Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rippin' Up the "Big Tent"

Some of the more interesting things I read yesterday had to do with Peggy Noonan’s column in the WSJ. Buried, quite literally, at the very bottom of Ms. Noonan’s column was this lil gem:

On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!"

This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.

Were there other causes? Yes, of course. But there was an immediate and essential cause.

And this needs saying, because if you don't know what broke the elephant you can't put it together again. The party cannot re-find itself if it can't trace back the moment at which it became lost. It cannot heal an illness whose origin is kept obscure.

Hoo-Boy. Bull. Pasture. Red Flag. (Trying on another metaphor instead of my UCR “Jane, You ignorant slut!”) Captain Ed sez “no, it wasn’t Bush…”

It doesn't mean we don't have trouble, but Noonan's wrong to lay the whole thing on Bush. While it's true that he hasn't provided much in the way of fiscal discipline, he didn't run for office as a Steve Forbes conservative, either. He spoke of compassionate conservatism, a code for big-government approaches for center-right policies, and he delivered. Bush talked about working on bipartisan solutions to national issues, and he pretty much did that before the Iraq war turned sour. Republicans elected Bush knowing what they were going to get, and Noonan can't seriously claim shock over the result.

The seeds of Republican discontent took root in Congress, not the executive. It was the succession of Republican Congresses that refused to cut spending, and instead blew wads of cash on non-defense discretionary spending. Bush led in some of these efforts, but he didn't multiply pork exponentially; that came from House and Senate Republicans. He didn't climb into bed with K Street, either -- that project started before Bush ever arrived at the White House with Tom DeLay and others.

While Billy Hollis at Q&O sez:

And the GOP faithful are still out there attempting to scare folks with "What? Any Republican is better than Hillary! If you small-government types know what's good for you, you'll get behind the GOP nominee, whoever it is. Otherwise, it will be a disaster!"

Well, it will be a disaster - for the political insiders and those whose life revolves around winning. The Democrats already suffered through theirs. In 1994, the entire Democratic political establishment was shell shocked when the GOP took Congress, by a big margin. The GOP has not yet faced their own disaster, mostly because they've been blessed with stupid enemies.

But I think it's coming, sooner or later. Sooner, if McCain or Huckabee are the standard bearer. Later, if the GOP squeezes out one more victory, but just can't internalize the need to stop selling the spending, stop the earmarks, and get serious about their core small-government principles.

As for me, I found James Joyner’s commentary more in alignment with my take on things political:

And, frankly, Reagan’s record — as opposed to his rhetoric — isn’t exactly what those who pine for the Good Ole Days seem to think it was. Reagan did virtually nothing to advance the socially conservative agenda he talked about. He appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, two moderate swing votes, to the Supreme Court to go along with Antonin Scalia, his lone conservative appointee. And he signed the biggest illegal immigrant amnesty bill in the country’s history. He allowed spending to skyrocket under his administration, leaving the country saddled with historic debt.

It’s 2008, not 1980. Most women work outside the home. There hasn’t been a military draft in more than a generation. There are significantly more than three television channels. We’ve completed the shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. Our political climate has, understandably, changed a little. Goodness, there’s a serious chance that a woman or a black man will be our next president; that was the stuff of stand-up comedy routines in Reagan’s day.

The campaigns of Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Tommy Thompson, and Fred Thompson never got off the ground. If you thought they’d be great presidents, you were virtually alone. Sorry for your loss but it’s time to move on.

The president represents 300 million-odd Americans and is selected through a grueling process that ensures he’s vetted by widely varying constituencies. The primary process runs potential nominees through a gauntlet and then the general election requires appealing to pluralities in enough states to get at least half of the votes in the Electoral College.

Ms. Noonan is fundamentally correct in her brief conclusions about Bush’s record regarding the war, spending, and small government. But Bush’s missteps hardly qualify as “destroying the Republican Party.” I’m more or less inclined to agree with Mr. Morrissey when he lays the blame on Congress for the GOP’s failure in the mid-terms… yet he, too, is off the mark by claiming the seeds of GOP destruction were planted in Congress. Dubya could have exercised more and better leadership in that space…like finding and using his veto pen about five years before he actually did, and engaging in some creative arm-twisting with the GOP congressional leaders.

And then there’s The War, which (IMHO) has been about as badly managed as any of our previous wars, and worse than most. Still… you go to war with the administration you have, not the one you wish you had… to paraphrase some former administration official. Dubya changed course in Iraq at the Eleventh Hour, or perhaps later than that. The War may be out of the headlines now, but Dubya’s lack of success up until May/June of 2007 certainly had a LOT to do with Republican dissatisfaction, and almost everything to do with Democrat angst.

So. Is the GOP falling apart, or what? Yes and no. I’ve seen and heard the term “healthy debate” used a lot this past week to describe the internecine warfare within the GOP, and healthy debate is good…when it’s healthy. I’ve also read a lot of opinion that smacks of “I’ll take my ball and go home if we don’t play by my rules” kind of talk as well. There’s always this sort of talk during an election cycle, and it’s usually just talk. Except in 1992. And you know what happened then. Could 2008 be déja-vu all over again? We DO have some…umm… rather familiar Lefty faces in this year’s race that make me wonder. Especially when I get e-mails like this:

From: Draft Bloomberg Committee,
To: buckpennington01…at…
Date: Jan 15, 2008 4:20 PM

Subject: The Draft Bloomberg Petition

Draft Bloomberg Committee Launches Petition

If you believe Mike Bloomberg should run for president, then now is the time to tell him!

America needs and deserves a president with vision and a proven track record of solving tough problems and delivering real results, a president who can bring America together through true leadership and fine character.

With a recession looming, we believe that Mayor Bloomberg, a proven successful businessman and public servant, is that leader to help us rebuild our country.

Join the Draft Bloomberg Committee on the ground floor by completing two important activities that will help bring Mayor Bloomberg into the presidential race:

1. Sign the petition to draft Mike Bloomberg: Add your name to the list and stay informed about our draft movement. Sign online now!

2. Publish the petition on your blog: The more voices we have shouting Mike's name, the more likely he will be to enter the race. Publish the petition on your blog!

So… either we get it together as a party, or some idiot will decide to jump in and tear it all apart (I appreciate the irony involved in calling a billionaire an idiot, believe me), no matter if it’s Mike “I’m NOT running for President” Bloomberg, Ron “Isolationism is Good!” Paul, or anyone else who thinks a third-party candidacy is viable in the US of A*. But there’s danger for conservatives even in the absence of a third-party candidate, and I’m speaking of the “a pox on BOTH their houses, I’m staying home” crowd. If you fall into the latter category, then I suggest you get ready for another Clinton administration. Or worse.

Another thing: you forfeit your inalienable right to bitch, piss, and moan if you stay home on election day. That should be important to at least some of you. Unless, you know, you lie about not voting... but you wouldn't do that, now, would ya?

In the meantime… Mr. Joyner has it right: let’s discuss our differences and support the guy we prefer. But after all the hootin’ and hollerin’s done in St. Paul come September, let’s get behind our nominee and work to win.

* Unless Nader or someone like him decides to run again, in which case: Yes. It’s all about where the votes come from, eh?


Today’s Pic: A much younger me (a 30-year old me, to be exact) doing what I used to do before Algore invented these here inter-tubes, and doing it in TSMP’s student apartment in Mushashi-Koganei, a borough in metropolitan Tokyo. I think the photo captures my inner geek pretty well, doesn’t it?

Sometime in 1975… I’m thinking it was winter, coz I have my GI long-underwear shirt on. There wasn’t any central heat in that apartment and it could get very cold, as in ice-on-the-inside-of-the-windows cold, see-your-breath cold. The general chilliness, of course, was a damned good excuse for TSMP and I to crawl into her futon and get warm. Kinda. Sorta. As a by-product.


  1. You endorse Rudy. Rudy was my mayor before Bloomberg. Yet Rudy has been chased out of the tent by the Social Conservatives. A RINO, they call him. Furthermore, Bloomberg has done much better as mayor of New York by any measure.

    The Social Conservatives have made it clear that they don't want us in their tent. They do not want a big tent party.

    Why should any New York Capitalist stay with a Republican party that doesn't want us?

    On the issues, all Bloomberg is, is a Giuliani with better a management style, more success, a better resume and deeper pockets.

    If you're a Giuliani supporter, at this point what is possibly keeping you in the Republican party, anyway?

    Kind regards,


    Run Mike Run
    Michael Bloomberg for President

  2. This isn't a hugely original observation at this point, but I find it fascinating that the three GOP candidates that are really in the running at this point - Romney, McCain, and Huckabee - map so perfectly to contemporary conservative archetypes: successful businessman, war hero, minister. (The similar analysis of Obama, Clinton and Edwards is left as an exercise for the reader.)

    I think Giuliani is gone after Florida. And to be perfectly honest with you, to the extent that you can find people with conservative leanings in New York City (there are a few of us), you won't find many of us who would vote for him for President.

    Noonan's analysis may be overheated, but I think she has a solid point: the GOP is now inexorably entered into a cycle of what I, as a lifelong Republican who recently switched party registration to "Independent", *hope* is going to turn out to be creative destruction and re-invention...

    The "destruction" part seems to be a lock, anyway.

  3. I give Bush a lot of credit for his role in ruin. But he had a lot of help from the rest of the Republicans in power.

    The Republican Party should be ashamed of itself.

  4. Your geek picture reminds me of a recent Wierd Al song: White and Nerdy. LOL! Love the glasses! RPGs, isn't that what they are called?

    I'm really enjoying all your old pictures, even it if comes with a laugh at your expense (hope you don't mind)! Isn't that what we do at old pictures of ourself?

  5. 1994 was the opening of the destruction of the GOP....We(Right Wing Conservatives and the Christian Right) gave the Republicans the majority, because Bubba had screwed things up what does the new Congress do?

    Newt and his gang crap on the Conservative base, 6 years later Bush buried us.

    It's pretty well down to Romney or a third party....yes McCain can win(a fat cat clown like Bloombag sure the Hell can't), but at what cost to the Conservative base.

    It's indeed time for a 3rd party....the Constitution Party has many good ideas(except they, like Ron Paul, want to blame American and not Islam for the terrorists)...but at this point, no party can make all happy, never have, never will.

  6. Hi Buck and all.

    First of all ... Buck ... thank you for keping the political discussion alive here at your blog. I read every word of your posts and all the comments.

    I was a Rudy supporter myself at the beginning. And I do agree with Chris that he was run out of the big tent by the constant attacks by the media and the social conservatives of our party. At this point, I am going to support Mitt, unless Rudy makes a major turnaround in Florida (don't see it happening). I cannot support McCain or Huckabee ... just can't consider it. So...needless to say, I am hoping for a big Romney win in Florida on Tuesday.

    As for Peggy Noonan, I used to be a big fan of hers, but she got to be so over the top in her hatred for President Bush, that I don't read a word that she has to say anymore.

    Loved the 1975 picture of you. Isn't it kind of bittersweet to look at old pictures of ourselves the way we used to look once and realize how much time has gone by?


  7. Thanks for dropping by, Chris. I'm still a Republican because I'm also a pragmatist. The US has a two-party system, for better or worse... that's just the way we are. The Republicans fit my primarily libertarian (small-L libertarian) views better than the Democrats do, and that's the other reason I stay.

    The GOP has changed before, it will change... evolve... yet again before I die. Supporting Bloomberg is akin to having a political death-wish.

    Barry: I agree with you about Guiliani, and that's too bad. I watched him give a speech on C-SPAN last evening and was impressed yet again. But... I think he's toast.

    And I agree with your "not hugely original" observation!

    Abe sez: The Republican Party should be ashamed of itself.

    Well, I wouldn't go that far, but they do have a LOT of 'splainin to do.

    Jenny sez: I'm really enjoying all your old pictures, even it if comes with a laugh at your expense (hope you don't mind)! Isn't that what we do at old pictures of ourself?

    Exactly. I'm sure even John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe had geeky pictures of themselves. It's a poor person indeed who can't laugh at themselves.

    Pat sez: It's indeed time for a 3rd party....the Constitution Party has many good ideas(except they, like Ron Paul, want to blame American and not Islam for the terrorists)...but at this point, no party can make all happy, never have, never will.

    Isn't that just a little bit contradictory, Pat, in that it's "time for a 3rd party," yet "no party can make all happy?" This third party talk leads down a VERY slippery slope. Think Italy. The "gub'mint du jour" just doesn't appeal to me. At all.

    Sharon sez: And I do agree with Chris that he was run out of the big tent by the constant attacks by the media and the social conservatives of our party. At this point, I am going to support Mitt, unless Rudy makes a major turnaround in Florida (don't see it happening). I cannot support McCain or Huckabee ... just can't consider it.

    I submit the same thing that happened to Giuliani is happening to McCain as we speak, just for different reasons. The most conservative elements of the GOP simply aren't that tolerant of another conservative viewpoint...or any deviation, at all, from their particular orthodoxy. And that's sorta scary, as far as I'm concerned. There's not a whole helluva lot of difference between intolerant moonbats and intolerant right-wingers, IMHO. Their icons are different, that's all.

    As for Noonan...I still read her, but I agree less and less with what she has to say these days. But she's still a great writer and one shouldn't forget her credentials... which are impeccable.

    Thanks for the comment on the blog and politics. I wax and wane where politics are concerned. There are some days I get so damned disgusted I think I'll swear off of politics altogether. Then I wait three days or so and find that feeling has passed... ;-)

    So true about those pics of the "young us." Where did the time go, anyway??

  8. My reasoning for a "viable" 3rd party Buck is for several reasons....The Democrats of today are nothing more than marxists/socialists of yesteryear...that leaves out the folks like my uncles and grandparents, whose decendants are still slaves to the "party linve" even though they have nothing in common with today's DNC. The Rockerfeller(AKA Rudy/Bloomberg) wing of the GOP(that would be many of those posting on here)are in love with abortion mills and have the "if it feels good do it" outlook and hate conservative Christians views...they will never see eye-to-eye...and frankly, I have nothing in common with country club Republicans or open border a-holes like McCain and "The Huckster"...I'm sure the Bloombergers would love to see the true Conservatives gone from the GOP....which of course would leave them maybe 10% in national polls....not a winning position.

  9. I like your nerd picture. I also like your from the archives pics. They are enjoyable. Yes you are right we must laugh at ourselves. Everyone else is we might as well enjoy the laughter;)

  10. I agree with Buck, and I'm not just spreading butter. I think congress is the big failure and Bush added to it. I'm not thrilled with any of our Republican canidates, but to say that I just "can't vote" for one of them or to say that I "will not vote" is to say that I am voting for the Democrats. I think that is much worse in the long run. I think a third party just divides the Repulicans giving away the votes to the Dems. So, I will choose the best of the Reps, and exercise my rights.

    Such a thoughtful, artsy photo of you. It is like seeing your softer, intelligent side rather than the macho bike photos - both are great.

  11. Pat sez: The Rockerfeller(AKA Rudy/Bloomberg) wing of the GOP(that would be many of those posting on here)are in love with abortion mills and have the "if it feels good do it" outlook and hate conservative Christians views...

    Well, I'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger collection of inaccurate, purely-false tropes in one sentence, even if I tried...and I'm not inclined to try. There ain't no such thing as an "abortion mill" these days, the "if it feels good..." thing is a load of bollocks, and no one (aside from the loony-left fringe) "hates" conservative Christian views. That last bit is WAY over the top. People might disagree with a POV, but rational people don't "hate." Heavy emphasis on "rational," at that.

    How in the Hell do you justify those sorts of statements? They're simply irrational and make you look like one of those old guys who wander around raving about "socialism." It ain't pretty.

    Ashley: Thanks for the kind comments about the archive pics. There's a lot of weird stuff in there...some of which you'll see, some you won't. While I generally like self-deprecating humor, some of the pics are TOO embarrassing, even for me. Think "'70s," LOL!

    Lou: I like the "spreading butter" statement! First time I've heard that.

    And thanks, yet again, for the kind comment on the geek pic. Truth be told: I have a lot more geek in me than macho.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.