Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fareed Zakaria’s “The End of Conservatism”

I love Fareed and Thomas Friedman not just because they confirm my bias most times but because sometimes they do not, and when they don’t they deny me in a way that is void of party politics and hyperbolic rhetoric. I also have been known to learn a thing or two from them. So… When I saw Fareed’s piece at Newsweek online I had a bit of a start. Certainly Fareed has not sided with the 24 hour cable news pundits. That would be crushing. Or perhaps I was wrong and he was right? Scared of either outcome I read on. It turns out that Fareed’s shorter than normal piece is kind of a musing rather than anything else.

Fareed starts out with the accounts of a Bush insider who is writing a book defending Bush and his policies and makes some good points. But that certainly doesn’t spell the end of Conservatism? He goes on about how “conservatives” are voting for McCain. Hmmm, not really Fareed. They are voting republican and McCain is the most Republican. You see Fareed even a great mind like your own forgets that Republican and Conservative is not interchangeable. He commits this error in the first sentence! “Conservatives are a gloomy bunch at the moment. Many believe that their party—the Republican Party—has lost its way and that it has done so by abandoning its principles. You see Fareed’s assumption here is that Conservatives own the Republican party. We do not. He also assumes that as GW Bush is the de facto head of the Republican party for a time he is also for a time the head of the Conservative Movement. He is not.

Conservatives have not had a politician as a leader since Reagan. And to be fair, Reagan was not absolutely conservative. Only in hind sight do we see that he was the most important conservative leader of our time but by no means the conservative messiah. He was not the embodiment of conservative principles. But he was close. Certainly the closest of my generation.

So how can Fareed infer that because of McCain and Bush being the head and temporary head of the Republican party that the Conservative Movement is dead? Only by assuming that the Party and the Movement are inextricably linked. Again with much respect, he is wrong.

Conservatives are at a crossroads and we are in effect defining ourselves. (Not “re” defining ourselves. The principles of the movement have always been there. Conservatism is a priori. ) The world is seeing that Conservatives are not just Republicans and that we are not necessarily white Christians. Now, if you are wagering that the next conservative to come through the door will be a white Christian that would still be a good bet. But more and more conservatives are defining what we are and what we are not. We are casting off stereotypes that have haunted us and revising flawed policy. This distinction between us and the Republican Party is what is being confused as “the end.”

You see, the Conservative Movement has pushed the Republican Party for a long time. But it is not the only influence. Christian and Social Conservatives have also done some pushing. And modifying Conservative with “Christian” or “Social” makes one something other than a true Conservative. Your heart may belong to God but when it comes time to render unto Caesar your ass belongs to the Movement. And unfortunately on issues like abortion and gay marriage the opposite has been true. There is no way you can call for less government intrusion and call for a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. There is no way a rights minded conservative that understands the meaning of “slippery slope” will be for any federal mandates or influence on abortion. And don’t even get me started on Federalism and education or immigration!

These issues are being discussed like never before. Conservatives are not coming to an end we are actually streamlining and defining what we are. The next logical step is that we remove from the Movement the modifiers. Modifiers are fine in a political party but you are either a conservative or something else. I welcome with open arms the Social Conservatives and Christian Conservatives and the Security Conservatives, all three legs of Rush Limbaugh flawed conservative stool/table, to the Republican Party but there is only room for true conservatives to lead the Movement. I know this is tough for some to hear. I am sure Rush would call me Judas for my notions on abortion or gay marriage. Or, maybe Rush knows that abortion is a State’s Rights issue and gay marriage was a useful tool for Rove in ‘04 that never had a chance to be law but is ultimately bad for the country. Which ever it is we shall see.

So, Fareed’s eye catching title did its work. I immediately clicked that link and read what he had to say. On this subject however he is off the mark. Conservatism is much broader than any party and is not tied to the failures or successes of that party. Conservatism is what Conservatism is, a movement, an ideology, a values system. And neither McCain nor Bush can do permanent damage to it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Guns don't kill people... Bombs don't kill people... SUVs don't kill people...

It’s coming. Just wait a bit.

After the obligatory waiting period of a week or two the attack on “Guns” will begin. I was living in Ireland when the VA Tech shooting took place. The Europeans moved from condolences to contempt after about a week. “Gun Culture” was the preferred narrative or catch phrase. It won’t be long before the assault on guns begins here at home.

Soon after the Virginia murders I wrote a hasty piece for my blog you can find that here (please excuse the many typos and poor grammar). When the blame begins please note the amount of attention given to “guns” or other gun related equipment rather than the person who pulled the trigger. This is done sometimes on purpose and I suspect most often subconsciously. Because it is easier to attack something that has no voice like “guns” or "bombs" or "SUVs" and difficult to confront something that does, “people,” debaters will take the easy route and unfortunately address the symptom with much more rigor than the actual problem.

The problems of mental health, youth violence and desensitization will take an unfortunate back-seat to besmearing the availability of lawfully gained guns and accessories. The same ridiculous notion that more regulation of lawfully gained guns will somehow reduce gun crime will be explored and emotion rather than fact and reason will take precedent. The fact that lawfully gained firearms are rarely involved in any crime will not be brought up or will be poorly represented. The fact that outlawing guns will only result in criminals having guns will be ignored or poorly represented. The fact that lawfully carried firearms reduce crime will be ridiculed and belittled with no facts to back up the slighting of these truisms. And most disturbing of all politicians will call for more "gun" regulation, addressing the symptom, rather than more understanding of "people" and the reasons they kill, the problem.

It’s coming…just wait.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Nancy Pelosi goes NEGATIVE

While my mind struggles between a bad choice (McCain) and uneasy choice (Obama) I am once again reminded of the stakes. Nancy Pelosi on CNN’s late edition told Wolf Blitzer that the surge is a “failure.” She sights the same thing we hear from all the liberal candidates that the surge was supposed to provide the time and space necessary for Iraq’s government to bring political change and to reconcile, which is partially true. Any student of history knows that six months of surge is not sufficient enough time for lasting reconciliation or real political change, for that matter neither is five years enough. These lofty goals will be the work of decades, if not centuries.

The surge was never designed to work in six months. It was designed to quell the violence enough for these goals of political change and reconciliation of religious sects to BEGIN. Not to be successful in total. Also mentioned are “benchmarks” that the Iraq government must achieve.

A list of benchmarks is great but if unrealistic deadlines are set it is only a list of failures that never had a chance. You can set as a goal loosing twenty pounds this week but you have no realistic chance of achieving it. You can set as a goal losing twenty pounds over the next two months and then only eat bacon cheese burgers and have no realistic chance of achieving it. Setting goals is easy, it’s the achievement of these goals that is hard.

What Pelosi is counting on is that you are stupid or very uninformed or so invested in defeat that you will believe anything to protect that investment. She doesn’t care that “Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an ‘extraordinary crisis’. Last year's mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military ‘created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight’. The terrorist group's security structure suffered ‘total collapse’” according to the TimesOnline’s Martin Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher is quoting Abu Tariq an al Qaeda leader in Iraq. No, Nancy Pelosi and those like her will not bring this up. They can’t retain power or get elected on the truth because they have invested in defeat.

What Pelosi will do is summarily suggest “failure” and hope that you believe her, or even grow tired of hearing it and elect a leader that just makes it all go away. It is tempting to be that person. It is tempting to be a republican or democrat and just want it all to go away. I know I struggle with it. But it will not go away without the US finishing what it started. The Iraq investment is like a 30 year mortgage on your house. Nancy Pelosi treats it like a five year car loan.

My admonition to you this election cycle is not a particular candidate but rather a particular mindset. A mindset that questions defeatist language and holds political leaders to the truth. Not the truth as we want it to be but the truth as it actually is. You can find this truth by doing your own due dilligence and research. It is not just your civic duty to vote but to be an informed voter. Nancy Pelosi hopes on the other hand that you remain ignorant and accept “failure.”