Free Markets, Free People

Where are the "adults" in government?

That’s the question Rich Lowery asks and answers in a piece today at NRO. By "adult" in government he means, "political leaders who make tough choices, take on problems directly, and combine principle with pragmatism in a manner consistent with true statesmanship."

What he doesn’t mean is political leaders who push an extremist agenda regardless of the reality of the situation that surrounds them – such as what we have today.

Unsurprisingly, he finds his adults in government not at a federal level, but at the state level.  Two in particular are making both waves and progress against daunting problems.  And they should be the new proto-type GOP candidate for federal executive office:

Look in particular to New Jersey and Indiana, where Govs. Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels are forging a limited-government Republicanism that connects with people and solves problems. They are models of how to take inchoate dissatisfaction with the status quo, launder it through political talent, and apply it in a practical way to governance.

Christie has just concluded a six-month whirlwind through Trenton that should be studied by political scientists for years to come. In tackling a fiscal crisis in a state groaning under an $11 billion deficit, he did his fellow New Jerseyans the favor of being as forthright as a punch in the mouth. And it worked.

Christie traveled the state making the case for budgetary retrenchment, and he frontally took on the state’s most powerful interest, the teachers’ union. He rallied the public and split the Democrats, in a bravura performance in the lost art of persuasion. At the national level, George W. Bush thought repeating the same stalwart lines over and over again counted as making an argument, and Barack Obama has simply muscled through his agenda on inflated Democratic majorities. Christie actually connected.

He matched unyielding principle (determined to balance the budget without raising taxes, he vetoed a millionaires’ tax within minutes of its passage) with a willingness to take half a loaf (he wanted a constitutional amendment to limit property taxes to 2.5 percent, but settled with Democrats for an imperfect statutory limit). He’ll need an Act II to get deeper, institutional reforms, but New Jersey is now separating itself from those other notorious wastrels, California and Illinois.

What Chris Christie has done, if nothing else, is prove the point that a) voters want to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, unvarnished and without the usual nebulous rhetoric. And b) tell them what is necessary to fix the problem in the same manner.

Voters, given the problem and his plan, have backed him as he’s tackled what was considered previously untouchable and insolvable.  And he’s made progress – much more progress than anyone previously and against two powerful entities, the teacher’s union and the Democratic legislature.

It is my opinion, given the present situation in the White House, that voters are going to insist on two things.  One is they’re going to want executive experience as a “must have or no deal” criteria for the next president.   And two, they’re going to insist the media actually spend the time doing their job vetting the candidates vs. taking on a cheerleading role as they did in the last election.

Speaking to the first point, this new breed of tough, small-government conservative politician emerging in some of the states may be the prototype for the GOP’s next successful challenge.  Mitch Daniels of Indiana may be another one to look at:

He inherited a $200 million deficit in 2004, which he turned into a $1.3 billion surplus — just in time for it to act as a cushion during the recession. He has reformed government services and rallied his administration around one simple, common-sense goal: “We will do everything we can to raise the net disposable income of individual Hoosiers.”

What most voters don’t want is the current crop of GOP front runners.  Whether anyone viable (I’m even upbeat about Bobby Jindal again) will actually show up in 2012 remains to be seen, but the Romney (damaged goods), Palin (too partisan and not enough exec experience), Gingrich (too much baggage), Huckabee (scares the hell out of me) cabal is not what will win, or if one of them does, won’t keep it long.

Guys (and gals) like Christie and Daniels should be groomed carefully by the GOP and convinced to consider a run on a national level.  And others who fit their profile should be identified as soon as possible and supported at the state level to get the experience, exposure and the resume together that will put them in a position to go national as well.

Thanks to Obama and friends, this is a real opportunity for the limited government, fiscally conservative majority in this country.  And that’s plenty to run on, given this mess we’re in.  What the GOP has got to do is stay away from the social con nonsense that always polarizes the electorate and drives independents to distraction and into staying at home (or voting for the other team) on election day.

~McQ

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22 Responses to Where are the "adults" in government?

  • Palin (too partisan and not enough exec experience)

    One of your rare stupid comments, McQ (we all have them).
    “Too partisan”…?!?!?  That just boggles the mind.  Ronald Reagan was “too partisan” to many blue-bloods.
    She has better executive chops, in many respects, than did Bill Clinton.  Her approval rating and reform record were the stuff of which Clinton would envy, and Clinton never had an entire cottage industry of interweb haters working in tag teams.
    I am not an unabashed Palin fan, but I think the lady has some great qualities at amazing levels.  She also needs some seasoning and some international chops.  She can come by those in time.

    • Palin’s executive experience is for a small population state, so not very impressive.  Saying she had better experience than Bill Clinton, who was governor of another small population state, doesn’t really say much.
      Even more relevant, her for-the-bridge then against-the-bridge waffling, followed by her revisionist bragging about her “principled” stand against it, shows she’s about as dishonest as most politicians.  Those people who, like me, were disgusted by Clinton’s revisionist telling of his ROTC experience and burning churches, ought to have the same disgust for Palin.
      Her Bering Strait foreign experience is Clintonesque in its absurdity.   Of course, Clinton had most of the media in his pocket to give him a free pass on his lies and gaffes.  And, he has the ability to think on his feet, so if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get taken in by his charm.  Palin, who can’t think on her feet, was like a moose with a big old target walking through the news room.
      As an outsider in the election, I was disgusted at the GOP’s pick of McCain (an unprincipled hack who sides with the Democrats when the Democrats are wrong, and with the Republicans when they’re wrong), but I didn’t want Obama to win, because I saw his socialist agenda as more dangerous (he’s actually turned out to be worse than I dreaded).  I liked Palin’s anti-establishment attitude for a short while, but after listening to her talk, it became clear she was a couple notches above a dunce (about on par with the Teleprompt-reader in Chief, who similarly lacks Clinton’s ability to think on his feet).  I realized she would be another Dan Quaylee embarrassment to the GOP (coupled with another Bob Dole embarrassment at the top of the ticket).
      If it wasn’t so damaging to the country to have Obama, Pelosi, and Reid running things, I’d love to see the GOP keep losing elections until they stop being the  party of wimps and lame religious panderers.

    • She’s damaged goods. The media spent substantial portions of their credibility to destroy her reputation, and they succeeded. However, we can console ourselves with the knowledge that it cost them quite a bit to do it, and rather than being the last feisty Republican to “not be on the ranch”, she was merely one of the first. They don’t have enough credibility to tar the entire batch.
       
      A 2016 run might be possible, but I don’t think she can repair her rep enough for 2012, which starts in about six months, after all. In the meantime the behind-the-scenes kingmaker is both a role she already seems to have, and is a way to lie relatively low while letting the mud stains fade in the sunlight.

  • Yeah Rags, but the fact is she can NOT win office.  And that’s fine, I like her better as a spokeswoman and troop rallier (remember “Death Panels”?  Arguably the single most impactful moment in helping us win the public opinion debate over Baracky care) . She keeps it up, she can be a behind-the-scenes kingmaker down the road.

    I’ve got a massive man crush on Christie. In fact, I have that video of him telling the teacher who whined about not being paid enough to go find another job on my ipod.  NO politician speaks like that!  You better believe that they’re gonna do their best to destroy him in NJ.  If he’s allowed to turn things around, win a 2nd term there, he WILL be president. If they bounce him after 1 term, he’s just another failed GOP member (though bouncing him would truly reflect ill on the people of NJ, not Christie)

    • I doubt she can be ready in 2012, but beyond that…quite possibly.  That will give her time to augment her chops and understanding, and will also help her get her kids raised (which I think is really important, as the Collective has shown it will viciously attack them to get to her).
      I like what I’ve seen of Christie, too.  Early days…  Jindal has done very well during the last few months.  Time…A HUGE factor here.
      I would have trouble voting for Newtie.  Hucksterby is a populist in the worst context, and no real conservative, IMNHO.  Subjectively, I think he’s a creep.

      • Odds are, Perry, if he wins again here in Texas will run in 2012 and will be formidable.

        My hope is on Jindal or Daniels,  Christie is the guy we really need, but is acting like a presidential run is out of the question.

        None of the old guys who ran before (and I am including palin), I believe, have a chance. The public is in the mood for something new.

  • By “adult” in government he means, “political leaders who make tough choices, take on problems directly, and combine principle with pragmatism in a manner consistent with true statesmanship.”

    I suggest that cultists of The Dear Golfer would argue that HE fits this bill: he’s made tough choices, taken on problems directly, and combined principle with pragmatism.  The differences between The Dear Golfer and Chris Christie are:

    1.  Christie didn’t have a rubber-stamp Congress packed with fellow travelers and a national media dedicated to building him up, hiding inconvenient facts about his policies, and tearing down his critics;

    2.  I like what Christie is doing and hate what The Dear Golfer is doing!  I suspect that Lowery shares my opinions.

    Let’s also consider the word “pragmatism”.  What the hell does that mean???  It was eminently “practical” for The Dear Golfer to pass Porkulus: he had the votes.  It has done what he wanted (whether you believe either his rhetoric about saving and creating jobs or his critics who claim that it was nothing but a gigantic slush fund / payoff to his supporters).  What’s not “pragmatic” about that?

    McQIt is my opinion, given the present situation in the White House, that voters are going to insist on two things.  One is they’re going to want executive experience as a “must have or no deal” criteria for the next president.   And two, they’re going to insist the media actually spend the time doing their job vetting the candidates vs. taking on a cheerleading role as they did in the last election.

    1.  Executive experience – Two words: Jimmy.  Carter.  The man had executive experience, but was an utter disaster as president.  In contrast, President Lincoln had little such experience but did rather well.  What we really need to look for is content of character, and that’s not so easy to quantify (though I must say that spending twenty years listening to racists sermons and then claiming to have effectively been asleep the whole time would seem to be a black mark).

    2.  Media integrity – How will voters “insist” on this?  Many people think that there is media bias, but there’s nothing to be done except tune out.  Even then, MiniTru still has the biggest megaphone.  Most people have heard of the New York Times, CNN, CBS, and the AP; not too many people have heard of Andrew Breitbart.

    McQ
    What the GOP has got to do is stay away from the social con nonsense that always polarizes the electorate and drives independents to distraction and into staying at home (or voting for the other team) on election day.

    I understand why you and others think this, but for every independent that staying away from the “social con nonsense” might bring in, I suggest that a conservative would be driven away.  Consider abortion: why should anybody who feels in his gut that abortion is murder blithely continue to support a political party that, in effect, says that it will ignore those views?  Ditto drugs, gay marriage, school uniforms, or any other social con issue that you care to name.  Libertarians may believe that these things are up to the conscience of the individual and that the state has no business being involved in them, but conservatives generally don’t.*

    Ultimately, the question is not where the adults went in DC, but where the adults went among our people.  Who keeps reelecting Bawney Fwank?  Or, for that matter, Yosemite Sam?  Who keeps sending the same liars, perverts, cheats, wardheelers and courthouse loafers to the state houses, the governors’ mansions, the Capitol, and the White House?

    Answer: the child-like American people who think that there IS such a thing as a free lunch, who spend much more time worrying about sports scores and American Idol than about the budget, and who confuse a good speech with a good character.  I’d bet that these same American people would laugh Chris Christie right the hell off the national stage merely because of his weight.

    We all need to grow up.

    —–

    (*) I add that, to a large degree, I have come to the libertarian position if for no other reason than a sense of equity: I don’t want some nosy parker telling me how to live my life, and therefore I find it unreasonable to think that I can tell him how to live his life.

    • I suggest that cultists of The Dear Golfer would argue that HE fits this bill: he’s made tough choices, taken on problems directly, and combined principle with pragmatism.

      IOW, he made the decisions that a fourteen year-old would make as Junior High Class President.

  • By “adult” in government he means, “political leaders who make tough choices, take on problems directly, and combine principle with pragmatism in a manner consistent with true statesmanship.”

    Horsefeathers.  Pragmatism, by definition, is the abandonment of principle.
    It’s funny how the politicians who crow the loudest about principles are usually the least principled or the ones who have malignant principles (like a true-believer socialist).

    What he doesn’t mean is political leaders who push an extremist agenda regardless of the reality of the situation that surrounds them – such as what we have today.

    Define “extremist agenda” please.  The very concept of “extremism” is a floating abstraction.  And, it is often used to smear people who stick to principles, as though the validity of their principles didn’t matter…just the fact that they stick to them.
    For example, a committed Marxist will stick to his egalitarian principles, ignoring the rights of individuals.  A few eggs need to be broken to make an omelet and all that.
    But someone who takes principles like honest and respect for others’ rights to the “extreme” is someone who won’t lie to you or abuse your rights.  That sort of “extremist” is of the finest sort of human being you’ll ever find and it’s disgusting to see how many people despise the dedication to ideas, even in the face of adversity.

    • Pragmatism, as it describes a particular philosophy, may mean the “abandonment of principle” ala James. In common usage, however, it does not. And differentiating between the two simply isn’t that difficult.

      An “extremist agenda” would be, as the words suggest, an agenda which the extreme or fringe of any group would push, and not that which would be considered to reflect the thinking of the main stream.

      • That’s just another reason I choose not to participate in the farce called democracy.  A rational person should judge right and wrong based upon the facts, not popularity.  Hamas, Hugo Chavez, and even the Nazis were voted into power and very popular.  Now the US has Obama, Pelosi, and Reid tearing apart our economy and subjecting our grandchildren to a mountain of debt and a mathematically impossible budget.
        I hate to be a broken record, but “the thinking of the main stream” is yet another example of the Ambiguous Collective Fallacy.  Thinking is the action of a mind, of an individual.

      • You’re confusing pragmatic with practical.

    • Well, from pure principles I oppose social security and medicare. However, my pragmatism doesn’t want to push the country to quite cold turkey. I’d prefer a plan to ween us off, and besides that a plan to simply end such programs would lose badly in the political realm.

    • “Horsefeathers.  Pragmatism, by definition, is the abandonment of principle.”

      Oh dear. I fear you may hear from our resident Pragmatic Political Professor. He will not be pleased.

  • Newt isn’t quite as damaged as he once was. He has been swinging for the fences lately, but still isn’t there. He is clearing out a lot of territory, however, by sharply defining the issues. Christie could become viable if he turns around New Jersey. You can’t disappoint me if you’re taking on the teachers unions. Palin’s problem isn’t partisanship. Let her hang the balls of her enemies from high wires. Her problem is that she can’t get straight sentences out of her mouth. If she ever learns to get that part down, instead of talking like an education bureaucrat, then she’ll get a hard second look, and a fair one.

    • Newt’s best job is as “political lightning rod”.  Palin may have stolen some of his “thunder” in this regard (pun intended), but he is still trouble.

  • I agree largely with your analysis of the GOP potentials for president, although I’d say Sarah Palin’s primary negatives are not being too partisan, but rather being a woman and not having very good judgment.

  • The Republican Party has this problem with creating ques that must be satisfied.
    I see Mitt Romney as the reincarnation of the 1996 Bob Dole.

  • Y’all are funny. There’s not a single name mentioned here that stands a chance against a sitting President, even one polling at 40-45% approval. It won’t happen. The news media will swing the difference. The news media WANTS a 40% President — it sells advertisements because you and I turn on the evening news to see the new unfathomable and un-Presidential happenings of the day.

    And, you know what the news media REALLY wants? An impeachable 40% President.

    So. Put the Republicans in Congress, forget about the Presidency, throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave,  pick up the remote, and get ready for the show.

  • how ‘about that bob corker?  helps craft the legislation then turns around and votes against his own stuff.  helluva guy.  of course rich lowery wouldn’t put it that way.   bob corker in demeanor is like jake from the bachelor.  good stuff rich.