Tag: Conservative Politics (Page 1 of 2)

Yes, Reagan Republicans, neoconservatives and #NeverTrump-ers are conservative

Is Donald Trump a conservative? Are neoconservatives conservatives? Was Ronald Reagan a conservative? This argument has been dividing the Republican Party for years. When Trump entered the primary for the Republican nomination in 2015, it was pointed out that he had a track record of supporting Democratic/liberal policies like abortion rights and healthcare for all. Even while he flip-flopped on many of those issues, he continued to push an economic and social worldview that was out of line with some of the leading players in the Republican Party–a kind of “economic nationalism,” as Steve Bannon described it.

Among the #NeverTrump coalition, Reaganite neoconservatives have strongly represented, including Bret Stevens and Noah Rothman, who come under critique in Ben Sixsmith’s first piece for Bombs + Dollars. For him the question becomes, “Are “Never-Trumpers” still conservative?” I’ll take this to mean, Are small government, pro-free trade, conservatives who support an strong role for America in the world still conservative?, because those are the specific positions under critique. In short, are Reaganesque neoconservatives conservative?

My answer is yes, and here’s why:

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These past two weeks of Trump scandals were entirely predictable

The Republicans played with fire, and now they’re gonna get burnt

The past two weeks have brought developments in the ongoing saga of America’s executive office dysfunction that have shattered even previous high water marks of unbridled incompetence, corruption, and abuse of power. On May 9, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on transparent pretexts. A couple of days later, Trump admitted his pretexts were false. Later he made a threat to Comey, who is invited to testify before Congress, about having supposed “tapes” of his conversations, and the White House still won’t say if it is recording conversations, even as it faces a subpoena from Congressional investigators. Now, in the past few hours, it has come to light that Comey produced a memo stating Trump had told him to end the investigation into Michael Flynn.

If Trump’s attempts to derail the Russia investigation weren’t enough, Trump met with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov literally the next day after firing Comey. Apparently without the White House’s permission, the Russian government photographer shared photos of the two men yukking it up in front of Trump with the Russian media that would go viral around the world—even as Trump didn’t allow any American photographers to capture images of the meeting. Didn’t Trump already learn from Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions the perils of meeting with Kislyak?

But the optics disaster was only foreshadowing what the public would soon find out happened during the meeting.

On May 16, it was reported by the Washington Post that “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.” The information revealed was reportedly enough to let Russia figure out the source of intelligence shared by an ally (a very strong ally that Trump made much of claiming to support). Trump’s irresponsible mouth puts Israeli spies in ISIS-controlled territory at risk. It may threaten U.S. intelligence-sharing with Israel.

The saddest thing is, this was all completely predictable.

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Hugh Hewitt on James Comey then and now

Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt defended Donald Trump’s act of firing FBI Director James Comey, who is presiding over an investigation of Trump’s campaign and administration officials for possible collusion with Russia’s interference in the election, on the grounds that Comey shouldn’t have held a press conference announcing the results of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s email server. The press conference, in which Comey condemned Clinton, was viewed by many, including Hewitt, as damaging to the Clinton campaign.

Here’s what Hewitt wrote in his syndicated column defending Trump:

Last summer an old D.C. hand took me to one of those Beltway places of lore for lunch and a cigar and talked candidly about how shocked he was at then-FBI director James Comey’s decision to publicly discuss the Hillary Clinton email investigation and to walk the public through a hundred details of the case and then conclude she should not be prosecuted. Agree or disagree with that decision, he said, it’s not what the FBI does. Ever. Agents present facts to prosecutors. They may nudge or even push in one direction or the other, but they don’t decide. My interlocutor, a former assistant U.S. attorney and then-senior official in numerous positions and companies, was not so much outraged by Comey’s actions at the time as puzzled, perhaps even shocked.

Curiously, in an MSNBC segment with Brian Williams on the day of Comey’s press conference, Hewitt said of Comey’s decision to announce publicly:
“I think he may have made a political decision in the best interest of the FBI.”

One wonders how it could have been in the best interest of the FBI if it had harmed trust in the FBI or in the FBI’s director, as Hewitt and other conservatives now argue. Hewitt was either wrong then or he’s wrong now.

In the Brian Williams segment, Hewitt was never asked directly about whether he thought it was the right decision to announce. He did, however, make many gleeful statements about how much he felt the announcement hurt Clinton.

“Look, she wasn’t indicted today, but she was convicted. Director Comey convicted her of lying repeatedly about not receiving or sending classified markings. She was convicted of being vulnerable to hostile agents. Her aides are convicted of actually having been penetrated by hostile agents. So I think you’re going to see Donald Trump and his surrogates in the Republican Party play the Comey press conference again and again and again. It was damning.”

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Free Speech: No, CPAC disinviting Milo Yiannopoulos is not an attack on free speech

Milo Yiannopoulos’s brief history as an invited speaker to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) lasted less than a week. Given that Yiannopoulos is who he is, an attention seeker and an expert at victimization politics, he is sure to try to turn this into a discussion about free speech.

But make no mistake: This is no war on free speech, and it is nothing like the violence at Berkeley, which caused his speech to be shut down, or other attempts by anti-free speech radicals to silence invited speakers through intimidation or disruption.

CPAC, given that they are putting on the event, makes the decision over who it invites, and CPAC attendees decide whether to purchase a ticket or not. Even before videos of Yiannopoulos praising the potential of relationships between older men and minor children went viral, many conservatives were disappointed with the decision to invite Yiannopoulos, which was reportedly not made with the full approval of the CPAC board. CPAC, after all, is a “conservative” event, and Yiannopoulos offers no deep insight into conservative thought–or much of anything besides showmanship.

Free speech does not imply inviting anyone and everyone to give a speech. After all, CPAC had not extended invitations to Black Lives Matter activists, Lena Dunham, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, DeRay Mckesson, Shaun King, Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian, or any other identity politics-supporting left-wingers.

They don’t have to extend invitations to anyone and everyone. CPAC, like the College Republicans, is a private group with its own viewpoints and agenda. In the past, CPAC has barred conservative-affiliated groups from being cosponsors for ideological disagreements (GOProud for its support of gay rights) and because of their radicalism (the John Birch Society). Those decisions can be debated, but it’s well within CPAC’s right to make them.

That many of their attendees and sponsors didn’t want to hear Yiannopoulos speak anymore than they wanted to hear DeAndre “Soulja Boy” Cortez Way speak doesn’t make them opponents of free speech–just people with values. In the end, the market place of ideas (and of money–CPAC sells tickets) determined Yiannopoulos’s fate.

Going forward, conservatives must not bow to Trump

January 20 we’ll all watch as Donald Trump is sworn into office, a spectacle most of us never thought would happen. For over a year we repeated the mantra of “keep calm, it won’t be Trump,” but that didn’t play out as we expected, obviously. In the midst of our astonishment we’ve been called to question much of what we’ve believed for so long, and, without doubt, I’ve had someone ask me a variation of the following at least once a day:
“I mean, didn’t we technically win? What do we do now as a movement? Should we give him a chance before judging his presidency? How will you handle things going forward?”

In reply I’ve given a slew of answers, from ideas on building a new party, to helping middle ground Democrats who are willing to meet us half-way. Maybe we stay on the right side of the aisle and be a voice of reason, or maybe we traipse over to the left and forge a new alliance. The options are endless, and everyone is walking around those options on eggshells, pondering the vast number of possibilities, and worried that they’ll choose the wrong one. However, regardless of how difficult the choice is, for so many it seems a choice must be made. They’re not content in the wilderness, and they desperately want to be a member of the tribe again.

I’ve listened to people say that, despite their refusal to vote for Trump, they must now join in the thunderous applause – “albeit reluctantly,” they’ll proclaim – of a Republican sweep until their fears are confirmed, because that’s what a good team player does. I’ve watched them cheer on Sessions, Tillerson, and Carson, despite obvious issues, simply because that’s what people on the right are doing.

As though getting behind the schoolyard bully is the only logical option, because while he’s shaken down all of the defenseless kids on the playground, it’s only reasonable to stand beside him until he shakes down the next, and then the next, and so on and so forth. They’re willing to wash, rinse, and repeat until there’s nothing left of their principles but a shell that barely tells the story of what they once were.

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Trump economics and the crisis of fake conservative populism

Trump is trying to stimulate the economy when the economy is booming.

Noah Rothman writes at Commentary that Trump’s economic proposals are “Keynesianism without a crisis.” The economy is chugging along, growing at 3.2 percent in the third quarter, and unemployment is below 5 percent. The U.S. has outperformed its peer competitors in Europe and North America over the past 4 years, topping France and Germany in GDP growth every year since 2012 and growing faster than Canada and the UK in 2015. This is important to note, because as economic critics point to 3% and 4% growth in the 1970’s and 80’s, they neglect to point out that the entire developed world has been growing slower since then. It’s harder to keep up a high percentage rate of growth on a bigger total.

But an even more important point of dispatch is that conservative critics and “populists” base their view on faulty emotional assumptions and incorrect data. Trump, for instance, said to Time that, the government needs to “prime the pump” “in order to get jobs going and the country going, because, look, we’re at 1% growth.”

In fact, the GDP has grown at 2.4% for each of the past two years. The slowest it grew since 2008 was 1.5% in 2013, still considerably faster than France and Germany. Moreover, quarterly economic GDP growth has never grown slower than 1% for the past three years. Trump is doing what he is so good at: making shit up.

But it’s not just Trump who is the problem. For most of Obama’s term, Republican and conservative “populists” have resorted to counter-factual appeals to the pain of the working class and consumers no matter what the economic conditions.

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Trump supporters revive Nazi era smear of press

As Donald Trump has crashed in the polls following terrible debate performances and revelations about possible sexual assault, he has made his attacks on the press even more aggressively than before. Now he is calling the press part of a global conspiracy along with bankers and Hillary Clinton that is “rigging” the election.

His supporters make angry chants at reporters. It’s part of a strategy he has long honed. Trump points out the press at rallies and criticizes them. He calls them the “dishonest press” and calls individual journalists “bimbos” and “sleazes.”

Trump’s angry supporters have picked up the charges in their own way, invoking a Nazi-era slur. Trump supporters on Twitter are tweeting “#Lugenpresse.” According to the Economist, “Lügenpresse (‘liars’ press’), a loaded term once used by the Nazis, is a common chant at [Alternative for Germany] party rallies.”

The word has gained traction in Europe by right-wing critics of refugee policy. It won 2015 “non-word of the year.”

Reuters:

“Luegenpresse”, first used in Germany by critics of the free press during World War One, earned the dubious “Unwort des Jahres” (Non-Word of the Year) honor in the eyes of a panel of experts out of 730 terms submitted by 1,250 contributors.

“‘Luegenpresse’ is a word contaminated by the Nazis,” said Nina Janich, a professor at the Technical University Darmstadt and head of the six-member jury that selects such terms each year from the submissions.

Some tweets by Trump supporters on Twitter:

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The crazy levels of false equivalency Clinton opponents will go to

Clinton is just as much a liar and unfit to be president as Donald Trump. At least that’s what many conservative critics of Clinton are saying.

It’s a bunch of false equivalency.

Take James O’Keefe, a conservative activist who secretly records videos (that he often edits out of context). He claims to have recorded a video of a low level Florida Democratic field worker (or, in O’Keefe’s words, a “Clinton staffer”) speculating on how he could get away with committing sexual assault.

“I think the bar of acceptable conduct in this campaign is pretty low. To be fired I would have to grab Emma’s ass twice and she would have to complain about it, I would have to sexually harass someone,” the field worker, Wylie Mao, said, according to Politico’s summary of O’Keefe’s video.

O’Keefe issued a statement making his motive for the video clear: “Let’s get this straight. Trump’s ‘grab them by the’ [self-censored pause] generated wall-to-wall TV coverage and generated the narrative that this is his true character and how he acts with women. Therefore, because of the precedent set by the mainstream media, I expect wall-to-wall-coverage of this Hillary staffer bragging about the ease that you can commit sexual harassment inside Hillary’s campaign and not get fired.”

Seriously, how stupid do they think we are?
Does O’Keefe really think that a Field Organizer for the Florida Democratic Party, who has worker for them for 3 whole months (according to his LinkedIn page) (allegedly) making inappropriate comments about sexual assault = the Republican nominee for president bragging about sexual assault?

Ignore for a moment the fact that Mao’s comments weren’t as bad as Trump’s (he didn’t say that he committed sexual assault, as Trump did say). Who the hell is Wylie Mao? Does O’Keefe have any videos of Hillary Clinton bragging about having committed sexual assault?

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Trump “conservatives” admit they don’t care about policy

Trump’s campaign has stripped from much of the “conservative” movement the illusion that they care about policy. Entertainers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity just want listeners. Politicians just want power. Many of the voters just want someone who looks like them and espouses vague cultural views with which they agree.

This theory has been proven clearly this election cycle, and now even the power players are close to publicly admitting it. When Trump expressed support for universal healthcare and expressed every position under the sun on other issues, it was evident that policies didn’t matter for his supporters, but it was not evident that they themselves knew it. It was possible they could have been deluded, believing in Trump.

Trump’s flip-flops and fake positions have been coming quicker and quicker now that he’s trying his “pivot” with two months left till the election. He followed through with a “softening” of sorts on illegal immigration, giving up his promise to deport all 11 million illegal aliens. (That wasn’t necessarily a conservative position, but it was one that his supporters presumably supported.) Now that he made a show of claiming to have proposed a maternity leave plan, leading self-proclaimed conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh threw aside concerns about the impact of the “big government” program.

Rush said:

I think they’re gonna respond so positively to this, and it’s gonna disappoint a lot of people. “Oh, my God, do people not even understand the whole concept of Big Government destroying the country?” They don’t, folks. They don’t look at it the way you and I do in that regard.

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Defeating Trump won’t save the GOP

There’s a popular fantasy amongst rational Republicans that a good thumping of Donald Trump can cleanse the party of its toxins and set the GOP up for success in the future.

The scammers, entertainers, anti-intellectuals, and alt-right bigots who have “taken over” the party will be ushered out by the undeniable reality that their brand of “nationalist conservative populism” doesn’t work, and honest, principled conservatives will take over. It’s a nice vision. It reminds me of the idea (expressed more on the left) that Romney’s loss in 2012 would break the GOP’s “fever.” The problem is it won’t happen.

In the first place, the cancer of the Trumpist alt-right won’t be easily dislodged from the host. Voters have the freedom to choose, at the end of the day, and those voters who nominated Trump because they agreed with his proposals to build a wall, ban Muslims, and with his core nativism won’t be convinced to suddenly become tolerant just because Jeb Bush and members of the “Illuminati” tell them to. The entertainment faction, led by Sean Hannity, is already building the groundwork for the excuse that it is the “establishment,” not the Trumpists, who are to blame for not voting for Trump. Nevermind that Hannity’s critique is anti-democratic or that Jonah Goldberg has much less influence over the votes of the educated suburban whites who are abandoning Trump than Hannity gives him credit for; the fact that this argument is illogical will not prevent it from influencing the views and actions of a significant proportion of the GOP electorate going forward.

Even if Trumpism could somehow be successfully purged from the Republican Party, the Republicans and the conservative movement would still be far from solving their problems. Recall that the Republican Party faced major problems even before Trump came along. The Republicans had lost 5 of the last 6 presidential popular votes. Mitt Romney’s performance with minorities was abysmal even by GOP standards–so much so that Trump blamed Romney’s rhetoric on illegal immigration being too harsh. When four Republican Senators took Reince Priebus’s post-2012 advice and tried to pass an immigration reform bill, the bill didn’t get a vote in the House, and Marco Rubio was scared into apologizing to the Tea Party.

Shrek once said that ogres are like onions–they have layers. The GOP is a rotten onion. When you tear off one putrid layer you are confronted with another.

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