A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

It ain't exactly love. . .

. . .but some of the anger and disillusionment toward McCain seems to be giving way to a little bit of perspective, if the posts at Lucianne.com are any indication. While it's true that some conservatives will never come to accept him as the Republican nominee, and will go out of their way to vote against him, even if it means casting their votes for Hillary Clinton, most will eventually come to realize the implications inherent in a Clinton presidency and find themselves standing behind McCain.

Of course, that task gets a little more difficult when emails like the one posted today by Mark Levin start circulating. As a member of the McCain Victory '08 blogroll, I never received a copy of that particular email, and I'm a little curious as to how Levin got a copy while I didn't. Whatever the case, I don't think it was helpful.

The fact of the matter is that, while I'm ready to fight like hell for McCain without the help of disenchanted conservatives, I would much prefer that it not come down to that. I don't think McCain's cause is helped in any way by marginalizing a considerable chunk of his party's members, and a great many members are influenced by Limbaugh, Ingraham, and Hewitt. And, when you have Ann Coulter running around peddling addle-brained notions like supporting Hillary, it seems rather destructive to our overall aim if we chase influential people into her camp by advocating boycotts against the ones who can be reasoned with.

A few weeks ago, Michael Medved expressed his belief that talk radio was the big loser in the South Carolina primary. I'll admit that there is some temptation to leap to that conclusion, given the daily shellacking that McCain takes from most its hosts, but it's not clear at all that this is correct. And, even if it were, I'm not so sure it's something to be crowing about. For one thing, just because McCain has managed to secure victories in spite of talk radio's efforts against him, it doesn't necessarily follow that you can duplicate that success in the future. And, even if he could continue to roll on without the help of talk radio, why would anyone want to?

While Limbaugh et al. may never be as enthusiastic toward McCain as they would Fred Thompson, having a voice of encouragement reaching your voters on behalf of your man for several hours a day heading into the general election is a wonderful thing. And, even if they're not cheerleading for McCain and glossing over his every shortcoming, the very least they will do is be a reliable source of Clinton criticism. Why further alienate those who, if nothing else, are more than happy to damage your opponent?

While I'm not an avid listener, I do recognize that talk radio has been a valuable asset for conservatives for a couple of decades, now. And, as a conservative, I remember a time when talk radio and a few magazines were all that we had. We should be in no hurry to cast aside all that talk radio has helped us to accomplish over the years.

At the same time, I think it's important that all the establishment conservative media recognize that there is a place for moderation within the GOP, and without those moderates, we're just as lost as we would be if we gave up on conservatism completely. I also think that talk radio and other conservative leaders ought to step back and reflect on how they may have contributed to the disunity within the GOP rank and file today. The past three years have not been pleasant ones for conservatives, and it's not all the fault of President Bush.

Strong, spirited debate within a party is a very healthy thing. It's actually vital to maintaining the intellectual energy needed in order to keep a party viable over time. It's how new ideas are generated, and new thinkers are discovered.

But, when insult, accusation, and mockery become acceptable substitutes for debate, it has the effect of setting a party's constituents against each other with a kind of vehemence and personal disdain that can create permanent fissures. Of course, politics has never been free of that kind of influence. But, I don't remember any time in my life when the conservative movement has been as riven with internal strife as it is right now. Granted, I'm a child of the Reagan era, so my political memory isn't all that long.

But, it's long enough to remember the Clinton administration and all that was done and not done during those years to head off the threat our nation faces today. If we're to face down that threat, we're going to need at least one of the parties to remain resolute in fighting it. That party is obviously not going to be the Democrats. And, unless something changes within the GOP between now and November, it won't be the Republicans, either.

What are we going to do then?

Friday, February 01, 2008

It's Friday night. . .

. . .and my friends are clamoring for my presence at a place where the beer flows freely, and politics are verboten -- mostly. Hillary bashing is, of course, always encouraged.

There will be more blogging tomorrow.

Now, if you'll excuse me, that beer ain't gonna drink itself.

Engraved-on-His-Hands. . .

. . .has put together a Gathering of Ldotters, so I thought I would put up a link to the information. I know the page visits I get from Ldotters aren't exactly what they used to be. But, on the off chance that any should stop by who haven't seen the link at Lucianne.com, all the information you need is at the link above.

Best of luck to EoHH. I hope it's a success in every way.

The esteemed Doctor. . .

. . .Thomas Sowell has caught the attention of Michael Goldfarb with his broadside against John McCain today, prompting Kathryn Jean Lopez to come to Sowell's defense. While I don't disagree with Lopez on the matter - Sowell doesn't actually "call" McCain a Benedict Arnold any more than Ann Coulter "called" John Edwards a "faggot". I do, however, think Goldfarb is right in the larger context. I think Sowell's column is emblematic of the anti-McCain right's tendency toward rhetorical excess. I alluded to it in my recent post about the caterwauling lamentations of those who are really struggling with the reality that he is the favorite to win the nomination.

What I find most unfortunate is that, suddenly, the line that once divided Thomas Sowell and Ann Coulter has been blurred.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

According to Jennifer Rubin. . .

. . .at Commentary Magazine's blog, Contentions, Ted Olson has jumped to McCain. That's gotta frost Hewitt's butt pretty badly.

H/T - Jim Geraghty.

UPDATE: Team Romney lands a major endorsement, as well.

As victimhood goes. . .

. . .the anti-McCain right seems to have it down pat. I've never seen a group of people more convinced that they're being stabbed in the back, hijacked, spat upon, conspired against, and having things shoved down their throats. Look for a conservative Kos to arrive on the scene just any time now.

An insidious despair. . .

. . .has fallen over some conservatives since John McCain's Florida victory. Some, like Michael Graham, are utterly disconsolate, apparently buying into the notion that McCain is out to dee-stroy the Republican Party. They're just going to have to butch it up, frankly.

Flinging around silly epithets like "McLame" and "McVain" has not worked and only succeeds in making those who do it look smaller. Lashing out at him as a mean, egotistical, eye-gouger hasn't done anything to put any distance between him and his supporters. Threatening to withhold votes and support has done nothing to dissuade those of us who believe that John McCain is the right man for our times. If anything, it only serves to bolster the resolve among those of us who are prepared to do it without them if we must.

The anger and pettiness displayed by McCain's opponents has been a seething influence on the right for about three years, now. It's what drove the anti-illegal immigration movement, the Harriet Miers fight, and the Dubai Ports World outrage. The viciousness with which activists in each of these matters attacked anyone who dared to support the Bush administration was very telling to those who were on the receiving end of it. In each case, a clear message was sent: You are either with us, or you are no longer a conservative.

Message received. The response? John McCain.

While I have no data to point to as evidence, I have a feeling that much of McCain's support comes from people who are simply sick of being shouted at, derided, and essentially chased out of the conservative movement by ideological purists. Having been called a "Bushbot" and a RINO on more than one occasion over the past three years, I can attest that it does tend to cause one to wonder what might happen if he decided to simply go his own way.

I've been a loyal conservative and Republican my entire adult life. But, for the past three years, that loyalty has meant absolutely nothing. In fact, it has cost me dearly. It has made a patsy of me. After all these years of standing side-by-side with my fellow conservatives and pulling the correct lever on Election Day, I have demonstrated what George F. Will would call "supine acquiescence".

And what has my obedience bought me? Nothing but scorn. And, while I agree that McCain is going to have to do something to patch things up with a lot of conservatives -- particularly the establishment conservative media -- I hope he will do it in a way that doesn't make him (and by extension, me) look like a chump. My biggest hope for a John McCain presidency is that it will cause many movement conservatives to think twice before they unload on their fellow believers.

As John McCain supporters, we may very well be all the awful things that conservative activists and talk radio say we are. And they've said we are a lot of things, none of them desirable. But, there are a lot of us. And, if nothing else comes of McCain's campaign, we will have at least established that we're a force to be reckoned with. The redheaded stepchild has grown up.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

With 94% reporting. . .

. . .I finally feel confident enough to proclaim John McCain the winner in tonight's Florida Republican primary.

I figure a day or two will have to pass before the raw nerves soothe -- maybe a couple of weeks. Who knows?

While I doubt all of my fellow McCain supporters agree, I really don't think now is the time to start making declarations about what this means for conservatism, calling big-picture winners and losers, or rubbing it into the faces of all the folks who fought so hard to help Mitt Romney or to keep McCain from winning the nomination.

But, now is the time for Republican voters to understand that John McCain is the frontrunner, and that he's the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination. He already has fairly strong leads in many of the larger Super Tuesday states, and with Rudy's impending endorsement combined with the momentum he'll have coming out of Florida, they'll only grow stronger.

I would ask my fellow McCain supporters to resist the urge to stick it to all the folks who have been on the wrong side of the ballot tonight and keep working hard at getting our guy elected. There's a difference between sticking up for your guy and taunting the opposition. I hope we can keep that in mind.

All that being said, it feels good to win.

Philip Klein. . .

. . .catches Romney playing footsie with the left in order to gain an advantage on McCain and lets him know in no uncertain terms that this isn't his how it should be done.

(H/T - Ramesh Ponnuru)

It's the animus. . .

. . .of the pro-Romney crowd that seems to bother Victor Davis Hanson. I, as one would expect, have to agree with him.

And, really, this is no new development. It may come to the reader's astonishment that I was a tentative Romney supporter -- not once, but twice -- before I finally decided to jump to McCain. The first time, I had been persuaded by the folks over at The Corner that he was the undisputed, hands-down, no-brainer choice. I was actually most persuaded by Kathryn Jean Lopez because I figured, anyone who can generate this much enthusiasm in a jaded political journalist must really be something special.

I thought about that, and the fact that he'd been elected as a Republican governor in the most liberal state in the Union. That told me that the man must have immense political skills. After all, to be conservative enough to draw praises from National Review, and get elected by popular vote in the land of Kennedy staggers the mind. It's the political equivalent of Michael Moore sticking the Triple Sow Cow, or however you spell it.

But, when Rudy Giuliani was flying high in national polls, I started to see a side of some of Romney's supporters at Lucianne.com that I wasn't really comfortable with. Some had a tendency to be quite heated in their denunciation of the man. I must stress that it wasn't by any means most of Romney's supporters, or that Giuliani's supporters' hands were immaculate. But, there was enough of a minority of them who were sufficiently nasty in their attacks on Rudy that it made me a little hesitant to join in the fun. So, I backed away.

For a while, it seemed that the viciousness had abated some, and Romney's backers had decided that it wasn't in anybody's interest to kneecap Giuliani in order to secure the nomination. So, I began to tentatively ease back over into Romney's column, where I stayed for a couple of months, I suppose. (Am I the only one who finds it almost impossible to mentally gauge time in this compressed process?)

Looking back on it all, it occurs to me that the reason the hostility had died down is because Rudy had already gone into a decline in polls, and the Romney camp simply didn't perceive him to be the threat he once had been.

There was no one event that I can point to for pushing me out of the Romney column, but there was a bit of a catalytic moment that led me to re-examine my allegiance. It was the day I read IowaHawk's takedown of Hugh Hewitt's hagiography to Romney's "Faith in America" speech. I had actually read IowaHawk's piece before I had read Hewitt's and thought, well, I have to check this out. I was sure it couldn't have been as bad as portrayed, given the author's satirical skills.

When I actually read the first paragraph, I couldn't believe it. I knew something was way out of proportion.
Mitt Romney's "Faith in America" speech was simply magnificent, and anyone who denies it is not to be trusted as an analyst. On every level it was a masterpiece. The staging and Romney's delivery, the eclipse of all other candidates it caused, the domination of the news cycle just prior to the start of absentee voting in New Hampshire on Monday --for all these reasons and more it will be long discussed as a masterpiece of political maneuver.

How can you reason with that? How are you supposed to maintain civility when the loyal opposition starts from that premise? It seemed to me that, with Hugh Hewitt making a statement as strong as that, and ending all debate on the matter with the out-of-hand dismissal of even a "beg to differ", something just wasn't right.

That led me to start looking around and examining Romney's record and finding it all too often in conflict with what I had understood. And, like many people in early December, I gave John McCain another look. After some brief agonizing over his recent apostasies, and measuring them against Romney's various policy positions, noting how recently they'd changed, the alternating dismissiveness and aggressiveness, I finally decided that I would be more comfortable as a McCain supporter.

I don't deny my bias, but I can say with a clear conscience that I see a lot of what was directed at Rudy Giuliani now being directed at John McCain. It's nice to know that Victor Davis Hanson and I are, if nothing else, in agreement on one small point with regard to Romney's supporters.

UPDATE: VDH responds to his detractors.

When your only tool. . .

. . .is a hammerlock, don't be surprised when somebody goes MMA on you. And it looks like that's what Gov. Crist and Sen. Martinez did after having been strong-armed by the Romney camp to the point where they just couldn't take it anymore.

Skimming a bit down the page to the entry entitled "Romney Checks McCain" will make it pretty plain what happened. I don't know which adviser said this, but I hope the Romney campaign is keeping him out in the lounge with Ron Kaufman during their high-level strategy meetings.

"If those guys want a political future in this state, they will sit on the sidelines," says one Romney adviser. "We have some of the biggest Florida fundraisers with us right now, and if Mel or Charlie went with McCain, we'd make them both pay when it came time for them to get donor dollars for another race."

It's not a good idea for a candidate to alienate important people in Florida before they've got the nomination secured. Do you suppose they were planning on skipping the state altogether in some kind of anti-Rudy strategy for the general election? Does Florida now mean nothing once the nomination is secured?

Monday, January 28, 2008

The outrage. . .

. . .over McCain's comments regarding Mitt Romney's springtime romance with timetables seems just a tad overwrought to me. Apparently Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard agrees.

It seems pretty clear that Romney, faced with a direct question regarding the conduct of the war in Iraq, decided to take the artful course and send signals to the folks who favored them that he wasn't opposed to "timetables", per se. When given the opportunity to clarify, he further dissembled.

Then, in August, just a couple of months after all the surge troops had been put in place, he began to send signals that he wasn't completely on board, but was somewhat hopeful that it would be effective. All the while, his campaign advisers were crafting a way for him to escape any responsibility in the event that more bad news continued to flow out of Iraq.

Had things gone badly, Romney would have surely pointed to his comments that day on Good Morning America and said, "I supported the efforts of the surge to bring down sectarian violence simply because I thought it was important for both our enemies and our allies to understand that we are committed to the mission. However, I would also point out that, at a time when my fellow candidates were calling for the surge, I am the only one who called for a set of timetables and benchmarks so that we wouldn't commit our troops to an endless civil war for an indefinite period of time with no progress in sight and no exit plan."

Before I'm accused of mistaking myself for the Amazing Kreskin, I think it's important to remember that Mitt Romney has, to my knowledge, still refused to take a firm position as to whether or not the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. I could be wrong, and I'm sure I'll be corrected if I am, but the last time I heard Romney address the question of whether or not we should have invaded Iraq, he rejected it as a "null set".
BLITZER: Governor Romney, I wanted to start by asking you a question on which every American has formed an opinion.

We have lost 3,400 troops, civilian casualties are even higher, and the Iraqi government does not appear ready to provide for the security of its own country. Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: Well, the question is, kind of, a non sequitur, if you will. What I mean by that -- or a null set -- that is that if you're saying let's turn back the clock and Saddam Hussein had opening up his country to IAEA inspectors and they'd come in and they'd found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein therefore not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn't be in the conflict we're in.

But he didn't do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in.

I supported the president's decision based on what we knew at that time.

I think we were underprepared and underplanned for what came after we knocked down Saddam Hussein.

By the way, Harry Reid was wrong. We did not lose the war in Iraq. And that's not the sort of thing you say when you have men and women in harm's way.

We did, however, not do a great job after we knocked down Saddam Hussein and won the war to take him down and his military.

And at this stage, the right thing for us to do is to see if we could possibly stabilize the central government in Iraq so that they can have stability, and so we can bring our troops home as soon as possible.

Not to do that adds an enormous potential risk that the whole region could be embroiled in a regional conflict.

BLITZER: Governor, thank you, but the question was, knowing what you know right now -- not what you knew then, what you know right now -- was it a mistake for the United States to invade Iraq?

ROMNEY: Well, I answered the question by saying it's a non- sequitur. It's a non -- null set kind of question, because you can go back and say, "If we knew then what we know now, by virtue of inspectors having been let in and giving us that information, by virtue of if Saddam Hussein had followed the U.N. resolutions, we wouldn't be having this discussion."

So it's a hypothetical that I think is an unreasonable hypothetical.

Knowing all that we know about Romney's answers and positions on the war in Iraq, I don't see how one can come to the conclusion that John McCain is dishonest, or hitting below the belt.

UPDATE: It just occurred to me how strikingly similar Romney's positions toward the surge and the Bush tax cuts are. That is to say, "I won't be a cheerleader, but I have to maintain a good relationship with the White House."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Semantics mean something. . .

. . .when it comes to leadership. A leader's choice of words has a profound effect on the way people perceive the chances for success in any mission. Ronald Reagan didn't exhort Mikhail Gorbachev to "consider allowing unfettered passage between the East and West." Instead, he demanded that he "tear down this wall!"

A leader's choice of words conveys his general attitude toward his mission; its importance as well as his overall belief in it. And, with all the conservative pundits and activists tussling over Mitt Romney's words during the interview in which he broached the issue of "timetables", private or otherwise, I think it's instructive to consider the way in which he approached the troop surge as a whole.

While looking around for examples in Romney's past of just how he uses language to illuminate his stance on the surge, I came upon a pretty good example of just why it is that John McCain, and other candidates, find Romney's posturing on the issue so objectionable.

A Bloomberg.com article from August 3, 2007 details the subtle shifts in both Romney's and Giuliani's approach to supporting the troop surge. Given the uncertainty of the time, there was a sense that a great deal rode on the candidates' positions with regard to their electoral fortunes as they related to the success, or failure, of the troop surge. I've yet to see anyone offer evidence that the other campaigns were less than happy to allow John McCain to bear the brunt of the political fallout should the surge prove to be anything other than a success. In fact, both Romney and Giuliani were already laying the groundwork for a potential escape route in the event of failure.

The clues to the groundwork lie in their choice of words in describing their support in the lead-up to the offensive. In April of 2007, when asked to give his appraisal, Romney stated that he felt that the surge had a "real chance" of success. I think it's fairly well understood that this choice of words is intended to convey a sense that, given the proper amount of effort and necessary support, there is reason to be optimistic about the prospect.

However, when asked again in July of that same year, Romney characterized the situation somewhat differently, saying, ``I don't give that a high probability, I give it a reasonable probability.'' A reasonably objective observer could conclude that this was intended to convey the sense that he had adopted a "wait and see" attitude, and that he wasn't entirely sold on it.

The question I would put to those who are so angry with McCain at having raised what Mark Levin called a "phony issue" is this: When a person seeks to project confidence in a mission, does he use the words "real chance" or "reasonable probability"? Which words would a general use to instill confidence in his troops?

If a candidate wants to boost morale among his supporters, does he tell them that they have a "real chance" to make a difference, or that there is a "reasonable possibility" that they might. Because, at the time Romney made his remarks, what our mission needed the most was the support of the folks back home. It would be difficult to blame someone for wondering whether or not it was worth the effort if there was only a "reasonable probability" of its success. And, when those words follow the expression of an openness to the possibility of withdrawal, under whatever circumstances, the likelihood of picking up support is severely diminished.

While Mitt Romney was searching for just the right semantics to shield him from the consequences of failure, John McCain decided to go on leading. It doesn't strike me as anywhere near "below the belt" to point that out to voters.

The unexpected surprise. . .

. . .of Gov. Charlie Crist's endorsement of McCain is certainly a welcome one. While it won't necessarily be reflected in opinion polls, it carries considerable weight in terms of organization and GOTV efforts. Coupled with Mel Martinez's endorsement a few days ago, you have to think that the McCain campaign is fairly optimistic about its chances on Tuesday.

The fact that Jim Greer, the state GOP chair in Florida has voiced support for Crist's endorsement is helpful, too. Every little bit of organizational help is crucial in a race as tight as this one.

It's the duplicity. . .

. . .of Romney's statement on Iraq withdrawal that has gotten him where he is today. For all the handwringing going on at The Corner between Mark Levin and Kathryn Jean Lopez, the one thing they are unable to say in Romney's favor is that Romney said at any point that he was against a timetable for withdrawal. And, wasn't that the question, after all?

Levin, on a couple of occasions, has posted the quote as if it were somehow exculpatory, going on at length about how it supposedly doesn't say what McCain says it does. I think the important thing to consider is the context in which Romney made the remark. This, after all, happened on ABC's "Good Morning America". The folks who watch such shows for information on politics aren't what one would consider to be the most politically active. My guess is that GMA's demographic consists largely of housewives and kids playing hooky -- some may actually be home sick. The housewives, of course, would be the ones that politicians go after -- the legendary "soccer mom".

I think it's safe to say that it's fairly obvious that Romney would not have gone anywhere near where he did had he been making his remarks at CPAC or the Heritage Foundation. But, presented with an opportunity to make a pitch to the vaunted soccer mom demographic, he saw an opportunity to say to them, "Look, I don't like this war any more than you do, and I'd like to get us out of it. But, I have to do it in a way that lets us save face. So, rather than go along with the crowd who is calling for an immediate withdrawal, I think we should just kind of sneak out. That way, the troops come home, and we don't have to have the disturbing images of airlifts out of Vietnam."

Essentially, the case that Levin, Lopez, and all the other indignant Romney partisans are making boils down to, "It is unfair to say that Romney was calling for the withdrawal of troops when he was clearly doing his best to avoid saying so without sounding like it."

The lesson that the establishment conservative media should take away from all of this is that, if you stubbornly refuse to honestly examine your candidate's record, someone else is going to do it for you. And, you're not going to like their conclusions.

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