At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Jeb Bush: Disaster for the GOP

posted by Jack Kerwick

So, the word is that the fat cat GOP donors are eyeing up Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate for 2016.

If there’s any truth to this—and, tragically, it appears that there most certainly is—then there is but one conclusion left for any remotely sober person to draw:

The Republican Party is politically suicidal.

It is nothing short of incredible that anyone who isn’t one of its arch foes should even consider, much less desire, a Bush, any Bush, to so much as be associated with the GOP, to say nothing of becoming its standard bearer.  If Republicans knew what was good for them, they would avoid like the plague anyone with a name that merely sounded like Bush.

To be certain, a wish for Jeb Bush to lead the GOP is a death wish.

First, the damage that George W. Bush inflicted upon the Republican brand can’t be overstated.  Barack Obama is terrible for this country, for sure.  As we enter into the sixth year of his seemingly endless tenure in office, it is as easy for Republicans to forget just how unpopular Bush II was when he left office as it is easy for them to ignore the fact that Americans still blame him for involving their country in two unnecessary, protracted wars while sliding it into a recession.

Granted, resentment toward the 43rd president is no longer as intense as it once was.  However, with another Bush looking to take the White House in 2016, it is nothing less than a foregone conclusion that old feelings will return with a vengeance the likes of which haven’t been seen since 2006 and 2008.

Secondly, as the political climate has changed over the last few years, so too has the temperament of the rank and file, the base, of the Republican Party.  To put it simply, for the impulse toward so-called “moderate” candidates for which the GOP has become known, legions of traditional Republican voters in this Age of Obama have unmitigated contempt.

And Jeb Bush typifies the Republican “moderate.”

In 2008, after years of being insulted by John McCain—a Republican, recall, whom the leftist media endlessly praised for being a “maverick” until he dared to run against Obama—some 3 million Republicans decided they simply could not in good conscience vote for him in that year’s presidential election.

Even more telling, four years later, after President Obama had an entire term to reveal his identity to the nation, one million more Republican voters than refrained from voting for McCain refrained from voting for “moderate” Mitt Romney.

If Jeb Bush is the party’s nominee, you can take it to the bank that the GOP will continue to hemorrhage voters in 2016.

In fact, we can go even further: It isn’t in the least implausible to suspect that if Jeb Bush is even in the presidential primaries it will come at a considerable, possibly prohibitive, cost to Republicans.

Not only will scores of GOP voters take this as proof that, for all of their party’s conservative talk at election time, it still, even now, after eight years of Obama, isn’t willing to walk the walk; they will take it as proof as well that they are being manipulated and taken for granted by their own party heads.

Moreover, the left-wing press will have a field day exploiting the news that Republicans want to let loose another Bush on the country.  There is (relatively) little mention of Bush II these days. All of this will change dramatically if Jeb Bush gets even close to securing his party’s nomination.  The media will labor tirelessly to resurrect in the popular imagination the state of the nation under Bush II and his Republican Party.

And if you thought that those in the media were hard on Bush II and the GOP during his tenure, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

 

“The Freedom Agenda” and Iraq

posted by Jack Kerwick

Neoconservatives—meaning every self-avowed “conservative” who also supported the Iraq War—assured us some years ago that the war in Iraq had been won following “the surge.”

Of course, years prior to this they assured us that the war would be “a cakewalk.”  Eleven years later, however, these remarks can’t but strike even the most prejudiced of observers as patently, even astonishingly, absurd, the utterances of men and women who are either grossly incompetent or out and out liars.

Courtesy of America’s invasion of Iraq, the latter today is indeed a “democratic” state.  But it is also an Islamic one. And it is a place where blood continues to spill in the streets.

Ilana Mercer reminds readers of this when she alludes to the latest findings of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI).   The organization found that last month alone “a total of 703 Iraqis were killed and another 1,381 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence [.]”

And these numbers do not include the casualties coming out of the province Anbar.

“According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Committee of the Provincial Council of Anbar, the total civilian causalities in Anbar in February was 298 killed and 1198 injured, with 189 killed and 550 injured in Ramadi and 109 killed 648 injured in Fallujah.”  But because “UNAMI” has not been “able to independently verify these figures nor account for the status of those killed and injured as civilians,” the casualties in Anbar province are “extracted separately [.]”

This is, or at least should be, a scandal of epic proportions for those who endorsed this war as part of a global “Freedom Agenda.”

Yet it is not, and the neoconservatives who enthusiastically promoted Big Government to support this disaster have simply availed themselves of the catch-all excuse upon which Big Government enthusiasts of various stripes have been relying to explain away all  government-induced disasters: It could’ve worked, but it wasn’t done correctly, we didn’t give it enough time, blah, blah, blah.

The thing of it is, neoconservative Republicans don’t seem to have learned a thing from this colossal mistake, a wildly foolish, reckless judgment that has left tens of thousands of human beings dead and even more maimed and displaced.  Even now, they seem eager to feed into a caricature of themselves as warmongers by continuing to mock “isolationists” while showcasing the John McCains and Lindsay Grahams of the GOP every time an international disturbance of one sort or other erupts.

If Democrats weren’t worse, the GOP would be retired come this November.

The Truth About the Neoconservative Persuasion

posted by Jack Kerwick

In spite of the ease with which the word “conservatism” is thrown about these days, most people who associate with the “conservative” movement are not really conservative at all.  In reality, the so-called “conservative” movement is a predominantly (though not exclusively) neoconservative movement.

Contrary to what some neoconservatives would have us think, “neoconservatism” is not an insult, much less an “anti-Semitic” slur.  The word, rather, refers to a distinct intellectual tradition—a point for which some neoconservatives, like its famed “godfather,” Irving Kristol, have argued at length.

In The Neoconservative Persuasion, Kristol argues for another claim: neoconservatism and traditional or classical conservatism are very different from one another. “Neocons,” he states, “feel at home in today’s America to a degree that more traditional conservatives do not.”Unlike conservatism, neoconservatism is “in the American grain.” And this is because it is “hopeful, not lugubrious; forward-looking, not nostalgic; and its general tone is cheerful, not grim or dyspeptic.” Furthermore: “Its twentieth-century heroes tend to be TR [Teddy Roosevelt], FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt], and Ronald Reagan,” while “Republican and conservative worthies” like “Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Barry Goldwater are politely overlooked.”

Neocons view the United States as “a creedal nation” with a “‘civilizing mission’”to promote “American values”throughout the world, to see to it “that other governments respect our conception of individual rights as the foundation of a just regime and a good society.”  Kristol is unambiguous in his profession of the American faith: the United States, given its status as a “great power” and its “ideological” nature, does indeed have a responsibility “in those places and at those times where conditions permit” it “to flourish,” to “‘make the world safe for democracy.”

Here, Kristol articulates the foreign policy vision—“Democratic Realism” is what Charles Krauthammer calls it—for which neoconservatism is known.  Yet to Kristol’s great credit, he readily concedes what most neoconservatives readily deny: Big Government abroad is, ultimately, inseparable from Big Government right here at home.

Kristol is refreshingly, almost shockingly honest: Neoconservatism, he informs us, endorses “the welfare state.” Its adherents support “social security, unemployment insurance, some form of national health insurance, some kind of family assistance plan, etc.” and will not hesitate “to interfere with the market for overriding social purposes”—even if this requires “‘rigging’” it instead of imposing upon it “direct bureaucratic controls” (emphases added).

As Kristol says, neoconservatives are “always interested in proposing alternate reforms, alternate legislation, [to the Great Society] that would achieve the desired aims”—the eradication of poverty—“more securely, and without the downside effects.”Neoconservatives don’t want to “destroy the welfare state, but…rather reconstruct it along more economical and humane lines.”

In vain will we search the air waves of “conservative” talk radio, Fox News, National Review, Commentary, The Weekly Standard, or any other number of mainstream “conservative” publications for a negative syllable regarding Irving Kristol.  Though Kristol, like his son, Bill, is commonly referred to as a “conservative,” he himself not only explicitly embraced neoconservatism as his “persuasion” of choice; Kristol happily embraced the distinction of being “the godfather” of this persuasion.

In other words, if anyone can be said to be the intellectual standard bearer of neoconservatism, it is Irving Kristol.

And yet here he is unabashedly conceding what some of us have long noted and for which we’ve been ridiculed: neoconservatism is every bit as wedded to Big Government as other species of leftism—even if its proponents want to use it in other ways and for other purposes.

Because Obamacare is woefully unpopular, neoconservative Republicans, both in politics and the “conservative” media, have nothing to lose and everything to gain from trashing it.  But at this time leading up to the midterm elections, more traditional conservatives would be well served to bear in mind that, in principle, neoconservatives do not object to “some form of national health insurance,” as Kristol tells us.

For all of their talk of “limited government,” traditional conservative voters should remember that, as Kristol states, neoconservatives “endorse the welfare state” and only seek to “reconstruct it along more economical and humane lines.”

For all of their talk of “capitalism” and the free enterprise system, conservative voters should also recall that, as Kristol remarks, neoconservatives will not hesitate to “interfere with the market for overriding social purposes.”

More recently, Douglas Murray, in his, Neoconservatism: Why We Need It, seconds Kristol in admitting that, “socially, economically, and philosophically,” neoconservatism differs in kind from traditional conservatism.  In fact, such is the vastness of their differences that he refers to neoconservatism as “revolutionary conservatism.”

If “the conservative movement” is to have a future, it must first be honest about its present identity.  

 

Establishment Republican Hypocrisy

posted by Jack Kerwick

When, on March 13, a caller to Bill Bennett’s radio show charged the host with being unduly supportive of “establishment Republicans” over Tea Partiers, Bennett admitted that while he’s an admirer of the Tea Party, he would not endorse those of its candidates who, even if they won, would hurt the party.

Even if they won, they would hurt the party.

Bennett’s justification for not voting for Tea Party candidates—let’s call it the “No Harm” principle—is the justification to which all establishment Republicans resort for doing the same.  And, as far as I can determine, it seems cogent enough.  But here is the rub: what’s good for the establishment is just as good for the Tea Party.

In other words, it is rank hypocrisy for the Bill Bennetts of the GOP to castigate Tea Partiers (and libertarians) for being “purists,” say, when the latter invoke the No Harm principle against those establishment Republicans who they believe have been harming the party, and the conservative movement, for decades.

It is rank hypocrisy for establishment types to charge their brethren to their right—and make no mistakes, so-called Tea Partiers and libertarians are indeed more to the right than their accusers—of aiding and abetting Democrats.

You can bet the bank that Bennett, Bill Kristol, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, and legions of others wouldn’t spare a moment to forfeit an election, any election, to a Democrat, any Democrat, if the only alternative was, say, Ron Paul or Pat Buchanan.  This isn’t just a hypothetical: It’s a matter of record that Bill Kristol once explicitly stated that he would vote for John Kerry over Buchanan.

A more telling example of this inconsistency on the part of establishment Republicans is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Though he implored the attendees at the most recent Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC) to set aside their differences and vote Republican, when Christie had an opportunity to advance Mitt Romney during the last presidential election cycle, he did nothing of the kind.  He formally endorsed Romney, it is true.  Yet, in effect, he pushed President Obama over the finish line by heaping endless praise upon him in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and insinuating that his prior endorsement of Romney was just a matter of “playing politics.”

There is yet more hypocrisy to be exposed.

The establishment types label their opponents “purists”—the implication being that they are reasonable and realistic while the Tea Partier types are unreasonable and naïve.  With one word, establishment apologists debase their rivals while elevating themselves.  But it is actually establishment Republicans, not Tea Partiers, who are the true purists.

To an incalculable extent, the GOP’s foreign policy under President Bush II damaged the Republican brand.  Poll after poll continues to show that the vast majority of Americans prefer, in the words of none other than presidential candidate Bush II, “a more humble foreign policy.”  Still, such establishment figures as John McCain and Lindsay Graham continue to feed into the worst caricatures of the war mongering Republican.  It is establishment Republicans who fuel the perception that they’re zealous purists, “extremists” and “one issue voters,” when they wax hysterical over just talk of reducing by a single red cent our tremendous defense budget.

Establishment Republicans are doubtless sincere when they claim to desire intraparty unity and, thus, a presidential candidate in 2016 that can bring this about.  However, the only “unity” for which establishment Republicans will settle is unity on their terms.

In practice what this means is that any candidate like, say, a Senator Rand Paul, who exhibits anything less than unadulterated enthusiasm for the foreign policy agenda for which Republicans have, to their great detriment, become known, will most definitely not receive support by the GOP machine.   Beyond this, much like Paul the Elder, they will be branded an “isolationist” and subjected to every conceivable smear.

When establishment Republicans acquiesce in the left’s agenda and Tea Party types complain, the reply with which they are invariably met is something like: “Remember, Republicans control only ‘one-half’ of ‘one-third’ of the government.”  The tone is clear: these pesky, naïve purists just can’t grasp political reality!  Well, maybe it is high time that establishment Republicans be forced to face a counter-reply.

Tea Partiers should remind the establishment that during past election cycles none of the candidates who they’ve catapulted to office ever instructed them on the nit and grit of the political realities on which they are now being lectured.  Furthermore, Tea Party voters should insist now, before the next election cycle, that every Republican running for office repeatedly caution voters against entertaining unrealistically high expectations, for regardless of what happens this November, a Democratic president promises to remain in the White House for at least the next two years.

Intra-party unity there will never be.  Intra-party clarity,  however, is less unattainable.

 

 

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