Monday, February 18, 2008

Reading Tea Leaves With McCain

I am spending a portion of this unusually balmy Presidents Day catching up on some reading, and happily came across a very interesting piece written by Ryan Lizza for the New Yorker's Political Scene, entitled On the Bus - Can John McCain Reinvent Conservatism?

Aside from its entertaining look at McCain's unguarded persona as he regales the traveling press on his Straight Talk bus (which by itself make the article worth reading), Lizza's article includes an illumination of the perspectives of several Republicans regarding the present state and future prospects for the Republican Party.

There is this from Newt Gingrich:

The leader of the Republican takeover of the House in 1994, Gingrich now argues that the era of running against the government has ended. “The Republican Party cannot win over time as the permanently angry anti-government party because neither appeals to most voters,” he writes in his recent book, “Real Change.” Rather, he argues, Republicans must learn to be competent managers of the bureaucracy and “pro-good government.” Furthermore, he advises them to reject the Party’s guiding strategy of the past eight years: making increasingly urgent appeals to its most conservative supporters for maximum turnout. In what sounds like the advice that New Democrats gave liberals in the nineteen-eighties, Gingrich points out that “Republicans allow their campaigns to be dominated more and more by pandering to small, specific segments of the activist wing of the party”—a trend that he believes has contributed to the drop in Republican numbers on the two coasts. Gingrich’s advice amounts to a sharp rebuke of the dominant political and governing philosophy of the Bush years—in particular, the strategies formulated and advocated by Bush’s former political adviser Karl Rove—and he suggests that if McCain attempts a dramatic refashioning of his party he may find support in surprising places.

And there is this from Grover Norquist:

Norquist, a longtime conservative organizer, has a different view. In a forthcoming book, “Leave Us Alone,” he describes the Republican Party as little more than a collection of interest groups—such as anti-tax activists, gun-rights advocates, and homeschoolers—that, if they are carefully tended, will grow into a “supermajority.”

And there is this from David Frum, former White House speechwriter:

Frum, in his new book, “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again,” warns conservatives about social trends that may overwhelm the Republican Party. He notes that Republicans have lost a generation of young voters during the Bush years. “The people who turned twenty between 1985 and 1990 were eight points more Republican than Democratic,” he told me. “People who turned twenty between 1970 and 1975 were eight points more Democratic than Republican. People who turned twenty between 2000 and 2005 are twelve points more Democratic.” He sees a country moving slightly to the left as Republicans are “left stranded on the right.” He told me, “If what you are is a pragmatic, business-oriented, moderate-minded person who wants things to work in a fairly competent and ethical way, and you’re under thirty—the kind of person who would have been an Eisenhower Republican and a Republican in the Nixon years and in the George H. W. Bush years—you are a Democrat today.” Frum added, “As the country becomes more single, more childless, more secular, more non-white, more immigrant, it becomes more Democratic. And all of those groups are growing.” Frum has ideas on how conservatives can reverse this trend, but his most radical thought is that, given the realities of the federal budget and the public’s unwillingness to curb entitlement spending, Republicans need to rethink their approach to tax cuts. He proposes making a deal with Democrats in which some of the Bush tax cuts become permanent in exchange for a carbon tax to deal with the global-warming crisis.

All three of these observations indicate what many conservatives are fretting about today -- the party that they have pretty much owned for the past twenty years is due for some adaptation to the times.

Clearly the Rush Limbaughs and Jay Severins of the world gag on the idea that we do anything other than shore up the platform and jettison all non-right thinking party folks to the reeducation camps for a good dose of whoop-ass. They surely have their adherents. But with or without them, the changes are going to come. They can either be a part of the discussion or they can take their ball and go home -- or, for a more dramatic metaphor, they can play the part of the desperado who holds a gun to his own head and threatens to shoot the hostage.

Chump Change

With all the talk about "change" going on in this campaign, what makes anyone think things are going to be any different?

Monday, February 11, 2008


The Bro-man has once again pegged the situation in a picture better than anyone could in 1,000 words.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Romney's Timetable Comments Fair Game

Immediately following John McCain's victory over Mirtt Romney in the Florida primary, some members of the rabid Nobody-But-Romney camp have focussed on the "lies" McCain unfairly leveled against Romney. As Romney himself alleged, McCain's assertion that Romnmey had expressed support for withdrawal "dishonest."
One particularly rabid Romney accolyte at Red Mass Group
expresses his outrage in no uncertain terms:

McCain disgusts me (0.00 / 0

I can't believe I'm having to say this about someone whom I've regarded as a hero lo these many years. But his outright lie accusing Mitt of endorsing a timetable for surrender makes it impossible for me to vote for him in November.
John McCain can go to hell.

Outright lie? Go to hell?

(First of all, one might gain insight into the commenter's ourage by his accusation that Romeny had been accused of endorsing a "timetable to surrender." This was not, nor ever had been, the charge.)

To the contrary, McCain's charge seized upon remarks of ambiguity and equivocation made by Romney on national television:

QUESTION: Iraq. John McCain is there in Baghdad right now. You have also been very vocal in supporting the president and the troop surge. Yet, the American public has lost faith in this war. Do you believe that there should be a timetable in withdrawing the troops?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, there's no question but that -- the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police, and the leadership of the Iraqi government.

QUESTION: So, private. You wouldn't do it publicly? Because the president has said flat out that he will veto anything the Congress passes about a timetable for troop withdrawals. As president, would you do the same?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, of course. Can you imagine a setting where during the Second World War we said to the Germans, gee, if we haven't reached the Rhine by this date, why, we'll go home, or if we haven't gotten this accomplished we'll pull up and leave? You don't publish that to your enemy, or they just simply lie in wait until that time. So, of course, you have to work together to create timetables and milestones, but you don't do that with the opposition.

Do Romney's remarks constitute an unequivocal endorsement of troop withdrawal by a date certain? No, certainly not. But are they fairly read to reject any such suggestion? No, one cannot say that Romney's statements are a rejection of that either.

This is just another example of Mitt's over-coached approach to answering tough questions. Robin Roberts gave him an open invitation to give an unequivocal answer:"

"Do you believe there should be a timetable in withdrawing the troops?"

Correct answer (as McCain made clear enough): "No, I do not." Issue over. If he wishes then to go on and explain the widely accepted notion of benchmarks for progress, he should do so. But by rejecting the opportunity to answer a yes-no question, he invited the scrutiny that allowed McCain to fairly (yes, fairly) make the charge he did.

Further parsing of the exchange does not rescue Romney from this conclusion: He carefully draws the distinction between private and public pronouncement of timetables -- but fails to make clear enough whether he opposes any deadline for withdrawal. His rejection of a troop withdrawal deadline was couched solely in terms of public announcements - hence his assurance that he would veto and Congressional troop withdrawal resolution:

Well, of course. Can you imagine a setting where during the Second World War we said to the Germans, gee, if we haven't reached the Rhine by this date, why, we'll go home, or if we haven't gotten this accomplished we'll pull up and leave? You don't publish that to your enemy, or they just simply lie in wait until that time.

Is it not a fair inference from Romney's response that he would not reject out-of-hand a private deadline? It is, because the basis for his twice-repeated response is the distinction between telegraphing one's plan and keeping it secret.

Romney's approach on this issue is in stark and dramatic contract to McCain, who, against all caution and circumspection as to how his marks could be (and were) twisted, had
this exchange during a campaign stop prior to his victory in New Hamshire:

E.H.: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years --

McCain: Maybe a hundred. We've been in South Korea, we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That'd be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it's fine with me, I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.

Say what you wish about the position. You can't quarrel with the frankness of his language.

It is the difference between one with a firmly held principle and one with a firmly held script.

I'll take the former, because it's less likely to blow away when the wind blows.

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