Postmodern Conservative

Stranger Than Fiction

I’m not up to commenting much on the strange events involving North Korea and Cuba. I don’t know that a tale of North Korean hackers bringing Sony to its knees over a bad movie that would have been in theaters for a mere couple of weeks would make a credible movie script. It is good to be reminded how vulnerable our country and our economy are to cyber-attacks. Now every patriotic American has to demand the right to suffer through the unfunny film so that the terrorists don’t win. 

Restoring relations with Cuba has divided the Republican coalition more than a bit. Two astute libertarians have told me, in fact, that it’s the best thing Obama has done. Well, it’s not the worst thing, I will admit. But as Krauthammer points out on the main NRO site, it’s not clear why we didn’t demand something — maybe a lot — in return. So in general, our country continues to look weaker, more vulnerable, and a bit ridiculous in the final two years of our president.

That’s not to say that Obama isn’t savvy enough to continue to display his tactical superiority over the the Republican congressional leaders.

I will also mention, in passing and without naming names, that I’ve come across two prominent libertarian legal scholars who explain that what the president did on immigration was constitutional. Despite their appeal to principle, the bottom line is he produced the policy outcome they desired. Individual rights trump limited government through the separation of powers. There’s a connection here to the libertarian scholars’ excessively activist view of judicial review.

Strange too is the Republican fatalism that marks many of the responses to Jeb Bush virtually entering the race for president.  So I only have to tweak somewhat what I speculated before.

Although no one wants him to be nominated, the conclusion is, he has an excellent chance. You wonder how that could be in a democracy. But, if memory serves, that’s not that distant from the way Bush the elder (soon to be eldest?) and his other son got nominated.

Already there’s the call for the party leadership (wherever they may be) to rally round early in the process a single credible alternative to Jeb. Unless the leaders can do that, Jeb can prevail with one mere plurality after another in primaries with a large and diverse field of candidates. Nobody knows how to make said rallying happen. Maybe after the winnowing process has taken out every opponent but one, Jeb will be swamped in the final showdown. And maybe not, given that the other last man standing may well be ill equipped to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.

Pete and I, of course, define “the base” differently. I mean the regular guys I meet at Panera and on various social occasions who vote Republican. They were all, last time, for anyone but Romney. They will this time be for anyone but Bush, although some wouldn’t want Rand Paul either.

My own view, let me repeat, is that the other last man will most likely be Paul, and he will be so equipped. And I will have been tricked into voting for Jeb myself, with many establishment and base Republicans. I assume that the primary electorates will be enhanced in RP’s favor by voters neither establishment nor base. I could be wrong on this, but I’m thinking in terms of a candidate who generates energy and inspires enthusiasm.

Turning to the Democrats, Carl’s gut tells him that a charismatic candidate will rise from the streets to take out the has-been HRC. That could happen, but I don’t know right now who that candidate might be. David Brooks thinks that Elizabeth Warren might win; I’m not convinced, despite the ways David talked her up, that there’s that much there there. The main evidence for Clinton’s possible defeat is that her family is actually more loathed by leading Democrats than the Bushes are by leading Republicans. Once blood is smelled, she might be torn apart.

Common sense tells us, maybe, that a free and democratic country won’t torture itself with the depressing choice between two old people from families most Americans would rather forget about for now.

But the choice between HRC and RP would be, for me, far more depressing still. The choice between EW and RP, which would be both wacky and scary, can’t be ruled out.

As Glenn Reynolds says, Bush is a nice man who would be a better president than Obama. And more than one distinguished political scientist (including one we all know and love) has told me that Jeb might be much better than better than Obama. That doesn’t mean that Glenn or much of anyone else wants him to be nominated. Almost anyone else would be better.

Pete and Yuval, for now, don’t seem to have a candidate.  They sure deserve one.

Peter Augustine Lawler — Peter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...

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