Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Compassionate Conservatism Revisited?

As gubernatorial races approach in New Jersey and Virginia, Republicans are rubbing their hands in anticipation of the beginning of a comeback. Delivering one or both of the governorships into GOP hands may be an early sign that Americans are not receptive to the change of Barack Obama’s status quo-ism.

This prospect can be very enticing. There is some speculation that Sarah Palin might run for office again. Her endorsement of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in New York’s 23rd district may make the difference in the 2009 special election. So too might Arlen Specter be sent packing and Chris “Countrywide” Dodd might finally pay for that sweetheart mortgage.

While extricating those suits from their seats might be attractive, one has to wonder what the Republicans have to offer the country other than the “R”’s beside their names.

One potential sleeper contest in 2010 is the Florida senate race. Charlie Crist, global warming-monger and stimulus money beggar, has announced that he will not seek another term as governor so he can run for the senate seat vacated by Mel Martinez. Crist is the favorite in both the primary and the general election, but he faces a challenge from a former underling, one-time Florida Speaker of the House Marco Rubio.

Rubio’s positives make him popular among the grassroots activists. He is a Fair Taxer, supporting a national sales tax instead of the income tax, a solution that fellow anti-IRSites like myself fear might only rearrange a problem instead of solving it. He favors a balanced budget amendment, a position sure to make conservatives swoon in reaction to President Obama’s ridiculous spending habits.

The benefit of Marco Rubio is that he is of Cuban ancestry. The media and haughty liberals never shirk an opportunity to remind the GOP that they are the “Old White Guy Party.” Rubio’s Hispanic heritage automatically catapults him to the front of the line of Republican examples of diversity where he can sit with Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal.

National Review placed the 38-year-old on the cover of its September 7 issue claiming “Yes, He Can” and that the party’s conservative activists need to get behind this “true conservative.”

Whether young Rubio is a “true conservative” or not is a sub question to the earlier one of what the Republicans have to offer: What does a “true conservative” have to offer during the Obama regnancy? What is “conservative” in the post-Bush era?

In a National Review Online interview with the insurgent, Rubio “counts former Gov. Jeb Bush as one of his most important political mentors” and the former governor has since endorsed Rubio as has son, Jeb Jr.

Not one to beat a dead elephant, but conservatives ought to ask themselves one of these days, What exactly has the Bush family done for conservative causes? Break promises not to raise taxes? Take turns invading Iraq? Spent like there was no tomorrow and completely nullifying any good tax cuts could do? Of course Jeb is his own man, but there are many sins of the father and brother for which he must atone.

One of the other GOP veterans who has hitched himself to the Rubio wagon is Mike Huckabee, who is reciprocating the endorsement Rubio made for him in 2008. When asked why he supported Huckabee, who had difficulty attracting much support outside single issue social conservatives, Rubio said,

“Two things I like about Mike Huckabee: One was his support of the Fair Tax . . . Second, I thought that of all the candidates, he did the best job of connecting how the people’s social and moral well-being cannot be separated from their economic well-being.” (emphasis mine)

“the people’s social and moral well-being cannot be separated from their economic well-being.”

Translation: excessive domestic spending known during the Bush years as Compassionate Conservatism.

Toeing both sides of a fine line to appease immigration restrictionists in the party as well as the open borders crowd, Rubio concedes that “On immigration, [Retiring Republican Senator Mel Martinez] voted for a package I probably would not have voted for . . .” (emphasis mine)

Rubio also chooses to toe both sides when it comes to the biggest fiasco of the generation, the Iraq War. Here he takes Jonah Goldberg’s Orwellian position on Iraq: it was a mistake but it was not wrong:

“Obviously, the Iraq War has had the chilling effect of making us question all intelligence findings now. . . . I think that there is some credence, in hindsight, to the notion that the real battlefield was in Afghanistan all along. . . .

“But understand at the same time, we were being told that Iraq was on the verge of gaining a nuclear capability. . . . So it’s impossible to sit here and give a fair analysis in hindsight.”

Translation: OK, maybe the Iraq War wasn’t such a great idea after all. Maybe. But who are we to say it was a mistake? It was just a war. No reason to worry about responsibility for it.

So for all the talk about the Republican Party getting its act together and finally getting back to its conservative principles, if it ever really had them, the "conservatism" during the Obama dispensation looks eerily similar to the one during the days of the Bush regime.

Mushy immigration rhetoric, government taking an active role in the people’s “well-being” and a persistent refusal to criticize GOP foreign policy, Rubio is probably better than Charlie Crist, but might we entertain the possibility that there might be a better potential standard-bearer?

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