense of Gingrich. They are led by folks at the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator (with the exception of Quin Hillyer–who has never relented on the Gingrich mistakes) and anyone willing to give Gingrich a microphone.

Huntsman would be better suited to run as a Democrat, yet, there are some conservatives who believe Huntsman is the type of conservative who would attract the political center. Perhaps, they should trash that argument after McCain’s dismal performance in 2008.

I am saving Cain for last. This is the candidate for whom I have had the least respect. First of all, Cain is a Libertarian and any definition that he is a conservative does injustice to the meaning of conservative. He is also a populist. This makes him a danger because he has no core convictions. He sticks his finger in the air and goes with the wind. His domestic and foreign policies were quite incoherent, yet he plodded along. When he was accused of sexual harassment, we heard defenses ranging from Camp Perry did it to ‘see how the liberal media treats a Black conservative‘. Cain was defended by all kinds of conservatives from Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, to Sean Hannity. The most interesting defenses by far were made by Robert Stacy McCain at The Other McCain and The American Spectator. There was no pretense of objectivity or curiosity. It went all the way until Cain announced the suspension of his campaign. It was as though whatever Cain said was the Gospel truth. Have no fear, he is making up for his Cain coverage by attacking Perry.

I am not saying that none of these men have the right to run for office but let’s be honest as to who they are. The defense of these four is hypocrisy and show a break between today’s conservative thinkers and the legacy of the Conservative Movement. The Old Guard of the Conservative Movement would have vetted all four before investing their time, money, and energy on their campaigns. We all must do better but we should demand more from the folks who are extending the legacy of William Rusher, Paul Weyrich, William F Buckley, and the many others did the heavy lifting. We do them a great disservice when we compromise our principles.

Spartan