The Corner

re: Guns, Babies, Taxes

Sure, I’ll bite. Conservatives have universally coalesced around anti-Communism and the concept of “Peace Through Strength.” Beyond that, there is little agreement on what is the “conservative” view of national defense.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush ran on a platform of (1) no nation-building, and (2) less foreign military involvement. This was after the embassy bombings and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. It was days before the U.S.S. Cole incident, but Bush did not announce a change of platform after it happened. His campaign advisor, Condi Rice, famously accused Al Gore of wanting to get America involved in other nations’ civil wars. I didn’t think that made Bush a liberal in 2000, any more than his decision to invade Iraq makes him conservative.

What we have — or at least had at one point — is a post-9/11 pragmatism on national defense. Every reasonable person wants to stop the terrorists, yet there is increasing disagreement as to how it should be done. Many liberals (including Hillary Clinton and the pro-war John Kerry of 2002) have found consensus with pro-war conservatives in this pragmatism, and I don’t think they are or were less liberal for it — just more hawkish. (Of course, many of them have proven themselves political opportunists who only supported the war because of the upcoming election, but that’s another matter.)

The contemporary question of pre-emptive war, as Mark Hemingway pointed out here recently and I think correctly, has no univocal conservative answer. You might call Ron Paul “wrong” or even “crazy” for any number of reasons (I do so wish he’d stop talking about the gold standard and appearing on the Alex Jones Show), but I wouldn’t say that he or Walter Jones (R-N.C.) or Jim Duncan (R-Tenn.) are less conservative for opposing the Iraq War.

Keynesian economics, on the other hand — that’s an easy tax issue, at least to the extent that it is ever discussed by politicians and not hard-core economists. Supply-side conservatives believe in marginal-rate tax cuts that spur private-sector investment and job growth. Keynesians want to manage the economy by using infusions of government spending to spur growth, which effectively increases the tax burden on the national economy. At best, Keynesians offer piddling tax rebates (not at the margins) so that consumers will go out and spend the money.

So anyway — Guns, Babies, Taxes — I’d never heard it either before I came here, but that’s often the first question to be asked when a congressional candidate comes to town looking for conservative groups’ support.

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