Bob Dole And Ronald Reagan Would Not Have Made It In Today’s Republican Party

I have often pointed out that actual views of  past conservatives, even ones still held up as founders of the conservative movement, would not be welcome by the extremist and reactionary members of the current conservative movement. Barry Goldwater was strongly opposed to social conservatism and the influence of the religious right on the Republican Party to the point where he considered himself a liberal in his later years. Richard Nixon supported social conservatism but also supported a form of activist government which neither liberals or conservatives support. Ronald Reagan had the right rhetoric for the conservative movement, but was not as out of touch with reality as modern conservatives, supporting increases in taxes and the debt ceiling which today’s conservatives would protest without even considering their merit. Bob Dole correctly added himself to this list.

In an interview on Fox News Sunday Bob Dole responded to questions on the Republican abuse of the filibuster and whether he could have made it in today’s party:

“I doubt it,” he said in an interview aired on “Fox News Sunday” when asked if his generation of Republican leaders could make it in today’s GOP. “Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, cause he had ideas. We might’ve made it, but I doubt it.”

Dole, a wounded World War II veteran from Kansas and icon of the party, said he believes it needs to rethink the direction it’s heading in.

“They ought to put a sign on the National Committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs,’ until New Year’s Day next year,” he said. “And spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”

Video is above.

Dole agreed the filibuster is being over-used and criticized Barack Obama for not reaching out more to lawmakers during his first term. In reality Obama moved far to the right in attempts to reach agreement with Republicans. This was not successful as Republican leaders placed opposition to Obama, and their goal of trying to deny him a second term, over support for policies they have supported in the past as well as over the good of the country.

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Newt Gingrich Fails In Attempts To Become Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater

With the candidates for the GOP nomination failing to have a sensible platform of their own, they are trying to latch onto the reputation of Ronald Reagan. Newt Gingrich is the most guilty of this.  Mitt Romney, who has taken both sides of virtually question imaginable, has declared his independence from Bush-Reagan in the past. Conservatives disagree as to whether Gingrich is the new Ronald Reagan.  National Review ran a story showing that Gingrich frequently attacked Reagan, while many conservative blogs are running a video in which Nancy Reagan said her husband had turned over the torch to Newt.

One thing is certain. Newt Gingrich is not a Bob Dole Republican, as Dole has made very clear:

I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.

Gingrich served as Speaker from 1995 to 1999 and had trouble within his own party. By 1997 a number of House Republican members wanted to throw him out as Speaker. But he hung on until after the 1998 elections when Newt could read the writing on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources.

Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. He loved picking a fight with President Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics like shutting down the government helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.

In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.

The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney.

In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.

Gingrich has also compared himself to Barry Goldwater, but that one is especially absurd. Goldwater made his opposition to the religious right very clear in many statements, including in a speech before the Senate on September 16, 1981:

On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

Goldwater also expressed similar views in 1994:

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

Former social liberal Mitt Romney would also fail on these grounds with his  pandering to the religious right.

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Quote of the Day

“Bob Dole has endorsed Mitt Romney. Bob Dole also once endorsed Viagra, which lasts two hours longer than a Mitt Romney position.” –Michael DiGaetano

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John Kerry on Civility

While the facts are still not entirely clear, the recent shooting of Gabrielle Giffords appears to have  been motivated by delusional and extremist views which transcend the political spectrum. Jared Loughner echoed the anti-government sentiment common on the right mixed with far left wing extremism, including Marxism. The idea that all government is evil, accompanied by the frequent calls for revolution, calls for “Second Amendment remedies” by Sharon Angle, and calls to “reload” accompanied by a graphical representation of a rifle’s crosshairs by Sarah Palin, can inspire the deranged to commit acts of violence. This is true regardless of whether such specific hate speech inspired this particular murderer.

John Kerry gave an excellent speech at the Center for American Progress countering the extreme anti-government philosophy of the far right.Kerry spoke of the danger of a government which is too limited:

Do they want a government too limited to have invented the Internet, now a vital part of our commerce and communications?  A government too small to give America’s auto industry and all its workers a second chance to fight for their survival?  Taxes too low to invest in the research that creates jobs and industries and fills the Treasury with the revenue that educates our children, cures disease, and defends our country?  We have to get past slogans and soundbites, reason together, and talk in real terms about how America can do its best.

Kerry spoke of the dangers of failing to spend the money necessary to restore our infrastructure and of how this places us at risk of a lower standard of living and of falling behind countries such as China. He pointed out how many of the ideas now proposed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans were previously supported by Republicans.  He discussed the unwillingness of Republicans to work on bipartisan solutions to problems as Ronald Reagan had:

Folks, you won’t find a Republican today who would dare criticize Ronald Reagan. Last week, when the candidates for chairman of the Republican National Committee had their debate, Grover Norquist asked each of them to name their favorite Republican other than Ronald Reagan. He said he had to add that caveat so everyone didn’t give the same answer. But we’d all be better off if some of these Republicans remembered that Ronald Reagan worked across the aisle to solve big problems. And we’d all be better off if Grover Norquist thought of THAT Ronald Reagan before he announced that “bipartisanship is just another word for date rape.”

That’s the difference today. Ideology isn’t new to the American political arena and ideology isn’t unhealthy. The biggest breakthroughs in American politics have been brokered not by a mushy middle or by splitting the difference but by people who had a pretty healthy sense of ideology. Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch were a powerful team precisely because they didn’t agree on that much and they spent a lot of time fighting each other –and  so the Senate leaned in and listened on those occasions when somehow this ultimate odd couple found things they were willing to fight for together.

The entire speech is well worth reading and is posted under the fold.

(more…)

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Bob Dole Calls on Congress To Pass Health Care Reform, And Predicts Passage

Yesterday I listed Bob Dole as one of the former Republican leaders who has supported health care reform, at least in general principles. The Kansas City Star quotes Dole as predicting health care reform will pass–and is urging Congress to enact health care reform as soon as possible:

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole says “there will be a signing ceremony” for a health care reform bill either late this year or early next.

But the former presidential candidate says he isn’t sure what the bill will say.

Dole, 86, spoke with reporters after an hour-long speech at a health care reform summit sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City.

He told the group that he and former Sens. Tom Daschle, Howard Baker, and George Mitchell will issue a statement later today urging Congress to enact health care reform as soon as possible.

Subsequently a statement was released by Dole and Daschle:

Congress could be close to passing comprehensive health reform. The American people have waited decades and if this moment passes us by, it may be decades more before there is another opportunity. The current approaches suggested by the Congress are far from perfect, but they do provide some basis on which Congress can move forward and we urge the joint leadership to get together for America’s sake.”

Dole blamed partisanship for health care reform not passing:

Sometimes people fight you just to fight you,” he said. “They don’t want Reagan to get it, they don’t want Obama to get it, so we’ve got to kill it…

“Health care is one of those things…Now we’ve got to do something.”

Dole did express concerns about the cost and about the public option.

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Republicans Supporting Health Care Reform

Republicans currently in Congress are determined to prevent the Democrats from having a political victory by passing health care reform, regardless of how much this is needed or how much better off the country would be. In contrast to those currently in Congress, many other Republicans are backing health care reform ideas similar to the current Democratic plans.  Arnold Schwarzenneger is the latest Republican to support health care reform, issuing this statement today backing a national push for health are reform:

For Immediate Release:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on National Push for Health Care Reform

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement urging the passage of health care reform at the national level:

“As Governor, I have made significant efforts to advance health reform in California. As the Obama Administration was launching the current debate on health care reform, I hosted a bipartisan forum in our state because I believe in the vital importance of this issue, and that it should be addressed through bipartisan cooperation.

“Our principal goals, slowing the growth in costs, enhancing the quality of care delivered, improving the lives of individuals, and helping to ensure a strong economic recovery, are the same goals that the president is trying to achieve. I appreciate his partnership with the states and encourage our colleagues on both sides of the political aisle at the national level to move forward and accomplish these vital goals for the American people.

Earlier in the year, former Republican Senate leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker backed ideas similar to the current health care reform legislation. Bill Frist also agreed recently. In many ways the current Democratic proposals are like Mitt Romney’s plan, with ideas on financing coming from John McCain.

Even Bobby Jindal supports the ideas in the current health care proposals, even if he isn’t bright enough to realize it. In yesterday’s Washington Post, Bobby Jindal wrote a bizarre op-ed in which he claimed, “The debate on health care has moved on. Democratic plans for a government takeover are passé.” Jindal showed he doesn’t really understand what is in the Democratic plans, such as with his false characterization of them as a “government takeover.” Jindal then proceeded to lay out what he considered Republican ideas for health care reform, and they wound up being fairly close to the current Democratic ideas which he claims are passé. The difference is that Jindal just provided general principles without any concrete mechanism to put these ideas into practice–such as those present in the Democratic health care proposals.

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On Line Discussion of the Letterman Controversy

Letterman Palin

I’ve already had many posts on the dispute between David Letterman and Sarah Palin, along with the smear campaign from the right against Letterman. With all the distortions of fact and attacks from the right, a lot of material has been discussed on this matter. The Washington Post has a discussion with Paul Farhi which summarizes much of the issue. Farhi began with an introduction:

Greetings, all, and welcome back again. So, the strange case of Palin v. Letterman appears to be resolved with Letterman’s very classy apology last night. I say “appears” because, based on my email, some people just won’t let it go. They insist, despite TWO on-air explanations, that Letterman really, really was aiming his crack at 14-year-old Willow Palin, not 18-year-old single mom Bristol Palin. I won’t defend the joke–even Letterman concedes it’s not defensible–but I got news for some of you: The joke makes no sense in reference to Willow. But I guess vendettas and political ax grinding know no logic, or even facts.

I do find this whole episode curious, primarily because of its timing. As I wrote in today’s paper (hey, I like quoting myself; at least I won’t be accused of a misquote), variations of this sort of “joke” have been around since Palin came to national prominence last summer at the Republican Convention. Yet dozens of both milder and harsher iterations (Saturday Night Live’s insinuation that Todd Palin raped his daughter is especially outrageous and revolting) were ignored by Palin, the Republican Party and the outraged types who are now venting in my email box. Sarah Palin even made a now-famous appearance on “SNL” just a few weeks after that skit aired. So what’s different this time? I don’t get it, either.

To answer his question, Farhi is right that there have been many other jokes about Bristol Palin with many being far worse than the one Letterman told, and later stated he regretted. Additional examples are here. Despite the attacks, Letterman has actually told far fewer jokes about Bristol Palin than other late night comics. The difference is that the far right is under the misconception that Letterman is promoting a liberal agenda and that he selectively makes jokes about Republicans. While he makes jokes about members of both parties, the right wingers who attack are not likely to watch his show and only hear about selective jokes he has told. The right has been targeting Letterman since well before last week’s jokes. This began during the campaign, and was also seen in reports such as this from earlier in the year.

The full story is worth reading as I can only touch on some of the questions here. Farhi responded to the view that Letterman should not have apologized as he did nothing wrong by noting how classy his apology was. Farhi noted that Palin was keeping an eye on the politics of this, comparing her attacks on Letterman to previous attacks on Hollywood by Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman, and Bob Dole. A commenter pointed out that, “Perhaps the reason she didn’t condemn similar jokes from Leno or Conan was because she knew that targeting the network of Dan Rather would play well among conservatives.”

A commenter noted the timing of the second apology, not coming until Monday as Letterman tapes his Friday show on the preceding Monday. Farhi thought that the weekend interregnum was critical as it gave Letterman time to reflect on the whole mess.

There were comments on whether this would hurt or help Letterman. Farhi, along with most television columnists, believes that this has worked to his benefit, especially in light of Letterman’s increasing ratings over the past week. Farhi wrote that this is “probably going to be remembered as his ‘Hugh Grant’  moment–i.e., the thing that propelled him past his competition, for good.” He later responded to a claim that Letterman has jumped the shark by saying, “Whatever the opposite of  ‘jump-the-shark’  is, I think Letterman is there now.”

Farhi responded to a commenter who did not see the significance of other comedians having made worse jokes without receiving a response:

I won’t defend Letterman’s “joke.” Never have. But I think it’s fair to point out that the same joke got no reaction from Palin, or her supporters, just a few months ago. And, frankly, “Saturday Night Live’s” bit on this was much, much worse than Letterman’s. Not only was there no protest about it, she went on “SNL” a few weeks later. Sorry if these facts are inconvenient to you in your state of outrage, but they are facts.

Later when someone tried to claim that Letterman’s joke was worse than the one on SNL, Farhi replied, ‘The  ‘SNL’  skit directly insinuated that Todd Palin had an incestuous relationship with his daughters. I don’t know how you can get more vulgar and ugly than that.”

During the discussion it was noted that it is possible Palin  “may have been taking orders from the McCain campaign on media strategy” when she did not show similar outrage to the jokes on Saturday Night Live. Farhi later responded to another question on this topic:

I think the bigger-fish-to-fry theory has some validity here. If she had complained about it at the time, it would have been a huge distraction for the McCain campaign. On the other hand, she didn’t have to go on “SNL” if she had a problem with their jokes about her and her family.

Later someone argued that, “NO ONE — absolutely no one has the right to make crude remarks about teens that might have a lasting effect on them.” Farhi replied, “Fair enough. But is NBC (Conan, Leno, Saturday Night Live) and Comedy Central (Stewart) on the same list? Why single out CBS and Letterman?.”

Farhi commented on the misconception among conservatives that Letterman has been taking sides politically:

I’ve never thought of Letterman as a Democrat or a liberal–he just wailed on Bill Clinton and Hillary, and still does–but apparently this whole controversy tapped into some latent Dave-is-a-lousy-liberal wellspring among conservatives. Weird.

When someone said that Letterman has taken sides, Farhi responded, “More so than Stewart, Leno, Conan, etc.? Again, I’m not so sure about that.” Realistically the far right provides more material for comedians. It is also likely that intelligent, educated people will reject the agenda of the far right. While support for the two parties might normally be more even among television celebrities, it is not surprising that they would reject the Republicans now that they are under the control of far right extremists–as the majority of voters have.

Farhi responded to a comment that it didn’t matter which daughter the joke was aimed at:

Actually, it DOES matter, on some level. Again, I think the daughters should be off limits, but if anyone is going there, the only way that joke makes sense is in reference to the older daughter, who is, in fact, a single mother. People who keep insisting that it was about the “rape” of a 14-year-old–as Palin said last week–are just blatantly ignoring the facts.

Farhi resonded to a question about telling such a joke about the Obama girls by pointing out, ” If it had been about the Obama girls, it would not have made sense (neither has been pregnant).” In addition, Bristol Palin has been appearing in public speaking about her pregnancy, making her a more likely target, right or wrong, for jokes of this type.

A commenter speculated that  “I think the issue for Palin is CBS. Republicans have alleged for years that the network has a liberal bias. Palin may also be trying to pay back CBS for that embarrassing Katie Couric interview from last fall.” Farhi responded, “Maybe. But I saw nothing unfair about that interview. Those WERE her own words, weren’t they?”

Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that conservatives will continue to lash out against the media, often blaming the messenger when the facts work against them.

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Landslide Extends to Hart’s Location

Following the landslide victory in Dixville Notch, Barack Obama has repeated with a landslide victory in the second town to announce their vote. In Hart’s Location, Obama won 17 votes, John McCain won 10 votes, and Ron Paul received two write-in votes. Since Hart’s Location reinstated the practice of voting shortly after midnight the Republicans have won every election before tonight. Bob Dole beat Bill Clintin in 1996 and George Bush beat Al Gore and John Kerry in 2000 and 2004. Yet another red area tips blue.

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The Economist Endorses Barack Obama

The Economist has endorsed Barack Obama. While endorsements mean very little, and possibly even less when coming from a publication from outside the United States, I was curious to see what they would decide. The Economist is conservative from a European viewpoint, which means that a centrist Democrat can still fall closer to their beliefs than a Republican. While economically conservative, they do not support the cultural conservativism of the GOP. This has led to a set of endorsements in past issues which would not always have been easy to predict.

The Economist endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980 but then apparently became disenchanted with the Republican Party, not making an endorsement in 1984 or 1988. By 1992 they were ready to endorse a Democrat, backing Bill Clinton. in 1996 they weren’t happy with either candidate, backing Bob Dole but writing, “he choice is a lousy one.” They stuck with the Republicans in 2000 endorsing George Bush but learned the error in this and backed John Kerry in 2008.

They have avoided endorsements of an incumbent, and perhaps their lack of an endorsement for McCain could be explained by if they considered McCain to be running for George Bush’s third term. If they accepted the view that John McCain is an independent Republican who would be moderate on social issues their past history would suggest that he would receive their endorsement. Unfortunately for John McCain, they have followed the race closely, leading them to reject McCain for Barack Obama. They did suggest they would have followed this logic, “If only the real John McCain had been running.”

…the Candidate McCain of the past six months has too often seemed the victim of political sorcery, his good features magically inverted, his bad ones exaggerated. The fiscal conservative who once tackled Mr Bush over his unaffordable tax cuts now proposes not just to keep the cuts, but to deepen them. The man who denounced the religious right as “agents of intolerance” now embraces theocratic culture warriors. The campaigner against ethanol subsidies (who had a better record on global warming than most Democrats) came out in favour of a petrol-tax holiday. It has not all disappeared: his support for free trade has never wavered. Yet rather than heading towards the centre after he won the nomination, Mr McCain moved to the right.

Meanwhile his temperament, always perhaps his weak spot, has been found wanting. Sometimes the seat-of-the-pants method still works: his gut reaction over Georgia—to warn Russia off immediately—was the right one. Yet on the great issue of the campaign, the financial crisis, he has seemed all at sea, emitting panic and indecision. Mr McCain has never been particularly interested in economics, but, unlike Mr Obama, he has made little effort to catch up or to bring in good advisers (Doug Holtz-Eakin being the impressive exception).

The choice of Sarah Palin epitomised the sloppiness. It is not just that she is an unconvincing stand-in, nor even that she seems to have been chosen partly for her views on divisive social issues, notably abortion. Mr McCain made his most important appointment having met her just twice.

Ironically, given that he first won over so many independents by speaking his mind, the case for Mr McCain comes down to a piece of artifice: vote for him on the assumption that he does not believe a word of what he has been saying. Once he reaches the White House, runs this argument, he will put Mrs Palin back in her box, throw away his unrealistic tax plan and begin negotiations with the Democratic Congress. That is plausible; but it is a long way from the convincing case that Mr McCain could have made. Had he become president in 2000 instead of Mr Bush, the world might have had fewer problems. But this time it is beset by problems, and Mr McCain has not proved that he knows how to deal with them.

Some have endorsed McCain based upon the McCain of the past believing this will be what we would have in the White House. The Economist is correct in realizing that it is too risky to place someone who has campaigned as McCain has in the White House. They are not alone in citing the choice of Sarah Palin is reason not to support McCain. While they have reservations which would be expected from a conservative magazine, they endorsed Barack Obama:

Is Mr Obama any better? Most of the hoopla about him has been about what he is, rather than what he would do. His identity is not as irrelevant as it sounds. Merely by becoming president, he would dispel many of the myths built up about America: it would be far harder for the spreaders of hate in the Islamic world to denounce the Great Satan if it were led by a black man whose middle name is Hussein; and far harder for autocrats around the world to claim that American democracy is a sham. America’s allies would rally to him: the global electoral college on our website shows a landslide in his favour. At home he would salve, if not close, the ugly racial wound left by America’s history and lessen the tendency of American blacks to blame all their problems on racism.

So Mr Obama’s star quality will be useful to him as president. But that alone is not enough to earn him the job. Charisma will not fix Medicare nor deal with Iran. Can he govern well? Two doubts present themselves: his lack of executive experience; and the suspicion that he is too far to the left.

There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama’s résumé is thin for the world’s biggest job. But the exceptionally assured way in which he has run his campaign is a considerable comfort. It is not just that he has more than held his own against Mr McCain in the debates. A man who started with no money and few supporters has out-thought, out-organised and outfought the two mightiest machines in American politics—the Clintons and the conservative right.

Political fire, far from rattling Mr Obama, seems to bring out the best in him: the furore about his (admittedly ghastly) preacher prompted one of the most thoughtful speeches of the campaign. On the financial crisis his performance has been as assured as Mr McCain’s has been febrile. He seems a quick learner and has built up an impressive team of advisers, drawing in seasoned hands like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Of course, Mr Obama will make mistakes; but this is a man who listens, learns and manages well.

It is hard too nowadays to depict him as soft when it comes to dealing with America’s enemies. Part of Mr Obama’s original appeal to the Democratic left was his keenness to get American troops out of Iraq; but since the primaries he has moved to the centre, pragmatically saying the troops will leave only when the conditions are right. His determination to focus American power on Afghanistan, Pakistan and proliferation was prescient. He is keener to talk to Iran than Mr McCain is— but that makes sense, providing certain conditions are met.

Our main doubts about Mr Obama have to do with the damage a muddle-headed Democratic Congress might try to do to the economy. Despite the protectionist rhetoric that still sometimes seeps into his speeches, Mr Obama would not sponsor a China-bashing bill. But what happens if one appears out of Congress? Worryingly, he has a poor record of defying his party’s baronies, especially the unions. His advisers insist that Mr Obama is too clever to usher in a new age of over-regulation, that he will stop such nonsense getting out of Congress, that he is a political chameleon who would move to the centre in Washington. But the risk remains that on economic matters the centre that Mr Obama moves to would be that of his party, not that of the country as a whole.

He has earned it

So Mr Obama in that respect is a gamble. But the same goes for Mr McCain on at least as many counts, not least the possibility of President Palin. And this cannot be another election where the choice is based merely on fear. In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.

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Another Conservative Activist Endorses Obama

With the Republicans in recent years becoming the party of big government, and with their support for both the Iraq war and the associated assults on civil liberties, many principled conservatives and libertarians are now backing Barack Obama instead of John McCain. I’ve posted many previous examples of this, with the most recent post here. There’s yet one more to add to the list. In an op-ed in The New York Daily News Larry Hunter explains why he supports Obama.

Hunter describes his conservative credentials:

I’m a lifelong Republican – a supply-side conservative. I worked in the Reagan White House. I was the chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for five years. In 1994, I helped write the Republican Contract with America. I served on Bob Dole’s presidential campaign team and was chief economist for Jack Kemp’s Empower America.

Hunter explains why a conservative activist such as himself is backing Obama:

The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies – this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.

Taxes, economic policy and health care reform matter, of course. But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats – these are of greater importance.

John McCain would continue the Bush administration’s commitment to interventionism and constitutional overreach. Obama promises a humbler engagement with our allies, while promising retaliation against any enemy who dares attack us. That’s what conservatism used to mean – and it’s what George W. Bush promised as a candidate.

Hunter has reservations about Obama on domestic policy but sees reason to believe that he is not as opposed to conservative views as many on the right are claiming:

…he says just about all the wrong things on domestic issues doesn’t bother me as much as it once would have. After all, the Republicans said all the right things – fiscal responsibility, spending restraint – and it didn’t mean a thing. It is a sad commentary on American politics today, but it’s taken as a given that politicians, all of them, must pander, obfuscate and prevaricate.

Besides, I suspect Obama is more free-market friendly than he lets on. He taught at the University of Chicago, a hotbed of right-of-center thought. His economic advisers, notably Austan Goolsbee, recognize that ordinary citizens stand to gain more from open markets than from government meddling. That’s got to rub off.

It would be more accurate to say that many Democrats are more “free-market friendly” than the right wing noise machine claims. At least many conservatives such as Hunter are more open to considering a Democrat such as Obama, seeing him as more of a centrist than a left wing extremist. At very least, Hunter believes that Obama would do less harm (from a conservative perspective) than the Republicans have done:

But overall, based on his embrace of centrist advisers and policies, it seems likely that Obama will turn out to be in the mold of John Kennedy – who was fond of noting that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Over the last few decades, economic growth has made Americans at every income level better off. For all his borderline pessimistic rhetoric, Obama knows this. And I believe he is savvy enough to realize that the real threat to middle-class families and the poor – an economic undertow that drags everyone down – cannot be counteracted by an activist government.

Or maybe not. But here’s the thing: Even if my hopes on domestic policy are dashed and Obama reveals himself as an unreconstructed, dyed-in-the-wool, big-government liberal, I’m still voting for him.

These past eight years, we have spent over a trillion dollars on foreign soil – and lost countless lives – and done what I consider irreparable damage to our Constitution.

If economic damage from well-intentioned but misbegotten Obama economic schemes is the ransom we must pay him to clean up this foreign policy mess, then so be it. It’s not nearly as costly as enduring four more years of what we suffered the last eight years.

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