July 2008

            CONSERVATISM IN REMISSION

                               By  Sy Schechtman

 

        Many years ago  and much younger,  I  indeed thought and spoke  as a child  in the duplicitous field of political  allegiance  and belief.   And I became one of those heroic heretics  who  changed to a Reagan Republican ex-democrat: one who after much anguishing soul searching  left the enveloping and   protecting folds of the Roosevelt New Deal enlightenment  and bolted  to the  relatively  staid  ranks of “radical” conservatism.   Oxymoronic contradictions  to be sure, but  somehow with soul satisfying action to sooth my dubious current  perceptions at the time, of the “malaise”  that President Carter gloomily diagnosed  that our collective national psyche was mired in.  Then  we had the seeming  Jimmy Carter ineptitude with the Iranian hostage crisis—and the failed rescue attempt--economic stagflation,  and much social unrest among the young.   Now we have conditions that also breed unrest;  an unhappy foreign situation in the seemingly failed Iraq war,  an economy  that is not performing  adequately according to everyone’s exalted expectations and teeters on the brink of recession,  and evidently  some uncertainty in our social fabric,  with both the gender problem of Hilary Clintons’ evidently failed bid to be the first  woman president  and Barack Obama’s strong superceding effort to be the first black president  on the Democratic ticket.   And with very little national experience to lead the most powerful nation in the history of the world.   And, with many critical issues to be confronted  in regard to our continuing worldwide hegemony  in affairs of foreign policy ---- and looming debt burdens  both at home and abroad.  All of this seemingly reflected  in the evidently chronically weak  exchange rate of the US dollar.

        It is not unusual for the opposing, out of power party,   to ask or just infer “ are you better off now than at the last  general election?”.  The answer now apparently would be in the negative  according   to most polls.   Certainly  in regard to our somewhat embattled  but still remarkably resilient outgoing president Bush,   whose ratings are dubiously  daunting,  somewhere   in the low 30%  at best.    However, equally unimpressive are the low  ratings for the both houses of Congress, completely Democratic for the last two years.    And the   exuberant  mantra  of the Obama message is the compelling chant of change,  which is reinforced  by only a rather thin gruel of substance of new ideas,  leading many of us back to the wry complaint of years ago of “where’s the beef?”,  or the more formal profundity of “ the more things change the more they remain the same”.   This time the dynamic is not the momentous tide of  new ideas or new modes of thought,  but of   charismatic  personality and oratory and perhaps an empty suit when faced with all the other traumas of governing this quasi world empire that our nation has become.  Personally--- not this time around  for me!  After another four years to round out at least one completed six year senatorial term  I  may change my mind.  But so far,  old duffer that I am,  I am not willing to change my Republican vote  for a new, increased  bureaucracy and  most probably increased taxes that end up rather ineffectually spent.    Which is why I left the New Deal  camp for Reagan years ago.    I am well aware of Hilary Clinton’s “It takes a Village” concept to accomplish  vital concerted goals,  and the Bush  federal failure  at the Katrina debacle.  (Hardly anybody seems to blame the lower echelon  Democratic Louisiana  governor or New Orleans mayor).    And hardly anybody seems aware  of the mammoth change brought about by the new Bush  Department of Homeland Security now in place and the end of any terrorism here since that epic new overhaul of our security bureaucracy.   So far a very praiseworthy event!     That was a very necessary  event in joint cooperative  and coordinated  endeavor,  a sort of national “village building”  if you  will, where joint effort of small and large entities  were positively employed.  As witness our grudging compliance now  with the semi disrobing at airline check in harassments that are now  the inevitable  and still tolerable disruptions.

        But still not a universal paradigm  for all national effort.   We do not believe,  ultimately, “that throwing money at  problems”  is necessarily the final answer, as always seems to be  the case with an ever expanding federal bureaucracy. Indeed, the greatest conservative victory was the reform of the welfare dole,  cutting drastically  the number of people eligible for government relief payments.  This was legislation sponsored by a Republican controlled congress in l994, during the so called mid term election Gingrich mini revolution, which Clinton vetoed twice before signing  and promised to amend when and if reelected.   He did win again but never revisited the welfare  turf again,  so successful was this legislation in ending excessive dependence  on government welfare handouts, despite much wailing and moaning of inhuman treatment at its inception.   Indeed, this legislation, Republican initiated when they dominated Congress during the 1994-96 sessions,  Clinton always alluded to as one of he was most proud of,  fondly, if mendaciously, claiming it as his  own.  

        President Clinton’s  most splendid  hour politically—from a partisan Democratic view point --- came undoubtedly during the  budget summitry  negotiations with Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at Christmastime  in l995.   He refused to sign temporary appropriation bills authorizing  federal salary checks during the two holiday weeks because of his disagreement  with the Gingrich led Republican congressional majority over what he claimed were vital negative details that  the Republicans were insisting on in the final budget deal.   In effect this resulted in no pay checks over the   crucial spending time of the Christmas  holiday season.   And he managed, with the aid of a compliant, sympathetic  press  to blame the Gingrich led Republicans for their callous neglect of the sanctity of the holiday season.   In effect, it was  as if Gingrich and Company,  not Dr. Seuss’ Grinch,  who  stole Christmas!   (And not kind hearted President Clinton who refused to authorize the Christmas salary  checks!)

        Indeed,  from this point on,  Clinton rallied his somewhat battered forces, also unhappy with his First Lady wife  Hillary’s Star Chamber  secret sessions about a new encompassing federal health care insurance approach.  Which when released some time prior to this time was a 1329 page document of  breathtaking and frightening scope that  was proposed by many eminent health specialists in private multi month deliberations; strangely not invited  however, to the lengthy deliberations were   many equally eminent current providers---insurance people, pharmaceutical experts and other equally prestigious practicing physicians and scientists in the health care field.  So daunting and detailed was this document that most people could not fathom it.    Indeed one Betsy  McCaughey  “a health care historian”  rose to prominence  claiming to have read the entire almost 1400 pages; she claimed authoritatively that this proposed  legislation made it illegal to buy health care on your  own.  This was patently not true, but valid other legitimate criticism and sheer distrust abounded.    George Pataki, a Republican  then an unknown state senator, was so impressed, initially, with young scholar and polemicist McCaughey that he chose   her as his running mate for his first term run for governor of New York State against the well entrenched three term democrat Mario Cuomo.    Pataki won then and two times more,  but his relationship with his first  lieutenant governor  ended after his first term.

         All this toward the end of Clinton’s first term  when things looked  rather  bleak,  but were starting to    rebound as Clinton “triangulated”,  becoming holier than thou  as an almost neutral centrist above the squabble of partisanship, on the advice of his newly acquired strategist Dick Morris,   who is now a turncoat Republican advocate  and decided Hilary Clinton hater.  And public empathy returned as lots of working class voters remembered the Gingrich Grinch  of Christmas  time and no pay checks temporarily.  Although, as I have indicated, democratic President Clinton was equally culpable.

        Today, of course,  with the foreign  entanglement of Iraq in a very dubious  way, and the economy in one of its cyclical downturns,  the conservative  tide is  ebbing.    But now,  as we stagger into the culminating home stretch of our almost ceaseless campaigning,  we see both candidates  now do the necessary centrist turn of some moderation appealing  to the large group of uncommitted who wisely have not yet decided where their true self interest  will be served.   It becomes ultimately a test of character—who would you be more comfortable with inviting into your own home to discuss your personal feelings on the overriding issues of the day.  We have health care,  enviromental  pollution,  oil dependency, income inequality,  and illegal  immigration  at the top of a short, immediate list.   But looming  large  right behind  is the massive energy transfer problem which we must now  address, from oil to other more reliable and cheaper sources,   the  darkening skies of Islamic fanaticism against our country,  and  the massive entitlement financial accomodation  that is almost upon us  as all the new retirees come on line and are eligible for  all the promised entitlements of their  golden retirement years.     

        We see already some flip flops in previously declared positions that the opposition  gleefully points out and is then  denied as distortions of the original statements.    Most probably the end result will be positions less divergent than is now apparent,  and subsequent events, rightfully,   will help   decide our course.    Even the Iraq War may  call not for complete withdrawal  but reduced troop status as we have now in many other allied countries.   Our health care system needs adjustment  but not necessarily  complete government control  and funding.   A graduated co-pay system with no charge for the majority of people and some fees for the really affluent people, might curb excessive fee scale padding of questionable  optional procedures.   The idea of making haste slowly is certainly the way to go.     Some electronic system for tracking immigrants  should be able to control and contain and eliminate illegal immigration.   And an increase in border surveillance with added personnel  should also be effective in supplementing  the fence of the Mexican border now being completed.  And the next upward cycle in our   economy should  add positive wage gains  to our  pay checks once again.

        The  reality  is that all of these key concerns at the moment are easily susceptible to compromise.    The  prime concern of both parties and their adherents  should be the power of judicial and administrative  appointments---all those people, unelected,   who have to interpret and implement existing law. And interpreting  implies more than a tinge of making or revising existing  law. On the federal judiciary level this is an important, almost eternal  lingering on.    All appointments to the federal judiciary are for life,  and the current Supreme Court will have about 4 or 5 vacancies in the next eight years that the incumbent president will have to fill.     The fact that these are lifetime appointments  makes their innate political leanings most  important---a liberal or conservative court becomes part of most major political considerations.    Indeed  some hotly contested  laws or events demand the High Courts’ decision, as to who won the  Bush-- Gore  Presidential election  in 2000!.   And, of course there is the abortion decision, which my be revisited  once  again if one or two more conservative justices are appointed.        (There are now three sitting justices  who would vote for some important abortion law revisions.)

        And, incidentally, is not 15 or 20 years  enough for these worthies in  times where the rate of event change is accelerating  and many times this tends to alter or even confound our  sense of moral as well as legal certitude?  And what would our founding fathers have thought in this continuing morass of change?

        For Conservatives, indeed, the bottom line is  doubtful.  Obama, much to his credit,   has used the internet as his new technique in fund raising, so far with great success turning the previously cash  poor Democratic coffers into a three or four times margin over the conventional somewhat antiquated Republican  funding raising.    McCain looks a bit like a much older  and small  David   in the ring against a substantial  Goliath.    But the American public has always liked the underdogs,  provided that their message had substance.   Harry Truman  went cross country on the rear platform of a passenger train lambasting a “do nothing congress”  and at each whistle stop drew small but enthusiastic crowds shouting “give ‘em hell Harry!”  And “goliath”  Tom Dewey’s  well  financed campaign  was beaten.    And, of course,  Harry Truman, no college education except a continuing  post graduate course in the College of  Hard Knocks,  continued Roosevelt’s  monumental task  of  post World War II reconstruction and in his own right became  one of the greatest presidents  of the twentieth century.

        My conservative feelings have always favored as much private initiative as possible.    However I do not fear the enlarging growth aspects  of government’s watchful eye.   While human greed harnessed by free market capitalism ---and the enlarged share of personal wealth  this makes possible---  inspires great productive efforts,   we all see some abuses that must be curbed  by necessary government control and regulation.  (Human greed does go to excess at times and we can become  not “my brother’s keeper” but his predator.)  And I applaud some degree  of affirmative action to help the education of the  handicapped and poor to ensure a level playing  field and equal opportunity in this technology  driven world. Equal opportunity, but not equal outcomes!  Above all I am a great believer in  meritocracy.   The best and the brightest must be amply rewarded.   The right amounts, of course, has something to do with the prevailing  optimism or pessimism  of the  times.    But also  nepotism is part of my makeup!   I want my kids to succeed by meritocratic means  but I have no qualms about nepotism to make the upward path they are on in our competitive society as pleasant as possible.  Therefore the punishing inheritance (death) tax  should be  winnowed down to mega rich transfers only.

        But above all I pray  for a leader who has the wisdom  and leadership  to understand the true temper of the time.    Nixon went to China in an astounding turnabout  that  was a plus for our country,   and Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnamese conflict considerably after painting Goldwater as the  true hawk  who might use atomic weapons.   So I do pray   for some divine guidance to grace our President’s decisions or his—or her--- just getting lucky with the right moves at the right time!                                                                                                                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        Conservative, compassionate conservatism sgotill means rewarding individual initiative and effort.   But alas it also has to address the reality of a large central bureaucracy,  and the meld of private and public  (as in Katrina)  must be strengthened.   Above all we are a blend of affirmative action and meritocracy.    Helping  the disadvantaged  so that an equal playing field is possible but ensuring that the best and the brightest  are amply rewarded.    Also the important role of nepotism   in our  personal life.  We parents now and in the future want our children’s future to be

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

List of topics

Obama has all the monmey

TRruman back of train campaign

Mcanin you can invite into house

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRumsn  from bacvk of train,  Bush and Kerry,  who would yuou welcome into our living parlors

 

 

 

 

Change!  The more things change the more they remain the some!