Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, RIP

I had also wanted to comment on John McCain, specifically in the context of his dissociation from the remarks of talk-show host Bill Cunningham. But, I will save that for the next post. The subject of this one is how National Review, the journal Buckley founded, for years listed the recent deaths of cultural luminaries, one of which he was. I subscribed to National Review as a teenager and have already commented on how both the breadth and depth of scholarly content has suffered since those days in the early to mid-seventies, when Buckley sat at the center of the operation. This is not primarily to criticize today’s publication, which is more than adequate to the standards of the time. Rather, it is to remark on the extraordinary intellectual distinction of the early manifestation. I say that, even though I assume and hope that my own analytical tools have been substantially enhanced in the intervening 30+ years.

Though my disposition on how conservative principle ought to be expressed and ought to engage contemporary culture has been somewhat modified, the news of Buckley’s death seized a sentimental nerve. Though there are publications that fancy themselves starker advocates of what they consider conservatism, which to me seem more viscerally than philosophically and historically based, it seems that the whole notion of a cultural depot for any intellectual philosophy may be well into the process of passing into oblivion. In fact, the whole idea is a phenomenon of 20th century Western pop-culture. I long ago said that dominating locales of general streams of thought would probably yield to a modern-day agora of online advocacy, with a near infinite supply of ideas and dispositional palliatives. In the 20th century, common music, film and television were part of a common “language” across the country. But, the change seems to be well under way: The era of culturally-dominant ideological outposts of information, social policy, art, and entertainment may be waning, but Buckley and National Review were certainly prominent figures of that time; my time.

This is how the old courier of New York cultural liberalism, The Village Voice commented on the death of William F. Buckley, citing an AP announcement, after its posting of an old video clip of Buckley becoming irate when in a debate, Gore Vidal called him an example of “crypto-Nazism.” I couldn’t resist commenting on it. By the way, I defend(ed) the Vietnam War, and oppose(d) as out-of-place and superfluous civil rights legislation beyond the 14th Amendment clarification that US constitutional rights apply to every human being and are not legitimately abridged within the constituent states. I don’t understand the context or substance of the “white community in the South” comment. But I do believe that the US Constitution should be the only constraint on the sovereignty of voluntary associations such as communities or The Boy Scouts, for example.

The AP on the National Review:

The National Review defended the Vietnam War, opposed civil rights legislation and once declared that "the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail." Buckley also had little use for the music of the counterculture, once calling the Beatles "so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic."

My comment:
As an old Beatles and William F. Buckley fan, I find the focus on Buckley's disdain for Beatle music to be unfortunate.

While I loved a lot of Beatle music and it was a substantial bit of the backdrop to my early life, Buckley was a studied musician and musicologist of an earlier age. While Beatle music was a common and usually upbeat cultural touchstone, it is silly to even imply that it was on an equal structural plain with earlier music compositions that transcended provincial time.

Were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison (Ringo Starr was mostly a character and relatively ordinary drummer) accomplished song composers and instrumentalists? Of course, they were. But with their bedroom/garage training and practice, could they have composed a classical symphony or even a big band standard? Probably not, else they likely would have.

In any case, this is an intellectually thin matter to focus on upon the death of a huge literary presence of the past 50 years. Regardless of your understanding or assent to what was Buckley's focus and accomplishment, this shallow approach is distracting and ungracious, to say the least.

Friday, February 15, 2008

If McCain Supposedly Has It Locked Up, Why Not Vote For Huckabee? - Wisconsin Tuesday, Sen. McCain's Lead In Texas Small

Supporters got an email message from Governor Huckabee with basically the same information as the web notice, below, and an appeal for contributions: .

Irrespective of how Wisconsin goes on Tuesday, there’s a sure shot at winning Texas, if we get out everyone we know to vote on March 4. That would give the campaign a big push. If the delegate race goes to convention, a late string of wins will be difficult to overlook. I think conservatives should bombard McCain’s campaign and The Republican National Committee, demanding The Right To Life and The Fair Tax be given the consideration that has been earned. I’ll tell them that after this year’s campaign, the party cannot shrug off these constituencies and expect the fervency and work from them that is essential to Republican victory and first pulled them almost 50 years of minority status in 1980. I believe that reviving the sanctity of human life to the public conscience is essential to the long-term maintenance of a civil society. And, The Fait Tax is the most potentially liberating and empowering proposal of my lifetime.

If Huckabee does not gain the top of the ticket, wisdom would make him the running-mate, ensuring the enthusiasm of these constituencies for election cycles to come. I know that the distortions of Romney and Thompson and the reactions of some conservatives who were unnerved by Huckabee’s expressions of empathy for all humans, have left a sentiment among some that he is “not a conservative.” Just yesterday, I heard a radio host bemoaning Huckabee’s “Christian socialism” that supposedly sees government as the vehicle of Christian responsibility, which this person doesn’t see. The problem is that Huckabee has never said any such thing. He has a clearer than ordinary understanding of human nature and how government can corrupt it. And he also has a clear understanding of a conservative essential that many conservatives seem to have forgotten: the distinction between the responsibilities and capacities of state and federal government in The United States.

Mike Huckabee is also smart enough to engage this directly when given the opportunity. The great irony is that is Huckabee does not win the nomination, it will have been with the help of supposed conservatives that he will have not succeeded electorally for the first time in almost 16 years. He beat Democrats repeatedly. It took conservatives to slow him down, though he hasn’t stopped, yet.

February 15, 2008 - 12:59 PM
Sen. McCain's Lead In Texas Small
by Team Huckabee
Two new polls in Texas from ARG and POS show a 6 and 4 point lead for Senator McCain in Texas.
As Gov. Huckabee said in his email yesterday, Texas is the place to fight for the nomination. These leads are small considering the attention the media has been heaping on Senator McCain as the "frontrunner."

Here are a couple of red states we might mention, where Senator McCain had a similar lead:
Georgia won by Gov. Huckabee
Tennessee won by Gov. Huckabee
Alabama won by Gov. Huckabee
Louisiana won by Gov. Huckabee
Kansas won by Gov. Huckabee

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

McCain, Huckabee, Conservatism and Audacious Integrity/Dear Dr. Dobson

Rett Hatcher posted a comment on James Dobson’s statement that he cannot vote for McCain: Dobson Puzzle
My comment was extended it enough that I needed to post and reference it, discussing McCain and Huckabee…


Listen, I went to my state Republican convention in 1998 with a stack of flyers detailing the problems with a few Republican figures, most notably John McCain. In 2000, and 2004 I voted third-party, in fact leaving the Republican Party and joining The Constitution Party. I'm in Texas and I knew that George W. Bush was philosophically skeletally structured. When he was elected I said, "Leviathan gets a night manager," and I was exactly right. The fact is that the Republican Congress never would have let Al Gore do things like double the federal Department of Education and greatly expand Medicare entitlements, for example: that required the affirmation of an "R" president.

I'm not angry at Bush and in fact hugely appreciate his resolve in opposing violent Islam and defending America and humanity, which is just one reason why I left The Constitution Party, the spokespeople and probably the majority of which have a foreign policy disposition closer to Ron Paul's. I wish Bush had had the same resolve about the social vitality of America. But, I always knew that that facility was not there.

Generally, I think McCain is similar and probably worse, in terms of philosophical ambiguity, because he has plainly shown a vulnerability to usually misguided pop-ethics. I think Bush has a helpful combination of sound counsel and political pragmatism, and McCain may be less amenable to countering advice. McCain's extraordinary resolve can be bad as well as good. A man who has never supported a tax increase, can go into Iowa as a candidate and oppose ethanol subsidies, oppose Bush's tax reductions out of conviction about spending, oppose Bush's expansion of Medicare, support resolve in Iraq at the lowest ebb of that position's popularity several months ago...there's plenty more, but I hope you get the strikingly loyal to the convictions that he HAS in today's political world.

I'm aware of the paradox in what I'm saying: McCain is philosophically deficient, but faithful to his sentiments. For me, that makes him preferable by legions to the picture that Mitt Romney's history presents to me. Provide him with surrounding counsel that is equally decent and philosophically more lucid.

I think Romney should get out. He can only compete in a few Western states. But, it amounts to a demonstrable waste of money. In the contests he needed, he lost to BOTH McCAIN AND HUCKABEE! Huckabee can very possibly win in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and strongly compete in Ohio (very pro-life Catholic), South Dakota, and possibly Kansas. But Romney can do as he likes with his money. I just hope he doesn’t hurt anyone with it and doesn’t try, and I don’t think he will…anymore.

Huckabee can take a substantial stack of delegates. If he becomes the nominee, McCain NEEDS badly to animate the social conservatives in the South and Midwest, as is so starkly illustrated in James Dobson's comment that you cite. I don't know if there's possible path to that other than Huckabee on the ticket, who also balances McCain's age, appeals to women and youth. And believe it or not you aggravated conservatives; Huckabee also is the answer to that inclination to philosophical dysfunction, where he is clear and articulate. The only problem a McCain-Huckabee ticket can possibly have is if some conservatives continue to make a stink about it. I’m glad Hugh Hewitt has relented and is being positive about the fall Republican ticket. I’m waiting to hear about Rush’s or Ann coulter’s foolishness.

In truth, where Huckabee is distinguished from this rabid population is in his lack of animosity and his realism, which is another source of my separation from The Constitution Party. I am a Christian, as are most all of the CP, mostly good and thoughtful and dedicated people. But, the model of Christ engages reality, not just an abstract and practically irrelevant ideal. Jesus had the Spirit of God...IN a FALLEN world. The whole point of the divine incarnation is that Jesus LOVED SINNERS, which incidentally includes ALL of us. We don't require grace any less than anyone else. Our duty as grace's recipients is to be the expression of God's grace to a world as flawed as we are.

Constitutionalists will insist that government has nothing to do with that. As an example that I have written about in the past, many months ago now, I visited a web site organized by a constitutionalist guru after they misunderstood the issue that had arisen about Huckabee and a smoking ban. In the first place, Huckabee’s position was misconstrued and the question hadn’t arisen as it had been portrayed. But, I raised another question about the extremity of health care costs and the need for their containment. I was immediately swarmed as though I had shaken a stick in a beehive: “…no constitutional authority!" they scorned, which was correct: there is none. But a little reality check is in order and urgently in need. The federal government is fairly drowning in medical liabilities that it has accrued, never mind the high and rapidly escalating personal costs that the system, including govt. regulations. Constitutionality is irrelevant: the costs and liabilities are an intractable FACT. What is a meticulous constitutionalist going to do about that? It seems like they are going to pretend it isn’t there.

But, all of that is part of the exile into abstraction, which I suspect animates much of the hostility against Huckabee, who commits the audacious apostasy of even expressing concern for the concerns of ordinary Americans, including populations that have to a great extent favored Democrats: minorities, laborers, or simply as he says, “Main Street” Americans. If we can’t even talk like that, such populations will stay largely Democrat strongholds. Conservatives need to work on and explicate conservative responses to those concerns. Reality is that the utter disjunction of government from moral concerns is a battle long lost. If you don’t want to play, you may as well leave the field. But to some conservatives, empathy only translates to the love of unconstrained taxing and spending and “open borders.”

That root problem of Huckabee’s empathetic expression runs through most of the so-called “conservative” complaints about him. As a state government must do, taxes were raised (though modestly) to address state essentials. States must provide education, build roads, and maintain parks, which was the great bulk of tax increases. Under Governor Huckabee, Arkansas also (gasp) gave very poor children access to Medicare coverage. Scandalous! And all of this was in a state with an 80% Democrat representation, by the way. But, Huckabee cut taxes at every opportunity, including a broad-based income tax reduction, and all of them were unprecedented in Arkansas. The tax attacks were politically and/or personally motivated, and drastically deceptive.

Likewise, he did not scorn and spurn illegal aliens. But in 2007, he opposed the immigration bill that didn’t secure the border first, and later outlined the most rigorous immigration enforcement bill, which offered incentives rather than proposing (ultimately probably empty) threats, to return home and pursue an orderly legalization via a hopefully expedited process. And the Fair Tax idea that Huckabee endorses and advocates for is the most economically liberating and stimulating idea to have appeared in our lifetimes.

I support Huckabee because he’s a remarkable combination of philosophical clarity, empathetic realism, sound character, and engaging leadership. Today, I heard Bill Krystol doubting Huckabee’s potential as a VP option, saying McCain would need someone of “more stature,” and mentioning Jeb Bush, though acknowledging the last name is a problem.

What does one have to do to achieve “stature?” Huckabee was Arkansas governor longer than Bill Clinton and longer than Jeb Bush was governor of Florida. I’ll acknowledge that Florida is larger and more electorally critical than Arkansas. But, I may be accused of mere “identity” defensiveness as an evangelical Christian, but I can’t help but think that Huckabee wouldn’t meet the “stature” standard, even if he had served his 101/2 years (14 as Governor and Lt. Governor) in Florida, precisely because he is an evangelical Christian, which can be condescended to, even if subconsciously, by the political establishment. That’s an irony when so many establishment Republicans endorsed Romney, whom I assume has no “stature” problem, even though he was Massachusetts governor for only 4 years.. But, Romney might have gotten similar treatment if, in addition to affirming his Mormonism and the role of “faith” in America., he said things like, “My faith not only informs me, it defines me.” That is laudable in terms of integrity and consistency. But, in terms of pop-culture, it’s “politically incorrect.”

Monday, February 4, 2008

McCain About America, Romney About Romney, Huckabee Better Than Both, and Consider This/Super Tuesday Republican Run-Down

Before summarizing the remaining candidates, I just want to say two brief things: 1) I would vote for Mike Huckabee next month even if he averaged less than 10% tomorrow (which he won’t) and he has pulled out of the competition by then, IF HIS NAME IS STILL ON THE BALLOT, simply because he is the best presidential candidate of my 50-year life. And, he’s easily the most clear-headed conservative mind that America has seen in the past few years. And 2) I often disagree with John McCain, who probably has a Washington provincially distorted perspective. But John McCain is by far a more noble man than Mitt Romney. And, right or wrong, McCain acts and speaks in the interest of America. To me it appears that Romney acts and speaks in the interest of Mitt Romney.

That said, It has been a remarkable year. While there were once 9 Republican candidates for president, heading into tomorrow, Feb. 5, when 22 states will vote on delegates to the Republican National Convention, there are four remaining. The front-loading and compression of the process, has certainly made a dramatic difference in how it has played out, which is mostly regrettable, I think. There was a lot of speculation early on, about how that situation would play out. Mostly, it asked whether the early states be more or less important? It would seem to have been the latter. Certainly in previous presidential campaign seasons, the sorting out would have been farther along or over after the South Carolina primary, with only 1 or 2 left standing.

Perhaps the “frontrunner” perception has not had enough time to settle in between contests. The notion is a strange one to me. But, it’s no great surprise if I’m not typical. Someone I spoke with doubted the force of the tendency, but it seems undeniable that many fall in line behind what or whom they perceive a “winning.” Indeed, that is the whole idea of “momentum,” a sort of psychological centrifugal force. As I said, I have no sense of that. I’ve been voting for 32 years, and I’ve never moved my vote for a “winner” vs. whom I thought was the best candidate. In fact, Ronald Reagan was the only winner I ever voted for in a primary, and I had supported him from the start. The herd followed my sentiments, not vice-versa. In fact, I had voted for Reagan in a 1976 primary, when he was not the eventual winner, though he came close.

All of that said, I’ll say that I’m a supporter of Huckabee (whom the political chatterers also say will not be a winner) But Consider This: Huckabee has said that he’s in it until a candidate has the delegates to secure the nomination. That cannot even mathematically happen, tomorrow.Mitt Romney will likely watch more millions be flushes away, and tomorrow ning, find himself hopelessly far behind and not especially liked. If he finally decides that 100 million dollars, over 35 of it his own, is enough and drops out, what do the McCain haters do now, especially since many also hate Huckabee? They are the only ones left. That’s kind of amusing.

I’ll discuss the remaining 4 candidates, in order of unacceptability: how they stand, and how they’ve gone through the process:

Ron Paul
is a very interesting character. He is not a “nut” or any other similar description that many throw at him. Ron Paul is a plenty smart man. He is very exceptional, in that he discusses in detail many things that the others don’t discuss at all like, very notably, the integrity of money and the primacy of private not government effort in shaping the economy. That kind of talk is not at all apart from why he is called names decrying him as strange. He is strange in the sense of standing apart from a perspective constrained by conventional popular culture, which is fraught with foolish assumptions. Generally speaking, I hardly consider that a fault of any sort.

However, there is an element of that unique ideal that I can’t go along with. And, unlike the many differences I have with John McCain, for instance. This is one that I can’t pass off for the sake of any sort of greater good. It seems to me that the same sort of philosophical resolve that tethers Ron Paul to the virtue of sound currency and free and private commerce, has him philosophically blinkered with a foreign policy for America that amounts to a dereliction of duty relative to security and basic humanity. Of course, what he calls a “non-interventionist” foreign policy has nothing to do with the sort of Smithian Natural Law about the inherent principles of human commerce and wealth production and maintenance.

But, I fully understand his shyness about military adventurism and the temptation of military power and expansion. And, I understand the counsel of the American Founders to “avoid foreign entanglements,” and the paleo-conservative tradition of modest foreign policy. But, the very obvious problem to the non-philosophically blinkered who must make moral and prudent judgments about the real world, is that the evolution of technology has run full out from under a world where travel, transport, and communications across the ocean required a ship’s voyage of months or years. Today, men travel the world in a day and sound and video images are transmitted around the world in practically real time. As today’s threats of terrorism have vividly demonstrated, it is no longer a sufficient defense posture to wait and respond when cannonballs are lobbed onto a populated shore. Technology is such that a very few can pose a frightful danger to American life hatched on distant continents and delivered quickly and surreptitiously.

While I believe he is sincere and resolved as he is about other things, given today’s technology of travel, communications, and destructive force, Paul’s sort of non-interventionist prescription presents two HUGE problems:
1) it is an imprudent security risk. Paul frets military engagement with peoples’ who present no armies or navies to threaten American military power. So, what? None are required to impose great destruction. And
2) Yes, America has great power. Paul may insist that policing the world from tyrants is not American government’s business. But, no private agency has the power to do so. And a power held is a moral responsibility. It is a real question to ask when we are “intruding” (or building empire, as Paul likes to say) and when it is a moral responsibility to intervene against inhumanity. As I often ask, given today’s world, at what point does ignoring human abuse become something on the order of watching a sidewalk attack out your window and declining to get involved.
The first problem is an ostrich-head-in-the-sand question to an extreme degree. And, the second problem is an extreme degree of humanitarian responsibility. How close are we to treading into stark cowardice?

For these reasons, though Paul has all year been the philosophically clearest and most resolute candidate, what I see as his anachronistic human misjudgments are too severe, besides the fact that he is not especially skilled at personal engagement and encouragement with the public. So, though I think he is exceptionally clear and consistent, and should be an advisor in many areas, Ron Paul is the LAST Republican candidate that I want to see with presidential power.

Mitt Romney has constructed a black and white confession on definable issues, that I agree with over 90% of the time. But, I don’t feel that I have any sense of his heart and wonder if I possibly could. People accuse him of “flip-flopping” on issues of serious concern. Even if his changes were genuine, I am unimpressed with a potential leader who was ambiguous on grave issies well into his fifties. He’s obviously a smart man, which suggests not ambiguity but spectacular pliability. I believe conservatives need to “sell” conservative principle to traditionally ambiguous or antagonistic populations. If Romney was to any extent demonstrating that with his election in Massachusetts, he has disavowed all of that, now. Pliability, again?

Many conservatives are irrationally frantic about the possibility of John McCain as the Republican nominee. I just repeat what I said at the beginning: “I often disagree with John McCain, who probably has a Washington provincially distorted perspective. But John McCain is by far a more noble man than Mitt Romney. And, right or wrong, McCain acts and speaks in the interest of America. To me it appears that Romney acts and speaks in the interest of Mitt Romney.” Check these links: and I really would hate for my arm to be twisted to choose Romney over a Democrat.

As I have also said, John McCain has a philosophical disability. But, he’s a genuine man and American patriot, with plenty of conservative sentiments about spending and jusicial activism, for instance. He als favors tax reduction and reform. He undetrstands that the public has insisted on securing the border before, not after, anything else. And, he has supported restrained not activist judges. A good VP might nudge him away from sentimental errors. Again, “…right or wrong, McCain acts and speaks in the interest of America. To me it appears that Romney acts and speaks in the interest of Mitt Romney.” He wouldn’t be my first choice. But especially given the options, he is far from my last.

Mike Huckabee is a clear-headed and constitutional conservative who is prepared to effectively deal with 20th century realities. He won Iowa with months of face-to-face engagement of Iowa voters, which has not been possible in subsequent contests, though he nearly won again, in South Carolina. I will pick his name on any ballot in which he is a candidate. He has a sober and diligent heart, and offers real solutions to move America from problems that it has gotten itself into. Based on the evidence so far, I will be surprised if I see as good a candidate as he is, again. Hopefully, he has established a model.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Vote For Romney Is A Vote For McCain

Thanks to The Thomas Report for posting this: A HUGE LIE: VOTE FOR HUCKABEE, A VOTE FOR MCCAIN??

Contrary to Romney apologists’ reports that “A vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain,” this blog points to a FOX News Opinion Dynamics Poll (below) that suggests quite the opposite.

I pulled these numbers from the actual report. Note that with all three in the race, Republicans polled chose McCain by 48%, with Romney and Huckabee in a statistical tie at 20% and 19%, while if Huckabee is removed from the question, McCain’s polling among Republicans soars to 62% while Romney’s rises only to 29%. McCain rises 14 points while Romney rises only 9. And in fact in Rasmussen polling, Huckabee leads Romney in GA, AL, and MO and is competitive with him in all of the southern states that both need. So plainly, a vote for Romney is a vote for McCain.

This in essence suggests that Romney is wasting more money with his latest multi-million dollar buy. He spent millions in Iowa to trash Huckabee and lost to Huckabee. He spent millions in New Hampshire, less than an hour from MA, where he was governor) to trash McCain and lost to McCain. He won in Michigan where he was born and his father was governor, playing the socialist “conservative” by pledging over 15 billion dollars for research to the auto industry: Promise made in Michigan could backfire on Romney . (by the way, that promise was YOUR money, not his) Then, after putting millions into South Carolina and foreseeing failure, he pulled out (finally finishing 4th) to go directly to spending in Florida, where McCain beat him 36% to 31%.

What’s that they say about doing the same thing over and over and looking for different results? Anyway, Huckabee supporters can actually thank Romney for shoveling out more millions to savage McCain. What a swell guy! Basically, Romney seems to be a good man with a nice family, and has been a successful business man. He obviously can do as he wishes with his millions of dollars. But based on the record, I wouldn’t invest a hundred bucks in such a sorry candidacy. Poor guy! At least, he should get a plaque for the effort! But, Huckabee has gotten a lot more return on a lot fewer dollars. If you agree with Romney that McCain was wrong on McCain-Feingold and stem cell research, vote Mike Huckabee.

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll
1 February 08

#6. If the 2008 Republican presidential primary were held today, for whom would
you vote if the candidates were: (RANDOMIZE)
-- Rep --
Jan 08
John McCain 48%
Mitt Romney 20%
Mike Huckabee 19%
Ron Paul 5%
(Other) -
(Don’t know) 5%
(Would not vote in GOP primary) 2%

#7. If John McCain and Mitt Romney were the only choices in the
Republican primary, how would you vote? 30-31 Jan 08
McCain Romney (Don’t know) (Would not vote)
Republicans 62% 29% 6% 3%
Independents 60% 21% 11% 8%