October 2, 2009

"Is Conservatism Brain-Dead?"

Eh. The question should be: Is it any more brain-dead than everything else? It's not as if the liberals running the government have a coherent and compelling intellectual foundation under them.

87 comments:

rhhardin said...

Brain dead via the MSM. No serious issue gets traction.

Fred4Pres said...

Memo to the MSM, Glenn Beck's
"I Am Mad As Hell And I Am Not Going To Take It Anymore" schtick, is a schtick. And if they paid attention to Limbaugh, Levin, Ingram, Medved and other conservative pundits, there is actual serious thought behind their schticks.

What is brain dead is pretending that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama have the "brain trust."

Robert Langham said...

Big question is: how does one roll back any part of any government bureaucracy, local, state or fed and SHRINK the size and reach. So far, no one has a clue or is even discussing it.

peter said...

Liberalism hasn't had a new or interesting philosophical idea since John Dewey. Liberalism, though brain dead, still retains its power. The body still twitches.

Conservatism, on the other hand, is getting stale. It has also been usurped by the neocons and the Christian Right, which means that it is morphing into something very corrupt.

Glenn Beck should read this essay on "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism."

http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2006-fall/decline-fall-american-conservatism.asp

Hoosier Daddy said...

Well I like how liberals like to talk about how they have all these new ideas and then basically try and implement the New Deal and Great Society part deux.

lucid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lucid said...

Liberals are now the ones who are intellectually lazy. They are speaking conventional, received wisdom, endlessly repeated and mindlessly reinforced by most of the media, most of the government, and most of the academy. You don't need to do your own thinking to be a liberal--you just need to be a parrot.

The New Republic and The New York Times are good examples of this intellectual sloth. They have become bland, uninteresting and newsless, fonts of stereotypes and repetitions. In their torpor, they are unable to cope with stories they don't expect, such as Van Jones, the tea parties, the demoinstration in Washington, or ACORN.

You don't have to think to be a liberal. You just have to repeat.

Kirby Olson said...

Coherent: yes. Marxism.

Compelling: no.

aberman said...

There's a ton of very serious conservative thinkers out there. Some examples are Yuval Levin, David Frum, Christopher Caldwell, Roger Scruton--even Jonah Goldberg counts. Like a healthy intellectual movement, there is diversity of opinion which naturally leads to fragmentation and no one clear leader.

There's also a bunch of talk radio hosts.

Guess which ones are talked about by the leftist mass media?

Matthew said...

You know, it used to be that liberals had the emotional argument to fall back on, but court jesters like Beck have given conservatives and libertarians an emotional edge - "what are we handing to our children and grandchildren?" is one of the most effective argument endings I have encountered.

Rick said...

People really need to read the original reference. "Fred4Press" clearly did not. Hayward purposely noted this about Beck:

"Their writing is often dense and difficult, but Beck not only reads it, he assigns it to his staff. "Beck asks me questions about Hegel, based on what he's read in my books," Pestritto told me. Pestritto is the kind of guest Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity would never think of booking."

Few things are as simple as some would like to think.

Rick

John Thacker said...

The press, and the public, pays attention to flash and demogoguery over substance. There are always plenty of people on both sides who are intellectual, they just don't get public attention. Mitch Daniels has plenty of ideas as governor of Indiana. Did you hear anything about Rep. Mike Pence's intellectual critiques of the health care bill, and his speeches? Nope. What about "death panels" and "you lie!" Yep. Which type of complaints actually got changes in the bill? The latter.

We get the politicians and intellectualism we ask for.

tom swift said...

Why do conservatives need "new ideas"? Seriously; one of the tenets of conservatism is that at least some of the old ideas are still not only relevant, but not at all bad.

On the other hand, who today can make an intellectually coherent case for modern liberalism?

ricpic said...

Nothing like rule by marxists to reinvigorate conservatism. But the answer to the question is: not only is conservatism not brain dead, conservatism has all the answers because conservatism is in line with human nature, as opposed to that horrible imposition on human nature called liberalism.

Salamandyr said...

Conservatism, on the other hand, is getting stale. It has also been usurped by the neocons and the Christian Right, which means that it is morphing into something very corrupt.

The Christian Right has less power today than it has had at any point in the thirty years there has been a Christian Right to talk about. Their heyday was the mid 80's and they have been in steady decline in power and influence within the Conservative movement ever since.

The neo-conservatives moved left in the mid-seventies. They made their contributions to the debate, many of which have been incorpoated into Conservatism as a whole. The Conservative movement is a lot smarter as a whole for them having done so. They provided many of the analytical tools by which Conservatives can argue with liberals from perspectives that don't just include "the value of tradition".

In both cases neither of these groups have been shown to have more corruption than any other. Your statement is insulting, shows a prejudice against Christians, and is factually just wrong.

Jim Ryan said...

We've swung left for the last 75 years and now we're broke. Our government is enormous and corrupt. Haven't tried anything conservative in all that time, except defending the country and reforming welfare a little.

We are spoiled, vapid, stupid, and ignorant. We elect people like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama to the highest offices. These are not intellectually heavy-weights. These are not people of executive talent or great character.

So, now we ask, "Is conservatism brain-dead?"

I don't blame it on the leftism. Of course leftism will infect any body politic that is so vulnerable in character and intellect. It's not the leftism. It's the stupidity, vapidity, corruption and spoilage, epitomized by this moronic question of the day.

Henry said...

There are a lot of conservative and liberal ideas that are profound and invigorating. Unfortunately for America, they're in old books.

Henry said...

I will make issue with one thing that Hayward writes: Today, it is not clear that conservative thinkers have compelling alternatives to Obama's economic or foreign policy.

This is a bit like writing: "it is not clear that conservative thinkers have compelling alternatives to Obama's hunt for Gozer the traveler."

It's not like solid alternatives aren't out there. But when you're up against the giant free-lunch marshmallow man ("I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft!"), deep thoughts are not really the answer.

Sometimes ridicule is the appropriate response.

former law student said...

The font of conservative thought wells up in the Heartland. When Regnery was in Chicago, and the Free Press was in Glencoe, they published the works of conservative intellectuals. Now they're back East and out of touch.

Nothing like rule by marxists to reinvigorate conservatism.

Many conservative thinkers are recycled liberals. Start mugging some liberal intellectuals, and see if the old saying still works.

We elect people like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama to the highest offices. These are not intellectually heavy-weights. These are not people of executive talent or great character.

Amazing that someone can type that with a straight face after the GOP threw up Tom "Even though I'm under indictment I can still be on Dancing with the Stars" Delay and GW Bush. How intellectual do you have to be to kill termites, anyway? And W's executive talent was to accept help from whichever friend of his Dad's wanted to offer it.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Why do conservatives need "new ideas"? Seriously; one of the tenets of conservatism is that at least some of the old ideas are still not only relevant, but not at all bad.

Beat me to it.

Invisible Man said...

This is a trick question right?

For all the mumbo-jumbo in these comments, liberals have at least 5 or 6 completely different ideas for how to reform healthcare. The best conservatives could come up with was Medicare D. Liberals have different ideas on how to deal with climate change. A good deal of conservatives think that cow farts are the problem. Liberals had vastly different ideas on how to stimulate the economy during a recession. Conservatives coalesced around the same ideas of tax cuts that spurred us to such great heights during the Bush era.

I'm not saying that Liberals don't have their idiots or all of the solutions, but at least there out there thinking. Glenn Beck a former shock-jock and self-propheced "rodeo clown" is considered a leader amongst conservatives. Except for a few like David Frum, Jindal and Reheim Salam Conservatism has completely stagnated.

6p00e54fa4c7fe8834 said...

Hayward is simply miffed that talk show guys get all the action and the pointy headed intellectuals don't.

What is there to say that has not been said any number of times. Socialism does not work and will never work and every where it has been tried it has failed. It is against human nature and no amount of tinkering or 'reform' will ever make it work. How many intellectual rebuttals are need to reply that socialism is a dead end failure, how many examples of failure are needed?

When all is said and done the basic thrust of the tea parties is not some inchoate or unfocused expression of anger. On the contrary the message is crystal clear. It is get out of my life and take your hands out of my wallet and your problems are not my obligation.

No amount of cajolery and attempts at guilt tripping is going to get the average person to believe that they need to bust their butts working to subsidize someone else. There is a difference between compulsion and charity and the tax payers get that simple concept.

Invisible Man said...

Why do conservatives need "new ideas"? Seriously; one of the tenets of conservatism is that at least some of the old ideas are still not only relevant, but not at all bad.

Don't you get that this is being brain-dead. It's like your not even trying. You've got all the answers in your conservative manifesto and just by adding water. SUCCESS!

This type of thinking is sad. Just like the Bible didn't account for porn and the prevalance of shrimp in the future. Even principles in Reagan's day don't account for the consolidation of insurance companies, Collateralized Debt Obligations, Climate Change, low savings rates and North Korea. Thinking anything else just shows that your too lazy to come up with anything new, and you'd rather just coast on old ideas. Wake up people.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If you define "idea" as "scheme for more taxes and/or spending", then liberals have most of the ideas pretty much by definition.

Hoosier Daddy said...

liberals have at least 5 or 6 completely different ideas for how to reform healthcare.

Aside from raising my taxes and having the government pay for it, what are the other 4?

The best conservatives could come up with was Medicare D.

Actually conservatives didn't even want that. Preferably would be elimination of mandates and allowing individual choice in choosing coverage.

Liberals have different ideas on how to deal with climate change. A good deal of conservatives think that cow farts are the problem.

Actually conservatives don't think there is a problem at all. We've had climate change before which is why the glacier that once covered my state isn't here anymore.

Liberals had vastly different ideas on how to stimulate the economy during a recession.

So does my 12 year old daughter and her suggestions are actually more economically sound than anything I have heard from liberals.

Conservatives coalesced around the same ideas of tax cuts that spurred us to such great heights during the Bush era

Well gee, letting people keep more of thier money which they can use to spend on goods and services which in turn employs people to provide those goods and services who in turn earn wages which they use to purchase more goods and services...am I going to fast for you?

Let me know if I need to type slower.

Henry said...

To sum up: Variations on foolishness is not the same as lots of ideas.

miller said...

Henry wins the thread.

LonewackoDotCom said...

I already discussed how many establishment GOP leaders are helping Obama while hurting the GOP. The problem is that I'm not able to dumb that down enough to the point where they'd be able to understand it.

Maybe there's someone who writes the labels for soup cans who could help me lower that and related pages to the level where the WaPo author would understand it.

A_R said...

To say its dead is factually wrong. Look at any of the TEA parties and you'll see its beating heart and the soul yearning to regain its lost freedom.

The problem is the vocal elements whom pontificate as its 'halmarks' (can't stand to hear Frum and all the other 'glowing' examples of 'liked Conservitives' the media harkins to) are trying to over-shadow those whom are attempting its strengthing and revitalization.

Sure, Beck 'might' be a rodeo-clown, but he's done far more for the cause than any of the hacks whom obscure the moniker (pretty much anybody associated with the initials RNC).

I defy anyone to look at Levin's Manifesto and say it doesn't hold the Conservitive philosophy, nor does it not hold what Locke, Burke, and the other greats of Conservitive thought have provided. He's even said that he's only coalelesed what has been out there, but has been obscured or criminalized.

When you have a political theory (with its willing accomlaces/enablers far afield) that brow-beats any attmept at opposition (tea-baggers, Limbaugh is a junkie, ect., anyone?) and uses uncivil tactics to downplay, subvert, and pummel ANYTHING that vectors as an alternitive, its no wonder how someone can pontificate of the opposition's demise.

Its not dead at all, as long as its allowed an equal, accessable, and governed by the same rules as the others deploy.

But, its hard being hamstrung, handcuffed, and pronounced 'loser' before the game even starts, to get that even shake...

Good heavens, look at the Stimulus debate - any attempt to counter that tsunami was lambasted, labeled as ______(add your *ist term), or plain just shouted down.

Paul Zrimsek said...

That soup-can idea sounds like a winner to me, Lonewacko. "Mmm, mmm, good" is the closest a soup can ever gets to annoying, chest-thumping self-promotion.

MnMark said...

There's a necessary role for both liberals and conservatives...conservatives to preserve what is good and liberals to stretch towards what is new and might possibly be better but is frequently awful and worse, which is unavoidably part of the learning process of stretching for something better.

The problem for liberals (and all of us, by extension) is that they haven't really come up with a workable new idea for a long time. Freedom, and its economic manifestation, the free market, is really the best idea for promoting innovation, improving living standards and giving people the chance to be happy that there is, and it hasn't been a new, liberal idea since 1776. But since then the liberals have had basically a 233-year dry spell. They came up with Marxism and progressivism, neither of which was an improvement on liberty - in fact the 20th century shows they were experiments that went in a horribly wrong direction - and right now they're reduced to proposing versions of the same tired big government plans, except renamed to use free-market-sounding words like "investment".

I think the plain truth of the matter is that we came up with the best possible idea for organizing society and freeing people's minds when we got liberty. The Founding Fathers hit the nail on the head. Protect people's property, including their right to control their bodies, and then leave them alone. And whatever tweaking you want to do to make things more equal you do in the private charitable sector.

So maybe the problem for liberals is that there ISN'T any better idea than the freedom that the Founders gave us. Improvement from here on out has to be on an individual level, not on a social planning level.

6p00e54fa4c7fe8834 said...

" Invisible Man said...
Why do conservatives need "new ideas"? Seriously; one of the tenets of conservatism is that at least some of the old ideas are still not only relevant, but not at all bad.

Don't you get that this is being brain-dead. It's like your not even trying. You've got all the answers in your conservative manifesto and just by adding water. SUCCESS!

This type of thinking is sad. Just like the Bible didn't account for porn and the prevalance of shrimp in the future. Even principles in Reagan's day don't account for the consolidation of insurance companies, Collateralized Debt Obligations, Climate Change, low savings rates and North Korea. Thinking anything else just shows that your too lazy to come up with anything new, and you'd rather just coast on old ideas. Wake up people.

10/2/09 9:39 AM"

What is sad is your type of thinking.
Global Warming: the French have an saying "if a million people believe a foolish thing it is still a foolish thing". All the green pseudo science movement is rehashed and ill disguised communism.

North Korea was a problem in Carter's day, Reagan's day, 41's day, Clinton's day, W's day and now is still a problem in Obama's day. Nothing new under sun as the bible states.

The conservatives do have the answer, you just don't want to hear it or them. Instead all the libs, progs, commies or whatever they want to call themselves today have to offer is more of the same: more taxes, more government more control over peoples lives. Like junkies, no fix is enough until the last, final OD fix.

What is happening is the great unwashed masses are seeing that they are about to herded over the cliff by their 'betters' and are furiously digging their heels in. You just can't believe your lying eyes and ears. The fits the left is throwing are de-cerebration fits, the final stage before flatlining.

Obama has jumped the shark. He is now visibly the errand boy of the Chicago Machine. Mayor Daley runs the White house and the Chicago Outfit runs hizzoner.

SH said...

It's sort of leaderless and/or rudderless... but foundation wise at least it is coherent and works. Unlike the left... concept after concept having been discredited (economic planning, people are really really malleable, forced equality is more important than economic freedom... and can make things better!, there is something else besides an exchange system based on money and profit, blaw blaw blaw)... the lefties don't even read history... even their own... unless it is the most dumbed down and a PC rewrite of it that conform with their prejudices...

edutcher said...

LonewackoDotCom said...

I already discussed how many establishment GOP leaders are helping Obama while hurting the GOP.

Never confuse RINOs with conservatives.

WV "emobble" how the Left creates astroturf

Sisyphus said...

Why is the author of the original piece trapped in some mid-20th Century idea of what serious intellectual policy and political philosophy might be? It doesn't have to be in a book to be serious.

This is the Internet Age. Tea Partiers don't send each other letters, they are on Facebook, Twitter, email lists and Ning. They share ideas by pointing to blog posts or writing their own blogs. They find compelling essays by Sowell or Mankiw and email them to others.

The great and energizing ideas of the contemporary right are not found mostly in bestselling conservative books. They are on blogs like Instapundit, BigGovernment, NRO, Volokh Conspiracy, Marginal Revolution, and yes, Althouse. And those ideas are shared like most other information these days is shared - via the Internet.

The author of the WaPo piece is missing the communications revolution and the impact it has not just on right-wing political thought, but also on the speed and breadth those thoughts can reach among the general public. The same technology and techniques that allow the organization of Tea Parties allow the spread of the underlying memes and philosophy shared by many in the movement.

Bruce Hayden said...

Many conservative thinkers are recycled liberals. Start mugging some liberal intellectuals, and see if the old saying still works.

As has been said on multiple occasions, a neo-conservative is a liberal mugged by reality.

And, in the case of economics, the reality is that man is, by nature, greedy. Liberalism, socialism, communism, fascism, naziism, etc. are all based on the assumption that man is readily perfectable, and if you just put smart enough people in charge, they can run things honestly, efficiently, and effectively. They are Utopian, in a real world, and just don't work.

And, the neo-cons came to a similar realization with foreign policy - that sitting around singing `Kumbaya' with dictators and mad men just gives them the belief that we are weak and vulnerable.

Amazing that someone can type that with a straight face after the GOP threw up Tom "Even though I'm under indictment I can still be on Dancing with the Stars" Delay and GW Bush. How intellectual do you have to be to kill termites, anyway? And W's executive talent was to accept help from whichever friend of his Dad's wanted to offer it.

Ok, I will call your Tom Delay and raise you Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chris Dodd, Charles Rangel, Henry Waxman, Barney Frank, and many more.

And, yes, George W. Bush is out of office now, and will never run for President again. Yet, he had far more accomplishments than did our Community Organizer (and ACORN facilitator) in Chief did before being elected President. And, contrary to Dan Rather, et al., his father didn't get him into the Texas Air National Guard, nor teach him how to fly a jet fighter, run a baseball team, or run a state.

Bruce Hayden said...

For all the mumbo-jumbo in these comments, liberals have at least 5 or 6 completely different ideas for how to reform healthcare. The best conservatives could come up with was Medicare D. Liberals have different ideas on how to deal with climate change. A good deal of conservatives think that cow farts are the problem. Liberals had vastly different ideas on how to stimulate the economy during a recession. Conservatives coalesced around the same ideas of tax cuts that spurred us to such great heights during the Bush era.

Well, the best that the liberals could do was recycle discredited Keynesian economics from the 1930s to fight the recession. And then, they didn't even do it right. Rather than providing long term tax cuts that people could depend on getting over the years, they did a one shot tax rebate, that has zero long term effect. And the infrastructure spending is going to be almost totally counter-cyclical. So, they didn't even learn the lessons on what did work for FDR.

Global Warming is such an article of faith to you, that you cannot comprehend that it is totally built on unverifiable models (that are not sophisticated enough to handle the full complexity of the Earth's world wide climate) and pushed by charlatans who are in it for the money. Charlatan-in-chief barely passed his two bone-head science courses in college, and, yet, is considered some sort of Second Coming in environmental issues (despite spending more per month in energy for one of his several houses than most spend a year). Oh, and did you know that we are in a period of lower solar energy right now, which is why the global temperatures haven't actually risen the last couple of years? And, that CO2 is actually good for the planet, as it allows more plant growth? And that maybe Global Warming might actually be good too, opening up huge stretches of Canada and Russia to cultivation?

And you wonder why there is so much resistance to flushing trillions of dollars down the drain in the name of combating Global Warming?

Finally, we get to health care "reform". What has become increasingly obvious, as the justifications for such a massive intervention into our economy keep moving, is that the asserted justifications are merely cover for socializing medicine for just that reason alone. Everything else is mere pretext.

So, we now have several cobbled together proposals that are highly likely to significantly reduce innovation in the medical field, reduce the number of health care providers, while increasing those who can demand their care.

The bottom line, regardless of how they try to hide it, is that ALL of the proposals that the Democrats are putting forward would lead to health care rationing. And that is, in the end, the purpose. Centralizing the power to make health care decisions at the national level, on who can get what health care treatments. To get an idea of what to expect, read: How the U.S. Government Rations Health Care.

tonejunkie said...

Socialism does not work and will never work and every where it has been tried it has failed.

As to the ubiquitous, braindead hue and cry over “Socialism!” here’s Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason magazine addressing this specific complaint, who by virtue of being a libertarian in such a position speaks more authoritatively and truer to anti-socialism and smaller gov’t than all the millions of bloviating, moronic conservatives combined:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/22817?in=37:37&out=38:34

Bruce Hayden said...

Yet it was not enough just to expose liberalism's weakness; it was also necessary to offer robust alternatives for both foreign and domestic policy, ideas that came to fruition in the Reagan years. Today, it is not clear that conservative thinkers have compelling alternatives to Obama's economic or foreign policy. At best, the right is badly divided over how to fix the economy and handle Iran and Afghanistan. So for the time being, the populists alone have the spotlight.

To some extent I might agree. But, then, to some extent, I attribute much of this perceived problem on the fact that the Republicans are truly out of power, for the first time in fourteen years. And, I am not talking being competitive in Congress, but rather, the Democrats have their first veto-proof majority in the Senate in decades, and a big enough House advantage that Congressional Democrats can effectively ignore Republicans, and they do.

So, the Republicans in Congress face the problem that they can either propose stuff that might possibly have a chance of garnering some Democratic votes, or proposing stuff that won't get a one. That some of the Republicans do the former should not be seen as an admission that they don't agree with the Republican ideals of, say, Reagan, but rather, that they are trying to have some impact on the result, no matter how minimal, given their numbers.

phosphorious said...

This comment thread is full of the usual conservative bullshit. Conservatism is never wrong, liberals are to blame for everything.

But just for the sake of argument:

Conservatives say they want lower taxes and smaller government.

They also want the strongest possible military, and are not shy about military intervention anywhere for just about any reason. If you cut military spending, conservatives squeal.

You can't have both. You can be in favor of small government, or you can have the most ginormous military in history. Red-blooded adventurism like the Iraq invasion costs money. How do you pay for it?

By cutting taxes?

This is but one of many, many contradictions in modern conservatism that you mutton-heads simply refuse to address.

miller said...

phophor,

you would help us by prepending STRAWMAN ALERT! at the beginning of your posts.

Yours,

phosphorious said...

Where's the strawman?

Are conservatives NOT in favor of low taxes? Are they NOT in favor of a strong militray?

Does this not present a problem in terms of paying for that military?

Not everything is a fallacy, you idiot.

Cedarford said...

From article - Yet it was not enough just to expose liberalism's weakness; it was also necessary to offer robust alternatives for both foreign and domestic policy, ideas that came to fruition in the Reagan years. Today, it is not clear that conservative thinkers have compelling alternatives to Obama's economic or foreign policy. At best, the right is badly divided over how to fix the economy and handle Iran and Afghanistan. So for the time being, the populists alone have the spotlight.

That is still the problem. Certain Republican leaders like Bennett and Jeb Bush recognize the problem..it is not enough to be against Pelosi and Obama. You have to create an alternative, as Nixon and Reagan and some very smart people did.
Right now, you have Religious Right and other conservatives pretending nothing is wrong, that Republicans from Bush II to Reagan supply siders to "endless wars for Freedom Lovers!!" neocons had no
catastrophies happen as consequence of their ideology.

To begin, Republicans have to admit they screwed up in many ways and need to reform. But a considerable faction of brain-dead Fundies and old Wallace-Goldwater conservative sorts don't want to hear it - and they control the BASE. And any candidate - even in American regions that the Republicans abdicated in - doesn't want to piss off a BASE stuck 30 years in the past.

===================
John Derbyshire, author of a forthcoming book about conservatism's future, "We are Doomed," calls our present condition "Happy Meal Conservatism, cheap, childish and familiar."

And that is what the likes of Palin, Rush, and Hannity offer - a happy meal of sound bites and familiar bitches - with no ideas to change anything not in keeping with what Goldwater and Reagan were yammering on about 45 years ago.

Revenant said...

no ideas to change anything not in keeping with what Goldwater and Reagan were yammering on about 45 years ago.

What Goldwater and Reagan were "yammering on about" was never actually tried. Small government conservatism was talked about a lot, but it has never been put into practice at the national level -- certainly not by either Bush, but even Reagan himself was never really able to follow through on it.

So pretending that the ideas have been discredited is silly. Big-government conservatism has been discredited, yes. Let's have no more of that. But the scaling back of government is a concept that still needs to be tested in the field.

phosphorious said...

"What Goldwater and Reagan were "yammering on about" was never actually tried. Small government conservatism was talked about a lot, but it has never been put into practice at the national level -- certainly not by either Bush, but even Reagan himself was never really able to follow through on it."

This is exactly the problem: "conservatism" is never wrong, it's just that there aren't any "real" conservatives.

Doesn't the fact that even Reagan couldn't manage to be a small-government conservative. . . and yet is considered a very successful president (by conservatives) suggest that small-government conservatism is a dead end?

Bruce Hayden said...

Beck and other conservatives can start by engaging the central argument of the most serious indictment of conservatism on the scene, Sam Tanenhaus's new book, "The Death of Conservatism." Tanenhaus's argument is mischievously defective; he thinks the problem with conservatism today is that it is not properly deferential to liberalism's relentless engine of change. In other words, it is an elegant restatement of G.K. Chesterton's quip that is it is the business of progressives to go on making mistakes, while it is the business of conservatives to prevent the mistakes from being corrected. That won't do. A conservative movement that accepted Tanenhaus's prescription would be consigning itself to be the actuaries of liberalism.

Tanenhaus makes a lot of mistakes there, but one of them is the assumption that if the liberals were just given one more chance, they could, and would fix their previous mistakes. But, invariably, their solutions will be the same thing that caused the problems in the first place. As I keep pointing out, man is greedy and self interested, and the liberal assumption that this is either not true, or can be relatively easily fixed, is the root of most of their problems. They are Utopians living in an imperfect world, yearning for a perfect one that they can rule. And, that is the second part of their fallacy - that they can be smart enough to design a human system that can operate effectively and efficiently. So, trusting them to fix the problems they caused in the first place, utilizing the same political theories and strategies is counter-productive at best.

One problem with liberals' relentless engine of change is that the change is not thought out thoroughly. Rather, the assumption seems to be, just try it, and if it doesn't work, fix it. But by the time that they can fix it, the problems are almost invariably well established and intractable.

After the family structure of our underclass (esp. in the Black community) through the ill designed War on Poverty, a bare start was made with Welfare Reform, which looks like even that fix may be thrown out with the current crop of Democrats in charge. Their solution? More dependency.

And how about the generous lending practices that got us in such a financial mess last year, cost a trillion or so, and helped trigger the recession? Barney Frank, Charles Rangel, et al. are trying to open the spigot again for people who cannot afford houses to buy them. It cost trillions, and now they want to do it again, almost identically. There is a saying that if you can't learn from your mistakes, you are destined to repeat them. And the Democrats in Congress apparently didn't learn theirs last time around - you can't lend to people to buy houses if they can't afford to pay for them.

WV: franc - thankfully pretty much eliminated now by the Euro.

Henry said...

Another problem with the liberals "relentless engine of change" is that it's rarely liberal and that it almost always posits a static future.

The current health care reform efforts are a case in point. By seeking to nationalize and formalize health care insurance (and by proxy health care delivery) liberals will actually discourage innovation and lock in place the very problems they use to justify their actions.

Now definitions here are sloppy since "conservative" and "liberal" have many meanings, not least the crass mapping to "republican" and "democrat".

I prefer the conservatism of the American Revolution -- the conservative desire to preserve radical ideas of freedom and individualism.

former law student said...

As I keep pointing out, man is greedy and self interested, and the liberal assumption that this is either not true, or can be relatively easily fixed, is the root of most of their problems.

"Libertarians" think that man is only his self-interest. Each group ignores most of what makes up a man.

Barney Frank, Charles Rangel, et al. are trying to open the spigot again for people who cannot afford houses to buy them.

Lending money to people who couldn't afford to buy houses made a lot of Wall Streeters rich, until the music stopped.

Revenant said...

This is exactly the problem: "conservatism" is never wrong, it's just that there aren't any "real" conservatives.

Certainly there are real small-government conservatives. Goldwater was one. Newt Gingrich was, as well. Reagan was, but he was also a cold warrior, and ultimately he decided that opposing communism was more important than opposing entitlement programs. The truth is that no matter what they might say in polls, Americans don't really want small government. They want a government that does things for them, and they want somebody else to pay for it.

But hey, let's suppose I'm wrong. Maybe small-government conservatism really has been tried, and failed, and thereby been discredited. If so, it will be easy for you to point to conservative American politicians under whose leadership the size of the government actually shrunk.

I'll be waiting. But I won't be holding my breath. :)

Revenant said...

"Libertarians" think that man is only his self-interest.

Not true. People are their self-interest AND the rationalizations they concoct to defend it. :)

Synova said...

fls: "Many conservative thinkers are recycled liberals. Start mugging some liberal intellectuals, and see if the old saying still works."

If I understand what you mean by this, I think you're probably very right and probably for a variety of reasons. It seems to me that quite a few of the more recent converts to conservatism, such as Althouse and others, really haven't changed what they think at all, or at the most have changed their core beliefs very little.

Salamandyr said...

"Libertarians" think that man is only his self-interest. Each group ignores most of what makes up a man.

This is a fairly dramatic simplification of Libertarian belief. A libertarian believes it is wrong to force a man (or woman, or child, let's be ecumenical here) to act against his own self-interests.

In other words, your need does not entitle you to the produce of others. It is perfectly legitimate, under a libertarian system, to advocate for people to act out of altruistic intentions, and based on the the charitable record of the US, you will actually do better than you do now. But the moment you pull out that gun to take from the "haves" to give to the "have-not's" you're a thief, a brigand, no matter what the needs of the person (including yourself) you're stealing for.

1jpb said...

Rick,

Beck is a dolt.

I'm a regular Beck listener. One of my favorite Beck-is-a-dolt stories started after the BHO inauguration when Beck concluded that BHO was dedicated to creating an era of Godlessness in America because his inauguration speech quoted Washington referencing Paine, and his second oath was taken in front of a portrait of Paine.

This was hilarious because a) BHO was quoting Washington, who is usually not used as a coded way of referring to Godlessness, and b) the portrait wasn't of Paine, I think it was the original architect of the capital.

But, it became fall out of your seat laughing hilarious when a couple months later Beck himself turned into a Paine fan--he went so far as to print his own "Common Sense."

That guy is a certifiable dolt.

BTW, I've never seen anyone else connect the dots on this Paine stuff. Presumably the smart-left and smart-right doesn't listen to Beck regularly enough to witness these sorts of colossal red flags that clearly indicate the guy is an unthoughtful dolt.

Obviously, most regular Beck listeners don't pick up on such ridiculousness because they're too dense to "do the math." And then, there must be a small minority of regulars, like myself, who listen for the same reason freak shows are able to draw an audience.

mockmook said...

Sorry lefties, conservatives don't need "new ideas" because we have already supplied you with correct ideas -- ideas that work in the real world.

wv- froke

What Obama is doing to the USA: making us broke and f'd

mockmook said...

1jpb,

Do non-dolts enjoy frequent freakshows (regularly watching dolts)?

Air America is full of dolts (freaks) but somehow I am not the least bit interested in listening to them.

Bruce Hayden said...

Lending money to people who couldn't afford to buy houses made a lot of Wall Streeters rich, until the music stopped.

Add to that, that a bunch of that money was spent getting Obama elected President. Oh, and then there were all the politicians, esp. on the Democratic side who took discounted loans from Countrywide - did you see that they erased all the tapes of those calls recently?

But what you chose to ignore is that those Democrats I named are trying to get the music going again.

You may not think it insidious, but I do.

phosphorious said...

"Sorry lefties, conservatives don't need "new ideas" because we have already supplied you with correct ideas -- ideas that work in the real world."

Ok, then. Stay the course.

How will you celebrate the GOP's triumphant return to power next year?

Have you rented a hall for the party?

Bruce Hayden said...

In other words, your need does not entitle you to the produce of others. It is perfectly legitimate, under a libertarian system, to advocate for people to act out of altruistic intentions, and based on the the charitable record of the US, you will actually do better than you do now. But the moment you pull out that gun to take from the "haves" to give to the "have-not's" you're a thief, a brigand, no matter what the needs of the person (including yourself) you're stealing for.

Which is why libertarian is really the intellectual counter to liberals and socialism. They believe that it is right and proper to do just that, "spread the wealth around", or take from those who have, and give to those who (they believe) need.

This is the classic individual versus community debate. But the problem for the liberals is that they presuppose that man is smart enough and noble enough that society will benefit from their "largess". The libertarian/ conservative counter to that is that man is inherently greedy and self-centered, and that any system that is not based on that fact is destined to fail.

The one corollary to this that invariably helps to ruin all the great plans of the liberals and socialists in the world is that many of those at the top are there because, guess what? They are just as greedy and self-centered as the libertarians and conservatives claim. Which is why you find so many corrupt liberal politicians, and the longer they are in office, and the higher they rise, the more corrupt they are.

And, in reality, this is no different from any other liberal/ socialist/ communist/ Fascist/ Nazi system. Everyone is equal, but those at the top are far more equal. We saw this with the Soviet leadership and their dachas on the Black Sea and special stores that actually had goods for sale (and a lot of those were made in the West), and we see that with the rampant tax evasion of all those Obama appointees, as well as the Representative in charge of writing our taxes, and we see it in the sweat-heart housing loans for those expediting making mortgages available to those who couldn't afford them. And, in all those Clinton scandals - Bill sexual ones and Hillary's financial ones.

Yes, all evidence that man is greedy and self-centered.

Bruce Hayden said...

When all is said and done the basic thrust of the tea parties is not some inchoate or unfocused expression of anger. On the contrary the message is crystal clear. It is get out of my life and take your hands out of my wallet and your problems are not my obligation.

No amount of cajolery and attempts at guilt tripping is going to get the average person to believe that they need to bust their butts working to subsidize someone else. There is a difference between compulsion and charity and the tax payers get that simple concept
.

I think that this is part of it, that the liberals in this country, esp. those in power, are trying any which way to discredit conservatives and libertarians. And one of their tropes is that those on the right are intellectually bereft.

But it doesn't take much intellectual heft to realize that the liberal solutions of the last 75 years have not worked, and the more they are tried, the more obvious and abject their failure. The problem is that government is not the solution to our problems, it is our problem. (Wonder where I heard that before?)

The Democrats came into power this time ready to change the country to their likings by implementing every hair brained liberal or socialist scheme they could think of, knowing that their window of opportunity was vanishing small. And then, are shocked to discover that more and more (and now a majority) of Americans are not on board, that they distrust the government, and think that, just maybe, it is big enough already, and that, just maybe, their taxes are high enough already.

The distrust of government by Americans is nothing new, as evidenced by the "Don't Tread on Me" flags and posters being displayed by the tea baggers. It is just that after eight years of a Republican President, fourteen of a mostly Republican Congress, Americans had forgotten why they had elected the Republicans and turned the Democrats out of power. They are now remembering why.

1jpb said...

mockmook,

Both the left and right radio folks are freaks. But, as a BHO supporter it's painful for me to listen to the freakishness of the left, whereas the freakishness of the right is amusing--hence my fascination w/ pro-con radio (and many Althouse commenters).

Joseph Marshall said...

I can only speak for this particular liberal, but I certainly think I have very clear intellectual roots in the founding of this country.

The clearest and simplest of them is right in the Preamble of our Constitution: "promote the general welfare". The other name for this is the public interest. And the process that usually needs to be implemented is leveling the playing field.

From all I can gather, conservatives appear to believe that there is no such thing as promoting the general welfare or serving the public interest, and that the playing field somehow magically levels itself.

In that sense I would not say that conservatism is brain-dead, but I would say that it is impenetrable by clear observation, empirical evidence, and plain fact.

Promoting the general welfare implies a proactive Federal government because no one else truly has the power or the independence from private interest to do it.

Every specific liberal policy proposal can be logically derived from this. And the major question always is whether the specific proposal actually will promote the general welfare, which it may or may not.

A further critique I would make of conservatism is that it is, practically, impotent and incapable of serious action even to advance its own agendas.

The previous Administration had the best opportunity anyone will ever have to truly transform American life into the conservative New Jerusalem. The elections of 2002 and 2004 brought every single branch of government under their influence and saw the President reach a pinnacle of public confidence.

It doesn't get any better than that in America.

All they did with it was start two wars they couldn't finish. And they didn't even manage to kill or capture the man who masterminded the attack on us.

That's it.

Conservatives are simply incapable of governing even when they have power. The way they ran Congress was a joke and the way they ran the Executive Branch was a sorry litany of ineptitude when it wasn't an explicit, and anti-American, assertion that the President had all the power of an absolutist king. .

I'm really not sure why they can't govern. Conservative principles seem clear enough when they talk about them, but when asked to propose practical policies to implement them, they seem to come up with nothing better than "drill, baby, drill!"

Perhaps they can't govern because they actually don't believe in government.

Bruce Hayden said...

Promoting the general welfare implies a proactive Federal government because no one else truly has the power or the independence from private interest to do it.

Every specific liberal policy proposal can be logically derived from this. And the major question always is whether the specific proposal actually will promote the general welfare, which it may or may not
.

I guess I could start out by pointing out that promoting the general welfare is only one of the goals of the Constitution. Right after that is securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Furthermore, the pervasive liberal agenda also fails to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and provide for the common defense.

A two tiered system of justice is not justice. And that is part of what liberal theory has brought us, through its inevitable "some are more equal than others" mentality. Why are the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chair of the Ways and Means committee not in jail for tax evasion. Indeed, why didn't Teddy Kennedy do jail time for killing that woman that night in a drunken stupor? Or, the Clintons, him for rape, and her for various financial crimes?

But somehow, since they are the ones promoting the general welfare, as they see it, they are exempt from the justice that the rest of us face.

But, then, you also point out one of the big problems with liberalism, as it is practiced today as socialism (lite). It doesn't work, and it doesn't provide for the general welfare. Rather, since it is built on a Utopian fantasy of human nature, it is destined to fail.

And, note, that the criterion that you set out is not that it is intended to result in promoting the general welfare, but, rather, that it actually does so. So, good intentions and bad consequences are still bad consequences. Good intentions don't justify them.

So, let's take just some examples. The massive "stimulus" bill failed to provide any noticable stimulus to the economy, while enriching allies of the President and Congressional Democrats. Where is the promotion of the general welfare there?

The auto bailout enriched the unions at the expense of the stockholders, bond holders (including secured bond holders who had a superior legal claim to the assets given to the unions), and the American people. Where was the promotion of the general welfare there?

Health Care Reform, if passed in anything resembling what is in Congress right now is pretty much guaranteed to adversely affect the quality of care of most of the 90% of the (legal) residents of this country who have insurance right now, to benefit the few who actually need insurance and don't have it. All through the inevitable rationing that will result from trying to cover more people for more health care at a lower cost.
Where is the promotion of the general welfare there?

Or, how about such liberal icons as the War on Poverty, which by its structure destroyed the family structure of our underclass (esp. Blacks), resulting in boys raised in fatherless households, who then go out and kill each other, and anyone else around? How did the War on Poverty promote the General Welfare, in view of the culture of gang violence we now see from those fatherless young men?

Bruce Hayden said...

What I am failing to see, as we look at the intellectual foundations of the two sides to the debate, is where there is any intellectual brilliance in the liberalism that we see practiced today. The Keynesian economics supposedly (but very poorly) practiced in the "stimulus" bill were debunked thirty years ago. They just got recycled this time as an excuse to pay off Democratic constituencies.

Obama's foreign policy is just as brain dead as it was for Carter and Clinton, though the later had the intelligence to not go too much overboard, as did Carter and, now, Obama. Sitting around singing `Kumbaya' with dictators and mad men just gives them the belief that we are weak and vulnerable. Where is the intellectual brilliance in recycling the foreign policy of appeasement in the face of its previous failures (ending, the last time, on the attacks on 9/11/01)?

The liberal theorists may have brilliantly repackaged their liberal theories. But, they are the same tired failed policies that are going to continue failing, since they ignore the reality of the nature of man.

Synova said...

"From all I can gather, conservatives appear to believe that there is no such thing as promoting the general welfare or serving the public interest, and that the playing field somehow magically levels itself."

And where, pray tell, did you gather *that* from?

"In that sense I would not say that conservatism is brain-dead, but I would say that it is impenetrable by clear observation, empirical evidence, and plain fact."

If you're beginning from the previous ridiculous initial assumption how could it be anything but?

"Promoting the general welfare implies a proactive Federal government because no one else truly has the power or the independence from private interest to do it."

And this is a pure statement of faith. Also, it's a faith that requires that your initial assumptions are true. Only if your initial assumptions are true is it possible to read "promoting general welfare" in a way that entirely ignores any promotion that works with human nature or takes it into account, promoting a system that allows maximum freedom and promotes and rewards personal industriousness and innovation, responsibility *and* charity.

It is not *enough*, as Bruce explains, to have good intentions. Policies actually have to work and refusing to understand human motivations, indeed, vilifying human motivations, can only and will only fail. And that's if we're *lucky*.

Working against these well-meant but damaging policies is not rejecting the goal.

Bruce Hayden said...

Conservatives are simply incapable of governing even when they have power. The way they ran Congress was a joke and the way they ran the Executive Branch was a sorry litany of ineptitude when it wasn't an explicit, and anti-American, assertion that the President had all the power of an absolutist king. .

I am not sure why you think that the Democrats are doing, or will do any better. Sure, it is easy to slam through legislation when you have a veto-proof Senate (which the Republicans never had) and a large majority in the House. But, as I pointed out earlier, for every Tom DeLay the Republicans had in Congress, the Democrats have a number of Members who are even more corrupt. The difference here is that the Republicans were never willing to shut down the ethics system, as the Democrats have since the election. No ethics investigations does not mean that there aren't a lot of ethically challenged members of Congress, just that they aren't being investigated, on the orders of the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

And the Administration is shaping up to be the most corrupt and ethically challenged in decades. If you think that means that the Administration is running things well, then fine.

But, again, failure to investigate and prosecute here just means that we have a hyper-politicized Department of Justice, run by the guy who got convicted swindler March Rich his pardon in trade for millions of dollars to the Clintons. So, what has he done since taking the job? Dismissed the convictions of Black Panthers; dismissed investigation of Bill Richardson; failed to investigate the firing of IGs for whistle blowing; overruled the legal determination of the legality of D.C. representation in Congress; failed to investigate ACORN for tax evasion, voter fraud, and as a criminal conspiracy under RICO, etc.

Tom DeLay got in trouble for his "pay to play" politics. But he was an amateur in comparison to the Chicago style politics that we now see practiced in this Administration. We have seen, with great humor, in the maneuvering for health care "reform" how one faction will agree to support the "reform" in trade for some preferences, and then they are shortly sold out in favor of some other group that provides a bigger bribes.

On the surface, it may look like this Administration is running smoothly, but the reality is that that appearance is a result of a lot of money greasing a lot of hands, making a lot of people rich, all at the expense of the American People (excluding, of course, those who are in on the cut). In Chicago, they call that efficiency. Much of the rest of the country just calls it corruption.

former law student said...

the War on Poverty, which by its structure destroyed the family structure of our underclass (esp. Blacks), resulting in boys raised in fatherless households, who then go out and kill each other, and anyone else around?

Interestingly, Alinsky was always at war with the social work/welfare mentality, because the social worker out of her own self-interest needed to keep the welfare recipient dependent on handouts. The idea that a social worker should work herself out of a job was anathema.

Alinsky believed that pulling together as a community would not only create better conditions for all, but show individuals that they could accomplish goals by themselves. Further, natural leaders were identified and coached.

former law student said...

Add to that, that a bunch of that money was spent getting Obama elected President

No, the securitized mortgages and the credit default swaps based on them, were starting to melt down early in 2007, when Obama was just getting underway.

Regarding being able to afford to buy a home: The housing bubble was largely based on the money that flooded the mortgage market. Even people who could have qualified for conventional loans were pushed into subprime and alt-A loans because they provided the biggest spiffs for mortgage brokers. New homes whose first owner was foreclosed on sell at 1/2 or 1/3 what they cost at the peak of the bubble. They are indeed quite affordable today.

Joseph Marshall said...

I am not sure why you think that the Democrats are doing, or will do any better. Sure, it is easy to slam through legislation when you have a veto-proof Senate (which the Republicans never had) and a large majority in the House.

I have no idea how well Democrats will do in the future. But I can say that for the first time in many years representative government is actually functioning again. Serious bills get proposed, [by that I mean bills with enough real substance that people actually want to bother opposing them] bills go into committee, bills come out of committee, and, in the case of health care, will sooner or later come to the floor, get fillibustered to death, or come to a final vote, get defeated, or get passed, go into conference committee and finally get sent to the President.

And, beyond that, the people that voted are going to have to answer to their constituents about why they voted as they did and about whether the laws work or don't

It's been so long since this has actually happened with any consistency that most of us have either forgotten, or never known, how representative government is supposed to work.

So, as of right now, insofar as representative government can accomplish things, it is in the process of accomplishing things. That's all any citizen can reasonably ask.

There is far more in the responses to my post than I can conveniently address. But I will point out that Ms.Althouse asserted liberalism has "no coherant and compelling intellectual foundation" and that is simply not true.

Liberalism does come from somewhere and that somewhere is the Federalist impulse towards a strong central government that brought us the Constitution itself. The details of what government can accomplish have changed greatly in the intervening 220 years but the basic arguments about why government should do things [or should refrain from doing them] really have not changed that much.

If Alexander Hamilton were alive today, he probably wouldn't be a member of MoveOn.org but there's a pretty good chance that he might be a member of the Democratic Leadership Council. If Thomas Jefferson were alive today I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be either.

I think the responses here are, self-evidently, more a product of anti-liberal invective than conservative thought, but as long as we can keep the mechanism of government working--including the feedback from the State and Congressional District voters about real laws that get made and real consequences of them--then we will be doing far better than we have done in decades.

And I think that's enough even if all my hobbyhorses don't get ridden.

Synova said...

fls: "Interestingly, Alinsky was always at war with the social work/welfare mentality, because the social worker out of her own self-interest needed to keep the welfare recipient dependent on handouts. The idea that a social worker should work herself out of a job was anathema."

That really is interesting.

This is one reason why I say that what was "liberal" in the past, that really emphasized individual efficacy, individual liberty, and individual rights, and real (rather than culturally modified) equality, that it's morphed somehow into this *other* thing that we call "liberal" but isn't.

Gauging success on the number of additional people "served" by being added to government programs is insidious. (Which the leader (former?) of ACORN described in a speech as the purpose of community organizing.)

Revenant said...

The clearest and simplest of them is right in the Preamble of our Constitution: "promote the general welfare".

Apparently you stopped reading there, and missed the bit about "and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity". And, most importantly, the following clause: "do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America".

The signatories, in other words, are saying "we are establishing this Constitution because we feel it will promote the general welfare". You are reading this as "the Constitution authorizes doing whatever is necessary to promote the general welfare". Your reading of it is wrong.

Revenant said...

the way they ran the Executive Branch was a sorry litany of ineptitude when it wasn't an explicit, and anti-American, assertion that the President had all the power of an absolutist king

Can you name a power claimed by George Bush that was claimed neither by Barack Obama nor by any of Bush's Democratic predecessors? I'd be curious to hear it.

Synova said...

"Alinsky believed that pulling together as a community would not only create better conditions for all, but show individuals that they could accomplish goals by themselves. Further, natural leaders were identified and coached."

And this is a far far cry from the curious notion that only the federal government has the power to help people.

1jpb said...

Revenant,

As Grover said; "They're not trying to change the law; they're saying that they're above the law and in the case of the NSA wiretaps they break it."

Or Hagel; "There's a very clear pattern of aggressively asserting executive power, and the Congress has essentially been complicit in letting him do it. The key is that Bush has a Republican Congress; of course if it was a Clinton presidency we'd be holding hearings."

One more favorable Supreme and the "unitary executive" justification for the executive lording over other branches could be a reality. How's that work for you so-called liberty/Constitution lovers?

1jpb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
1jpb said...

And,

If the legislative process of BHO, as described by JM, gets your panties in a bunch why aren't you more upset by the W characteristics I highlighted above?

Recall #47:

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

So, if you can't still can't understand why conservatives are brain dead when they're non-stop crying (i.e. figuratively crying, except for Beck and Boehner, they literally cry) about the so-called tyranny of BHO who's working through constitutional means on policies he promised to implement in the election: I can't help you, you're a certifiable brain dead dolt.

1jpb said...

My link doth sucketh.

How about this # 47:

Revenant said...

As Grover said; "They're not trying to change the law; they're saying that they're above the law and in the case of the NSA wiretaps they break it."

A short list of Democratic Presidents asserting a Presidential right to conduct warrantless wiretaps includes Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.

Next?

Or Hagel; "There's a very clear pattern of aggressively asserting executive power

Yes, yes. I know the complaints about Bush. What I asked for was an example of his "absolutist king" behavior that neither Obama nor prior Democrats were guilty of. Roosevelt ordered people imprisoned for years without trial; Johnson wiretapped his political enemies, Richard Nixon among them, without warrant. Kennedy did the same to Martin Luther King. Johnson and Kennedy also waged war without even bothering to ask Congress for permission. And so on.

One more favorable Supreme and the "unitary executive" justification for the executive lording over other branches could be a reality.

You obviously don't have the foggiest idea what "unitary executive" means. It doesn't mean that the President gets to "lord it over" other branches. It simply means that there are no executive powers which are not subject to Presidential authority. Let me quote the relevant section of the Constitution:

The Executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

Note the lack of a "... except for the parts of the Executive Power which Congress or the Judiciary choose to seize for themselves" clause? Ok, moving on.

How's that work for you so-called liberty/Constitution lovers?

The belief in a unitary executive works perfectly for Constitution lovers who have actually bothered to read the fuckin' thing. :)

Revenant said...

If the legislative process of BHO, as described by JM, gets your panties in a bunch why aren't you more upset by the W characteristics I highlighted above?

I'm not bothered by them because Bush is out of office. If you mean to ask why I wasn't bothered by them at the time, I was, although since I'm actually familiar with American history I knew he wasn't doing anything unprecedented.

As for why Obama bothers me more, that's simply because his economic and health-care policies are a more drastic threat to my freedom than anything Bush ever did.

Synova said...

"...although since I'm actually familiar with American history I knew he wasn't doing anything unprecedented."

Me, too. (And I've got the "electron trail" to show that I DID say so at the time.) All presidents require diligence of us in defense of freedom and liberty. The utter hypocrisy of those who suddenly discovered the need under Bush deserved and deserves only contempt. The political opportunism of the outrage was so obvious it was a wonder it could be carried on with a straight face.

Doc Merlin said...

The left and the right each as groups tend to be "brain-dead", because they are not uniform groups. They are ideological coalitions. The subgroups often have firm ideological underpinnings.

1jpb said...

Revenant,

If you did know history, you'd know that the Supreme Court and Congress had made some decisions/changes since the wire tapping you've referenced. That's a hint. See if you can figure out the rest.

And, if you did know history, you'd know that W precisely cited the "unitary executive" as a reason he could ignore and disobey aspects of laws passed by congress and signed by himself to an extent that exceeded previous (and, so far, later presidents), hence the quotes from Norquist and Hagel.

Have you figured out the answer to my historical question yet?

Dolt is as dolt does.

Synova said...

At this point I'm wondering if anyone who believes that conservatives are brain-dead read the article at the link at all.

1jpb said...

Revenant,

I found something from a while back. It speaks directly to comparing W and previous presidents, and it rolls in a nice explanation of the multiple definitions and applications of the "unitary executive":

"The term "unitary government" has two different meanings: one simply refers to the president's control of the executive branch, including the supposedly independent regulatory agencies such as the SEC and the FDA. The other, much broader concept, which is used by Bush, gives the executive power superior to that of Congress and the courts. Previous presidents have asserted the right not to carry out parts of a bill, arguing that it impinged on their constitutional authority; but they were specific both in their objections and in the ways they proposed to execute the law. Clinton, for example, objected to provisions in a bill establishing a semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, which set out the reasons for removing the director. Clinton objected that that impinged on his presidential prerogatives. Bush asserts broad powers without being specific in his objections or saying how he plans to implement the law. His interpretations of the law, as in his "signing statement" on the McCain amendment, often construe the bill to mean something different from—and at times almost the opposite of—what everyone knows it means.

The concept of the unitary executive, which has been put forward in conservative circles for several years, has been advocated mainly by the Federalist Society, a group of conservative lawyers who also campaign for the nomination of conservative judges. The idea was seriously considered in the Reagan administration's Justice Department. One of its major supporters was Samuel Alito, then a lawyer in the Justice Department. In his confirmation hearing, Alito said that the memorandum he wrote saying that the president's interpretation of a bill "should be just as important as that of Congress" was "theoretical." But no president until Bush explicitly claimed that the concept of a unitary executive was a basis for overruling a bill."

It ain't theoretical any more Sammy.

Synova,

I actually read a short excerpt and then scanned the link at The Corner the day before Althouse had her post here.

Revenant said...

If you did know history, you'd know that the Supreme Court and Congress had made some decisions/changes since the wire tapping you've referenced. That's a hint. See if you can figure out the rest.

Yes, little brain. I know that Congress and the Supreme Court made some decisions along those lines. But that doesn't help your case, for two obvious reasons:

(1): If wiretapping qualifies as a dangerous, autocratic threat to our freedom, then it did so when FDR, JFK and LBJ did it, too. In fact, their actions were even worse because the other two branches of government aided and abetted them in doing it.

(2): None of the three branches is superior to any of the other two, except where specified in the Constitution. If Congress and/or the Supreme Court pass a law or make a ruling which attempts to encroach on a power granted to the President by the Constitution, he is not only Constitutionally allowed to ignore them, but required to do so by his oath of office.

You act like the fact that the Court made a ruling settles things. Not even remotely. This is no more a dictatorship by the Court than it is a dictatorship by the Presidency. Each branch is required to remain within the proper limits of its power, although none of the three usually do.

And, if you did know history, you'd know that W precisely cited the "unitary executive" as a reason he could ignore and disobey aspects of laws

Provide a direct quote from him wherein he allegedly cites the unitary executive for this, and I'll explain why you're wrong about what it meant. :)

Revenant said...

I found something from a while back. It speaks directly to comparing W and previous presidents, and it rolls in a nice explanation of the multiple definitions and applications of the "unitary executive"

It appears to have been written by somebody as ignorant of reality as you are. A basic background check indicates that the author is just a journalist writing an uninformed opinion piece.

Here are some more helpful quotes, describing the "strong" and "weak" unitary executive theories. The authors are Lawrence Lessig and Cass Sunstein, highly respected law professors. The latter currently works for Barack Obama.:

No one denies that in some sense the framers created a unitary executive; the question is in what sense.[...] The strong version — held by those whom we will call the modern Unitarians — contends that the President has plenary or unlimited power over the execution of administrative functions, understood broadly to mean all tasks of lawimplementation. The Constitution creates "a hierarchical unified executive department under the direct control of the President,"

In summary, the "strong" view holds that the entire executive branch ultimately answers to the President.

The weak version offers a more unruly picture. It contends that there are functions over which the President has plenary powers; that these functions are the "executive" functions in the constitutional sense; but that in the founding vision, "executive" functions—which must of course be specified in detail—are not coextensive with all the functions now (or then) exercised by the President. As for these nonexecutive functions exercised by the executive, the original unitarian—as we will refer to those who believe in the weak version—contends that Congress has a wide degree of authority to structure government as it sees fit. Under this view, unitariness is a significant constitutional value, but it is not a trumping constitutional value.

In summary, under the "weak" view Congress can meddle in executive functions if those executive functions were created by Congress rather than by the Constitution.

Neither view gives the President the kind of power your wild delusions have convinced you Bush said it did.

1jpb said...

Revenant,

You fail. The short answer was post Nixon rulings and FISA. You really ought to look into the specifics to save yourself from similar failures in the future.

And, you fail again. You've got nothing, so you start quoting theoretical definitions at a thousand feet while ignoring particular historical facts because you've decided that journalists presenting concrete facts are bad. Presumably journalism is elitist, and therefore of no value to you and the other brain dead conservatives.

Thank you for your providing a real time example of brain dead conservatism. Who needs sock puppets when you've got Althouse commenters.

Revenant said...

You are amusingly delusional, 1jpb. :)