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“A Fraud And A Danger To The Republic Itself”: ‘National Review’ Goes To War Against Donald Trump

National Review, the most prominent conservative magazine of the past 60 years, has now gone to press with a new issue dedicated to a single topic: Stopping the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, declaring him to be a fraud and a danger to the republic itself.

“There are understandable reasons for his eminence, and he has shown impressive gut-level skill as a campaigner,” the editorial states. “But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.”

From a magazine that in its founding era officially supported white supremacy and segregation — as well as endorsing the fascist Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, among many other sins — these are certainly strong charges.

The editorial signifies a greater problem for the right, beyond just one candidacy: Once upon a time, the inmates took over the asylum — and now after all the paranoia, ginned-up outrage, and barely-veiled racism they have engineered over these many decades, a whole new generation of inmates are revolting against them.

Trump was quick to respond — on Twitter, of course:

National Review is a failing publication that has lost it’s way. It’s circulation is way down w its influence being at an all time low. Sad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

Very few people read the National Review because it only knows how to criticize, but not how to lead.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

The late, great, William F. Buckley would be ashamed of what had happened to his prize, the dying National Review!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

In its editorial, the magazine declares:

If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives? The movement that ground down the Soviet Union and took the shine, at least temporarily, off socialism would have fallen in behind a huckster. The movement concerned with such “permanent things” as constitutional government, marriage, and the right to life would have become a claque for a Twitter feed.

Trump nevertheless offers a valuable warning for the Republican party. If responsible men irresponsibly ignore an issue as important as immigration, it will be taken up by the reckless. If they cannot explain their Beltway maneuvers — worse, if their maneuvering is indefensible — they will be rejected by their own voters. If they cannot advance a compelling working-class agenda, the legitimate anxieties and discontents of blue-collar voters will be exploited by demagogues. We sympathize with many of the complaints of Trump supporters about the GOP, but that doesn’t make the mogul any less flawed a vessel for them.

Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.

NR has also included a “symposium” piece, composed of short notes from various conservative activists decrying Trump and what he stands for — many of them carrying their own levels of irony, from people who helped to foment the paranoia that now fuels The Donald’s rise.

As just one example, let’s take a look at this plaintive cry from Bill Kristol:

In a letter to National Review, Leo Strauss wrote that “a conservative, I take it, is a man who despises vulgarity; but the argument which is concerned exclusively with calculations of success, and is based on blindness to the nobility of the effort, is vulgar.” Isn’t Donald Trump the very epitome of vulgarity?

In sum: Isn’t Trumpism a two-bit Caesarism of a kind that American conservatives have always disdained? Isn’t the task of conservatives today to stand athwart Trumpism, yelling Stop?

Recently, Kristol has been talking up the “semi-serious” notion of starting a whole new party of breakaway Republicans, to run their own ticket if Trump were to win the GOP nomination — so outrageous does he view the idea of Trump as the conservative standard-bearer.

But on the subject of American conservatives having allegedly always disdained vulgarity, Kristol is overlooking a very salient point: He, Bill Kristol, was one of the original, key boosters of Sarah Palin, promoting her selection as John McCain’s running mate in 2008. And as recently as 2014, Kristol was still touting Palin as a potential candidate for president in 2016.

This week, of course, Palin endorsed Trump with a cry of “Hallelujah.”

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Donald Trump, National Review | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Retreating Entirely Into Their Own Little World”: GOP Debate Flat-Earthers Would Rather Just Talk Among Themselves

The defining essence of today’s Republican Party is that it lives in its own reality with its own set of “facts.”

You know this well enough. On the planet most of us inhabit, huge tax cuts for the rich hurt the economy and compound the deficit. The Earth is warming, and man-made carbon emissions have a lot to do with it. Evolution is a fact that happened and is still happening. On GOPEarth, tax cuts for the rich help the economy and reduce the deficit. The Earth isn’t warming, and even if it were just a little, it’s nothing to do with us. Evolution is just a theory.

It’s all fantasy, and all promulgated partly out of deluded belief but mainly for the benefit of Republican politicians’ benefactors and shock troops—in the three cases above, for the über-rich, for energy and oil companies, and for religious-right voters. And because of the way discourse in a democratic society works, if one party decides that it believes and wants to peddle empirically untrue things, well, provided it gets enough people to believe and repeat those things, the rest of us have no choice but to take those arguments seriously and engage them and quarrel with them. So we waste a lot of time in this country “debating” things that in every other advanced democracy in the world are settled matters of fact.

But now Reince Priebus may be doing those of us on mother Earth a favor. With his astonishing admission Monday that anyone allowed to ask a question of a Republican presidential candidate at a debate ought to “care or give a rip about the Republican Party,” the GOP chairman is unwittingly hastening the arrival of the day when the flat-earthers can just talk among themselves and the rest of us don’t really have to pay attention.

It’s an incredible statement in the way it imposes a precondition of support for the party before a person is even allowed to ask a question. Now, there may be a reasonable role for ideological journalists to be on a debate stage. I’d love to participate in a Democratic debate. But not so I can lob them softballs. Rather, I’d ask them tough questions that it would never occur to Anderson Cooper to ask, because I’m immersed in liberal thought and policy debates in a way he isn’t, and I have a pretty strong sense of what kinds of questions might get them off their talking points. So there’s a role for that. But that of course is not what Priebus meant. He meant lickspittles.

On the surface, the Republican anger over the debates is about a series of somewhat picayune questions about format, like these, which were set forth in a letter from GOP lawyer Ben Ginsberg to the networks (Will you commit that you won’t “show an empty podium after a break/describe how far away the bathrooms are”?)

While Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich all said Monday that they would not sign the letter, even I would agree that Republicans have a couple of legitimate gripes on some of these format questions.

The format of having the top 10 (or 11) candidates debate and leaving the others to the kids’ table has been ridiculous from jump street. Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum, both of whom have actual policy knowledge, aren’t any less serious than Chris Christie and John Kasich just because they’re a point or two behind them but within the margin of error. From the start, it should have been two groups of eight or nine, randomly drawn from a hat (although, interestingly, the campaigns did not agree Sunday that this should be the practice going forward).

They’re right that the CNBC debate was chaotic. And they’re right that questions aren’t fairly distributed. Underlying these two problems, especially the latter one, is a hard economic fact that the networks won’t acknowledge and which Republican free-marketeers are unlikely to condemn. These debates, especially with Donald Trump in the picture, are far less about civic edification than they are about ratings and the ad rates that can be charged when Trump-scale audiences tune in who naturally enough want to see more of Trump than they do of Mike Huckabee. Did CNN expand that GOP debate to three tedious hours so the public would learn more, or so that the network could rake in one extra hour’s worth of ad revenue? Let’s not kid ourselves.

But at bottom, the Republican complaints about the debate process aren’t really about these format issues. They’re about GOP resentment that the questioners don’t share the candidates’ ideological presumptions and don’t see the debate as a PR opportunity for the party; which is to say that they’re about this insular reality that Republicans and conservatives have created for themselves in which everyone who doesn’t reflexively agree with a long list of litmus-test assumptions about the world, many of them provably untrue, is a liberal and an enemy of freedom and all the rest.

So now, with Priebus’s words Monday, they’re edging close to retreating into that reality in a way that would have been unimaginable a few years ago but that we may yet see. Picture this: Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. In 2019, Republicans start contemplating running against her and start thinking about primary debates. First off, they may not even have them at all (a blessing in a way, though not really a triumph for democracy). But if they do have them, is it far-fetched to think that there will be only two, and that they’ll be limited to, oh, the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Tea Party Network? After all, remember, it’s C-effing-NBC they’re mad at—the network that helped create the Tea Party! Remember also that Fox made them furious back in the summer, when Fox moderators asked tougher-than-expected questions. Pretty soon their own mothers won’t even be allowed to ask them questions (especially Jeb Bush’s).

Priebus doesn’t seem to have thought through one basic fact: If the Republican Party really sues the political media for a debate divorce, then the political media will be under decreasing obligation to take the party’s barmy positions seriously, and they can talk on their networks about their world, and the rest of us can talk in every other outlet about the real world. It’s sad, but not as sad as having to take all their whining seriously.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 3, 2015

November 4, 2015 Posted by | CNBC Debate, GOP Primary Debates, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Massively Failed Experiment”: Why Conservatives Learned Nothing From Sam Brownback’s Failure

Kansas governor Sam Brownback had a plan when he got elected in 2010, and it was a plan that could only be enacted in a place like Kansas: Pass huge tax cuts, then watch the state transform into a kind of economic heaven on earth. Brownback surely could never have doubted it would work, since he and those in his party have been saying for decades that tax cuts deliver economic growth, rising tax revenues, general happiness, and shinier, more manageable hair.

You’ve probably heard the story: growth in Kansas did not, in fact, explode, but what did happen is that revenues plummeted, leading to severe cutbacks in education and other state services. Brownback nevertheless managed to get re-elected, because it was a non-presidential year and because it’s Kansas. So now he’s had a chance to reflect, and here’s how he’s looking at things, according to a Topeka newspaper:

As Gov. Sam Brownback’s first term comes to a close, the Republican governor has one regret — no, scratch that — one thing he would do differently.

“I probably would have chosen words better at different times, because you go through a campaign where you’ve got to eat the words you inartfully said,” Brownback said during a recent interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal.

The former U.S. senator — with the help of a Republican-controlled Legislature — slashed taxes, privatized portions of state government and pursued a staunchly conservative policy agenda during the past four years. And then Brownback fought off a competitive challenge from Democratic Rep. Paul Davis.

Atop the list of words and phrases that have proven controversial and given his opponents the greatest opportunity for mockery: predicting the Kansas tax cuts would act as a “shot of adrenaline” to the state’s economy and referring to the plan as an “experiment.”

In other words…

It’s obvious that he regrets calling it an “experiment” for no reason other than that word showed up in a bunch of Democratic attack ads. But as for the idea that tax cuts would give the Kansas economy a “shot of adrenaline”? Of course that’s what he said, because that’s what he believed. If you don’t believe that, you can’t call yourself a Republican.

It isn’t that there’s no truth to it—all else being equal, tax cuts put more money in people’s hands, so they can spend more, which will have some positive impact on the overall economy. The problem is that 1) the effect is never as large as Republicans expect it to be; 2) not only did Brownback’s tax cuts go mostly to the wealthy, who are less likely to spend the money, he actually raised taxes on poor people (there’s an explanation here), and 3) the benefits were swamped by the harm created by the inevitable cratering of state revenue.

But if you’re Sam Brownback, how do you account for such an outcome? It can’t possibly be that the theory on which the entirety of contemporary Republican economic policy rests is false. What’s he going to say—”It turns out that tax cuts don’t do much good”? Not in this universe.

It’s not just him. The failure of Brownback’s experiment may provide an effective rhetorical tool liberals can use against conservatives in economic debates, but it won’t actually change any conservatives’ thinking. The reason is that their belief in tax cuts doesn’t rest on the practical effects. That’s an argument that’s meant to appeal to everyone, since it concerns something (growth) that just about everyone thinks is good. But the real source of the conservative support for tax cuts is moral, not practical. They believe that taxes are inherently immoral — the government stealing from you the fruits of your labor (or inheritance or wise investments, as the case may be) to enact its nefarious schemes. Taxes should therefore be as low as possible. Conservatives also tend to believe that progressive taxation is doubly immoral, since it takes more from the most virtuous among us.

So my guess is that Brownback sees his experiment as a practical failure but a moral success, and other conservatives would agree. Not that he’d say so in quite those terms, because he knows how it would sound. But the only lesson he’s learned from his failure is to change the words he uses.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 23, 2014

December 27, 2014 Posted by | Republicans, Sam Brownback, Tax Cuts | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Busting Another Myth About Immigration Reform”: Conservative “Reality” Just Happens To Be An Ideological Constructed Fallacy

Conservatives like to complain that immigrants not only take jobs citizens would otherwise do (mostly untrue), but also constitute a drain on social services. It’s not only an inhumane argument but also impractical: if you need people to perform difficult and dangerous jobs, do you really want them not to be able to get medical treatment or for their kids to go uneducated?

But these arguments aren’t just impractical and immoral. They’re also wrong. As it turns out, undocumented immigrants are a net positive to the social security system:

Here’s how the math works. Five percent of the U.S. work force is undocumented, which is some 8.1 million people. Thirty-eight percent of the 8.1 million pay social security taxes, which comes to roughly $12 billion a year, according to CAP estimates. That’s a pretty nice cushion for a graying America.

Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, told the Daily Beast, “Even as it stands under current policy, unauthorized immigrants contribute positively to the financing of social security not only in terms of their own contributions, but in the succeeding generations when they have children on our soil that are citizens from day one.”

Bringing them out of the shadows will let them actually collect on the money they have paid into the system, but it would still be a net positive:

Obama’s executive order would allow newly legalized workers to eventually collect benefits when they reach retirement age. But that’s a long way off for many of them, and any potential loss would be more than offset by the millions of young workers who will be brought into the system to pay taxes for three or four decades before they can collect benefits.

Conservative arguments present reasonable people with a quandary: do you attack their arguments for their heartless immorality? Or their functional impracticality? Or their ill-informed simple wrongness? Whether it’s socialized medicine, immigration policy, climate change, social issues, tax policy, foreign policy or so much else, conservatives are constantly pursuing policies that fail basic moral tests, are largely unworkable, and that are proven wrong by actual evidence at every turn. And yet (or perhaps as a consequence) conservatism veers ever further rightward.

It’s not just a political disagreement. We’re living in different realities at this point. Conservative “reality” just happens to be an ideological constructed fallacy.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 29, 2014

December 1, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Immigration Reform, Social Security | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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