October 16, 2004


Without a Doubt (RON SUSKIND, 10/17/04, NY Times Magazine)

Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.'' The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.

''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .

''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''

Gotta love the libertarians--at a time when gay marriage bans are passing by 70%-30% majorities in a country where 64% of voters say their vote will depend on moral values and 70% say a president should have strong religious faith, they think a civil war is coming within the conservative party because it's religious rather than licentious. The civil war, were it to come, would leave a 60-40 nation with libertarians allied to statist Democrats in a hilarious shotgun marriage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2004 5:31 PM

Sigh. Bartlett seems to be discarding some inconvenient facts as well, although far more incoherently even than President Bush. Barlett's claim is that Bush is just like the Caliphascist fanatics because he thinks they're fanatics? If they're fanatics, then Bush is right. If they're not fanatics, why is being like them bad?

As for running the world on faith, someone should explain "fiat money" to Barlett. Or is he a well-known gold bug?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 16, 2004 6:22 PM

Oh, no. The libertarians are going to leave the party. We won't be able to . . . . We'll have to stop . . . . It'll be the ruination of . . . .

It is, though, libertarian dogma that they can't be part of a successful political movement.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 16, 2004 6:27 PM

He's right that there's an intra-party civil war coming if and when Bush wins, but it won't be in the Republican Party. It'll be the Democratic Party that experiences the internecine bloodletting. The Left has said in as many words that it intends to drive for control of the party whether or not Kerry wins, and if Kerry loses it's a leadpipe cinch that they'll be diving at the Clintonista faction with knives out, with shrill accusations of "betrayal!" ringing in the air.

Posted by: Joe at October 16, 2004 6:35 PM

Bush is scary as hell. There is nothing else to be said.

Posted by: mkultra at October 16, 2004 7:41 PM


Amen. Osama was so scared he disappeared into a cave and never came out, while Saddam had to be extracted from a hole.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2004 7:51 PM

What's the difference between a libertarian Republican and a liberal Republican? Answer: Nothing--unless you are a foolish conservative who has bought the lie that a "libertarian" is any better than a liberal. Bruce Bartlett is hoping you are all fools.

Posted by: Vince at October 16, 2004 8:29 PM

Oh, Spare us! The Libertines are going to take their tinfoil-lined hats and bolt the party!

That's not a civil war. Now the Civil War--there was a civil war. In 1860 the vote split four ways.

But after we all stop laughling hysterically, let us pause to remind our Libertine bretheren that politics means compromise and coalition, and that mature people favor substance over symbol. There is a lot of religious symbol and Libertarian substance in the Republican party these days.
After all, what kind of freedom is more important to you? Do you spend more time making money or more time practicing the unnameable crime against nature?

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 16, 2004 8:34 PM

With all due respect with Mr. Bartlett but what kind of !@#@!$@#%$@#% negotiations does he think
we can do with Al Queda. Even during the crusades,
Saladin, was a much more reasonable character than
any of these likely interlocutors. Or the Baathist
successors to Saddam Hussein; the followers of the
farhud (1941 pogrom) inducing Rashid Ali; or his
Circassian blood brother Haj Amin Husseini (Arafat's uncle)

Posted by: narciso at October 16, 2004 10:32 PM

Me - I think Bartlett's just jealous.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 16, 2004 10:52 PM


"The civil war, were it to come, would leave a 60-40 nation with libertarians allied to statist Democrats in a hilarious shotgun marriage."

I must disagree. The libertarians would split. They're libertarians, after all :)

Posted by: ras at October 16, 2004 10:58 PM

Someone's confusing libertarians with the Losertarians. Those of us who were Libertarians back in the 1980s have grown up and realized that the choice is between 3/4 of a loaf and nothing, not between a full loaf and nothing. Today's Losertarians are the people who have yet to figure that out, and probably never will. (And who, given a choice between an attainable 3/4 and an impossible full, are statisfied with getting nothing.)

In order to shrink government, first you've got to stop the growth of government. If that can be accomplished, then it's time to start talking about schisms over size, but only after the Democratic Left has gone the way of the Know-Nothngs, Greenbacks and the Whigs.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 16, 2004 11:59 PM

Joe is correct. The fight will be among the Dem's. The hard Left will be a combatant, but they will lose to the party pros because the pros have more staying power and more control over the gears and levers.

The D party will adopt the attitudes of a party out of power. They will oppose budget deficits, new govt. programs, and expanded powers. To some extent they are already doing this. Those people who are interested in libertineism are already on board.

The Libertarians will be unhappy with the Republicans as the party in power. The party in power likes to spend money and start programs.

If the Ds are willing to ditch their love affair with federal regulation, which should be no problem as they will not be running the agencies, the Libertairians will come over and provide them with an intellectual base.

The Ds will adopt the slogan that government is best which governs least. They will talk about states rights.

Libertarianism will probably displace socialism on college campuses.

D's will embrace free trade but will be isolationist. R's will talk free trade, but will make deals for constituencies that D's will criticize. They will be internationalist in the way Bush is not like Kerry. The UN is doomed.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 17, 2004 12:15 AM

Seems to me that if Bush LOSES their will be a serious fight in the Republican party among the Bush/neocon wings and the more isolationist groups. If Bush wins, then Bush-ism wins. Simple as that.

Posted by: brian at October 17, 2004 12:38 AM

> The UN is doomed.

Robert, I like the way you talk. Say more...

Posted by: at October 17, 2004 2:27 AM

The party of goverment employees unions and trial lawyers is going to "adopt the slogan that government is best which governs least."

Okay. Good one. You had me going there for a while.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 17, 2004 12:42 PM

An permanent minority cannot be the party of government unions and trial lawyers. The Ds will be useless to those groups, who will abandon them as rats abandon a sinking ship.

Bushism has no use for the UN because it relies on the anglosphere and other willing allies (e.g. Japan) and the isolationist Ds won't have anything to do with the UN either.

Four blocks along the East River in NYC could be developed in to high rise condos worth hundreds of millions of Dollars.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 17, 2004 3:38 PM

The war will be between the Giuliani-Schwarzanegger-Specter-Jeffords Repubs and the religious conservatives. The Democrats, if you haven't noticed, have made themselves as politically irrelevant as Libertarians.

The need for religious conservative power to preserve us from the petrification of Roe necessitates big incentives to breed like crazy: triple the childcare credits and allow a .25 vote addition for every child a voter lives with, think of the amplification of two-parent household power!

Posted by: JimGooding at October 17, 2004 4:44 PM

Jim Gooding: State election laws confer tremendous advantages on the "legacy parties." That is the major reason the Republican party did not disapear during the years between 1932 and 1980.

My prediction is not based on what things are like now but on what the structural imperatives of being the minority party in a two party system are.

BTW the existence of a two party system is dictated by the single member district, winner take all nature of American legislative and Executive elections. This will not change without a mjor constitutional change.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 17, 2004 11:36 PM

The point is not what Bruce Bartlett believes or does not believe. The point is that Ron Suskind has used a short quote by Bartlett, probably taken out of context, and mixed in a few quotes by Joe Biden and Tom Lantos, to construct a spurious thesis about George W Bush.

If religious faith is the source of Bush's strength, then so what? Better than have a president lacking in confidence, unable to decide between competing views, or choosing based only on what will provide a temporary political advantage.

Posted by: J Baustian at October 17, 2004 11:41 PM

Bartlett claims he was quouted out of context at Professor Bainbridge's blog.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 18, 2004 12:19 PM

Hey, nutjobs, Bartlett's article did not argue for what you call "libertinism", or even for the common libertarian positions on social matters that you think true "conservatives" disagree with. You could favor the continued criminalization of marijuana, banning gays from marrying or adopting, and putting the ten commandments in every school in the country, without being a terget of Bartlett's particular criticism. Learn to read more carefully, unless your faith tells you what an article says, thereby sparing you the work.

Posted by: J. Goard at October 18, 2004 5:14 PM

J. Goard:

Libertarianism is a euphemism for libertinism. Use a semblance of the word "liberty" in your label, and you can fool conservatives into thinking you really care about America as much they do.

Posted by: Vince at October 18, 2004 6:04 PM