He lost me in March 1997, Wlady. Despite the self-evident and manifold failures of “National Greatness,” both as policy and politics, Brooks seems never to have entertained a second thought about his paean to “an affirmative view of the public realm,” his sneering dismissal of “populist resentment,” and his flat declaration that “American purpose can find its voice only in Washington.”
That infamous essay is one of the reasons I so fear the consequences of a Republican defeat on Nov. 4. The GOP has shown in recent years a habit of misreading its defeats. Bob Dole’s defeat in 1996 convinced not only Brooks but apparently many other Republicans that opposition to Big Government was a losing proposition. Not only the Brooks/Kristol “National Greatness” theme but also the Olasky/Bush “Compassionate Conservatism” were born from a Republican desire to escape the Spirit of ’94.
It seems never to have occurred to anyone that Dole’s defeat was largely the fault of Bob Dole himself. Certainly Dole — “the Senator From Archer Daniels Midland” and “the Tax Collector For the Welfare State” — was no anti-government firebrand. And yet, though the Gingrich-led insurgents maintained their majority in the 1996 election while Dole lost, the politics of Gingrich got blamed for the failure of of the Dole candidacy.
That counterfactual interpretation of the 1996 election led to “National Greatness,” and one heard a lot of talk at that time that the essential problem was that the GOP had become too “mean-spirited” and “partisan.” Ergo, the solution was the “compassionate” Bush, who would bring a “new tone” to Washington.
I fear that John McCain’s defeat in November will lead to a similarly disastrous misinterpretation, and the fact that Brooks and Kristol now have platforms at the New York Times and Fox News to spread such wrong-headedness only increases my sense of foreboding.
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That’s right, the Grinch (Joe Biden) is coming for your pocketbooks this Christmas season with record inflation. Just to recap, here is a list of items that have gone up during his reign.
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