Conservative Epiphany Watch

John Cole goes there and switches his party registration:

Long story short, I got up there to register as an independent, said “Fuck it,” and now I am a Democrat. I certainly don’t agree with all their positions, but they are not bat-shit crazy like the GOP. That has to count for something. Additionally, I no longer have to read posts by the 24% crowd calling me a “true conservative” with quotes o’sarcasm (you know who they are). Not any more, bitches. I repudiate you, your party, and whatever the fuck it is you are currently pretending is “conservatism.” It isn’t.

Now send me my check from Soros and the 40 virgins.

Reagan and Race

There are two memes that attempt to tar Ronald Reagan with many of the toxins that now infect mainstream Republican politics, especially the issues of AIDS and race. Reagan’s AIDS record was far from perfect, and his long silence on the matter inexcusable. But the idea that Reagan should have been the ideal spokesman to reach gay men and their sexual practices in the 1980s – which was the primary means for restraining the epidemic – seems to me to be far-fetched. And anyone with a faint acquaintance with the science of restraining a retrovirus like HIV knows that the idea that the feds could have crashed a cure or effective treatment in Reagan’s term is a fantasy. But the race issue has also been cited many times, in particular his first campaign speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, which has been interpreted as a wink and a nod at Southern racism. Bruce Bartlett has a fascinating post up on that very speech, its context and timing. Having read Bruce’s post, I’m inclined to agree with Kevin Drum that Reagan got a (slightly) "bum rap" on that speech. But make your own mind up.

America Fights Back

Whenever I have gotten too depressed about what has happened to this country these past few years, it helps to recall that almost all the abuses of decency, justice and transparency under the Bush administration have been exposed by many decent, professional individuals within the government itself. For every Geoffrey Miller, there has been an Ian Fishback. For every David Addington, there has been a Jack Goldsmith. And there have been some surprises: three cheers for John Ashcroft, for example, a man I often derided, but whose integrity has shone brightly under the more exacting light of history.

Many of those resisting what has gone on have been conservatives in the best sense of the word: good public servants dedicated to the rule of law. I hate to cite Bill Clinton, but he did put it best: almost everything that’s wrong with America can be fixed by what’s right in America. Among these: the career military lawyers, the JAGs, and the military judges at Gitmo and elsewhere who have often fought the injustice and inhumanity sanctioned by Bush and Cheney under circumstances far more onerous than some well-paid blogger. Here’s a quote Scott Horton found from a Gitmo judge, criticizing the kangaroo courts that Cheney and Rumsfeld constructed for terror suspects:

The members of al-Qaeda may or may not ‘deserve’ trials in a time-tested and jurisprudentially sound forum. However, the world-respected reputation of United States criminal courts has not been built nor maintained for the benefit of any evil person . . . The use of an established court system at this critical time should not be viewed as an action on behalf of accused terrorists, but rather as a representation to needed international partners that the course of our ship of state is steady, and properly charted for the rough waters ahead.

Know hope.

An Ex-Libertarian

Glenn Reynolds comes out of the closet and says he’s no longer a libertarian. After four years of his defending or ignoring every abuse of government power under the Bushies, this is hardly a surprise. But the caricature of many freedom-lovers offered by Stephen Green is silly. Yes, the more doctrinaire libertarians are too wedded to ideology and unable or unwilling to look at the empirical world and make adjustments. No sane freedom-lover would, in my view, believe that 9/11 changed nothing. Of course, it required sacrifices of liberty. What it did not require was the permanent suspension of habeas corpus, the transformation of the executive branch into a de facto extra-legal protectorate, the breaking of laws by the president, the authorization of torture, warrantless wiretapping, a war based on intelligence that simply wasn’t there, and a ramping up of the drug war. Those are the policies that Glenn Reynolds, by silence or active support, has enabled. I’m relieved that he no longer even identifies as a libertarian. It helps clear the air.

“Effective Liberty”

Two of the most chilling words you’ll ever hear. Crooked Timber wants the government policing speech to protect minorities. At last they’re honest about the true agenda of the left. Notice this isn’t about "hate-crimes". It’s about "hate-speech." But the motivation behind hate-crime laws – a loathing of liberty and group-think victimology – is still out there. To make my own position clear: The elimination of bigotry is not a legitimate role of government. In fact, bigotry is a right, a basic freedom, as intrinsic to freedom as freedom of religion and speech. Once you start deciding what speech is or is not acceptable, we no longer live in a free society. We live in a tyranny – where Crooked Timber and the benign left will call the shots and enforce their orthodoxy.

If you’re interested in my 1999 New York Times Magazine essay, "What’s So Bad About Hate," it’s available in full here. Those newish readers who now think I’m some sort of lefty because of my opposition to Bush’s incompetence, fiscal recklessness, and authoritarianism might realize upon reading it that I’m still a proud conservative, fighting a for a tradition today’s Republicans, more than anyone else, have attacked and defiled.

Betrayal

More confirmation of how deeply Bush, Cheney and Rove have destroyed core conservative principles:

Bush’s super-spending is about far more than defense and homeland security. Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, points to education spending. Adjusted for inflation, it’s up 18 percent annually since 2001, thanks largely to Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.

The 2002 farm bill, he said, caused agriculture spending to double its 1990s levels. Then there was the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit — the biggest single expansion in the program’s history — whose 10-year costs are estimated at more than $700 billion.

And the 2005 highway bill, which included thousands of “earmarks,” or special local projects stuck into the legislation by individual lawmakers without review, cost $295 billion. “He has presided over massive increases in almost every category … a dramatic change of pace from most previous presidents,” said Slivinski.

Absolute Power And Conservatism

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"John Yoo works at one of the most prestigious think-tanks in the United States: the American Enterprise Institute. He is absolutely sincere in believing that the executive branch can over-ride any domestic law, Tcs2 any international treaty and any moral boundary if necessary to protect national security. In a war on terror that stretches decades into the future, the new conservatism allows for a president with no checks at all on his own power as commander-in-chief. What might have once been a theoretical debate became a pressing reality. And within weeks of this new legal doctrine being expressed, military detainees under the control of American forces were being tortured – consciously, with pre-meditation, with legal cover provided. America went from being a constitutional republic, under the law, to an imperium of one man, answerable only to an election every four years, empowered to break any law and violate any moral law if he believes it is necessary for national security. If conservatism had begun as a political philosophy designed to check power, to ensure individual liberty, to protect individuals from lawless government authority, it ended in a dark room, with a defenseless detainee strapped to a board, terrified beyond most of our imagining. " – The Conservative Soul, Chapter Four, now out in paperback.

(Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty.)

Ron Paul On Marriage

Conservative sanity, compared with fundamentalist panic:

Well, if you believe in federalism, it’s better that we allow these things to be left to the state. My personal belief is that marriage is a religious ceremony. And it should be dealt with religiously. The state really shouldn’t be involved. The state, both federal and state-wise, got involved mostly for health reasons 100 years or so ago.

But this should be a religious matter. All voluntary associations, whether they’re economic or social, should be protected by the law. But to amend the Constitution is totally unnecessary to define something that’s already in the dictionary.

We do know what marriage is about. We don’t need a new definition or argue over a definition and have an amendment to the Constitution. To me, it just seems so unnecessary to do that. It’s very simply that the states should be out of that business, and the states — I mean, the states should be able to handle this. The federal government should be out of it.

Giuliani’s position – that there should be a federal amendment not if DOMA falls but if more states decide to adopt marriage equality – is befuddling. If you allow one state to try the reform, why is there a numerical limit on how many you’re going to allow? Does it matter if a state decides to do it by legislative action rather than by the courts? And what if it’s a combination, as in Massachusetts, where the legislature and governor have now upheld the reform initially dictated by the court? Is federalism okay until a critical mass of states moves in one direction? Or is Rudy making this up as he goes along?