Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging, CPAC Conference, GOP Reform, Media, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 2:18 pm

Michael Moynihan has a post up at Reason’s Hit and Run that identifies at least one conservative “leader” who isn’t a talk radio host, or some other pop conservative polemicist.

After excoriating Republicans for spending like Dutch social democrats (and elevating halfwits to important leadership positions), I was asked recently by a radio host to name a Republican qualified to be “leader of the party.” The pickings are slim, but there are a few exceptionally bright, market-oriented contenders out there. So I plugged, with appropriate obsequiousness, the always impressive Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. When I sat down with Ryan last month to discuss Obama’s education policy, he quoted Hayek, talked at length about handing out Rand books to staffers, and discussed his previous life as an economic analyst. Such conversations should be de rigueur with members of the House Budget Committee, but I suspect Ryan is the only one that could name an Austrian economist.

Further proof that the Republican Party needs more Paul Ryans: Yesterday, he beat up on MSNBC host Carlos Watson and The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel regarding the “public option” and why Congress shouldn’t pass bills it hasn’t read. Imagine such a performance from, say, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann:

Indeed, Ryan dispatches vanden Heuval with the greatest of ease:

Prior to hearing the Wisconsin congressman at CPAC, I didn’t know much about the guy. Michael Barone notes in The Almanac of American Politics that Ryan is pretty much a mainstream Republican, although more of a foreign policy centrist. He is a reliable conservative on fiscal matters and toes a pretty conservative line on social issues.

But this fellow is a thinker - a rarity among all politicians and especially among many legislators who call themselves conservatives today.

An example from his CPAC speech:

Our greatest leaders - from Lincoln to Reagan - succeeded because they anchored conservative thinking and policies in the founding principles of our nation. They did so not because of mere “history” or “tradition” - but because they understood the need to revitalize the unchanging truths that inspired the birth of America.

Let those truths inspire us again! Let them re-ignite the sparks of hope for a new generation of Americans who love freedom!

Without enduring principles we get “change” but no direction.

Guided by the founding principles we can direct “change” toward the ends that have made America the envy of the world: Individual freedom … growing prosperity … and equal rights secured by constitutional self-government.

America’s Founders did not discover ideas no one ever heard of. Their great achievement was to build a constitution of equality and liberty upon a foundation of self-evident truths as old as the beginning of mankind and as new as tomorrow.

What are those truths?

First is that the “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” are the only sure touchstone of right and wrong … for individuals as well as societies.

A second is that all human beings are created with equal natural rights - the rights to live … to be free … to acquire property - and other means to fulfill our God-given potential for happiness.

Third, and most important for conservatives: The great purpose of government is to secure these natural rights: protecting every person’s life, liberty, and freedom to pursue happiness is the great and only mission of a government true to our founding.

There are very few congressmen who speak so eloquently of First Principles. Now, he frames those principles in a quasi-religious context, which is acceptable to me as long as it goes to fundamental truths espoused by the Founders who, like all natural rights supporters at the time, believed man was created by God and that these rights were simply self-evident manifestations of God’s desires.

His CPAC speech was necessarily more political than philosphical. But read this speech he gave at a Hudson Institute symposium on “Making Conservatism Credible Again:”

“Conservatism” at its best, defends the standards and qualities which define “people of character.” The original source for these standards is the Western tradition of civilization, rooted in reason and faith, stretching back thousands of years. The tradition as a whole affirms the high dignity, rights, and obligations of the individual human person. One of the glories of Western civilization was to break out of the mythological past which saw only groups and classes, ranked and organized by collectivist governments. Before the Western tradition began in ancient Israel and classical Greece, the individual person as a subject of rights was simply unknown.

Nowhere was the Western tradition epitomized more memorably than in our Declaration of Independence. By “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” all human beings are created equal, not in height, or skills, or knowledge, or color, or other nonessentials, but equal in certain inalienable rights – to live, to be free, and to fulfill their best individual potential, including the right to the “material” such as property needed to do this. Each individual is unique and possesses rights and dignity. There are no group or collective rights in the Declaration. Nor does basic human equality imply “equal result.” It means “equal opportunity”: every person has a right not to be prevented from pursuing happiness, from developing his or her potential. The results should differ from one to another because “justice” or “fairness” is giving each individual what each has earned or merited. That’s what fairness is.

The great conservative purpose of government is to secure these natural rights under popular consent. Protecting every person’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness should be the great and only mission of legitimate government.

After a stirring defense of the Adam Smith “invisible hand,” Ryan make a thoughtful attempt to unite libertarian and social conservatives by pointing to common ground:

A “libertarian” who wants limited government should embrace the means to his freedom: thriving mediating institutions that create the moral preconditions for economic markets and choice. A “social issues” conservative with a zeal for righteousness should insist on a free market economy to supply the material needs for families, schools, and churches that inspire moral and spiritual life. In a nutshell, the notion of separating the social from the economic issues is a false choice. They stem from the same root.

Take that Huckabee and all of you “crunchy cons.”

I tried to think of some other elected conservative who is making this kind of honest attempt to bring the factions back together and came up empty. Nor can I think of too many conservative legislators who quote Hayek, Mises, and Adam Smith, while speaking the language of social conservatives and espousing a decidedly libertarian economic viewpoint.

But he voted for TARP I which makes him poison to many in the base of the Republican party. I was disappointed so many conservatives voted for the execrable legislation except we have to understand the context. Everyone was being told that if this money didn’t get to the banks right away, there would be a financial meltdown that could lead to a panic which would plunge us into a worldwide, catastrophic depression. They were being told this by a president and Treasury secretary of their own party. They had no clue that the money would be used for everything but buying up those bad assets that were weighing down the balance sheets of the big banks. In my book, they were acting as responsible lawmakers.

For that reason, I am inclined to cut Ryan and others some slack for their vote on TARP I. And his subsequent statements and actions have shown Ryan to be an innovative and creative legislator. His alternative budget would have cut taxes to stimulate the economy the right way and done it in a revenue neutral manner. Just think where we’d be today if his plan had been followed.

I’m not the first to proclaim Ryan a future conservative leader. But I think he needs more exposure than what he’s been getting from conservatives on the internet as well as the pop-conservatives on talk radio. Elevating his stature would seem to be a smart thing to do given the man’s base intelligence and good ideas on a variety of public concerns. His criticisms of Obama have been reasonable, fact based, and without the hyperbole associated with more rabid conservatives in Congress. That too, is a plus in my book.

At age 39, he will be on the national stage for a long time to come. He may or may not run for higher office some day. But he will be an important voice for conservatives regardless of where his political career takes him.


  1. Good spokeman…

    From Rick Moran’s More Paul Ryan Please:


    Trackback by Maggie's Farm — 7/31/2009 @ 2:36 pm

  2. Thank you, Rick. Paul Ryan is an excellent example of the quality, in both moral fibre and intellectual heft, of the indivduals involved with the conservative movement. Why aren’t they getting more attention? Well, you are an excellent start. Keep it coming, please. We certainly can’t count on the MSM for much even exposure. I am thrilled to see him going on MSNBC to debate their propogandists. I realize the viper pit issues, but our guys do need to man up and jump in. He did very well in explaining our positions both pro and con in this episode.

    Comment by cdor — 7/31/2009 @ 4:57 pm

  3. Thanks for pointing out Paul Ryan. I will keep my eye on him. But with or without articulate leaders, what do conservatives really stand for anyway?

    Just as Ryan and others are reminding us to ‘look before leaping’ on health care, we conservative Republicans need to take our time figuring out priorities before shopping for new leaders.

    When it became evident the Articles of Federation weren’t working very well, the Founders took some time framing a new Constitution. That was followed by a lengthy, public debate on the proposal’s merits (aka Federalist Papers). The Federalist Papers used pseudonyms in order to let people focus on the issues without getting distracted by the personalities or home states of the authors. Where is our 21st Century equivalent of the Federalist Papers?

    Personally, I am an economic and social conservative. I deplore the bailout approach adopted by Congress and the President, but I don’t assume to know everything. I’d like to see more civil and candid discussion of fiscal policy and the role of individual responsibility. Is health care a right? Can and should government force people to get health insurance? Can we discuss such matters without calling each other names?

    I am also ardently pro-life. Unfortunately, abortion has become a divisive issue for economic conservatives, just as slavery divided the Founders. Just as they gave us an imperfect solution in 1789 (accepting slavery as Constitutional), I think conservatives may have to make some difficult choices and compromises in order to build a viable coalition. Can present and potential policies on abortion be discussed without resorting to scripture or name calling?

    In summary, conservative Republicans need to figure out what they stand for before scouting new talent.

    Comment by Doug King — 7/31/2009 @ 6:15 pm

  4. I think conservatives may have to make some difficult choices and compromises in order to build a viable coalition. Can present and potential policies on abortion be discussed without resorting to scripture or name calling?

    Doug,Doug,Doug…. please stick to the stereotype - since you declare yourself to be an ardently pro-life social conservative, how could you possibly talk about “difficult choices” and compromise? you are supposed to be rooting or overturning of Roe V Wade and criminalizing of abortions.

    Dont you know that social conservatives like you are the reason that enlightened people run scared from the GOP like the plague? And here you are trying to be reasonable and all..

    You should hide yourself until election day comes.. thats what “moderates” want !


    Comment by Nagarajan Sivakumar — 7/31/2009 @ 9:42 pm

  5. sarc — Thanks for the compliment. You sound like a reasonable person yourself.

    The way forward is to unite conservatives and moderates behind good, politically viable ideas. The big question is, what are those ideas? As a fiscal and social conservative I have some notions, but I accept that I am one small fish in a very large ocean. I have to find others who more or less want the same things I do. There’s an engineering adage that states, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Insisting on perfection in an imperfect world gets you no where.

    Comment by Doug King — 7/31/2009 @ 10:59 pm

  6. Doug,
    The /sarc tag was meant to be short for sarcasm:-)

    But if this is of any comfort to you, I used to be one of those enlightened moderates who saw abortion as a political issue that is nothing more than a woman’s “right to choose”. Luckily for me, my position has changed a lot ( especially after I saw the movie “Marley and Me”) and it turned what ever queasiness that I had abortion before(while still keeping it legal) into outright disgust.

    Very few people seem to know the fundamental facts about when human life begins, or that by as early as the tenth week, the baby gets a heart beat going and most of its organs already growing - by this time, even its gender is decided (XY chromosomes create a male and XX chromosomes for female).

    If you asked me ,social conservatives have done a very poor job at describing what an abortion entails - people who dont agree with you have successfully painted an image that you “believe” that an unborn infant is actually a human being. And that your opposition to abortion is based on the Christian faith.

    This is more than “belief” - these are the medical facts whether you would like to face them or not.

    You could be an atheist but still see the humanitarian value of the pro-life position, but your opponents think that all you want to do is over turn Roe v Wade and make abortion illegal. Some of your opponents have painted you as being rigid extremists because of your opposition to Roe V Wade alone.

    No, I dont want abortions to be made illegal - I’d rather that the “right to choose” become redundant. If people realized what was at stake (especially MEN), they would do their level best to not put their women in a position where a terrible choice has to be made.

    If you are truly interested in compromise, you should come out openly in support for contraception - I realize that this also may be against your religious views - but this would be much better than anything else.

    As a person who loves individual liberty I am stunned that people have to take political stands on errr.. contraception! Responsible adults already know what to do and STILL social conservatives are expected to come out in support of contraception - but,that’s how pathetic it is.

    Doug, as far as fiscal conservatism goes - I think this country is in for a very very painful lesson in basic economics - there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Look at your current health care debate (full disclosure, i am from India and will be moving back home next year)-

    There are people who actually believe that the “public option” will reduce insurance costs for EVERYONE because there will be more people covered by insurance - all the while forgetting that this is nothing more than static analysis and health care costs are only going to grow as more insured people are going to expect more services - at the taxpayer expense !

    Not to mention the inevitable Government intervention into what constitutes treatment for a patient. If you thought insurance companies where bad in restricting your choice of doctors, wait till your Govt restricts your choice of treatment.


    I dont even want to talk about the avalanche of entitlement spending that this country has “obliged” itself to pay for its senior citizens - abt 52 trillon dollars - I might actually reach Mark Levin levels of despondency. And Rick may call me out for my bitching and whining :-(

    This country always seems to have had a guiding hand that helped it reach its true potential and destiny - at awful times, when this country would have never even come into existence ( like the terrible losses that the Revolutionary Army kept taking after 1776) or when it would have dissolved into two (Civil War) or when it somehow lead the free world against the evils of Nazism(WW2) and later on Communism, it some how pulled through.

    Even after the bitterness of the boomers with Vietnam, Civil Rights etc, this country has some how pulled through.

    Will it do this miracle act again ? This country is awash in debt and is very very polarized that it is amazing that it still is one country. I think we will watch in the next few decades.

    Personally, I would love for fiscal sanity to return to the citizens of this country - but i am not betting that it will.

    Comment by Nagarajan Sivakumar — 8/1/2009 @ 1:12 pm

  7. You seem like a fine gentleman, Nagarajan. Your country will be fortunate to have you back.

    Comment by cdor — 8/2/2009 @ 6:47 am

  8. An aside to Sivakumar: I wish more Indian Americans would get involved with politics. I live in a part of the country with numerous Indian immigrants, and the vast majority I’ve met are quite sensible and clearly have conservative instincts, but seem uninterested in American politics beyond griping about taxes - but follow Indian politics closely. I keep trying to get them to get off their butts and get involved, but few seem interested.

    90% of American politics is about showing up. If you aren’t in people’s face, you don’t exist. And the Asian habit (more among East than South Asians) of working hard and hoping for notice doesn’t work in in-your-face American politics.

    Chinese immigrants seem the same way; the few Chinese that get into politics are standard latte liberals or local ward-boss types, all of whom tend to be Dems. There have been a few Chinese conservative politicians, but far fewer than their population would suggest.

    Sorry for the OT grump, but as long as “conservative” equals “middle-aged white guys”, it simply won’t matter numerically.

    Comment by Foobarista — 8/2/2009 @ 4:01 pm

  9. And a disclaimer: I definitely resemble the middle-aged white guy remark…

    Comment by Foobarista — 8/2/2009 @ 4:04 pm

  10. Foobarista,cdor
    Thanks for the king words. I am not a citizen(I’m here on a work visa). I do agree that Indian Americans dont get directly involved in politics a whole lot.Those who do however tend to be Democrats more often than not.The Democrats have always been perceived as more welcoming and tolerant (unless of course you get on their “wrong” side !)

    There are a lot of reasons for this passivity - IMHO,the primary reason is that most Indians are not interested in politics - as long as we have good job/career opportunities,we dont seem to care about anything else. When tax time does come, we gripe about it… and then move on.

    Our experience with Indian politics has left us cynical and quite a few of us have the exact same feeling now about US politics as well.

    Grin and bear -we are just thankful sometimes for just having the opportunity to be here, all other things being how ever bad they may be.

    Comment by Nagarajan Sivakumar — 8/2/2009 @ 9:15 pm

  11. Nagarajan — Thanks for the thoughtful response. I agree with #7 that India’s gain will be our loss. Are you a US citizen, or have you considered becoming one?

    Yes, I’m religious, and Yes, I believe human life begins at conception. I dont’ buy the legal distinction between the born and the unborn. I have no opposition to birth control in the sense of preventing conception. Whatever I believe, I recognize citing theology to justify public policy has no place in America and will only backfire. Fellow Americans who do not share my religious views are right to insist that I persuade them on grounds of reason and civic value. Many fellow pro-lifers, however, eagerly cite scripture and it ultimately works to their detriment. I think the public case against abortion can and should be made on rational grounds. If a human fetus is not a human life, what other kind of life is it? The pain and carnage involved in aborting a fetus is perhaps the best case against it. I wonder, for example, how many of those who adamantly oppose waterboarding as torture feel the same way about abortion. I see our nation’s tolerance of abortion much like the prior (legal) practice of slavery many years ago. I find it unjust and wrong. But I think exceptions can and should be made for rare cases of where the mother’s life is in danger, for example. And no, I don’t regard those who disagree with me as evil or stupid villains. But I digress.

    Going back to my original question — what do conservatives really stand for? What are our unifying principles of government, economy, and rights? I don’t like where our government has been going lately. But it’s one thing to be against the status quo, and another thing to be for an articulated alternative. What is the alternative? What is our manifesto? (I admit I have not read Mark Levin or Glenn Beck or Ron Paul because I do not take them very seriously.)

    Comment by Doug King — 8/2/2009 @ 9:33 pm

  12. By the way, in my last post I admitted to dismissing books by Levin, Beck, and Paul because I expect them to be self-promoting. I might be wrong on this. I would be interested in knowing what Rick Moran and others recommend as primary reading material for conservatives (beyond the Declaration and US Constitution). If I were to make a recommendation, it would be “Economics in One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt.

    Comment by Doug King — 8/2/2009 @ 10:21 pm

  13. Levin’s book, Mr. King, is definitely not self-promoting. I don’t believe he mentions himself at all in the book . He does document all his facts with extensive footnotes. Please read it… it’s only 200 pages, but I believe you will be very impressed.

    Comment by cdor — 8/3/2009 @ 6:39 am

  14. Doug,
    I am not a US citizen - but i do love this country very much. My reasons for going back to India are personal and the decision was made a long time back.

    As far as abortion argument goes, I think conservatives would do well to stick with just the medical facts - when the foetus gets a heart beat within the first 12 weeks of conception, what exactly is it now ? My understanding of Roe v Wade is that within the first 26 weeks, abortion is legally allowed.

    As you pointed out, it has to be kept legal in those scenarios where a woman’s life is at risk or it is simply unavoidable ( i read a real painful case where the woman wanted to carry the baby to term but couldnt due to terrible complications).

    But that would bring us to the question of abortions performed on perfectly healthy women, who just dont want to have a baby. In fact, this is what the progressives/liberals are most concerned about - they see this as the pinnacle of a woman’s freedom. Short of it, women will always remain “oppressed”.

    There is a case to be made that women in an earlier and more conservative America were expected to have more children and could not do much about it. This was seen by the progressive movement as a way to keep women in control and unfortunately in their view,abortion became the focal point of a woman’s freedom.

    I guess this is all old news to you and many people who have watched this debate for much longer time than me - but i think that the key to any meaningful compromise on abortion is the recognition on both sides that

    A) Women in this country have strong and equal rights- the culture warriors have blatantly used the abortion = women’s rights meme to the hilt. Women should not have to feel insecure about their status in this country.

    B) It seems to dispropotionately affect minorities. What can conservatives do to help foster family values in minority communities ? Education, jobs etc…

    Black conservatives are needed and people like Shelby Steele, Ward Connerly etc have tried to shape public opinion on this issue - BUT, as always they are painted as race traitors and Uncle Toms.

    What do conservatives really stand for? What are our unifying principles of government, economy, and rights?
    I dont know if there is a “unified” theory but we all believe in limited Govt, personal responsibility, freer markets, strong national defense and lesser intervention in people’s personal lives.

    I don’t like where our government has been going lately. But it’s one thing to be against the status quo, and another thing to be for an articulated alternative.

    It is kind of difficult to give an alternative when you are in deep do-do. What alternatives do we have when businesses make home loans to people who they know wont pay it back? When people buy homes they know that they have no chance of paying for and are instead buying it to sell it off at the highest price (all the while forgetting that there is risk involved in any gamble ?)

    How many alternatives did liberals propose when the Iraq war looked hopelessly lost ? What alternatives did they propose when they vehemently opposed Bush on social security reform and the surge?

    Nothing more than cutting and running and increasing more taxes on the “greedy”.

    And they control all three branches in Govt with a filibuster proof majority today.

    Life’s unfair - conservatives have to realize that they have to be at their best every time, they get an opportunity to govern -otherwise, people will vote the Democrats in. Its as simple as that.

    Comment by Nagarajan Sivakumar — 8/4/2009 @ 8:50 pm

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