Free Markets, Free People
Clint Eastwood is 82 and an American icon. It’s that simple. He’s sort of the John Wayne of this era. And he’s always been more “Republicanish” than the usual Hollywood crowd.
Last night he gave a speech, or a talk, or, well, whatever you’d like to characterize it as. It was both interesting and at time hilarious. That is, if you “got” what he was trying to do.
He said two things that to me are not said enough. If for no other reason, I liked his speech (which, by the way, is the only speech I’ve watched) because he said them. They are reminders that should be repeated over and over and over again.
The first is in the title. “We own this country”. Frankly, it’s time we started acting like it. Because there are those who would weaken that ownership to the point of non-existence. In fact, for the most part, that intrinsically American principle gets mostly lip service from our employees.
And yes, that’s the second line. Government and politicians are our employees. They work for us. Not the other way around, although you wouldn’t really know that the way things are going. When they’re not up to the job, we should fire them.
Anyway, Eastwood’s speech is getting the expected shredding in the press. Breitbart points out that there are already 25 plus stories (5 in Politico alone) on Eastwood’s speech. I don’t think anyone with any experience around politics and how it is covered today is the least bit surprised. They don’t like seeing “the one” they helped elect mocked.
But despite the negative claims of the media, was the speech effective? Well, I like Richard Fernandez’s take. He does a nice job of laying out why, at least to the “common folk” it was likely a hit.
It was an old man’s delivery, but overstatedly so for effect. It was a cutting delivery and for that reason delivered in low key. But for all of Clint Eastwood’s rhetorical cleverness at the Republican convention it derived its effectiveness precisely because it wasn’t one of those “I take this platform tonight with pen in hand, bearing in mind the immortal words of Clancy M. Duckworth” type orations. It wasn’t the speech of someone who was running for office.
Rather it might have come from Mr. Weller down at the corner office musing on simple things to not very important people. How it wasn’t good form to mess things up continuously. How one might lose faith in a man who made one broken promise too many. How at the end of the day everyone either did the job or quit out of decency. Even Presidents.
There was no malice in it. Just a tone of regret. But it was redolent of memory too. Of simple things a world away from the Mountaintop; of sentiments a light-year from dramatic arcs, and of ordinary happiness in a universe apart from grand bargains and high-flown rhetorical visions. They were truths that everyone who has ever worked knows but has somehow forgotten because it was so ordinary.
But they were never known to those who had never worked a real job in their lives. And that is the wonder. That they never knew them. Thus the speech was at once us versus them; it was the check in the mail against the certainties of the heart. Every true challenge is built on the bricks of memory. And there were as many challenges in the Eastwood speech as the stones we stand on.
So will it resonate? I think so. For the very reasons I outline above. Simple truths given by a man without a script, reminding us of the reality of the day. Straight talk, no apologies, no waffling, even using a symbolic device (empty chair) to make his point without having to say it.
Political professionals on the left, liberal bloggers and the press will savage it for days. But for those who saw it or will see it, my guess is they’ll pay little attention to those attacking him and more likely identify with the authenticity of the man they’ve “known” for decades. He’s one of us, they’ll think. He’s up there saying what we’d like to say if we had the podium and the ability to do it. It wasn’t polished, but it was real.
That’s what folks are looking for these days.
Frankly, it was refreshing.
Funny stuff. Paul Krugman, representing much of the left, has apparently finally noticed what an empty suit Obama is:
What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?
I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.
Of course Krugman is pretty much focused on economic issues and so seemingly hasn’t been watching Obama through most of his presidency, as many of us have. He’s finally noticed the “timid guy” who doesn’t seem to stand for anything but does enjoy a good round of golf.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it has taken this long – the blinkers had to be firmly in place to elect him in the first place. You had, to quote Hillary Clinton as she addressed Gen. Petraeus about the situation in Iraq some years ago, “willingly suspend disbelief” in order to vote for the guy in the first place. What you had to suspend was the belief that experience and leadership count for something, especially when you’re talking about the highest office in the land.
This timid guy Krugman is talking about has shown the rest of us over and over he’s really unsuited for the job. And now, even the Krugman’s of the world are beginning to take some notice.
I have to admit to laughing out loud at Krugman’s example – apparently the one that finally clued him into the problem:
His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.
Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.
And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months.
Of course Krugman, as typified by his one-trick pony policy of more and more government spending to cure all ills is bound to be upset by any spending concessions a Democrat might make. However, I loved his characterization of Obama’s bargaining style. It is true and not only does it point to someone totally out of his depth, but someone with no real principles upon which to make a stand.
Krugman turns his attention, after wondering what happened to Obama, to trying to trash everything the GOP has put forward or will put forward. But so captured is he by his discovery of what Obama isn’t that he has to return to that subject:
You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.
What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.
But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.
Baloney. Krugman has to have lived in a cave if he believes the rhetoric has even come close to matching the reality of the Obama presidency. He is not a transcendent figure by any stretch. He is, instead, a true exception to the Peter Principle and has indeed risen to a level above his incompetence.
But to Krugman’s last point – Obama believes in one thing – Obama. And any objective appraisal of his performance in office these past 2+ years cannot give him very high marks on “principle” or a willingness to take a stand. There’s a reason for that. Obama traded principle for the achievement of his ambition years ago. He’s intelligent enough to talk the talk, but he seems absolutely incapable of walking the walk or even attempting to do so.
As Dale said on the podcast last night, you sometimes get the feeling that when he says something he truly believes it becomes reality. In this world you actually have to take action and lead to have things happen. Obama has no idea how to do that.
If you don’t have any principles it’s pretty easy to “get things done”. You just compromise on everything, never take a stand and presto, you have a mess of epic proportions.
That seems to be exactly what this latest astroturf project called “No Labels” is all about. No more “hyperpartisanship”. “Let’s get things done!”
On display at their roll out was the “Who’s Who” of the mushy middle:
And its speakers—who ranged from Republican moderates like ex-Virginia Rep. Tom Davis to liberal Democrats like New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand—sang the praises of cooperation and compromise.
But the only Republicans present at Columbia University’s modern, square Alfred Lerner Hall seemed to be those who had recently lost primary races, such as South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis and Delaware Rep. Mike Castle, or former Republicans like Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. No other senior elected Republican officials were in attendance, though a range of Democrats were present, some of them seeming a bit mystified by the bipartisan cast of the event, like the reliably liberal Gillibrand, and others whose clashes with unions – like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Newark Mayor Cory Booker – have put some distance between them and their parties.
One little ironic note – one of the co-founders, John Avlon is the author of a book called "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Most who’ve spent more than a day in the blogosphere know that "wingnuts" is a lefty euphemism for just about anyone on the right they disagree with. The right uses "moonbats" in the same way. I’m sure Mr. Avalon, who was a Rudi Giuliani staffer, was just using the term, uh, "interchangeably" (*cough, cough*). And if so, one can only assume he’s referring to the fringe which actually believes in something enough to fight for it messing up the "No Labels" group’s "compromise till you drop/let’s get things done" mantra. Or is it "compromise till we’re broke". Oh, wait …
And, as the POLITICO notes, what few Republicans were there were losers in their most recent attempt at gaining public office.
Any guess as to why?
Last and certainly not least (well, except in most rating books) the event was hosted by MSNBC which has been looking for its own sort of "tea party" org to which it can hitch it’s wagon.
The events were moderated by MSNBC personalities Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Dylan Ratigan, and Michael Smerconish. If Fox News seemed to be associated with the Tea Party, then No Labels was an MSNBC affair.
Bingo. If you can’t beat them at the same game, play the game on astroturf.
Yup – in today’s world standing and fighting for your principles is called "hyperpartisanship" and the mushy middle just isn’t going to stand for it anymore. And if you don’t quit it, they’re just going to have to call you names, stomp their feet and hold their breath. Oh, and sing their new anthem at you.
Meanwhile some t-shirt designs shown at the opening rally appear to have been ripped off without permission. Compromise that.
Ari Berman of "The Nation” does an op-ed for the New York Times in which he pushes for the removal (or at least the non-support) of the blue dog Democrats such as Heath Schuler of NC.
Now that doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me – just as the Tea Party wants the less than conservative members of the Republican party replaced with more reliably fiscal conservative members.
That said, however, I loved the “reasoning” quoted for this desire:
Margaret Johnson, a former party chairwoman in Polk County, N.C., helped elect Representative Shuler but now believes the party would be better off without him. “I’d rather have a real Republican than a fake Democrat,” she said. “A real Republican motivates us to work. A fake Democrat de-motivates us.”
Well there you go – remember the left has been lambasting the right for who knows how long for not offering a “big tent” but essentially being a narrow based “all white male” party. Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel concocted the 50 state strategy which recruited blue dogs like Schuler because they were “electable” in those districts and that strategy gave Democrats a “super majority”. But what real good did it do?
The argument is “wouldn’t you rather have someone that would vote with you 70% of the time rather than someone who will vote for your programs 0% of the time? The answer is “no”. Not if you actually want to get those things done which require critical votes and the 30% of the time they don’t vote with you is when those votes occur. Tea Partiers figured this out a while ago. And again, they’ve been lambasted for being so non-inclusive. Karl Rove, an inveterate seat counter, focuses solely on the number of “Republicans” in each chamber. Tea Partiers and conservatives focus on the ideology of those running and only support those who are, in Ms. Johnson’s words, “real Republicans” as the TP and conservatives define them.
It appears Democrats, lately of the “big tent”, are now looking toward a smaller tent. That would include the architect of the 50 state strategy, Howard Dean:
Ms. Johnson is right: Democrats would be in better shape, and would accomplish more, with a smaller and more ideologically cohesive caucus. It’s a sentiment that even Mr. Dean now echoes. “Having a big, open-tent Democratic Party is great, but not at the cost of getting nothing done,” he said.
Yeah … exactly what a number of us have been saying for years. Look, people throw the word “ideology” around like it is some sort of bad word. It’s not. It is your political philosophy, your principles, your belief in what politics should reflect.
Does anyone believe those that founded this country weren’t ideologically driven? That they didn’t have a definite set of principles that were foundation of what they created?
“Big tent” is a wonderfully nebulous and useless concept that implies that inclusiveness is more important than principles. It’s nonsense as both sides are discovering. You’re either for something, in terms of principles, or you’re not. “Including” others who don’t necessarily share your principles is simply an exercise in, well, seat counting, which as both the GOP and Democrats have finally discovered, is a waste of time.
That’s been the starting position for everyone who supported the health care reform monstrosity that just came out of Washington DC. It’s stated in various ways, such as health care being a “right”, but the axiom is always that in our society everyone should have health care, or as a practical matter, health insurance.
It sounds so compassionate and decent doesn’t it? But that little phrase packs in some nasty principles.
It’s one thing to say that you deserve to control your own life, or property or income. That’s pretty uncontroversial. But when you say, “I have a right to have health care–or a pension, or a home–provided for me even if I can’t afford it”, then what you’re really saying is that I have an obligation to provide you with those things. Whether I wish to provide them to you, or whether it causes me some degree of privation, is irrelevant. To say that you–or anyone else–has a right to something I must provide is to say that you have an irrevocable claim on my life, labor or property. I owe you.
No matter how you try to gussy it up, or dress it in compassion, the fact is that by claiming that such an obligation, you place me in indentured servitude. My wishes are irrelevant.
Indeed, it’s not even indentured servitude. At least in an indenture, I have to agree to provide you with my labor for some period, after which I am manumitted. In actuality, by claiming such an obligation on me that I cannot evade, you make me, to some degree, your serf. You are the laird of the manor, and I have my obligation of labor days to provide you.
Now, perhaps I should be willing to provide you with health insurance. Perhaps that is the moral and/or ethical course of action I should undertake. But that, too, is irrelevant. By demanding it, and by forcing me to provide you with a good or service by law, you not only ignore my conception of morality, you impose your morality on me. Whether I agree with your morality is not even a consideration for you. You have a claim,you say, so your morality trumps mine.
Moreover, once you’ve accepted that it’s perfectly all right to impose a form of servitude on me, in order that I might provide you with a good, what’s your limiting principle? If you may impose an obligation on me to provide a part of my income or property in order to procure a good for yourself, why can’t you simply take all of it? After all, you’ve already signed on to imposing slavery in principle, because you’ve decided that you can impose an obligation on me against my will. Why stop at serfdom?
Slavery, to one degree or another, is, of course, the inevitable outcome of any attempt to enforce some sense of cosmic justice on life, and the lives of your fellow men. Because there is no such thing as cosmic justice. Nor is there any general agreement on what cosmic justice should be. So, your attempt to impose it on others invariably must be done by force, either through the majesty of the law, or with a knife to the throat.
Which is often the same thing.
So, what you are really saying when you claim that “Everyone deserves health care,” is, “I have the right to enslave you, in whole or in part, in order to require you provide health care to me.” When you strip the high-sounding phrases to the principles, it doesn’t sound nearly so moral and compassionate, does it?
Oh, and by the way, it does no good to tell me that I also have the same claim on others, and can force someone else to provide me with health care, too. Because all you’re really telling me is that I can become a slavemaster, too. The fact that I don’t care to be a slavemaster, or that I find it morally abhorrent, is utterly irrelevant to you. Again, your morality trumps mine.
Because, after all, if you can get everyone else to join you in your crime–indeed, to glory in it–who will condemn you?
Discuss amongst yourselves.
That scene is incredibly muddled and getting more muddled every day. In some ways, such as the Democrat retirements, it reminds me of the political atmosphere of 1994. Charlie Cook, who knows Democrats and their electoral chances, pretty much writes the Democratic Senatorial majority off as a dead loss after 2010:
Come November, Senate Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority is toast. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how Democrats could lose the Senate this year. But they have a 50-50 chance of ending up with fewer than 55 seats in the next Congress.
When the Republican in the race for Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts is competitive, you know the electoral landscape has changed and just about anything is possible.
Of course, in terms of divided government, that’s very good news. The fact that it is Republicans, who for the most part, still don’t seem to have a clue, not so much. Of course that obviously depends on who the Republicans end up running, or winning, those seats. Florida’s race between Crist and Rubio is a good example. Crist is the moderate establishment (business as usual, McCain type Republican) while Rubio is more of the Tea Party conservative.
And it is there that the establishment Republican party seems to be missing the boat – again. After a sweeping victory by Barack Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans quite naturally tried to do a little soul searching and, for whatever reason, came to believe that their problem was they didn’t appeal to enough moderates. Yet in the year that has passed since the Obama administration has been in office and the Congress with prohibitive Democratic majorities has been wreaking its havoc, independents, who establishment Republicans choose to characterize as “moderates”, have been abandoning the Democrats in staggering numbers. And they’re looking for a place to go.
Why are they abandoning the Democrats? Because they bought into a myth a compliant and noncritical media aided and abetted concerning the new administration and now they’re seeing the radical truth. And they don’t like it.
However, what they don’t want is a merely less radical replacement. Democrat lite. What independents are in the middle of doing is rejecting, in toto, the Democratic agenda. Rasmussen and others have been providing these clues for months. In the latest Rasmussen poll:
With Democrats in majority control of both the House and Senate, it’s not surprising to find that 79% of Republicans are not confident that their congressional representatives are actually presenting their best interests, but 74% of voters not affiliated with either party agree. Democratic voters are evenly divided on the question.
74% of voters “not affiliated with either party agree” that their Congressional Rep (obviously that includes some Republicans) is not actually representing their best interests. Now that could be for any number of reasons, but on thing for certain, if 74% aren’t happy with their Rep, I’d guess they’re not happy with what the establishment Republicans are selling either.
Enter the Tea Partiers. First written off as brownshirts, angry whites, red-necks, un-American, ‘teabaggers’ and any other pejorative the left-wing thought it could get away with, the movement has grown into a political force. But make no mistake about it – it’s a populist movement. Regardless it has, to a large degree, managed to tap into this unhappiness with what is going on in Washington and give it some structure.
And what continues to astound me is the establishment Republicans seem to think that they “own” the movement – that when push comes to shove, this group will fall in line and vote for them.
There is going to be a war between the Teapartiers and the establishment Republican party. The Teapartiers don’t necessarily support or even like many of the establishment Republicans. As a result that war is going to be waged in primaries. And much like it was on the left (Lamont/Lieberman) it is a war for the soul of that party. Establishment Republicans really don’t seem to understand that – yet. So we see stories like this one where the establishment party is said to have “soured” on Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, she represents as well as anyone, the populist nature of the movement that the Republicans don’t seem to yet understand. Add the stupidity of the leadership and the visible infighting within the establishment wing of the party, and you hold little hope that they will wake up in time to smell the roses and figure out the formula for electoral success.
Where’s this all headed? To more polarized politics, if that is possible, with the sides much more differentiated – if the Teapartiers get their way. Republicans are going to be moved in a much more conservative direction, come hell or high water, if they want Tea Party support. And the Tea Party movement is going to attract (has attracted?) enough of the independent voters to make the electoral difference.
Conventional wisdom says the electorally successful win by appealing to their base, picking off enough independents to make the difference and then governing from the center. I don’t think that CW is valid anymore. It appears that the public has finally had the scales removed from their eyes with the present administration. The premise that a centrist government is what America wants has been overcome by events. Those events, products of that centrism, have given us the state of affairs with which we’re now afflicted – a welfare state with huge deficits, a debased currency and a behemoth government that is out-of-control. Listen closely to those who spoke up at the summer town halls. It wasn’t just about Democrats and Republicans, folks – it was about the direction of the country and the realization that both parties had participated in creating the horrendous mess we now enjoy.
All of that to say that CW is ready to be turned on its head and, in fact, people (to include independents) are demanding action to roll back government and reduce spending. That should be right in the Republican’s wheel house. Yet instead of really talking their supposed principles and actions to accomplish them, establishment Republicans still insist that it is more important to ensure they have a “big tent”. That is a complete sell out of their principles. The “tent” is established by those principles. What Republicans have to do is fashion a message that makes that tent attractive and brings people to them. That’s what will make it “big”. Compromising their principles to fill the tent is a sure way to lose – and that’s precisely what they’ve proven over the last few elections.
Politically, 2010 is going to be a very interesting year to watch. For libertarians, the best hope is divided government and a Republican party that rediscovers its primary principles and decides to live up to them. I think we’ll get the divided government. However, my concern is the midterms will see enough Republicans elected, despite themselves and their lack of a principled stand, that the important message about principles will continue to be lost on them – again. That will result in a Senate not much different than we have now, where compromise and collegiality are more important than principle and the people. That means big government, more spending and more deficit. And that means Republicans will remain the minority party and out of the White House in 2012.
About a week ago, amidst all the hoopla about the health care bill and then missed when the atrocity of Ft. Hood occurred, was this:
Even as a Senate global-warming bill remained in limbo with Democrats refusing to delay a committee vote until an economic analysis was completed, hopes rose for a potential bipartisan compromise.
The Senate, meanwhile, appears to be moving away from the bill, authored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., which would require a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and would have the government sell the right to emit carbon dioxide.
Even as Boxer conducted an unusual one-sided hearing on her bill in the Environment and Public Works Committee, Kerry, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., held a news conference to announce they are working on a compromise that might attract GOP votes and has earned a tentative endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
So, here we have a Republican, sort of, lending a hand to the Democrats and buying into the premise that a) this cap-and-trade economy killer of a tax is valid and b) needed. He just wants to modify it a bit:
Kerry, Lieberman and Graham released few details about the new bill, but said it would include a cap and trade proposal. They said it would also address increasing nuclear energy, more drilling and clean coal technology, all initiatives that are high on the wish list of Republicans willing to work on a climate change compromise.
Of course this is the sort of legislative formula which is killing our country. This is exactly how the lousy legislation gets through the system. Republicans like Graham buy into the premise of cap-and-trade, try to get it reduced just a little bit to make it more palatable, and then attempts to sell it by including things that Republicans want – more drilling, nukes and clean coal.
The problem, of course, is with Democrats in charge, you can count on cap-and-trade being implemented, but for some reason, you can bet that more drilling, nuclear power and clean coal just won’t see the same urgency to implement found among majority Democrats. So in essence, what Graham is proposing is tantamount to selling out the GOP’s principled position for the 30 pieces of silver offered in promises for things Republicans want.
You’d think by now, having watched the Democratic shenanigans with drilling (are we doing so yet or are they still “slow-walking” the process) they’d know better.
The Graham capitulation has been noticed by his home state party.
The Charleston County Republican Party’s executive committee took the unusual step Monday night of censuring U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for stepping across the GOP party line.
County Chairwoman Lin Bennett said the unanimous vote “is an effort to get his attention. They (party leaders) are just fed up, and they want him to know they’re fed up.”
The resolution mentions Graham’s cooperation with U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on a bipartisan energy bill, and his support for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and the time he called some opponents of immigration reform “bigots.”
Sure it’s only one county doing so, but it is an unusual step. And frankly, I think it is a long overdue one. Graham’s actions, as far as I’m concerned, are one of the main reasons the GOP is in the shape it is in. There is a time to work in a bi-partisan manner and there is a time to stand on principle. The GOP supposedly believes we’re over taxed, a position I happen to support as well. So why is a member of that party stepping across party lines and lending support to what everyone, even Democrats, acknowledge is a new huge and burdensome tax?
Why should anyone ever believe Lindsey Graham again when he says he’s against new taxes when he’s involved with Democrats proposing one? Why should anyone ever believe Lindsey Graham when he says he’s against excessive spending when he voted for TARP?
The answers to those two questions tell you precisely why even the GOP’s base doesn’t trust Republican legislators and why their collective poll numbers remain dismal. Calling Graham to account for his position is both healthy and necessary if, in fact, the GOP is serious about its principles. And, if the Tea Parties are any indication, it is clear the base is. And apparently the GOP’s grass-roots are willing to stand up as well as indicated by this county organization’s censure of Graham.
I wonder if Graham will get the message or arrogantly dismiss it as he’s been known to do in the past? The reason the GOP is in the minority right now isn’t because it is a conservative organization that appeals only to old white men in the South. It’s a minority organization because its own base doesn’t trust it to live up to its own principles. How do you generate the enthusiasm necessary to turn out the vote if what the base is left to vote for is a version of Lindsey Graham’s Democrat lite?