February 3, 2005
POLITICS: Not Quite Getting The God Stuff
I actually saw little of Bush's speech last night. I saw the Democratic response, which like all SOTU responses, was horrid. (See my vigorous fisking of Gary Locke's response in 2003 here). Harry Reid, like Locke two years ago, opened and closed with an upbeat, can-do set of personal anecdotes that were completely at odds with the relentless pessimism of the response.
This was my favorite part, as Reid tried a ham-handed impression of what some Democrat speechwriter thought of as good Republican-style "moral values" rhetoric:
Sometimes important questions like Social Security or the economy or education get reduced to dollars and cents or competing policies and political parties. But really, these are questions that are about old-fashioned moral values that don't get talked about much in Washington, but matter so much to our country. Are we willing to do right by our parents and care for our children? Do we believe that big corporations with powerful lobbyists should get special favors and that the wealthiest should get special tax breaks? Or do we believe we are all God's children and that each of us should get a fair shot and each of us deserves a say in our future? Will we be able to tell young people like Devon back in Searchlight that America is still the land of the open road and that you can travel that open road to the place of your choice?
The effort to cast Republicans as the folks who don't believe we are all God's children (apparently as evidenced by the corporate tax code?) would be manipulative if it wasn't so transparently desperate. How about that "each of us deserves a say in our future" line as a reason why letting people make their own decisions amounts to "taking Social Security's guarantee and gambling with it"? And, again, we have this upbeat "open road" rhetoric married to a message of "don't mess with the welfare state," another jarringly bad contrast.
"Old fashioned moral values that don't get talked about much in Washington"? I thought the Democrats complaint was that Bush talked too much about moral values. And you can't punt on numbers when it comes to Social Security. Come up with alternative plans, but don't have empty rhetoric.
Two items are fighting for "honor" of being dumbest comment by Reid.
1. His story about a kid with a skateboard coming up and saying he wanted to be like Reid when he grows up. I think there is a better chance of meeting Kerry's imaginary CIA friend than Reid's skateboarder.
2. He wants a Marshall Plan for the US. So this pessimistic twit is comparing present day America to the war ravaged Europe of the late 1940's. Despite the efforts of the Dems we are doing much better than that.
Why is it a transparent and fake "speechwriter's line" when it comes from Reid and solemn and heartfelt when it comes from Bush?
I've got problems with Reid. Foremost is his religious piety and tendancy to let it creep into his legislating. I don't doubt the sincerity of his comment for a minute or that he came up with it. I'm not interested in religi-fying everything, but I am interested in pointing out the hypocrisy of the Republican's words without deeds, and I thought Reid did it nicely there.
I don't doubt Reid's religious sincerity, and I certainly don't have a problem with his politics being influenced by the faith that gives him a moral compass. It's crazy to suggest that a man who believes a thing because of his faith is less fit for public office than someone who believes the same thing but places his faith solely in secular sources of moral guidance.
But the effort he made here sounded forced and artificial, and coupled with the fact that it sounded like exactly what the Democrats have been scored for failing to do, it looked a little too calculated.
Alright. My foremost problem with Reid isn't his religious beliefs. That was a bad way to put it. his religious beliefs might lead him to take positions I disagree with and that's fine. That really means I have a problem with his positions on some issues. I also don't think he's the right man for the Minority Leader's job, because I feel he'd be hamstrung by the same constituancy issues as Daschle.
Either way, the Democrats won't win with you because they either fail to address issues and get scored for it or they do and it's disengenous.
My (and his) overall point is being lost in the discussion however. It's one thing to act like the moral, righteous and "values" Party and another to implement policies that actually get those results.
You are in the neo-con love room here. All things Republican are good. Points and logic often have little to do with the posts (as opposed to the blog itself which is often times well-reasoned even if I don't agree with most of the content). Also, some of the readers need short sentances.
jim - What, precisely, is "neo" about my conservatism? This is just sloppy thinking. (Bonus questions: Was Ronald Reagan a "neo-con"? Is William F. Buckley? Discuss.)
Ronald Reagan probably was not a neo-con although his admin was no doubt chock full of them as the more incapacitated he became in his second term the more the folks like Bush I, Rumsfeld, etc. not only had influence but created and enacted policy. As far as Buckley or you go I would say that to truly be a neo-con you actually have to be in the gov't or have the ability to influence policy. I don't read everything you post on the site as a) I do not have time since you are very prolific and b) not every topic you write about interests me terribly.
What I know about neo-cons is that they not only believe their own spin and distortions but they will defend them in the face of evidence to the contrary (you could probably say this about a certain sector of liberals or the foie gras protesters outside my favorite butcher who simply drive me nuts). Howver, when it comes to the certain group running the show right now it is much more blatant and damaging. In terms of actions n-cs operate in an Ayn Randian world where capatalism is a political system rather than an economic one which leads to an undying love of giant corporations and money. We now operate under the assumption that corporations have the same rights as individuals to be unfettered. In fact, corporations in some ways are extended a greater set of rights than individuals due to the power and money that they have.
On top of this all is the use of uber-nationalism to create a vacuum in which this whole system can exist relatively free of criticism. The whole ploy of "if you question it you are against the President and the country" has run rampant since 2001.
As to whether I think you have neo-conistic thinking or not; I don't think there is any way to be really sure. You are clearly thoughtful, thought provoking and smart. You also defend a lot of people and positions that are as right wing as it comes and I don't think I have read a position of yours (and again I admit to not being a 100%er) where you said, "this is clearly crazy." Not all things Republican are good ideas. I think the Left is loaded with bad ideas. Does that make a bad lefty or liberal? Hell, I read your stuff which I am certain puts me in the minority of left-wingers but I think that I look for ideas that work from both sides. I think neo-cons KNOW there is only one side. I have no clue if that is what you think.
I bet though you like good dinners and a nice bottle of wine while talking about stuff without getting pissed off and if that is true I sort of don't give a shit what your personal politics are like.
Well, I'd agree with you on the last point.
I just think you've missed the whole "neo-con" concept. The term "neoconservative" dates to the 60s/70s and means, as the "neo" part indicates, conservatives who used to be liberals or leftists and switched sides, usually due to their fervent anti-Communism. Some prominent people now thought of as "neo-cons," like John Podhoretz and Bill Kristol, are actually lifelong conservatives who are the sons of perhaps the two most famous of the neocons. In any event, conservatives have more often used the term to signify people who are not all that extremely conservative, yet it's somehow publicly become associated with exactly the opposite.
I'd actually say Reagan was a guy who was at home with the neo-cons (esp. Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Bill Bennett), in the sense of being a former FDR Democrat, but he was much more anti-big-government, where the neo-con philosophy was never really that way. Buckley, by contrast, is a more traditional conservative, indeed the definitive post-New Deal conservative. But Buckley also wrote a column calling for war with Iraq on September 14, 2001.
Bush I was no conservative at all, actually, as any conservative of any stripe will tell you.
Anyway, the neoconservatives (esp. Kristol and the Weekly Standard crowd) mainly supported McCain in 2000, not Bush, who was supported more by cultural conservatives and small-government conservatives.
But the signature issue of the neocon crowd has been foreign policy, where they unquestionably have had great influence in bringing people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice over to their way of thinking after Sept. 11. That's why lots of people who had never heard the term before 2001 suddenly got it confused with whatever they didn't like about Bush.
Like many terminologies that change over time neo-con is certainly one. While it may have roots back in the 60s no one would ever accuse head neo-cons such as Karl Rove as ever being formerly liberal (although I assume he hates the hell out of commies). Perhaps it is the term itself that is out of whack but whatever the case the crowd running the show in DC these days ain't conservatives of the old days. If that makes them new then so be it. Whatever you would like to call them is fine with me; neo-con is just the accepted terminology for the Rove, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc. crowd. I don't think you had to be a "neo-con" to want to go to war. You could be lots of things and thought (at least at the time) that perhaps that was a good idea. The neo-con influence comes in when shucking, jiving, lying, distorting, mis/disinforming, denying and handing out huge amounts of money to dubious contractors become part of the action. All this takes place with the mentality that your shit don't stink and no one really needs to be held accountable unless they are expendable. Perhaps this is the neo-neo con.