The Freedman syndrome.
Thomas Freedman sounds down right cheery:
There's an interesting phenominon with guys like Freedman and Freed Zakaria (and Nicholas Christof probably fits here as well). They are, all three, exceedingly intelligent guys (unlike, for example, Maureen "Bush baaaaaaad!!!!!" Dowd). They all make, from time to time, very valid points which support the conservative cause. But, whether out of a lack of chutspa or an entrapment in their own left-of-center paradigm, all three always see the edge, and instead of courageously making the jump, reel back drunkenly onto the solid ground of center-left orthodoxy. You can observe this phenominon both in Freedman's Classic _The Lexis and the Olive Tree_ and in Zakaria's provocative read _The Future of Freedom_. Both, at different times, have written rather silly things about Iraq for popular consumption. Now however, Freedman seems to be turning rosey again. How long will it be before he sees the edge again, and reels back in horror? Let's call this the Freedman syndrome.
Now, I want to talk about a right-wing Freedman syndrome, and it involves immigration. There's been a lot of talk among libertarians and palioconservatives about "big government conservatives". However much some of this seems to be hysterical over-reaction to Bush's triangulation, we must admit that, on immigration, they have a point. When right-wing staples like NRO begin running stories slamming corporations left and right, talking up protectionism and railing against Bush's hispanic outreach, we've got to wonder just what ideological stripe we're talking about here. I'm not one to advocate total libertarianism: I feel the conservative movement has prospered as a result of our alliance with traditionalists, and that libertarians are a bit soft on defense. Yet libertarianism is a critical element of conservatism on economics at least. When I here conservatives talking about government cracking down on corporations, government deporting people to "protect" the American worker, government militarizing the border (thereby taking troops away from the theaters where they can probably do more good), I start to wonder when we'll see the edge of the nannhy-state jump, and pull back? Yes, there are valid national security concerns with the immigration issue. But seriously, is it in the national security interests of the United States for our government to be rounding up Mexican waitresses? Can't we make a distinction between those who want to work and those who want to blow up buildings? We're only one of the most advanced societies on the planet after all. Certainly, there are many complications and intricacies to the immigration debate, too many to discuss all in this post. I'll even grant that the european debate is currently of a far different stripe than that here in the States. But as we broach the issue, is it too much to ask that we at least be aware of the Freedman syndrome?
Have you heard of Jeff Gannon? If not, don't worry, you're not alone. Aside from a few conservatives who visit sites like GOPUSA and a dedicated fringe of nutty leftwingers looking to reduplicate Watergate in the second Bush administration, not many people have. Gannon was, so the story goes, a rather under-qualified journalist working for, ***gasp***, a highly partisan news outfit (as if the name GOPUSA didn't give you a big fat clue about that). Worse yet, Gannon had access to Bush administration press conferences, and asked ***gasp*** administration-friendly questions (again, see the name of his website perhaps). Now, the uproar over Gannon was started by a group calling itself Media Matters. MM is a "liberal media watchdog group". To decode this for you, any failure to obsess over the failings of Bush or conservatives on the part of the media, any moderately negative comment on Democrats, any piece which hints that the world might not explode after four more years of Bush, is proof positive of a conservative media bias. Excuse me if I don't take them that seriously. Anyway, it turns out that this Gannon lied about his name and is not, in fact, a Gannon at all, but is rather named Guckert or some such.
So, a rather hum-drum teapot scandal: a less than qualified journalist who falsifies his name to get into the press room. Is this troubling? Well moderately, yes. We really don't want random folks pretending to be people they are not in the same room with our president during war time. Conservatives should perhaps be a little agitated on this score: just anyone seems able to waltz into the press room and get a day pass, though this is quite common, if Byran York's piece at NRO DT (subscription required so not linked) is any indicator. One could make an argument for tightening up the cridentials process, though one would probably be accused of limiting free speech with draconian violations of civil liberties by the very same people now flipping out about Gannon/Guckert/whoever. But leftist hypocrisy is just par for the course. And perhaps the fact that the left is more upset than the right about this goes beyond simple "gotcha" partisanship. After all, we conservatives have been sinical about the media for years. "A partisan newsman" we might think "so what: aren't they all?" Liberals really do believe that journalists are objective, mainly because they tell the left what it wants to hear. So partisanship bothers them a good deal. Now, many conservatives have a similar blindspot with, say, Fox News. I'll admit that it's a bit more conservative than the obviously left-of-center networks which make up the entire rest of the TV news ensemble, CSPAN possibly excluded. Do I watch Fox: yeah, because frankly, I'd rather have center to center-right journalism, and because I appreciate my TV newscasters being able to say things like "We're praying for the troops" without qualms. If leftists want a slant to their news, fair enough. Now, I don't hold with forgeries, ala Dan Rather's national guard memmos, or wild alegations about our troops, ala Esan Jordan. But what is Gannon/Guckert if not a sadly too common example of journalism blindly paroting one side or another? To be biased is human nature. To (as they are accused of doing) look for a known friendly face in the audience is pure politics.
And yet, there's another element to this story, and a shameful one at that. You see, it would seem that Gannon/Guckert is gay, and has been involved in the production of gay pornography. Again, is this troubling? Well, yes it is. I really don't hold with gay porn (or any porn) myself: it seems, and keep in mind that this is a blind man talking, like a degrading practice really. But what does it have to do with the rest of the story? The left claims that it underlines the right's "hypocrisy". After all, those nasty right-wing fundamentalist Christian homophobes benefited from a gay journalist. Why, how dare they! Of course, one can imagine the outrage if Gannon had been fired from Tallon News because of his homosexuality, though this would be consistent with the above leftist caricatures. So, if Gannon is fired, it's a typical example of the right's intolerance (same if he is not hired as a result of his orientation), but if he is not fired because he's gay, it's hypocrisy. Seems like a no-win situation to me. Now Gannon has also been "outed" by some gay activists, in a pattern reminiscent of certain truly low behavior in the last election cycle as regards gay Republican staffers. As one whom the ueber-politically correct inteligencia would probably label as a "right-wing fundamentalist and homophobe" (believing in a higher power seems to get one such a designation these days), I've got a real problem with "outing". Yes I believe that homosexuality is wrong, and I'm not a big fan of gay marriage though I can't see keeping same-sex partners from basic hospital visitation, will bequest domestic partner stuff. Basically, I don't feel homosexuality should be institutionalized, but neither should homosexuals face discrimination. And I don't like having homosexuality shoved down my church's throat by a bunch of narrow-minded ideological activists who try to brainwash kids at national church youth gatherings (personal experience) or deny pastors calls because they disagree with their viewpoints (acquaintances of mine). So call me moderately conservative on these issues. That being said, I really don't think it's the business of governments or employers, and certainly not of disgusting political hacks claiming to be "gay activists", to be dipping into people's sex lives. If they do their work compitently and don't make an issue of it such that it creates a hostile working environment in some way, leave it alone. I think this is a fairly common position among conservatives, though it's probably not universal. I'm sure some people would like more discrimination against homosexuals, but it's hardly a universal. Given this, I find it supremely ironic that, instead of recognizing the fact that conservatives opposed to gay marriage don't discriminate against gays in hiring as a signifier of the good intentions of their opposition, LGBT activists and leftist hacks like Marcos "screw them" Melitzas use this to try to ruin the lives of the very gay people they're claiming to speak for, all in the name of scoring cheap political points. Were I gay, this kind of thing would royally piss me off.
So back to Gannon. Are there elements of concern here? Yep, there probably are. Is this, as some snarky trolls on www.grassrootspa.com with more arrogant bravado than intellect have speculated, a scandal big enough to bring down the GOP? Nope, probably not. Obsessing over one fake journalist does not an electoral majority make, so of course, I sincerely hope, from a ruthless political standpoint, that they keep it up. Frankly though, repeated snarky references to the homosexuality of said fake journalist makes the speaker appear to be, for want of a better word, an ass. Gannongate seems to say more about the desperate and pathological need of the left to make up scandals in the Bush administration (to compensate for those of the last administration perhaps?) than it does about Bushist plots to "corrupt the media" or conservative "hypocrisy". We conservatives have some experience with midterm elections. In 1994, conservatives used victories against Hillary care (this was back before Mrs. Clinton had a policy-making mandate) as a springboard to put forward an agenda which launched them into majorities in the house and senate for the first time in forty years. Conversely, in 1998, Republicans allowed Clinton hatred and impeachment bloodlust to cloud our message, thereby putting that majority in jeopardy. Happily Gannongate is indicative of a tendency on the Democrats toward the 1998 model. As far as I'm concerned, that's absolutely fine.
Friends in the blogosphere.
It seems that some friends of mine are getting in on the blogging act. Chris Morgan, a buddy of mine from Messiah currently at Oxford with me, has just started one on conservative economic philosophy. It's here:
I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Nathan Harig's good conservative blog. Nathan's a high school chum who'll be rockin' the boat. Nathan's here:
Yes Nathan, I expect a nice visible link on your site in return.
Of course, there's always
who's an alumn of my college (I won't tell you how many years back though we were never there at the same time) and an all-around good guy. I'm trying to persuade a few more friends, comrades and even family members (my mom, for example, would make a really good blogger, but I'm not sure I want ***that*** kind of competition). I'll have a post for you all on the Gannon scandal (not that you probably care, but it'll be fun...I promise...) in a bit.
Revolution amongst the cedars.
If I were Stateside, or had a bit better internet connection, this would likely not be my first post here on Lebanon. Some of you who know me might remember a time (about two years ago) when I was quite Lebanon-obsessed. That's never totally gone away, though I've been more focussed on places like Sub-saharan Africa and Latin America of late. It's a complex and difficult to understand place, not unlike the rest of the region. The main reason for this is that everyone keeps switching sides. Back when groups like this:
made up my daily reading, Rafik Hariri and Walid Jumblatt were staunch defenders of Syria. Hariri was certainly not the darling of neoconservatives, and Jumblatt (deservedly) had scorn heaped upon him for some rather racist comments he made about then National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. Jumblatt has called Pierre Jemayel, founder of the lebanese Falanj (a rather rightist party representing Lebanon's maronite Christians) a fascist who trained under Hitler. If you thought Kerry was a flip-flopper, the man ain't got nothing on Jumblatt. And apparently, since some time last year, he's felt the wind blowing the opposition's way. Of course, Hariri's perhaps a bit different. First and foremost, he's a businessman, trying to get Lebanon out of debt. Yet, apparently something snapped with him too, for he's now a martyr to the anti-Syrian cause. Now, the traditionally Christian opposition seems to have some non-sectarian support, and Bashar is feeling the heat. The ineptitude of the Hariri assassination is staggering, not least because of it's timing right before a "mending fences" visit from President Bush to Europe. One of the few things the french agree with Bush on is a belief that Syria should be out of Lebanon. (Indeed, it's interesting to wonder what France's reaction would have been had it been Syria, not Iraq, which Bush pressed to invade). Now, Assad has given Bush and Chirac the pretext they both need to paper over their differences and unite against a common enemy: him.
Which has led, of course, to lots of Middle Eastern paranoia about how the Israelis are behind the assassination. To understand this, you've got to realize the history of Lebanon (particularly during the civil war) was one of really really strange bedfellows. Former spook Robert Baer even speculated in his book _See No Evil_ of an alliance between radical shiah militia Hezzbolla and the falanjists of the Lebanese Forces. One man, Eli Hobika, seems to have worked (according to his bodyguard at least) for Israeli intelligence then, subsequently, for the syrians. So, when you've got such a conspiracy-laden environment, why not finger an unlikely culpret like Israel? Well, because the Israelis aren't quite good enough at that game. Israel tends to do things in an appallingly "We don't like you, stop doing what you're doing or we'll kill you...oops, you didn't stop, here's a missile" fashion. If the Israelis would just do their killing covertly and let it appear as if someone else was doing it (EG, play the regional game), perhaps they wouldn't be so reviled? No, but it is an interesting thought. No, the MO is much more Bashar's He's incompitent really, when it comes down to it. One could speculate that his father never would have made the kinds of mistakes that he's making, and one would probably be right. But if, as some commentators have speculated, Bashar's trying to run things in Lebanon himself, much about the ineptitude of the assassination might be explained.
So, it would seem, it begins. And for Lebanon junkies like me, it's going to be fun to (hopefully) watch her slip out from the clutches of Syria.
On cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.
Alright, in the interest of full disclosure, if it were up to me, Arlen Spector would be playing golf right now. I worked for Toomey,I voted for Toomey, I had the inevitable "Can I go out there and work for the President who just torpedoed my man" crisis of faith on April 28. But you know what? I did go out there and work for Bush, because the thought of John Kerry as commander-in-chief makes me ill, and because, for all his flaws from a conservative perspective, I like Bush. I didn't vote for Spector even on election day, pulling the lever instead for Constitution party challenger Jim Clymer, and this despite differences with Clymer on Iraq. Yep, it was a protest vote. Yep, I wouldn't have minded seeing Spector go down, even to that liberal wank Joe Hoeffel, though thought of him in the senate was a somewhat nausiating prospect. After all, Toomey could always give him a bludgening in 2010.
Now, with that said, I've been having an incredibly frustrating time over on http://www.grassrootspa.com Chris Lilik's great site for PA conservatives. The topic of Santorum has come up, and everyone wants to "pay him back" for supporting Spector.
Sorry, but no. Does anybody, besides William Buckley, remember Barry Goldwater's endorsement of Jacob Javitz, a liberal Republican from New York? Did conservatives bolt from Goldwater? Never have, and probably never will, even despite his ambivalence on the abortion and same-sex marriage questions. Likewise, who was it that nominated liberal Sandra Day OConnore to the Supreme Court, thereby extending (possibly) the longevity of Roe Vs. Wade? Here's a hint, it was a recently-departed and much-beloved Republican President of whom conservatives (rightly) do not speak ill. Keep this in mind when you accuse Santorum of "preserving Roe": Kennedy and OConnore, who supported the partially Roe-affirming decision in Planned Parenthood V. Casey, were appointed by Ronald Reagan. Of course, Reagan also gave us Skalia. Has Santorum done anything to count as a Skalia, which might counter his Spector-supporting?
Well, where should I start. How quickly have we forgotten Santorum's willingness to stick his kneck out and criticize Lawrence V. Texas (written by a Reagan justice, just to hammer the point home)? Have we forgotten his succinct statement of the slippery slope argument, earning him the eternal hatred of the Human Rights Campaign and other GLBT agitators? Have we forgotten his work on behalf of the Partial Birth Abortion ban and other legislation to restrict abortion? How quickly we forget. And let's turn away from strictly social issue stuff. Which Republican senator has a record of tireless advocacy for the persecuted church worldwide? That's right, Santorum. Which Republican senator co-sponsored the Syria Accountability Act, designed to get those medalsome Syrians out of Lebanon, thereby cutting down on terrorism in the region? Santorum again. And these are just things off the top of my head. No, Santorum hasn't always been with us. He has a reputation for a tad bit of protectionism where steel tariffs are concerned. But on the whole, Rick Santorum has been with us about...well, to quote the American Conservative Union, 89 percent of the time. Heck, Allan Keyes wouldn't speek ill of Santorum at the pastor's briefing they did together in Harrisburg last summer, and Keyes is a little too conservative even for me.
What Santorum did to Toomey was a crying shame. Should he maybe walk on hot coals a bit for PA conservatives? Probably couldn't hurt. Should he do everything in his power to rein in the supremely arrogant senior senator from Pennsylvania? Well, yeah, Santorum saved Spector's bacon, and if Spector doesn't deliver Santorum the RINO Philli burbs, Santorum can justly take the old weasel out to the woodshed. Even if Santorum doesn't do these things, should we support him? Yes, because one case of bad political judgment doesn't erase a career during which Santorum was with us far more than he was against us. And if you think there's a chance this side of the eschaton that Democrats will come up with someone we like better, I've got a bridge in Brooklynn to sell...
Wednesday evening update: it's just come to my attention that Santorum plans to...introduce a bill which will...increase the...minimum wage. Why Rick why!?!?!? For those of us who've been trying to repair your conservative creds, this a serious slap in the face. This (economics) is Santorum's weakest (read least conservative) area. To quote Howard Dean AARGH!!! So, I guess I'll be focussing on the Swann campaign...
Screamin' Dean in 2006.
So Howard Dean is to be the new chairman of the DNC. My immediate reactions are two-fold: good for Republicans, bad for conservatives. The Republicans might just have had serious reason to fear come 2006. After all, some have reasoned, Bush's electoral luck has to run out sometime, and midterms during a President's second term tend to be that time, or so says the "conventional wisdom". (Of course, there was that little boost Clinton got in 1998, but we wouldn't want to get in the way of "conventional wisdom" now would we)? Now, beating Bush and company is no mean feat, as John Kerry found out. Rove and Melmann know how to put together a winning organization, and Melmann will bring those organizational skills to the table. A hardened campaigner and tough organizer is what a party needs in a chairman, not a grandstander out of touch with the mainstream. Sadly, that's exactly what the Democrats have gotten in Dean. Daily Cos agitprop-manufacturer extraordinair Marcos
may think Dean's the best thing since sliced bread, but Cos "screw them" comments, directed at dead contracters in Iraq, don't speek well for his mainstream tendencies. In other words, Cos' endorsement revs the base, but doesn't reach out to anyone right of Kennedy. Can Dean translate the rage and energy of the mad deaniacs into electoral victory? Well, let's look at some big races coming up in 2006. There's North Dakota for one: Kent Conrad will likely face popular GOP governor John Hoven. Will Howard Dean convince north Dakotans to retain a man who shares his party? Not far away, Minnesota's Mark Daton is retiring, leaving an open seat for which Republican rising star Mark Kennedy is set to run. The Democrat field will be a crowdid one. Will Howard Dean help the winner? Then there's West Virginia. Robert Bird is getting old, and he may actually be about due for retirement. Dean does not help here. Virginia's got a goovernatorial race this year. Will Dean's "reaching out to guys with confederate flags on their pick-up trucks" play in Virginia? Let's think about that. Bill Nelson's up in Florida, and the governor's mantion is open. Will Dean help in this red-trending state? And then, of course, there's my home state of Pennsylvania. Ed Rendell, a governor up for reelection, has already given Dean a back-off warning glare, in the form of comments regarding the Vermont doctor's "trash and burn" tactics. And the Democrats really really want to topple Rick Santorum. To do that, they need to erode his social conservative base (good luck Doc) and swing the skiddish blue-blood suburbs of Philladelphia decisively into their column. Now, the thing about the RINO suburbs (as we Repubs not-so-affectionately call them) is that they don't like the boat rocked too badly. A candidate lost a congressional race down there at least in part because of her open support for Fahrenheit 9-11. So Screamin' Dean might not play so well there, and I suspect Rendell and the PA Democrats will keep him at arms length.
So, at the best, Dean is ineffective and kept at arms length by state chairs. At worst, he'll actually hurt them in some key races. Yet, as a conservative, I'm not so keen on Dean. There was a time when a conservative just might be at home in the Democratic party. Beginning with the black-listing of Bob Casey senior at the 1992 convention, Democrats have been purging the last conservative elements from their party. Now, it seems, they're working on the moderates. I remember a certain conservative senator from Arizona was reputed to have pushed his party to the right, and the consensus of the country with him. The seeds of Republican victory were arguably sewn with Goldwater's 1964 defeat, and consolidated when a conservative appealed to the best in all Americans with an optimistic message of patriotism. So I'm worried about Dean, because he sets the stage for someone else. And no, it's not the oportunistic Hillary, who tacks left or right at the slightest hint of a breeze. I'll give you a hint, his last name begins with an O, and the rest rhymes with mama.
Cudos to Erlich
From the Washington Times:
Possible VP material? Or perhaps Steel could challenge one of the Dem senators?