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Monday, November 23, 2009

If Only There Were a Serious Candidate

OK. so not quite a weekly feature, but a continuing series of takedowns of Ross Douthat's musings in the 'paper of record.' Douthat bemoans the failure of both Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee to spend the off-years boning up on serious policy. Instead, they've turned their time on the national stage into an opportunity for celebrity and not a viable political future.

Because, as we all know, Republicans only nominate folks serious about domestic and foreign policy to be president. Folks like John ("Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran") McCain, George W. ("Freedom!") Bush, the elder Bush (late convert to "voodoo economics"), and, of course, Ronaldus Magnus or whatever ridiculous name they ascribe to him these days. I would add that neither Barry Goldwater nor Eisenhower strikes me as a policy wonk. Nixon, well, Nixon, I'd let him have that label. Sure. But he's not anyone's favorite Republican, now, is he? And I give passes to Bob Dole and Jerry Ford. Also, Dewey. I'm guessing he was wonkish. But maybe that's the moustache.

Is Douthat making the classic pundit mistake of thinking that only someone who pleases him (and thus agrees with him) can be successful in U.S. politics? One is tempted to call this a rookie mistake, but since Broder still engages in it, maybe it is a past master level mistake.

And am I alone, in never having heard of these policy entrepreneurs mentioned in the column?

4 Comments:

At 11:09 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Douthat and Brooks are in this weird GOP rump that still imagines conservatism to be and to have been a serious intellectual movement. And compared to today's sad crop of cons, it might once have been.

That said, the old cons weren't exactly brilliant theorists or social critics. Russell Kirk was an elegant writer, a skilled myth maker, but an utterly mundane thinker. Hayek was a serious economist, but an awful social critic: he thought the defining attribute of Nazism was that it socialized property, while never mentioning race/nationalism, etc. Richard Weaver was a real thinker, but his political instincts (moralistic neo-confederate in the 1940s and 50s) were awful. And then there's Buckley, a true force of personality with wit and panache. But have you ever looked at God and Man At Yale? Yeeesh. A theocratic whine.

Palin and Huck certainly represent a collapse in quality control, but the original product suffered from fatal design flaws. Its rise to power with Reagan had less to do with its own virtues than with liberalism's long, slow drift into fatigue and factionalism. Reagan benefited from a Carter fed chair and a long-coming Soviet collapse for which he merits little credit, save his skill in riding the final wave (via liberal diplomacy, not rightist saber rattling).

Which is, ironically, a ray of hope for the GOP. They probably don't need much intellectual cred to stage a comeback. Just a well timed liberal implosion. If that happens, however, they will need someone smarter than Huck or Palin. Smart money is still on Romney as the 2012 nominee, but I'd bet Obama still knocks him around in the general.

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 3:22 PM, Blogger odahleen said...

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Huckabee granted clemency when he was governor of Arkansas to Maurice Clemmons, the chief suspect in the murders of four law enforcement officers in Washington state. Could Clemmons be Huckabee's Willie Horton?

 
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