Crass Ass Conservatism: The Real Republican Pledge to America

Paul Krugman wrote yesterday in the New York Times about the failure of the Obama administration to propose a large enough stimulus plan to combat the financial crisis the administration underestimated.

While admitting that the Recovery Act made things better than they would have been—he estimated unemployment would be near 12% without it—Krugman called the stimulus a “political catastrophe.”  “Voters respond to facts,” he said, “not counterfactuals, and the perception is that the administration’s policies have failed.”

He also said this:

The tragedy here is that if voters do turn on Democrats, they will in effect be voting to make things even worse.

The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy.

It appears that we won’t have to wait until next January to find out if Krugman is right.  This morning on Morning Joe, I heard Major Garrett point out that Republican Mitch McConnell admitted to National Journal magazine the following:

MCCONNELL: We need to be honest with the public. This election is about them, not us. And we need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, “Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job.”

NATIONAL JOURNAL: What’s the job?

MCCONNELL: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

We have seen the de facto head of the Republican Party and conservative movement, Rush Limbaugh, in orgasmic anticipation, wish for the President of the United States to fail.

We have seen the de facto head of the Tea Party movement, Jim DeMint, say, with militaristic glee, that, “If we’re able to stop Obama…it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

And now we see the Republican Minority Leader in the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell, admit to the world, with uncharacteristic honesty, that the “most important thing” on his plate for the next two years is to make sure Republicans gain power.

What more evidence does anyone need that it is not only dumb to put Republicans back in charge of the government, it is dangerous?

This is Republican patriotism, my friends. Crass ass conservatism.

[Krugman photo: Jessica Kourkounis—The New York Times]


  1. Duane,

    Well, I’m still trying to hold on to my claim to be an “independent” voter, but I must admit that you are on target here. With all the problems the nation is facing, the GR, unemployment, the housing crisis, the burgeoning Afghan war, the crumbling no-government mess in Iraq in danger of being taken over by Iran, the prime objective of the GOP is eliminating Obama from the seat of power!

    One might just dismiss the comment as out of context I suppose, except for one thing. I read it everywhere and hear it on the street as well. In all my years I have never before experienced such polarized political venom. There is more behind this than mere politics.



    • Jim,

      Yes. There does seem more to it than “mere politics.” I think you know what I think that might be. And you can read McConnell’s comment in context and you will find it comports with your own experience.

      But in any case, you mentioned Iraq and the very real possibility that Iran will figure prominently there.

      One of the things some of us have cautioned over the last 19 months or so is that the jury is still out on the so-called “surge” in Iraq. Even some Democrats were conceding that the surge was a success, afraid of being thought of as wimpish on the war. And many Democrats are desperate to cover for their own mistake of voting for the war. But the truth has always been: What happens when ALL U.S. troops are no longer in-country?

      And my point about all this is that people have essentially let George Bush off the hook for his disastrous preemptive war in Iraq and they just don’t want to think about it anymore. But I have a feeling the worst is yet to come relative to Iraq, scenarios we can only now imagine—and fear.



  2. Duane,

    Yep, I do.

    As for the Iraq war, you would be among the few, considering my small readership, to know that I for one have never let W. off the hook for his confused (being kind, here) motives. But even worse than uncertain motives is ignoring the glaring pre-war reality of the religious sectarian hatred between Saddam’s Sunni cronies and the brutally-suppressed Iraqi Shiite majority vis-a-vis the Orwellian Shiite theocracy next door. I’m just an engineer and even I could have seen that one coming. So much for Condoleezza Rice and youthful PhD-style wisdom.

    What it amounts to, and I have tried repeatedly with little success to convince Anson of it, is that W. was unforgivable in ignoring the 8-question planning proposed by the Powell Doctrine. If I could I would require all the wallpaper in D.C. to be replaced by repeating copies of the 8 questions that must be answered affirmatively before going to war, here listed not for you but for other eyes that may wander this way:

    Is a vital national security interest threatened?
    Do we have a clear attainable objective?
    Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
    Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
    Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
    Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
    Is the action supported by the American people?
    Do we have genuine broad international support?



  3. P.S.

    I have added a new quotation in the margin on my blog. Sure enough, it’s kinda lonely out here on this limb.


    • Jim,

      You are quite courageous in posting a Nietzsche quote on your blog, given his standing in some ideological circles. But the existentialists have always made a good case in my view, in terms of “owning yourself” and the angst that comes with it.

      I am supplying a link to the blog you mentioned. And here are the violations of the Powell Doctrine you list:

      Iraq War. [4,739 U.S. KIA; 32,244 wounded]

      • 2. Clear, obtainable objective? No. Had our objective been limited to destruction of specified military capabilities, it might have been, but the complete subjugation of the country left us with no plan for the “peace”.
      • 3. Risks and costs fully analyzed? Obviously not.
      • 5. Plausible exit strategy? Obviously not.
      • 6. Consequences fully considered? Obviously not.
      • 7. People support? Yes, but. The national mood was warlike because of 9/11, although it was determined later that there was no direct connection between Saddam’s regime and 9/11. There was open discussion in the press and diplomacy before the war. Congress acceded, but there was no declaration of war.

      I am in no way surprised at your lack of success in convincing Anson, but you make a damn good case. I, too, wish the Powell Doctrine was more widely disseminated, particularly among the public. But, alas, we both know that won’t happen anytime soon.



  4. For what’s it worth, (if Jim’s readership is small, mine is microscopic) I’m leaning to making my little effort to minimize the size of the Republican wave.

    If I thought that a Republican majority would end up working with the President to move his policies (domestic especially) a little to the right, especially to really engage in finding way to reduce if necessary or increase revenues to a smaller extent to start closing the fiscal gap starting in about 24 months or so, I’d vote Republican.

    But, I’m leaning more to thinking that won’t happen. The McConnell quotes certainly suggests it.

    I had this exchange in comments on a very right wing blog “nice deb”. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt of being nice, but her objective is all anti Obama all the time.

    In response to a mildly amusing ad against Harry Reid she posted, I commented:

    “Pretty funny, if a kind of cheesy. I think the cheesy may be on purpose though. She’s honestly further to the right than me, but I’m OK with a more conservative congress than we have now.

    My hope is that a GOP congress and Obama can work together start at least to address the fiscal situation (i. e. work to some bipartisan cuts). Comparing the 90′s and 00′s leads me to think that divided government may be the way to go. The downside is do we just end up with deadlock and crippled Presidency. I’m less confident than most reader that that will be a good thing.”

    I got this response:

    “Bruce, I certainly hope Republicans don’t help Obama. He and the Dems wouldn’t compromise with Republicans when they held the majority, and I hope to God, the Republicans don’t compromise with them.”

    Obama is the obstructionist??? That seems like something out of the twilight zone. I’ve had other exchanges, some rather unpleasant, and been accused of being a sociology teaching liberal. The liberal thing isn’t quite accurate, but I’m not insulted. Calling an economist a sociologist however is quite insulting.

    These are difficult times, at least in transitioning to different but still potentially good things. I don’t think we can afford two years with a crippled Presidency as is apparently our fellow bloggers hope. Does any sane person believe that??


    • Bruce,

      I am pretty sure there are sociologists out there who would find it insulting to be mistaken for economists!

      In any case, I can appreciate your sentiments about the deficit-debt issue and fiscal responsibility. But, heck, Obama has been in office only 20 months. He has vowed to tackle the deficit issue (he even appointed a scary debt commission), but the damage needed repaired first.

      The Republicans had 8 years, 6 of them with both houses. So, I plead for more time, more time with sufficient numbers to make some progress. But, alas, even when the Ds had 59 votes, it only required ONE Republican to shut things down, so I suppose it really doesn’t matter all that much these days.

      The truth is that as long as the Republicans are playing games with the fate of the country, nothing much will get done.

      As for the charge that when the Republicans were in control, Dems wouldn’t work with them, here is the vote totals for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002:

      House of Representatives:

      Ayes Nays
      Republican 215 6
      Democratic 82 126
      Independent 1
      TOTALS 297 133



      Ayes Nays
      Republican 48 1
      Democratic 29 21
      Independent 1
      TOTALS 77 23

      Additionally, the original Bush Tax Cuts in 2001 received 12 Democratic votes in the Senate and 28 votes in the House. And the prescription drug program cloture vote in the Senate received 22 Democratic votes (including Joe Biden).

      So, it’s just not the case that Republicans had to go it alone. Would that they had more opposition in their own party, and we could have avoided a long war in Iraq, with God only knows how many consequences down the road.



  5. ansonburlingame

     /  October 26, 2010

    Com’on again,

    I am out of town and only online for a few minutes each morning. So it is hard defend myself.

    Weinberger’s Six Principles AND the follow-on Powell Doctrine as sound policies to establish before going to war. I have said that, repeatedly. I even wrote an entire blog saying we should never go to war without declaring war IAW the Constitution. You don’t have to convince me that the WAY we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan was wrong in both cases.

    I studied the Weinberger principles in depth for a year. Powell had not yet come on the scene at the time. The overwhelming consensus by staff and students was that the Weinberger principles were very sound indeed, and THAT was from a WAR college, not a liberal university.

    Any President or Congress that puts troops in harms way without serious answers to the questions is at best, “biting off more than he or the country may be able to chew”. But, again, all of that must occur before commiting such troops, not afterwards.

    But once we DO go to war, the two doctrines have nothing to say about how to fight it. That is mistake number two by both Bush and Obama and which I have written a lot about such failure by BOTH of them.

    I would also add that there is NO DOCTRINE, Powell or otherwise, saying how to GET OUT of a failing war. Any suggestions from you two, or three?



  6. Anson,

    I do now recall you acceding to the point about the 8 questions. My impression that you do so reluctantly probably derives from the fact that you never do it without immediately following it with some disparagement about the CONDUCT of a war, as you do here. Example: your next-to-last paragraph above where you criticize Obama for “mistake” and “failure” regarding war while ignoring that he inherited both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. (And yes, I know he supported the Afghan war as a junior senator. As I’ve said before, he’s a quick study and his actions and statements since lead me to believe he is now a confirmed believer in the 8 questions.)

    Let me add here a hearty endorsement, Anson, to your consistent advocacy for winning a war, once we are in it, with all the resources at our command, i.e., the second part of the Weinberger/Powell Doctrine. Unfortunately, the problem with that relative to the present Afghan war is that it doesn’t fit the Doctrine’s definition of a war. Why not? Because the 8 questions were not answered in the affirmative before starting it.

    As for getting out of war once we are in it, I sense from in past posts that we all agree it’s politically very, very difficult. LBJ gave up another run for the presidency to get us, ignominiously, out of Vietnam. (With his Texas-sized ego that must have been excruciating, but he finally saw reality.)

    It is my impression from our collective postings on Woodward’s last book that Obama has done everything politically feasible to get us out of both wars. Too bad that the NSC gave him virtually no alternative to the Afghan surge. (The alternative was to be a president who appears cowardly.) Now look at the latest development on last night’s news (ABC): Hamid Karzai pompously delighting, in public before journalists, about accepting “bundles of money” from both the U.S. and Iran, of all places. Photo ops with Ahmadinejad! Karzai was downright gleeful. Talk about disgusting, in-your-face insolence! And he’s in talks with the Taliban. How much of our money is he giving them? One wonders how this could get any worse.

    Much has been made of Obama’s determination to “begin withdrawal” next July. I have my reservations about that for sure because it seems to cede a significant strategic advantage to the enemy. But, as you say Anson, there’s no easy way out. Maybe next July will be Obama’s LBJ-style adieu to a second term in order to get us out of this briar patch. Wouldn’t that be a shocker?



    • Jim,

      As Zbigniew Brzezinski asked today on Morning Joe, even if all the things reported about Karzai are true, even if he is a bad guy, what is the alternative? With whom do we replace him? That’s what makes the damn thing so untenable. We are stuck not only with Karzai; we are stuck in Afghanistan.

      Jim, you rightly say that if Obama were to completely withdraw from Afghanistan beginning next July, he would essentially be giving up his chance for a second term. But, like you, I think Obama truly believes in giving the Petraeus strategy a reasonable time to work. He doesn’t want to pull out. The vacuum certain to be created after a U.S. withdrawal is problematic in so many ways, which is exactly why complete withdrawal is not an option. You have in the past mentioned other options (something along the lines of the Biden approach), which may be the only way we can get out of the ground war there. But we aren’t yet to that point.

      And as for the withdrawal date and the wisdom of setting one, I remember at the time the argument made by conservative war hawks: The enemy would simply lay back and wait us out. Well, as the intense fighting since the “surge” began in earnest indicates, that wasn’t the case. There appears to be a slow down now, due to the end of the “fighting season,” but no doubt things will heat up again next spring.

      I know people get tired of hearing it, but what the Bush administration left us in Iraq and Afghanistan is a mess that has neither a good solution nor a good way out.



  7. Duane,

    Good summary. I agree.

    You too, Anson?



  8. Duane,

    I think your mission is to elect more liberal and Democratic candidates in Missouri. Your aim may be off.

    The post on McConnell’s idiotic statement swayed me to vote an almost solidly Democratic ticket. However, I live in Oregon, so your aim is 1,500 miles to far to the left. My Congressional district is I think in Play (Oregon’s 5th). Perhaps there’s some metaphore there.

    I’m intrigued that the right wing blogger I reproduced a quote from (Nice Deb) is also in the show me state. Is there something in the water that makes everyone blog.


    • Bruce,

      Nice to hear about your solidly Democratic choice in Oregon. I do wish we had more like you down here. Where I live here in Southwest Missouri, Republican candidates are underperforming if they receive less than 65% of the vote. That’s not a joke.

      As for the water down here, I try to avoid it. I prefer beer. And beer makes me blog. So, essentially, I am blogging for beer money.

      I wanted to mention that I enjoyed the Karl Smith take on Hayek you posted the other day. If only people who really understood Hayek were part of the Tea Party, instead of the know-nothings who stand up on their soapboxes and argue for “free markets,” even as they are funded by corporate interests that have exactly ZERO interest in truly free markets or in the well-being of society.

      By the way, I’ve always wanted to go to Oregon. Looks like a beautiful place from here.



  9. I would encourage folks your way to visit our state. Our falls are outstanding usually, as we have a mix of deciduous trees turning riotous colors mixed in among many conifers that remain of course evergreen. Be mindful, it rains a lot.

    On this:

    “Republican candidates are underperforming if they receive less than 65% of the vote. That’s not a joke.”

    So, Nixon’s southern strategy was and is a rousing success in MO? Is it basically that the core of what was the solid Democratic south became Republicans?


    • Bruce,

      I don’t mind the rain now that I’m retired.

      Dewey Short, a fierce Republican congressman, represented this mostly rural area from 1935-1957. From 1957-1961, a Democrat, Charles Brown, had the honors. Since then, it’s been all Republican. That’s a total of 71 out of the last 75 years!

      Nixon’s Southern Strategy had little to do with the entrenched conservatism around here. Most of the folks are white and don’t have all that much interaction with black folks, although the Hispanic population is growing. I wish I had a good reason for the fact that a large majority of people around here vote against their own economic interests. The best explanation is the old phrase, “God, guns, and gays.” Folks around here are very conservative in their Christian beliefs.



  10. @Bruce,

    The fall of the Berlin wall and implosion of the USSR shows that a society’s economic meme can turn on a dime, but the same is not true of religion. The difference I suggest is that one meme is rational and the other is not.

    Religious faith is not only a foundation of security but a strong social bond with a person’s tribe. Here, as with the Taliban, politics does mix with religion as Duane says, just not on a legal basis. But to change one’s politics around, logic not withstanding, would IMO be social betrayal.



  1. Crass Ass Conservatism: The Real Republican Pledge to America (via The Erstwhile Conservative: A Blog of Repentance) « Brucetheeconomist's Blog
%d bloggers like this: