A couple of well known conservative pundits are turning on their own, making a move (perhaps a faux move) to the center – or at least recognizing a problem in their party. In two unusual commentary turns, Peggy Noonan and Joe Scarborough both have a rather interesting take on this election season. In Noonan’s piece, she repeats the myth that Democrats have no plan in an otherwise spot-on analysis of our short term political climate.
I think that Americans have pretty much stopped listening to (Bush). One reason is that you don’t have to listen to get a sense of what’s going on. He does not appear to rethink things based on new data. You don’t have to tune in to see how he’s shifting emphasis to address a trend, or tacking to accommodate new winds. For him there is no new data, only determination.
He repeats old arguments because he believes they are right, because he has no choice–in for a penny, in for a pound–and because his people believe in the dogma of the magic of repetition: Say it, say it, to break through the clutter.
If you woke most Americans up at 3:00 in the morning and said, “Tell me, looking back, what would you have liked in an American president after 9/11?” most of them would answer, “I was just hoping for a good man who did moderately good things.” Who caught Osama, cleaned out Afghanistan, made it proof of the possibility of change and of the price to be paid by those who choose terror as a tactic. Not this historical drama queen, this good witch or bad.
So far, so good, Peggy. I agree. The American people got the President we deserved for approximately 6 months after 9/11. Then it all went down hill, eventually arriving at our current state. Noonan continues:
I like Democrats. I feel sympathy for the hungry and hapless, identify with aspirations, am deeply frustrated with Mr. Bush. More seriously, I believe we are at the start of a struggle for the survival of the West, and I know it is better for our country if both of its two major parties have equal responsibility in that struggle. Beyond that, let’s be frank. Bad days are coming, and we’re all going to have to get through them together, with two parties, arm in arm. It’s a big country.
But I feel the Democrats this year are making a mistake. They think it will be a cakewalk. A war going badly, immigration, high spending, a combination of sentimentality and dimness in foreign affairs–everyone in the world wants to be free, and in exactly the way we define freedom at dinner parties in McLean and Chevy Chase–and conservative thinkers and writers hopping mad and hoping to lose the House.
The Democrats’ mistake–ironically, in a year all about Mr. Bush–is obsessing on Mr. Bush. They’ve been sucker-punched by their own animosity.
“The Democrats now are incapable of answering a question on policy without mentioning Bush six times,” says pollster Kellyanne Conway. ” ‘What is your vision on Iraq?’ ‘Bush lied us into war.’ ‘Health care? ‘Bush hasn’t a clue.’ They’re so obsessed with Bush it impedes them from crafting and communicating a vision all their own.” They heighten Bush by hating him.
Yes. She is, for the most part, correct again. My friends on the left do have a hatred of Bush that is only rivaled by the hatred my friends on the right have for Bill Clinton. But Americans do need to move beyond this polarizing atmosphere and face our looming threats arm and arm. It is unfortunate that Noonan and others like her are only realizing this now that there is a very real possibility they could lose it all in November.
I was discussing “Bush Hatred” with a friend and fellow blogger last night at a Democratic party meeting. We both expressed or disdain for local municipalities passing resolutions calling for impeachment. It isn’t that we don’t believe this administration has done things that warrant the kind of investigations that could lead to impeachment, we just think the proper channels should be followed and that these local calls for impeachment resolutions will only add to the poisonous atmosphere we are currently experiencing.
I feel the same about bumperstickers that say “Honk If You Hate Bush.”
Where I break with Noonan is her belief that Democrats have not “crafted and communicated a vision” of their own. The vitriol from the left may be drowning them out, but several well crafted plans from Democrats are out here for public consumption and they’re all based on traditional Democratic principles – meaning most Democrats would agree with them.
One of the oldest clichés in politics is, “You can’t beat something with nothing.” It’s a cliché because it’s true. You have to have belief, and a program. You have to look away from the big foe and focus instead on the world and philosophy and programs you imagine.
Because familiarity doesn’t only breed contempt, it can breed content. Because if you’re going to turn away from him, you’d better be turning toward a plan, and the Democrats don’t appear to have one.
Peggy – the Democrats have one. Actually they have a couple of versions of it. First, you have the DLC’s American Dream Initiative. Secondly, You have Rahm Emanuel’s and Bruce Reed’s (two more from the DLC) The Plan – Big Ideas for America, containing the same basic concepts as the former but fleshed out a bit more extensively.
Second on the list of conservatives creeping towards the center is the enigma known as Joe Scarborough. A former congressman from Florida who took office in the “Republican Revolution” of 1994, Scarborough is currently the host of the program Scarborough Country on MSNBC where lately he has had less than kind words to say about the Republican party. In fact, he has called himself a “Libertarian” several times since 2004.
In a piece appearing in Washinton Monthly, Scarborough asserts today’s Republican party has less self control than the amount Bill Clinton was thought to have (or not have) by the GOP in the 1990s.
When The Washington Monthly reached me at my office recently, a voice on the other side of the line meekly asked if I would ever consider writing an article supporting the radical proposition that Republicans should get their brains beaten in this fall.
“Count me in!” was my chipper response. I also seem to remember muttering something about preferring an assortment of Bourbon Street hookers running the Southern Baptist Convention to having this lot of Republicans controlling America’s checkbook for the next two years.
Maybe that’s because right-wing, knuckle-dragging Republicans like myself took over Congress in 1994 promising to balance the budget and limit Washington’s power. We were a nasty breed and had no problem blaming Bill and Hillary Clinton for everything from the exploding federal deficit to male pattern baldness. I suspected then, as I do now, that Hillary Clinton herself had something to do with “Love, American Style” and “Joanie Loves Chachi.” And why not blame her? Back then, Newt Gingrich felt comfortable blaming the drowning of two little children on Democratic values. Hell. It was 1994. It just seemed like the thing to do.
The terminally rumpled Dick Armey (R-Whiskey Gulch) even went so far as to suggest that the Clintons might be Marxists, drawing an angry personal rebuke from Bubba himself. But 12 years later, it is Armey’s fellow Republicans who should be sobered by the short and ugly history of Republican Supremacy.
And I can’t let an opportunity to discuss Ann Coulter pass. She has a piece out this morning titled, “If Only Bin Laden Had a Stained Blue Dress…” in which she repeats the myth that Bill Clinton turned down Sudan’s offer of Osama Bin Laden in 1996 and ridicules Democrats’ desire to capture the man responsible for 3000 American deaths.
So taking a cue from the title of her piece, “if only Bin Laden had a stained blue dress,” Republicans would still want him “dead or alive.” But he doesn’t. He has blood stained dresses. And shirts. And pants.