Right Wing Nut House


How We Got Him

Filed under: Decision 2012, FrontPage.Com, Politics — Rick Moran @ 8:09 am

My latest is up at FrontPage.com where I examine in detail how our intelligence and military professionals carried out what should be considered one of the most daring raids since World War II.

A sample:

The story of how Osama bin Laden was killed begins in the secret prisons abroad and the Guantanamo Bay detention center where some detainees told interrogators of several couriers used by al-Qaeda to avoid electronic surveillance. One such courier piqued the interest of the CIA: a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a trusted assistant of al-Qaeda number 3 Abu Faraj al-Libbi (captured in 2005). Other detainees mentioned that bin Laden himself trusted this particular courier. However, all the CIA had on the target was his al-Qaeda nickname.

KSM, who had, by this time, been cooperating with his jailers, was confronted with the name of the courier and denied knowing him. The denial spurred the analysts to action and they began a worldwide search for the full name of the courier. Later that year, the CIA learned his full name, it is thought, through interrogations at one or more of the secret prisons the CIA maintained at the time.

It took two more years to focus on where the courier actually lived in Pakistan. No details have emerged as to how this part of the investigation was carried out, but it would imply both human assets and technical surveillance was involved.

Then, in 2009, intelligence began to zero in on where the courier and his brother operated. The fact that the courier was taking extraordinary precautions, strictly adhering to operational security, gave analysts hope that they were indeed on the right track.

The break came in August 2010, when the courier was spotted on an Islamabad street. It should be noted that there was nothing “lucky” about this break. The lead was the product of long hours of painstaking examination of the tiniest slivers of intelligence, agonizing over whether the nuggets of information were valuable, making intelligent judgments about where the information might fit into the overall picture they were developing, and finally being rewarded with a breakthrough.

Luck had nothing to do with it.

I don’t think Clinton would have given the go ahead on this mission. It’s 50-50 whether George Bush would have done it either. There was only a “60-80%” probability that bin Laden was even in the house. President Obama deserves all the accolades he’s getting for the success of this mission. It was ballsy, but a good gamble in retrospect. No doubt, the 15 years of chasing this fanatical murderer was a prod for Obama’s brave decision.

Perhaps it should be noted what he was risking. There was the risk to our men - presidents can tell themselves all they want that they will be steadfast when ordering men into high risk situations but it couldn’t have been easy given the probability of American casualties and perhaps even civilian deaths as well.

Then there was the high stakes involved in our relationship with Pakistan. If a regiment of Pakistan soldiers had showed up, were the SEALs authorized to start shooting? A collapse in US-Pakistan relations engendered by a failure of the mission and possible civilian casualties would have left our forces in Afghanistan high and dry.

Certainly failure would have been an embarrassing personal defeat leading to even more unflattering comparisons with Jimmy Carter. And then there was the prestige of the US to consider in ordering the attack.

I have no doubt Obama weighed all of these factors before giving the “go” code. The fact that he went ahead shows a willingness to protect America and American interests - something many conservatives, including myself, have criticized him in the past for not doing.

Is he taking too much credit for the success? Of course he is. And so would a Republican president. Recall Reagan’s “You can run, but you can’t hide” crack after bombing Libya. As long as he didn’t criticize Bush for not getting OBL - and he hasn’t yet - I find it perfectly appropriate that his aides are spinning events like crazy to shine the brightest possible light on the president. Those pious folks who wish to banish politics from such moments, are deluded. Anything a president does becomes political sooner or later. If the mission had ended in failure, the right would have pounced like a hungry Leopard. Since it was a success, Obama gets to bask in the reflected glory of the magnificent job performed by our military and intelligence professionals.

That’s life. That’s politics.



Filed under: Birthers, Decision 2012, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:54 am

I suppose I shouldn’t care about the birther issue so much. After all, I am not a Republican anymore. If the party wants to blow itself up, it shouldn’t concern me.

But most of those making this idiotic argument dare to call themselves “conservative.” They are not. They are far right wackos who live in a paranoid world where truth, and logic, and reason are banned by law. These are people who are proud of their ignorance, despise achievement, denigrate intelligence, eschew excellence, and wallow in mediocrity. Their heroes are political lightweights — bomb throwers who glory in their very averageness. It excites the mouth breathers that Sarah Palin is no smarter than they are. They swoon at Bachmann’s nonsensical political attacks and paranoid fears about policies of which she is deliberately ignorant.

The Bachmann’s, the Palin’s, the West’s, the Caine’s - these are all politicians who are proud of their inability to elevate political dialogue and rise above the petty resentments of their constituencies in order to inspire, not hate. They are leading legions of people astray and I despise them for it.

Using what used to be conservatism’s good name in order to push these jaw dropping theories about Obama’s origins brings the fringe to the mainstream. The internet amplifies and broadcasts this claptrap, placing it in the feedback loop that is conservative online media, and since most conservatives refuse to expose themselves to alternate ideas and worldviews - automatically dismissing information not based on its relevance or logic, but rather based solely on its source - birther nonsense gains traction. What belongs in the closet is brought into the light because the birthers have no sense of proportion, no idea how to weigh and judge authoritative proof for their paranoid theories. In fact, the more authoritative the evidence, the less it is believed. All alternative sources are suspect as being part of the conspiracy or hopelessly biased in favor of the president.

Communicating among themselves, citing each other’s “evidence” as proof for their theories, relying on evidentiary standards that wouldn’t pass muster in a Kangaroo Court, and descending into an ever more involved and twisted exercise in dot connecting, birthers are immune to any appeals to logic or reason.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a birther bill last week that was a poorly disguised religious test and, as even some conservative legal scholars have pointed out, exceeds the authority of the state in that it adds requirements not found in the Constitution. Here, she points out the obvious:

“It’s just something I believe is leading our country down a path of destruction and it just is not serving any good purpose,” Brewer said, calling it a distraction from the much more pressing issue of the economy.

“I think we really just need to move on,” Brewer continued. “Everybody’s had two years to prove, if they wanted to, that he was not born in Hawaii. They haven’t come up with any of that kind of proof.”

The vast majority of the country is not crazy. This quest to uncover evidence that doesn’t exist - a quest supported to varying degrees by 45% of Republicans - will finish the Republican party as a serious political force for god knows how long. This doesn’t seem to bother the Chairman of the RNC Reince Priebus:

“It doesn’t worry me,” Priebus said at a Tuesday breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “But the reality is that I’m chairman of the RNC … In regard to this birther issue, I’ve got better things to worry about.”

Sorry Mr. Chairman, you’re dead wrong. When nearly half your flock embraces a theory on par with believing the earth is flat, it’s time to get concerned. Very concerned.

And the weak kneed, lily livererd GOP politicians who are fully aware of the insanity of the birther movement aren’t talking, or are even going so far as issuing mealy-mouthed statements like the Chairman above - we’ve got better things to do than concentrate on this “non-issue.”

Earth to GOP pols: Half your fricking constituency doesn’t think this is a “non-issue” and are worried about it. Maybe a strong, unequivocal statement, calling the birthers what they are - certifiable kooks - might knock the chocks from underneath their bandwagon. I realize you can’t criticize Trump for using the birthers to further his political ambitions because you all have been doing the same thing for years. But maybe you can stop the Mickey Mouse, condemn the nutcases for being outside the bounds of sanity, and then get on with beating the Democrats.

I realize this will fall on deaf ears with most of the birthers. For it is not evidence they want, it is a revelation - a religious event where God reveals the truth and hits them over the head with it. Since such an occurrence is unlikely, I expect the birthers to continue to make fools of themselves.

I wouldn’t mind so much except they are claiming the mantle of conservatism while doing so. And to my mind, that is perhaps their greatest sin and their most spectacular flight from reality of all.



Filed under: Decision 2012, Deficit reduction, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:19 am

I am at a loss to explain how any bunch that calls themselves “The Reality Based Community” could believe that the president was serious last week when he introduced a plan to increase spending for education, transportation, energy, and health care while purporting to cut $4 trillion of federal spending in 12 years - without messing significantly with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Even raising taxes on “the rich” and cutting an unstated amount from defense doesn’t come close to that 4 trill in savings. Besides, has there ever been a US congress in history that, when presented with more cash as a result of a tax increase, didn’t spend $2 for every dollar in budget cuts? The answer to that question is no. Hence, this titanic disconnect from reality that many on the left continue to experience.


You have a government set to steadily increase spending on autopilot as a result of demographic change and rising health care costs. And you have a Democratic President urging congress to enact spending cuts. But you have conservative politicians refusing to make a serious effort to reach an agreement out of some blend of taxophobia and fear of giving the President a win. The result, again, whether the right realizes it or not, is a gift to the wing of the Democratic Party that disagrees with Obama about the desirability of enacting spending cuts.

Our deficit problem is not a consequence of profligacy or lack of discipline, says Matthew. Federal spending is on “autopilot” - which must be a liberal wet dream or something - and it is simply a matter of “demographics” that’s the cause of our budget woes. In this scenario, Yglesias and other liberals posit deficit ghost riders - sort of like the Furies but without the redeeming characteristic of being figments of the classical Greek imagination - circling high above the capitol, putting lawmakers to sleep as the federal budget spins wildly out of control, whispering in their ears that all is well…all is well…

Despite my conservative leanings, like most liberals, the left side of my brain has a deficit of operable neurons, so my math skills leave much to be desired. But even a math-challenged twit like me can see that unless the president plans on increasing taxes even more than he has suggested, and cutting defense spending a lot more than he has let on, or actually attempt to deal with the unsustainable spending on entitlements, 2+2 are not adding up to anything close to 4.

Elise Foley:

“I remain skeptical that the administration will take this effort seriously, especially after it all but ignored its previous debt commission and President Obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming to consider minimal spending cuts for the rest of this fiscal year,” Cantor said in a statement.

“A serious effort to get our fiscal house in order is sorely needed, however, which is why I believe this commission should commence with a clearly defined target and purpose, under a time frame to produce that result — so that it doesn’t end up in the graveyard of previous commissions that failed to improve our nation’s finances.”

At the same time, some Democratic sources said their own party’s picks for the meeting aren’t as credible as they could be. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) only named a total of four appointees instead of eight: Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Assistant Democratic House Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.). But it’s not the numbers that are the problem.

Pelosi’s picks for the talks make the meeting “look silly” because Van Hollen and Clyburn “are just going to do what Pelosi wants, and she’s not interested in compromise,” said a senior Democratic aide. “The picks for this task force all reflect a lack of seriousness.”

Obama called for the bipartisan talks during an April 13th address on fiscal policy and announced that Vice President Joseph Biden would take the lead. During his speech, the president bashed the House GOP budget proposal put forward by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and said he would not accept more tax breaks for the rich at the expense of entitlements. Ryan, who was seated in the audience during the speech, later called Obama’s remarks “excessively partisan.”

The president of the United States has zero interest in seriously cutting either his own budget deficits or sign off on any plan that would address our massive national debt, now at $14.3 trillion. We know this because his proposals in his speech for closing the budget gap don’t even come close to addressing the current $1.6 trillion deficit. They don’t come close to addressing the deficit as far as they eye can see either - a number that is conservatively estimated at $9.3 trillion over the next decade..

Revenues from increased tax rates on the rich are expected to bring in $1 trillion of the $4 trillion Obama says he can bridge that gap but the rest of the president’s proposal is laughable. $2 trillion in unspecified budget cuts - including a giggle-worthy statement that the Secretary of Defense will be able to find hundreds of billions more in cuts beyond the $400 billion in savings over the next decade already proposed. And $1 trillion saved in “interest on the debt.”

That might make it into late night comedy routines soon. Those savings are assuming interest rates will stay at or near 0%. Anyone who has taken a trip to the grocery store recently knows that this will be impossible once inflation begins to heat up. It is much more probable that the part of the budget dedicated to servicing our debt will outstrip Medicaid spending by 2018.

This is the reality of our debt situation:

Over the 10 year budget window, the net annual cost of servicing the federal debt is expected to grow at a 15.8% annualized rate, from $196 billion in 2010 to $928 billion in 2021 (S-1). If this weren’t bad enough, closer analysis reveals that the actual debt servicing costs could be much higher. Absent a string of good fortune (that’s sadly unlikely to materialize), the federal government could be effectively insolvent within the decade – as debt levels and servicing costs exceed financial capacity.

In the Administration’s baseline estimate, the public debt will rise from 62.2% of GDP in 2010 ($9 trillion) to 77% of GDP in 2021 ($18.9 trillion). Amazingly, this doubling of the national debt and 23% increase in the debt to GDP ratio relies on very favorable assumptions about the directions of interest rates. Over this period, the effective interest rate implied by the ratio of net interest expense to public debt is 3.5%. This happens to be the average for the 5-year constant maturity Treasury rate over the past 10 years. However, the average 5-year borrowing cost for the 10 years ending in January 2000 was 6.3%, while the average 5-year borrowing cost for the 10 years ending in 1990 was 10.4%. Stress testing the President’s budget against these different interest rate assumptions reveals that public debt dynamics could trigger federal insolvency in relatively short order.

Republicans are treating the proposed “commission” with as much seriousness as the president showed in announcing it. Obama’s savaging the GOP in that speech while piously proclaiming his desire to work together to solve the deficit problem was easily one of the most cynical political ploys in my lifetime. He will demagogue the deficit issue from now until November and, given the Punch and Judy GOP field of candidates to face him, it is likely he will win a second term.

But then where will we be? A couple of trillion more in the hole with still no chance to come to an agreement that would meaningfully address the deficit. Obama has chosen political expediency over the health and happiness of the American people.

Goddamn him for it.



Filed under: Birthers, Decision 2012, PJ Media, Politics — Rick Moran @ 7:21 am

You might think it ironic that a website that calls itself “Right Wing Nuthouse” would be accusing Donald Trump and his Birther crusade of enabling, well…right wing nuts.

You would be right. It is ironic, although that shouldn’t detract from my excellent article up at PJ Media this morning.

A sample:

There’s no more hiding for Republicans. The wolf is no longer at the door. He has actually been invited in for tea and crumpets and is now sitting primly in the parlor chatting amiably while he plots mayhem and destruction for the party that once stood for prudence and probity.

Now it is in danger of standing for paranoid kookiness. As responsible adults in the party wring their hands in worry and frustration, a smiling Donald Trump unleashes the crazies, bringing them into the light and showering them with respectability dust. The Hofstadter Brigade of birthers, conspiracists, racists, and born again Birchers — people who give right wing wackos a bad name — have been given permission by at least one adult to go roll around in the mud and mess themselves without having to clean up before dinner. Giving this crew their heads by joining them in their fantasies is either the most irresponsible move ever made by a serious candidate for president, or a brilliant stroke of self-promotion that will pay big dividends for Trump when all the excitement about his candidacy dies down.

I suspect the latter. Trump, for all his bluster, can’t seriously believe that the certification of live birth issued by the Obama campaign in 2008 and confirmed as authentic by the state of Hawaii is a forgery, or was planted by Communists, or was altered in some way. There is not one scintilla of evidence for any of those possibilities — at least, evidence that would be accepted by someone with more than two brain cells working.

If altered or a forgery, then a conspiracy of gigantic proportions involving many members of the government of Hawaii has been hidden from all of us, except those few who have been vouchsafed the ability to see what isn’t there. Members of the conspiracy that has aided Obama would include former Republican Governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle and former Republican Lt. Governor James Aiona. Why they would want to hide the origins of Obama’s birth can only be guessed at. Maybe they’re closet commies or something.

The fact that 41% of Republicans around the country believe this twaddle makes me want to go hide under a rock and not come out until sanity returns to the GOP. What a remarkable testament to stupidity and paranoia in politics.

Not that any birthers are lurking out there (and even if they were they wouldn’t listen), but in order to question Obama’s origins, you have to completely ignore the authenticated certificate of live birth. There’s just no way around it - unless you believe that a monstrous conspiracy involving the state of Hawaii is at work. So birthers get even more convoluted in their fantasies only by dismissing the COLB as a forgery - after the state of Hawaii authenticated it.The only place to go after that is that the COLB was “planted” by someone - a contention for which there is zero evidence and has a zero possibility of being true in the first place.

Does anyone not see the disconnect here? Richard Hofstadter explained that the reason these paranoids continue to believe nonsense can be found in their sourcing. Ask a birther to prove a contention - say, there is no embossed seal on the COLB - and they will come back with “evidence…supplied by another birther! No independent, unbiased authority. No corroborated evidence. In fact, those sources debunk the mytht of no embossed seal. Just simple minded churning of rumor, innuendo, fantasy, and outright lies all between the same group of nut cases who got their original “theories” from each other in the first place!

This is what I mean when I bemoan the fact that 40% of the GOP believing this crap disqualifies the party from leadership. Rejecting, indeed becoming hostile, to reason, logic, and the truth that is right in front of their noses should cause the American people to reject any representative of such a party - especially for president.

And Trump has made it all possible. The crazies were pretty well marginalized until Trump came along and gave them respectability. Now they have a new lease on life and are crawling out of the woodwork, happy to have a celebrity who is taken seriously in some quarters on their side of the issue.

Trump gets mad when someone says he has no chance of winning. Alright, you can’t win, Donald. As long as you continue to play with the fringe, you will be rejected by the majority of Republicans - and Americans - who find your dalliance with the paranoid right a disqualifying factor in their judgment as to whether or not you should be president.

Thank God for that.



Filed under: Debt ceiling, Decision 2012, Deficit reduction, FrontPage.Com, Politics — Rick Moran @ 8:42 am

My latest is up at FrontPage.com where I take a look at the looming battle over deficit reduction being tied to the vote to raise the debt ceiling.

A sample:

After mostly absenting himself from public negotiations over the federal budget last week, President Barack Obama has made the political calculation that he must show the voters that he is serious about long term deficit reduction by getting out in front of the issue, and proposing his own broad plan to address the nation’s fiscal woes.

To that end, President Obama will make an Oval Office address on Wednesday night aimed at convincing the American people that despite his record of compiling more debt in two years than all other presidents in American history combined, he can now be trusted to address the massive deficit. And he will be making the speech against the ticking clock of a congressional vote to raise the debt ceiling — a separate but related issue that Republicans plan to hold hostage in exchange for massive cuts in entitlement spending.

It is significant that Obama sent out his number one political advisor, David Plouffe, rather than an administration expert like the budget director, to make the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows to offer a taste of the deficit reduction plan. The White House seems to view the fight over fiscal sanity as a political brawl that it plans to ride all the way to re-election in 2012. The hinge of their strategy is to use the bold deficit reduction plan introduced by Representative Paul Ryan, which will cut $6.2 trillion from federal spending by 2020, to portray the GOP as fundamentally uncaring and intent on “destroying” Medicare and cutting taxes for the rich.

In short, Obama plans to demagogue deficit reduction by offering limited cuts in his own plan while increasing taxes on “the rich” and closing other “loopholes” that he believes benefit the wealthy. Plouffe hinted that Obama will offer his own reform proposals for Medicare and Medicaid, but they will likely be superficial, with token cuts and little in the way of concrete ideas to reduce the cost of entitlements in the long-term.

This will not satisfy Republicans — at least, they are saying as much for now. The GOP has not eagerly embraced the Ryan plan due to its controversial proposal to basically privatize Medicare and end federal responsibility for administering Medicaid. But there is much more in the plan on which most Republicans can agree, including tax cuts, large cuts in discretionary spending, the elimination of several federal departments and agencies, and other common sense proposals many fiscal hawks believe are long overdue.

I’m not sure that John Boehner will be able to stand up to the firestorm that is about to be unleashed by every budget interest group in the country. When you’re talking about trillions in cuts, the effect will be huge on groups that have depended on the federal government for decades. Obama will portray himself being on their side, Democrats will demagogue the issue till the cows come home, and more moderate Republicans will bolt fairly early.

Expect a big win for Obama and the Democrats in deficit reduction that may not even be tied to the debt ceiling vote.



Filed under: Decision 2012, Palin, Politics, cotton candy conservatives — Rick Moran @ 12:52 pm

While many of you may roll your eyes at the prospect of reading another article about Sarah Palin - pro or con - the issues she raises as a personality in the Republican party simply can’t be ignored, or saved for discussion when she announces her candidacy for the presidency sometime next spring.

Make no mistake. Palin is already running for the office, testing her message in front of friendly audiences, tweaking her online presence, sharpening her attacks, and demonstrating the right balance of humility and eagerness to serve when asked about her future plans. She’s been bitten by the bug, and given the dismal performance ratings of the incumbent, sees a clear opening in a race that will almost certainly be anyone’s ballgame on the Republican side.

Even more than President Obama, Palin represents herself as a new kind of politician. She combines the politics of resentment with a down home charm and an aw-shucks ordinariness that takes the lance out of many of her sneering thrusts at Democrats, while the blood she draws drives her sycophantic, puppy-like admirers into paroxysms of ecstasy. She is a combination of Reagan, Winston Churchill, and maybe George Washington if you read any of the hundreds of blogs that sing her praises. And she has tapped into the motherlode of fears, hates, and simple, decent pride of country (that some deride incorrectly as “chauvinism”) to which ordinary voters respond at gut level.

A not inconsequential skill set. She is much smarter than her potential opponents give her credit for which makes her even more formidable a candidate. Many liberals apparently can’t get out of the way of their own intellectual arrogance when it comes to sizing up the opposition, and Palin intends to take full advantage of that shortcoming.

The more the pollsters, the media, and the left ask how anyone can seriously consider Palin for the highest office in the land, the more her stock rises with ordinary voters. The more establishment Republicans tip-toe around her obvious limitations, the more she is lionized by the anti-establishment tea party types and online conservative elites who see her as something of an American savior, if not the personification of the conservative cause.

For those who say she has no chance, I have two words for you; Barack Obama. Not surprisingly, Palin has compared her own desert-like resume with Obama’s puffed up qualifications and found the president’s experience similar to her own. We’re not going to refight that battle here, but suffice it to say both lack the kind of depth of experience Americans were used to in choosing a chief executive. If anything, President Obama is proving that being book smart is not the same as being capable of heading a smart government, or developing smart policies.

It’s not that Palin is “incurious” - a word I hate because it isn’t really a word as much as a talking point. Rather, it is the depthlessness of her intellect that jumps out at you. She seems capable of absorbing information at a superficial level, but nuance and detail appears to be beyond the ken of her understanding. Perhaps she could disabuse us of this notion if she allowed herself to be interviewed by a Charlie Rose, or a Tavis Smilely, or perhaps a Brian Lamb who wouldn’t be satisfied with letting her spout rushed talking points, forcing her to delve deeper into issues than when she is interviewed by friendlies like Hannity or O”Reilly.

One gets the sense in her sit downs with conservatives that she has a list in her head of points she wants to hit on any given issue, and then rattles them off as if she has learned them by rote. It is quite disconcerting if you’re used to an interviewee actually thinking about what they should say and then saying it. She is too glib, too cocksure - and too shallow - to have seriously considered the ramifications of much of what she says. This is why she should seek to stretch herself by being interviewed by someone who not only knows what they’re doing, but is ridiculously well prepared and well-versed in the detail and nuance of the subjects up for discussion. Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush, even Katy Couric don’t have the time, the talent, or the desire to challenge her depthless understanding of issues, of government, or of conservative philosophy.

Would exposing her as a one dimensional stick figure of a candidate lose her votes? Many already view her that way, perhaps even some of her supporters. More drastic action is needed, according to Joe Scarborough:

Palin is not a stupid woman. But like the current president, she still does not know what she does not know. And she does know how to make millions of dollars, even if she embarrasses herself while doing it.

That reality hardly makes Palin unique, but this is one Republican who would prefer that the former half-term governor promote her reality shows and hawk her books without demeaning the reputations of Presidents Reagan and Bush. These great men dedicated their lives to public service and are too good to be fodder for her gaudy circus sideshow.

If Republicans want to embrace Palin as a cultural icon whose anti-intellectualism fulfills a base political need, then have at it. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy.

But if the party of Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio wants to return to the White House anytime soon, it’s time that Republican leaders started standing up and speaking the truth to Palin.

Scarborough is referring to Palin’s recent denigration of Reagan’s experience. When questioned about her lack of a resume for the presidency, Palin took a page out of the liberal playbook and averred that “Wasn’t Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn’t he in ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ Bozo, something? Ronald Reagan was an actor…” Peggy Noonan supplies the necessary lobotomy to Palin’s sneering ignorance:

The point is not “He was a great man and you are a nincompoop,” though that is true. The point is that Reagan’s career is a guide, not only for the tea party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him. He wasn’t in search of a life when he ran for office, and he wasn’t in search of fame; he’d already lived a life, he was already well known, he’d accomplished things in the world.

And calling George and Barbara Bush “bluebloods” because they don’t support her for the presidency demonstrated not only a thin skin, but that there is little doubt that she is, indeed, almost certainly going to run for president. Scarborough’s snarky response:

Maybe poor George Herbert Walker Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Indeed, he was so pampered growing up that on his 18th birthday, the young high school graduate enlisted in the armed forces. This spoiled teenager somehow managed to be the youngest pilot in the Navy when he received his wings, flying 58 combat missions over the Pacific during World War II. On Sept. 2, 1944, “Blue Blood” Bush almost lost his life after being shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.

With his engine shattered and his plane on fire, Bush still refused to turn back, completing his mission by scoring several damaging hits on enemy targets. His plane crashed in the Pacific, where he waited for four hours in enemy waters until he was finally rescued. For his bravery and service to this country, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three air medals and the Presidential Unit Citation for bravery while in combat.

George H.W. Bush accomplished more in his life before his 19th birthday than Palin has in her entire existence. And yet, the fact that he was born rich and part of the establishment is grounds for the most dismissive kind of epithet? “Establishment” is the new “black” among many Republicans and conservatives. The very mention of the word draws bric-a-bracs from the mindless partisans who are cheering her on and is an automatic disqualifier regardless of the accomplishments and loyalty to party or cause demonstrated by the offender.

And that may be Palin’s greatest drawback and the number one reason she should be called out by respected conservatives and Republicans; her hyper-partisanship. Andrew Sullivan on Palin’s Thanksgiving day Facebook post about the media frenzy over her “North Korea” gaffe:

This may be a smart-ass retort; it may be useful inoculation against a potentially damaging gaffe; it may even be a well-researched blog-post, but what it isn’t is anything approaching the kind of character we expect in a president. A simple respect for the office she seeks would not reflect itself in these increasingly callow, sarcastic, cheap jibes at a sitting president. But sadly, like so many now purporting to represent conservatism, there is, behind the faux awe before the constitution, a contempt for the restraint and dignity a polity’s institutions require from its leaders.

There is no maturity here; no self-reflection; no capacity even to think how to appeal to the half of Americans who are already so appalled by her trashy behavior and cheap publicity stunts. There is a meanness, a disrespect, a vicious partisanship that, if allowed to gain more power, would split this country more deeply and more rancorously than at any time in recent years. And that’s saying something.

Actually, how the country could be even more divided at this point is a mystery. More than looking ahead to a Palin presidency, Republicans and conservatives should look to a much more realistic scenario; crowning her candidacy with the Republican nomination for president.

The disaster that would flow from that course of action for both the right, and the GOP would make 2008 look like a picnic. It would be irresponsible to nominate Sarah Palin (and Mike Huckabee and a few others). It would prove that the GOP and conservatives are unserious about addressing the monumental problems in America by putting forward someone who everyone but Palin disciples believe is a lightweight for the highest office in the land.

The punishment meted out by the electorate would be well deserved.



Filed under: Decision 2012, GOP Reform, Politics — Rick Moran @ 8:39 am

My latest is up at Pajamas Media and I take a look at the new approach to governing offered by New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Indiana’s Mitch Daniels.

A sample:

In looks, demeanor, temperament, and life experience, Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels are as dissimilar as the states from which they hail. The former is a blunt, outspoken, even pugnacious former U.S. attorney with a career in New Jersey noted for reforming a local political cesspool and prosecuting white-collar crime. The latter is a soft-spoken, balding, lifelong Hoosier political junkie who spent a decade as a top executive of a Fortune 500 company.

Despite their seeming opposite natures, the two governors share a common denominator that may hold the key to fostering a new kind of Republican Party where principle and pragmatism combined with confidence and competence offer the voter a real choice in governance.

Neither man can be considered an ideologue. Nor do the two governors pander to any faction in the party or outside of it. Instead, both seem to have hit upon formulas for success that are peculiar to their own state — and their personalities.

Polls show a majority of Republicans dissatisfied with their choices for president so far. Can you blame them? The candidates who are making noises like candidates are, for the most part, retreads from 2008. At at time when fresh ideas and fresh faces are desperately needed, the GOP is falling back on its old “next in line” scenario for a presidential candidate with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee each trying to claim that mantle and Sarah Palin trying to pretend that she’s an outsider of some sort.

The future of the party is in the statehouses across the country where Republicans like Daniels, Christie, Huntsman, and perhaps even Rick Perry are showing creativity, courage, and hard headed realism in confronting the problems of governance in these tough economic times. This, more than adherence to ideology, or being a slave to partisanship is what is desperately needed in Washington if we are to save the American model of capitalism from the levelers and anti-business zealots in the Democratic party.



Filed under: Decision '08, Decision 2012, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 11:09 am

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would be on my short list for presidential candidates if he decided to run in 2012.

Unfortunately, outside of us RINO’s, I would be pretty much alone in that hope. Why this is so says a lot about conservatives and Republicans today.

Daniels represents one of the most conservative states in the union. He was just re-elected in 2008 with the largest vote total in state history despite Obama carrying Hoosierland that same year - the first Democrat to do so since LBJ in 1964. Clearly, he is conservative enough for almost anyone in Indiana.

But outside of his home state? Daniels runs into problems because he is actually interested in governing, rather than posing. He wants to get things done rather than hope for failure on the part of the majority as a path back to power. To that end, he has committed the unpardonable sin of working with Democrats in the legislature to pass health care reform, as well as fight the deficit by strategically cutting spending and - another horror - raising taxes.

Somehow, this makes Daniels less conservative than, let’s say, Rush Limbaugh who doesn’t have the responsibility of governing and can afford to posture about evil Democrats because he doesn’t need them to perform his job.

For most movement conservatives, obstructionism and doing nothing about the enormous problems facing us is definitional. Dismissing the opposition as out to harm America is a litmus test.

But Daniels - a great admirer of Reagan - comes at the task of governing a little more pragmatically.

The results speak for themselves:

On this day, Daniels is describing how, in his first term, he won bipartisan support for a program known as Healthy Indiana, which provides health insurance for Hoosiers who aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but earn too little to afford buying coverage for themselves. So far, 50,000 residents have signed up for the program, under which the state contributes up to $1,100 each year to each enrollee’s individual health savings account. Participants also contribute according to their income, and when the account is depleted, a catastrophic insurance plan kicks in to cover any additional expenses. It’s all paid for with a portion of the state’s Medicaid funds, along with an increase in the cigarette tax that Daniels pushed through a reluctant legislature.

In fact, Daniels is such a believer in health savings accounts and consumer-directed health plans that he made sure one was offered to state employees. So far, he reports, 70 percent of state workers have signed up — including himself — saving millions of dollars each year for themselves and taxpayers.


The good Mitch, by contrast, is a principled but practical conservative who respects the intelligence of voters and would rather get something done than score political points. Daniels is a genuine fiscal conservative who took a $600 million state budget deficit and turned it into a $1 billion surplus but managed to do so without cutting spending for education and even increased funding for child welfare services. He pushed hard to lower property taxes but didn’t hesitate to propose temporary hikes in income and sales taxes to keep the state in the black. He privatized the state’s toll road and then used the $4 billion proceeds to launch a major public works investment program.

He served as Bush’s OMB director and is scary smart. And he doesn’t sound like a tea party patriot in this interview with National Journal:

NJ: What do you think is the biggest lesson that the Republicans haven’t quite learned yet from the last election?

Daniels: Always have a better idea. Let me tell you how this looks from out here — and we’re anomalous. In Indiana, Republicans are the party of change and reform; ask anybody — our opponents, the press, everybody. In the rhythm of life here, four years ago we replaced a 16-year regime that had gone stale.

And so we are the party that restored fiscal integrity. We are the party that addressed health care for the uninsured. We are the party that rebuilt an attractive business environment. We are the party that cleaned up the ethics issues in government — that and much more. We attacked our infrastructure problem in a novel and taxpayer-friendly way.

NJ: That you took a little heat over…

Daniels: Yes, yes, but you know, the results are in — and incidentally, we just won with the largest vote total in the history of elections in our state for any office any year.

NJ: A tough year, too…

Daniels: In a tough year. Obama won the state — you know that. I guess what I’m saying is that when Indiana Republicans meet, I always tell them we cannot control what the party looks like in other places or nationally, but here in Indiana if we don’t remain the party always defining the agenda, bringing the new ideas and standing for constructive change, then people will excuse us from duty. And they should. …

People want to know first of all that you hear them and understand what’s going on in their lives. I work at this incessantly.

Politics is about the winning of power. Governance is about using that power to serve the people. In order to serve the people, you must listen to their concerns, and work with the other branch of government to address them.

Sometimes, like Daniels, you get it mostly right. Other times, like Obama, you get it mostly wrong. Both executives listened to the people but drew radically different conclusions about how to go about addressing their problems.

This week, the president is trying one last time to pass health insurance reform. He is trying one last time to get some cooperation from Republicans. Frankly, I don’t blame the GOP for their opposition after what Harry Reid pulled with the jobs bill, taking a carefully crafted compromise and junking it in favor of a nonsensical measure that barely scratches the surface of our jobs crisis. And I am in agreement that there is so much in the Democrat’s proposal that is overreach that opposing the entire process is probably the only alternative open to principled Republicans.

But I have to admit to having admiration for the president. He is doing what good presidents do; not giving up a cornerstone of his agenda despite the odds because he obviously believes he is right. I want a president to be a stubborn mule when he thinks himself correct. Obama is damning the politics of health care reform and proceeding full speed ahead. I agree that he is perhaps taking his party over a cliff. But he will go down with his flag waving high.

Not very practical of me but a president who digs in their heels when they feel they’re right is someone who “gets it” about the job. History has tapped him on the shoulder. That’s a powerful incentive to make your mark and do so your own way.

Daniels hasn’t had the national responsibility but he didn’t hesitate to raise taxes and cut popular programs to balance the budget. While his health care reforms have been market friendly, the state subsidy to the uninsured would probably be viewed with a jaundiced eye by most movement conservatives. He privatized the state’s tollroads but took the money and funded infrastructure projects.

In short, Daniels has allowed necessity to guide his actions rather than ideology. That, and his decidedly dour take on CPAC does nothing to enamor him to “true” conservatives:

Daniels said he wasn’t at CPAC because it was “a lot of rowdyism and barbs cast at the other side. I think that’s appropriate at a certain time. But that’s not my lane right now.”

Daniels was arguing for the GOP to embrace “a friendly and unifying tone” and that his primary political focus was the upcoming elections for the Indiana legislature.

He argued that the problems facing the country — deficits and economic stagnation in particular — were so dire that they demanded serious policy work, not red meat politics.

“For the first time, I’m concerned about the future of the American experiment,” Daniels said.

When red meat politics is all you understand, and when you view cooperation with the enemy and any straying from a narrow, ideological worldview as apostasy, you are not going to fathom a character like Mitch Daniels nor ever consider him for national office.

I love rowdyism myself. This blog likes to mix it up and I pride myself on my ability to trash liberals with the best of them - when they deserve it. But Daniels is repelled by the kind of hysterically exaggerated critiques of the left that flowed so easily from so many at CPAC, depicting Obama with a horns and tail while ginning up fear and outrage over what might be done in his name. That alone disqualifies him in this current climate of “savagery.”

And that is the republic’s - and the Republican party’s - loss.



Filed under: Decision 2012, GOP Reform, Politics, War on Terror, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:10 am

Tim Pawlenty is a mainstream conservative governor in a traditionally liberal state. When I use the term “mainstream,” I mean simply that he is in the mainstream of Minnesota conservatism - decidedly less conservative than the heart of Republicanism in the south, but conservative enough for most of the rest of the GOP. This alone gives him a decent shot as an alternative to either Palin or Romney in the 2012 primaries.

Reading this long interview in Esquire, I was struck by the governor’s pragmatism and unflappability. Esquire’s Mark Warren threw enough bait into the water that Pawlenty could have easily blundered in his responses. Instead, the Minnesota governor coolly maneuvered through the minefields and came off looking reasonable, and thoughtful.

One thing is for sure; Pawlenty has a very good idea of where the GOP went wrong during their time in the majority:

“The Republicans had their shot not long ago to address the real needs and concerns of everyday Americans, and they blew it…. Over the time that they were there and had the leadership opportunity, they blew it. We got fired for a reason.”

“The party got into a whole bunch of corruption and personal scandals that weren’t compatible with the principles it claimed to stand for.”

“We just lost our way. You can’t say that your hallmark issues are that we’re going to control spending, keep taxes low, and make government accountable, and then go to Washington and do the opposite…. Let’s face it, when Republicans had total control over it, they didn’t do what they said they were gonna do.”

“The marketplace measurement in politics is something called an election…. And in 2006 and 2008, the marketplace was telling the Republicans, We prefer the products and services of your competitors.”

That may still be the case in 2010 if the GOP tries to recycle an agenda better left in the 1980’s. Conservative principles may be deathless, but issues are not. Compared to Palin, Pawlenty has a lot going for him in this regard. Where Palin has a laundry list of resentments that resonate with the base, Pawlenty has a record of achieving concrete results by applying conservative principles to governance. That puts him lightyears ahead of Palin in my book.

Like most GOP governors, Pawlenty is a font of new and innovative ideas when it comes to applying conservative principles to a governing philosophy. Education, health care, mass transit, and other issues important at the state level were addressed to varying degrees by Pawlenty by growing government as little as possible. He also addressed budget shortfalls by generally cutting spending and not raising taxes, although he did raise the cigarette tax and tuition at Minnesota state schools among other “fee” increases to close the budget deficit.

Along with Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, and now Ambassador to China, former Utah governor John Huntsman, Pawlenty represents a new kind of Republican governor - pragmatic leadership buttressed by maintaining good relationships with the legislature, and plugging in conservative policy ideas to address the problems of ordinary people.

If this be the future of Republicanism, bring it on.

This pragmatic conservatism comes through in the Esquire interview as Pawlenty addressed what he would have done about the financial meltdown, a stim bill, and the bailouts:

Whether the threats or doomsday scenarios that were painted were real or partially real or not real at all. We won’t know the answer to that, but we do know that some very bright people said that we faced doomsday, and there were other very bright people who said that, at the very least, the danger was overstated, and this notion that they were too big to fail was untested or untrue.

I’ve argued, at least as it related to the stimulus bill as opposed to TARP, that there were things that we could have and should have done, but it should have been much more targeted. For example, instead of spending $800 billion in a stimulus package, I think we would have gotten much more bang for the buck if we would have done two simple things: focused on tax cuts that would have put cash immediately into the average citizen’s pocket, and two, put money into bread-and-butter infrastructure projects like roads and bridges that could be done quickly. Of the $800 billion stimulus package, only about $50 billion, give or take, actually went into roads and bridges. It was a paltry amount compared to the overall size of the bill.

As for the other bailouts, I did not support the car-company bailout, either. They should have been allowed to go bankrupt — in fact, they [entered] bankruptcy, most of ‘em. That’s the way that they’re going to get most effectively restructured. And I think the same could be said for many of the financial institutions. The idea that we’re gonna bail out every major bank in the country with the exception of Lehman Brothers is ridiculous. Why let Lehman fail and not all the others? These markets have to correct. And the answer can’t be for every problem that emerges as a result of reckless behavior, the government’s gonna come in and bail everybody out. I was talkin’ to people this morning who run small businesses. Where’s their bailout?

The narrative as it is presented today - the trillions we spent on TARP, bailing out the banks, the auto takeover, and the stimulus package - is that without these measures, we would have had a catastrophic, worldwide depression.

As Pawlenty says later, “We’ll never know” if that scenario would have played out if we had allowed the banks to go into bankruptcy, along with the GM and Chrysler (who, as the governor points out, went into bankruptcy anyway), or if the stim, bill had been smaller and more targeted in its spending and tax cuts. Yes, there are many economists who agree with Paul Krugman that Obama saved the world, but there are also many others who disagree to one degree or another. Why their criticisms should be any more or less valid than the dominant narrative that has emerged about these government actions mitigating a crisis is a mystery.

Nor do I believe that the choice was between doing nothing and having the government massively intervene the way it did. That’s a political take on what might have been accomplished short of the trillions in bailout monies advanced by the Fed and the government. The fact is, there was talk at the time of managed bankruptcies, forced mergers, and other measures short of simply handing over money to companies that it was claimed were “too big to fail.” It was never tried, so it is impossible to say if it would have accomplished much of the same thing; i.e., an economy in the toilet but a ruinous depression avoided.

I think Pawlenty is the man to make that case. He supports regulation of the banks, a modified stimulus bill, health care reform, but a firm belief in the idea that market forces are what underlies the American economy:

I think both sides have people who have genuine feelings and beliefs about what they think the proper direction of the country should be. I just think the other side’s wrong. I don’t question motives or assign some sort of label. But I think what President Obama and the Democratic Congress are offering is a dangerous direction for the country. Not just because it’s gonna cost us more, not just because taxes are gonna go up, not just because it expands government, but because of what it does to the American spirit. As I view it, there is an American spirit that is associated with the kinds of attitudes about taking risk, about taking responsibility, about a sense of respect for the private market and the power that it has in creating and rewarding wealth. The government doesn’t do that — the government redistributes, but it doesn’t actually create wealth or prosperity. And the health-care debate is a pretty good proxy for this struggle between these two views. And in the case of the Republicans, what they see and what they’re rightly concerned about is that it’s another increment down the road toward government taking over more and more things. And it worries people.

Is Obama a socialist?

You know, I don’t think name-calling is helpful. I’ve done my share of that, so I’m not Pollyannaish about how the political process works. But as a general proposition, I think these are serious times, the country’s in significant danger, and I think we need people who are thoughtful. We’re gonna have sharp differences, but we need to debate those in a way that’s constructive and civil. I think President Obama is governing as a movement liberal. I don’t think that rises to the level of being a socialist.

This puts Pawlenty in the mainstream of conservatism in about 75% of the country - and proves that he can handle a hostile interviewer. (Warren spent a lot of time making statements that defended Obama, much less time asking Pawlenty any questions that might reveal something about the man.)

Beyond that, note that he makes a classic defense of conservative principles against the onslaught of liberal orthodoxy on growing the size of government to meet challenges. And he frames this argument in terms of American exceptionalism - the “American Spirit” he calls it - while clearly delineating between the role of government and the role of private citizens.

Clearly, Pawlenty has given these issues and concepts a great deal of thought. This comes out in his statement on why he might run in 2012:

I think the country’s in trouble. And I think I have a pretty clear sense of the values and principles that have made this country great. I’ve had a chance to govern and lead with those in mind, with some significant success in Minnesota. And I think the country needs that kind of leadership and insight and perspective. So through my PAC, I’m going to share my beliefs across the country. And I’m gonna take the next year to see how that goes and make my decision late in 2010 or in early 2011.

His bid is still a very long shot. He will not generate the kind of excitement that Sarah Palin would if she chooses to run, nor will he possess the bottomless resources of a Romney should Mitt choose to throw his hat into the ring again. He will not capture much of the Republican base, nor attract much interest in the south generally speaking. He is not an inspiring speaker by any means.

But Pawlenty is a candidate brimming with ideas, and an idea of what kind of leadership the country needs right now. How far that will take him is anyone’s guess.



Filed under: Decision 2012, Palin, Politics, cotton candy conservatives — Rick Moran @ 10:45 am

It’s pretty hard whether you are a Republican or Democrat, not to have a strong opinion about the abilities - or lack thereof - of Sarah Palin. The problem, as I see it, is that most on both sides paint the former Alaska governor in cartoonish colors thus making them incapable of evaluating her politically or personally in any kind of reasoned, rational way.

While my opinion of Palin hasn’t changed since it became clear that her depthless intellect and lazy habits of mind made her extraordinarily unready for national office, the more I see of her, the more I want to understand her appeal - and figure out what drives the left nuts about her.

Some on the left and right compare her to Ronald Reagan. That’s just not happening for me. The only similarity I can see is a superficial likeness in the way that people respond to her rhetoric - a pale echo of the Gipper’s soaring imagery and heartfelt sincerity when speaking about “that America.”

“That America” is not necessarily the “real America.” America is many things to many people. We all define our own “American” reality. I daresay that an African American’s America is slightly different than the America of a conservative southern Christian. Neither vision is wrong or evil. Our reality is shaped by our experience, our upbringing, our schooling, our friends and family, and outside influences.

Reagan - and to a less successful degree Palin - sought to hack into the American memory where most of our mistakes and crimes of omission and commission are either blocked by a firewall or deleted. What’s left is the “shining city on a hill” - the aspirational notion of an exceptional nation inhabited by exceptional people; self reliant, fiercely independent, contemptuous of government/authority, and bound by a citizen-government compact that doesn’t allow deviation from the template that was laid down when America was a coastal republic of 7 million people.

Change - dynamic, incremental, or otherwise - is virtually unknown in “that America.” Reagan was enough of a pragmatist to realize that it was impossible to repeal Johnson’s Great Society and FDR’s New Deal. But now Sarah Palin comes along and, while very short on specifics, hints at just such a revolution; a willy-nilly federalism capped by what Ambinder calls in this brilliant article, a “relitigating” of the social contract that has been the basis for life in America for the last 50 years:

Palin, writes Jonathan Raban in an excellent essay in the New York Review of Books, has an “exceptionally canny political instinct for connecting with her own kind.” It has been noted that her conservatism is resentment-based, and is fueled and nourished by the specter of elite mistreatment. (Palin is savvy enough to tease back.) But it is more than that. More than a list of grievances, Palin mixes Nixonian derision for those who think they know better with an aspirational dimension that motivates the middle class to vote. Out of the tony leagues of Washington and New York, she is — well, an Idahoan by birth, an exurbanite mother, able to expurgate the Republican Party of its own cosmopolitan tendencies. (This is one reason why the McCain campaign could not tend to her.) She is, as my friend @thetonylee says, “a hybrid of Nixon and Buchanan.”

The only presidential candidate who is able to put the boots to Obama and get away with it. What’s she running for? Not the question. What’s she running against? Not just Rockefeller Republicanism and the media, or pointy-headed law lecturer presidents, or Katie Couric: she wants to relitigate a bunch of issues that once were settled but now seem to be unraveling. The unrestricted embrace of immigration and the dilution of an American culture. Overweening Greenism. A complicated socially engineered tax code. A much larger role for government (embraced by the president who said that the era of Big Government Was Over and his successor, who was a Republican). The rule of experts. Even the concept of bipartisanship itself.

Ambinder is convinced that the way she is projecting herself smells suspiciously like she is a candidate in 2012. I think she wants to be but is being very cautious. She is leaving her options wide open, which is very smart, while making small moves on the national stage to both test the waters and leave herself an exit should the situation change in the next 10 months.

She can do this because she is the most popular Republican in the country right now. Even though a clear majority of Republicans don’t want to see her as president, an even larger number say that Palin “shares their values.” A majority of the GOP also believes that Palin represents a “new direction” for the party.

What is that direction? Ambinder:

In Searching for Whitopia, Rich Benjamin defines of a geo-racial balkanization that gives Palin-like candidates a natural base: towns like Couer d’Alene Idaho, with a “diversified economic base,” a pro-business regulatory environment, a commitment to “quality of life” issues, and — a 95% ethnic homogeneity. Coeur D’Aleners were migrants from the California of the 1990s; they live now in Colorado and the suburbs of Phoenix and are slowly pushing their way around the Sunbelt. Benjamin notes the “cultural, ancestral and implicitly racial” bond to their communities. The new residents come looking for land and living space; the long-time residents just want as little disruption as possible. Right now, there is enormous disruption. It is the same disruption that Democrats believe redounds to their benefit; depressed wages, exotic financial deals, government spending cuts (which feeds the disruption), what one Palin watcher calls the “downstream effects” of a country that has lived beyond its means for 60 years.

George W. Bush never spoke this language. He was an evangelical convert, more influenced by his advisers Catholicism than by, say, Palin’s Assembly of God charismatics. She is pure in ways the rich son of Connecticut could never dream of.

These simple folk of Idaho aren’t so simple. They get their news from talk radio and new media; and Palin speaks in 140-word epigrams: fragments that are icky to the ears of more polished speakers but convey meta-data — she understands this. What’s most appealing about Palin to these exurbanites, I think, is that the big Elite Crucible tore her apart — and she rose again, stood up, straightened her dress, and is now confronting her tormentors.

Palin speaks to a restlessness among conservatives who are uncomfortable with change. In the tea party movement, there is much hearkening back to a time when Americans didn’t need government so much (more realistically, government simply wasn’t there). While the fringes of the movement may not support much of any kind of government at all, the majority of tea partiers appear to be much more pragmatic in their criticism.

They may see a need for government in some areas but beyond anything else, they want the president and Congress - both parties - to adhere to founding principles. There is no reason this can’t be done while change occurs. Respecting individual freedom, acknowledging personal responsibility, adhering to the concept of constitutionally limited government, and following the rule of law are all under attack, and have been under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

I like to think that the linchpin that holds these principles together is prudence. And no one can make the argument that any of the last 3 presidents have demonstrated prudence when it comes to governing America.

Russell Kirk on prudence; one of his Ten Conservative Principles:

Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. As John Randolph of Roanoke put it, Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries. Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious. The conservative declares that he acts only after sufficient reflection, having weighed the consequences. Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery.

It’s almost as if Kirk read the health care reform bill. Or the prescription drug benefit. Or even the AUMF resolution. We have an imprudent government and as such, it has rejected First Principles in favor of the temporary political aggrandizement of the elites.

Palin articulates this uneasiness, tapping into the resentment held by those who don’t want their old shoe America to disappear. The people sense things are moving too fast, careening out of control. The budget and deficit are symptomatic. It is the abandonment of prudence by the governing elite that has unhinged the forces of change and no one appears to be in control - or care much where we end up.

She wants to take us back to a place and a time that never really existed except in the imaginations of “that America.” It won’t work - it never has worked. Reagan was able to capture this yearning, but governed prudently and pragmatically. In that sense, he was always a disappointment to the “true believers” who thought he had been captured by Jim Baker and the inside the beltway elite. “Let Reagan be Reagan” was the plaintive cry of the James Watts, Richard Vigueires, and other movement conservatives who placed their hopes in drastically rolling back government on Reagan’s shoulders. The Gipper decided that governing and winning was better than slashing and burning, while going down to defeat.

That may be the real danger of a Palin presidency. She is not pragmatic nor do I sense much prudence in her either. That would require self-reflection - something that she clearly has eschewed in favor of “going with her gut” on all except calculating her own personal, political future. Basically ignorant not because she is stupid but because she is lazy, the half formed opinions that spout from her during her speeches may be enough to satisfy her legions of worshipers but, as we are finding with President Obama, translate poorly into a governing philosophy. If Palin were to beat the odds and win, no doubt we would see a continuation of the “perpetual campaign” that passes for leadership and governance from Obama.

So might she win?

Not a single other Republican presidential candidate can build a crowd like Palin, can run against something like Palin (be it Washington, the media, the McCain campaign or Obama); no one speaks to the resentment/aspirational conservatives like she does; no one’s life has better exemplified the way they perceive their struggle against the elite. We like to think about presidential primaries in paradigms, but candidates who fit with the times often find ways to completely subvert established paradigms.

Yes she can.

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