Good points, Phil. The way Packer allows Brooks, unrebutted, to slam limited-government conservatism as both un-American and unpopular tells us more about what’s wrong with conservatism than Packer intends.
This recent descent of the GOP Establishment into confusion goes directly back to Brooks and his “National Greatness” idea, which amounts to a white flag on the limited-government philosophy advanced by conservatives in the Reagan and Gingrich eras. Brooks’ argument has never been examined in terms of its provenance in the aftermath of Clinton’s 1996 re-election.
If you will recall the 1996 primary field, Republicans rejected two limited-government candidates — Phil Gramm and Steve Forbes — in favor of that fossilized specimen of Nixonian pragmatism, Bob “It’s My Turn” Dole. Remember that Dole had been Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976, when the GOP rejected Reagan’s conservative insurgency.
Dole was never a conservative, and had undermined Gingrich and the House Republicans during the 1995-96 budget battles. Dole never managed to ignite any excitement in the ‘96 presidential campaign, which was effectively over by Labor Day, and ended up with just 41 percent of the vote. And from this lackluster performance, those moderate Republicans who had supported Dole derived an odd lesson. Clinton’s re-election, they said, proved that limited-government conservatism was unpopular and untenable as a political platform.
Huh? How does the defeat of a moderate Republican prove conservatism untenable? And what about the fact that nearly all those radical mean-spirited right-wing House Republicans were re-elected? The fact that the GOP was able to maintain its congressional majorities in ‘96 didn’t dent the consciousness of the Dole people, who blamed Gingrich and the right-wingers for their man’s defeat.
The “National Greatness” idea put forward in the wake of the Dole debacle (Brooks’ version of this argument appeared in the Weekly Standard in March 1997) was an attempt to lend a patina of intellectual credibility to the Republican retreat from conservatism. All that has transpired since — including the GOP’s 2006 defeat and John McCain’s nomination this year — is mere denouement of the Republican establishment’s jettisoning of old-fashioned limited-government philosophy after ‘96.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online