Why Is the GOP Establishment Such a Loser? It’s Kristol Clear

I was never #NeverTrump, but back during those crazy days of the 2016 GOP primary I had a certain amount of sympathy for those who were.  That’s because I respected quite a few of them—and in opposing Donald Trump, they weren’t exactly taking the easy road.  Our own Erick Erickson paid a steep price for abiding by his principles, and other writers whom I follow closely—Jonah Goldberg and Jay Nordlinger among them—built a convincing case against Trump’s brand of celebrity populism.

Since I have little use for cult-of-personality politics, and since my own conservatism springs primarily from intellectual and policy roots, I agreed with most of their arguments.  I also knew that Trump was not, at heart, a conservative, even if the agenda he proposed largely was.  One thing that Trump had going for him, though, was that he really made the GOP establishment nervous.  He wasn’t afraid to call them out as creatures of the DC swamp, a little too comfortable with a status quo in which they talked a good game but never actually did anything. Ted Cruz expressed the same sentiments, and the establishment hated them both for it—but since Cruz was the true conservative, I cast my vote for him in the primary.

Trump, however, was the one who prevailed, and I was fine with that.  Would I have preferred the nominee to be someone actually schooled in conservative thought and tradition?  Sure.  And would it have been better for the Republican standard-bearer to be more of a steady hand and less of a character from a WWE pay-per-view special?  Absolutely. But even if Trump was a flawed vessel, he talked about issues that the GOP base actually cared about—things like unchecked illegal immigration, which establishment toadies like Jeb! called an act of love.  Trump also understood what the Democrats had long known—that politics is a street fight and you don’t win by playing nice.  To a guy like me, who was still angry over how a decent man like Mitt Romney had his reputation trashed by a dishonest media and the likes of Harry Reid, this was nothing short of a vindication.

There are some, however, who never quite got over the vulgarity of it all.  Like the country clubbers of Bushwood horrified at the antics of Al Czervik, they still can’t believe that man was allowed anywhere near the White House.  Count among them Bill Kristol, who was a leading conservative voice and a champion of limited government, but who now defines himself wholly by his resistance to all things Trump.

 

I may be a simple blogger, but I can’t find the part of the Constitution that stipulates a strong preference for democratic norms except in cases when the duly elected president is kind of icky.  By those standards, Kristol should have advocated a Deep State overthrow of Bill Clinton—but I don’t remember seeing an article like that in the Weekly Standard at the time.

No matter.  To Kristol, being #NeverTrump means never having to give the president credit for anything, even when he takes actions that you wholeheartedly agree are good for the country.  Or, as he put it in a recent tweet:

 

For sure, it would have been far better if Hillary had picked the next Supreme Court justice.  I mean, our Second Amendment rights would be hanging by a thread and we’d be one court case away from erasing our religious liberties forever—but it would totes be worth it if Bill Kristol didn’t have to say, “Eww!” every time he had to watch a Trump presser.  As for Iran getting a nuclear weapon and the UN’s non-stop Israel bashing through UNESCO, would that really be such a large price to pay for not offending Kristol’s delicate sensibilities?  We have our standards to maintain, after all.

If you ever needed an illustration of exactly why the GOP establishment has become so hated by its own base, look no further.  In essence, Kristol is saying that losing the election and cementing the Obama legacy would have been preferable to the faux pas of Donald Trump.  Most voters see it differently.  They would rather win and advance their own agenda.  If that means putting up with some boorish behavior on the part of the president, then so be it.  That’s because they know the alternative is far worse.

Kristol, for his part, doesn’t seem to care.  If he can’t have things his way, he’d rather take his ball and go home—no matter how badly the rest of the country suffers.  Problem is, the voters are on to his little scam, and now he’s pitching a hissy fit.

It’s really too bad.  Kristol is s smart man, and has contributed greatly to the conservative moment over the years—more than I ever will, I’m certain.  But right now, his pride seems to be getting the better of him. Rather than try to convince everyone he was right about Trump all along, maybe he should try cutting the administration some slack when it’s deserved.  Then, when he calls them out for doing something stupid, his criticism will sound more genuine.

Valerie Plame Wilson – A Mediocre Mea Culpa At Best

So, this was Valerie Plame Wilson’s (sort of) apology for tweeting this:

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910884546723196929

And upon received criticism added insult to injury by tweeting this:

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910893481735757825

And this. Clearly she can’t be antisemitic because ancestry or something :

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910893826079723521

Then dug her hole a little deeper:

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910894036545765376

Before lecturing her critics:

https://twitter.com/ValeriePlame/status/910894146029621249

So let’s break down her mea culpa to expose that it is first and foremost both ludicrous and insincere. She says she “skimmed” the piece she tweeted and clearly defended for hours. I skimmed the title and found it offensive enough to have skipped reading the article completely. But I am not Valerie. Agree or disagree with Bill Kristol and his politics, he is a well known Jewish Conservative. The title alone tells you the article is going to be an indictment of other like minded Jewish commentators and political figures.

So what constitutes a “skim”? Do you suppose it might involve reading the first paragraph of what you tweet out as a “provocative”, “thoughtful” piece by Philip Giraldi? I’d like to think that’s a fair expectation. So I read it. Here’s what it says:

I spoke recently at a conference on America’s war party where afterwards an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked, “Why doesn’t anyone ever speak honestly about the six-hundred-pound gorilla in the room? Nobody has mentioned Israel in this conference and we all know it’s American Jews with all their money and power who are supporting every war in the Middle East for Netanyahu? Shouldn’t we start calling them out and not letting them get away with it?”

Dare I say there is a 600 pound gorilla in the first paragraph? I am totally sure this conversation took place (not) and it wasn’t at all imagined by the author as an opening to set himself up to go on one of the most offensive screeds I have read in awhile.  It is 10 minutes of my life I will never get back and I blame Valerie.

The piece goes on to place all of of our foreign policy decisions in the Middle East on the shoulders of prominent Jewish commentators and civil servants. It creates the construct that opposition to the Iran deal comes only from the corridors of AIPAC and asserts the media in general (all Jewish controlled according to the author) is somehow complicit pushing a narrative that the Iran Deal must go. Does this guy even watch the news?

Finally he suggests that American Jews who support Israel should be somehow flagged in the media if they refuse to “recuse” themselves from the debate. I think he really means shut up, but recuse sounds voluntary. Here is the author’s suggestion to remedy the problem:

For those American Jews who lack any shred of integrity, the media should be required to label them at the bottom of the television screen whenever they pop up, e.g. Bill Kristol is “Jewish and an outspoken supporter of the state of Israel.” That would be kind-of-like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison – translating roughly as “ingest even the tiniest little dosage of the nonsense spewed by Bill Kristol at your own peril.”

He likens the opinions of pro-Israel American Jews to rat poison and suggests providing some sort of chyron when they appear to warn people. In the course of the article he names 15 Jewish commentators and officials by name, alludes to Jared Kushner and condemns the entire membership of AIPAC, WINEP and the Hudson Institute. In no uncertain terms he suggests they all remove themselves from Middle East policy debate because they are incapable of being impartial based on their faith.

What the article really promotes is silencing of the opposition based on their faith. This is just a grossly antisemitic point of view and pays no heed to the fact that polling prior to the 2016 midterms showed up to 84% of American Jews supported the deal.  The author turned an article about political opposition in one about religion. Plain and simple.

I am not Jewish. I opposed the Iran Deal. I listened to Ben Rhodes when he said he manipulated a complicit and inexperienced press pool to run with the administration’s preferred narrative and I believe him. I am furious we sent pallets of cash to the number one state sponsor of terror and am fine if this administration decided to decertify it. Maybe I need a chyron or a special designation? I’m not sure. Maybe Valerie can tell me.

So as to Ms. Wilson’s assertion she skimmed the article, I find it ludicrous. It was antisemitic from beginning to end. To have “zeroed in on the neocon criticism”, neocon was literally the only word she read. Her tweets in defense of herself told her critics to “read the whole thing” and “think clearly”. I think it is a valid assumption that at that point she had read the entire thing. Well Valerie, after reading the whole thing myself, I clearly think you should grab a tiki torch and a Pepe T-shirt and join Richard Spencer at his next rally.

 

 

Ben Sasse to Bill Kristol: “I don’t believe in despair”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Editor-at-Large of the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, had a thought provoking discussion on Kristol’s “Conversations.”

Recorded on April 24th, the interview discusses several hot topics in today’s news, including society, politics, education, and history. Kristol and Sasse also discussed Sasse’s upcoming book, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance, which will be released on May 16th. The book is already listed on Amazon’s #1 Best Seller’s List.

When discussing the upcoming book, Sasse referenced Senator Pat Moynihan’s famous “Everyone is entitled to your own opinion but you’re not entitled to your own facts” quote.

“…in advance of the “fake news” crisis, I’ve believed we’re headed toward a place where there is just more and more subjectivism and we don’t have a lot of shared dialogue, and it’s because we don’t start with shared facts,” Sasse said. “In the Senate, we rarely agree what problem we’re even tackling before we start bickering and arguing about process. So, partly that, and partly because of Moynihan’s concern about family structure in the mid-1960s. Even though I’m the third most conservative guy, I think, in the Senate by my voting record, I’ve been a big fan of Moynihan’s since my undergraduate days.”

Sasse also discussed some his early lessons from when he first began his term as a Senator in 2015.

“One of the surprise takeaways for me was that, in private, most people in the Senate believe that we have big, national problems and that the Senate isn’t actually tackling those big, national problems,” he said. “But everybody feels a little bit helpless on how to fix it. There’s a collective action problem.”

Kristol then asked Sasse if Congress is as “broken as it looks from the outside,” while asking if one should be in “despair” or “anger.”

“I don’t believe in despair,” Sasse answered. “I think anger’s pretty unproductive, but I’ll say that I think the problems are at least as big as people think, maybe bigger. I had kind of a 2×2 matrix before I got to the Senate, and maybe I won’t typologize – I used to work at the Boston Consulting Group and there was this sort of cash-cow matrix.”

“But, I won’t put people’s pictures in the four quadrants, but if you had a sort of self-interested, Machiavellian dimension, and a let’s call that “efficacy.” And then there’s a self-absorption dimension, I kind of thought that everybody in the Senate was really, really able and competent but not all that public minded.”

“Being in the institution, I actually think it’s filled with really, really fine, well-meaning people, but maybe not quite as talented or urgent about the magnitude of the problems we face as far as what leadership is required to really tackle big, national problems.”
Sasse also discussed the views of the American people, adding that he believes the Republican Party has failed to properly address income inequality.

“The really important things in life, in the American view, are not political things. Whether you’re talking about those cultural challenges and passing on a sort of robust sense of the meaning of America, which is not primarily about government. Government is about power; it’s about compulsion. Or if you’re talking narrowly about the subset of life that can be affected by power and compulsion, I think we just don’t do a very good job of talking about the moment we’re at in economic history.”

“I think the Republican Party has done just a terrible job of ceding the field about income inequality to Democrats, as if we shouldn’t all be hyper-concerned about the median American family. We should,” Sasse continued. “We can have a different debate about what the government’s role is to intervene in the midst of that, but I think that we should acknowledge that one thing that’s happening now that is new in human history is we have a shrinking duration at jobs in such a way that people are going to have to cycle through lots of different jobs and industries and vocations in their lifetime, and that’s really never happened before in human history.”

Sasse also discussed jobs, and noted that college graduates “don’t just change jobs, they change industries three times in their first decade post-college.”

Sasse says that his book is “not at all about politics” and the focuses on the “need” to have a conversation with young adults about “self-reliance” and “work ethic.”

“My book is about the sort of preconditions for work anchoring lives. Because it isn’t just about how do you put bread on the table,” Sasse noted. “We’re the richest people in human history. Right? We live in the richest time in the richest nation the world has ever known, and in a weird way, we have all of the symptoms and dysfunctions of affluenza.”

“I mean, if you think about trust-fund babies across the world, or folks who’ve had inherited wealth in the Saudi empire, it’s usually not very good for your soul, when you’re 12 or 14, to just be incredibly rich. Wealth should be the fruit of your labor. And it’s wonderful when people can have leisure, and when you can have time and space for reflection and for consumption, but it’s production that makes people happy.”

“I mean the data is really clear on this. If you have a meaningful job, if you get up on Monday morning and you need to go somewhere and you think that someone needs you, by and large, you’re going to be happy. If on Monday morning you don’t think you’re needed and there’s no one that needs your work, you’re almost certainly not going got be happy.”

“So, the correlation there isn’t “is my job hard?” Do my ankles hurt, or my knees hurt, or my back hurt? Do I think I get paid enough money? Do I sit next to some jack-wagon at the office who just annoys the tar out of me? It’s none of those things. Those things matter, but by and large, people in America have enough money. The median American family still has a lot of resources at their disposal. But I think, we’re lonely. I think there’s a lot of data that shows that we’ve got a problem with this disconnect between production and consumption.”

Sasse noted that during his five years as President of Midland College, he was “shocked” to find that the incoming students had “never worked before.”

“They’d never done any hard labor. I don’t mean getting a lot of dirt under their fingernails or actually having to work in the fields, which is what I grew up doing. I meant they just never really had to do any work of any kind.”

“…I fault them in a way, but mostly, I faulted their parents and my parents and our grandparents to say, “Wait a minute, what have we done to lose the transmission of a work ethic to these kids?”

“We live in a time in history where work has been so separated from the home that there really isn’t much work for kids to do when they’re 10, or 12, or 14. You don’t grow up around a house where there’s a lot that needs to be done. So, consumption, passively, becomes the thing that you use to fill your time. I think it raises all sorts of fundamental questions about meaning, and the soul, and scar tissue,” he said.

Sasse added that his book isn’t meant to be condescending.

“This tone truly in the book is not moralistic hectoring, it’s not get off my lawn, but I know how I feel when I ate way too much food, two or three or four meals in two days, and I don’t feel good. I feel a lot better when I strap a backpack on my back and my kids and I go hike a mountain. I don’t think we’re having a deliberate conversation about the fact that we are rich, and we are sort of collectively spoiled. Again, this is not just a rich person’s problem, this is a civilizational problem where work is a not a part of our coming age experience.”

Sasse also addressed the “grade 13 problem” and compulsory education laws.

“The passing of compulsory education laws was partly a byproduct of progressive concerns, noble concerns, about mistreatment of young people in factories, but the accidental byproduct of that is an assumption that somehow, we need to protect kids from work as opposed to free them up to find meaning in work.”

“So, I think it’s highly dangerous to think that the main thing 14 to 18-year-olds should do is sit still and be in a classroom, inside, for the majority of their waking hours Monday thru Friday. I think most people who come to be really interesting and curious and creative and dynamic – and by the way, it’s not a choice between creativity and actual, objective, knowledge-content appreciation and understanding. I think most people flip a Socratic switch at some point, and they realize that when they’re the questioner, they’re going to go and shake the trees of the world and find a whole heck of a lot of fruit. Right? This is what Socrates is telling us when he says, “If the questioner isn’t asking the question, my answer’s going to fall on hard soil.”

Sasse also noted their family’s decision to send their daughter to a cattle ranch to work for a time, adding that she was “startled” and “scared” but she thought it was great.

“My daughter was living on a cattle ranch not because her dad’s a senator but because we’re concerned about her character development and her work ethic,” he concluded.

A full transcript of the interview can be found here.

At the Waters Edge

Coined in the late 40s by avowed globalist, Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, R-Michigan; the term “politics stops at the water’s edge” has come to mean politicians of both parties should refrain from criticizing their President’s foreign policy during wartime, and when speaking outside the country.

Sen. John McCain R-AZ speaking at the 53rd Munich Security Conference, showcased his opposition to President Trump. It was so evident, the CBSNews headline was “John McCain Blast Trump in Munich Speech“, and the first paragraph was equally blunt:

“Republican Sen. John McCain delivered a withering critique of President Donald Trump in a speech Friday that highlighted fractures within the GOP as the new administration struggles to overcome a chaotic start.”

Declaring the Administration to be in “disarray”, McCain also presented his neocon worldview as de facto US policy:

“The senator said he’s aware there is “profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership.” But he said that’s not the message they would hear from him or other American leaders” He went on, saying of NATO’s founders that the most alarming part for them would be a “sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West, that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without, and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it’s unclear whether we have the will. I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries,” the Arizona Republican went on. “I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it. For if we do not, who will?”

The moderate Republican was not shy about voicing his opinions about open borders and illegal immigration:

“The senator lamented the “hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.’ McCain, who has openly quarreled with the president, said “more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”

But, he was just warming up. CNN reporting on Sen. McCain’s appearance on today’s Meet the Press:

“Sen. John McCain slammed President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media this week by noting dictators “get started by suppressing free press.”

It is historic fact John McCain was heroic throughout his Vietnam POW saga. No intellectually honest person would or could deny that as fact. However, being heroic in war doesn’t give you free reign to abandon statesmanship while overseas in Munich Germany.

It is a mistake to believe this was a result of the insults Sen. McCain and Candidate Trump hurled at each other during the Republican Presidential Primary season. Far from it. This is Sen. John McCain fighting for control of US foreign policy.

Sen. McCain is an open borders devotee, and a neocon hawk who never met a dollar that he didn’t believe belonged to the Department of Defense, all the while opposing southern border security. His own hypocrisy was on display during his 2010 senatorial re-election campaign, as the Huffington Post gleefully notes June of last year: (via HuffPo):

“During his 2010 Senate re-election campaign, John McCain (R-Ariz.) cut one of the most infamous ads of the cycle: a spot with him strolling down the border with Mexico and encouraging Sheriff Paul Babeu to “complete the danged fence.” The ad kept a potentially threatening primary challenge from J.D. Hayworth at bay, but not without cost to McCain’s reputation as a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform. The senator has since tried to repair that image by pushing reform as a member of the Gang of Eight. But his opponent this cycle isn’t going to let him forget his 2010 flirtation with the border-security-first crowd.”

This past week, he appears to have thrown off all pretense of being a shadow member of The Resistance. Equally dismaying, a fellow neocon Bill Kristol, uber-neocon personified,  posted this on Twitter Valentines Day:

“Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

There is nothing normal or seemly about either of these men’s actions lately. Nothing at all.

Bill Kristol’s Third Party Rumors and What Matters Most

Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard has been one of the leaders amongst conservatives in trying to field a third-party or independent Presidential candidate so conservatives have someone to support in November.

Yesterday he tweeted this cryptic update:

On the other hand, my friend and mentor Hugh Hewitt offered this word about Dr. Larry Arnn, also a respected voice amongst conservatives, arguing against the #NeverTrump movement and a third-party offering.

I will be very interested in seeing what comes of Kristol’s comment as I think many conservatives are becoming resigned to having no one to vote for with a clear conscience. However, a word of caution. For too long conservatives in general, and Christians in particular, have placed their hope in the next Presidential candidate.

If only we can get the right person in the White House…. If only we can get the right justices on the Supreme Court…. If only we can pass an an amendment protecting prayer in schools…. Meanwhile the culture has gone to hell.

As Andrew Breitbart was fond of saying, “Politics is downstream from culture.” And culture is not ultimately decided by who occupies the Oval Office–although there is no doubt it can be shaped by the behavior of that person. Our natural tendency is to focus on the easy button–just get that person elected or stop that person from being elected– and all will be well. But it doesn’t work that way.

No matter the outcome of this election, I was reminded of what matters most yesterday as our family gathered with several other families from church for an afternoon of fellowship and community. Relationships matter. Children matter. Faith-focused community matters.   Friendships matter. Healthy marriages matter–not just marriage in general, but your marriage in particular.

Now is not the time to pull back in fear and hide in isolation because of our poor choices for Commander-in-Chief. Now is the time to rebuild our families, our faith, and the communities and institutions that truly can make America great again. Such efforts are not made-for-tv events. They take time and plenty of persistence, but the alternative is  unthinkable.

As we pause to remember the fallen today who sacrificed so greatly, let us determine to do what matters most in cultivating healthy families and communities, even as we do what we can in the world of politics. As Erick and I write in You Will Be Made to Care:

The resurgence required to defend our freedom to believe must begin from the ground up, not the top down.

For far too long, Christians in America have looked to Washington and put their trust not “in name of the Lord our God,” but in horses, chariots and Justice Antonin Scalia. That needs to change if we are going to be good and faithful stewards of the Gospel.

That being said, focusing on building local community, growing individual faith, and strengthening the institutions of family and the church does not mean that we run from political involvement. God instituted and ordained human government. He gave ample guidance to those in authority.

As Christian citizens of a democratic republic, we have a responsibility to engage in the political process and influence it for good to the extent we are able. Nevertheless, we cannot lose our eternal perspective.