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April 16, 2014

Best. Op Ed. Ever.

By Bret Stephens of the WSJ. It was difficult to choose a favorite part to excerpt but we'll settle for this:

...what we need as the Republican nominee in 2016 is a man of more glaring disqualifications. Someone so nakedly unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of sane Americans that only the GOP could think of nominating him.

This man is Rand Paul, the junior senator from a state with eight electoral votes. The man who, as of this writing, has three years worth of experience in elected office. Barack Obama had more political experience when he ran for president. That's worked out well.

Or perhaps this:

When moderation on a subject like immigration is ideologically disqualifying, but bark-at-the-moon lunacy about Halliburton is not, then the party has worse problems than merely its choice of nominee.

*sigh*

The Halliburton jackwagonry worries us far less than the experience issue. We seem to have utterly lost the notion that the presidency of the United States is not an internship or an OJT opportunity for telegenic demagogues with no track record and no relevant experience.

Perhaps what we really need is some kind of Dancing with the Stars-type show. Or maybe we could elect our senior leaders via Facebook and the aptly-named Twitter. This wouldn't necessarily be any more insane than our current process.

Posted by Cassandra at April 16, 2014 12:10 PM

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Comments

I've got no problem saying that Paul is too inexperienced for the job. He is. The Halliburton thing just makes it worse.

But Bret needs to keep in mind that if he wants the Tea Party to play nice with his candidates, perhaps he should reciprocate. Party unity goes both ways.

Or he can keep up the derision of people who have different opinions than him. We've seen how well that's worked out the last 5 years, too.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 16, 2014 02:56 PM

The problem is that I haven't seen much (in some cases, *any*) of that party unity from the Tea Party, though I have seen it from individuals who support the Tea Party.

Reciprocity is a two-way street, and despite my extreme frustration with the scorched earth rhetoric about purging people like me and my parents and my husband and my kids and pretty much all my friends from the party, I try very hard not to allow my feelings to influence major decisions like electing a president.

Am I being unreasonable here? I am loyal to my country, first - not to any party (GOP or otherwise).

The Tea Party hasn't established anywhere near the kind of track record that would cause me to want to throw all my support behind them (having people fulminate endlessly about how you're a dirty rotten no-good RINO who should be purged from the ranks is not exactly confidence inspiring or trust inducing). So like it or not, the GOP is the only organization capable (so far, at least) of doing the job.

It continues to bother me how folks on all sides ignore nastiness not directed at them. I stopped writing about the counterproductive RINO nonsense years ago, but it's still a very real force and has caused untold damage to the Tea Party's prospects of superceding the GOP. If a Tea Party candidate is clearly superior, I might hold my nose but ONLY if that candidate refuses to toe the line wrt to people like me and my family.

FWIW, I think both sides need to put aside their personal feelings about some nasty things that have been said and look at the bigger picture (America).

Posted by: Cassandra at April 16, 2014 03:16 PM

...Bret needs to keep in mind that if he wants the Tea Party to play nice with his candidates, perhaps he should reciprocate.

Why on earth would anyone hold the GOP responsible for the opinions of one man who isn't a GOP official? The kind of tit for tat you're describing is the world's best example of a race to the bottom where the loudest and most vicious create an excuse for everyone else to take their ball and go home.

I can't endorse that, Yu-Ain. I respect you more than I can say. But allowing some random pundit to determine your support for a major party strikes me as self defecating in the extreme. Please tell me where I'm wrong.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 16, 2014 03:20 PM

What is spooky for me about Rand Paul is how similar his record is to Barack Obama's in 2008.

I suppose the first is easier to see for Democrats, just as the second was easier to see for Republicans.

(I've been meaning to write a post about that similarity, but have put it off mostly because of,as Harold Macmillan once said, "events".

On RINOs: On a site where people were using that term far too freely, I once asked those using it to give me definition in terms of voting records. None took me up on that challenge.)

Posted by: Jim Miller at April 16, 2014 05:10 PM

What is spooky for me about Rand Paul is how similar his record is to Barack Obama's in 2008.

That's why the I chose the first excerpt - facts aren't pro- or anti-Tea Party. They're just facts.

I suppose the first is easier to see for Democrats, just as the second was easier to see for Republicans.

I think this is dead on, though I've already ruled out several supposed conservative "front runners" for precisely that reason... just like I did last time around and the time before that. I applied the same criteria to our candidates as I would to a Democrat candidate. If you're not willing to apply a standard to your own side, it's not really a standard at all.

On the RINO thing, I'm glad someone challenged it. More people should be doing so. Unless of course that's what people really believe, in which case we might as well throw in the towel now. What's left after the ideologically impure are purged won't be enough to win a national election.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 16, 2014 05:32 PM

OK, Yu-Ain, I just reread that essay from start to finish and not anywhere - even one time - is there any mention of the Tea Party.

There are multiple scathing references to the GOP, and references to Paul becoming the GOP nominee but not a single mention of the Tea Party. So I'm confused - where did Stephens mention (much less disparage) the "tea party candidate"?

I will admit to not paying much attention to Ron or Rand Paul. I frankly take neither seriously as a viable candidate for a multitude of reasons (none of which have anything to do with the Tea Party and all of which have everything to do with the candidates' experience, positions, and track record).

What am I missing here?

Posted by: Cassandra at April 16, 2014 05:43 PM

The problem is that I haven't seen much (in some cases, *any*) of that party unity from the Tea Party.

Except, you know, that we've shown up and held our noses for years and years. I have, and I've done it for years. Even when my preferred candidates don't win. It would be nice to see the RNC do the same sometime. But no, we get McConnell saying "I think we are going to crush [the Tea Party] everywhere". How hard would it be for him to say "Our polling shows the Tea Party candidates trailing in all the races". How about, just maybe, a "we look forward to working with whomever wins". No, that's simply not possible. We get "we shall crush our enemies, see them driven before us and shall hear the lamentations of their women".

Shit like this makes me wonder if I should continue. You don't like aligning yourself with people who hate you: I don't blame you. Just don't begrudge me the same.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 16, 2014 06:40 PM

Except, you know, that we've shown up and held our noses for years and years. I have, and I've done it for years. Even when my preferred candidates don't win.

Did you do that as a Tea Partier, or as a conservative (pretty much like everyone else in the GOP)? I've done the same for decades now. What does that have to do with the Tea Party? Our system isn't set up so everyone is guaranteed their candidate will win. You have the freedom to drop out of the election process. There's a price on that freedom, and it generally takes the form of giving up the seat to someone more liberal than the GOP-er you didn't care for. If that feels like a win for you or for the country, then you're doing the right thing.

If, on the other hand, what you really want is to keep the Dems out of power, it's a pretty lousy strategy.

... no, we get McConnell saying "I think we are going to crush [the Tea Party] everywhere". How hard would it be for him to say "Our polling shows the Tea Party candidates trailing in all the races". How about, just maybe, a "we look forward to working with whomever wins". No, that's simply not possible. We get "we shall crush our enemies, see them driven before us and shall hear the lamentations of their women".

First of all, does the Tea Party talk that way? "We look forward to working with whoever wins?" Not on your life.

Secondly, I would never defend rhetoric like that. I hope you know me well enough by now to understand that - it's at the core of pretty much everything I've written over the past 10 years.

But the Tea Party have been saying exactly the same kinds of things - and far, far worse ones - for years now.

If it's wrong/stupid/counterproductive when McConnell does it, it's equally wrong/stupid/counterproductive when Tea Party candidates/spokesmen do it. But I don't think I've ever seen you get angry when Tea Partiers talk that way, and I've written about this quite a few times over the years.

Once again, the GOP is big. McConnell is part of the GOP but he doesn't speak for the GOP. I don't quite understand taking this so personally. If McConnell really said this, he was being an ass. But you knew I'd say that because that's consistent with what I *always* say.

Are you willing to admit that Tea Partiers who talk about purges and crushing the GOP are asses too? I think they are. I think that kind of rhetoric makes things worse instead of better. That's why I've *consistently* opposed it across the board.

What drives me nuts is seeing folks wink and nod when someone they like does it and react furiously when the same tactic is used against someone they like. Why can't we admit this kind of crap is a deliberate wallowing in sewer from which none of us is likely to emerge with anything resembling clean hands?

Posted by: Cassandra at April 16, 2014 06:56 PM

Cassandra says "But allowing some random pundit to determine your support for a major party strikes me as self defecating in the extreme."

I initially thought you might have been on your meds, and mistakenly substituted "self defecating" for "self-deprecating"--but the more I considered the meaning of the words, the more I realized it was intentional and you were spot-on.

Rather than "self deprecating" (expressing earnest disapproval of"--you were right on, as in "crapping all over oneself".

Much as I would like to see a true conservative as the candidate, we have to find someone that is ELECTIBE. A defeated conservative does the cause no good.

"Self defecating" deserves to go down in the GOP playbook--right along with "thou shalt not speak evil of a fellow Republican." It's time we quit crapping on ourselves, and find someone electable.

Cass--you have created the "buzzword" for the GOP marching orders!

Posted by: frequent flyer at April 16, 2014 09:42 PM

May I make a small suggestion: Look up the context of that McConnell statement. It has been a while since I looked at it, but it was pretty clear that he was saying he was going to crush his primary opposition, not the Tea Party generally.

(As I recall, one of the reasons people got confused on this point is that the NYT put a misleading headline on the McConnell article. Deliberately? Incompetently? I don't know.)

Or just apply a little common sense to the problem. Is it likely that a canny politician like McConnell would say something like that?

(Two historical parallels: In 1992, "mainstream" journalists gave Pat Buchanan a lot of help, even though most of them despised him and his ideas.

I saw something similar with the Ron Paul presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

It isn't hard to understand why leftist journalists helped Buchanan and Paul. They wanted more conflict, because that makes their stories more interesting, and they hope to further divide the Republican party.)

Posted by: Jim Miller at April 16, 2014 11:06 PM

"Tea Party candidates/spokesmen"? WTF? You are aware, aren't you Cassie, that the Tea Party is not a registered party, nor is there only one Tea Party? It's a bunch of autonomous groups that are against the wrack and ruin that the democrats/liberals have created with their spend spend spend philosophy. The tea parties might support a candidate, but the candidate is running on some other party's line. And the tea parties do not take a position on any social issues, but instead are single issue groups: fiscal conservatism. Don't spend money you don't have.

If you think anything else about the tea parties, you've been taken in by the MSM and all the RINO whiners out there.

Posted by: Rex at April 17, 2014 08:21 AM

Rex:

I am well aware that the Tea Party is not a unified political entity. That's why I said earlier that they're not up to the task of supporting a national candidate for the presidency all by their lonesome. They simply don't have the infrastructure. This shouldn't be news to anyone. It's obvious.

We're talking semantics.

If there are in fact no "Tea Party candidates", then Yu-Ain's initial comment about not dissing these nonexistent folks is even more puzzling. There are definitely candidates endorsed and backed by various Tea Party entities, as well as candidates who claim to be Tea Party candidates. There are even Tea Party Caucuses in both houses of Congress. Should I ignore all of this and pretend they're just like any other GOP candidate?

It makes little sense to claim there's no such thing as a Tea Party candidate - especially when one of my oldest Internet friends and favorite commenters, who clearly sympathizes with the Tea Party, is of the same mind.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 17, 2014 08:37 AM

One more thing, Rex.

I have very little patience for name calling. Given the fact that most of us have passionate beliefs and are only human, I tolerate some of it on my site.

But I take great personal offense every time I hear someone who doesn't even support the GOP claim the right to unilaterally declare what is and is not "Republican". I don't know whether you fit this description or not, but I don't claim the right to declare people "real Republicans" or "real conservatives" because I have no power to speak for a large group of people with a broad spectrum of beliefs and public policy preferences.

It's an arrogant, offensive thing to say and I would appreciate if readers would refrain from it on my site. I don't want any part of an ideological gulag. I can deal with disagreement.

We should all be able to without resorting to that kind of talk. Please confine the argument to what you disagree with and leave the name calling out of it. Unless, of course, you really do have authority to speak for the entire Republican party. If that's the case, you've got some real 'splainin' to do. :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 17, 2014 08:45 AM

Lot's of stuff to respond to:

Did you do that as a Tea Partier, or as a conservative (pretty much like everyone else in the GOP)?

Yes. Tea Partiers have secretly and quietly been living and walking among you for decades. :-) The people in the Tea Parties didn't magically appear in 2009. Their politics didn't change. 2009 was just the straw that broke the camel's back. The Tea Party doesn't hate Republicans. They mostly *are* republicans (and a smattering of fiscally conservative democrats). What they are, are disaffected, ignored, and neglected. And when they finally speak up, they've discovered that there's a reason for it: they are despised.

First of all, does the Tea Party talk that way?

The rank-and-file do, yes. It's wrong, but I do get why they're angry. That's not an excuse, because it's still wrong, just an explanation. But I'm sorry if I can't muster as much outrage over a bunch of blog commenters as I can over one of the major GOP leaders. He can speak this way and retain leadership because his view isn't the outlier.

When you look at the Tea Party type candidates like Paul, Rubio, and Cruz, they are all rather studious in not engaging in that kind of rhetoric even when reporters are clearly goading them into it.

It is quite reasonable and justifiable to be frustrated over the rank and file's rhetoric. I don't blame you or anyone else on this one bit.
But this, somehow, justifies you staying at home if a candidate engages in exclusionary rhetoric. But when the GOP leadership does it to *me*, I'm supposed to suck it up and fall in line otherwise I'm putting party over country.

This sort of asymetrical loyalty is part of the problem. Tea Party candidates have repeatedly shown that they are willing to work within the existing Republican framework. But we also under no illusions that this is anything other than a one way street.

but it was pretty clear that he was saying he was going to crush his primary opposition, not the Tea Party generally.

His primary opposition from the Tea Party. And not just his own primary contest, but across all primary races nationally. "We're going to crush the Tea Party in the primaries, but don't forget to vote for us in the general!" People generally talk about crushing their enemies, not their allies. McConnell views the Tea Parties as his enemies. And seemingly moreso than the democrats. That's the problem.

I seem to remember Scott Walker (who as much as can be said for anyone 2 years before it matters, is on my short list for POTUS hopefuls) said something to the effect that the Tea Party needs to remember that opposing Democrats is more important than opposing Republicans. The most common comment I saw was for him to remind Republicans of the same or to swap Republicans and Tea Party with a "FIFY" tag.

Why on earth would anyone hold the GOP responsible for the opinions of one man who isn't a GOP official?

I'm not. I'm just pointing out a single example. But the problem is widespread. Rex's use of RINO was wrong, but Bret has a vastly larger audience.

OK, Yu-Ain, I just reread that essay from start to finish and not anywhere - even one time - is there any mention of the Tea Party.

Not by name. But there are a lot of even mainstream Republicans with less experiance than Paul (whom I do not and would not support through the primaries for exactly the substantive issues raised). So why was he picked? Because those other people don't have a national following. They are obscure and no-one would know who they were. But Paul has a national following and that support is largely Tea Party based, not mainstream Republican based. "...nakedly unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of sane Americans"; The dripping condescension and derision here isn't directed at Paul himself, but rather his insane supporters.

As I said, I've no problem with Bret's substantive critiques. He's correct on Paul's lack of qualifications. My problem is his obvious hatred for his supporters.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 17, 2014 11:15 AM

And for what it's worth, the Halliburton thing is a much bigger deal for me.

Inexperiance is typically self-correcting.

Thinking that someone would send others to their death for their own profit is bad enough, being willing to believe that some is willing to send others to their death for someone else's profit is quite another. There is something fundamentally wrong there that would be much harder to correct. As one of only 100 senators, maybe (maybe) that can be overlooked. As POTUS, that's a much harder pill to swallow.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 17, 2014 12:31 PM

Or shorter: In 2028, inexperience won't be an obstacle for Paul, but Halliburton still will be.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 17, 2014 12:32 PM

Thanks for the clarification. FWIW, I am never going to think that being a legislator is adequate executive experience.

There's a reason the majority of presidents have run some large entity (most often, they are state governors). That's relevant job experience.

McCain vs. Obama was a race between two basically underqualified candidates but McCain had the clear edge on legislative experience, plus he had at least commanded a squadron (not that this is anywhere near running a state or a country).

So unless Paul serves at least 1 term as a state governor, I'll continue to point out that he has no relevant job experience. Just as I did with McCain and Obama :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 17, 2014 12:36 PM

Careful, Lady... consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, or some such rot. After all, hypocrisy is CLEARLY the sign of a superior intellect! :P

Posted by: MikeD at April 17, 2014 02:35 PM

I am never going to think that being a legislator is adequate executive experience.

To me, that depends.

"Just a legislator", agreed. But if a legislator puts in his time, gains some committee chairmanships shows some leadership in moving and/or stopping legislation by bringing people together towards a goal, then maybe.

Governorship is good, but it isn't the only way.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 17, 2014 04:29 PM

Folks, I personally strongly think that Reagan really was right about relationships within the GOP; that we ought to be able to get along very well with those we agree with 80% of the time, and focus our energy on advancing those issues against the 'other' (liberal, Democrat, progressive, and yes at times socialist) party.
- I also like the 'Big Tent' terminology
- the GOP itself (Rance Priebus) and it's leading elected officials (including McConnell) have every right to promote their interests in encouraging the nomination of the most 'electable' GOP candidates in primaries.

They risk alienating local electorates if they appear to be 'meddling' too much (and yes, this is highly subjective, and varies a lot around the country).

Rex,
I strongly disagree that Tea Party groups are solely focused on the single issue of fiscal conservatism, though I cheerfully agree that is a core issue.
Other core issues for same/many Tea Party groups include the size/scope of government (especially federal), and States' rights (aka federalism).
Some Tea Party groups actually do have a decided libertarian bent, but not all.

Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at April 17, 2014 05:25 PM

Cass,

I've read and re-read my earlier comment, and I still can't see where I insulted you. I know you're sensitive to the word "RINO", but I didn't call you a RINO. I said you might have been taken in by RNO whiners out there. Sorry for any confusion.

And I'm neither Democrat or Republican. Both parties have certain elements in their platforms that I can't agree with. I usually characterize myself as a small-L libertarian, or sometimes as a partial Jeffersonian.

Capt Mike, small government is part and parcel of fiscal conservatism. States' rights is an offshoot of keeping the federal government small which I believe to be part and parcel of fiscal conservatism. States soak us pretty bad for taxes, but they at least have to live within their budget from year to year. The worst of them pull all sorts of tricks to make it through the year, such as putting state expenses off on "independent" commissions or "authorities" or even their own counties (yes, New York State, I'm talking about you here) so they don't count as part of the state budget, but they don't hold a candle to the excesses if the federal government. Can you just imagine what our federal government would look like if they truly balanced the budget on a two-year cycle? Or if income taxes were limited to 10% per year?

And to reiterate my main point in my first comment, the only unifying thread amongst the many different tea party groups is fiscal conservatism. What the MSM is fond of doing is to find a conservative or republican candidate who is also backed by the tea party who says something unrelated to fiscal conservatism and then blame the tea party for the comment. Discerning readers and viewers know better than to be taken in by this tactic.

Posted by: Rex at April 20, 2014 09:18 AM

Rex:

I don't think you personally insulted me. What I was trying to convey (and probably did a poor job of) was the way name calling (or pejorative labels, if you prefer) is perceived by some people who I hope are reasonable people - people like me.

There's a weird thing in politics. It's like people have to get themselves all psyched up against whoever is perceived to be the enemy, so there's a lot of name calling and painting of fairly diverse groups of people who don't all act/think alike with a very broad brush, etc. It's an oversimplified way of looking at the world: "Hey, you're a member of group X and that's all I need to know/care about you"

I don't need to deal with you as a person - I'm just going to lump you in with (usually) the worst elements of whatever group I can't stand at the moment. Doesn't matter if you deserve that judgment. Doesn't matter if it's factually accurate. Who you are, what you think (and WHY you believe what you do) ceases to matter.

And it works - both in the way it's intended to and in ways less helpful if what people really want is to build consensus for their preferred policy positions.

What I was trying to explain is that terms like RINO are offensive and *are* taken personally. Now if that's intentional, then no harm no foul. But if the intent is something other than to cause offense, the only way I know to address that is to explain, "Hey, when you say that, it really bothers me. Here's why."

So I hope you will take my comment in that light. I assume, and continue to assume, that you did NOT intend to offend me. If I thought you were deliberately being offensive, I wouldn't bother to respond or explain anything. That said, I have hurt or caused offense unintentionally a time or twelve myself. Since I really didn't mean to cause offense, I generally don't understand unless someone is willing to tell me why what I said is upsetting to them.

I don't take that sort of thing as an attempt to control what I say, because I'm free to respond in any way I care to. I take it more as an acknowledgment of something I already know (but need to be reminded of from time to time) - that the same circumstances can seem very different to people, and that my way of seeing things isn't the only (or the only important) one.

YAG's comment about Tea Partiers being despised had such an effect on me. I don't despise the Tea Party, but his comment explains some of the reactions I've seen from some of my online friends. I can't say I entirely approve of many of the methods (and certainly not the rhetoric) of a lot of Tea Partiers. I do sympathize and agree with many of their policy preferences.

It's just that I don't think they're going about it the right way. I think the rhetoric hurts them more than it helps them. And it's OK for me to think that - I doubt they would agree that my way of seeing things is the right one. But if they're asking for or expecting my support, the way I see things really does matter.

They have no legitimate expectation that they should be able to call me or the people I love names and still be able to count on my help. Maybe I have not been paying attention, but I really don't see GOP-ers calling the Tea Party names. I do see them saying they thing TP tactics are wrong or won't work.

But that's a very different matter than unilaterally claiming the authority to decide who gets to be a "real Republican" and who doesn't. I want no part of any political movement that is that rigid and dictatorial.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 20, 2014 01:00 PM

Well, I've always been sort of the clueless one. I didn't know that RINO had become a pejorative. I've always thought of it as a descriptive label for a certain type of politician, one who professes Republican beliefs but acts differently. Nelson Rockefeller, George Pataki, John McLain--they fit into the RINO category rather handily.

Descriptive labels will always be around, because they're so damned useful, just as stereotypes are. Although the use of stereotypes is only truly useful if you have no other information about someone. I always thought that stereotypes were unfair and far-fetched until I moved to Long Island when I was in my 40's, and found that in the Metro New York area, what I always characterized as stereotypes were real living breathing people! That was quite the eye-opener.

Posted by: Rex at April 20, 2014 07:28 PM

I don't despise the Tea Party

I know you don't. And I believe a great many mainstream rebublican voters don't.

But I do believe McConnell does. I do believe Boehner does. Even smaller players like Peter King do. Helk, Bret Stephens does and while he's not even an elected representative, he's still a heavier hitter because of the perch and authority that is confered by being published in the WSJ.

It's not the rank-and-file the Tea Party is angry with, though they are way too often collateral damage.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 21, 2014 10:37 AM

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