Republican Diversity Encompasses Bush Critics

There is a new line of attack on Republicans undertaken by the liberal netroots (the term liberals use to describe their on line 'community') that has the online "Reality Based Community" nodding their heads in agreement and patting themselves on the back for being so very clever.

It's a variation on the theme that all Bush supporters are unthinking automatons who blindly follow the President no matter where he leads and any opposition to "Dear Leader" is criticized as coming from leftist traitors. The variation being that Bush supporters have no ideology, they're not conservatives themselves in any real sense, and that it therefore become easy to equate opposition to the President with a kind of apostasy that would be familiar to supporters of the Spanish Inquisition.

Having come under attack several times myself from the right and had my conservative manhood questioned on a host of issues, this theme is one that I feel more than competent in addressing. Because at bottom, this is an argument that reveals one of the major differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties: in the intra—party struggles to determine which ideas are ascendant, Republicans are the only ones arguing among themselves.

Conservative critics of the President certainly have a lot to complain about and one could write a book cataloging the Administration's Crimes against the Right. The litany of deviation by the Administration is as familiar to most conservatives as the Baltimore Catechism was to me and my classmates in my youth. Mortal sins against sound fiscal policy. A slothful prosecution of the War on Terror. An indolent and wasteful reconstruction effort in Iraq. A gluttonous new prescription drug plan. And a prideful approach to judicial nominees, although the President's last two picks for the Supreme Court have redeemed his efforts somewhat.

But beyond that, criticizing the President is bound to draw considerable fire from the right. A case in point is conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan whose daily writings now appear on the Time Magazine website. Sullivan was at one time one of the most eloquent defenders of our liberation of Iraq. But following the release of the first batch of Abu Ghraib photos (and some would say Bush's support for the anti—gay marriage amendment) Sullivan turned against the President with a ferocity that was startling in its intensity. 

The reaction on the right was predictable. Sullivan was called every name in the book and then some. He has even been tarred with the moniker "liberal" for his echoing Democratic talking points on the war. Some questioned his sanity. And that was before he endorsed John Kerry for President.

Clearly Mr. Sullivan has major disagreements with the Administration. But is Andrew Sullivan still a conservative?

I support almost all of Bush's tax cuts (I support the estate tax) but also believe in balanced budgets and spending restraint (heretic!); I oppose affirmative action; I oppose hate crime laws; I respect John Kerry's military service; I believe all abortion is morally wrong and that Roe vs Wade was dreadful constitutional law (but I do favor legal first trimester abortions); I support states' rights, especially in social policy, such as marriage; I oppose the expansion of the welfare state, as in the Medicare prescription drug plan; I supported John Roberts' nomination and Sam Alito's; I believe in a firm separation of religion and politics.

Sullivan's protestation that he is still a conservative ring true. His major sin then appears to be that he is not a good Republican. Or is he? As far as I know, Mr. Sullivan never claimed to be a "party man." His principled opposition to the war then is based on an independent view of the President and his policies. 

His many and vociferous critics are not all hero worshipping Bush minions. Many are harsh critics of the President themselves. To say that Sullivan's substantive critics have no ideology is absurd and reflects a superficiality and shallowness of thought that seems endemic on the left these days. The broad brush strokes used to paint those who criticize Bush critics as simpletons does not reflect the spirited debate going on in conservative circles about both the nature of conservatism and how its tenets can be applied to governing a 21st century industrialized democracy at war.

Those arguments have no parallel on the left. Their debates deal with tactics, not ideology. The left took care of its rebels a long time ago, consigning them to the outer reaches and making it clear that orthodoxy was more important than ideas. 

Of course, there is a certain amount of party discipline that needs to be invoked when talking about the fate of Bush critics. With a fanatical opposition that hates the very name of the President, coupled with a rabidly hostile press corps, any major deviation from the party line is likely to result in wails of betrayal by the party faithful. My own experience with going against the grain has taught me that, for the most part, these criticisms can be ignored simply because they are the product of emotionalism. There are many more conservatives who respect and appreciate other points of view — even if they disagree vehemently — than there are blind partisans. For instance, no one that I know would ever accuse Pat Buchanan of being a liberal even though he is one of the Administration's harshest critics. Buchanan and the so—called paleo—conservatives have been marginalized not because they are Bush critics but because they are out of step with the rest of the conservative movement. 

Then there is the case of former Reagan Administration domestic policy aid Bruce Bartlett whose forthcoming book on the Bush Administration entitled Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy is sure to be a big hit on the liberal cocktail circuit. Bartlett was once senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a research group based in Dallas. In an interview with Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, Bartlett avers that he was fired from the Institute because his outspoken criticism of Bush made it difficult for the think tank to raise money from Republican donors.
 
Bartlett insists he's still a Republican despite calling Mr. Bush a "pretend conservative" among other things. He believes that, like Richard Nixon, Bush uses the right to pursue a decidedly un—conservative agenda. There are some conservatives who would agree with that assessment although no one doubts the President's heartfelt devotion to social issues that are near and dear to the hearts of many conservatives.
 
That said, Bartlett is complaining because no conservative think tank will hire him. Is this an example of slavish Bush supporters marching in lockstep to deny an Administration critic a livelihood simply because he criticized "Dear Leader?"
 
Nonsense! Bartlett refers to himself as 'radioactive' since he began to voice his criticisms of Bush. There is a difference between criticizing Bartlett's ideas and not doling out one's hard earned cash to anyone who would employ him. I'm sure Mr. Bartlett is still a good Republican and conservative. But for anyone who would hire him, he would certainly poison the well as far as contributors were concerned. In the marketplace of ideas, Bartlett is running into the reality that his thoughts aren't very popular among conservatives. Why this should be a surprise to him is puzzling.
 
When all is said and done, the Republican critics of the President come in all shapes and sizes with some attacking him from the right and others, like Senator Chuck Hagel, coming at Bush from the left. To try and argue that these critics aren't for the most part still Republicans or have changed their conservative beliefs is simply wrong.

For myself, as someone who voted for Ronald Reagan three times, carefully writing in his name in 1976, to call me anything but a loyal Republican and true blue conservative would be laughable.
 
Which is what most liberal critiques of Republicans end up as anyway.
 
Rick Moran is a frequent contributor and is proprietor of the blog Right Wing Nuthouse.

There is a new line of attack on Republicans undertaken by the liberal netroots (the term liberals use to describe their on line 'community') that has the online "Reality Based Community" nodding their heads in agreement and patting themselves on the back for being so very clever.

It's a variation on the theme that all Bush supporters are unthinking automatons who blindly follow the President no matter where he leads and any opposition to "Dear Leader" is criticized as coming from leftist traitors. The variation being that Bush supporters have no ideology, they're not conservatives themselves in any real sense, and that it therefore become easy to equate opposition to the President with a kind of apostasy that would be familiar to supporters of the Spanish Inquisition.

Having come under attack several times myself from the right and had my conservative manhood questioned on a host of issues, this theme is one that I feel more than competent in addressing. Because at bottom, this is an argument that reveals one of the major differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties: in the intra—party struggles to determine which ideas are ascendant, Republicans are the only ones arguing among themselves.

Conservative critics of the President certainly have a lot to complain about and one could write a book cataloging the Administration's Crimes against the Right. The litany of deviation by the Administration is as familiar to most conservatives as the Baltimore Catechism was to me and my classmates in my youth. Mortal sins against sound fiscal policy. A slothful prosecution of the War on Terror. An indolent and wasteful reconstruction effort in Iraq. A gluttonous new prescription drug plan. And a prideful approach to judicial nominees, although the President's last two picks for the Supreme Court have redeemed his efforts somewhat.

But beyond that, criticizing the President is bound to draw considerable fire from the right. A case in point is conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan whose daily writings now appear on the Time Magazine website. Sullivan was at one time one of the most eloquent defenders of our liberation of Iraq. But following the release of the first batch of Abu Ghraib photos (and some would say Bush's support for the anti—gay marriage amendment) Sullivan turned against the President with a ferocity that was startling in its intensity. 

The reaction on the right was predictable. Sullivan was called every name in the book and then some. He has even been tarred with the moniker "liberal" for his echoing Democratic talking points on the war. Some questioned his sanity. And that was before he endorsed John Kerry for President.

Clearly Mr. Sullivan has major disagreements with the Administration. But is Andrew Sullivan still a conservative?

I support almost all of Bush's tax cuts (I support the estate tax) but also believe in balanced budgets and spending restraint (heretic!); I oppose affirmative action; I oppose hate crime laws; I respect John Kerry's military service; I believe all abortion is morally wrong and that Roe vs Wade was dreadful constitutional law (but I do favor legal first trimester abortions); I support states' rights, especially in social policy, such as marriage; I oppose the expansion of the welfare state, as in the Medicare prescription drug plan; I supported John Roberts' nomination and Sam Alito's; I believe in a firm separation of religion and politics.

Sullivan's protestation that he is still a conservative ring true. His major sin then appears to be that he is not a good Republican. Or is he? As far as I know, Mr. Sullivan never claimed to be a "party man." His principled opposition to the war then is based on an independent view of the President and his policies. 

His many and vociferous critics are not all hero worshipping Bush minions. Many are harsh critics of the President themselves. To say that Sullivan's substantive critics have no ideology is absurd and reflects a superficiality and shallowness of thought that seems endemic on the left these days. The broad brush strokes used to paint those who criticize Bush critics as simpletons does not reflect the spirited debate going on in conservative circles about both the nature of conservatism and how its tenets can be applied to governing a 21st century industrialized democracy at war.

Those arguments have no parallel on the left. Their debates deal with tactics, not ideology. The left took care of its rebels a long time ago, consigning them to the outer reaches and making it clear that orthodoxy was more important than ideas. 

Of course, there is a certain amount of party discipline that needs to be invoked when talking about the fate of Bush critics. With a fanatical opposition that hates the very name of the President, coupled with a rabidly hostile press corps, any major deviation from the party line is likely to result in wails of betrayal by the party faithful. My own experience with going against the grain has taught me that, for the most part, these criticisms can be ignored simply because they are the product of emotionalism. There are many more conservatives who respect and appreciate other points of view — even if they disagree vehemently — than there are blind partisans. For instance, no one that I know would ever accuse Pat Buchanan of being a liberal even though he is one of the Administration's harshest critics. Buchanan and the so—called paleo—conservatives have been marginalized not because they are Bush critics but because they are out of step with the rest of the conservative movement. 

Then there is the case of former Reagan Administration domestic policy aid Bruce Bartlett whose forthcoming book on the Bush Administration entitled Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy is sure to be a big hit on the liberal cocktail circuit. Bartlett was once senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a research group based in Dallas. In an interview with Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, Bartlett avers that he was fired from the Institute because his outspoken criticism of Bush made it difficult for the think tank to raise money from Republican donors.
 
Bartlett insists he's still a Republican despite calling Mr. Bush a "pretend conservative" among other things. He believes that, like Richard Nixon, Bush uses the right to pursue a decidedly un—conservative agenda. There are some conservatives who would agree with that assessment although no one doubts the President's heartfelt devotion to social issues that are near and dear to the hearts of many conservatives.
 
That said, Bartlett is complaining because no conservative think tank will hire him. Is this an example of slavish Bush supporters marching in lockstep to deny an Administration critic a livelihood simply because he criticized "Dear Leader?"
 
Nonsense! Bartlett refers to himself as 'radioactive' since he began to voice his criticisms of Bush. There is a difference between criticizing Bartlett's ideas and not doling out one's hard earned cash to anyone who would employ him. I'm sure Mr. Bartlett is still a good Republican and conservative. But for anyone who would hire him, he would certainly poison the well as far as contributors were concerned. In the marketplace of ideas, Bartlett is running into the reality that his thoughts aren't very popular among conservatives. Why this should be a surprise to him is puzzling.
 
When all is said and done, the Republican critics of the President come in all shapes and sizes with some attacking him from the right and others, like Senator Chuck Hagel, coming at Bush from the left. To try and argue that these critics aren't for the most part still Republicans or have changed their conservative beliefs is simply wrong.

For myself, as someone who voted for Ronald Reagan three times, carefully writing in his name in 1976, to call me anything but a loyal Republican and true blue conservative would be laughable.
 
Which is what most liberal critiques of Republicans end up as anyway.
 
Rick Moran is a frequent contributor and is proprietor of the blog Right Wing Nuthouse.