Sunday, August 19, 2007

"A Fate Worse Than Bush"

(Sunday roundup and branding will return next week.)


At least that's what Kevin Baker, writing in the August issue of Harpers (dead-tree only) states that a Rudy Giuliani presidency would be.

Montana Headlines has never been terribly excited about a Giuliani nomination for many reasons -- mostly because his socially liberal views fail to address correctly some of the most important issues of our day, but also because those views will lead to a less than enthusiastic GOP base. That spells defeat for our party.

But moving on to Baker's analysis: he maintains that Giuliani is "following a trail blazed by, of all people, Bill and Hillary Clinton." That trail is the trail of a post-ideological politics -- and post-ideological means politics built around the "politics of personality."

Baker repeatedly compares Giuliani to the Clintons, and he's not paying any compliments when he does.

The Republican Party that Giuliani would build... would differ little -- at least ideologically -- from the new Democratic Party that the Clintons built in their own image nearly two decades before.

Baker runs through the usual litany of claims that New York City was already on the road to recovery under Mayor Dinkins, that Giuliani never really did anything to improve the city but just rode the tide of an exploding stock market and the attendant wealth that it brought to Manhattan, that Giuliani really didn't do anything of note on 9/11... etc.

Most importantly, Giuliani (in Baker's view) was all about the politics of race. He coins a phrase (at least it is one that MH hasn't encountered before) of "anti-populism" -- which Baker describes as a political narrative that Republicans had honed for several decades and then rode to victory.

According to this narrative, "the well-off are continually beset by the poor, the privileged by the disinherited, the white by the black."

This is, of course, an unfair characterization, since conservative concerns about crime and welfare didn't revolve at all around purported moral deficits in the "underclass," let alone intentional actions on the part of the poor of the sort that Baker describes.

Conservative criticism focused (and still focuses today, to the extent that such problems continue to exist) on white liberals, whose failed policies of social engineering had made the lives of those they claimed to want to help more wretched -- not less.

Interestingly, Baker concludes his article on an unexpected note. Again comparing Giuliani's plans for the GOP to the actions of Clinton in silencing labor and other Democratic special interest groups "in the wake of his party's repeated presidential defeats," Baker predicts that Giuliani "may be able to mute the Republicans' religious wing..."

So, what would be bad about that to the average, generally left-leaning, Harper's reader?

Just this: expel evangelical Christians from the body politic would also be to dismiss millions of Americans who are profoundly distrubed by the amoral cynicism that now permeates this nation's elite classes; by the waves of misogynistic pornography and ultra-violence that inundate our popular culture; by the growth industries that have grown out of gambling and hedonism.

To dismiss these evangelical Christians would be to dismiss millions of Americans who genuinely believe in something greater than themselves, a whole population that has been slowly but steadily won over to such causes as environmentalism and social justice in recent years.

And where would such people go? The obvious answer would be, into some sort of coalition with all those the Democratic Party hast tried to banish from its ranks...

Baker postulates a party of the disinherited that would give rise to extremism of, well, a rather extreme sort.

Baker goes on to say that the Bush administration's failings have not been ideological, but that "the heart of his administration's failure" is his personality.

The worst excesses of the Bush regime have stemmed directly from its leader's character -- ... rampant cronyism; its arrogance and egotism; its...bullying tone...

You get the idea -- and in the wake of Bush's treatment of conservatives in the recent immigration "reform" wars, any conservative who doesn't know what Baker is talking about hasn't been paying attention.

Those of us who opposed the Iraq War (very, very quietly -- knowing what happened to those who opposed the first Iraq War,) those generals who counseled Bush that many, many more troops would be needed, etc., already knew about that.

It didn't keep us from supporting and voting for him -- and no-one around Montana Headlines would do any differently had we to do it over again.

But Baker is right -- Giuliani would be the most personality-driven candidate the GOP could come up with right now. And given that the Bush administration's best points were precisely where policy trumped personality (Supreme Court and other judicial nominations, human life issues, tax reform) -- why would we want a nominee like Giuliani?

Especially when he is more likely to lose -- not less likely -- than a more traditionally conservative Republican candidate like Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, or even John McCain.

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