Tag: Ronald Reagan (side 2 af 2)

Ugens citat: Shadegg om "Ånden fra '94"

Kongresmedlem John Shadegg (R-AZ) er en af kandidaterne til den ledige post som Republikansk flertalsleder i Repræsentanternes Hus.  Han kæmper for sit kandidatur bl.a. med et indlæg i onsdagens Wall Street Journal, hvori han priser Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater m.fl. som idoler for, hvad partiet burde være i dag.  Heri hedder det bl.a.:

Ten years ago, the American people put Republicans in control of the House of Representatives for the first time in more than 40 years. It was a historic achievement, made possible because we stood for the principles the American people believed in: smaller government, returning power to the states, lower taxes, greater individual freedom and–above all–reform.

Some Republican leaders in the House seem to have lost sight of those principles, though the American people still believe in them. Meanwhile, Americans are sick of scandals. To fully regain their confidence–and to retain and grow the Republican majority–we need to make a clean break with the past and return to our ideals.
Republicans promised the American people two things in 1994. First, we promised to rein in the size and scope of the federal government. Second, we promised to clean up Washington. In recent years, we have fallen short on both counts. Total federal spending has grown by 33% since 1995, in inflation-adjusted dollars. Worse, we have permitted some of the same backroom practices that flourished in the old Democrat-controlled House. Powerful members of Congress are able to insert provisions giving away millions–even tens of millions–of dollars in the dead of night. The recent scandals involving Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff have highlighted the problem, but this is not just a case of a few bad apples. The system itself needs structural reforms. …

I grew up watching the example of Barry Goldwater, who worked closely with my father. He taught me that “a government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.” That philosophy guided me when I ran for Congress in 1994. I was thrilled to be part of the Revolutionary Class of ’94, and the sense of hope and mission of the early days after the American people elected a Republican majority in the House is still with me. We believed then that we could take back our government, and I believe it today. …

House Republicans differ about policy and tactics, but we stand together in our respect for this institution, our hatred of corruption, and our support for the basic principles of our party. The American people overwhelmingly support the principles we stand for. We cannot allow the current scandals to distract their attention from our substantive agenda. If we do not make a clear, public break with the recent past, there is a good chance we will lose our majority.

I do not need a poll or questionnaire to tell me what Republicans stand for. The party of Ronald Reagan exists not to expand government, but to protect the American people from government’s excesses. President Reagan once said, “If you’re afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again.”

WSJ‘s Brendan Miniter (hvis broder, Rich, har været venlig overfor denne blog) havde tirsdag en artikel netop om Shadegg, Reagan og Goldwater, og Republikanernes problemer p.t.

Mr. Conservative runder 80

Går man tilbage til året 1955 var der stort set ingen ideologisk tænkning på den amerikanske højrefløj og endnu færre organisationer til at promovere sådanne synspunkter.  Som præsident George W. Bush for nylig satte det i relief ved en perspektivering, så var det et år, hvor det kommunistiske Sovjetunionen var en ledende kraft i verden, og hvor Ronald Reagan var Demokrat.  Det var også året, hvor tingene langsomt begyndte at vende på den amerikanske højrefløj.

For selv i ørkenen var der oaser.  På den klassisk-liberale/”libertarianske” front var der et spirende miljø, især blandt intellektuelle i New York, der samledes i visse kredse.  En af disse var romanforfatteren Ayn Rand, der qua sine meget individualistiske og frihedsorienterede romaner nåede et stort publikum.  En anden var den aldrende østrigske økonom Ludwig von Mises, der dels samlede studerende til et seminar på NYU og dels var chef-ideologen for frimarkeds-fortalerne i Foundation for Economic Education.  En tredje gruppe, med overlap til begge de førstnævnte, var en lille gruppe yngre akademikere kaldet Cercle Bastiat, som under ledelse af økonomen Murray Rothbard omfattede bl.a. historikerne Leonard Liggio, Ralph Raico og Ronald Hamowy og senere en lang række andre.  Men talmæssigt var disse få og uden politisk indflydelse.

På den mere konservative front var der faktisk endnu færre profiler.  Her var der frem for alt én mand, der gjorde en forskel: Den unge, velformulerede, stærkt anti-kommunistiske og pro-traditionalistiske William F. Buckley, Jr., som netop i 1955 grundlagde tidsskriftet National Review og blev en af USA’s mest kendte forfattere og debattører.  Buckley havde lagt hårdt ud med klassikeren God and Man at Yale (1951), som var en meget tidlig kritik af den venstreorienterede, politisk korrekte invasion af universiteterne, som dengang kun var begyndende, men som siden hen blev nok så drastisk.  Buckleys konservative traditionalisme er tydeligst illustreret med et nu klassisk citat: “The job of conservatives was to stand athwart history, yelling, stop.”

Disse to grene—den mere libertære og den mere traditionalistiske—kunne dårligt være i stue sammen, især ikke i 1960erne og 1970erne.  Undertegnede hælder i det store billede langt mere i retning af de førstnævnte end de sidstnævnte, men man kommer ikke udenom, at Buckley har været en af de mest indflydelsesrige og betydende skikkelser på den amerikanske højrefløj og vel og mærke af en dybt intellektuel karakter.  I særdeleshed har Buckley været en af dem, der har forsøgt at bilægge stridighederne mellem de to grupper.

Samtidigt er han uden sammenligning en af de mest elegante og vittige politiske skribenter i USA, og forfatter til en lang række bøger, bl.a. Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of A Libertarian Journalist og romaner som Getting It Right.  Da jeg selv studerede i landet, nød jeg at se ham i hans program Firing Line, som var et af de mest succesrige og langlivede (1966-99) “seriøse” programmer i amerikansk TV-historie (og som bl.a. fik besøg af F.A. Hayek og andre koryfæer, jf. billedet, med Buckley til venstre og Hayek i midten). Buckley skriver også fortsat sin faste klumme i National Review, og som stilist og kommentator er han niveauer over de fleste tågehorn til højre og til venstre i amerikanske medier.

Buckley fyldte for nylig 80 (hvilket blev fejret af George W. Bush i Det Hvide Hus) men er “still going strong”, og dagen er blevet markeret med en række artikler i aviser og tidsskrifter af venner og fjender, bl.a. af E.J. Dionne i Washington Post. Sidstnævnte (som bestemt ikke er en “fellow traveller”) skrev bl.a.:

“I will always respect this columnist, editor, novelist, lecturer and organizer because he undertook a mission and carried it out with real genius. He knew conservatism needed a serious intellectual life if conservative ideas were to be considered by those outside the right’s faithful remnant. That’s why he founded National Review magazine, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. He knew cranks were bad for the movement. He knew that deep splits among conservatives — between internationalists and isolationists, libertarians and traditionalists — had to be resolved. … Buckley was determined to rid the right of the wing nuts. He was, to his everlasting credit, the scourge of an anti-Semitism that once had a hold on significant parts of the right. He also blasted the strange conspiracy theories of the John Birch Society. But most important were Buckley’s efforts during the 1950s to resolve conservatism’s contradictions. These exertions made it possible for Barry Goldwater and then Ronald Reagan to turn the remnant into a mighty political force.

Buckley dumped isolationism, not so hard since many former isolationists were happy with an aggressive American foreign policy as long as the enemy was Soviet communism. More difficult was resolving the contradiction between anti-government libertarians — their primary love was individual freedom — and the traditionalists who believed in government’s role as a promoter of virtue and community.

One of National Review’s primary tasks was dealing with this doctrinal conundrum. Frank Meyer, Buckley’s friend and magazine colleague, came up with what is known as “fusionism.” It was an attempt to fuse the two forms of conservatism into one.

Libertarians needed to learn that the freedom they revered was insecure absent the cultivation of personal virtue and a moral order hospitable to liberty. Traditionalists were not to confuse the legitimate authority of tradition with the illegitimate power of big government. The United States was fundamentally a conservative society, the theory went, so our country was a place in which liberty was conducive to a reverence for tradition.”

Wall Street Journal havde forleden en fødselsdagsportrætartikel, hvor Buckley bl.a. gav dette dagsaktuelle synspunkt:

“My view is unorthodox,” Mr. Buckley says of the violence roiling the French suburbs. “It seems to me that a very hard dose of market discipline would distract the attention of the young revolutionaries from their frolics, traditional and otherwise, and my sense is that if they had to worry about how to eat, and buy food, they would stop screwing around and face reality. If these people didn’t wake up in the morning thinking about what cars to burn–instead of work–they might not be having these problems.”

Hip hurra for Buckley far!

PS. Dem, der gerne vil med til den officielle fejring af 8
0 års fødselsdagen,
ref=”http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/invitation-eightieth.asp”>kan købe billetter for 500 USD her …

Noonan om Bush, barbecue-sovs & "the Bridge to Nowhere"

En af mine absolut mest yndede skribenter er den fænomenale amerikanske taleskriver, Peggy Noonan, som over de sidste +20 år har skrevet nogle af de mest velformulerede taler i amerikansk politik nogensinde.  Og det siger ikke så lidt.  Blandt talerne er Reagans farveltale, hans VE-Day tale og Bush Srs. “Read My Lips, No New Taxes”, og til Republikanernes konvent sidste år havde hun skrevet en tale til guvernør George Pataki, der næsten fik ham til at lyde interessant.

Damen skriver også som kommentator ved Wall Street Journal, og her er lidt af hendes kommentar til George W. Bush; hun opfatter ham, modsat Berlingske Tidendes Poul Høi, ikke som repræsentant for “nulstats-konservatisme”, men kalder ham det, han er, “big spender”, og nu er mor sur på og træt af ham.  Hun skal nok ikke regne med at blive inviteret tilbage til Det Hvide Hus som skribent lige med det samme, efter den svada hun her leverer:

“In his Katrina policy the president is telling Democrats, “You can’t possibly outspend me. Go ahead, try. By the time this is over Dennis Kucinich will be crying uncle, Bernie Sanders will be screaming about pork.”

That’s what’s behind Mr. Bush’s huge, comforting and boondogglish plan to spend $200 billion or $100 billion or whatever–“whatever it takes”–on Katrina’s aftermath. And, I suppose, tomorrow’s hurricane aftermath.

George W. Bush is a big spender. He has never vetoed a spending bill. When Congress serves up a big slab of fat, crackling pork, Mr. Bush responds with one big question: Got any barbecue sauce? The great Bush spending spree is about an arguably shrewd but ultimately unhelpful reading of history, domestic politics, Iraq and, I believe, vanity.

This, I believe, is the administration’s shrewd if unhelpful reading of history: In a 50-50 nation, people expect and accept high spending. They don’t like partisan bickering, there’s nothing to gain by arguing around the edges, and arguing around the edges of spending bills is all we get to do anymore. The administration believes there’s nothing in it for the Republicans to run around whining about cost. We will spend a lot and the Democrats will spend a lot. But the White House is more competent and will not raise taxes, so they believe Republicans win on this one in the long term.”

Mere effektive til at administrere en større offentlig sektor–lyder det ikke bekendt?

“As for vanity, the president’s aides sometimes seem to see themselves as The New Conservatives, a brave band of brothers who care about the poor, unlike those nasty, crabbed, cheapskate conservatives of an older, less enlightened era.

Republicans have grown alarmed at federal spending. It has come to a head not only because of Katrina but because of the huge pork-filled highway bill the president signed last month, which comes with its own poster child for bad behavior, the Bridge to Nowhere. The famous bridge in Alaska that costs $223 million and that connects one little place with two penguins and a bear with another little place with two bears and a penguin. The Bridge to Nowhere sounds, to conservative ears, like a metaphor for where endless careless spending leaves you. From the Bridge to the 21st Century to the Bridge to Nowhere: It doesn’t feel like progress.

A lot of Bush supporters assumed the president would get serious about spending in his second term. With the highway bill he showed we misread his intentions.

The administration, in answering charges of profligate spending, has taken, interestingly, to slighting old conservative hero Ronald Reagan. This week it was the e-mail of a high White House aide informing us that Ronald Reagan spent tons of money bailing out the banks in the savings-and-loan scandal. This was startling information to Reaganites who remembered it was a fellow named George H.W. Bush who did that. …

Poor Reagan. If only he’d been strong he could have been a good president. … At any rate, Republican officials start diminishing Ronald Reagan, it is a bad sign about where they are psychologically. In the White House of George H.W. Bush they called the Reagan administration “the pre-Bush era.” See where it got them.

Sometimes I think the Bush White House needs to be told: It’s good to be a revolutionary. But do you guys really need to be opening up endless new fronts? Do you need–metaphor switch–seven or eight big pots boiling on the stove all at the same time? You think the kitchen and the house might get a little too hot that way?”

Og så rejser hun et tema, som danske borgerligt-liberale også kender til: Selvretfærdiggørelsen med henvisning til, at “de andre” er langt værre:

“The Republican (as opposed to conservative) default position when faced with criticism of the Bush administration is: But Kerry would have been worse! The Democrats are worse! All too true. …  But saying The Bush administration is a lot better than having Democrats in there is not an answer to criticism, it’s a way to squelch it. Which is another Bridge to Nowhere.”

Bushs mest grundlæggende fejl er, siger Noonan, én, som danske borgerligt-liberale også vil kunne genkende:

“First and foremost Mr. Bush has abandoned all rhetorical ground. He never even speaks of high spending. He doesn’t argue against it, and he doesn’t make the moral case against it. When forced to spend, Reagan didn’t like it, and he said so. He also tried to cut. Mr. Bush seems to like it and doesn’t try to cut. He doesn’t warn that endless high spending can leave a nation tapped out and future generations hemmed in. In abandoning this ground Bush has abandoned a great deal–including a primary argument of conservatism and a primary reason for voting Republican. And who will fill this rhetorical vacuum? Hillary Clinton. She knows an opening when she sees one, and knows her base won’t believe her when she decries waste.”

Og denne strategi er kortsigtet, siger Noonan–og igen kan vi nikke fra vore hjemlige erfaringer:

“… Mr. Bush seems not to be noticing that once government spending reaches a new high level it is very hard to get it down, even a little, ever. So a decision to raise spending now is in effect a decision to raise spending forever. …

Money is power. More money for the federal government and used by the federal government is more power for the federal government. Is this good? Is this what energy in the executive is–“Here’s a check”? Are the philosophical differences between the two major parties coming down, in terms of spending, to “Who’s your daddy? He’s not your daddy, I’m your daddy.” Do we want this? Do our kids? Is it safe? Is it, in its own way, a national security issue? …

I never understood compassionate conservatism to mean, and I don’t know anyone who understood it to mean, a return to the pork-laden legislation of the 1970s. We did not understand it to mean never vetoing a spending bill. We did not understand it to mean a historic level of spending. We did not understand it to be a step back toward old ways that were bad ways.

I for one feel we need to go back to conservatism 101. We can start with a quote from Gerald Ford, if he isn’t too much of a crabbed and reactionary old Republican to quote
. He said, “A government b
ig enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” “

Og igen er der en parallel til hjemlige forhold:

“The administration knows that Republicans are becoming alarmed. Its attitude is: “We’re having some trouble with part of the base but”–smile–“we can weather that.”  Well, they probably can, short term. Long term, they’ve had bad history with weather. It can change.”

Noonan opfordrer den amerikanske højrefløj til ikke stiltiende at acceptere en så dramatisk omlægning af de idealer, man tidligere har haft:

“Here are some questions for conservative and Republicans. In answering them, they will be defining their future party.
If we are going to spend like the romantics and operators of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society; If we are going to thereby change the very meaning and nature of conservatism; If we are going to increase spending and the debt every year; If we are going to become a movement that supports big government and a party whose unspoken motto is “Whatever it takes”; If all these things, shouldn’t we perhaps at least discuss it? Shouldn’t we be talking about it? Shouldn’t our senators, congressmen and governors who wish to lead in the future come forward to take a stand?

And shouldn’t the Bush administration seriously address these questions, share more of their thinking, assumptions and philosophy?

It is possible that political history will show, in time, that those who worried about spending in 2005 were dinosaurs. If we are, we are. But we shouldn’t become extinct without a roar.”

Hvad gør dinosaurerne i de danske politiske partier?  Brøler de som løver, eller mæh’er de som lam?

Højrefløj mod skattelettelser

Wall Street Journals Brendan Miniter spekulerer i sin klumme dagens WSJ i, at vindene i USA–desværre–synes at være ved at vende m.h.t. Republikanernes syn på skattelettelser og skattetrykket.

Efter i knap 30 år at have en ihvertfald i retorikken, men ofte også i praksis, radikal tilgang til skatterne, er de amerikanske konservative nu ved at blive konservative i ordets mere konserverende forstand. Det er naturligvis også sjovest at være mod skattetrykket, når det er modstanderne, der sidder på statsapparatet; når man selv sidder på flæsket, bliver man på forunderligvis lidt mere opmærksom på, hvor svært det kan være at gennemføre skattelettelser–og hvor attraktivt det er at dele andres penge ud til ting, man godt kan lide. Så får skatterne pudsigt nok omtrent den størrelse, som skatter nu engang gerne skal have.

Her er noget af, hvad Miniter skriver:

"Like Reagan, President Bush has been bold in pushing for tax cuts. He didn't flinch on cutting the top income tax rate in 2001. In 2003, when the economy still appeared to be shaky, he pushed through a second round of cuts, including on dividends and capital gains. But here too Republicans seem to have set an arbitrary floor on how low they'll allow taxes to fall. Mr. Bush's top income tax rate is still a few points higher than Reagan's top rate. And both rounds of the Bush tax cuts were given expiration dates, so Republicans will have to fight the same battles over again in the next couple of years just to keep the tax rates where they are now. There's also the small issue of tax reform this year. The president is promising to "simplify the code," but he's not pushing for a second-term tax cut to go along with an easier-to-fill-out tax return–a clear sign that even officials high up in the Bush administration are working off the assumption that there is little to be gained economically or politically from cutting taxes further.

Conservatives were once able to demand unwavering support for cutting taxes of almost every candidate who wanted a Republican nomination. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, even developed a pledge that Republican candidates had to sign if they want to be taken seriously. The first President Bush famously broke his pledge, and everyone on the right could read his lips as he conceded defeat to Bill Clinton in 1992. This era of big, dramatic tax cuts, however, may now be over."

Det lyder næsten bekendt–bortset fra at vi danskere ikke nåede at se meget til denne "era of big, dramatic tax cuts".

Frihed og ansvar

Har konservatismen overhovedet noget at tilbyde? Mine tidligere kommentarer har måske virket afvisende over for en sådan tanke. Lad mig derfor gøre opmærksom på, at jeg personligt har hentet stor inspiration hos konservative tænkere, om end alle er forankret i en idétradition, der ligger et pænt stykke fra den kulturkonservatisme og småfjollede nationalromantik, jeg adresserede i mit seneste indlæg.

Det er ikke en vanskelig opgave at finde konservative tænkere af format, hvis man søger tilbage i historien. Det syntes unødvendigt at nævne Edmund Burke, selv om de færreste nok har blik for, at han også havde ganske liberale og progressive synspunkter, jf. fx A Vindication of Natural Society og hans ofte negligerede Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies. Men hvad gør en frihedsorienteret konservativ, der gerne vil finde mere moderne vitamintilskud? Et godt bud kunne være at læse antologien The March of Freedom, der er udgivet af den konservative tænketank Heritage Foundation.

Denne bog har jeg for nylig pløjet mig igennem, og den er disponeret på en ganske morsom måde. Først introduceres en række tænkere, der bevæger sig i spændingsfeltet mellem det konservative og liberale. Det drejer sig om William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, Frank S. Meyer, Ludwig von Mises og Robert Nisbet. Dernæst præsenteres synspunkter i form af taler eller skriverier fra mere handlingsorienterede skikkelser, som Ronald Reagan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Michael Novak, Wilhelm Roepke m.fl.

The March to Freedom er et bevis på, at der ikke i alle tilfælde behøver at være en ufrugtbar konflikt mellem liberalisme og konservatisme, tværtimod. F.A. Hayek’s bidrag – “Responsibility and Freedom” – der er hentet fra The Constitution and Liberty, er på mange måder en konservativ-liberal syntese, der er mere aktuel end nogensinde:

“Liberty not only means that the individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice; it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions and will receive praise or blame for them. Liberty and responsibility are inseparable. A free society will not function or maintain itself unless its members regard it as a right that each individual occupy the position that results from his action and accept it as due to his own action [?]”.

Hayek’s ord er en påmindelse om, at liberale og konservative med rod i den individualistiske idétradition har en fælles mission; at genvinde den tabte personlige frihed og det ansvar, der nødvendigvis må følge med.

Ikke alle politikere er lige (ens)

I en tid, hvor det nogle gange synes som om, at alle politikere mener, siger og gør det samme, kan det være værd at holde sig for øje, at der nogle gange vitterlig er forskelle. Nobelprisvinderen Milton Friedman, født 1912 men still-going-strong, viste i et nyligt publiceret, kortfattet læserbrev om Ronald Reagan med to simple tidsserier, at der kan være forskelle på præsidentembeder–også selv om man ikke derudfra kan udlede, hvad forskellene skyldes, eller om det er de eneste væsentlige forskelle.

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