IF I had to choose a single reason for the thirty-five years I've spent trying to ignore George Fucking Will as much as humanly possible, it's here: like his Latin-cognater idol Buckley, Will is really never more than a couple paces from complete, mouth-foaming, Anti-fluoridationalist rant of the sidewalk wingnut sermonizer. Either man would have been entertaining, if not interesting, had he been able to keep that in check. But had he been able to keep that in check he wouldn't have been such a crackpot in the first place, because the wingnut mentality can take hold only with a constant source of cranky flapdoodle near at hand. Quemoy and Matsu are to the American Right what a creek that flows throughout the summer is to the cattle rancher.
The Republican presidential dynamic — various candidates rise and recede; Mitt Romney remains at about 25 percent support — is peculiar because conservatives correctly believe that it is important to defeat Barack Obama but unimportant that Romney be president. This is not cognitive dissonance.
Correct. Cognitive dissonance is the relationship between that second sentence and the first. What the Republican presidential dynamic is is reduced cognitive ability.
Obama, a floundering naif who thinks ATMs aggravate unemployment, is bewildered by a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation. Romney cannot enunciate a defensible, or even decipherable, ethanol policy.And this is not cognitive dissonance. It's a non sequitur.
Life poses difficult choices, but not about ethanol. Government subsidizes ethanol production, imposes tariffs to protect manufacturers of it and mandates the use of it — and it injures the nation’s and the world’s economic, environmental, and social (it raises food prices) well-being.
In May, in corn-growing Iowa, Romney said, “I support” — present tense — “the subsidy of ethanol.” And: “I believe ethanol is an important part of our energy solution for this country.” But in October he told Iowans he is “a business guy,” so as president he would review this bipartisan — the last Republican president was an ethanol enthusiast — folly. Romney said that he once favored (past tense) subsidies to get the ethanol industry “on its feet.” (In the 19th century, Republican “business guys” justified high tariffs for protecting “infant industries”). But Romney added, “I’ve indicated I didn’t think the subsidy had to go on forever.” Ethanol subsidies expire in December, but “I might have looked at more of a decline over time” because of “the importance of ethanol as a domestic fuel.” Besides, “ethanol is part of national security.” However, “I don’t want to say” I will propose new subsidies. Still, ethanol has “become an important source of amplifying our energy capacity.” Anyway, ethanol should “continue to have prospects of growing its share of” transportation fuels. Got it?
That is, I've got this: the wholly crazed American Right, which likes to call itself "conservative", doesn't like Mitt Romney. This much is easy to understand. For the life of me, I can't figure who does like him, or why; the best argument, the only argument, is that he isn't one of the other guys. I understand why "conservatives" don't think Mitt is one of them; he isn't. He's a born-rich rich guy and the son of a politician, like the ethanol-enthusing last Republican president, who appears to have the same relationship to power that thirteen-year-old boys have to eroticism: you can tell he's desperately interested in the game, but he seems to have no idea how it's played, and he lunges around so gracelessly you can only imagine he's trying to mimic something he saw somewhere and missed the point of.
On the other hand, he does have long experience pandering, and his routine here is pretty much standard politics (which reminds me, another ethanol fancier is diminutive Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, George Eff Will's dream candidate). Romney may not do it particularly well (who does?), but if we want to suggest that this qualifies as actual cognitive dissonance, and thus disqualifies a candidate from the intellectual rigor required to run an economy, we might consider who else gets caught in that net. And we might start with Ron Paul, the anti-government-subsidy legislator with the history of earmarks. Or Michele Bachmann, the anti-socialist nutball with the bank balance stuffed with government funds. Or Rick Santorum, subsidy hypocrite and the Sacred Right to Lifer who finesses his own wife's medical pregnancy termination into a miscarriage. And that's the three Republican candidates--none of whom can ever have expected to be the nominee, and thus really get called on this shit--willing to oppose ethanol subsidies in front of Iowa audiences. For principle.
Hey, this is fun, if familiar; what else is there? Carter's ethanol subsidy deal was a pander, coming during his reelection campaign, but he'd resisted subsidizing Gasoline, Now With 10% Less Gasoline! in favor of fossil fuel alternatives to that point. Free-Market Ron's sugar embargo, still in effect, which resulted in high fructose corn syrup replacing the sugar we add to everything, didn't damage his reputation with "conservatives" like Will, though with Reagan we're always left to define where "pander" leaves off and "ongoing criminal conspiracy" begins. (Not that he invented the Sugar Production scam, our nation's longest running.)
Can you spell politics without pander? Probably not. We could take the money out of it; we could reform the electoral process, the major party domination, make it more inclusive, use the public airwaves to create a better-informed electorate. Those ideas don't seem to garner a lot of Republican support, or generate too many George Eff Will columns. Is there some Freedom! argument, or something in the Pledge of Allegiance, which guarantees Iowans the right to screw up the first eighteen months of every Presidential campaign roll-out? Sheesh if there's one thing Republicans have proven to be good at over the last four decades, it's suggesting rules, regulations, and Constitutional amendments designed to save themselves from what they want to do. You can't propose a bylaw that triggers a Blue Ribbon Panel selected by the Competition Committee once the level of pander reaches some designated point?
Every day, 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for Social Security and Medicare, from which they will receive, on average, $1 million of benefits ($550,000 from the former, $450,000 from the latter). Who expects difficult reforms from Romney, whose twists on ethanol make a policy pretzel?
I guess this is supposed to qualify as an argument; it's a little bit of a shock to see Will succumb to the modern practice of letting the Reader fill in your point for you in order to save time. Of course, I don't read him very often, and he has been working the Unreliable Narrator thing since the 70s.
But, look, maybe Ross Douthat or one of those other young hot-shot techno-linkers can explain to me where those figures come from. In the meantime, all I know is there's a 3.6% COLA raise in Social Security due next year which will raise the individual take to 13,452 lucky-ducky bucks per annum. So if my calculator skills haven't deteriorated, this means that Baby Boomers, on average, are expected to live to be 105.886 years old.
Can anybody suggest any good cat food stocks?
A straddle is not a political philosophy; it is what you do when you do not have one. It is what Romney did when he said that using Troubled Assets Relief Program funds for the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts “was the wrong source for that funding.” Oh, so the source was the bailouts’ defect.
And here I imagined its success was the problem, and that Romney was just trying to find some way to criticize the President for a favorable outcome in a way which might pass muster with that sliver of the Republican electorate known as "somewhat sane".
Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?
Heaven forfend. Do, please do, nominate a real "conservative" and continue the work thus far so nobly advanced, give or take a few utter disasters. How else are we to see another complete collapse of the Savings and Loan industry, or the banking system descend into piracy, without "conservative" principles to guide them? And how else will be get the principled response of Letting Everything Turn to Shit as a result? You know, the way in would in a perfect world.