Libertarians and “Social Disarray” From a Conservative Perspective

The Wall Street Journal shows why the modern conservative movement is not a cause supporting freedom in their view of libertarianism. Kay S. Hymowitz has many words in praise of their free market ideas, which would be expected from The Wall Street Journal. However she also chastises libertarians because they support freedom in other areas. The problem she finds is that such freedom leads to breakdown of the family and “social disarray.”

Even on social and cultural questions, where libertarians have often tangled with tradition-minded conservatives, Mr. Lindsey is on to something in his talk of a “libertarian synthesis” combining self-expression and self-restraint. If the country was slouching toward Gomorrah for a while, it has at the very least straightened up a bit. Many of the indicators of social meltdown that received alarmed attention in the 1980s and early ’90s–high crime rates, “children having children,” teen drug use, rampant divorce–have improved lately.

But they have not improved nearly as much as one might wish–and it is difficult to separate the reasons for our abiding social disarray from the trends that Messrs. Doherty and Lindsey praise and for which libertarians bear a measure of responsibility. Despite Mr. Lindsey’s protestations to the contrary, libertarianism has supported, always implicitly and often with an enthusiastic hurrah, the “Aquarian” excesses that he now decries. Many of the movement’s devotees were deeply involved in the radicalism of the 1960s.

In other words, the Republicans are happy to accept the votes of libertarians on economic grounds, but don’t bother them with other calls for freedom. Libertarians who see benefit in supporting the Republicans should keep this in mind.

Obama Calls For Immediately Beginning Removal of Troops

Barack Obama gave a foreign policy speech in Iowa today, going further than he has in the past in terms of calling for a withdrawal:

The American people have had enough of the shifting spin. We’ve had enough of extended deadlines for benchmarks that go unmet. We’ve had enough of mounting costs in Iraq and missed opportunities around the world. We’ve had enough of a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged.

I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003. I opposed it in 2004. I opposed it in 2005. I opposed it in 2006. I introduced a plan in January to remove all of our combat brigades by next March. And I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now.

My plan for ending the war would turn the page in Iraq by removing our combat troops from Iraq’s civil war; by taking a new approach to press for a new accord on reconciliation within Iraq; by talking to all of Iraq’s neighbors to press for a compact in the region; and by confronting the human costs of this war.

First, we need to immediately begin the responsible removal of our troops from Iraq’s civil war. Our troops have performed brilliantly. They brought Saddam Hussein to justice. They have fought for over four years to give Iraqis a chance for a better future. But they cannot – and should not – bear the responsibility for resolving the grievances at the heart of Iraq’s civil war.

Recent news only confirms this. The Administration points to selective statistics to make the case for staying the course. Killings and mortar attacks and car bombs in certain districts are down from the highest levels we’ve seen. But they’re still at the same horrible levels they were at 18 months ago or two years ago. Experts will tell you that the killings are down in some places because the ethnic cleansing has already taken place. That’s hardly a cause for triumphalism.

There are differences of opinion as to how long it will take to leave Iraq but I’m not very concerned by different time scales offered by different people. Once a president is in office they will be in a better position to work with the military to make specific plans. If it turns out to take more or less time than a candidate stated during a campaign I would expect them to time any withdraw based upon the reality on the ground, not on campaign rhetoric.

Earlier in the speech Obama also tied in his views on Iraq with the question of his lack of experience:

But conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war. The pundits judged the political winds to be blowing in the direction of the President. Despite – or perhaps because of how much experience they had in Washington, too many politicians feared looking weak and failed to ask hard questions. Too many took the President at his word instead of reading the intelligence for themselves. Congress gave the President the authority to go to war. Our only opportunity to stop the war was lost.

I made a different judgment. I thought our priority had to be finishing the fight in Afghanistan. I spoke out against what I called “a rash war’ in Iraq. I worried about, “an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences.’ The full accounting of those costs and consequences will only be known to history. But the picture is beginning to come into focus.

Obama has brought up the fact that he opposed the war from the start many times, but I’m not sure how much of a difference it is making in the campaign. It should be a consideration. One factor in choosing a president is their judgement in making decisions as to whether we should go to war. Candidates such as Hillary Clinton and John Edwards do not deserve a pass for their poor judgement because of the views they hold today.

Obama discussed the need for diplomacy:

While we change the dynamic within Iraq, we must surge our diplomacy in the region.

At every stage of this war, we have suffered because of disdain for diplomacy. We have not brought allies to the table. We have refused to talk to people we don’t like. And we have failed to build a consensus in the region. As a result, Iraq is more violent, the region is less stable, and America is less secure.

We need to launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent history to reach a new compact in the region. This effort should include all of Iraq’s neighbors, and we should also bring in the United Nations Security Council. All of us have a stake in Iraq’s stability. It’s time to make this less about what America is trying to do for Iraq, and more about what the world can do with Iraq.

This compact must secure Iraq’s borders, keep neighbors from meddling, isolate al Qaeda, and support Iraq’s unity. That means helping our Turkish and Kurdish friends reach an understanding. That means pressing Sunni states like Saudi Arabia to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, increase their financial support of reconstruction efforts, and encourage Iraqi Sunnis to reconcile with their fellow Iraqis. And that means turning the page on the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to Syria and Iran.

Conventional thinking in Washington says Presidents cannot lead this diplomacy. But I think the American people know better. Not talking doesn’t make us look tough – it makes us look arrogant. And it doesn’t get results. Strong Presidents tell their adversaries where they stand, and that’s what I would do. That’s how tough and principled diplomacy works. And that’s what we need to press Syria and Iran to stop being part of the problem in Iraq.

Obama also addressed other related topics, including dealing with Iran and the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

Unity ’08 Survey Provides Insight On Those Dissatisfied With Major Parties

This year there has been a tremendous amount of interest in third parties. While most year we have various candidates who are to the left and right of the major political parties, this year the talk has concentrated on more centrist alternatives such as Michael Bloomberg and Unity ’08. I most recently discussed some of the factors behind the push for such alternatives when reporting on Bloomberg’s announcement that he did not plan to run. A survey from Unity ’08 provides some additional insight. As this is an internet study there are the obvious limitations to the results, but some trends are of interest and might provide signs of what motivates people to get involved with such efforts.

A problem with the two party system is that it attempts to divide all political positions into two groups. The Republican Party has traditionally been the party of business, but in recent years has concentrated primarily on crony capitalism for the ultra-wealthy. The Republican Party alienates additional voters by its support for the Iraq war and the social agenda of the religious right. The Democratic Party has benefited recently on these issues, but its reputation for supporting big government and labor over professionals and businessmen has many recent Democratic voters wary of long term support.

Democrats have recently received the support of groups like “Starbucks Republicans” who are socially liberal affluent suburbanites who don’t fit in well with the base of either party. This trend can be seen in the results of the Unity ’08 survey. A breakdown of households shows that 53% are Professional or Business Class compared to 23% who categorize themselves as Working Class. Note that this does not necessarily mean a hostility towards labor as labor unions rank fairly high on survey of perceptions of institutions. The group is highly educated with 28% having a post-graduate degree, 33% being a college graduate, and an additional 28% having attended some college. The average income is $74,001.

Looking at their placement on a liberal conservative spectrum, those responding trend towards the center but place themselves to the left of center on social issues and to the right of center on economic issues. On the listing of perceptions of institutions I mentioned above, the Christian conservative movement comes in last place. Looking at the candidates from the major parties, none of them are satisfactory but Barack Obama comes in first place among the six major candidates listed.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert top Pundit Rankings, with Bill O’Reilly coming in third. While it might be tempting to attribute this to responses from younger college aged people, the average age of those responding to the survey was 51.

Unity ’08 seems more like a gimmick than a real political movement, stressing finding candidates from each party as opposed to supporting a definitive viewpoint. I doubt that they will be very successful and the real question is whether one of the major political parties will be able to win the support of such voters. To do this the Republican Party would need to abandon the views of the religious right as well as their support for the war. The Democrats will need to shake off the reputation of being the party of special interests and big government. At the moment, after seeing the failures of the Republican approach, a majority of voters are leaning towards voting Democratic. The challenge will be for the Democrats to earn the long term support of such voters and win over those now looking for an independent choice.

Fred Thompson Admits He Doesn’t Attend Church Regularly


Fred Thompson was asked about his church attendanceby reporters today. Unfortunately, but as expected from a candidate of the modern Republican Party, his answer came far short of the answer from the fictional candidate, Arnold Vinick, in the video above.

Thompson stated that he does not attend church regularly and avoided talk on religion:

“I know that I’m right with God and the people I love,” he said in Greenville. It’s “just the way I am not to talk about some of these things.”

Asked by reporters later to clarify his stance on religion, Thompson said: “Me getting up and talking about what a wonderful person I am and that sort of thing, I’m not comfortable with that, and I don’t think it does me any good. People will make up their own mind about that, and that’s the way I like it.”

That might displease some Republican voters, and it also falls far short of satisfying those of us concerned with Republican attempts to erode the principle of separation of church and state. This is far more important than a candidate’s church attendance. I’d much prefer religious candidates such as Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, and John Kerry who understand the importance of the separation of church and state over someone like George Bush, who is not believed to attend church regularly but backs the agenda of the religious right.

So far in the campaign Thompson has been trying to appeal to conservative religious voters, despite his lack of church attendance, such as in his recent statements on gay marriage:

“I would support a constitutional amendment which says some off-the-wall court decision in one state that recognizes a marriage in a state like Massachusetts cannot go to another state and have it recognized in that state,” Thompson said.

It will be interesting to see if this hurts Thompson. My suspicion is that it will not. First of all, limited church attendance hasn’t hurt George Bush. Secondly, conservative religious voters will still probably prefer him over Giuliani or Romney.

John Kerry Compares Petraeus’ Testimony to Westmoreland’s Vietnam Testimony

Following is John Kerry’s statement on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearings on Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. The Swamp notes that this was intended to be an opening statement but only Senators Biden (the Committee Chair) and Lugar were allowed to make opening statements ” for the sake of time.” (This must be the first time I’ve ever read that Joe Biden was allowed to speak in order to save time.)

Following is Senator Kerry’s statement as prepared for delivery:

This is a historic moment: Not since General Westmoreland appeared before Congress 40 years ago has an active duty general played such a major public role in the national debate.

Many thousands of the names inscribed on the Vietnam wall were added after that testimony, after it should have been clear that the strategy would not work. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. That is why we have a solemn duty here to ask the tough questions about Iraq. We owe our troops a strategy that is worthy of their sacrifice, and it’s clear that the current strategy — the President’s escalation — has failed to achieve its goal of bringing about a resolution of the fundamental conflict between Sunni and Shia.

We all agree that there is no American military solution to an Iraqi civil war. That’s why the escalation had a single, simple goal: to create “breathing room” for Iraqis to make the political compromises that will hold their country together and end their civil war.

We heard the bottom line from the GAO last week: only 3 of the 18 benchmarks that the Iraqi government agreed to over a year ago have been met – including only 1 of the 8 benchmarks for political reconciliation. Over 15 months after the Maliki government took power, the Iraqi parliament still has not passed legislation on oil revenue sharing, de-Ba’athification, and provincial elections. The constitutional review process vital to political reconciliation is nowhere close to completion.

Yet despite the obvious lack of movement on political reconciliation, we keep hearing that we are making progress in Iraq. General Petraeus has effectively asked for more time to allow the escalation strategy to succeed. He has spoken about reduced levels of violence, and success in “bottom-up reconciliation” efforts against Al Qaeda, as justification for continuing the current mission.

Let’s be absolutely clear: whatever “tactical successes” we have achieved have not translated into the strategic success we need to turn the tide. The escalation has failed to resolve the fundamental conflict between Sunni and Shia that continues to drive the Iraqi civil war, and there’s no reason to believe that more of the same is going to make a difference.

All summer, supporters of the escalation urged us to wait until September. Wait until September to hear from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Well, September is here, and despite your best efforts, the result is clear: Without deadlines, without accountability—there has been no real political progress in Iraq.

We should not be asking any more American troops to sacrifice their lives and limbs for Iraqi politicians who refuse to compromise. That’s why I believe more strongly than ever that we need to change course in Iraq.

As I have been saying for a year and a half, we need to (1) change the mission to pursuing Al Qaeda, training Iraqi security forces, and protecting U.S. facilities and personnel; (2) set a deadline for redeployment that is necessary to make the Iraqis to make the tough compromises necessary to end their civil war; and (3) engage in the intensive diplomacy necessary to get Iraq’s neighbors to play a more constructive role in stabilizing Iraq.

I believe that strategy protects our vital national interests and gives us the best chance to succeed.