Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rodham conservatives

Bruce Bartlett suggests in National Review (HT: Rod) that conservatives ought to try to influence the Democratic presidential nomination, since the Republicans inevitably will lose in '08. And that argues for their backing Hillary Clinton, as the most conservative Democrat available (we know it isn't Mike Gravel).

Wack as the argument sounds, it isn't THAT wack. As far as his analysis goes (which is not terribly for me since he is absolutely silent on what I consider the central domestic issue -- the judiciary and abortion, gay "marriage" etc.), he is on sound ground. The Clinton administration was not terrible on economic issues, and in some ways was better than 43.

And within the context of Democratic politics, her current stance on her Iraq vote is courageous (if made, with a typically ambitious eye-and-a-half cast on November). I don't think it's a good idea for politicians to apologize for every vote seen as having borne bitter fruit, particularly under the circumstances of the Democrat narrative about 2002-03 (true or otherwise). If the Bushcheneyborg leaned on subordinates to overstate, doctor or cook-up the intelligence, senators can hardly be blamed for being taken in by it, particularly given the well-known demonic nature of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Still ... I find Bartlett unpersuasive simply because I don't think a 2008 Democrat victory can be called inevitable. No matter the circumstances, 18 months is a political eternity and nothing is inevitable over that timeframe. The wind is definitely blowing in their direction, but (and Bartlett notes this) "one can never rule out the ability of the Democrats to seize defeat from the jaws of victory."

While I would definitely agree that Bush is sufficiently unpopular that the 2008 GOP nominee will definitely have to repudiate, distance or distinguish himself from him, all the principal GOP candidates are doing that, and on sound longstanding basis that hit the sweet spot of the varying anti-Bush narratives of (varying) unhappy conservatives. The previous Democratic earthquake election that Bartlett cites (1932) had the incumbent Republican incumbent on the presidential ballot. And the post-Watergate 1976 election had the same matchup template (with Ford as not only a Republican, but the man who owed his presidency to the hated Nixon, whom he then pardoned). Nobody would take McCain, Giuliani, Romney, Brownback, or even Gingrich or Fred Thompson as Bush 2.0, or running on "the Bush Legacy" or chanting "four more years."

In Rod's combox, I said I thought a real cynical conservative case could be made for Hillary Clinton. Whatever else good or bad might be said of her, Hillary Clinton is easily the most polarizing of the candidates in either party -- polarizing beyond objective policy differences. Worse than that, she is irreversibly so because of her universal name-recognition and eight years as first lady. We've already known her long enough to know we hate her and that she can't charm us with lawyerly smarm like Edwards or bamboozle us like Obama. She's already defined beyond help.

The point was not original to me, but I think one reason the Clintons and Dubya are so hated by the other party, beyond what can be reasonably be inferred from policy and rhetoric (Bubba is not that liberal and Dubya not that conservative), is essentially the same. Each of them so perfectly fits their opponents' cultural ur-stereotype of the culture of his party that the details don't matter. For Republicans, the Clintons will always be the Platonic Form Incarnate of everything we despise about the 60s. For Democrats, Bush is Inherited Privilege and Corruption wrapped in the grinning stupidity of a drunken frat boy (the reason so many libs instantly convicted the Duke lacrosse team). The spectre of President Clinton 2.0 would cure a lot of rudyphobia among Republicans (and I say that as someone who could not imagine backing Giuliani in any conceivable GOP primary).

18 comments:

kathleen said...

"The spectre of President Clinton 2.0 would cure a lot of rudyphobia among Republicans (and I say that as someone who could not imagine backing Giuliani in any conceivable GOP primary)."

the spectre "would" cure rudyphobia? what do you mean "would"? the spectre is here my friend. this is precisely why i *don't understand* the rudyphobia. if a conservative wants to see a reasonably sane supreme court for the next 30 years, he can't vote for hillary. it's all very well to make a cynical case for her presidency when it's academic (and even that is absurd in light of the supreme court) ... the problem is it's not academic.

Donald R. McClarey said...

I would much prefer Clinton being elected to having a pro-abort Republican such as Mr. Guiliani in the White House. If he is the nominee, which I am confident he will not be, I will sit out the election or vote for a third party candidate. We have one major pro-abort party in this country, we do not need another. As for judicial nominees, Guiliani's track record does not inspire confidence:

"Conservatives balk over Giuliani's judges
His picks as New York mayor raise doubts over whether he'd put 'strict constructionists' on the high court.
By Tom Hamburger and Adam Schreck, Times Staff Writers
March 12, 2007


WASHINGTON — Rudolph W. Giuliani, in an effort to temper his support for abortion rights and his other socially liberal stances, has been assuring conservatives that as president he would appoint "strict constructionists" to the federal bench, in the tradition of Supreme Court jurists Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John G. Roberts Jr.

But now, some prominent conservatives are saying that Giuliani's record as mayor undermines that promise. In his eight years leading New York City, they say, Giuliani appointed a number of judges who did not appear to fit the conservative mold.

Giuliani, who has surged to a double-digit lead in polls in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, appointed or reappointed 127 municipal judges. He has cited that experience to conservative audiences to drive home the importance he places on judicial nominations. Municipal judges sit in family court, hear misdemeanor cases in city criminal courts and hear civil court claims of less than $25,000.

"Rudy's judges were mostly liberal," said Connie Mackey, a former New Yorker who now serves as vice president of FRC Action, the legislative and political arm of the conservative Family Research Council. "Any pro-lifer who believes they are going to get the kind of judge out of Rudy Giuliani that we see in either Roberts or Alito is probably going to be disappointed.""

If the Republican party wishes to ensure a loss in 2008, nominating Mr. Guiliani would certainly be a good way to accomplish that goal.

Mark Adams said...

"No matter the circumstances, 18 months is a political eternity and nothing is inevitable over that timeframe."

Does anybody remember a SNL skit from November 1991 entitled "Campaign '92: The Race To Avoid Being The Guy Who Loses To Bush"

You can read the transcript here:
http://snltranscripts.jt.org/91/91edebate.phtml

I remember watching it when it first aired and thinking it was very funny. The whole premise was that it was debate between Bill Bradley, Dick Gephardt, Lloyd Bentsen, Tipper Gore (representing her husband), and Mario Cuomo. Each one was arguing why they were the least qualified to be the Dem nominee because none of the wanted to face Bush against whom a loss was inevitable.


Well, we know how that turned out . . . 18 months is an eternity indeed.

Victor said...

Kathleen, just a couple of clarifications.

My point (as distinct from the NRO column, with which I disagreed for reasons related to abortion, judges, et al) was only about the Democratic primary. My cynical argument was about backing Hillary in the Dem primary, precisely in order to defeat the Dems in the general. I don't agree with Bartlett that a Dem victory is inevitable, and Hillary gives the GOP (and acceptable federal judges) the best chance.

And no, the spectre is not here in the sense I meant it, which is strictly about the psychology of Fall 2008. To elaborate: once it's clear (in this hypothetical) that the next president truly WILL BE Hillary or Rudy (a choice I'd detest and do my damndest to avoid). And that all talk about Obama's new politics or Brownback's superiority or McCain this or Constitution Party that -- once that's all off the table, or wooda, shooda, coodas -- then the mind will focus properly on what the serious alternatives are. It will be necessary to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless, distinguishable post-election environments. And rudyphobia will be cured then.

Obviously, the threat exists (and has since 2000) and with a crowded field in both parties now, the mind tends to wander to the alternatives. But now is a different psychological universe from Fall 2008.

kathleen said...

OK VIctor, thanks for clarifying. However, I do think the vitriol directed at Giuliani in these early days is overdone and counterproductive to the interests of Republicans in general. It's conceivable that by roasting giuliani even this early in the process one is boosting hillary.

Donald, It's totally conceivable that giuliani had little choice but to appoint "liberal" judges in NYC. the bureaucracy is thick with liberals. admittedly i have no evidence for this, but it seems to me giuliani did not want to spend his political capital as mayor on appointing controversial (by NYC standards) judges. Hence his "appointments" were really just rubber stamps of people who were next up.

as i have stated before, i see no reason to disbelieve giuliani when he says he will appoint scalia-like judges. I think you would agree that appointing city judges who deal in municipal/state law (such as it is in NY) and appointing supreme court judges who deal in constitutional law are not really comparable.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"I think you would agree that appointing city judges who deal in municipal/state law (such as it is in NY) and appointing supreme court judges who deal in constitutional law are not really comparable."

No Kathleen I would not. I think that the calibre and beliefs of the individuals who Guiliani picked as judges in New York speaks volumes about how he would handle federal judicial appointments. Believe it or not, there are a fair number of conservatives in New York City among attorneys, and Guiliani could have picked from that pool if he so desired. He chose to appoint liberals instead. Guiliani is either a liberal, especially on cultural issues, or his long tenure as mayor was a total act of mendacity in order to have political power in that city. I believe the former. He is good on the war, but that is insufficient for me to ever support him, and I suspect that enough conservatives in the Republican party agree with me to make his nomination tantamount to the Republican party forfeiting the presidential election in 2008. However, I think this will be moot since I do not believe Guiliani will be nominated.

kathleen said...

Donald, There may be a number of conservative "attorneys" in NY but the number of those who would be in the running for a *city judgeship*, and/or who would aspire to be a city judge, is pretty slim.

And I can't believe that you think application of state criminal statutes is comparable to the constitutional review of law. One does not draw from the same pool of applicants for those two bailiwicks. anyway, giuliani's focus on crime was prevention. and newsflash ... that worked.

I agree that Giuliani probably won't be nominated, but I also think that could be a very very big mistake that republicans are making *now* . i simply don't understand the level of vitriol directed at him.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Let's be honest. Despite the tons of (usually meaningless) rhetoric that it issues on the subject, the Catholic Church doesn't give a tinker's damn about abortion.

Why do I say this? Well, for all the uproar about excommunicating pro-abortion politicians or denying them the Eucharist, I believe that both the current and late Pope have given the Eucharist to Italian politicians who publicly support abortion. If there's any evidence to the contrary, I'd love to see it. I actually would like to be proven wrong on something of this magnitude.

More importantly, when was the last time a major bishop or archbishop asked Catholics to support facilities and organizations that allow pregnant, unmarried women to have their babies safely, learn how to care for their babies and perhaps get some vocational counseling, where appropriate?

Even more importantly, when was the last time a major bishop or archbishop committed diocesan funds to such projects? Where are the Catholic agencies who can turn such projects into realities?

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of bishops and archbishops playing political games, whether they support or oppose abortion. If they really care about the issue, they'll do more than just talk; they'll literally put their money where their big mouths are so they can really help those in need.

Unfortunately, our Church is a lot more about esoteric, academic talk than about Christian action. More unfortunately, a lot of "good Catholics" let our bishops get away with this garbage. I wonder what a holy, righteous God thinks about this?

Donald R. McClarey said...

"More importantly, when was the last time a major bishop or archbishop asked Catholics to support facilities and organizations that allow pregnant, unmarried women to have their babies safely, learn how to care for their babies and perhaps get some vocational counseling, where appropriate?"

Joe, your anti-Catholic Church act reached its shelf life a very long time ago. The Church has been a major advocate and supporter of crisis pregnancy centers around the nation. And anyone who can say that the Church doesn't care about abortion is delusional.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"And I can't believe that you think application of state criminal statutes is comparable to the constitutional review of law. One does not draw from the same pool of applicants for those two bailiwicks. anyway, giuliani's focus on crime was prevention. and newsflash ... that worked.

I agree that Giuliani probably won't be nominated, but I also think that could be a very very big mistake that republicans are making *now* . i simply don't understand the level of vitriol directed at him."

Judges are judges Kathleen. He had a choice about the type of judges he would appoint and he choose liberals. The man has a track record and it contradicts his current pose as an advocate of appointing jurists in the mode of Scalia and Alito.

As to vitriol, I have none. Guiliani was magnificent on 9-11, is great on the war and makes a good speech. However there are issues that go to my core beliefs, and abortion is the chief among them. I will not cast a vote to have the nation led by a Republican pro-abort, and if he were the nominee I would spend a good deal of time and effort to convince other conservatives likewise.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Donald, I'm not just talking about crisis pregnancy centers. What about homes for pregnant, unwed mothers? We used to have those, did we not? What about such facilities sponsored and operated by dioceses and archdioceses themselves? Bishops always seem to be raising money. Why not raise money to build such facilities and hire the necessary personnel? Wouldn't such facilities provide a legitimate alternative to (let alone a competitive witness against) the "culture of death" that everybody rages against?

And, again, I want somebody to prove to me that the current and late Pope did not offer the Eucharist to Italian politicians who supported abortion. That's not a whimsical offer, either.

The fact is, Donald, you don't want to admit that Church performance on this issue of abortion lags far, far behind its rhetoric.

Victor said...

Joe:

Your next-to-last paragraph is correct, but the Church has been reluctant everywhere (in the US too, not just Italy or the Pope) to deny Communion to politicians. There are reasons for this. I'm not necessarily saying entirely persuasive ones, to me at least, but I'm willing to acknowledge that there are prima facie plausible reasons for this stance (in a phrase each -- the laudable-in-itself desire to be seen as not taking political sides; doubts about a denial's effectiveness and reasonable fears it would be counterproductive; the difficulties of getting a whole national episcopate on board, etc.)

More importantly, the last paragraph, particularly the bad faith attributed to Donald, simply doesn't follow from it. There is no institution in American society today ... none ... that does more to battle abortion than the Catholic Church. Could it do more ... of course? Could we all be more perfect ... of course.

As for

What about homes for pregnant, unwed mothers? We used to have those, did we not?

We did, but they became very difficult to impossible to support, both legally and culturally, since "the 1960s," (though some of the specifics came earlier and later), except to the extent they would be entirely voluntary, which put them in a Catch-22 since homes for unwed mothers always had relied on cultural presuppositions that were now obsolete. The welfare state, the de-stigmatization of adultery and fornication, feminism, laws making commitment harder, zoning laws discouraging group living in all forms. Also the decline in vocations, especially among nuns, would make a return to those days impossible even with the best of intentions.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"Donald, I'm not just talking about crisis pregnancy centers. What about homes for pregnant, unwed mothers? We used to have those, did we not?"

Joe we still do, and you and and I had this very same discussion years ago. Virtually every diocese in this country has a home for unwed mothers either directly through the diocese or supported by the diocese. Additionally, Catholic Charities in every diocese will provide funding, including funding for housing, for women going through unplanned pregnancies. For girls going through pregnancies, in addition to referrals to homes for unwed mothers, as well as direct financial aid when they wish to continue to live at home, foster care placement can be arranged in homes of pro-lifers who specialize in this type of work. Really Joe, the facts in this area are readily available. Additionally, if you are interested, this type of work can always use volunteers. I have been involved in this area for three decades and found it to be spiritually very rewarding. Call up the pro-life committee of your local diocese and I am sure they will put you right to work helping pregnant mothers.

Donald R. McClarey said...

Victor is correct in his observations. Homes for unwed mothers are much less popular today than they were prior to the 1960s. The main sources for unwed mothers prior to the 60s were cruel parents and kind parents. Cruel parents would kick pregnant girls out into the street, and I mean that literally in many cases. They would then be found by cops. In those days prior to the mammoth welfare state we have now, the cops would usually call the Catholic Church or the Salvation Army because both those groups would provide a place to live for these poor abandoned girls. Kind parents would send their pregnant daughters to the homes to avoid scandal, where marriage to the father was not possible or in the best interests of the girls, and then bring them back after their babies had been placed for adoption. We are of course more enlightened today as demonstrated by the sky-rocketing illegitimacy rate. Relatively few pregnant girls choose today the option of a home for unwed mothers, but for those few the option still remains available.

Anonymous said...

We have "homes for unwed mothers" here in NC. They're called Room at the Inn; they are a huge success; and they are under the auspices of the Catholic Diocese of Charlote.

In the immortal words of Anita in West Side Story, smoke on your pipe and put that in. ;)

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Victor and Donald, thank you for your temperate, intelligent response to my post. I stand corrected. Even so, it seems that too many Christians who oppose abortion are relying primarily and fundamentally on legistlative or judicial action as the solution of first resort.

I want to see such private efforts expanded. They need to be expanded. At this point, as Victor and Donald alluded, the culture has changed so radically that neither a constitutional amendment nor the overturning of Roe v. Wade will solve the problem (the latter will just throw it back to the states, and we'll likely have 50 passionate debates on this issue instead of one).

We must never forget that abortion is fundamentally an individual problem that metastacized into a social problem solely by sheer numbers. Therefore, the ultimate solutions invariably have to be individual in nature, from giving children and teenagers a comprehensive moral framework for sexual behavior that will lead them to making sound decisions, to creating alternative forms of entertainment, to other ideas anybody else might have.

I'm not saying that dedicated people aren't already doing such things. I'm saying that more emphasis needs to be placed in private-sector solutions.

And the "pro-life" movement has to stick it to the bishops. Hard. Six women protesting at an abortion clinic collectively have infinitely more testosterone than the entire USCCB! "Pro-life" Catholics must shake the bishops out of their cozy, luxuriant complaceny or else block donations to the diocese. Unfortunately, money is the only language the bishops seem to understand.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Here is an exchange from last night's debate:

MR. MATTHEWS: Would the day that Roe v. Wade is repealed be a good day for Americans?

MR. GIULIANI: It would be okay.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay to repeal?

MR. GIULIANI: It would be okay to repeal. Or it would be okay also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision.

MR. MATTHEWS: Would it be okay if they didn’t repeal it?

MR. GIULIANI: I think that -- I think the court has to make that decision, and then the country can deal with it. We’re a federalist system of government, and states could make their own decisions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/03/us/politics/04transcript.html?pagewanted=7&_r=2

From this I draw two conclusions: 1) Rudy clearly doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to Roe and constitutional law generally, and 2) anyone who thinks it's obvious Rudy would appoint judges who would overrule Roe hasn't been paying attention.

kathleen said...

Josiah, i have no idea from where you get those 2 conclusions. perhaps you object to the imperfect syntax in the excerpt you provide.