McCain: One of Us!

A mostly political Weblog.
Feb. 18 2008 5:23 AM

McCain: One of Us!

Liberals' secret feelings about the GOP leader.

(Continued from Page 28)

The Reagan Coalition didn't die of natural causes: It's now steel-vault CW that the tripartite Reagan Coalition (national security conservatives, social conservatives, economic conservatives) has sundered. There's a tendency to portray this as some sort of inevitable process, a working-out of an ideological dialiectic. Hence Fred Thompson was just a fool to run on a Reaganite platform--the old coalition doesn't exist and can't exist. 

There is at least one sense in which the coalition was a victim of its own success: by successfully pursuing elimination of the welfare (AFDC) entitlement, the Gingrich Republicans removed a major reason for public distrust of liberal "affirmative government." But that merely meant the R.C. was fighting an increasingly unfavorable battle against Democrats who wanted the non-welfare welfare state to expand (i.e., to provide health care). It didn't mean the Coalition had fractured.

It took President Bush to accomplish the latter, through two willful decisions: a) the decision to invade Iraq and b) the decision to pursue an ambitious immigration reform that included mass legalization. The former decision discredited Republicans and cost them the support of conservative realists. The latter split businessmen and libertarians from both social and law-and-order conservatives. Neither decision was in any way inevitable. To explain them, the internal dialectic of the Bush family (effectively described in Jacob Weisberg's new book) is more useful than any grander diagram of political or social tensions. [But the business wing of the GOP would have been mad if Bush had opposed the immigrant legalization "reform"--ed. Bush didn't have to make a big issue of immigration at all. And it wouldn't have been one if he hadn't. A few stronger border-security measures to placate the base and the whole dilemma would easily have been kicked past his term in office. The real demand for "comprehensive reform" came from intellectuals, ethnic interests and political strategists who saw a transformative potential in winning the Latino vote. Like Iraq, it was a war of choice. In the event, it turned out businesses didn't care nearly as much about it as Karl Rove, John McCain and Tamar Jacoby. Bush was reduced to urging businessmen to lobby for his plan.]

The upshot is that the current lack of a "Reagan" candidate is a historical accident (unless you also want to blame Bush for failing to put in place an adequate successor).  Mitt Romney didn't have to be a Mormon. Fred Thompson--or someone like him--could have put the Coalition back together. Bush's damage turned out not to be irreperable: The war in Iraq is fading. Immigrant semi-amnesty can (and probably will) be postponed. That makes Thompson's failure all the greater, and all the more personal. As Byron York writes:

Last night I talked with Cyndi Mosteller, a strong social conservative who headed the Charleston County Republican Party from 2003 to 2007 and who supports McCain.  When I asked about Thompson, she said.  "He was the most anticipated candidate that I have ever seen.  So many people on the ground were ready to run the ball for him, and they showed up in strength, but he didn't really show up in strength.  I think that probably Thompson is more of a private person.  I don't really think he's cut out for the public run required of public office.  I think it's almost a personality thing; it's certainly not an ideological thing.  It's like the public energy and the will to run are a little bit lacking there."  Talk to other South Carolina conservatives, no matter who they supported, and you'll hear similar opinions.  Thompson had a huge opportunity here.

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P.S.: After reading York's note, I'm finally ready to concede thatSlate's John Dickerson was way righter than I was when he argued that Thompson blew his best opportunity last year, when he wasn't ready for prime time in Iowa. ... 1:05 A.M. link

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Monday, January 21, 2008

So you have amnesty in that basket [E.A.]:

"if you have to earn your way to citizenship, that is not amnesty, and yet we're going to hear that over and over again from the critics of this bill"--Fred Barnes, Fox, March 25, 2006

"of course, it's not an amnesty"--Fred Barnes, Fox, May 16, 2006 (discussing Bush's immigration initiative)

Obama may be different from Clinton and Edwards in style and personality, but the three are ideological peas in a pod. They basically agree on health care (more government involvement), taxes (higher), immigration (amnesty in one form or another),--Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard, 1/28/08

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