In the 2008 primaries, when all was said and done, you could say the Republicans simply settled for John McCain as their candidate, by default. Giuliani was a bust – beyond his 9/11 shtick there was nothing there, and he was from New York City, which would never play that well in the south, along with being in his third marriage after two messy divorces, and one of his former wives being a cousin. The evangelical right really didn’t want to have to deal with that. Romney was too slick for the base, what with that perfect hair and his dazzling-technocrat portfolio. Sure he was a Mormon, which disturbed a few on the Christian right, but that wasn’t that big a deal. He just seemed like a city guy who’d be fine lunching at the Waldorf or something. He wasn’t one of them.
The affable Mike Huckabee came close, but perhaps he did his Gomer Pyle routine once too often. You never knew when you were supposed to take him seriously, or when he was just being goofy. That was kind of lovable, but he confused the party. Homespun irony can backfire. The actor Fred Thompson gave it a go, but campaigning seemed to bore him, so of course he bored the party.
So McCain ended up being the last man standing. He would have to do. But the lack of enthusiasm for him was rather obvious. Of course it was then that the Republican strategy became clear. It was run away from Bush, the man who tanked the economy and couldn’t wrap up his two wars, and hammer Obama non-stop. Just don’t say much about the old fighter pilot, who had by then developed a habit of getting confused on key points here and there. A negative campaign was inevitable. What else could you do?
What kept the presidential election from being a complete blow-out, not the solid but respectable defeat that it turned out to be, was McCain’s decision to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Everyone knew she had neither the knowledge nor experience, or even the temperament, for national office. But that didn’t matter. She had her fierce feral cunning, and her heart was in the right place – she was the attack dog who would rip into anyone who didn’t sufficiently respect the rural, resentful, white, evangelical folks, all of whom of course felt that the far-too-smart fancy-pants east coast educated fools who thought they were better than all of us common-folk real Americans needed to be slapped down, or something like that.
The enthusiasm was back. Had Sarah Palin known what she was talking about, or even what the issues were, she’d have been formidable. McCain might have won. But Tina Fey took care of her. And what is now the opposition party was left with a real vacuum. There was no one in charge. And now all their protestations that Obama is ruining the country and they should once again be in charge, before we all die, or turn into socialist slaves, or Canadians or something, keeps bumping up against the same problem. There’s still no one in charge on that side. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck do their ranting and rabble-rousing, but neither is interested, even in the slightest, in running for office. They’re good at what they do, and well paid for it – each has found his calling. Fox News’ Sean Hannity has been toying with the idea of running for president, but even he seems to know that’s not very reasonable. Governing isn’t the same as sputtering in righteous anger. He knows people would figure that out in a heartbeat.
So now what?
That’s easy. As of Tuesday, September 29, 2009, Palin is making her move:
Less than three months after resigning as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, the onetime vice presidential candidate, has completed her memoir.
HarperCollins Publishers, which signed a multi-million dollar deal with Ms. Palin in May, said in a statement on Tuesday that it had moved up the publication date from the spring of 2010 to Nov. 17 of this year.
The book will be titled “Going Rogue: An American Life”; the publisher has announced a first-print run of 1.5 million copies. Ms. Palin worked with a collaborator, Lynn Vincent, the editor of World, an evangelical magazine.
So check out the San Diego based World – “Today’s News, Christian Views.” Lynn Vincent produced the four-hundred pages. Sarah Palin isn’t big on details. But Sarah Palin has made her move.
Slate’s John Dickerson is rather amused by the title, Going Rogue. That was his catch phrase, and he didn’t use it as a compliment. On his Facebook page Dickerson added this – “Thought about making a joke that Sarah Palin’s memoir in France would be called Going Roquefort but figured it was too cheesy.”
But this is no joke. Politico surveyed the Republican base – they’re all still crazy about Sarah Palin. Of all the characters from 2008, she’s the one they want running things. As far as they’re concerned, she should be the next president.
Andrew Sullivan comments:
I think she perfectly represents a form of protest cultural politics that has no [place to go]. And what’s fascinating about the various quotes from local GOP machers [sic] is that none of them refers in any way to policy. She is not supported because of what she allegedly believes, or what she says she’ll do. She is supported because she shares an identity, real or imagined, with white, angry alienated conservatives. She is identity politics personified.
Sullivan has been referring to her as their hood ornament.
But she has the book coming out, and of that, the strangest of Republicans, Rick Santorum, says this – “She has a gift for prose. Hopefully that comes across.” And yes, he misuses that word, hopefully. It’s actually an adverb. But then he might be unwittingly correct. The new book could be full of hope – what Santorum’s words actually mean. At least it’s full of ambition. People often confuse the two. Think about it.
But Sullivan’s comment, that Palin obviously has no interest in actually governing – she did walk away from her job as Alaska’s governor – is what limits her appeal, beyond the base. Keep saying that government is bad, and that actual governing is tedious and stupid, and then flamboyantly just up and quit doing it, and people will assume you might not be the right one for that other job, governing things on the highest level of all. It’s funny how that works.
No, you want someone who does want to govern, and who can lay out just what they want to do and why. That’s why there’s been a lot of buzz about Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz. She knows exactly what should be done, in detail, which is to continue what her father did – be strong and ruthless, insult your allies and dismiss your enemies, or the other way around, and break any law you must to keep us safe. Specifically, or perhaps symbolically, this means being nasty – others may call it torture, but we have to do it, and if we have to do it, then it’s really not torture anyway. That’s her best example of how she would lead, and it’s getting more and more notice. Maybe she’s the one, not the oddball Sarah Palin.
In American Prospect, Adam Serwer sees this kind of emblematic argument as reprehensible:
For the GOP, torture is no longer a “necessary evil.” It is a rally cry, a “values” issue like same-sex marriage or abortion. They don’t “grudgingly” support torture, they applaud it. They celebrate it. Liz Cheney’s unequivocal support for torture methods gleaned from communist China has people begging her to run for office.
And yes, Andrew Sullivan has more to say on this:
The psychological underpinnings of Liz Cheney’s absurd proposition that, for example, “waterboarding isn’t torture” – a phrase that trips off her tongue as if it were a consensus, rather than an extreme outlier – are pretty obvious. Her father is a war criminal, a man whose incompetence is only matched by his paranoia. Since it is understandably, forgivably hard for her to accept that a person she loves and reveres is actually a torturer, she has to double down on the proposition that it’s obvious he isn’t a torturer, axiomatic that every torture session gave us actionable intelligence in ways ethical interrogation never could, indisputable that every single threat is a ticking time bomb mandating the use of any means to extract intelligence from any handy victim. Even to have a debate on this is mind-blowing for someone who still thinks of herself as someone who supports human rights, and of her father as a moral man.
There is, moreover, virtue in all this. It is something to be proud of. Because it is only by embracing positive pride in torture that she can keep the nightmare of reality at bay.
Sullivan goes on to argue that she is “conflating private loyalty with civic responsibility.”
And then he adds this:
While I’m at it, the next time Liz Cheney simply states that “waterboarding isn’t torture,” will someone please ask her to follow through? She needs to take a trip to Cambodia, visit their Museum of Torture, and request that the waterboard be removed from the exhibit. It is, after all, a mere enhancement of interrogation. And television hosts are constrained from asking her such a blunt question because it appears unseemly to attack a daughter for the sins of the father.
And so the corruption spreads.
But not to worry – she hasn’t announced for office, yet.
And there are other issues, like fiscal restraint. Obama has none, what with his stimulus package and his healthcare reform plans and all the rest. That’s a big issue for conservatives, and they are still shamed that their own George Bush drove us close to bankruptcy, what with two wars on the credit card and drug benefits for seniors and all the rest. They could use a leader on that issue.
But Conor Friedersdorf argues that they’ve trapped themselves there:
Unfortunately, the conservative movement’s impulse is to afford military leaders too much deference. Take its stance on our nuclear arsenal. After the military presented a plan to reduce it, President Obama signaled his displeasure by demanding more ambitious cuts. “Obama knows more about weapons requirements than the military now?” conservative blogger Dan Riehl wrote, echoing many on the right. “I think it’s time to start ringing the alarm bells with this guy, folks.” Conservatives respond quite differently when domestic-affairs bureaucrats claim special knowledge. Expertise in education, or welfare spending, or environmental stewardship is afforded some respect. Deference is tempered, however, by the understanding that people aren’t very good at judging the relative importance of their own work, and that every institution is reflexively opposed to shrinking itself. Should our nuclear arsenal shrink? I haven’t any idea, but a better counterargument is required than “the military knows best.”
Yep, show fiscal restraint, except when the military wants something, or even when they don’t. Just throw money that way.
Again, Sullivan comments:
It seems to me to be an inherent part of conservatism properly understood to constantly evaluate means and ends, to ensure that a country is not over-extended, to maintain a viable fiscal balance for the foreseeable future, with some cushion for an emergency. Assessing whether a country’s military commitments exceed its fiscal grasp would be an obvious part of that equation. But, of course, among today’s loony rightists, it isn’t.
You will never hear a neocon talk about the expense of empire or the burden of imperial debt. The neoconservative outlook focuses on the internal nature of foreign regimes, but it refuses to look at the internal financial collapse of contemporary America.
So you see where that leads:
Neocons favor more defense spending, period. I do not recall a single recent instance in which they did not want to project military power, regardless of its expense. There have been no conservative worries about the cost of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as they fulminate against big government spending. To ask the question of why American tax-payers are still financing the defense of Germany, for example, is to commit heresy (I exclude Ron Paul from all this, of course).
And yet if we know one thing from history it is that empires crumble from a function of mounting debt, often caused by unnecessary or hubristic wars. If today’s astounding debt – created in large part by Republican tax cuts, war, failure to rein in entitlements or regulate the financial industry sufficiently – does not wake them up, what will?
The answer to that is nothing. It’s a dead issue, even if, as Steve Coll explains in the New Yorker, the costs in Afghanistan could be endless:
To try to take and control the entire land mass of Afghanistan in the present climate might require as many as five hundred thousand troops, police, and militia, some military specialists believe; in any event, it would take more troops than are currently available, even if Obama goes all in… The revival of an urban-dominated “ink spot” strategy for the defense of a weak Afghan state may be the best of a series of bad military choices…
Even if an ink-spot campaign is successful, the Taliban will still own sizable chunks of the Afghan countryside for years. Their forces will be able to move fairly freely at night and in the mountains, as they do now; they will be able to carry out ambushes on the roads; they will attempt to penetrate city defenses to undertake spectacular car bombings and raids; and they will continue to move back and forth across the border with Pakistan, resourced by leadership and financing networks located there. Perhaps, in time, if the proposed McChrystal strategy succeeded, and a archipelago of relative peace and normalcy were established, and the factionalism within the current Kabul government subsided, and Afghan forces grew and improved, and at least some local Taliban opponents were converted into quiescent local powers, the Afghan state would then be able to push out gradually into the countryside, widening its ink spots.
Those are a lot of ifs.
A military man, Andrew Bacevich, suggests it might be better to try classic containment:
When confronting the Soviet threat, the United States and its allies erected robust defenses, such as NATO, and cooperated in denying the communist bloc anything that could make Soviet computers faster, Soviet submarines quieter or Soviet missiles more accurate. Containing the threat posed by jihad should follow a similar strategy. Robust defenses are key – not mechanized units patrolling the Iron Curtain, but well-funded government agencies securing borders, controlling access to airports and seaports, and ensuring the integrity of electronic networks that have become essential to our way of life. As during the Cold War, a strategy of containment should include comprehensive export controls and the monitoring of international financial transactions. Without money and access to weapons, the jihadist threat shrinks to insignificance: All that remains is hatred.
And here Sullivan agrees:
It seems to me that pre-emptive war is an option that should be kept in a small box in a glass cage that should be broken only in the direst emergencies. The one recent example of it, Iraq, has been a catastrophe that has not yet reached a conclusion. Very few foreign policy initiatives did more to destroy American power than that open wound still sucking in money and lives and attention. Containment, a policy that, in contrast, has had huge success in the past and was once backed by a bipartisan majority remains under-rated.
But it might work:
I suspect that containing Islamism is far more effective than giving it oxygen by attempting to defeat it in its own lands, where its popularity is sinking anyway under the weight of its own brutality and nihilism.
We didn’t invade the Soviet Union to destroy communism. We were self-confident enough to let it destroy itself, while never relenting on exposing its moral bankruptcy, political poison and economic failure. In Iran today, there exists a more vibrant and empowered popular opposition than ever existed in the Soviet heartland. And yet we remain fixated on military options and stay unmoved by the possibility of a nuclear stand-off in the Middle East between Israel and Iran.
But somehow that too is off the table:
The right has abandoned its previous support for deterrence, the benefits of mutually assured destruction, the maintenance of a moral high ground, and the slow power of containment. It’s time conservatives looked at these options again.
But that would be bucking the military, our heroes. And if there are no emerging Republican leaders, with Palin too flighty and Liz Cheney too nasty, then, in the absence of leaders, you know what comes next. And it actually comes from a Newsmax columnist, John Perry, making the logical leap:
There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.
America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it won’t. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it. …
But Perry does advocate it:
Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?
Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin Teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.
No Republican leadership? No problem:
Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.
Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”
In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass.
See Digby at Hullabaloo:
Yes. Nine months in, it’s obvious that the only choice Real Americans have is to stage a coup. The lessons they’ve learned from recent presidencies is that impeachment is no sure thing and that unless you can get close enough to steal elections, you might get stuck with someone you didn’t vote for. So they’re dreaming of more tried and true methods. That whole democracy thing is very inconvenient. (And just the thought of “skilled, military trained, nation builders” bending the government to their will clearly sends one big thrill up these fellows’ legs. Oh baby.)
Well, if Sarah and Liz won’t do, and Hannity is having second thoughts, let the generals run things. And living under an unelected military government would be fine, as the majority obviously made a mistake, and to protect our democracy, their choice should be removed. You work out the logic, such as it is.
And that’s what the 2008 Republican primaries led to. No one was right for them, in all the senses of that word. And there’s no one good choice now. So let the generals take over the country.
Or, conversely, let’s have a strong functioning opposition party. Some of us actually miss having tough Republicans around. After all, it’s no fun shadow-boxing eccentric people in clown suits.