“The First Draft, Not the Compromised Second Draft”

Like Allahpundit – and, surprisingly to me, for the same reasons – I have no idea whatsoever what the newly-released Mount Vernon Statement is supposed to accomplish.  It amounts to a statement that the old Three-Legged Stool remains coherent and relevant.  Why?  Because they said so, that’s why.  There are no details, no attempt to resolve the conflicting interests of social conservatives, economic conservatives, hawks, and libertarians.  Just a blanket statement that somehow these groups all have the exact same interests, and all agree with a very generalized vision of the Constitution.  As Allahpundit points out, “the principles here are so broad as to be almost meaningless,” and noting further that the Statement doesn’t even attempt to provide a framework for bridging the gap between libertarians/paleocons and neo-conservatives on foreign policy (see Larison for a more fully developed argument on this point), nor does it provide any guidance as to how one would determine whether a particular policy fits within the notion of “Constitutional conservatism.” 

Compare this Mount Vernon statement, drafted by the old lions of movement conservatism, with the Tea Partiers’ proposed “Contract From America,” which doesn’t attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable but instead tries to keep a tight focus on fiscal and economic issues, and you get the feeling that the old school movement conservative leaders have ceased to be relevant in any meaningful way.

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111 thoughts on ““The First Draft, Not the Compromised Second Draft”

  1. Laughable really, we have now two major parties in the country. One of them has a generally coherent philosophy and can’t communicate or implement worth a damn. Then we have the other which has no coherent philosophy but can organize and implement like a military machine.

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  2. I read this and I wonder “why in the hell did they even try?”

    Then I realized that if I thought that what they were saying was trivial and banal, maybe I should think about what they were *REALLY* saying. Sort of the semiotics of the statement, if you will.

    They are saying “we funked up”, only with marginally less George Clinton and infinitely less self-awareness.

    As such, I see this document as a good signal. Not because it signals something about conservativism per se (when it comes to conservativism, it’s blander than oyster crackers). It signals something about realizing that “mistakes were made”.

    Of course, “mistakes were made” is hardly an apology… but when you compare it to “are you accusing me of making a mistake? YOU’RE GIVING AID AND COMFORT TO THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO KILL MY CHILDREN!!!!!!” it’s a step in the right direction.

    Now they just need to go the next thousand miles.

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    • That said, one looks at the signatories and quickly comes to the conclusion that they did not mean what they said and are pulling the Republican version of “liberaltarianism” just long enough for them to get the reins back.

      I don’t recognize this country anymore.

      No, it’s worse than that. The only parts I recognize are the Ed Meesey parts.

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      • I retract my initial reading. I read it as an interesting non-apology apology because, otherwise, it made no sense at all.

        Seeing who signed it led me to the conclusion that, no, they weren’t apologizing. Those people believe that they did nothing wrong, there just wasn’t sufficient will to impose their version of telling everybody how to live.

        Pity. For a second there, I thought that this was almost a version of “first you have to admit you have a problem”.

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          • I saw this comment on H&R and it moved me.

            http://reason.com/blog/2010/02/17/all-for-the-constitution-as-lo#comment_1575395

            It’s 13 months ago.

            I said before the election that these fuckwads would start spouting libertarian rhetoric again, and that we should all try to remember that they lied before, so we would not be tricked again.

            But your estimate of our intelligence is SO LOW that we think we have already forgotten – and it’s been THIRTEEN MONTHS.

            If they didn’t agree with Bush, they had ample opportunity to say so. And they did not. Not to a degree commensurate with Bush’s many, many outrages.

            And they still aren’t. I said I would never let it go, but Obama has been so bad that I might be willing to let it go – but EVEN NOW they refuse to say, “Bush sucked. Our bad on that one. He sucked, and we should have said something, but we were playing politics so we didn’t say anything. But this time we really mean what we’re signing our names to.” But they haven’t even said that. They expect me to just forget. And that’s not reasonable, so fuck them.

            God bless Fluffy.

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            • Wtf, Jaybird, is there some more context I’m missing?

              The whole thing seems kinda bland to me. But I can’t see why we’re supposed to be taking it as some sort of apology, so I don’t get why you’re upset that it fails in that way.

              In any case, I’m sure you know the drill by now: Americans who really want prosperity and limited government are with us, those who aren’t with us are mostly talking a big game.

              At a deeper level, I think the the last eighteen months or so have been interesting for Libertarians and libertarian-inclined people. IMO, the key takeaway from these events is the superiority of Hayek-libertarianism at the expense of the Nozick-Rothbard variety.

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              • It’s because I have no reason to believe that they are any different from 2005. I have no reason to believe that they think that they did anything wrong.

                I have every reason to believe that the people who were nodding when Cheney said “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter” are lying through their teeth to me, you, all of us when they start making noises about limited government.

                They don’t say these things because they believe them.
                They say these things because I believe them.

                This is infuriating.

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                • “I have every reason to believe that the people who were nodding when Cheney said “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter” are lying through their teeth to me, you, all of us when they start making noises about limited government.”

                  Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can get over it any day now. More than that, who’s “they” and why do “we” think “we” can mindread “their” minds and why do we care so much what “they” think anyway?

                  The upshot of that is, we just sit here passively while “they” decide whether they will give us limited government out of their beneficent generosity. No, that’s a load of crap. This is still the land of the free, just barely, and if we want limited government we can put our stakes down in the political arena and fight for it. Or we can find some bullshit excuse to take a powder.

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                  • Let’s see… there’s Ed Meese, Tony Perkins, Brent Bozell, and Kathryn J. Lopez.

                    That’s who “they” are (among others).

                    As for “why do “we” think “we” can mindread “their” minds and why do we care so much what “they” think anyway?”, I did not mindread their minds. I read their columns and saw their initiatives. I saw their disdain for, among other things, First Amendment protections.

                    “Why do we care what they think?”

                    Because they can either impose their will upon others with my help, or they can do it without it.

                    Hell with them. They can do it without it.

                    “This is still the land of the free, just barely, and if we want limited government we can put our stakes down in the political arena and fight for it.”

                    Without an admission of “maybe we screwed up”, I’m not going to believe that they’ve learned a friggin’ thing about why they lost the support of me and people like me in the first place.

                    Seriously, this is a scene out of a Lifetime movie.
                    “No, Johnny. You’re not moving back in with me. You beat me up and I have too much self-respect to see you anymore.”

                    Except Johnny isn’t even saying “Baby, I’ve changed, take me back.”

                    Johnny is saying “You’re pretty stupid if you think you’ll get anywhere without me in your life!”

                    Lemme tell you, Johnny. Let me tell you this:

                    At first I was afraid. I was petrified!
                    I kept thinking I could never live without you by my side.
                    But then I spent so many nights thinking how you done me wrong
                    AND I GREW STRONG!
                    And I learned how to get along!

                    And so you’re back from outer space
                    I just walked in to find you here with that sad look on your face
                    I should have changed that stupid lock
                    I should have made you leave your key
                    If I’d known for just one second you’d be back to bother me

                    Go on now, go! Walk out the door! Just turn around now
                    Because you’re not welcome anymore
                    Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye?

                    Did you think I’d crumble?
                    DID YOU THINK I’D LAY DOWN AND DIE???

                    OH NO! NOT I! I WILL SURVIVE!
                    Oh as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive
                    I’ve got all my life to live!
                    I’ve got all my love to give!
                    I will survive!
                    I will survive!

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                    • “Let’s see… there’s Ed Meese, Tony Perkins, Brent Bozell, and Kathryn J. Lopez.”

                      Oh god this is comical. Ed Meese was Attorney General in the Reagan Administration, which ended over twenty years ago. Richard Cheney is a grandfather in Wyoming or Virginia or somewhere.

                      In the original post, Mark asserted that movement poohbahs were no longer relevant (and you apparently agreed with him then, but are taking the opposite tack now). In any case, you’re both wrong (you twice): such people are marginally relevant and should be treated that way, no more, no less.

                      Let’s think about who is representing the mainstream Right now: Paul Ryan, Scott Brown, Jonah Goldberg, Marco Rubio, Chuck Grassley, etc. You could pick other names but the point is the same. I think it’s ridiculous to think we’re supposed to repudiate such people because of something Dick Cheney said.

                      I like the Gloria Gaynor touch, but I’m thinking this situation has a lot more to do with the Jon Favreau character in Swingers, bitching and moaning for half the movie about how his gf back in Jersey dumped him while he’s out trying to make it work in LA. When she finally calls and wants him back, he realizes he didn’t want her anyway.

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                    • “I did not mindread their minds. I read their columns and saw their initiatives. I saw their disdain for, among other things, First Amendment protections.”

                      What colums, what initiatives, what disdain?

                      This is where breakdown of Nozick-Rothbard style libertarianism comes in. Representatives of this strand, such as I am taking you to be, have some sort of internal judgment inside their head. We could even call it a purity test if you like. “I support political candidates who can cite at least 20 pages of The Fountainhead, chapter and verse. Ed Meese only knows 15 pages, so I oppose him.”

                      But that’s crap. It gives way too much power to what “they” think and “they” do. As Hayek tells us, the most powerful organizations and information flows work from the bottom up, not the top down.

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                    • Yes, and when Ed Meese starts talking about the Constitution, I think about stuff like “The First Amendment”. If he doesn’t make noise about how, maybe, he was a fan of Congress making laws that violated Freedom of the Press and he sure as hell was a fan of enforcing those laws, I’m going to suspect that he’s not saying such things out of conviction but cynicism.

                      Here’s an analogy you may appreciate.

                      I used to work for Focus on the Family. Every Wednesday morning, every group in the building (all the way down to maintenance) received a handful of letters written from people out from everywhere where they talk about various things going on in their lives and various problems. Each member of the group would spend a few minutes reading the letter they got and then everyone would huddle up and talk about the letter and then, as a group, everyone would pray for the person they read about.

                      Bob Tilton, someone for whom I have not worked, had a news expose done about his “ministry” where his folks opened the envelopes people sent just long enough to remove the money/checks and then threw the letters unread into the trash. The defense given was that people prayed stuff like “Lord, help all of those people who wrote us today.”

                      The people who wrote the Mount Vernon Statement remind me of Bob Tilton and not Focus on the Family. I say that as an avowed atheist.

                      “When she finally calls and wants him back, he realizes he didn’t want her anyway.”

                      Two ways to read this. One is where the Libertarians are Jon Favreau and the chick is the Republicans, one where the Republicans are Jon Favreau and the chick is the Libertarians.

                      Let’s deal with both, just to make sure that everything’s covered.

                      If the girl had spent a good amount of time explaining how she was mistaken to have left her principles behind for the attentions of guys who then ran out on her and how she never should have abandoned her principles for temporary partisan gain and, seriously, she’s learned her lesson and she now knows that she had a good sustainable thing going with him and she’d like to make it work… well, maybe he should have taken her back. He’d have a reason to, anyway. If she just called and said “hey, that guy I cheated on you for left me, let’s get back together you stupid guinea”, he’d pretty much be justified in saying what he did.

                      To flip it around where the libertarians are the people the Republicans are realizing that they didn’t want around anyway…

                      Well, good luck with that. We hope you’re happy with your 41-59 Senate, minority status in the House, and Obama in the White House. Let us know when you want us to start voting for you again rather than merely throwing bums out.

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                    • “Two ways to read this. One is where the Libertarians are Jon Favreau and the chick is the Republicans, one where the Republicans are Jon Favreau and the chick is the Libertarians.”

                      No, there’s only one way to read this, that’s the point. The libertarians are Jon Favreau and the mainstream conservatives are his buddies out in LA. Maybe she should (or shouldn’t) have dumped him, maybe she was once a friend of ours too. Whatever it was isn’t that important. What ought to be obvious, if you remember anything at all from the movie, is that all the whining, the whatifs, the shouldhaves, is stopping him from having a life out in LA.

                      “We hope you’re happy with your 41-59 Senate, minority status in the House, and Obama in the White House. Let us know when you want us to start voting for you again rather than merely throwing bums out.”

                      No no no. That’s going to get fixed soon enough, or America will suffer greatly for it. A train is leaving the station. When it leaves you can be on the train or at the station. Americans who want prosperity and limited government are with us (like really, today, right now), the people who aren’t with are just talking shit.

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                    • And the second the Republicans start expanding the powers of the executive, start giving us Medicare Aleph, and start explaining how only crazy people oppose the Department of Education we will be back to where we were.

                      Enjoy your cattle car.

                      Until the Republicans can explain that they understand why the libertarians left, they can look forward to continuing to complain about how those grapes were sour anyway.

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                    • He should have moved on much quicker. You know, to third parties.

                      And then, when the original girlfriend called back and said “if you don’t get back together with me, you’re full of shit”, he should have gotten back together with his original girlfriend so she could have dumped him, again, the second she saw a guy who she thought would give her more partisan advantage.

                      This is not a description of a healthy relationship.

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                    • “And the second the Republicans start expanding the powers of the executive, start giving us Medicare Aleph, and start explaining how only crazy people oppose the Department of Education we will be back to where we were.”

                      And why not? When the libertarians had the chance to say something about it, they were complaining about Ed Meese instead.

                      Like your favorite SECDEF Rumsfeld explained to the French ambassador about why she doesn’t speak German, “You’re welcome.”

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                    • “You know why the Republicans lost the House and Senate in 2006 and the White House in 2008?”

                      Absolutely. Truth be told my own blog is pretty weak and isn’t updated that often but I’ll cite it here just to emphasize that I was on the case before that particular shit hit the fan.

                      http://flyingspit.blogspot.com/2006/08/whither-gop.html

                      But that was then. We’re in a different world now and we have to be able to make our way in it.

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                    • “Put another way – libertarians would be doing a lot less complaining about why they left their ex-girlfriend if their ex-girlfriend didn’t keep asking for them to come back but refusing to acknowledge why they left her in the first place.”

                      Somehow we’ve got to get some perspective here. We’re looking at severe economic tribulations. Not the Great Recession we’ve had so far, but the one that’s coming, or might be coming depending on what happens. Basically, within our lifetimes we’re looking at a nonnegligible chance of eating tree bark and grass for three meals a day every. So much of what I hear from the Nozick-Rothbard libertarians just seems like so much small beer. Yes, I’m well aware the cops pull all sorts of lame shit in the drug “war”, but that’s some way down on my priority list. In fact, the idea that libertarians can’t understand the context of their pet libertarian ideas leads lots of people and not just mainstream conservatives to think they’d rather live under Leviathan if that gives them something to complain about.

                      We, the mainstream conservatives, are going to bring back prosperity and limited government to America if it’s going to happen at all. You want to be with us when that happens. There’s other things about us that you don’t like, but that’s just tough we ain’t changing. To borrow from a different movie,

                      “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”

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                    • Dude, it ain’t just the social issues, though that’s a big part of it. Nor is it just the defense/foreign policy issues,though that’s also a big part of it. Nor is it even just the civil liberties issues, though that’s a huge part of it. It’s not even just how Republicans behaved on fiscal issues between 2000 and 2008, though that’s part of it. It’s also this:
                      Nixon – Goodbye, gold standard, hello wage and price controls
                      Reagan – Deficits don’t matter
                      Bush I – No new taxes

                      Now, again, libertarians are supposed to come back into the fold because Republicans are spouting the same exact stuff they’ve been spouting for 40 years. We’re supposed to think that they’ve changed. We’re supposed to forget all of that. But they’re not going to ask for forgiveness. Hell, they’re not even going to say they’ve learned. They’re just going to keep spouting the same stuff and expect us to fall for it.

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                    • Of course, here’s where we get the line of “yeah, we’re bad, baby, but that dude at your office is even worse.” Well, we’re not exactly about to go running to that guy at our office, either, but at least that guy doesn’t say “well, if I hit you, it’s only because I love you so much.” In fact, there was this time about a decade ago when good ole Clenis even sent us some flowers as an apology for being a bit rough with us.

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                    • “Reagan – Deficits don’t matter”

                      First of all, that was (supposedly) Cheney, talking about Reagan. Second, at the time Reagan took office, deficits didn’t matter. The economy was stagnating under the burdens of taxes, regulation, inflation and unemployment. The deficits under the Reagan years were well worth it to solve those problems and Reagan (or Reagan/Volcker) solved them all. Thirdly, those deficits weren’t exactly Reagan’s doing but the best point in the feasible set Reagan had to pick from. People mostly forget about the “three for one deal” in 1983 in which Reagan acquiesced to tax increases in return for three for one spending cuts. Congress reneged on its end of the deal and teh corresponding credibility deficit of Congress relative to Reagan was one substantial reason why Reagan won reelection by such a huge margin in 1984.

                      Now as then we have severe economic problems, but the nature of those problems are substantially different than 1981. We’re no longer in a position to say deficits don’t matter. And right now, the GOP is putting in the double shift stopping the expansion of the welfare state.

                      Some libertarians such as yourself think this is a great time to take a powder break. How else would you characterize supporting that guy in New Jersey whose name nobody remembers? When are you actually going to accomplish something for limited government in America if not now?

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                    • I cannot speak for all libertarians but the feeling I get from them is that they see gridlock as preferable to more or less anything the Republicans are likely to provide (despite the Mount Vernon document! HOW CAN THIS BE???).

                      Dude. You aren’t even willing to give much more than a “mistakes were made” defense of the Republicans… and even then you move quickly to a “nothing matters except keeping our country from collapsing!!!” stance.

                      For the record, I don’t hold this against you, particularly.

                      You do a good job of representing the problem, however.

                      The Republicans aren’t willing to admit that they screwed up bad. They aren’t even willing to admit that they screwed up.

                      This tells me that they don’t think that they did… which tells me that next time won’t be different from last time.

                      So, you won’t get my help to give you a next time.

                      And if the country collapses, the country collapses. If that thought isn’t enough to get you to violate your principles and admit fault, I certainly don’t see why you should think that that thought ought trouble me to the point where I ought to violate mine.

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                    • When Republicans give me some reason to think they’re doing something other than lying and blowing smoke up my ass as they have been for the last 40 years. Saying you’re the party of limited government, over and over over again, doesn’t make it so. All Chris Christie needed to do to get my vote was to say “This is what I’m going to do to reduce the size of the state’s government.” This didn’t happen. He just said the same exact stuff that all the others have been saying for the last 40 years on their way to doing the exact opposite. Forgive me if I took them to be what they were – mere platitudes.

                      Now, suddenly, after barely winning an election that he should have won by at least 15 points, he seems (emphasis on seems, since the big test doesn’t come until next month) to be making an actual effort. I like to think that his narrow margin of victory scared him straight.

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                    • If that thought isn’t enough to get you to violate your principles and admit fault,….”

                      It doesn’t violate my principles to admit fault. I personally wish some mainstream conservative would do an account of the Bush years. But the result might be different than what you want or hope for.

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                    • I personally wish some mainstream conservative would do an account of the Bush years. But the result might be different than what you want or hope for.

                      I’D *LOVE* TO SEE IT!!!

                      No matter the result. I don’t even know what the one I’d like to see would look like. Maybe it’d start with the steel tariffs and go from there.

                      But anything in this vein, anything at all, strikes me as a better idea than “Miss me yet?” merchandise.

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                    • “So Christie shouldn’t have won that election by at least 15 points? If your answer is “no, it’s Blue Jersey,” then you don’t realize just how unpopular Corzine was.”

                      Doesn’t matter. There’s a lotta lotta room for unpopularity in a place like Jersey before enough people actually flip the “R” lever. In fact, that whole psychological barrier is usually the important point anyway. (Btw, that’s what we’ve been talking about all day, it’s just that the “parties” are different.)

                      Eg, hypothetically who do you think would win a race for mayor of NYC between David Paterson and Jim DeMint?

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                    • “hypothetically who do you think would win a race for mayor of NYC between David Paterson and Jim DeMint?”

                      NJ is not NYC, not by a long shot. Regardless, it would rather depend on the type of campaign DeMint ran, how much cash he had, etc. If he just ran as a generic Republican, like Christie did, he’d get destroyed. If he ran as a raving movement conservative zealot, he’d get destroyed. If he ran as a fiscal conservative with ideas, though? In your hypothetical, he’d probably have a good shot at winning.

                      Moreover, in this case, take a look at the polling from last year, beginning in the early spring and going through August. Christie was primed to win by about 10-15 points. Then people saw his vacuous campaign. Suddenly, they were in a dead heat, and it remained that way pretty much up until election night. Corzine did not magically become less unpopular during that stretch. Christie just proved to be a less-than-inspiring candidate. I have little doubt that Lonegan would have gotten the same results as Christie (maybe even better!).

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                    • “I have little doubt that Lonegan would have gotten the same results as Christie (maybe even better!).”

                      Well then why didn’t he? If he actually believes in limited government he can go fight a Republican primary like the rest of the world does.

                      Protest candidacies have their place, and I’m not categorically opposed to them at all. But protest candidacies and major party candidacies work to different ends. Third party candidates are there to prove a point. But, the actual attempt to restore limited government and disempower the apparatchik class requires voting (and running) Republican, not third party.

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                    • Really? After Perot ran, we got a President who ended Welfare as we know it and a Congress that acted like they knew what Fiscal Conservativism meant in theory.

                      After Nader ran, we got one of the largest expansions in government power, like, ever.

                      Seems to me that third parties are one hell of an indicator.

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                    • Lonegan is not Daggett. Lonegan was Christie’s primary opponent. He was not hand-picked by the state’s party establishment but instead ran an insurgent campaign to Christie’s Right. Although he did not win the primaries he made it a pretty close race (by primary standards). There is little doubt in my mind that Christie got the nomination solely because of the institutional advantages of being handpicked by the party’s insiders. I would have voted for Lonegan over Daggett, reservations about Lonegan’s social conservatism notwithstanding.

                      You still have provided no evidence, however, that the Republican Party, on average, actually cares one lick about limited government or is, on average, in any way, shape, or form, less the party of unlimited government than the Democrats. Tax cuts combined with gigantic spending increases don’t advance the cause of limited government at all. Spending, after all, is taxation.

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                    • “I’D *LOVE* TO SEE IT!!!

                      No matter the result. I don’t even know what the one I’d like to see would look like. Maybe it’d start with the steel tariffs and go from there.”

                      Yeah, most of the issue is Dr. Phil/Oprah-type psychoanalysis. Maybe George W Bush reminds you of your father who couldn’t make it to the school play. Lame as it is, it’s still real and we need to get it out before people can make make intelligent choices going forward.

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                    • “You still have provided no evidence, however, that the Republican Party, on average, actually cares one lick about limited government or is, on average, in any way, shape, or form, less the party of unlimited government than the Democrats.”

                      I dunno, we can start with the health care bill.

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                    • “My memory is longer than 13 months.”

                      Right, but the window for action is always immediate. In particular, it’s the association with us, the mainstream conservatives will always be the welfarist line of defense against limited government. Eg, in 1996 the welfare establishment knew how unpopular it was. Nonetheless they tried to convince wavering parties that association with welfare reform was association with us (they were right). Somehow that’s a psychological wall that several groups, ie not just libertarians, have to climb. Given your support of that guy from New Jersey, I think we still have some distance to go.

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                    • I’ve said elsewhere that, at this precise moment in time, the GOP’s lack of any kind of agenda beyond “no” is more or less fine for purposes of Congress. I voted for my GOPer Congressman last year and I’m almost positive I will again this year. Heck, the way things have been shaking out the last few days, I may even wind up voting for two GOP Senate candidates in November.

                      But this doesn’t really apply when you’re talking about an executive branch official or state-level offices right now, and definitely not when you’re talking about the governor of the state of New Jersey. Our situation in NJ right now is completely FUBAR and unsustainable. Doing nothing but stopping the state Assembly Dems from making matters worse is meaningless when the status quo is itself unsustainable. Moreover, the Executive Branch is responsible for the actual administration of government – they can’t be just a check on the other party, they’ve got to actually handle their affirmative responsibilities. Christie provided no indication of how he would handle those responsibilities, and no indication of how he would make our unsustainable situation sustainable. Daggett – and Lonegan, I jump to add – did.

                      All Christie provided, much like the rest of the GOP/mainstream conservative establishment on a national scale was some platitudes about “limited government.” Based on how mainstream conservatives have acted in recent years, it seems clear that their idea of “limited government” shares virtually nothing in common with mine. To me, the phrase “limited government” coming out of the mouth of a mainstream conservative in recent years seems to be synonymous with “larger, more powerful, and more intrusive government.” Now, welfare reform is significantly different. When a mainstream conservative spoke about welfare reform, there was usually no question or even any real reason to doubt what kinds of policies to which they were referring. A libertarian could have a good degree of faith that a conservative talking about “welfare reform” was probably talking about more or less the same thing as a libertarian speaking about “welfare reform.”

                      In essence, when folks like Paul Mulshine tried to get Christie to define what he meant by claiming to support limited government, the response he kept getting was something to the effect of “we’ll give you that answer tomorrow.” Tomorrow never came. That’s what the Mount Vernon Statement is – “We believe in limited government. We’ll tell you tomorrow what we mean by ‘limited government.'” These same folks have been saying this for the last 10, 20, and 30 years. Tomorrow still hasn’t come, but they keep expecting us to think that it will.

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                    • “I’ve said elsewhere that, at this precise moment in time, the GOP’s lack of any kind of agenda beyond “no” is more or less fine for purposes of [this? – ed] Congress.”

                      Then we agree on this much which is more than nothing.

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                    • “Our situation in NJ right now is completely FUBAR and unsustainable. Doing nothing but stopping the state Assembly Dems from making matters worse is meaningless when the status quo is itself unsustainable.”

                      I have a fair bit of sympathy for this. Blue-state Republicans are a frankly disappointing lot, or at least a bunch of them have been. Nonetheless, your rationalization for voting for that guy was pretty weak, what did he have, one poll with ~10% support?

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                    • “Based on how mainstream conservatives have acted in recent years, it seems clear that their idea of “limited government” shares virtually nothing in common with mine. To me, the phrase “limited government” coming out of the mouth of a mainstream conservative in recent years seems to be synonymous with “larger, more powerful, and more intrusive government.””

                      Really? I think it’s more the other way. Maybe I’m reading too much into what Erik has written here but I don’t think so. A self-described libertarian who is supporting the health care bill has a much bigger credibility issue wrt limited government than the GOP.

                      I don’t think much of energy has to do with limited government at all but the desire to repudiate the Hannity-Palin types who represent mainstream conservatives in America.

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                    • A few final points.
                      1. Erik’s not a self-described libertarian. I am, and I’m definitely opposed to the pending health care bill. Wyden-Bennett is a different story, though.
                      2. Daggett actually was consistently polling over 10% for the last two months of the campaign and some polls had him as high as 19%. He had endorsements from the overwhelming majority of newspapers in the state, including the Star-Ledger, with Christie a very distant second, and Corzine close behind Christie.

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            • “Also – I’m a proud Hayekian, not a Rothbardian.”

              If that’s the case, why can’t you get that this isn’t going to turn on what the GOP or the libertarians do as much as what the Americans do or want? And how the political establishment, be it GOP, Demo, libertarian, or whatever will relate to that?

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              • Which is why libertarians are trying to persuade Americans to move in their direction. But libertarians aren’t going to simply do as they’re told because somebody claims to believe what they believe despite a pattern of stabbing them in the back, severely, first chance he gets. “Why I Am Not A Conservative” remains a classic, even if Hayek eventually walked back from it. Especially the part about how libertarians’ alliance with conservatives must of necessity be temporary. His explanation as to why has proved prescient.

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                  • Please explain how “persuasion” is identical to “planning,” yet voting for people with a record of, well, actual central planning is not. Are you suggesting perhaps that libertarians should not only be quiet but also just not vote at all? That sounds very Nozickean to me (NTTAWT).

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                    • Please explain how “persuasion” is identical to “planning,”….

                      Of course I’m talking in context about libertarian (non)participation in political discourse. With those two qualifications in mind, we have to bear in mind that if we want to talk with the American people and be heard, we have to talk about what they care about, not necessarily what we want. Libertarians have never (like, decades) been able to adjust to the reality that the American people more or less don’t care about pet libertarian projects.

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                    • Hell, then why bring us on board?

                      “Areva derche!”, you can yell. “We never needed you anyway! We can install a system of compassionate conservativism and vigorous foreign policies! *REAL* American love those!!!”

                      And then, on the gossamer wings of real Americans who understand the way the world works, Conservatives can gently fly into majorities in the House and Senate and then into the White House.

                      Imagine the works you’ll be able to create!

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                    • “We can install a system of compassionate conservativism and vigorous foreign policies! *REAL* American love those!!!””

                      Maybe they do and maybe they don’t. Americans are available to engagement and persuasion, but we have to engage them on their terms. If you insist on talking about restoring the gold standard or banning no-knock search warrants, people quit listening.

                      Put another way, if you insist that low unemployment requires a return to the gold standard, it’s your affirmative burden to convince other people of that. If the other party doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about your train of thought, you have failed.

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                    • For the record, I’m not much of a goldbug (it’s more the “wage and price controls” thing that bugs me about Nixon). But that’s not really the point. Libertarians are trying to persuade people. People aren’t listening. That’s fine. The trouble is that Republicans keep saying that they’re persuaded on certain things (namely spending), but then do precisely the opposite when they get into power. The areas where they don’t claim to be persuaded? They pretty much do exactly what they say they’re going to do. At least the Democrats don’t actively make things worse on the handful of things where they claim to be persuaded. For that matter, these days they’re not even all that good at actively making things worse on the things where they don’t claim to be persuaded.
                      Point being, I still see no reason to believe that the Republicans are, in fact, less-bad than the Democrats on the whole. Individual Republicans may be less-bad than individual Democrats. I’ve even voted for them. Recently, in fact. Then again, there are individual Democrats who are less-bad than individual Republicans. I’ve even voted for them in the not-so-distant past.

                      But on the whole? I’ll take my chances with divided government or NOTA, thank you very much.

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                    • “For the record, I’m not much of a goldbug (it’s more the “wage and price controls” thing that bugs me about Nixon). But that’s not really the point. Libertarians are trying to persuade people.”

                      The gold standard was supposed to be a representative example of libertarian cul-de-sac, we could use something else instead. The larger point is, I disagree with you that libertarians are actually working to persuade anybody of anything in the way that I mentioned before.

                      The mainstream Right sometimes falls short as well, though at the moment is actually a decent job of engaging people’s real concerns.

                      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703382904575059860009418740.html
                      http://article.nationalreview.com/print/?q=M2VkYmI4NDcyOTMyZmQwOGZmZTkxMzkwODAzNmM2M2U=

                      The American people are substantially concerned about government overreach, both in terms of size and scope. The mainstream Right has real answers for them. Libertarians ought to, but don’t.

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                    • What answers is the mainstream Right actually providing? Have you not heard of the CATO Institute? Indeed, haven’t you regularly acknowledged that the mainstream Right isn’t providing any answers right now by expressing that “Party of No” is good enough?

                      Indeed, my complaint about the mainstream Right, and about this Mount Vernon statement in particular, is specifically that it doesn’t attempt to provide any actual answers. It just repeats the same boilerplate platitudes that we’ve been hearing for 40 years with no attempt to recognize that Republicans have done exactly nothing during that time period to act upon those statements. I will consider voting party-line Republican again when the party decides that the Paul Ryans and Jeff Flakes and Tom Coburns of the world are worthy of leadership positions rather than being people from whom the leadership distances itself.

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                    • The gold standard was supposed to be a representative example of libertarian cul-de-sac, we could use something else instead.

                      Maybe the Republicans could hammer harder on denying hospital visitation to homosexual couples and the importance of throwing people involved with medicinal marijuana production in accordance with state law into prison. Surely that will convince Libertarians of the rightness of their cause!

                      Or do you feel that those aren’t representative of Conservativism?

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                    • 1. We’re not “people in general.”
                      2. As we keep trying to point out, there’s no evidence whatsoever that the Republicans are materially significantly better than the Democrats on the stuff where they claim to have libertarian leanings – spending and economic intervention. The statistics are there – over the last 60 years, no combination has resulted in a more rapid expansion of the size of the federal government than when Republicans hold both the legislative and executive branches. That’s damning evidence that the Republicans aren’t even good for libertarians where they’re supposed to be good. Not that the Dems are any better, mind you – they’re just not worse, either.
                      http://reason.com/archives/2008/10/31/fear-of-a-unified-government

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                    • “What answers is the mainstream Right actually providing? Have you not heard of the CATO Institute? Indeed, haven’t you regularly acknowledged that the mainstream Right isn’t providing any answers right now by expressing that “Party of No” is good enough?”

                      Ahh, you’re making me nostalgic for Sen Phil Gramm. Who, while campaigning for President often reminded us that “No.” is an answer and as it applies to government programs is very often the correct answer. I would say that such is the case here, with a couple of tweaks.

                      Speaking of Cato, credit to them for this (especially considering that they are no special friend of the defense establishment IIRC):

                      http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2010/02/01/five-decades-of-federal-spending/

                      Clearly, anyone paying attention should see that our fiscal problems are not caused by runaway defense spending. Libertarians such as yourself who want to take defense down a peg or two for different reasons may have a case, but it’s a little disingenuous to think it’s a matter of restoring fiscal health.

                      Overall, it’s important to emphasize the overall context of this thread is conversation between mainstream conservatives, who have credibility on limited government, and Rothbard-style libertarians who don’t. Think is because we (the mainstream conservatives) have engaged with the mainstream of American political discourse for fifty years or whatever whereas this particular strand of libertarians have made a fetish of playing in their own sandbox.

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                    • “1. We’re not “people in general.”

                      Of course not, that’s (most of) the point. We as conservatives have credibility in the cause of limited government because we have engaged mainstream political discourse to that end, ie, “people in general”. Libertarians haven’t, and don’t.

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                    • I think my other response was supposed to go here. It’s one thing to say that bipartisan divided government is the “best” position to be in. But, it requires more control over the political process than we have to be certain (or even confident) of getting there. (Something a libertarian ought to appreciate)

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                    • “It just repeats the same boilerplate platitudes that we’ve been hearing for 40 years with no attempt to recognize that Republicans have done exactly nothing during that time period to act upon those statements.”

                      I dunno, we must be relating differently to certain things. For me, the conservative/Republican trophy cabinet isn’t bare: we have Reagan tax cuts in 1981, 1984, 1986, welfare reform in 1996, Gramm-Rudman, the Bush tax cuts and defeating Demo sponsored health care collectivization (hopefully) twice. All of that was accomplished through a long-standing alliance between mainstream conservatives and the GOP establishment. The libertarians weren’t really a factor in any of that except maybe the 1981 tax cuts. I can’t think of any big-ticket items libertarians have got any headway on where they weren’t associated with the broader Right in America.

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                    • “So you don’t need us then?”

                      We don’t know. Like I wrote in the other response that requires more knowledge of the future than we have (some libertarian you are). What we can say is that for the forseeable future, if the castle is going to be stormed, we’re going to be the ones who do it.

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                    • Have fun without us, then.

                      Oh, if you don’t happen to make it and you might have with our help and you want to know why we didn’t help?

                      It’s because we don’t believe Republicans mean it when they talk about fiscal conservativism… and were given no reason to believe that they learned a frigging thing from 2002-2006 nor from their losses in 2006 nor from their losses in 2008 and show every indication of reading the coming gains in 2010 being representative of the American people standing in lockstep with Big Government Conservativism Part II Electric Boogaloo rather than merely the American people throwing bums out again.

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                    • Oh, if you don’t happen to make it and you might have with our help and you want to know why we didn’t help?

                      This is a good bit past the point of political-cultural discourse, and into the realm of “tell me about your childhood.” As it happens my mother is in that business, so if you (or your insurance company) can afford $100/hr, I’d be happy to give you a referral.

                      There is one ancillary political-cultural point worth making. Overall shifts in political allegiance usually don’t come from dealmaking. That’s more for logrolling like dairy compacts and the rest of it. The sort of thing we’re talking about comes from modus vivendi, the perception of shared interest that doesn’t necessarily require quid pro quo.

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                    • “Shared Interest”.

                      This might be interesting if true. However, it sounds like a “why don’t you retards jump on board with us! We’re totally talking about the stupid shit you care about!”

                      And now you express surprise when we question whether you’re not lying just like last time.

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                    • “Oh, if you don’t happen to make it and you might have with our help and you want to know why we didn’t help?”

                      “However, it sounds like a “why don’t you retards jump on board with us! We’re totally talking about the stupid shit you care about!”

                      No no no. Either vote with us if you think it’s in your best interest or otherwise don’t. Whatever do you, don’t explain why you’re not voting Republican or what would have to happen before you vote Republican. I promise you I don’t care (unless you want a referral to a psychologist).

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                    • We’re back to that, then?

                      Yes. While I cannot claim to speak for Libertarians, I am under the distinct impression that the Republicans are lying (again) and, moreover, are not particularly different from Democrats.

                      If there’s a third party, I’ll vote for that one.

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  3. I have no problem with embracing and stating principles. What I have a problem with is governing without principles, and I don’t care about statements as much as I do action. If they start acting on these principles, I will applaud them.

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    • That is almost certainly the case. Based on my initial survey of the blogosphere, however, it looks like it’s not a terribly well-calculated move. If the core Tea Partiers are upset about anything, it’s about the conservative establishment’s willingness to appropriate limited government rhetoric and then do exactly the opposite the second they get a whiff of power. This utterly generalized and meaningless statement only reinforces that anger.

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      • This is one of the reasons that there is a general “throw-the-bums-out” sentiment. Many grassroots organizations and individual voters recognize that in order for there to be truly meaningful change in Washington, many of the professional politicians currently in office (and in appointed positions) need to be replaced with new blood. Voters who have had enough of big government, excessive spending, etc. know full well that both parties have been guilty of these when they are in power. As McCain’s more conservative opponent say: McCain talks conservative on the stump but legislates liberal on many issues. The same can be said of many Republicans.

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      • the conservative establishment’s willingness to appropriate limited government rhetoric and then do exactly the opposite the second they get a whiff of power.

        Mark, with the exceptions of Edwin Meese and Kathryn Lopez, everyone on the list is a functionary of one or another advocacy group. Miss Lopez is a journalist; Mr. Meese has not held public office since 1988. These folks are not responsible for the policy failures of Mr. Hastert et al except insofar as they were explicitly promoting bad policy. I tend to doubt Concerned Women for America lobbies for business subsidies.

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  4. The line “It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end” negates the actual principles of the Founders. Instead of a genuine return to conservatism, we get bumper sticker slogans and an endorsement of more nation-building, which will only lead to more pointless wars.

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  5. If the core Tea Partiers are upset about anything, it’s about the conservative establishment’s willingness to appropriate limited government rhetoric and then do exactly the opposite the second they get a whiff of power.

    I’m sorry but I think this misses the point entirely. It’s not that Republicans didn’t stick to their guns. It’s that we have a system when only sell-outs can get elected.

    A real free-market advocate who sticks to his principles will find his campaign coffers much lighter than s0meone who is willing to supress the free-market on account of wealthy vested interest.

    Even if they do what we want them to do and say “screw re-election, I’m doing the right thing”, they will just lose the next election to a sell-out who will just undo their accomplishments.

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  6. It amuses me when people take umbrage at a simple statement of principles.

    My reading of it is that it is a fundamental statement of constitutionalist belief. It is a starting point, not a comprehensive exploration of every issue or of past events. My impression is the authors aren’t going for a 2000-page universal address. They just want to reiterate and re-orient. I see nothing wrong with that. This isn’t the only similar document out there, but if it in particular serves as a rallying point for conservatives, more power to it.

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    • Imagine, if you will, the following:

      It’s 2013. Republicans have taken the House, Senate, and White House.

      Democrats start talking about stuff like “vote for us, we’ll reform health care and give the American People a single-payer plan that they *DESERVE*.”

      Can you imagine someone saying “WHAT THE (redacted) (redacted) YOU (redacted) (redacteds) HAD THE (redacted) HOUSE, (redacted) SENATE, AND PRESIDENT (redacted) OBAMA HIM(redacted)SELF AND YOU COULDN’T EVEN (redacted) GIVE US A (redacted) BILL WITH A (redacted) PUBLIC (redacted) OPTION!!!!”

      Is such a thing imaginable?

      Because, I posit, this is analagous to Republicans talking about fiscal restraint.

      It’s not the statement of principles as much as we know that the pigfuckers are lying through their teeth to us as they claim that they hold our principles. They don’t say these things because they believe them. They say these things because they know that we believe them.

      And *THAT* is what is infuriating.

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      • Well, I’m not one who trusts the professional politicians in Washington, regardless of their party. I subscribe to the “throw the bums out” and think less than 5% of Congress has any business being there. We need new, sensible, courageous, and principled blood in Washington, and it is up to the people to find some quality candidates who can challenge the entrenched politicos.

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  7. It was hard for me to read this line without hearing the voice of Homer Simpson: “Some insist that America must change, cast off the old and put on the new. But where would this lead — forward or backward, up or down?” Huh, Marge? Huh?

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  8. The statistics are there – over the last 60 years, no combination has resulted in a more rapid expansion of the size of the federal government than when Republicans hold both the legislative and executive branches.

    From 1933 to the present, the Republican Party has controlled both branches for a grand total of 5.5 years and had wafer thin margins in the House of Representatives most of that time. Please note, discretionary spending generally constitutes 40-45% of all federal expenditure.

    The current administration has proposed a federal budget for the fiscal year concluding on 30 Sept. 2011 which incorporates a level of federal expenditure 31% higher than that during the fiscal year concluding on 30 Sept. 2008. Nominal domestic product over that three year period might see an increase of 5%. Then again, it might not.

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    • That reminds me of a point I wanted to make in yesterday’s back-and-forth with Jaybird and Mark. That is, it’s certainly defensible and maybe even savvy to support bipartisan gridlock wherein one party controls the executive and the other party controls the legislature.

      But, that doesn’t mean it’s feasible. It’s never directly on the ballot ever, of course, and in the US is the same thing as voting straight Republican until 2012 at least. It’s a typical liberal mistake to think we have tighter control over the political process than we do. It’s a shame to see libertarians make the same mistake.

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      • Which brings us back to 2002-2006.

        Bringing up Coolidge as a datapoint is great. Is Silent Cal on the ballot? No? I’d be stuck with Huckabee/(Jeb) Bush?

        Yes, I’ll be voting Workers of the World Party instead, thanks. Or Prohibition. Or Objectivist. Or FRICKIN’ ANYBODY.

        Why?

        Because of 2002-2006.

        2002-2006 is representative of Republican rule.

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        • Didn’t you get the memo Jay? The universe did this little jump on New Years 2001; skipped straight through to 2008. Republicans never did anything against their principals and they have nothing to apologize for, especially not to the most abused leg of their three-legged stool. Libertarians should just accept the amusing temporal fluke, shake off the fever dreams of the time of Republican dominance that never actually happened and get back to the back of the bus. Repeat after Steel; Republicans are the party of fiscal discipline, Republicans are the party of fiscal discipline.

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  9. I argue theology from time to time.

    One of the things I do when I find myself totally lost is ask for a definition or a clarification question.

    Theology being theology, many times the definition or answer given is opaque to me. Could you explain that? Or, Could you rephrase that? Or, WHAT? is usually asked at that point.

    The most frustrating response I get is something like this:

    “I ALREADY ANSWERED THAT QUESTION.”

    Anyway, here’s a corner link from Bill Bennett in which he explains that the Republicans have already addressed their failings and it’s time to move on.

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YzM5OTJkYWE1ZTA5OTI1NWJiMjYwNDI4ZDg0NmQ3MGQ=

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