Thursday, October 02, 2008


Fair warning - this is probably going to piss people off.

This morning's news surf led me to an interesting "Open Letter to Sarah Palin" from The American Conservative. Some excerpts:
Conservatives have faith in you. Don’t fail them as George W. Bush has.

You see what happened: the president’s entire domestic agenda collapsed under the weight of his failed foreign policy. Social Security reform stalled. Pro-lifers became political orphans. And whatever gains Bush’s tax cuts secured were wiped out by record spending. Everything was subordinated to the war on terror.

. . .

Here’s a hint: don’t believe everything you read in the papers, especially if the byline is Kristol or Krauthammer. Russia is not an expansionist, ideological empire. It’s a traditional, semi-authoritarian great power intent on preserving its influence in its own backyard and its prestige on the world stage. That’s why Russia intercedes in the domestic disputes of unruly states on its periphery. Putin balks at Poland hosting our antimissile systems for the same reason we would bristle at Cuba or Mexico receiving Chinese antitank missiles.

. . . .

Then there’s the Middle East, where only American arms (and lives) can prevent little Israel from being swept into the sea by Muslim hordes. Surely that’s what AIPAC told you that night you left Phyllis cooling her heels. But again, it isn’t true. Israel has nuclear weapons, for one thing, and can outfight her neighbors even without resort to atom bombs. Israel’s problem isn’t external threat so much as internal security and demographics. When the Jewish state was founded, tens of thousands of Palestinians—Christians as well as Muslims—lost their homes. Palestine was no wide-open Alaskan frontier: when the newcomers moved in, Arabs were moved out, often by force. . . .

While your minders probably don’t put much stock in his work, University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape has shown that suicide terrorism develops almost always among occupied peoples. The task before the Israelis is not to defend themselves against aggressive neighbors but to give justice to the Palestinians already in their midst—to suppress terrorism without suppressing civil liberties and human rights, which only leads to more bloodshed.

. . .

Despite all the briefing books being thrown at you, you know your own mind—and you realize that the neoconservative agenda doesn’t square with your worldview. You prize localism, their vision is grandiose. You value fiscal discipline, neocons will ruin the country to finance endless war. You honor life, and they think nothing of killing hundreds of thousands in the service of ideology. But they’ll tell you this alien vision—imported from the Left—is coherent and conservative.

It is neither, but your supporters are both. They’ve turned against this war and definitely don’t want another. Yet your running mate does. Perhaps you’ve noticed that his interest in domestic policy pales alongside his foreign-policy ambitions. Or maybe you caught his virtuoso performance of “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

I find it interesting because of my own political evolution. See, I'm primarily fiscally conservative, and socially liberal, with a few caveats: 1) Fiscal conservativism does not mean fiscal Darwinism where the individual is concerned - I'm not willing to watch people die for the lack of the basics. Sometimes it's also more cost effective to have programs step in before it gets that far - assisting a family to stay in the middle class rather than degenerating into poverty. However, I'm not willing to subsidize where there's no effort to get out of the system. 2) Socially liberal does not mean anarchy - people should be able to do as they like, but not force it on others. Let 'em watch whatever porn and crap they like on TV, but allow those who don't want access an easy, instant, foolproof way to block all of it from coming into their home. Let homosexuals marry and adopt kids, but no one to sexually harass or abuse a child in any way. These are just a few examples.

So I float between parties, not picking and choosing agendas so much as issues. For a while, I was more Republican. They were all about instituting some controls on the social programs to rein in abuse. I hated the social conservativism, but dealt with it. I figured we put some Democrats in to balance it, and they can't do much harm.

Then Bush came along, and it went to hell in a handbasket. First, the war. I did agree we had sufficient grounds to go into Iraq, equating Hussein's noncompliance with inspections to a probation violation. But I wanted to see us use the UN and allies. Not so much. Okay, it might be too important to wait . . . then I find we've been fed a bunch of exaggerations and made our decisions off that. Well, maybe it was simply human error.

Then I find us in the position of rubberstamping searches without any probable cause whatsoever, not even retroactively. Searches that require no level of connection at all - not even "reasonable suspicion" which can basically be equated to "I had a hunch." WTF? Okay, I'm not liking this. And I saw Bush start to claim "executive privilege" in a scope that eclipsed even Nixon's wildest claims. Power to the executive seemed to become a mantra. Concerns were brushed aside, reasonable (read: legal) compromises were pooh-poohed. - it's in your own best interest, do you want the terrorists to come back? I watched as the deficit spending swelled to epic proportions, beyond what it was when the social programs I'd hoped would be tweaked were in full force. But it's for national security, so hey. And are we seriously having conversations about torture being for the greater good? What is this, the Spanish inquisition? And why the hell are we not paying more attention to Afghanistan?

Then I noticed that all that talk about reining in abuses of the system - well, that didn't really happen much. Think back - have you heard any big measures passed on that since the Welfare Reform of . . . holy crap, was that 1995?! I just googled it, and it looks like this was a Clinton law. Moment of surreality here. Moving on. No, what I saw in the past eight years were business regulations being relaxed and bankruptcy being tightened, and credit penalties being enhanced. Not much about fixing abuses, more about loosening business restrictions. Hm. There were some tax cuts, which was cool. But now the businesses appear to be in a tad bit of trouble. Perhaps the tightening of the noose on the consumer correlating with the loosening of restrictions on business wasn't such a good idea after all. And the tax cuts in light of the huge-ass spending increases seem a bit irresponsible. And as for the earmarks everyone's talking about - what, eight years wasn't long enough to fix them? I think back to all the stuff I saw on the Republican side eight years ago (recall I was too busy with a whole boatload of relatives dying in 2004 to give a crap about the elections), and I see most of it has been jettisoned due to the war.

Now it's election time again, and both parties are vying for the vote. Only this time, the Republican promises to rein in big government seem a tad disingenuous. Call me jaded, but I'm not seeing it. National security? I don't feel safe so much as bullied.

Which is why I find this conservative article so interesting. I can agree with about 60% of it. Not the pro-life stuff, I believe that's something we shouldn't make illegal as make unnecessary. Except for any of those late-term "I changed my mind" scenarios which one side says are common and the other says never happen - so why not allow them to be banned? The fiscal conservative stuff - I'm not sure what brand of "fiscal conservatism" they're talking, so I don't know. But most of the rest, that's spot on.

So I guess I'm interested in seeing more from these guys. We'll never agree on the social stuff, and I'm sorry, but I think your letter is wasted on Palin. But it's refreshing to hear Republicans calling out the elephant in the corner. It gives me hope that one day I'll again have a choice between two parties whose policies I find rational and I can pick and choose based on who has better plan, not just advocate against positions I find untenable.

Curious side note: I found the link to the article on Talk Left, rather than any of the Republican-leaning sites I peruse.

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