Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The conservative crack up. Yeah, yeah, yeah...

They have always been crazier than betsy-bugs. Are you really just now noticing? Damn, Fineman, just how NUTZ does a person have to be before you consider that they might just be certifiable.
By Howard Fineman
MSNBC contributor
Updated: 12:46 p.m. ET Oct. 12, 2005

Howard Fineman
MSNBC contributor

• E-mail
WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush may have no military exit strategy for Iraq, but the “neocons” who convinced him to go to war there have developed one of their own — a political one: Blame the Administration.

Their neo-Wilsonian theory is correct, they insist, but the execution was botched by a Bush team that has turned out to be incompetent, crony-filled, corrupt, unimaginative and weak over a wide range of issues.

The flight of the neocons — just read a recent Weekly Standard to see what I am talking about — is one of only many indications that the long-predicted “conservative crackup” is at hand.

The “movement” – that began 50 years ago with the founding of Bill Buckley’s National Review; that had its coming of age in the Reagan Years; that reached its zenith with Bush’s victory in 2000 — is falling apart at the seams.

In 1973, Karl Rove met George W. Bush, and became the R2D2 and Luke Skywalker of Republican politics. At first, neither was plugged into “The Force” — the conservative movement. But over the years they learned how to use its power.

By the time Bush was in his second term as governor, laying the groundwork for his presidential run, he and Rove had gathered all of the often competing and sometimes contradictory strains of conservatism into one light beam. You could tell by the people they brought to Austin.

To tie down the religious conservatives, they nudged John Ashcroft out of the race and conducted a literal laying on of hands at the governor’s mansion with leaders such as James Dobson.

For the libertarian anti-tax crowd, they brought in certified supply-sider Larry Lindsey as the top economic advisor.

For the traditional war hawks they brought in Paul Wolfowitz, among others, go get Bush up to speed on the world.

For the traditional corporate types – well, Bush had that taken care of on his own.

But now all the constituent parts are — for various reasons — going their own way. Here's a checklist:

Religious conservatives
The Harriet Miers nomination was the final insult. Religious conservatives have an inferiority complex in the Republican Party. In an interesting way, it’s the same attitude that many African-Americans have had toward the Democratic Party over the years. They think that the Big Boys want their votes but not their presence or their full participation.

And what really frosts the religious types is that Bush evidently feels that he can only satisfy them by stealth — by nominating someone with absolutely no paper trail. It’s an affront.  And even though Dr. Dobson is on board — having been cajoled aboard by Rove — I don’t sense that there is much enthusiasm for the enterprise out in Colorado Springs.


I expect that any GOP 2008 hopeful who wants evangelical support — people like Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum  and maybe even George Allen — will vote against Miers's confirmation in the Senate.

Corporate CEOs
For them, Bush’s handling of Katrina was, and remains, a mortal embarrassment to their class, which Bush is supposed to have represented — at least to some extent.

These are people who believe in the Faith of Management — in anticipating problems and moving mass organizations. They also like to think of themselves as having a social conscience. And even if they don’t, they are sensitive to world opinion.

The vivid images from the Superdome were just too much for these folks. Recently, a prominent Republican businessman, whom I saw in a typical CEO haunt, astonished me with the severity of his attacks on Bush’s competence. And Bush had appointed this guy to a major position! Amazing.


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