Tom Pauken www.tompauken.com
In retrospect ... we can see that conservatism peaked during President Reagan's first term. It enjoyed a brief resurgence in the mid-1990's as the Republicans captured both branches of Congress, but that was just a wave (some call it a tsunami) of anti-Clinton, anti-liberal sentiment in the 1994 election. It did not last. For all practical purposes, the post-Reagan era has been a disappointing period for American conservatives, who had once seemed to be on the verge of restoring and revitalizing a nation that had lost its way in the 1960's and 70's.
In one sense, success has led to our downfall. When conservatives made the Republican Party the majority party in American, the opportunists, pragmatists, and phony conservatives moved in and took control of the Republican Party, and of the conservative movement itself — all in the name of "conservatism."
But what passes for conservatism in the post-Reagan era of Republican politics is barely recognizable to many of us who were grassroots activists in the early day of the conservative movement — especially after eight years of a Republican administration headed up by George W. Bush, who claimed to be a conservative.
The results were not pretty.
On the domestic scene, the Bush administration failed to act in time to stem the credit and spending excesses of our "bubble economy." While those excesses stem from bad decisions made during the Clinton years by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the Bush administration did nothing to reverse those flawed policies. Now we are paying a heavy economic price for postponing action to deal with what turned out to be a slow-moving train wreck.
The Clinton and Bush administrations also made strategic mistakes in dealing with the threat of militant Islam. And our incoherent and thoughtless policies in Latin America over the past two decades have led to the rise to power of a whole ne batch of would-be Fidel Castro's. As if that is not bad enough, we have even witnessed the return to power of the discredited Sandinista forces, led by that rather smarmy figure of the left, Daniel Ortega. The Bush administration squandered the political capital built up over three decades of hard work by the Goldwater-Reagan movement. In the process, great damage has been done to the conservative movement, the Republican Party, and our country. That capital is depleted, and we conservatives have to start all over in putting together a set of principled policies to address the enormous economic, foreign-policy, and cultural challenges our nation faces.
The time has come to make it clear that George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Dick
Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Henry Paulson, and all of the rest do not represent
the principles of American conservatism. We should not support
Republican candidates for president just because they happen to be the
lesser of two evils. That has not worked out well for conservatives in the
post-Reagan era of Republican politics.
Nor should we remain silent when a bunch of phony conservatives calling themselves "neoconservatives" hijack the major intellectual organs of the conservative movement and use them to promote their ideological agenda. These former liberal Democrats turned Republicans remind me of Robert McNamara's civilian whiz kids who planned and oversaw our flawed strategy during the Vietnam War. Those intellectuals thought they were a lot smarter and knew a lot more about how to fight the war than our soldiers in Vietnam did. Indeed, the McNamara whiz kids had high IQs, but they were brilliantly wrong. I saw that firsthand as a young military intelligence officer serving in Vietnam. Similarly, the neoconservative architects of George W. Bush's strategy to defeat militant Islam were a group of arrogant intellectuals with very little, if any, military experience. They made things worse, not better, for the soldiers who had to carry out their plans.
Yet even though the foreign-policy predictions of the neoconservative ideologues have been proved wrong time and time again, they continue to impose a foreign-policy litmus test on conservatives. Why do we bother listening to them anymore?
Posted by Katie Brandenburg at March 8, 2010 02:11 PM www.chron.com