HERE'S the thing: I never trusted P.J. O'Rourke's schtick, that is, his I'm-a-Republican-because-I-grew-up-from-being-a-hippie routine. To begin with, I've never trusted anyone who claims to've have some political epiphany after the age of majority. Religion, sure, because religious conversion after adulthood is generally a measure of personal despondency or the severity of one's legal fuck-ups. Politics aren't, at least generally. A polar transposition of political beliefs in adulthood, absent any evidence of massive head trauma, suggests either that one is being disingenuous, or that one was formerly so devoid of sense that measuring one's current level of ingenuousness isn't worth the effort. Sure, this may be well within the range of human possibilities, but it's notable that we don't exactly see it happening all that often when there's no money on the line, and rarely do we find anyone moving from the popular camp to the loser's hangout, which we'd expect to find in close to equal numbers if it were a real, meaning honest, phenomenon. I challenge you to name two, and I'll spot you Kevin Phillips.
For another, y'know, I hope this doesn't fuck with his income or anything, but long-haired casual Leftist dope smokers were not exactly a rare breed in 1968, and I'm pretty sure they grew up to be all sorts of things, Yuppies included, but the vast majority never had the opportunity, or the need, to justify it in print. There's Mitch Daniels, fer instance, though I doubt he was ever much of a leftist, especially once his draft commitment was up. Nobody says "Wow, Mitch overcame Liberalism. That makes him especially knowledgeable." and you don't hear nearly enough people say, "Gee, Mitch used to be a drug dealer, now he's an ill-tempered autocrat." Mitch has a taste for power as well as money, but he, too, found delivering encomiums to private enterprise to be a lucrative career path. Of course, dealing a little weed as a youthful indiscretion is not just forgivable in the eyes of your modern Captain of Industry or Baron of Real Estate; it shows a healthy, nascent respect for The System, especially if it was mostly shake. Cracking wise about the Tuskegee Experiment when you're in your mid-twenties, on the other hand, may require some 'splainin'.
And as we see on an ever-widening basis these days, the problem with these guys is not their acceptance of, nor their proselytizing for, free-market economies and private enterprise. It's that through cupidity, stupidity, or in certain cases frankly unnatural shortness they, and many others, came to imagine that the people most in need of economic defense and protective legislation were, in fact, the the largest of the breed, who, it turns out, were also the most likely to part with considerable wads of cash in return for services rendered. O'Rourke speaks at The Cato Institute, not the North Platte Jaycees. Daniels junkets to Asia, having funded the semi-annual exercises by raising enough "private" "donations" to give a leg up to every aspiring entrepreneur minority student at Ivy Tech. I mean, I'm sure they're both nice to their barbers, too, but it doesn't seem like either party gets much out of that.
The short answer, if it's not already too late for that, is that having been a dope-smoking pseudo-leftist up until you needed a job does not particularly qualify one as an expert on Nancy Pelosi. It just qualifies you to impress a roomful of well-born idiots and associated toadies who only wish they could have spent 1967 thru 1974 smoking hash with braless nubile bareback riders. It's like a gig selling backwoods Jesus aficionados on the utter depravity of your smack addict/boy prostitute days before you were Saved. It doesn't make you a liar, but a little evidence to the contrary would be nice. And there's the fact that O'Rourke has wrung the neck of this particular chicken longer now than Erma Bombeck made a living off the length of teenagers' phone calls.
But nothing lasts for ever, as Ozzy Mandus said to Wavy Gravy, and now O'Rourke finds himself telling the Weekly Standard audience, "We blew it, man." His is, actually, my favorite Wha' Happen? piece of the whole glorious sennight [Warning: contains excessive scenes of passive-voice pooch sex]:
Our 28-year conservative opportunity to fix the moral and practical boundaries of government is gone--gone with the bear market and the Bear Stearns and the bear that's headed off to do you-know-what in the woods on our philosophy.
Bummer, dude. Maybe you should have thought about implementing it before last Tuesday.
No, we on the right did it. The financial crisis that is hoisting us on our own petard is only the latest (if the last) of the petard hoistings that have issued from the hindquarters of our movement. We've had nearly three decades to educate the electorate about freedom, responsibility, and the evils of collectivism, and we responded by creating a big-city-public-school-system of a learning environment.
Okay, I think we'll be getting back to that inner-city school remark, but meanwhile, what sort of "education" about "freedom" mitigates the fact that the second consecutive two-term laissez-faire Republican administration closes with the nation's financial institutions having been plundered, and the Little Guy footing the bill? And considering you had an eight-year Revolution with an effective control of Congress, followed by four years of Get Saddam, Get Noriega, Get Willie Horton! stewardship, followed by eight years of hunting a President because he was more moderate than you (his dick will yet appear today! If the whole Clenis™ thing was disgusting before, there's the added hint of necrophilia to reverse our gorges now), a practice which was shepherded by a group of Republican officials so personally and professionally repugnant that any normal person, male or female, straight, gay, or none of the above, would have gladly blown Bill Clinton just for the promise that he'd help you cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. This was accompanied by Republican Revolution II. Then, thanks for making us remember, came 2001-2008. Th' fuck, really, was stopping you? Assuming the entire electorate to be made up of programmable Randian zombies over the last three decades, what more would you have gotten out of it?
In our preaching and our practice we neglected to convey the organic and universal nature of freedom. Thus we ensured our loss before we even began our winning streak. Barry Goldwater was an admirable and principled man. He took an admirably principled stand on states' rights. But he was dead wrong. Separate isn't equal. Ask a kid whose parents are divorced.
"An admirable stance on States' Rights which was unfortunately wrong?" P.J., man, stop bogartin'.
In how many ways did we fail conservatism? And who can count that high? Take just one example of our unconserved tendency to poke our noses into other people's business: abortion. Democracy--be it howsoever conservative--is a manifestation of the will of the people....
If the citizenry insists that abortion remain legal--and, in a passive and conflicted way, the citizenry seems to be doing so--then give the issue a rest. Meanwhile we can, with the public's blessing, refuse to spend taxpayers' money on killing, circumscribe the timing and method of taking a human life, make sure parental consent is obtained when underage girls are involved, and tar and feather teenage boys and run them out of town on a rail.
We pause here to remind you that this is a guy who keeps insisting he's smarter than you, or at least knows better, in part through the moral superiority of his positions, and who has just suggested that killin' a person is a minor quibble compared to coalition-building.
Our impeachment of President Clinton was another example of placing the wrong political emphasis on personal matters. We impeached Clinton for lying to the government. To our surprise the electorate gave us cold comfort. Lying to the government: It's called April 15th.
Pooches were screwed! Look, goddamit, by the time you impeached Bill Clinton everybody in the country, including even the pathetic gang of House "managers" who would soon, to a man, be enjoying the freedom to earn their livings off the private enterprise system, knew that Clinton wasn't going to be convicted. And everybody in the country knew you'd been on a seven-year witch hunt, or, more accurately, a ten-year series of witch hunts. You fucking couldn't stop yourselves then; you want absolution now? And by the way, I don't recall you spending the decade lecturing on Hayek rather than sniffing Clinton's crotch with the rest of the hounds.
The sludge and dreck of political muck-funds flowing to prosperous businesses and individuals have gotten deeper and more slippery and stink worse than ever with conservatives minding the sewage works of legislation.
Again, 1) what sort of theoretical climate must we enjoy for this not to be the case, and 2) why should the rest of the nation be consigned to looking for it for you?
For what we will spend on the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2008 we could have avoided the war in Iraq and simply bought a controlling interest in Saddam Hussein's country.
Frankly, some of us expected you to. And to bring along your own WMDs for good measure.
Yes, we got a few tax breaks during the regimes of Reagan and W. But the government is still taking a third of our salary. Is the government doing a third of our job? Is the government doing a third of our dishes? Our laundry? Our vacuuming? When we go to Hooters is the government tending bar making sure that one out of three margaritas is on the house? If our spouse is feeling romantic and we're tired, does the government come over to our house and take care of foreplay? (Actually, during the Clinton administration . . . )
See, it's funny because Bill Clinton has a dick!
Anyway, a low tax rate is not--never mind the rhetoric of every conservative politician--a bedrock principle of conservatism. The principle is fiscal responsibility.
Then why were you just griping about taxes?
Look, let's try this again: it's been twenty fucking years since the Reagan presidency ended. It's been twenty fucking years since a man who'd spent sixteen years running for President on the single issue of the evils of the National Debt left office having nearly quadrupled it. And not just that; "conservatives" cheered while he was doing it, and then they tried to excuse it by claiming he'd single-handedly spent the Soviets into bankruptcy when we knew in the 70s they were about to crash. Then, like, two days later these same fucking "conservatives" hit the roof because the Clinton administration dared to take a pair of manicure scissors to the edges of the Defense budget! Twenty fucking years. That was certainly long enough for you to go from first taste of sweet sweet hemp to Professional Grown-up. Maybe it's long enough to drop the pretense of Republican fiscal conservatism. By the way, did you know Bill Clinton got a blow job?
Is there a moral dimension to foreign policy in our political philosophy? Or do we just exist to help the world's rich people make and keep their money? (And a fine job we've been doing of that lately.)
If we do have morals, where were they while Bosnians were slaughtered? And where were we while Clinton dithered over the massacres in Kosovo and decided, at last, to send the Serbs a message: Mess with the United States and we'll wait six months, then bomb the country next to you. Of Rwanda, I cannot bear to think, let alone jest.
Where were You on Kosovo? Easy--sniffing Clinton's crotch, right where You were the rest of the decade, and trying to make political hay out of the situation once he acted.
As for the rest, y'know, we can indict the US government's humanitarianism and amoral foreign policy beginning with the 18th century, but the idea that the American Right is somehow ethically exempt? What th' fuck are you smokin' now?
And now, to glue and screw the lid on our coffin, comes this financial crisis. For almost three decades we've been trying to teach average Americans to act like "stakeholders" in their economy. They learned. They're crying and whining for government bailouts just like the billionaire stakeholders in banks and investment houses. Aid, I can assure you, will be forthcoming from President Obama.
Ri-iight. What is founding a major international criminal cartel or two compared to expecting to eat a few crumbs off the table?
Then average Americans will learn the wisdom of Ronald Reagan's statement: "The ten most dangerous words in the English language are, 'I'm from the federal government, and I'm here to help.' " Ask a Katrina survivor.
See, that's funny, since at the time you were busy blaming Liberals for creating an underclass that was insufficiently buoyant. And blaming the Carter administration for creating FEMA. No, I'm not making that up.
What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That's not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. "Jeeze, 230 pounds!" But you can't pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters--all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs--think so too.
Here's the thing about that: I'm happy to learn, now that its collapse has taken the rest of the country down with it, that we all lost our savings to faulty bathroom scales and not a cult. That would have been devastating. And I'm assuming this means y'all have managed to hide all the evidence that you've been selling the Free Market as a Miracle Solution To Everything, Guaranteed! ever since you started wearing ties.
We've had the rule of law largely in our hands since 1980. Where is the transparency? It's one more job we botched.
Damn! And y'all were so vigilant about it, too.