Tag: konservatisme (page 2 of 8)

At gøre eller ikke gøre en forskel

Undertegnede har i dag en klumme, med titlen “At gøre eller ikke gøre en forskel” i 180grader, hvis budskab vel kan opsummeres som; ”at 6 år under Fogh har været endnu 6 år med socialdemokratisk regering”

Dette synspunkt er skrevet uden at jeg har glemt ændringerne (stramningen) i udlændingelovgivningen, som ikke just kan kaldes borgerligt-liberale, men som snarere er realistisk socialdemokratiske ( Hvis man har tegnedrengen liggende fremme på spisebordet, er det nok en god ide at lukke døren). Af de kommentarer der har været på klummen indtil nu kan jeg se at ikke alle (stor overraskelse) er enige. Men for denne uhelbredelige liberal(ist) – der trods alt fortrækker konservatisme frem for socialdemokratisme – så sørgelige tingenes tilstand, modsvares måske af hvordan det må være, at være ”liberal” (i den amerikanske forståelse af ordet) i USA, når mrs. Clintons 1. regeringsperiode skal beskrives i 2012 (hvis hun vinder altså).

For er konsensus her i landet socialdemokratisk (og min største anke mod regeringen, er at den intet har gjort for at ændre dette), kan konsensus i USA vel beskrives som konservativ.

Eller som det så glimrende pointeres i det seneste nummer af Economist, i lederen – under overskriften ”is Amerika turning left?”:

”America, even if it shifts to the left, will still be a conservative force on the international stage. Mrs Clinton might be portrayed as a communist on talk radio in Kansas, but set her alongside France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron or any other supposed European conservative, and on virtually every significant issue Mrs Clinton is the more right-wing. She also mentions God more often than the average European bishop.”

Dagens citat: Regeringen som socialdemokratiske administratorer

Fra en ideologisk taler i dag:

"Sidder de slet og ret i deres ministerbiler og ved, at de kan være forvaltere af det socialdemokratiske velfærdssamfund og ikke en tøddel mere? …  Ideologi er ikke noget man skal skamme sig over eller erklære stendød," sagde han med henvisning til tidligere statsminister Poul Schlüters bemærkning om at ideologi er noget bras. "Schlüter erklærede ideologien for stendød – det lader til at de borgerlige har taget det til efterretning".

Hvem mon sagde det?  Søren Pind? Jacob Axel Nielsen? Martin Ågerup?  Christopher Arzrouni?  Læs svaret her hos 180grader.

President Thompson? II

Den amerikanske konservative kommentator Robert Novak (alias “The Prince of Darkness”) er enig med mig & Punditokraterne: D.v.s. Law & Order-skuespilleren, fhv. senator Fred D. Thompson rykker og kan rykke mere:

“I met Fred Thompson in 1974 as Howard Baker’s 31-year-old minority counsel on the Watergate investigation. I considered him cool, careful and conservative. He still is, and that is how he would run for president, which appears in the offing.”

Thompson ligger nu på ca. 10 pct. af stemmerne i meningsmålingsgennemsnittene hos RealClearPolitics. com, og hos Intrade.com handles han til knap 20, hvilket reelt er på niveau med McCain og klart foran alle andre Republikanske kandidater end Giuliani.

Selv den ene af Berlingske Tidendes to USA-korrespondenter er nu blevet opmærksom på Thompson–sådan cirka to uger efter vi skrev om ham her på stedet. Men de har jo også travlt med så meget andet vigtigt og seriøs journalistik.

Den invaliderende velfærdsstat

Berlingskes forside handler i dag om den nye skatteordfører for de Konservative Jakob Axel Nielsen.

Han forsøger sig med det synspunkt, at solidariteten er på retur i Danmark, hvilket også gælder de seneste fem år under Foghs regering.

Læser man artiklen i Business, får jeg indtryk af, at han er i byen med et for liberale/borgerlige velkendt synspunkt: en stor velfærdsstat amputerer folks evne til at tage ansvar for sig selv og deres medmennesker.

Det er jo et synspunkt, som mest prægnant blev formuleret af Henning Fonsmark i hans bog, Historien om den danske utopi (1990) En bog, der endnu ikke er blevet overgået i vigtighed. Gyldendal har den ikke længere på sin hjemmeside. Måske et genoptryk var på sin plads?

(Velfærds-)staten har bestemt sine gode sider. Denne punditokrat vil hævde, at der er forskel på at være liberal og anarkist, og at den vanskelige, men nødvendige opgave er at indrette Staten sådan, at der er en balance mellem de nødvendige rammer for et civiliseret samfund og risikoen for magtmisbrug og umyndiggørelse, der ikke bare er økonomisk belastende, men også åndeligt invaliderende.

Men velfærdsstaten, som den er blevet udviklet i vores del af verden, er gået langt videre og har skabt et system, der i alvorlig grad umyndiggør folk, så de bliver skadet på både krop og sjæl.

De fleste finder sig i denne umyndiggørelse. Det kan lige frem være rationelt at være systemkonform, for når man bliver flået i skat og derfor både selv og med bofællen må arbejde meget og længe, bliver det fornuftigt at kræve sine problemer løst af Staten. Man har jo ikke selv hverken tid eller penge til det. Det er jo for H…., derfor vi betaler skat, lyder argumentet fornuftigt nok.

For dem, der i det mindste bander, er der fortsat håb. Mere uhyggeligt er de mange, der vokser op med velfærdsstatens invaliderende effekt formidlet af en uhørt systemtro presse. De vokser op åndeligt amputerede, så de ikke kan forestille sig en tilværelse med mere personligt ansvar. Det må Staten ordne, og hvis jeg eller andre ikke er lykkelige, er det Statens eller den til enhver tid siddende regerings skyld, hvilket kun kan afhjælpes med mere Stat.

Måske er det her, at vi finder svaret på, hvorfor danskerne er mere lykkelige end så mange andre folkeslag: vi er lykkelige som børn, ubekymrede i vores tillid til, at Staten som vores forældre nok skal løse stort og småt. For nogle er det uhyre positivt, for os andre er det næsten lige så uhyggeligt som Invasion of the body snatchers.

Forskellen mellem de to opfattelser ses i Berlingskes dækning. Skatteordfører Nielsen prøver – formodentlig belært af sin forgængers kranke skæbne – at pege på denne invaliderende virkning af velfærdsstaten ved at formulere det i bløde former: solidariteten formindskes.

Solidaritet er jo et plusord for alle, selvom nogle efterhånden er blevet træt af begrebet, fordi det har ændret indhold. Det betød jo oprindeligt, at A påtog sig at hjælpe B, der var i nød. Dernæst kom det til at betyde, at A krævede, at C hjalp B, fordi C havde bedre råd. Herefter ophævede man forudsætningen om nød, så A også kunne kræve hjælp sammen med B af C. Og i dag betyder det, at A, B og C alle kræver at blive hjulpet af andre.

Men for uhyggeligt mange er solidaritet og velfærd noget, som kun Staten kan levere. Derfor må Staten som Molok konstant fodres med større skatter. Den tapre skatteordfører (og han er virkelig modig, hvilket man kan forvisse sig om ved at se på tidligere forsøg i samme retning fra andre nu stynede politikerspirer, eller sammenligne med de mere spage udtalelser fra hans kolleger på Christiansborg) bliver derfor mødt med spørgsmålet, om "det så ikke er paradoksalt, at du efterlyser større solidaritet, samtidig med at du taler varmt for at sænke skatten."

Tja, bum bum.

Nå, i samme erhvervstillæg kan man også læse om CEPOS, der holder en konference i dag på baggrund af en rapport udarbejdet af prof. Nicolai Foss (ex-punditokrat) og Christian Bjørnskov (punditokrat-in-chief). Rapporten påviser en sammenhæng mellem en stor velfærdsstat og en manglende lyst til at være selvstændig, dvs. tage en stor personlig risiko, arbejde ekstremt hårdt og med udsigt til konfiskation af hovedparten af gevinsten, hvis det mod al statistisk sandsynlighed lykkes.

Som jurist kan jeg ikke bidrage til denne samfundsvidenskabelige diskussion om mulige sammenhænge. Men jeg kan da pege på det forunderlige i, at den første frie grundlov fra 1849 havde en bestemmelse om næringsfriheden, dvs. retten til at skabe sin egen tilværelse og forsørge sig selv. Da grundloven sidst blev revideret i 1953 indførte man en bestemmelse om retten til arbejde, dvs. retten til at lade sig forsørge af andre. Sic transit, etc. (og hvis grundloven Gud forbyde det skal revideres i nær fremtid, må vi forvente, at det "udvidede" solidaritetsprincip også grundlovsfæstes. Tak til unge prins Christian for at have lagt den sag død indtil videre).

Rapportens konklusioner er for os at se en naturlig følge af velfærdsstatens invaliderende virkning, men den bestrides naturligvis af bl.a. Arbejderbevægelsens Erhvervsråd, der er CEPOS velfinansierede modpart i samfundsdebatten. De peger bl.a. på, at iværksættertrangen er større i lande, der er "fattigere og mindre udviklede end Danmark", og at det derfor er "lidt komisk, når CEPOS nu har så travlt med at understrege, at iværksætteri gør os rigere". Tja, man kunne jo også vende det om og hævde, at det var iværksætteri, der gjorde os rige og dermed skabte en velfærd, som langtsomt har kvast initiativet ud af de fleste og gjort dem afhængige af Staten. Mon vi bliver ved med at være rige på den måde?

Konferencen finder sted i Den Sorte Diamant (læs mere her), kl. 11.

Redaktøren af denn blog vil forhåbentlig skrive mere om emnet.

Bartlett om Gerald Ford

Den amerikanske liberalistisk-orienterede, konservative forfatter og kommentator Bruce Bartlett skrev sidste år bogen "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy".  Titlen siger vist det hele.  Det syntes de også ved den iøvrigt ellers ganske gode frimarkedsorienterede tænketank, National Center for Policy Analysis, hvor Bartlett dengang arbejdede–så han blev fyret. Nu er han så denne måneds gæsteblogger på New York Times' blog.  Det kræver abonnement at kunne læse, så her kommer med saks og klister, hvad han forleden skrev vedrørende nyafdøde, Republikanske ekspræsident Gerald Ford.  Det er pænere, end man skulle tro–og pænere end hvad Bartlett har at sige om GWB:
With the passing of Gerald Ford, we have lost more than a former president who served the nation honorably in trying times. The Republican Party has also lost its last link to a tradition it once embraced. Gone now is any trace of the solid Midwestern ethics that Ford personified – things like not spending more than you take in, being skeptical about the use of force, and not imposing one's values on others.
Gone also is any trace of the Western-style libertarianism that Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan exemplified. Instead, we now have a Republican Party that has imposed vast financial costs on future generations just to win a few votes today, that is hasty and imprudent in the use of force, and that takes a virtually puritanical approach to imposing on everyone the views of evangelical Christians.
Ford and Reagan were much closer to each other philosophically than either of them would be to George W. Bush. Although Reagan and Ford faced off against each other for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, they weren't really fighting over basic principles – on those, they mostly agreed with each other. The big debate was about political strategy and tactics.

The Reagan people thought that Ford was insufficiently bold in pursuing a conservative agenda – when he declined, for example, to propose a permanent tax cut and instead, in 1975, offered only a one-shot tax rebate. The Reagan people thought that the Ford people had essentially given up hope of turning around the ship of state and that the best they could do was just keep the ship from sinking on their watch.

Indeed, there was a certain fatalism to the way Ford viewed his options. He had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1948, and during all but two of his long years of service there, the Democrats were in the majority, and Republicans could do little to pursue their agenda. Moreover, in 1974, the Democrats greatly increased their majority, putting many aggressive liberals in positions of leadership for the first time. (The chairmanship of the House Democratic Caucus, for instance, passed from the relatively conservative Olin Teague of Texas to the liberal Phil Burton of California.)

Consequently, Ford saw no chance for any legislation that might fix the problems caused by price controls on energy or skyrocketing entitlement programs. He had his hands full just beating back measures that would have increased spending and made matters worse. But at least he knew how to use his veto pen and did so on 66 occasions in a little more than two years. The fact that Ford was overridden 12 times – the second largest number of any president * – shows just how difficult his political position was.

The circumstances of the time were atrocious. The nation suffered the worst economic recession since the Great Depression** on Ford's watch, yet inflation remained unacceptably high. The Vietnam War was officially lost while Ford was president. And the Soviet Union was at the peak of its military and political power.

The point is that it was not unreasonable to think, as Ford did, that the best that could be done was just to keep things from getting worse. Some of his younger aides, such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, no doubt chafed at this reality. This may explain why they still exhibit a kind of bunker mentality when criticized. They remember too well the unfair criticism of Ford in 1975 and 1976, when many national problems were simply out of his control.

The more optimistic Reagan people saw the Ford approach as defeatism. In crisis there is opportunity, they thought. And as outsiders, they weren't awed by the power of the Democratic leadership, the national media or the federal bureaucracy. The Reagan people thought that strong leadership and new ideas about foreign and domestic policy could overcome these forces.

In 1976, Ford probably had the better of this argument. The country wasn't ready for Reagan that year, and Reagan himself wasn't really ready to be president either. The nation needed the experience of Jimmy Carter to make Reagan's presidency possible. The American people needed to give the conventional wisdom one last shot at fixing the country's problems before they would be open to new conservative ideas. And Reagan needed time out of office to study and think and discuss these ideas, and learn to articulate them and how to implement them.***

By contrast, the current President Bush came to office without ever having had the humbling experience of laboring for years as a minority leader in Congress or the long years of thought and study Reagan put in on the problems of public policy. From his life in the West, Bush picked up none of Goldwater's libertarianism, but instead absorbed the bravado and evangelicalism that are characteristic of many Texans.

I would be less concerned if I thought Bush was an isolated case of a president out of step with his own party, as Carter was. What bothers me is that I don't see anyone in the Republican Party today who exemplifies either Ford's philosophy or Reagan's. Yet I believe that many at the party's grass roots yearn for a leader who has Ford's humility and prudence and Reagan's optimism and love of ideas, and none of Bush's overconfidence and anti-intellectualism.

___

* Andrew Johnson was overridden the most times, with 15 overrides. Ford is tied with Harry Truman, but Truman served almost four times as long.

** It's a source of some irritation to me that politicians are always saying that the latest recession was the worst since the Great Depression. By any measure, the one Ford dealt with was the worst. Raw data can be found here.

*** To learn about the research Reagan did in the late 1970s and the evolution of his thinking, I strongly recommend reading "Reagan's Path to Victory," by Kiron Skinner, Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson, which contains many of Reagan's own writings. Clearly, by 1980, he was much better prepared to be president than he was in 1976.       

Ex cathedra

Jeg har tit hørt fra borgerligt-liberale studerende indenfor samfundsvidenskabelige fag, at de føler sig frustrerede, når de skal vælge, hvilke valgfrie fag de vil have (når ellers den mulighed måtte byde sig).  Hvis der er gode lærere og spændende fag, kan man selvfølgelig altid vælge dem–og heldigvis kan man som f.eks. økonomi- eller jura-studerende tit tage fag indenfor statskundskab, eller omvendt, eller man kan “shoppe” på helt andre institutioner end ens egen.

Ikke desto mindre hører jeg tit fra studerende, som føler sig frustrerede over, at der på flere studier er mange fag af … skal vi sige … meget eksplicit venstreorienteret observans.  Der er postmodernisme/socialkonstruktivisme mig hér, marxisme mig dér, og mange fag, som prætenderer at være “videnskabelige” er i praksis meget ideologiske.  (“Demokrati-teori” er f.eks. som regel synonymt med den ikke just værdifrie Robert Dahl e.l.)  Til gengæld er der langt mellem fag, der f.eks. behandler borgerlige/liberale tænkere i bund–seriøst, kritisk og uddybende.  Fra tid til anden er der enkelte undervisere det ene eller det andet sted–som regel eksterne–som udbyder noget, men der er langt imellem.

Så lad mig benytte lejligheden til at fremhæve en undtagelse: Min gode (eks-)kollega og gamle kampfælle, lektor Søren Hviid Pedersen, fra Institut for Statskundskab, Syddansk Universitet.  Han udbyder her i foråret et fag med titlen “Moderne politisk teori: Det frie samfunds politiske filosofi – frihed og ejendomsret”:

“Formålet med seminaret er at gøre den studerende bekendt med de grundlæggende værdier og principper der har influeret på formuleringen af vesteuropæisk politisk teori samt at fokusere på de idehistoriske traditioner der er medvirkende til at opretholde et frit og åbent samfund. Fokus vil derfor være på de liberale og konservative idetraditioner.

De vestlige værdier og samfund er under stadig pres fra religiøs fundamentalisme, (post)marxisme og en altomfattende velfærdsstat. Det kan i den forbindelse være relevant at have et kendskab til de fundamentale politiske værdier, der kendetegner den vestlige politiske idehistorie således, at den vestlige idetraditions alternativer til tidens totalitære tendenser kan reformuleres og revitaliseres.

Vi lægger ud med en læsning af Huntingtons artikel “The West Unique, Not Universal”. Herigennem får vi et overblik over hvilke værdier, der er konstitutive for den vesteuropæiske idehistoriske tradition samt frihedsbegrebets idehistoriske rødder. Herefter skal vi gennemgå Danfords bog og Berlins essay “Two Concepts of Liberty”.

Det er meningen, at frihedsbegrebet skal være det gennemgående tema i seminaret. Det er frihedsbegrebets forskellige udformninger og formuleringer, der har inspireret nogle af de væsentligste vestlige idetraditioner. Frihedsbegrebet indenfor seminarets kontekst spænder over et kontinuum, fra et absolut og negativt frihedsbegreb over til et frihedsbegreb, der er indkapslet i en vision om det gode liv eller, det man kan kalde, struktureret frihed. Fælles for disse opfattelser af frihed er deres fokus på, at det enkelte menneske har et krav på respekt samt, at der findes en sfære omkring det enkelte menneske, som er ukrænkelig. I den forstand repræsenterer henholdsvis klassisk liberalisme og konservatisme disse ovennævnte forskellige forståelser af frihed.

For at belyse de forskellige frihedsopfattelser skal vi læse udvalgte tekster, der repræsenterer henholdsvis de klassisk liberale og konservative idetraditioner. Det er traditioner der både deler visse fundamentale politiske anskuelser men samtidig også repræsenterer vidt forskellige filosofiske og teoretiske anskuelser og værdier.

Seminaret vil fokusere på moderne formuleringer af frihedsbegrebet. Repræsentanter for den klassisk liberale forståelse er valgt Nozick, Rand, Rasmussen & Den Uyl og Rothbard. Disse repræsenterer forskellige udgangspunkter og normative traditioner fælles for dem alle er dog en opslutning om det negative frihedsbegreb. Som repræsentanter for den konservative tradition er valgt Oakeshott, Hayek og Strauss. Her gælder det samme, vidt forskellige udgangspunkter, men en tilslutning til et frihedsbegreb, der betoner frihed som noget, der er struktureret eller indlejret i en kulturel kontekst.”

Så litteraturen omfatter altså nogle for læserne af denne blog velkendte navne.  Studerende fra andre fag end statskundskab og fra andre steder end SDU kan også tage faget–og det kan endda ske ved at skrive en fri opgave efter nærmere aftale med underviseren.  Så er dén reklame leveret …

Lav din egen grundlov …

Denne Punditokrat er ganske ofte uenige med amerikanske konservative–i og udenfor det Republikanske Parti–med hensyn til, hvad der er de rette principper eller bedste politikker.  Men så sker der som regel det, at jeg finder mig fanget i det modbydelige, binære valg, som desværre bliver presset ned over de fleste observatører af de facto to-parti systemer som f.eks. USA–hvor man kommer til at sympatisere med det mindste af to onder (velvidende at “the lesser of two evils is still evil”).

Og jeg skal altså ikke læse meget af denne AP-artikel med interview med forbundshøjesteretsdommer Stephen Breyer for at løbe skrigende i armene på Scalia, Alito m.fl.:

“Justice Stephen G. Breyer says the Supreme Court must promote the political rights of minorities and look beyond the Constitution’s text when necessary to ensure that “no one gets too powerful.

Breyer, a Clinton appointee who has brokered many of the high court’s 5-4 rulings, spoke in a televised interview that aired one day before justices hear a key case on race in schools. He said judges must consider the practical impact of a decision to ensure democratic participation.

“We’re the boundary patrol,” Breyer said, reiterating themes in his 2005 book that argue in favor of race preferences in university admissions because they would lead to diverse workplaces and leadership.

“It’s a Constitution that protects a democratic system, basic liberties, a rule of law, a degree of equality, a division of powers, state, federal, so that no one gets too powerful,” said Breyer, who often votes with a four-member liberal bloc of justices.

… In his interview, Breyer argued that in some cases it wouldn’t make sense to strictly follow the Constitution because phrases such as “freedom of speech” are vague. Judges must look at the real-world context — not focus solely on framers’ intent, as Scalia has argued — because society is constantly evolving, he said.

“Those words, ‘the freedom of speech,’ ‘Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech’ — neither they, the founders, nor those words tell you how to apply it to the Internet,” Breyer said.

Pointing to the example of campaign finance, Breyer also said the court was right in 2003 to uphold on a 5-4 vote the McCain-Feingold law that banned unlimited donations to political parties.

Acknowledging that critics had a point in saying the law violates free speech, Breyer said the limits were constitutional because it would make the electoral process more fair and democratic to the little guy who isn’t tied to special interests.

Tsk, tsk, tsk … Breyer er tilsyneladende uvidende om, at USA’s forfatning intet sted definerer systemet som et demokrati, og at der f.eks. ikke engang er en forfatningsmæssig borgerret til at deltage i præsidentvalg.  Eller også er han bare ligeglad–for hvis han synes, at den ret (eller andre rettigheder) skal være der, så … trylle, rylle, rylle … er den der.

Højesteretsdommere kan med andre ord stort set opfatte sig selv som politisk udpegede smagsdommere, som slet ikke behøver at se på, hvad intentionerne med et arrangement var, eller hvad præcedens i snæver forstand ville diktere.  I stedet kan de bare, så frit det lyster dem, omdefinere begreberne, så det passer ind i deres eget ideologiske kram.  Hvis der står “almenvel” kan det tilsyneladende frit bruges til at betyde “diversitet”, og hvis der specificeres et forbud mod indgreb i ytringsfriheden, kan det let fortolkes som konsistent med indgreb i samme.  A er -A.

Hvor er James Madison og Thomas Jefferson, når vi har brug for dem?

Klokkerne ringer … III

Lad os håbe, de taber ved midtvejsvalget.  Det er essensen af fredags-klummen fra Peggy Noonan, den Reagan-konservative klumme-skribent ved Wall Street Journal og tidligere taleskriver for Reagan, Bush Sr. og mange andre prominente Republikanske politikere.  Og det er vel at mærke Republikanerne, hun mener.

Her er nogle godbidder:

"A year ago I wrote a column called "A Separate Peace," in which I said America's leaders in all areas–government, business, journalism–were in some deep way checking out. They saw bad things coming in the world and for our country, didn't think they could do anything about it, and were instead building a new pool or buying good memories for their kids. Soon after I was invited to address a group of Capitol Hill staffers to talk about the piece. When the meeting was over a woman walked up to me. She spoke of what was going wrong in Washington–the preoccupation with money, a lack of focus on the essentials, and the relentless dynamic of politics: first thing you do when you get power is move to keep power. And after a while you don't have any move but that move.

I said I thought the Republicans would take it on the chin in 2006, and that would force the beginning of wisdom. She surprised me. She was after all a significant staffer giving all her energy to helping advance conservative ideas within the Congress. "Yes," she said, in a quiet, deadly way. As in: I can't wait. As in: We'll get progress only through loss.

That's a year ago, from the Hill.

This is two weeks ago, from a Bush appointee: "I hope they lose the House." And one week ago, from a veteran of two GOP White Houses: "I hope they lose Congress." Republicans this year don't say "we" so much."

Noonan er ingen opportunist, og hun er heller ikke den type som kunne finde på at stemme Demokraterne; nærmest er hun vel det, hun med en omskrivning af et begreb kunne kalde en en "Yellow Dog Republican", d.v.s., en, der hellere vil stemme på gul hund end på en Demokrat.  Så hvad tilskriver hun denne stemning hos mange konservative Republikanere?

"A lot of things, but here's a central one: They want to fire Congress because they can't fire President Bush.

Republican political veterans go easy on ideology, but they're tough on incompetence. They see Mr. Bush through the eyes of experience and maturity. They hate a lack of care. They see Mr. Bush as careless, and on more than Iraq–careless with old alliances, disrespectful of the opinion of mankind. "He never listens," an elected official who is a Bush supporter said with a shrug some months ago. Along the way the president's men and women confused the necessary and legitimate disciplining of a coalition with weird and excessive attempts to silence Republican critics. They have lived in a closed system. They now want to open it but don't know how. Listening is a habit; theirs has long been to suppress.

In the Republican base, that huge and amorphous thing, judgments are less tough, more forgiving. But there too things have changed.

There remains a broad, reflexive, and very Republican kind of loyalty to George Bush. He is a war president with troops in the field. You can see his heart. He led us in a very human way through 9/11, from the early missteps to the later surefootedness. He was literally surefooted on the rubble that day he threw his arm around the retired fireman and said the people who did this will hear from all of us soon.

Images like that fix themselves in the heart. They're why Mr. Bush's popularity is at 38%. Without them it wouldn't be so high."

Noonan hæfter sig særligt ved, at Bush har ændret meningen af "conservative" fra, hvad det var under Reagan til noget ganske andet, og at dette nærmest kan sidestilles med tyveri:

"But there's unease in the base too, again for many reasons. One is that it's clear now to everyone in the Republican Party that Mr. Bush has changed the modern governing definition of "conservative."

He did this without asking. He did it even without explaining. He didn't go to the people whose loyalty and support raised him high and say, "This is what I'm doing, this is why I'm changing things, here's my thinking, here are the implications." The cynics around him likely thought this a good thing. To explain is to make things clearer, or at least to try, and they probably didn't want it clear. They had the best of both worlds, a conservative reputation and a liberal reality.

… And so in the base today personal loyalty, and affection, bumps up against intellectual unease.

The administration tries to get around this, to quiet the unease, with things like the Republican National Committee ad in which Islamic terrorists plot to kill America.

They do want to kill America, and all the grownups know it. But this is a nation of sophisticates, and every Republican sipping a Bud at a bar in Chilicothe, Ill., who looks up and sees that ad thinks: They're trying to scare the base to increase turnout. Turnout's the key.

Here's a thing about American politics. Nobody sees himself as the base. They see themselves as individuals. And they're not dumb. They get it all. They know when you're trying to manipulate. They'll even tell you, with a lovely detachment, if you're doing a good job. (An unreported story this year is the lack of imagination, seriousness and respect in the work of political consultants on both sides. They have got to catch up with American brightness.)

The Republican establishment, the Republican elite, is quietly supporting those candidates and ideas they think should be encouraged. They are thinking about whom they will back in '08. But they're not thinking of this, most of them, with the old excitement. Because they sense, in their tough little guts, that the heroic age of the American presidency is, for now, over. No president is going to come along and save us, and Congress isn't going to save us. Events will cause a reckoning, and then we'll save ourselves. And in this we will refind our greatness.

The base probably thinks pretty much the same. They go through the motions, as patriots are sometimes called to do. As for the election, it reminds me not of 1994 but 1992. That year, at a bipartisan gathering, I was pressed for a prediction. I said it was a contest between depression (if Republicans win) and anxiety (if Democrats win). I said Americans will take anxiety over depression any day, because it's the more awake state.

Al Gore was later told of this, and used it on the campaign trail. Only he changed "anxiety" to "hope." Politicians kill me."

Ét emne, som Noonan ikke bringer op, men som jeg i konversationer har hørt andre Bush-kritiske, amerikanske konservative fremføre, er dette: Hvis Republikanerne ikke taber kongressen nu, så vil det være svært for en konservativ at vinde i 2008, fordi vedkommende så ikke kan løbe mod "the establishment", og det er, hvad amerikanske konservative gør bedst; en Republikansk kandidat vil skulle være loyal overfor både Bush og et Republikansk flertal i kongressen, og det vil i særdeleshed være umuligt for nogen kandidat at gøre andet, hvis han selv er medlem af kongressen.  Men hvis Republikanerne taber bare é
t kammer i denne omgang, v
il de–fra et konservativt synspunkt–få et bedre udgangspunkt.  Der vil være "betalt" for de problemer, man oplever p.t., og i stedet vil man få en synlig fjende: Gakkede, politisk korrekte Demokrater på top-poster til dagligt at minde midtervælgerne om, hvor galt det kan gå.  Og samtidigt en god gang "gridlock", hvor hverken Bush eller Demokraterne kan få deres respektive politikker igennem samtidigt, og hvor de mere frimarkeds-orienterede, konservative Republikanere omvendt igen kan få frie hænder til at skælde ud på deres "tax and spend"-politikker.

Så John McCain og flere andre sidder nok p.t. og håber på et nederlag, der er stort nok uden at være for stort …

Klokkerne ringer … II

Som omtalt flere gange her på stedet (senest her), så går det ikke rigtigt godt for Republikanerne–hverken med politikken eller med meningsmålingerne.  Den klassisk-liberale superblogger Andrew Sullivan var i sidste uge ude med sin nyeste bog, "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back".  Det er næppe alle amerikanske konservative, der vil være enige med den britiske, åbent homoseksuelle Hayekianer i, hvad der er sand konservatisme, men dét, vi har hørt herfra, lyder altså i det store hele ganske godt.  Her er hans dagsaktuelle opsummering af, hvad der er gået galt for Republikanerne under Bush, "The Selling of the Conservative Soul":

"Alongside a 38 percent increase in government spending in five years came the inevitable corruption. When vast increases in spending are at stake, they act like a homing signal for every sleazeball and lobbyist in the country. The number of registered lobbyists in Washington doubled under five years of Bush Republicanism, according to reporter Jeffrey Birnbaum. His explanation? "In the 1990s, lobbying was largely reactive. Corporations had to fend off proposals that would have restricted them or cost them money. But with pro-business officials running the executive and legislative branches, companies are also hiring well-placed lobbyists to go on the offensive and find ways to profit from the many tax breaks, loosened regulations and other government goodies that increasingly are available. … It has been a free-for-all at the trough of your tax-payer dollars. And we're supposed to believe that this is conservatism?"

Iøvrigt er en af artiklerne i dagens Wall Street Journal tæt på samme vinkling af den igangværende midtvejsvalgkamp.  Her skriver debatredaktionens Washington-korrespondent Kimberley Strassel:

"In the Ohio governor's race, Ken Blackwell is trailing his Democratic competitor, Ted Strickland, by double digits. Save a last-minute miracle, Mr. Blackwell will lose the governor's mansion, and so end 16 years of GOP dominance.

In the Florida governor's race, Charlie Crist is leading his Democratic competitor, Jim Davis, by double digits. Save a last-minute misstep, Mr. Crist is set to give the state GOP a third term in the governor's mansion, overseeing a strong Republican legislative majority.

Their respective failure and success is not ideological: Messrs. Blackwell and Crist are both running on the same agenda of tax cuts, fiscal responsibility and broad government reform. This, instead, is a story of the state parties behind them. In Florida, Republicans have spent the past eight years keeping their promises to voters; in Ohio the GOP forgot what "promise" meant somewhere in the '90s. The tale of these two GOPs offers broader lessons for congressional Republicans, who are facing a rout this fall.

That this election is a referendum on the entire Republican philosophy is the standard line so far this year. Democrats from Nancy Pelosi to Chuck Schumer argue that voters who vote blue are sending a message that they are tired of Republicans' "extreme" views on national security, taxes or social policy.

Quite the opposite, really. If voters are unhappy with Republicans, it's because the party hasn't lived up to its own principles. In the Capitol, in Ohio, and in plenty of places between and beyond, the party that promised to reform government has become the party of government.

But now look to Florida. Jeb Bush came to office in 1999 touting a sweeping reform agenda of the sort that gives Ms. Pelosi the "extremist" fits. More to the point, the governor, with the support of a Republican legislature, has instituted most of it.

Florida Republicans have passed tax cuts every year of the eight Mr. Bush has held office–a whopping $19 billion, including the elimination of the infamous "intangibles" tax, levied on investments. While Florida's budget has grown at a rapid clip, Mr. Bush vetoed more than $2.1 billion in wasteful spending, earning him the nickname "Veto Corleone" among frustrated state lobbyists. He's trimmed 11,000 state jobs.

Tort reform? Did it. Overhauling the child welfare system? Done. Florida has led the way in greater education accountability and school voucher programs; test scores, especially among minorities, are on the rise. The state won federal permission for the most dramatic Medicaid reforms in the country, the first to inject private competition into the system.

Florida today has the highest rate of job creation in the country, and an unemployment rate of 3.3%. It's bond rating hit triple A. Revenue is pumping into the state coffers, giving Florida $6.4 billion in reserves. Gov. Bush's approval rating stands at 55%. Even the House Democratic leader, Dan Gelber, admitted his chief nemesis was a "rock star."

Mr. Crist, the state attorney general, promises more of the same, and voters have no reason to doubt him. He's already demonstrated reform bona fides as the state education commissioner who helped push through the governor's school reforms. He's promised further tax cuts, and is zeroing in on voter anger over double-digit property tax hikes. Mr. Crist has been blowing past Mr. Davis in fundraising and in opinion polls.

If congressional Republicans are facing a rout come November, it's in no small part because they've been headed down the Ohio highway. A few Supreme Court appointments and tax cuts aside, Republicans have largely abandoned the reform agenda that swept them to power in 1994. Their zeal has instead been directed at retaining power, which explains the earmarking epidemic and the Abramoff corruption that followed. Reform of Medicare and Social Security, the death tax, immigration, health care–all fell off the map.

Democrats would certainly call this agenda extreme, but it was never the existence of the platform that angered voters. It was Republicans' failure to act on it."

Bush, basen og bæstet II

Der bliver i denne tid skruet for volume-knappen blandt kritikerne af præsident George W. Bush–altså vel at mærke fra prominente amerikanske konservative.  Blot indenfor den forgangne uge har tre meldt sig på banen med ny kritik, heriblandt den amerikanske højrefløjs Grand Old Man, "Mr. Conservative" himself, William F. Buckley, Jr.  Det er–som vi tidligere har bemærket–ikke noget helt nyt fænomen, men det er som om, at bunden er gået ud af baglandets opbakning.

TV-interviewet med Buckley fandt sted på CBS Evening News og fik overskriften "Buckley: Bush Not A True Conservative".  I den trykte udgave hedder det bl.a.:

"Buckley finds himself parting ways with President Bush, whom he praises as a decisive leader but admonishes for having strayed from true conservative principles in his foreign policy.

In particular, Buckley views the three-and-a-half-year Iraq War as a failure.

"If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign," Buckley says.

"I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology — with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress," Buckley says. "And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."

Asked what President Bush's foreign policy legacy will be to his successor, Buckley says "There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush. I don't believe his successor would re-enunciate the words he used in his second inaugural address because they were too ambitious. So therefore I think his legacy is indecipherable"

Lignende toner kommer i et interview i Saint Louis Today med Richard Viguerie, som et halvt århundrede har været en fremtrædende Republikansk aktivist, forretningsmand og "bagmand".  Han har skrevet en ny bog, der udkommer om få uger, med titlen "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause":

What is your major complaint with the president?

I guess it's the spending thing. He said he was a conservative, but government has just grown out of sight. It's so frustrating. He's the only president in  200 years not to veto a single bill [before last week's stem-cell veto], which means he approves of all of it. Early on I was impressed with him. I thought he started out strong in 2001, 2002, but when the budget kept getting bigger, I
started getting disillusioned. Then came the largest farm subsidy bill, amnesty for Hispanic immigrants, No Child Left Behind.

What's your view of the war in Iraq?

We're not into nation building, and he ran against it in 2000, said we don't do it. That was music to conservatives' ears. But he was able to make a nexus between Iraq and the war on terrorism, playing the national security card. There's a certain amount of demagoguery there. Reagan wanted to change a lot of societies, but we didn't put American soldiers on the front lines.

What's the reaction of other conservatives to your views?

Most conservatives don't oppose a Republican president in public. But when Bush nominated Harriet Myers (to the Supreme Court), that was a wake-up call for conservatives. The conservative movement engaged him in battle, went toe to toe with him, and won. The next morning, the sun came up. I don't know three or
four conservatives that are satisfied with this president. It's almost
universal, the disappointment with the president. Some are disillusioned, some are dissatisfied, but half are downright angry. It is just palatable; you can cut it with a knife.

Now that's not true of Wall Street, big business. They're very happy with this president. He's been carrying their water. There's almost like a 'conservatives need not apply' sign in front of the White House. Since November 2004, the president has had lots of appointments. It's been all the big business wing of the party, the corporate wing. Big business gets the action; we get lip service. He has given two of them to the conservatives, and we are not a wing
of the party, we are the party."

Peggy Noonans ugentlig klumme i WSJ er som sædvanlig lidt mere tænksom og lidt mere velformuleret:

"Republicans hearken back to Reagan for two big reasons. The first is that they agreed with what he did. The second is that they believe he was a very fine man. This is not now how they feel about Mr. Bush, at least if my interactions with strangers and party members the past year are a judge. They think Mr. Bush is a good man–that he's got guts and resolve, that he can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. But they are no longer confident about what he does. They're no longer fully comfortable in their judgment of his policies and actions, or the root thoughts behind them. It gives Reagan an even rosier glow, for he was the last national political figure to fully win their minds and hearts.

William F. Buckley this week said words that, if you follow his columns, were not surprising. And yet coming from the man who co-fathered the modern conservative movement, carrying the intellectual heft as Reagan carried the political heft, the observation that President Bush is not, philosophically, a conservative, had the power to make one sit up and take notice.

I have had reservations in this area since Mr. Bush's stunning inaugural speech last year, but Mr. Buckley's comments, in a television interview last weekend, had the sting of the definitional. I agree with Mr. Buckley's judgments but would add they raise the question of what Bush's political philosophy is–I mean what he thinks it is. It's not "everyone should be free." Everyone in America thinks everyone should be free, what we argue over is specific definitions of freedom and specific paths to the goal. He doesn't believe in smaller government. Or maybe he "believes" in small government but believes us to be in an era in which it is, with the current threat, unrealistic and unachievable? He believes in lower taxes. What else? I continually wonder, and have wondered for two years, what his philosophy is–what drives his actions.

Does he know? Is it a philosophy or a series of impulses held together by a particular personality? Can he say? It would be good if he did. People are not going to start feeling safe in the world tomorrow, but they feel safer with a sense that their leaders have aims that are intellectually coherent. It would be good for the president to demonstrate that his leadership is not just a situational hodgepodge, seemingly driven and yet essentially an inbox presidency, with a quirky tilt to the box. Sometimes words just can't help. But sometimes, especially in regard to the establishment or at least assertion of coherence, they can. And it'
s never too late. History
doesn't hold a stopwatch, not on things like this."

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