Standing Athwart History, Yelling "Looks Good to Me!"

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The great paleocon political writer W. James Antle III has an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News on one of my favorite topics—how conservative voices in the media, by hitching their wagons to the modern GOP, kneecapped the movement. The best anecdote:

When hosts finally began giving voice to increasing conservative disenchantment with President Bush, for example, the administration worked to bring them back in line. In October, several prominent hosts were summoned to the White House for a personal meeting with the president.

Sean Hannity, who occasionally campaigns for Republican candidates, enthused, "I think [Bush would] have an 80 percent approval rating if he could bring people into the Oval Office six people at a time and explain it all to them."

That was one of the sillier moments in the election, and as Antle points out, one of the least perspicacious. Conservative talk radio with its tens of millions of listeners had actually pressured Republicans out of making some of their dumbest decisions—chiefly the Harriet Miers SCOTUS nomination, but also some of the earmark/pork battles like the $223 million "bridge to nowhere." Here was your model for staunching the GOP's bleeding. Inform them that they were bleeding. But the glamor of the White House and the White House's willingness (unlike the George Bush I White House) to coddle conservatives put a damper on that.

Here's a good example of the cocoon conservative media figures spun for themselves: Hugh Hewitt's election night broadcast. It's an amusing peek into this world where the media was lying about Bush's unpopularity, where the media rigs polls to make Republicans look bad, where wings take dream. The best bit is Hour 6, when the shape of the Democratic win was becoming clear, but Hewitt asks John Podhoretz why the media is using this "dirty data" that shows crazy results like George Allen losing.

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  1. “White House’s willingness (unlike the George Bush I White House) to coddle conservatives put a damper on that”

    Of course Bush I worked with the Democrats to get the S&L bailout (probably his biggest and best legacy) and for of course raising taxes in what at the time was not a bad deficit reduction bill. His thanks for that was his corps supporters abadoning him, having to face Pat Buchanan as a primary challenger. In the mean time the media reported uncritically Perot’s ravings about the deficit and the trade imbalance and gave Bush absolutely no credit for doing something about the S&L disaster or for the recovery that started in the summer of 1992.

    Bush II allegedly learned from this that you never abandon your base, at least in ways that they will notice. But really he is not that conservative. Bush II certainly didn’t coddle conservatives when he turned education policy over to Ted Kennedy or dreamed up the prescription drug entitlment. Yes he did cut taxes in a very productive way, but he has spent like crazy and embraced big government. Had he not had the benifit of the Democrats going insane over the war, most conservatives would have abadoned him in 2004. Take away 9-11 and Bush very well may have had a primary challenger in 2004 over spending and the deficit. Domesticlly Bush is not that popular among conservatives. He is just very fortuneate in his enemies and to be President at a time when foreign policy dominated the debate.

  2. When hosts finally began giving voice to increasing conservative disenchantment with President Bush, for example, the administration worked to bring them back in line. In October, several prominent hosts were summoned to the White House for a personal meeting with the president.

    Both parties are hung up on “message.” They believe if they can just find the right speaker with the right words they can win the votes.

    Neither understands that voters aren’t listening to what the parties are saying, but are watching what the parties are doing. And that what both parties are doing sucks.

  3. Standing Athwart History, Yelling “Looks Good to Me!”

    Or even more appropriately, “Sitting astraddle history, waving your cowboy hat over your head, yelling ‘YEEEEEEEEEEE-HAAAAAAAAAW’ as you plumet to the earth.”

  4. John wrote,

    “Bush II allegedly learned from this that you never abandon your base, at least in ways that they will notice. But really he is not that conservative. Bush II certainly didn’t coddle conservatives when he turned education policy over to Ted Kennedy or dreamed up the prescription drug entitlment….”

    I think you make a great point about Bush 43’s pre 9/11 run-ins with conservatives over NCLB and then later with Medicare Drug Plan Part D.

    The popular definition of Rovism is limited to “playing to the base,” but I believe that they also wanted to learn from Clinton as well as Bush 41. Thus we saw the “triangulation” on NCLB and Medicare Drug Plan like Clinton’s Welfare Reform.

    I’m not sure if the usaage is correct for triangulation; ultimately they meant to negate some issues that broke towards the Dems in both education and health care.

  5. Had he not had the benifit of the Democrats going insane over the war, most conservatives would have abadoned him in 2004.

    Hmmm that’s funny, the way I remember it the Democrats rolled over and played dead over the war.

    Quite frankly I can’t imagine why conservatives stuck by him as far as they did, other than a “Red team rules” mentality.

  6. Wow. Hewitt sounds positively unhinged in retrospect when you listen to that broadcast.

    But then, maybe that’s because that’s how he sounds to me all the time.

  7. People extrapolate too much.

    We won last time, so we’ll win this time.

    The electorate shifted 4%, therefore we’ve all changed our mind about everything.

    The GOP is much closer to my thinking than the Dems, therefore the GOP is closely aligned with my thinking.

  8. John writes: “Had he not had the benifit of the Democrats going insane over the war, most conservatives would have abadoned him in 2004.”

    The only ones who went insane over the war were the fools who thought it would be a good idea in the first place.

    The people who opposed it were quite rational.

  9. “stanching,” not staunching. Sorry to be pedantic but that’s that.

  10. I’m fairly sure you can use stanch and staunch interchangeably.

  11. You know what, I take that back. I’m not fairly sure of anything these days.

  12. Bubba’s got it spot-on.

  13. It’s hard to speak truth to power when you can’t tell the difference.

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