Bill Bennett on Glenn Beck's CPAC Speech/Reestablishing Principle?
I was asked recently what I thought of Bill Bennett’s National Review blog saying Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech was wrong. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know that as I read Bennett’s comments, I had reactions spouting one after another. In light of my first reaction, I should say that I like Bill Bennett whom I don’t know, as Bennett says he likes Beck, whom he does know. But that first reaction was that Bennett’s remarks sounded like a sobered Democrat, which he is, just as was Ronald Reagan who voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt four times. That’s great. Sobriety is a fine and helpful thing, which is not exactly inconsistent with what Beck was saying at CPAC. I’ve never had a liberal or even a Democratic impulse. (Democrats were frankly very different when I was young, and I don’t consider things like feeding hungry children to be liberal impulses.) I said before that Beck was not elaborate in recognizing that Republicans have acknowledged that when they were in power, they fell into the easy path of greasing their constituents with favors, which was especially easy while there was economic growth. Unlike what Democrats are suggesting, most of Bush’s tenure was not economic discomfort, and in fact, the financial profligacy only caught up with us after Democrats had taken Congress. Though he wasn’t principled in controlling spending and he gladly wore the badge of the “ownership society” that came from bullying the financial industry into careless lending, Bush catching all of the blame for the current bad economy is sort of the flip side of Clinton getting credit for a healthy economy and balancing the budget after Republicans had taken Congress in 1994.
Another reaction is to note the irony which Bennett specifically pointed out, that it was McCain who said that Republicans had lost their way. And McCain is one whom Beck has remarked on particularly harshly as a “progressive.” It was even McCain that Beck was referencing at CPAC who had said that Teddy Roosevelt was his hero. McCain is not philosophically clear and doesn’t follow people that way. But, I supported him because he is a spending hawk who didn’t even support Bush’s Medicare expansion and he has never voted for a tax hike, even though McCain-Feingold (which Bush signed, by the way) was unconstitutional. Tom Coburn, who is one of the 2 or 3 most conservative US Senators, supported McCain enthusiastically.
But, of course Beck doesn’t think Republicans and Democrats are the same, particularly the specific ones Bennett noted. He said he had always voted Republican. But, it is true that many Republicans are, if more modest about applying them, infected with the same Keynesian reflexes that have nearly enveloped Western politics for the past 75 years. Only a relative few would renounce that. A lot of “conservative” Republicans and economists supported both TARP and some “stimulus,” if not quite so large and poorly directed one as the Democrats passed. And, only Reagan in 1982 had no impulse to “stimulate” the economy with spending a recession. I’m not sure if we can eradicate such an impulse that is so deeply ingrained in all of their education.
All of my life, I heard that Roosevelt’s New Deal saved us from The Great Depression…after about 13-14 years and a war. It really didn’t. It protracted The Depression. Roosevelt won 4 elections by sweet-talking people on the radio. Obama can’t do that. He has had a rough first year, and probably won’t get a second term if the economy doesn’t turn up. And, I can’t see why it would, though much of the media will be playing “Happy Days Are Here, Again,” if unemployment drops below 9%. But at some point in the next 2-3 years, hopefully before November 2012, I think things are going to get a lot worse: a LOT worse. If that doesn’t purge those foolish ideas, nothing will. In fact, it will force us to change more than our ideas: I think we’re talking about major social restructuring.
And, I’m thinking that would be a good thing. I’m getting a little older and I’m disabled and grounded, so it isn’t holding me back from conquering the world. But, I think we have lost the fuel of a pure enough liberty to optimize human potential and production. Even more than just for the sake of our progeny, I think we owe it to mankind and to God to demonstrate the potential of free people. I think we need a domain that respects liberty. And, given that the US has fairly shattered the limitations of The Constitution that were only explicit in the 9th and 10th Amendments’ reserving non-enumerated powers to the states and people, I think a new expression is required that is insistent and indubitable about federal limitations, like a big red stop sign. States should be the social laboratories. Free people can be plenty voracious, too. So, I think we also need such a free domain constrained by a virtuous Judeo-Christian ethic. That has also largely faded. Some will protest. Fine. Set up another one to compete, perhaps in another state, and good luck with that. One thing I’m certain about: a society that follows the European prototype that bleeds away liberty, privacy, and the virtue of respect for God will be in a race to see if it devours itself before it is devoured from the outside. Like I said, I won’t be marching at the front of a parade, so I’ll just try to sound my alarm like a watchman on a cyber-wall.