TOMC casts a jaundiced eye at the crop of Republicans trying to be president. Roger Cohen says that the new “L-word” is Neocon. That creature Dobson has typed something about “values.” It’s instructive, sometimes, to read his ravings. Here’s TOMC:
Newt Gingrich isn’t running!
The former House speaker, who once shut down the federal government because Bill Clinton gave him a bad seat on Air Force One, has decided that his extremely promising candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination will have to be nipped in the bud due to the tyranny of campaign finance reform.
“The McCain-Feingold Act criminalizes politics,” he growled to George Stephanopoulos, launching into an explanation about how the law would have cruelly required him to sever his ties with a political advocacy group in order to run for the most powerful job on the planet.
Who said campaign finance reform wouldn’t accomplish anything?
But, look, here comes Alan Keyes! The former Reagan administration official and career loser-of-elections seems to have snuck into the race while nobody was looking. There he was, in the Republican debate at Morgan State University the other day, appearing absolutely the same as he did in 2004, when he suddenly popped up in Illinois just in time to lose the Senate race to Barack Obama.
Before his unhappy collision with McCain-Feingold, Newt Gingrich had apparently surveyed the field and decided there was room for one more recovering womanizer among the front-runners. Keyes must have checked out the second tier and detected the need for more unelectable right-wing candidates who are obsessed with abortion.
The front-runners, as is now well known, all ditched the Morgan State debate, even though it was the only one focusing on African-American issues, so they could spend the time raising money before the quarterly reporting deadline. The ones who came were either driven by their concern for the feelings of the black community or because they had no money to raise and getting to be on television is the whole point of their candidacy. I debate therefore I am.
“Well, the main reason I’m here is because I was invited,” said Representative Ron Paul.
The Republican second tier has come to resemble a middle-aged singing group. You only see them en masse and require helpful hints to remember their names. There’s Mike Huckabee (the nice one), Sam Brownback (the curly-haired one), Tom Tancredo (He Who Rails About Immigrants) and Duncan Hunter (the one who looks like the sheriff in a 1950s B-movie). Paul, who looks like a cranky rancher in the same movie, is the libertarian congressman who usually performs the useful function of complaining about the war in Iraq so everybody else can leap in and defend it.
We certainly do not want to disrespect the hopeless candidates who have been responsible for so many good times over the long, long presidential campaigns of yore. Keyes perked up the 2000 proceedings considerably when he threw himself into a mosh pit and bodysurfed to the tunes of Rage Against the Machine. It’s possible that the day Gary Bauer fell off the stage during a pancake-flipping contest in New Hampshire was the highlight of the primaries. Given the extremely large crowd of hopeless candidates this time around, I think we have every reason to believe that sooner or later somebody will fall off something again.
The problem for Republican voters is that as time goes on, the main candidates are beginning to resemble the hopeless ones more and more.
Fred Thompson’s campaign peaked the day before he officially announced. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are spending most of their time taking back everything they said during their previous political careers. And John McCain has gone so ga-ga that he told a Web site devoted to spirituality that he would not be comfortable with a president who didn’t share his religious beliefs. No wonder Newt thought, for one brief shining moment, that he might have a shot.
The political parties find themselves on two different tracks this year. Democratic voters are resentful because Hillary Clinton seems to be wrapping things up so fast. (It’s only October! The negative ads haven’t even come out yet!) Meanwhile, the Republicans have more than their share of candidates, but on many days not a single one of them seems like somebody you could reasonably nominate. The Democrats used to give their unsatisfactory lineups names like The Seven Dwarfs. What would you call this crowd of Republicans? The Legion of Doom?
The front-runners are all at least two entirely different politicians, and no voter can possibly avoid hating one version. John McCain, the maverick reformer, is now the Superhawk friend of Falwell who thinks Christianity is in the Constitution. The Rudy Giuliani who fought for gun control is now the guy who learned from 9/11 how important it is for Americans to pack heat. (Coming soon: Rudy explains how 9/11 taught him that homosexuality is wrong.) And you could fill an auditorium with all the Mitts we’ve got running around out there.
There is, however, only one Fred Thompson, and he appears to have been stuffed by a taxidermist.
Here’s Mr. Cohen:
A few years back, at the height of the jingoistic post-9/11 wave, the dirtiest word in the American political lexicon was “liberal.” Everyone from President Bush to Ann Coulter was using it to denote wimplike, Volvo-driving softies too spineless for dangerous times and too given to speaking French.
Liberals were going to hand the country’s defense to the United Nations, turn the war on terror into police work and cave to bin Laden’s Islamofascism.
As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California declared in 2004: “If you believe you must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism — then you are a Republican.”
No matter that none of the above was true. No matter that 20th-century liberal thought, like Isaiah Berlin’s, stood in consistent opposition to totalitarianism in fascist or communist form. The nuance-free message served to get the commander in chief re-elected.
In time, the fever ebbed. Iraq imploded, Bush fizzled and the Democrats took Congress. A retooled Schwarzenegger began sounding like a closet Democrat.
Not least, as America bumped down to earth, “liberal” lost the mantle of political insult most foul. Its place was taken by the pervasive, glib “neocon.”
What’s a neocon? A liberal “mugged by reality,” Irving Kristol said. The reality in question, back then, was communism-as-evil, the centrality of military force, the indispensability of the American idea and much else. But that’s ancient history. The neocons are the guys who gave us the Iraq war.
They’re the guys who, in the words of leftist commentator and blogger Matthew Yglesias, “believe that America should coercively dominate the world through military force” and “believe in a dogmatic form of American exceptionalism” and “favor the creation of a U.S.-dominated ‘universal empire.’ ”
But the term, in these Walt-Mearsheimered days, often denotes more than that. Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy, whatever that may be, although probably involving some combination of plans to exploit Iraqi oil, bomb Iran and apply U.S. power to Israel’s benefit.
Beyond that, neocon has morphed into an all-purpose insult for anyone who still believes that American power is inextricable from global stability and still thinks the muscular anti-totalitarian U.S. interventionism that brought down Slobodan Milosevic has a place, and still argues, like Christopher Hitchens, that ousting Saddam Hussein put the United States “on the right side of history.”
In short, neoconitis, a condition as rampant as liberal-lampooning a few years back, has left scant room for liberal hawks. “Neocon is an insult used to obliterate the existence of this liberal position,” says Paul Berman, a writer often so insulted.
Liberal interventionists, if you recall, were people like myself for whom the sight in the 1990s of hundreds of thousands of European Muslims processed through Serbian concentration camps, or killed in them, left little doubt of the merits, indeed the necessity, of U.S. military action in the name of the human dignity that only open societies afford.
Without such action in Bosnia and Kosovo, Europe would not be at peace today.
One reluctant liberal interventionist signed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 that said: “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein.” His name was Bill Clinton. Baghdad is closer to Sarajevo than the left has allowed.
For this left, anyone who supported the Iraq invasion, or sees merits to it despite the catastrophic Bush-Rumsfeld bungling, is a neocon. That makes Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik and Kanan Makiya and Bernard Kouchner neocons, among others who don’t think like Norman Podhoretz but have more firsthand knowledge of totalitarian hell than countless slick purveyors of the neocon insult.
But who cares about such distinctions? Democrats have learned from their nuance-free bludgeoning by Republicans in the 2004 election, and they’re reciprocating. I’ll see your “liberal” with a “neocon” — and truth be damned.
But distinctions matter. The neocon taste for American empire is not the liberal hawk’s belief in the bond between American power and freedom’s progress. As for social questions, the gulf is large.
Has Iraq deep-sixed liberal interventionism? Kouchner, a socialist, is now French foreign minister — hardly a sign the credo’s dead. He, in turn, is close to Richard Holbrooke, who brought peace to Bosnia and may be secretary of state in a Hillary Clinton administration.
When John Kerry was vilified as a flip-flopping liberal by those armchair warriors, Bush and Cheney, I knew where I stood. When Michnik and Kouchner are neocons and MoveOn.org is the Petraeus-insulting face of never-set-foot-in-a-war-zone liberalism, I’m with the Polish-French brigade against the right-thinking American left.
Please comment at his blog: www.iht.com/passages.
Now here’s what that nutcake Dobson has to say about values:
Reports have surfaced in the press about a meeting that occurred last Saturday in Salt Lake City involving more than 50 pro-family leaders. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss our response if both the Democratic and Republican Parties nominate standard-bearers who are supportive of abortion. Although I was neither the convener nor the moderator of the meeting, I’d like to offer several brief clarifications about its outcome and implications.
After two hours of deliberation, we voted on a resolution that can be summarized as follows: If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous.
The other issue discussed at length concerned the advisability of creating a third party if Democrats and Republicans do indeed abandon the sanctity of human life and other traditional family values. Though there was some support for the proposal, no consensus emerged.
Speaking personally, and not for the organization I represent or the other leaders gathered in Salt Lake City, I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.
The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls don’t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one’s principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.
One other clarification is germane, even though unrelated to the meeting in Salt Lake City. The secular news media has been reporting in recent months that the conservative Christian movement is hopelessly fractured and internally antagonistic. The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday, for example, that supporters of traditional family values are rapidly “splintering.” That is not true. The near unanimity in Salt Lake City is evidence of much greater harmony than supposed. Admittedly, differences of opinion exist among us about our choices for president.
That divergence is entirely reasonable, now just over a year before the national election. It is hardly indicative of a “splintering” of old alliances. If the major political parties decide to abandon conservative principles, the cohesion of pro-family advocates will be all too apparent in 2008.
James C. Dobson, founder and chairman of the evangelical organization Focus on the Family Action, is the author of “Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men.”