Four more years for Barack Obama

President Obama was re-elected last night with an impressive margin in the electoral college. The popular vote margin was much narrower, but it looks like he’ll be over 50% with roughly a 2 point margin.

I’ll have much more to say about this, but most of us will acknowledge that this was a very important election. The pundits liked to mock both campaigns for not discussing big issues, but that truly missed the point. Both sides offered very different paths for our future, and most voters understood the profound differences.

With an Obama victory, his signature accomplishment from his first term, health care reform, will now be fully implemented. Mitt Romney would have either repealed or gutted Obamacare, but now the notion of universal health care will be cemented as part of the social compact. We’ll all have to wait and see how Republicans react to Obama’s victory, but hopefully on health care we’ll see a shift away from a reflexive attempt to overturn Obamacare to constructive negotiations to improve it and cut medical costs in general. We’ve heard Republicans pontificate for years about malpractice reform. Perhaps now we’ll actually get some constructive proposals.

We may have a continuation of the political wars, but now we know that any deal will have to be more balanced than the GOP plan of just hacking away at spending on the elderly and the poor. We’ll see how that plays out.

It will also be interesting to see if some conservatives will break out of the right wing media bubble. Conservatives were told to ignore the poll numbers that pointed to an Obama victory, and that the “real” numbers would lead to a Romney landslide. These projections were pure fantasy, just like the Romney/GOP budget numbers that claimed you could miraculously balance the budget by slashing taxes. We live in a divided country and many on both sides are guilty of just listening to their own partisan news sources, but the dogma and partisanship on the right has become absurd. Even respectable pundits like George Will and Micheal Barone drank the Cool Aid and ended up looking just as clueless as partisan hacks like Dick Morris with their predictions of the Romney landslide.

Finally, conservatives and Republicans need to stand up to the lunatic fringe. You can’t encourage the crazies on your side, and then lament when idiot candidates like Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin say stupid things about rape and abortion. You can’t cater to the haters who demonize illegal immigrants and then complain that you got crushed by the Latino vote. We’ll see if there’s anyone in the GOP who has a spine. Chris Christie is an obvious candidate as he’s called out the crazies before, but now he’s on serious probation with the right for saying something nice about President Obama. Perhaps Marco Rubio can help on that front. We can expect serious fireworks within the GOP as they hash out these issues. If they don’t work it out, I’ll be happy to see them forfeit the Latino, African American, Asian and much of the female vote in future elections.

Does Rick Santorum have a chance?

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks at his Iowa Caucus night rally in Johnston, Iowa, January 3, 2012. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

With his surprise showing in Iowa, Rick Santorum has become the new hope of the conservative movement, or at least some in the conservative movement. Santorum has been getting pummeled at conservative sites like RedState.com for his past support for pork barrel spending and other big spending programs during the Bush years when the GOP abandoned nearly everything they claimed to stand for regarding the size of government. Santorum has not joined the anti-earmark bandwagon pushed by the Tea Party, and Erick Erickson keeps hammering him for that.

At least one prominent conservative, however, is offering support to Santorum – George Will. Will offers up a column defending Santorum’s record, so let’s see if that changes the minds of some Tea Party members who are skeptical of Santorum.

George Will is getting desperate

Donald Trump (L) speaks to members of the media after a meeting with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at Trump Towers on 5th Avenue in New York, December 5, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Burton (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS BUSINESS)

Newt Gingrich spent some time today kissing the ring of reality TV star and goofball birther Donald Trump. Meanwhile, establishment conservatives like George Will are recoiling in horror watching these clowns hijack the conservative movement.

This past weekend, George Will actually suggested that conservatives ought to take a second look at Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman given the prospect of Newt or Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee. Yes, he’s desperate. Rick Perry sounds like George W. Bush after downing a 12-pack, and Huntsman is stuck in single digits in the polls after trying to run as a moderate.

But Will has to turn somewhere, as he has no use for flip-flopper Romney and he can’t stand Newt. With his usual rhetorical flair, Will eviscerates the former Speaker:

Gingrich, however, embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive. And there is his anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything.

Granted, his grandiose rhetoric celebrating his “transformative” self is entertaining: Recently he compared his revival of his campaign to Sam Walton’s and Ray Kroc’s creations of Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, two of America’s largest private-sector employers. There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx for interests profiting from such government follies as ethanol and cheap mortgages. His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic allowed him, fresh from pocketing $1.6 million from Freddie Mac (for services as a “historian”), to say, “If you want to put people in jail,” look at “the politicians who profited from” Washington’s environment.

His temperament — intellectual hubris distilled — makes him blown about by gusts of enthusiasm for intellectual fads, from 1990s futurism to “Lean Six Sigma” today. On Election Eve 1994, he said a disturbed South Carolina mother drowning her children “vividly reminds” Americans “how sick the society is getting, and how much we need to change things. . . . The only way you get change is to vote Republican.” Compare this grotesque opportunism — tarted up as sociology — with his devious recasting of it in a letter to the Nov. 18, 1994, Wall Street Journal (http://bit.ly/vFbjAk). And remember his recent swoon over the theory that “Kenyan, anti-colonial” thinking explains Barack Obama.

Gingrich, who would have made a marvelous Marxist, believes everything is related to everything else and only he understands how. Conservatism, in contrast, is both cause and effect of modesty about understanding society’s complexities, controlling its trajectory and improving upon its spontaneous order.

Most people would agree with Will, as Newt is widely regarded as a mean-spirited buffoon. But in today’s Republican Party, the fear and loathing caucus calls the shots, and contempt for Obama and the left is by far the most important quality. In that area Newt is unmatched and he has a long track record, so his flaky deviations from conservative policies are more easily forgiven by those eager to see someone stick it to Obama in the debates.

Perry is toast, so Will won’t get his wish there. As for Huntsman, Will and other writers like Erick Erickson of RedState.com have been pointing out how conservative Huntsman is when it comes to policy. Yet Huntsman shows more contempt for the far right than he does for Obama, and that’s why he’s been going nowhere. Perhaps he can change the tone of his campaign, but he has mocked conservatives for not believing in global warming, and stuff like that will make it difficult for him to win GOP primaries.

I think Will is stuck with Mitt or Newt.

George Will slams GOP candidates on Iraq

George Will is on a roll.

Despite his intense desire to have Obama lose in 2012, George Will still has tough questions for those in the GOP field who seem to favor perpetual war:

Most of the candidates have disparaged Barack Obama’s decision that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq this year. (Ron Paul considers the withdrawal of U.S. assets insufficiently thorough; but, then, he might favor U.S. withdrawal from territories of the constitutionally dubious Louisiana Purchase.) What is the candidates’ objection to Obama implementing the status-of-forces agreement that his predecessor signed in 2008?

The candidates should answer three questions: How many troops would they leave in Iraq? For how long? And for what purpose? If eight years, 4,485 lives and $800 billion are not enough, how many more of each are they prepared to invest there? And spare us the conventional dodge about “listening to” the “commanders in the field.” Each candidate is aspiring to be commander in chief in a nation in which civilians set policy for officers to execute.

The foreign policy statements of the GOP candidates have been embarrassing. I doubt any of them can answer this question coherently.

George Will slams Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a town hall meeting campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire October 28, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Many establishment Republicans are rallying around Mitt Romney, mostly because the rest of the GOP field is an utter embarrassment. But Romney keeps making it tough for them with his parade of flips and flops.

Romney’s establishment support took a hit over the weekend when prominent essayist George Will slammed Romney in a column over his inability to be consistent. After a devastating summary of Romney’s various positions on the issues, Will concludes with this:

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

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?

This is a devastating critique. While Will represents the conservative wing of the GOP, he’s not part of the crazies and he has significant influence with the establishment. He’s now provided an argument against Romney’s principle claim – that of electability.

George Will rips McCain to shreds

This past Sunday, George Will ridiculed John McCain on This Week for McCain’s foolish claim that he would fire the head of the SEC. He called McCain’s actions “unpresidential.”

Yesterday he went further in his column.

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked The Wall Street Journal to editorialize that “McCain untethered” — disconnected from knowledge and principle — had made a “false and deeply unfair” attack on Cox that was “unpresidential” and demonstrated that McCain “doesn’t understand what’s happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does.”

George Will is a respected conservative, but he has never been a fan of John McCain. He has been especially critical of McCain for campaign finance reform, and he hasn’t been shy in the past about questioning McCain’s temperment. Nevertheless, he seemed willing to give McCain the benefit of the doubt – until now.

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

Will is arguing that John McCain is unfit to be president of the United States. Throw in Sarah Palin and you have the scariest ticket in American history, following perhaps the worst president of our lifetimes.

George Will on the Clintons . . . again

They’re giving him way too much material to work with. George Will has had nothing but contempt for the Clintons for years, but now they seem to be determined to prove him right.

Then, last week, came the radio ad that even South Carolinians, who are not squeamish about bite-and-gouge politics, thought was one brick over a load, and that the Clintons withdrew. It was the one that said Obama endorsed Republican ideas (because he said Republicans had some ideas). The Clinton campaign also accused Obama of praising Ronald Reagan (because Obama noted the stark fact that Reagan had changed the country’s trajectory more than some other recent presidents — hello, Bill — had done).

The actions of Bill and Hillary Clinton in South Carolina should go down as one of the most pathetic political performances in history. He threw away what was left of his reputation, and she may have thrown away her chance at the presidency.

GOP is a mess

George Will is leading a growing chorus of commentators arguing that the GOP is destroying the conservative movment. For years I’ve been hearing pundits (including Will) brag about the conservative revolution overtaking this country, but the success of the GOP has more to do with political tactics (see Karl Rove) and the inept Democrats (see Kerry, Gore, Daschle and Gephardt) than the power of conservative principles.

The most obvious example involves spending. The GOP controls the Oval Office and both houses of Congress, yet George Bush and his Republican buddies are spending like crazy and reversing the fiscal sanity of the Clinton years. Bush loves to throw around the word “irresponsible,” yet this term is one of the first that would come to mind when describing Bush (along with “incompetent”). The GOP is winning elections not by challenging liberalism, but by offering goodies like prescription drugs and massive tax cuts and dividing the country on the issue of security. Barry Goldwater has to be turning in his grave. If they offered small government conservatism to the public, their winning streak at the ballot box would surely come to an end. George Bush learned this the hard way when he interpreted the 2004 election as a mandate for gutting Social Security. His approval ratings have been in a free fall following that brilliant determination.

My favorite new phrase is “big-government conservatives.” Huh? Are you kidding me? Will addresses what’s really happening – the religious conservatives are taking over the GOP. Fortunately, principled small-government conservatives like Will are getting fed up. Silly issues like “intelligent design” might force a split in the party. The mess in Iraq isn’t helping. Now, can the Democrats seize this opportunity?

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