The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Republicanologist

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels at C-PAC in 2011 (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

Tim Alberta is the chief political correspondent for Politico. Before that, he worked for National Review, National Journal, and other august publications. He originally planned on being a baseball writer. But now he covers another game, and superbly.

He is the author of the book that everyone’s buzzing about: American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump. He and I talk about it on Q&A, here.

We go over the personalities, of course: Trump, Pence, Newt, Rudy, more. And we go over some history — recent history that somehow seems ancient.

Remember the Tea Party? The grassroots movement that agitated for fiscal discipline and constitutional propriety? That seems as old as the Peloponnesian War, to me. Paul Ryan was considered a hero — the Great Conservative Hope. The Dodd-Frank Act was considered a grievous blow to America.

Dodd-Frank! Does anyone object to the ham-stringing of business now? Really and truly?

Tim tells a tale of two C-PACs — or rather, two speeches at one C-PAC in 2011. Donald Trump gave a speech (see it here). It was very well received. Mitch Daniels, then the governor of Indiana, gave another speech. It was less well received.

His speech was on “the new Red Menace” — not Communism but red tape. Debt. It would eventually undermine American greatness, Daniels said. (See or read the speech here.)

George Will introduced Daniels on the occasion. Can you imagine Will, or Daniels, at C-PAC today? At a Trumpalooza? The American Right is transformed, all can agree, whether they like it or not.

Just recently, the White House announced that the federal budget deficit will soon be north of a trillion. The national debt is now at $22.5 trillion. Entitlements remain unreformed — no one even talks about the issue. And have you seen the latest budget deal between Congress and the White House?

“Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore,” Rush Limbaugh told his radio listeners the other day. So true, certainly as a generality. “All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.” Well, we can hope that is true. Maybe we conservatives have been nothing but Chicken Littles, generation after generation.

Reagan used to quip, “I don’t worry about the budget deficit. It’s big enough to take care of itself.”

Back to Tim Alberta and American Carnage. He has written a book that is both entertaining and wise. It’s like candy to read, but nutritious. And Tim is a wonderful interviewee, a wonderful personality, as you can hear on our Q&A — again, here.

At the end, he takes a shot at my football team (the Jim Harbaugh–led University of Michigan). (Tim is a Michigan State Spartan.) I am quietly burning over this, looking forward to the kickoff of the new season . . .

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