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Old Ideas in New Packaging?
Yep — and it's OK by me.


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Jonah Goldberg

Well, that was interesting.

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We’ve got a new Republican Party on our hands. I don’t know for sure whether I will like it more or less. I never wanted government to feel my pain in the first place, I only wanted it to feel my boot in its ass. But Bush made a good case last night for his compassionate conservatism, probably the best case yet. The Democrats say it’s a Trojan Horse for mean Gingrich conservatism. I fear it might be conservative coating around the sickly sweet placebo of Clinton liberalism. But I am certainly willing to give GW the benefit of the doubt.

And so, it seems, are the Democrats. Throughout the week Democratic spinners — including the President of the United States, who has demeaned the office yet again in his role as Pundit-In-Chief for the Gore campaign — whined like Sid Blumenthal without a puppy to kick. They complained that Republicans were “blurring” the GOP record. They said Republicans had, in Hillary’s words, “amnesia” about the last decade. This from the woman who says “I don’t recall” first and answers questions, much, much, much later. Democrats assured the voters that they won’t let the Republicans run away from their record, etc. Personally, I don’t think there’s much of substance the Republicans should run away from. They screwed up a few times tactically, but the principles of the Republican Party in the 1990s were the right principles.

Nevertheless, the Democrats’ hysteria about the GOP’s blurring effort is proof that the Republicans are doing it successfully. Though they will never say it, the outrage is very similar to the anger that comes when the opposing team steals your playbook. Democrats are apoplectic because the Republicans appear to be doing very much what the Democrats did in 1992. Let us recall that Bill Clinton ran as a “different kind of Democrat.” His hysterically silly “Third Way” philosophy explicitly says it rejects, but actually doesn’t, the false choices of the left and the right. Bill Clinton executed Ricky Ray Rector, he pronounced the era of big government over, he attacked Sister Souljah, and on and on. Bill Clinton dragged his party to the Right — because he knew that was the only way he could win in both 1992 and 1996. The idea that Bill Clinton has core principles has been pretty much debunked. But he does have core desires, and that was enough for him to do what was necessary for the Democratic Party to take back and hold the White House in 1992.

The difference, of course, was that the Democrats had to make themselves seem tougher, not more compassionate. George W. Bush recognizes that the Republican Party needs to change its image in the other direction. So he talks about not leaving children behind and all the rest (couldn’t we leave just a couple kids behind? You know, some really fat slow ones who constantly complain?).

The Democrats are furious because they know this strategy could work for the Republicans — and did work for the Democrats. I have a similar fear. I think the Republicans don’t need to move to the left on any major policy issues, and most certainly not on affirmative action and the rest. President Clinton says that the GOP is offering voters a “pretty package” which has the same old policies inside. I sincerely hope so. The idea, for example, that it is racist to be color blind is one of the most perverse notions the left has ever tried to impose on the American people.

But if W. is the man of conviction he appears to be — and he certainly is an honorable man, from an honorable family — then I don’t particularly mind the new packaging. In fact I welcome it. If he’s the sort of salesman who can sell the old product in a new way, so that new constituencies understand that conservatism is not, and has not been, racist or greedy and the rest, then more power to him. As Newt Gingrich, a man with some great ideas but a deeply flawed salesman of them, said last night, “If he lives that speech out over the next 8 years, we will have truly changed the world.”

DEAR READERS
During the week of the Republican National Convention, National Review Online posted 85 web-exclusive convention articles (if you include the Convention Diaries and non-convention material we exceeded 100 web-only articles). Quantitatively, I think that puts us very close to the top of the list for all web-enterprises. Qualitatively, I am certain that made us the indisputable, indispensable source on the web.

Personally I am exhausted. But I am even more grateful to the whole NR gang who worked harder and better than I ever did. This was very much a team effort, led by Rich Lowry, and it would not have been possible without the exemplary work of the whole NR gang, including, most of all, the staff in NYC. This was the best week NRO ever had, traffic-wise, and we don’t plan on turning back. If you would like to see some of the work we did, it will be recapped and highlighted over the weekend. We’d love it if you came by and caught up on the stuff you might have missed. Anyway, we will be trying to do it all over again at the Democratic convention. Our editorial approach will be a bit different, as we couldn’t be nearly as welcome amidst a crowd that believes Alec Baldwin can count beyond his allotment of fingers and toes. But we look forward to being a truth squad while there.

Have a great weekend.



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