First I have a great respect for Mr. Frum, hope
he will post more on sites such as Huffington,
and hope he will urge his conservative friends
to be more open and tolerant to progressive
views in their world.
The problem is, the Republican government
in Washington bears no resemblance to the
core principles of conservatism. In many ways
Bushism and Cheneyism have violated cardinal
rules of principled conservatism with great harm
to the nation and, I predict, great harm to true conservatism and the
Bushism involves a violation of the central tenet
of conservatism and has become a new form
of Big Government super-statism. In many
respects Bushism is more akin to French style
Gaullism than American style conservatism:
big government with centralized power.
It violates classic conservatism and as well as
liberalism, for an all powerful executive to claim the unilateral and
inherent power to violate the constitutional and to violate Federal
Some conservatives, but far too few, have
protested this extreme attitude which is an American version of
neo-Gaullism, and threatens time honored notions of separation
of powers and the rule of law that conservatives
once held dear.
Bushism involves an extreme violation of the
core idea of libertarian conservatism and the
core notions of the right to protection against
intrusion from the centralized super-state.
Any expert on national security would agree
that there are needs and mechanisms to review and refom FISA. This
should be a respectful process involving both parties and three branches
of government. It is not a
conservative philosophy for a centralized
superstate of executive power, to make
broad deviations from constitutional practice
with one party, in one branch of government, operating in secret.
The President and Republican Congress have
made a mockery of the core conservative idea
of fiscal conservatism and budgetary prudence.
They have become the ideology of the deficit
and debt: budget deficits, current account
deficits, trade deficits, and increasing national
debt. Bill Clinton's fiscal practices were far
more responsible and far more akin to the
traditional conservative idea. It was Bill
Clinton's policies that created a budget surplus
and were vehemently attacked by the right,
and Bush's policies that brought back debt,
and were proudly support by the right.
The President and Republican Congress then
violated various core ideas of free enterprise,
creating a K Street Project that distorted all
policy through a new form of racketeering
that bound together lobbying-political money-
government appropriations. While corrupting
the political system, the result was corrupting
budget, fiscal, appropriations and debt policy
which corrupted the small government and
fiscally conservative notions disastrously.
The recent Congressional page scandal then
corrupted the moral stature of conservative
and faith based values. Following rampant
and repeated indictable scandals, hardly the
vision of conservatism, Congressional leaders
obviously speak with forked tongue and put
institutional self-protection ahead of protection
of pages and fundamental moral values.
Many so-called conservative religious leaders
could not find it within themselves to take
strong principled moral positions on the page
scandal, but engaged in evasions that put
partisan interests ahead of pure moral values.
Not to mention the countless scandals that
violate conservative notions of government,
yet when the former Chairman of the House
Ethics Committee was forced out because
he was too committed to enforcement, the
conservatives went right along cheerfully.
The abusive political treatment of gays by
Republicans, including certain gay Republicans
who should know better, violates core notions
of privacy and core values of tolerance. It
is one thing to philosophically oppose gay
marriage, if that is one's position, but to use
preference to demonize a segment of the
population as a punching bag, is disgracefully
violative of fundamental conservative ideas.
Regarding Iraq, the simple fact is, on issue
after issue, time after time, neoconservatives
and conservatives in civilian positions of power
demonstrated substantial disrespect for the
advice of commanders. Time and time again
those who advocated the Iraq war the hardest
respected the opinion of commanders the least.
Military commanders advised against many of
these policies, wanting larger forces, wanting
substantial reconstruction plans, wanting more
equipment and supplies for troops, wanting more diplomatic and political
with military policies.
Conservatives should have been up in arms,
as I and others have been for several years,
when there were shortages of body armor,
fortified vehicles, bandages, helmets and other
vital needs for troops. Conservatives should
be ashamed for opposing initiatives to provide
these things for troops because they were
proposed by Democrats.
Conservatives should have been up in arms, at the disrespectful
treatment of General Shinseki and many others and, should have been up
in arms, when General Garner said he did not have the tools for
reconstruction to do the job
he was assigned.
Conservatives should have been up in arms
when Republican political operatives were
assigned to Iraq Reconstruction rather than
business leaders or development expertts.
What kind of conservative capitalism is this?
Conservatives should have been up in arms
when corruption, fraud and waste plagued
the Reconstruction program and conservatives
should have been up in arms, but were not,
by war profiteering run rampant. What kind
of conservative fiscal responsiblity is this?
The conduct of this war, whether the war was
right or wrong, violated almost every cardinal
tenet of conservatism as well as common
sense. Disrespect for commanders; lack of
supplies for troops; corruptions of capitalism;
waste of taxpayer money; outright violations
of law and order; the list goes on.
Finally, in this short list, conservatives should
never allow the use of war for shallow and
vindictive partisan purposes. Conservatives
should never put the partisan interests of a
political party ahead of the national interest
for national unity, which serves the military
interest of the troops and the mission. But
I do not impute all of these views to Mr. Frum;
I do impute all of these actions and violations
of conservatism and common sense to the
political party and government program he
supports. And I do suggest that a major
reason for the calamities of the policy result
from the unwilingness of conservatives to
apply true principles of conservatisim, and
the primacy for many of them, for political
power above core values.
Finally, and I will receive some critical comment
here, I have long been willing to work with
conservatives and Republicans and hope
that after this election, both parties will reach
for national unity.
This will involve willingness by the President on
matters such as new diplomatic intiatives,
three branches of government fully involved
in FISA eavesdropping, an all-party consensus
against actions commonly accepted to be
torture. It will involve bringing mainstream
Democrats into the center of war making
policy, which previous Presidents have done,
which this president has disastrously refused
to do, in return for Democrats taking ownership of a more viable policy,
worked out together.
Additionally, there is no reason that leading
conservatives, liberals and leaders of both
parties cannot agree on new initiatives such
as non-military support for those advocating
democracy in Iran such as women, workers,
students and others. And new initiatives on
global warming, Darfur, and international
nuclear non-proliferation, to name a few.
Fundamentally, Lord Acton was right; power
corrupts. I worked for the House Democratic
Leadership when Democrats had full power,
and Democrats learned the same hard lesson
that Republicans will learn. It is not about
party; it is about human nature; though abuses
in recent years on matters such a torture and
claims of inherent presidential powers have
taken America to places we should not go.
Conservatives have always talked about
taking responsiblity for actions and results,
and the refusal to honor this tenet accounts
for much of the failure of policy today, and
much of the public disgust with politics today.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
It is time for change.