MAYBE you've noticed, here or elsewhere, that I put "conservative" in quotes when speaking of modern America; maybe you've seen me give the explanation, or the inspiration: Nabakov's comment that "reality" was the only word which should always appear in quotes.
So now let's add "Peggy Noonan".
Or maybe it's time for someone to do a full-scale examination of the Hypo-"reality" trends in "conservative" thought since Nixon, since the time when Raging Anti-Fluoridationism and Increasingly Unspoken Racism met the Dirty Hippie, and Downward-Spiraling Pathology met Ideological Stagflation.
Because Noonan's piece here cannot be understood as a collection of words designed to mean something, even in her quasi-"reality". It's more like a late-middle-aged pundit seeing if she could pull off those Lisa Loeb glasses, or a nipple ring, or an ironic goatee, or any other trend certified as fifteen years past its prime just by her interest.
And isn't this, if you come to think of it, a pretty decent approximation of the "conservative" party over the past thirty-five years or so? Carter hatred, Reagan worship, Clinton hatred, Bush II worship, Obama. "Conservatism" gets credit for its unwavering dedication to giving the wealthy and powerful more wealth and power, but it has pursued this single-mindedness post-Nixon at the expense of anything resembling consistency in almost anything else, hated of Democratic constituencies and brown people generally--emotional, not political stances--exempted.
The maddening whims of Fashion are at least understandable: combine the bandit's technique of planned obsolescence with the low coefficient of Boredom of your average primate. But what explains this in a political party? What, especially, explains it in the Republican party, which its adepts, acolytes, and hired shills never tire of portraying as the Last Great Bulwark of Western Civilization, Anglo Division? For the last forty years the Republican party has flitted from fad to fad, and from justification to diametrically opposed justification, like some tweener who's just discovered Boys. In itself this is perhaps not shocking, but find me the "conservative" in that time frame who's ever objected. There's a little sniveling at the edges, maybe, when Reagan turns the Interior Department over to a guy who's trying to hurry along Armageddon. There may be a "conservative" somewhere who objected on principle to the Flag Burning Amendment, the School Prayer Amendment, to Christian Dominionism or Automatic Weapons for Everybody! Does one come to mind right off hand? No. Because nobody will dare rock the boat, no matter who or what comes on board. Heard a single Republican mention Ronald Reagan's real economic record? His tax increases? Do you think that's because there ain't a man jack of 'em who knows it? Or because they believe lying is the most powerful form of magic incantation?
This is the party which has alternately trumpeted and hidden its support for Creationism, its opposition to the Just A Theory of Evolution, "Secular Humanism" and The Age of Enlightenment, its concern for the niceties of the War Powers Act. It's the party which has alternately filibustered everything in sight, and demanded an end to the filibuster. It's the party where Money is Speech but Art isn't, where Religion is Free, but where Islam, Wicca, and Paganism aren't religions (though atheism, under certain circumstances, is). It's the party which houses, quite comfortably, a state Republican party which is rewriting history books to make itself appear sane; an unhinged belief in the rights of frozen embryonic cells coupled with an utter contempt for what happens to a child after it's born; and a Presidential candidate who wants to protect our currency from the Protocols of the Elders of
But the GOP debate in New Hampshire was a big success in two ways. First, there was no obvious candidate from Crazytown, which was a boon to the party's reputation and brand, and which may help it more easily shake itself out and pick an electable candidate. In a functionally 50-50 nation and in a campaign in which Democrats hope to spend a billion dollars, this could turn into a significant benefit. Second, and more important, the foreign-policy discussion, though limited, was marked by a new sobriety. There was no spirit of adventurism, there were no burly promises of victories around the corner and lights at the ends of tunnels. It was more muted than that, more realistic, different in tone and tenor from four and eight years ago. This signaled a real shift, and a heartening one.
I remind the reader that this is Peggy Fucking Noonan speaking, Magic Dolphin Lady, Fellatrix of Steely-Eyed Rocket Men everywhere, Journal Opinion contributor, fer chrissakes. Crazytown! A stage that included Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum (certifiable just for showing up!), Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain had no obvious candidate from Crazytown
As for foreign policy sobriety--you're disqualified on both counts, Peggy--the last four or eight years? Try sixty-five. Better yet, try naming a Republican in the Reagan era who's promoted a realistic, muted foreign policy free of victory parades and mandatory flag lapel pins.
Every candidate who was asked took issue with U.S. involvement in Libya. Michele Bachmann asserted no "American interests" were at stake: "We were not attacked. We were not threatened with attack." Newt Gingrich spoke of "fundamentally . . . reassessing our entire strategy in the region." Ron Paul said we should get our troops home. Tim Pawlenty nattered on about something, but even he didn't take an opportunity to ask for patience on Afghanistan. John Huntsman, who was not announced and not present at the debate, told CNN he has doubts about the cost of Afghanistan and the likelihood of U.S. success there.
I have a question about this principled Republican opposition to Libya, Peg. Ready? Here it is: Th' fuck? The Republican party has spent forty years trying to resurrect Vietnam. Were we about to be attacked by Grenada. Peg? We're the world's only superpower. We haven't been threatened with attack since your boy Ronnie made the Soviets so nervous they considered starting WWIII just to be on the safe side. Threat of attack justified a nuclear arsenal in the postwar era, and the generalize threat of attack justifies a deterrent force today. But if President Bachmann would like to make this an abiding principle, and a hallmark of the New Republican Sobriety, she's welcome to start now, by voting against every Defense appropriation bill that isn't a response to an attack or threat of attack. How many has she voted against so far Peg? Zero? That's what I thought.
Again: it's not just unbelievable that "conservatives"--for whom "Patriotism" and "Willingness to send the lower classes off to die for US international economic interests" are not just synonymous, but a fucking badge of honor--have suddenly decided on a "muted, realistic" approach to the use of our bristling arsenal; it's fucking unbelievable that you think anyone'll buy it.
All of this had the sound of the Republican Party inching its way back from 10 years of un-Republican behavior, from a kind of bullying dreaminess about the world: "Everyone wants to be like us." Actually, everyone doesn't. There are days when even we, with our political paralysis, financial collapse and coarse culture, don't want to be like us.
Here's an idea: how 'bout a sort of alternate side of the street parking? On even-numbered days Republicans can be the same old bloodthirsty saber-rattlers you've been since 1946, and on odd you can return to your traditional isolationist roots, and quit blowing the corpse of Winston Churchill long enough to give your inner Neville Chamberlain some love. That way we could just look and the calendar and know which side of your mouth the talk would come from that day.
Does this suggest a return of isolationism, as some critics have said? No, and not necessarily by any means. Isolationists think they can be isolated, which is just another form of romanticism and unreality. We live in the world. We will never again be apart from it; trade and technology wouldn't allow us to if we wanted to. We have real alliances and real foes. But there is little taste now for what is fast becoming an old vision that progress can be made and U.S. security enhanced through invasion, pacification and occupation. There is little taste for the idea that we can easily, or even arduously, force the complete cultural change of other hearts and other minds. Terrorism is a threat. There are many ways to fight it.
Well, again, you really know an idea is right when the people who opposed it so vehemently that any disagreement was tantamount to treason now inform you of their new understanding.
But the larger point is that sometimes parties step away from themselves, stop being what they are. The Democrats are doing it now, in their soggy interventionism in Libya.
No. First, even assuming that the isolationist Republican party--and not the one of the lifetime of everyone breathing without assistance today--is the "real" Republican party, characterizing sixty years as a "step away" suggests a party more at home with the geological time scale than yours actually is. Second, "Democrats", that is to say The Obama Administration, is doing in Libya what every administration, Republican or Democrat, at least back to McKinley has done, with the exception of Jimmy Carter's: futz around militarily for some real or imagined purpose.
A flurry of polls this week show the public is on the side of the new sobriety. CNN had 62% now opposing the war in Afghanistan, just 36% in favor.
Oh, good. So the Newly Sober Republican Party is in favor of determining US foreign policy by listening to polls now? I'll believe it as soon as you apologize to everyone who died in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.
the killing of Osama bin Laden provided a psychic endpoint to the drama. The day we went into Afghanistan, we were trying to find him and kill him. Six weeks ago, we found him and killed him. All wars run on a great rush of feeling, of fervor. That feeling and fervor have on an essential level been satisfied.
So, is that why you guys kept it going for eight years? The Great Patriotic Rush of Fervor? You were pretty fucking big on it in 2001. I don't recall anyone explaining we'd just be riding it out until you were sick of the game.
We are as a nation, on paper, almost bankrupt. Or bankrupt, depending on how you judge.
Or fucking incredibly wealthy while simultaneously exempting the well-off from any financial responsibility towards the country and the people who preserve their "Freedom". Y'know, depending on how you judge.
Among the Republican candidates for president, there is a growing awareness that America does not have a foreign policy unless we have the money to pay for it.
What a shame you didn't realize it before you conducted a foreign policy more expensive than any outside of the Second World War without asking for the tax money necessary to pay for it (on the grounds this would violate your sacred principle of reelectability). Guess you live and learn, or else you live and find yourself required to say any sort of stupid shit necessary to get back into power.
Depending on how you judge.