May 13, 2006


Nice Ass (Peter Beinart, 05.11.06, New Republic)

[I]f liberals must eradicate self-indulgent niceness, they must also confront an even bigger scourge. Let's call him nascar Man. Nascar Man hovers over every discussion I've ever attended. You don't always notice him at first, but, sooner or later, someone invites him into the room, and he proceeds to suck out all the air. Nascar Man is the guy liberals need to win, but usually don't. He loves guns, pickup trucks, chewing tobacco, and church on Sunday. He thinks liberals are high-taxing, culturally libertine, quasi-pacifist wimps. And, once liberals have conjured him up, they no longer say what they really believe--even to one another.

The problem starts with the failure to draw a basic distinction: between what liberals believe and what Democrats should say to get elected. Inevitably, in my experience, the two are conflated, and, inevitably, the latter tramples the former. Should liberals invest more power in the United Nations? Should they spend large new sums on the poor? Should they support gay marriage? The propositions are not refuted; they are rarely even raised, because no one wants to incite nascar Man's wrath. Nascar Man inhibits intellectual inquiry. He's the bully everyone wants to appease.

This, needless to say, is not how conservatives traveled from the political wilderness to political power. Since John Kerry's loss, liberals have devoted themselves to institution-building, in a self-conscious effort to ape the "counter-establishment" so effectively constructed by the American right. But, when William F. Buckley founded National Review in 1955, or when Edward Feulner and Paul Weyrich created the Heritage Foundation in 1973, they did not use public opinion's perceived liberal tilt as an excuse to self-censor. Instead, they poured their energy into trying to explain--first at the level of principle and then at the level of policy--what conservatives really believed.

Today, nascar Man keeps liberals from doing that. In fact, he keeps liberals from even fully realizing that, were we given intellectual carte blanche, we would have difficulty articulating a set of core principles. At first glance, nascar Man's presence makes liberal discussions harder--because you have to tailor your views to his whims. But he ultimately makes them easier, because he prevents liberals from having to think about what we fundamentally believe.

Expelling nascar Man is not synonymous with moving liberalism to the left.

The bit about the Left just being too nice is the sort of self-indulgent pabulum that a person less deeply trapped in the bubble would be embarrassed by, but he's right that the Democratic Party need to move far enough Right to appeal to NASCAR man if it's too win elections. Of course, if it does it will cease to be a party of the Left and a new party will replace it. The proper place for people who recognize that liberalism is a bad idea is the GOP.

The Loneliness of the Liberal Hawk: Dems who understand war, pols who don't (Tom Donnelly, 05/22/2006, Weekly Standard)

T'S TOUGH TO BE a moderate Democrat. Hatred of George Bush has changed the loyal opposition into the bitter opposition, less interested in policy than in punishing their bĂȘte noire. It's particularly tough for Democrats who supported the invasion of Iraq, the defining George Bush moment, and who oppose withdrawal. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the very model of a modern "defense Democrat"--not to mention the party's 2000 vice presidential nominee--now faces overwhelming votes of "no confidence" from Connecticut Democratic town councils.

The conundrum is acute for the rising generation of moderate Democrats who may run for president, if the performances last week by former Virginia governor Mark Warner and Sen. Evan Bayh at an event sponsored by the Progressive Policy Institute are any indication. Speaking in support of PPI's new collection of essays, With All Our Might--a valiant attempt to define "a progressive strategy for defeating jihadism and defending liberty"--both Warner and Bayh clung safely to the anti-Bush orthodoxy. [...]

PPI's book With All Our Might actually represents an impressive lineup of younger defense and security intellectuals, many of whom worked in the Clinton administration. And they're more hawkish, in general, than Warner or Bayh.

Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, whose prewar The Threatening Storm made a forceful case for invading Iraq, still sounds like a closet neocon. His essay on "A Grand Strategy for the Middle East" argues that "whether you supported the war or not, it is all about Iraq now." Withdrawal is not an option: "We cannot simply walk away from Iraq without repercussions. In that sense, Iraq is decidedly not Vietnam." While offering a comprehensive critique of Bush administration failures in Iraq, he emphasizes the military and strategic shortcomings; Pollack sees clearly that the first order of business is to establish security, which means fighting.

PPI's own Jan Mazurek is even tougher on Middle East strategy than Pollack. Where Pollack imagines, in keeping with the elite conventional wisdom of both parties, that China can easily be made a partner for progress in the region, Mazurek sees that the People's Republic, by its own choices, is creating the conditions for an even greater challenge. "Beijing is striking up cordial relationships with a motley array of tyrants and rogue states with which the United States is at odds," he writes. "In fact, competition between China and the United States for oil and influence in oil-rich countries could become the 21st-century equivalent of the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the cold war."

And there are two very fine essays on military matters. James Blaker and Steven Nider call for an expanded Army and commit the ultimate Democratic apostasy: "The military budget--which currently consumes a much smaller percentage of U.S. GDP than it did during the cold war, on average--will probably need to grow in the short term." Perhaps most surprising is Melissa Tryon's remarkably sensitive examination of current military culture, an essay that should be required reading for all post-Vietnam politicians. She understands that people in uniform "see the defense of our country as a calling, and one of the greatest forms of service." They also have a deep commitment to victory that "leads to anger at what is widely seen as 'defeatism' among those who declare that the Iraq war is 'unwinnable.' . . . What service members want most is to see America succeed in Iraq."

It's ironic that the current president, a Republican, is a visionary liberal, while those who seem to be his natural lieutenants are Democrats without the prospect of a commander in chief who shares their commitment.

No more ironic than Lincoln and Reagan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 13, 2006 12:45 PM

Sadly, I understand why the Left feels they are too nice. Many of the Leftists I encounter spend their days not killing people.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 1:06 PM


Rationalizing abortion on demand isn't self-indulgent? Killing innocents is OK? Self-defense is not? How many homosexuals have died because their behavior is encouraged by the left in the name of abstract equality and moral relativism? Nice, in their own minds.

Posted by: Tom C.,Stamford,Ct at May 13, 2006 1:54 PM

Like the Right in the late 50's-60's, the Left is hypnotized by The Other. They're the Birchers of the new millenium, with all the attendant visciousness, quackery and paranoia.

Posted by: Pepys at May 13, 2006 1:59 PM

"This, needless to say, is not how conservatives traveled from the political wilderness to political power. Since John Kerry's loss..."

I want my power back, and I want it now!!!

What he seems to leave out is the fact that the conservatives took decades to return from "the political wilderness" of the 1940s-50s, with stops like Goldwater, Nixon and Bush the Elder along the way. This guy seems to think that all of history was compressed into 1992-1994. He doesn't even understand what he's written. He's so afraid of not winning elections in '006 and '008 that he doesn't realize he on the track to lose elections in the '20s and '30s, too.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 13, 2006 2:15 PM

Notice that NASCAR Man's understanding of the Liberal is far more incisive than the obverse. So, who's the genius here?

Liberal's utter disdain for working class white males leaves me cold. It's probably idiosyncratic, but I find Beinart's article profoundly condescending and offensive.

Posted by: ghostcat at May 13, 2006 2:20 PM

Except the Birchers were right. There were commies sneaking around doing their dirty work, and also true was that the traitors inside the US government would betray the country's sovereignty to the United Nations for a collectivist New World Order managed by a 'one-world socialist government. (proof being the current UN)

Also Robert Welch advised JBS members to "join your local PTA at the beginning of the school year, get your conservative friends to do likewise, and go to work to take it over and 50 years later our schools are suffering because conservatives didn't heed his warning.

Welch's statement that "Eisenhower was a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy" might be considered over the top I grant you, but what the heck slight exaggeration. And what exactly is the effect on our vital body fluids from floride. I do know that we have AIDS now and didn't then. Nuff Said.

BTW member George Schuyler had the civil rights movement pegged properly.

Posted by: h-man at May 13, 2006 2:20 PM

The Dems haven't even gone through their Bob Michel, go-along-to-get-along, natural minority phase. They've still got a long way to go.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 13, 2006 2:21 PM

Mr. Stamford, I'm sorry I was not clear. The Leftist I am talking about go through life with a barely controlled rage. They hate almost everyone and everything. A lot of 'I hope he dies' and 'I should have gotten him fired'. They see themselves as nice because they don't have the courage to go on the killing sprees they dream of......

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 2:22 PM

1.) Beinart should learn how to spell NASCAR.

2.) He is right that Liberals are dishonest about their agenda. For example, the former Mayor of Vermont just said Democrats are against gay "marriage". No, they're merely against being held accountable for it; they wish for their judges to impose it on us so they can avoid the consequences.

3.) It is intellectually lazy to characterize your opponents as neanderthals--besides, we're Cro-Magnons. And if NASCAR Man is so stupid, how come he sees right through the Cardboard Men like the Victoria's Secret knock-off negligee that he bought for his wife at Wal-Mart?

4.) Liberals want to seize NASCAR Man's paycheck, his guns, his traditions and his children--but he's the "bully"?

5.) Don't blame NASCAR Man, Peter. That's just blame-shifting. Which goes well with the self-delusion, the intellectual laziness, the political cowardice--and the electoral man-bag Democrats wear.

Now hush up; Talladega's comin' on.

Y'all come back when you grow up now...ya' hear?

Posted by: Noel at May 13, 2006 2:23 PM

Can Leftists write or say anything which doesn't include the not so subtle implication that they are better than everyone else?

Posted by: andrew at May 13, 2006 2:46 PM

Andrew, no. To be part of the Left is to see the future.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 2:49 PM

Noel, Talladega's over 'till fall. Darlington tonight though. Love to listen to Larry and Daryl assassinate the English language. NASCAR man is cool.

Posted by: jdkelly at May 13, 2006 3:18 PM


I do hope you are kidding about the future because that is not a future that I would want. Can you imagine having a nanny like Pelosi telling you what to do and what to believe. That is what the left is trying to do and that is why I cannot ever vote for them.

People immigrated to this country over the past close to 400 years because they wanted the right to make their own decisions. Now we have the left trying to take that away and they wonder why the rest of us do not believe they are the ones who should run the country.

The left thinks that if they let the government decide who should get charity and that it will come from the government so nobody needs to worry about heing charitable. The charities they pick will the ones that keep them in power and none other need apply. It is called buying the vote but they try to pass it off as being compassionate. I can only hope that the country will see it for what it really is and reject it.

Posted by: dick at May 13, 2006 3:18 PM

I always imagine Beinart getting ready to write by closing his eyes, pounding his fists on his desk and saying to himself "I'm a bad-ass, I'm a bad-ass" again and again.

He then kisses the picture of Michael Kinglsey he wears in a locket around his neck and attacks his next article.

Posted by: Pepys at May 13, 2006 3:25 PM

Mr. Dick, thanks for responding. The Left does feel they are the future. That's why they call themselves Progressives, and talk about stages of history. They believe that the Future is unstoppable and must be midwifed. I have never understood that....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 3:39 PM

I give the article a T for tripe. Apologies to those who like tripe.

Posted by: Genecis at May 13, 2006 4:54 PM


If I were as smart as NASCAR Man, I would have known that. Vrooooommmm!

Posted by: Noel at May 13, 2006 5:27 PM

And Warren should have been impeached.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 5:41 PM

Mr. Beinart and ilk see history as a road - forward and back. Only two ways to go, regress or progress. They should remember the wise man who said that history is "On g-- d--- thing after another." There is no forward or back - just humans acting as humans.

Posted by: Mikey at May 13, 2006 6:20 PM

Robert - If there is no God, then hell is everyone's future. Why not, then, make hell on earth, now?

Posted by: pj at May 13, 2006 7:03 PM

Not hell, pj, nothingness. They hope for nothingness. Why? I do not know, but Larry and Daryl and the race just started, so I'll spend some time with NASCAR man before church tomorrow. "God bless us, everyone."

Posted by: jdkelly at May 13, 2006 7:29 PM

I thought you were going for a Larry, Darryl and my other brother Darryl joke.

That's like 3 or 4 jokes in one.

Well, 3 or 4 bad jokes in one.

Gimme a break, I ain't no f$#%%ng comedian, people.

Posted by: Pepys at May 13, 2006 7:50 PM

If the revolution can't be stopped and can't be reasoned with, then what need for a midwife?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 8:06 PM

Pepys, One of us can't spell Daryl. I think it's me. Oh well, maybe Daryll can't either. I think NASCAR man needs to be a regular visitor to this blog. From my long experience of hanging with him, he's a Democrat. I can't see how they lost him. Hope it's true, though.

Posted by: jdkelly at May 13, 2006 8:47 PM

Marx created the eternel rationale for utopianism. The scientific laws of historical developmnent. A crock, of course, but so is utopia.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 13, 2006 10:40 PM

It's not external, but is rational.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 11:01 PM

I wonder if Kenneth Pollack really believes that we walked away from Vietnam WITHOUT repercussions.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 13, 2006 11:09 PM