Posted by Adam @ 7:54 am on November 4th 2008

John McCain for President

I have not, for reasons various, for some time been able to commit effort to writing many blog posts, let alone something requiring the care and attention of an endorsement; whilst this has undoubtedly been a considerable relief for the readers, I thank my fellow bloggers for carrying my dead weight.

Regarding my endorsement, however, I stand by what I wrote for the Primaries endorsement of John McCain (found in this post), because, despite the frantic and apparently unforgiving nature of the campaign, I still believe it. Lightly edited (thanks Brad!), here it is:

Marrying Efficacy with Integrity

Perhaps the most important lesson of the 2000 election – which took
place at a time when things were, in general, pretty damn good – and
the 9 years that have followed it is that there is never a time when
electing the President is unimportant. As a corollary of this, we should never
convince ourselves that now, this moment, is somehow uniquely special
in its importance, that we need a special candidate now, that
circumstances are sufficiently exceptional to short-circuit the normal
decision-making criteria.

The President should be picked for competence and the correct
positions on the whole range of issues that may confront him or her.
We can’t know which will be the most important issues during the
course of the presidency – if we could, we could just vote on those
issues directly, now, and put a computer in charge – so we have to
select a candidate with the fullest range of abilities and correct
opinions. the candidate who, for the reasons discussed
above, should be President, is John McCain.

A strong case for McCain himself can be made based
on the situational politics that dominate much of the campaigning in
this, and every, election cycle; the immigration bill, on which McCain
bravely held the correct position, shows the need for a candidate of
McCain’s vision. The promising early results from the ‘surge’, an
effort that McCain had been calling for and which he supported despite
the political risk, illustrate his moral and strategic robustness, as
did his earlier, entirely correct, criticism of administration
incompetence in the administration of the effort in Iraq. Indeed,
these examples clearly do illustrate McCain’s intrinsic worth, but to
tie ourselves to the observation that McCain is the best candidate to
deal with current concerns over Iraq, immigration, economy or growing
protectionism is to obscure the most important fact that McCain is the
best candidate for dealing with the potentialities which will define
any President’s success or failure.

A further temptation to eschew is the temptation to list why you
should not support the other candidates; I believe that a
well-informed reader will see where the other candidates are deficient
as we proceed with the discussion of the qualities that make McCain
the best candidate for President.

The principal areas which we shall discuss are political positions,
competence and character. These are the essential intrinsic parameters
to consider in judging a candidacy.

John McCain is a supporter of free trade and an opponent of subsidies;
McCain understands that free trade, with its competitive environment,
brings out the best in the participants, which enriches us all. McCain
understands that a free trade in labour is also an essential component
of free trade; he has avoided the populist rabble-rousing of the
immigration restrictionists and kept his bearings amidst wild
accusations and specious attacks by make-believe conservatives. John
McCain has opposed torture when the party base have turned a
sanctimonious blind eye and he understands that the benefits of
upholding moral standards are worth the consequent difficulties. John
McCain, furthermore, has understood the importance of American
influence abroad and has steadfastly supported the position that the
US must bear responsibility for its actions regardless of short-term
pain and handwringing from emotionally-mastered idealists. Time and
again, John McCain has taken the authentic conservative
position on issues regardless of emotive appeals to parochialism, fear
and partisanship.

John McCain has been one of the most successful members of the US
Senate. In a venomous and divided DC environment, McCain has been able
to find compromises to further legislation based on sound logic,
despite kneejerk partisanship and demagoguery from Senate colleagues
of both parties. John McCain can set aside past and current
differences, finding and shielding allies along the way, to pursue the
legislation that the nation needs. Indefatigable, John McCain keeps
working until the debate shifts; rather than changing his position to
suit current popular, but fallacious, positions. McCain has stayed
true to conservative values even whilst the party has lost its way;
the ‘maverick’ label does not just reflect McCain’s steadfastness in
the face of perfidious Republican short-termism but also reminds us
that the Republican party, if it is to remain the party most aligned
with conservative values, needs McCain’s leadership. John McCain the
president will not be a signatory to a free-wheeling partisan
boondoggle nor an angry irrelevance unable to work with Congress;
McCain has successfully threaded the needle of being both an effective
and a principled politician and I have faith that he will
continue to do so as President.

Finally, John McCain is a man of great character. Whilst it is
generally hard to judge the worth of the candidate as a man or woman,
due to the relatively unexceptional circumstances in which most
happily live their lives, during his imprisonment in Vietnam John
McCain was put to a test more extreme than the vast majority of people
will ever experience. As is well-known, McCain acquitted himself in
the most honourable and courageous manner possible despite facing
terrible privation and the chance to defensibly escape it whilst
leaving others behind; it should not reflect poorly on the other
candidate that they have never faced such a test of their fibre, but
it shows us the intrinsic value of John McCain the man,
giving us the best possible foundation for faith that he will, as
President, do what is right regardless of how much personal harm he
may suffer as a result.

Other candidates can be judged, as best we can, by their actions in
the course of the more conventional challenges thrown their way by
political life – a consideration in which, for reasons implicit in the
previous narrative on McCain’s policy positions and competence, we
believe that McCain still wins hands-down – but it would be foolish to
ignore the fact that John McCain came through a terrible test not just
with his honour intact but, rather, with his honour enhanced.

We should not concern ourselves greatly with the obvious missed
opportunities; that John McCain was the best choice for Republican
nominee and for President in 2000 must be apparent to nearly everyone.
We must simply consider that John McCain is the best candidate in the
present, as he is for any other time, and vote for him now, in the
present.

Posted by Brad @ 1:19 am on November 4th 2008

Barack Obama for President

Our republic is in trouble.

History seems likely to judge the period of American government from 2001-2008 as among the most transformative and turbulent in modern American history, and George W. Bush as a strong contender for the short list of worst American presidents. The damage done by Bush and the Republican ruling majorities from 1994 to 2006 will take decades to untangle and reverse, if they are untangled and reversed at all. The very workings of our government, the very nature of our freedoms, the very principles of America, the very basics of democracy and capitalism have been overthrown and redefined almost as if by total coup. Radley Balko is not wrong when he asserts that the executive branch has been elevated to essentially an elected dictatorship. It truly is that fundamental, and that dangerous.

The laundry list of what Republican governance has wrought is so extensive the mind boggles, and ranges from the annoyingly micro to the truly fundamental. We have, of course, more or less jettisoned the entire basis of criminal justice, the concepts of due process, privacy, human rights. We have subjugated any kind of ideological conservatism in favor of cronyism, opaque back-dealings, anti-intellectual populist evangelical prattle, and flat-out reversals as the Republican party has entirely ceded most all of its core ideas. We have the largest and most creeping federal government we have ever had, only without any notions of social justice or betterment that at least liberals use as guiding ideals. We have partaken in a foreign policy paradigm of America not as the world’s sheriff, but as the world’s Judge Dredd, full of preemption, unilateralism, and us vs. them bellicosity all the more horrible for being so untethered and immune to recalibration in the face of overwhelming reality. We now have an executive branch with absolute authority, America effectively in a state of permanent martial law, where all notions of accountability, separation of powers, and checks and balances have been dismissed.

And the most pernicious aspect of it is that it is not any one freedom under threat, but the very intellectual foundations upon which all of them as a whole rest that has been yanked out from under us. It is the conception of them as a whole that has suddenly gained a horrifying elasticity. This is not a civil liberties issue, as traditionally defined. This is a liberties issue, in its absolute broadest sense. It is not any one constitutional amendment that we have to worry about; it is the preamble, it is the declaration of independence, it is the very idea of America itself that has found itself not just in conflict, but very nearly usurped without significant challenge.

It is not dead yet. But it will be if we as Americans are willing to cede it and allow ourselves to be distracted. Many of us, suffering from a kind of outrage fatigue, have lost the forest for the trees. But there is simply no way to examine the crossroads ahead of us without beginning there. We’ve had eight years of this new redefinition of America to be instantiated. The question in front of us is whether we are willing to allow this basic conceptualization to pass unchallenged as the new status quo, or whether we seek the best choice in front of us for repudiation.

I take as my central premise that the number one voting issue of this election is the decision of which candidate most totally turns the page on the era of American governance from 2001-2008, versus which candidate is most likely to let it slide and calcify and become the new Way We Work, the new baseline for American government. Examining this election from that perspective, the choice is, granted, not perfect…but it’s also not even close.

(more…)

Posted by Jack @ 9:49 pm on October 29th 2008

I endorse Barrack Obama for President. Someone here had to.

Previously, on TCP Endorsements:
Events have forced my hand: TCP’s original intent was that three of the blog founders would post endorsements that would reflect the roughly balanced divide amongst our group as a whole. Thus, we anticipated perfect symmetry with an endorsement each for McCain, Obama, and Barr. We all know how that turned out. Given James’ surprise endorsement of Obama and subsequent buyer’s remorse retraction, no sign of Brad’s highly anticipated opus, and Rojas’ implicit challenge that obviously no one at TCP supports Obama, I am stepping in. Also, Brad asked that I throw something up so we look less like idiots.

I endorse Barrack Obama for President of the United States. As a temporary and last minute substitute endorser, I simply refer you to my original Obama endorsement for the Democratic nomination, and provide the following as additions, updates, and reemphasized points.

Foreign Policy
This was the easiest area to mark on my presidential scorecard, with Obama’s reasoned diplomacy towards world affairs far outpacing McCain’s repeatedly emphasized bellicosity, interventionist preferences, and near constant saber rattling. I do not expect Obama to pull out of Iraq within a year, nor do I think such a rapid exit wise; but I do expect he will exercise a far more conservative approach to international relations. His mere election will serve as an immediate soft power generator, particularly among the developing nations and the Middle East, and will signal a changed America more willing to consider actions other than unilateral confrontation. I hope and expect that his actions in office will reflect a careful approach that, unlike his opponent, does not see armed conflict as merely a means of achieving your diplomatic goals, only faster. I am not ignorant of the possibility that Obama will involve us in peace keeping or peace making adventures in situations like those in Darfur, but I reject in the strongest terms comparing a willingness to participate in multinational operations of that nature with McCain’s reflexive tendency towards bombing runs and his personalization of every strategic opposition into a good versus evil narrative. As a former commanding officer told me: not every problem has a kinetic solution. Unless you are John McCain.

Judicial Appointments & the Supreme Court
My second easiest area to score. With Bush having appointed Alito and Roberts, thus shifting the court balance from a very loose 5-4 left lean to a 5-4 right stance, and given the ages of the remaining members in the minority, I see potential Supreme Court nominations alone as nearly enough of a reason to vote for Obama. Conventional wisdom and the considered opinions of avid court watchers suggests that the next three vacancies will most likely come from the liberal side of the court divide, and I tremble to think of the lasting damage that three more Republican appointees would do. Given that Bush’s appointees were clearly selected for their extraordinary deference to government authority, rather than the any clear social conservative positions preferred by the religious right sector of the GOP base, any further move along this line would seriously hamper efforts to roll back our surveillance state and reestablish ante Bush civil liberties. In light of Obama’s recently popularized 2001 interview discussion of constitutional law, I would expect that his court nominations will be far from the radical left candidates that occupy the nightmares of conservatives, but rather standard, if left leaning, appointments that will merely maintain the current status quo. I leave for another paragraph the economic and fiscal implications of this interview.

Personality & Temperament
I contrast Obama’s clearly evident intellectual curiosity, well-considered opinions, and preference for challenging advice to both the insulated bubble environment occupied by our current executive of the last eight years, and to the reactionary temper and personalization of conflict that define McCain. Personality and temperament only take you so far, but they enhance the likelihood of hearing contrary advice and improve the chances for reasoned discussion. I believe Obama has demonstrated far better judgment than his opponent, and in the choice between experience and judgment, I’ll take the latter every time. Exhibit A in the Obama-McCain judgment death match: Vice Presidential choice.

Palin
No single action or choice more clearly demonstrates the abject failure of imagination, narrow-mindedness, and ineptitude of the modern GOP and McCain campaign than the selection of Governor Palin as his running mate. An extraordinary failure to properly vet the Alaskan governor precluded McCain from realizing the nature and extent of her retrograde social views, anti-intellectual populism, and breathtaking ignorance regarding national and international issues. While the early hysteria and rumor mongering from the left proved well overblown, the candidate herself has proven so inadequate and unsuitable that conservatives have ended their support for McCain in droves, frequently citing Palin as either their primary motivation, or at least as a final nail in the coffin. I am entirely sympathetic.

Civil Liberties
By all rights, this should have been McCain’s category; it was his to lose, and lose he did. As measured by any civil liberties organizations I could find, Obama outscores McCain. And yet McCain’s early opposition to and statements against torture, delivered with the weight of one who had actually experienced it, and standing as he did against an overwhelming Republican tide in favor of it, earned him my respect and gratitude. Then he caved, and the equation shifted back to standard measures. Additionally, the McCain of 2000 aggressively distanced himself from the social conservative culture warriors among the religious right. The McCain of 2008 kowtowed to them at every turn, and I have no reason to believe that he will cease such deference. I am accused of overemphasizing “social issues” and a certain brand of civil liberties at the expense of property rights and free market purity: guilty. I make no excuses; I come to my libertarian ideology, loose as it may be, from a much more solid civil libertarian perspective. I do not think that Obama is a civil libertarian dream candidate: far from it, but he is significantly superior to McCain in this regard.

Republican Party Ideology, Platform, and Control
I, like nearly every libertarian or small government conservative giving even tepid support to Obama, hope that continued repudiation of the GOP at the polls will result in a reexamination of the party’s principles, platforms, areas of emphasis, and agents of control. While I don’t expect the GOP to rise from the ashes entirely devoid of the neo-conservative interventionism, theocratic influences, massive government movement conservatives, and unitary executive fantasies; I do hope for a return in principle to Goldwater-style government, resurgent libertarian influences, a more tolerant view of the full range of individual rights, and noticeably less emphasis on social conservative cultural warfare. Perhaps we are all projecting, and the GOP base will entrench even further, nominating Palin in 2012. But the disasters of the last eight years have come home to roost, and continued rejection at the polls will force, perhaps later rather than sooner, a change. Adapt or die, cause what you are doing right now ain’t workin’, you betcha.

A Few Words About Redistribution and Socialism
I take it as given that Obama will pursue an increase in federal government spending in support of, among other things, entitlement programs, and that these policy initiatives, backed by a Democratic dominated Congress, will result in less efficient government, tax increases, and fiscal burdens. I reject in the strongest terms the suggestion, echoed by our James, some libertarians, and many conservatives, that Obama will radically alter the existing redistributive nature of our government system into European style socialism, or even a new New Deal. I can add nothing substantial to the extraordinary comment thread discussing this likelihood in light of Obama’s statements about redistribution in the 2001 NPR interview. I concur with the wide array of conservatives and libertarians that see Obama’s “redistribution” comments as rather mundane and mainstream. I am willing to accept an incremental increase in tax, entitlement programs, and the size of the federal government in exchange for the other advantages delineated in paragraphs above. I encourage you to read the comment thread linked, including the numerous sources Brad and James provide. If you still believe that Obama will institute radical socialism, then I can provide nothing further. I will join your opposition if he moves in that direction. Until then, the evidence supporting this fear seems, at very best, highly imaginative distortions.

Finally, my entering argument for any national political contest is that we are better off with split government and the resulting legislative gridlock. My support for Obama is despite this belief. His superiority over McCain and the need to undue the damage wrought by the last eight years are so great that Obama has dragged me from my natural inclination.

Admittedly Illogical Coda
I view all of the above as my logical argument for Obama, but confess to an illogical, emotion-based motivation as well. I appreciate that the election of Obama would say something positive about the rational growth of our national conscience in the area of race relations and equality, but this is of minor import. Such sensitivities, in light of the extraordinary cult of personality around Obama, lead too easily to the inappropriate projection of one’s own beliefs onto the candidate, and a reactionary attitude too willing to defend his faults. What I refer to instead is the pleasure I will take from this election acting as an unadulterated rebuke to the irrational fear mongering among the far right edge of the blogosphere; those who willingly and aggressively trumpet every ridiculous lie or gross distortion that enters their email box. So too, I look forward to calling the bluff of what passes for mainstream conservatism’s “party uber alles” mentality as they lay the groundwork for yet another dolschtosslegende. Witness RedState.com’s front page story that not only castigates all those conservatives who rejected McCain, or even criticized aspects of the campaign, but states unequivocally that “we will never again trust their judgment” while laughably, in the same post, trying to maintain the illusion of a big tent party and ideology. The list of traitors is a who’s who of conservative pundits and commentators. Because what’s needed now, after two disastrous elections and the lowest Presidential approval rating in history is more of the same, more perceived enemies, and more purging. Jesus wept.

Posted by James @ 11:16 pm on October 28th 2008

Stand back up.

I would like to thank Brad and his bevy of apologists that try to justify with Kool-Aid stained tongues the socialist agenda, made formal by Obama’s own words of late, that they claim has not only been made known by the O campaign from the get-go, known by the American electorate, but actually is a cornerstone of mainstream American economic opinion; and has been for decades. Please.

I’m sorry, but I can’t do this. This isn’t even a lockstep march anymore; it is a zombie conga line. Nope. Ix-nay on the ombie-zay for this guy. The alternative doesn’t thrill me, but this has just gotten too frickin’ weird when Libertarian Paulites are tongue-kissing people that defend and even advocate bigger government , more spending , and wealth redistribution. Paying taxes to pay for people/companies in the private sector that do productive things for “the government” (aka us) is not wealth redistribution, it is the free market. It is not always fair and never will be, but when you try to be fair winners lose and losers win just long enough to lose again. No.

Bitch at me all you want, but the risk reward aspect of this changed when I got a real gander at the extent of the clone army I am expected to enlist in. Libertarians defending increased taxation, spending, and wealth redistribution? WTF? Sorry, but I would rather be on the losing side of an election than on the wrong side of history.

I hereby withdraw my endorsement of Barack Obama and, albeit without great enthusiasm, return my vote to John McCain. My guess is that both elevators will be going down for a while, but my instincts tell me to be on the one that isn’t full of the living dead. So sue me.

Posted by James @ 6:36 pm on October 22nd 2008

I suggest that you sit down.

This has been one of the weirdest election cycles that I can remember. Perhaps that is simply a perception derived from having paid closer attention than I have in the past, or my failing memory. It has been a long road since this dog and pony show began, but I have discovered something about myself along the way: apparently I have a Libertarian streak in me. I found that Ron Paul, to a greater degree than other Libertarians, articulated that ideology in a way that reached me. While I still have a great many disagreements with Libertarianism in its purest form, Paul brought a level of “sanity” to the discussion that I believe the movement has lacked and still lacks to a large degree. I was very glad that he was around during the Republican primaries. Unfortunately, because of what I believe is his genuine adherence to his principles of liberty, he allowed himself to be aligned with the more “tin foil brigade” wing of the LP and lost some of his luster to me.

Rojas has recently endorsed Libertarian Bob Barr for president and I respect Rojas’ dedication to his own principles. However, while it is a principled vote, it is a vote taken off what is unfortunately the real playing field. To be honest, I was tempted to follow suit, not because I have principles, but because it would be a great way to dodge any guilt/blame for the outcome of this election. You know, “Don’t blame me, I voted for Barr.” But alas, I am needed in the game.

It is pretty well-known in these parts that after my protest support of Paul in the primaries my support rather inevitably shifted to McCain, me being a right leaning independent voter and all. McCain represented the aspect of the Republican Party that I still respect and still hope will return to power in Washington. Meanwhile, Barack Obama represented everything I dislike about today’s Democratic Party (i.e. bigger government, the nanny state, idealistic passivism, and an elitist view of America). The differences between the two candidates were stark and the choice had been easy for me. However, things change.

As the war in Iraq (which I did, do, and always will support) took a back seat in the station wagon of events and the disgrace that is the current economic crisis carjacked the race, my vision started to blur; and I don’t think I was alone. My utter disgust with both the executive and legislative branches of our government for presiding over a predictable economic meltdown that was a direct result of their own dereliction of duty left me reexamining all of my assumptions. Even as the crisis unfolded I observed both of the presidential candidates as they scrambled to address it within the context of their campaigns and to discuss it during the debates. While I watched Senator Obama deftly tap-dance around the issue as he eloquently articulated his well-known socialist-esque economic plan I also watched as Senator McCain went all Walker: Texas Ranger on the problem only to stammer his way closer to Obama’s relatively unchanged positions. Even as McCain still held to his tax cutting/spending reduction mantra, he also tried to out-propose his opponent with new forms of government rescue to homeowners that have at least some culpability in creating this fiscal disaster. What began to emerge, in my view at least, was a new guy with his same old liberal plan versus an old guy with an ever renewing and left leaning plan. Toss into this melee McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin to be McCain’s VP running mate and let’s just say that the definitions of stability were changing to me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not think that Sarah Palin is the flighty twit that the Democrats and their media like to paint her as. However, I also don’t think that she was the best choice McCain could have made from a governing standpoint and nor has she quite been the game changer that The Maverick probably expected her to be. While Palin certainly fired up “the base” (i.e. the Christian Right), her selection put a shoulder against the door that the moderate/independent voters might use to get over to McCain’s side and at this point has thrown the deadbolt I believe. Again, I have nothing against Sarah Palin (in fact, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that I’d hit it); certainly no more so than I have against that mouth with toes for teeth named Joe Biden; who I like by the way, even though he need only speak in order to be wrong. To me it is more about what her selection represented, which was yet another shift by McCain away from the character and reputation that made him a black sheep among “the base” even as it made him a hero among moderate Republicans, independents, and even moderate Democrats. John McCain let the race run him rather than the other way around. Perhaps it was because he knew this was his last shot and believed, probably rightly so, that he would not stand a chance without “the base” behind him, or maybe he is just getting too old for this shit. At any rate, his candidacy has gradually become a case of the RNC trying to resole and polish an old pair of shoes that they weren’t planning on wearing to church hoping the congregation won’t notice what they have on their feet. Palin made for a great cobbler, but the effect on McCain has been palpable to me. His speeches are contrived, his responses befuddled, and everything that made John McCain John McCain has been worn thin by the erosion of compromised principles. At the end of the day, Senator McCain has been hoist by his own petard and the maverick has been branded.

So, here I am once again facing a choice between what are two pretty bad choices. On one hand a dynamic, relatively youthful man who could break a race barrier that badly needs to be shattered forever even as he could possibly spell the beginning of the end of free market capitalism and a usher in a new socialist America; and on the other hand, a respectable old statesman who has basically sold his soul to the side of the Republican Party I least want making the calls, even as he has drifted closer to his younger rival’s big government philosophy in terms of entitlements. Suffice to say that I have been verklempt as I have watched all of this unfold.

The messianic nature of Obama’s candidacy frankly gives the contrarian in me the willies. It is my very nature, when seeing a lot of people marching in one direction, to run, not walk in the opposite direction. However, I also think of myself as a big picture guy and that aspect of me tends to trump all else. It is that big picture view that has led me to the conclusion Barack Obama needs to be the next President of the United States. Not because he is right, not because I believe in his policies, not because he is black, but instead because the American people and the world need him to be. You will note that I said “need” and not “want”. I frankly don’t think that most Americans know what they want and I frankly could not care less what the rest of the world wants when it comes to US elections. I purposely say his presidency is needed because the best way to show people what they might or might not want is to give it to them. If Barack Obama is not elected, we will face another four years of the same. And no, not “the same failed Bush policies” meme, four more years of incessant whining from every leftist the world over and from every “disenfranchised” voter and their surrogates who pontificate about stolen elections. If Barack Obama is not elected, the supercilious global canard about Americans being stupid will be perpetuated for another four years. And finally, if Barack Obama is not our next president, we will not know whether he is, in fact, a pragmatic leader who can bring about positive change his followers expect or just a dusted off and polished version of the failed liberal socialist appeasers (hello Jimmy Carter) of the past that took problems, threw taxpayer money at them, and made bad situations exponentially worse. If the former proves to be the case, then all is good and there are no losers. If the latter proves to be case, then we can call it an object lesson in being careful what you ask for, and while we all lose in the short term, we win in the long term. It will also remind Americans of what they don’t want and remind the GOP of what it is supposed to be.

If global polls are to be taken at face value, Barack Obama is the clear winner around the world. If US polls are to be trusted, then Barack Obama is on his way to what may be an epic victory. The world seems to need a catharsis and I see Obama as being at least that. America and the world seem to want Barack Obama, I think that they need him. I say we should give them what they want (and need) and see what they think once they have it. At the same time, I, myself, am willing to test my own assumptions and paradigms on the unlikely chance that I will someday be proven wrong. I am, therefore, offering up my endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for the next President of the United States, albeit tempered with doubt and supported with damning prose.

Someone get Brad some smelling salts.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:43 pm on October 21st 2008

Bob Barr for President

The last eight years have seen the wholesale abandonment of small-government principles by an allegedly conservative administration. The last eight months have witnessed an even more astonishing transformation, as numerous self-proclaimed conservatives have rushed to endorse a candidate for the Presidency whose entire political philosophy represents the antithesis of small government principles. Because I believe that the best way of fighting for limited government is to actually support those candidates who espouse it, I endorse Bob Barr for President.

John McCain is an honorable man who has consistently forged his own path in American politics, advocating a variety of positions which have brought him into conflict with his own party. For the majority of his career, he has proven to be a man of principle. It is possible that he still is. Regrettably, the principles he now espouses are incompatible with the welfare of the country. Most notably, in the face of what he himself recognizes as an impending demographic crisis of extraordinary magnitude, John McCain proposes what might generously be described as half-measures. He seeks to rein in a ten trillion dollar national debt with a one year spending freeze and marginal restrictions in entitlement spending. More disastrously, he has chosen not to spearhead opposition to an $800 billion bailout of failed and ill-managed financial institutions, but instead to support it with his vote. McCain has also, tragically, backed away from his own best instincts–on detainee policy and the Constitutional restrictions thereupon; on immigration; on torture itself. On selected issues, such as Russian aggression in Georgia and health care, we have seen sparks of the old McCain, and of the unifying conservative leader that might once have been. On the whole, however, it has become apparent that the necessities of the Presidential process have turned John McCain into a follower. America needed more from him than he was able to provide in this election cycle. He has not led, and his performance in this campaign does not merit elevation to the Presidency.

Barack Obama is an incredibly formidable individual and a splendidly gifted politician. His candidacy is an inspiration and an example to millions. He is also massively, spectaculaly, ideologically unsuited to be President over the next four years. While John McCain proposes half-measures to curb America’s endless addiction to government handouts, Barack Obama proposes instead that we double down. On health care, on social security, on farm subsidies, on economic development, on education, on job training, on environmental stewardship, on free trade, on every issue important enough to discuss, Barack Obama’s universal prescription is to hog-call Americans to the federal trough. The initially promising signs that Obama might propose market-based solutions on any or all of these issues have long since fallen by the wayside–it’s all big government, all the time with Barack Obama. Those issues on which Barack Obama has shown a genuine commitment to limitation of governmental power–executive authority, surveillance, and civil liberties in general–have proven to be areas in which he is willing and even eager to compromise in order for his economic agenda to gain traction. On foreign policy, Obama offers very little concrete improvement–merely a superficial soft-power emphasis that will prove ephemeral in its appeal to our allies and outright useless vis-a-vis those who wish America ill. In any era, Barack Obama would be an impressive advocate of all the wrong ideas. In an era in which the US faces $54 trillion in unfunded obligations, as well as an impending demographic crisis for which the bill is imminent, his agenda is simply insane. And for conservatives to support that agenda in their Presidential candidate at a time when the Congress is virtually certain to feature a massive Democratic majority beggars belief. Repsect for the concept of divided government alone ought to rule Obama out from any conservative’s perspective.

There is much to dislike about Bob Barr–his past, his behavior towards Ron Paul, his protectionism, his visceral dislike of gay Americans, his stupid little mustache. All of this, however, pales in comparison to what must be recognized as a consistent agenda dedicated to the reduction of government and respect for the individual. Most notably, and almost important enough to merit a conservative’s vote in itself: when the Bush administration came before congress and asked for $800 billion, giving as their explicit rationale the argument that it was necessary to perpetuate a culture of private-sector deficit spending in order to drive economic growth, Bob Barr said no. He stood beside principled liberals and genuine conservatives in opposition to what must surely be regarded as the single worst government spending decision of our time–a decision which produced none of the desired or anticipated results and which has been proven, in the light of subsequent scrambling and policy reformulation by Secretary Paulson and the Bush Administration generally, to have been an ill-considered power grab of every bit the same maginitude as the decision to authorize force in Iraq.

And that last bit bears repeating. Knowing full well the veracity of the Bush Administration, Barack Obama voted to hand them $800 billion of taxpayer money to dispense according to their whims. So did John McCain. Bob Barr said no. That fact alone ought to force any ironclad opponent of the Bush administration to take a long, long look at Bob Barr. Even now, when the rubber meets the road, Barack Obama is willing to give the Bush administration everything it needs, and defer to Bush’s judgment. Bob Barr isn’t.

Bob Barr is solid on all the critical issues–on spending restraint, on entitlement reform, on the war on drugs, on detainee policy and civil liberties generally. His support for a humble and restrained foreign policy, though not especially delightful to libertarian internationalists like myself, will no doubt prove appealing to Paulite conservatives. Moreover, there is this to appreciate about Bob Barr: Bob Barr, unlike the other contenders for the Presidency in this election cycle, is capable of admitting error and adjusting his policies accordingly. After a long career in congress as a cultural conservative, Barr has genuinely and impressively repudiated his desires to micro-manage the private decisions of individual Americans. If a genuine dedication to liberty is ever going to prevail in the American political sphere, is is going to require a number of conversions just like Bob Barr’s. I am strongly inclined to be supportive of such conversions when they come about. We need more of them.

Bob Barr has come a long way to get to where he is. The trip hasn’t always been pleasant to watch. But that doesn’t change the fact that the gentleman from Georgia finds himself on the right side of virtually every important issue this year. Moreover, on all too many of those issues, he finds himself alone among the candidates in doing the right thing. He is, in short, demonstrating the leadership and the principle that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain have been able to bring themselves around to.

I choose true leadership, true principle, and true libertarian conservatism. I choose Bob Barr.

Posted by Brad @ 2:07 pm on July 30th 2008

Joseph Biden for VP

I’ve been touting Sarah Palin as my favorite candidate for the VP slot on McCain’s ticket, and have been persistently making the case that she represents the strongest choice for McCain out of the pool of likely potential candidates. It only seems fair that I make a pick for Obama as well.

First, my premises.

In a lot of ways, Obama’s choices are less clear, but, I think, less important (some argue otherwise, that Obama has a lot more to lose with a VP pick than McCain, but I don’t really see the reasoning behind that). There is no obvious weakness that Obama desperately needs to redress, no must-win state in the same way that McCain has them, and no demographic that he has particular problems with (there are some demographics where he’s weaker than he is with others, of course, but not really any that a VP pick is going to make or potentially break). He can afford, in other words, to bypass the regular “popular minority from a must-carry state” thing, I think, and simultaneously doesn’t need to play it safe, but doesn’t need to get cute or bold either (McCain, I argue, is starting from behind so he needs to squeeze as much immediate and ephemeral advantage from his VP candidate as possible). In that respect, I agree, more or less, with Trapper John:

I start from the premise that Barack Obama doesn’t need anyone to make his candidacy complete. He’s already up in the polls, both nationally and in key states. Intrade has him at a 63% likelihood of winning, and Nate Silver has him at 67%. But more importantly, he knows that he’s a bona fide, no-joke rock star. He doesn’t need a charismatic running mate. He doesn’t need a missing piece, someone who implies that Barack Obama is something other than all that and a bag of chips. Hell, I think he’d run solo, if the Constitution and practicality allowed him to do so. The Obama campaign is all about Barack Obama — it simply doesn’t need that brand altered in any way.

Trapper John goes on to say that, due to that, the #1 consideration for Obama must be a Hippocratic one: do no harm. I think John overstates that, in that I don’t think Obama needs to play it overly safe. He can afford a little risk for the sake of a little added zing.

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Posted by Brad @ 5:30 pm on June 28th 2008

Sarah Palin for VP

Michael Tanner at Cato has written a piece taking aim at McCain VP shortlister Tim Pawlenty, on the grounds that his record as Governor has been pretty far from small-l libertarian, more in line with a mainstream Northeastern Democrat then anything that could reasonably be described as small government conservative. I don’t find the piece very persuasive—it seems pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for a popular Republican governor of a blue state, and most of it is “under his watch” stuff more then things he actively pushed—but it’s getting some play, and I do think it adds to the impression that Pawlenty, who most consider the most likely VP nominee, is a fairly uninspired choice. Perfectly passable, of course, but given that even his geographic pull might not bring his state with him, exactly nobody seems exciting about the possibility of Pawlenty (though nobody, Tanner aside, would seem to fault McCain much for the choice). The Wall Street Journal did a more thorough profile of Pawlenty here.

Add to this the fact that Huckabee is doing his own thing, Bobby Jindal is looking crazier and crazier (and crazier), Charlie Crist is still gay, Carly Fiorina‘s trial balloon never really took off, and nobody else obvious is coming to the top, some of the choices like perpetual VP-leg-humper Mitt Romney and Mark Sanford are probably seeing their stock rising (Sanford I think ought to also be looking better, if he’s under consideration at all, given Obama’s threatening strength in the South).

I’ll go on record with this though: the best possible person McCain could choose to balance out his ticket is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. If he really wanted to take a bold swipe at Obama, he ought to not just choose her, but choose her before Obama names his VP—sooner rather then later. Choosing Palin automatically generates incredible buzz, gets McCain on top of several newscycles (and he could use more then a few weeks of steering the news coverage, lest he gets lost in the shuffle and Obama’s bounce keeps growing and calcifying), generates a honeymoon media tour of the very media-lovable Palin, and what’s more, puts Obama on the defensive and in some important ways starts to force his hand a bit on his own VP selection. What’s more, she passes the test of a very strong future Republican nominee, whether McCain wins or loses, who will please a lot of conservative voters who otherwise might not be thrilled with a McCain candidacy (and also make sure Alaska stays red; there is at least some chance that Barr turns it blue this year). The more I think about it, the more I think McCain would be nuts to not go for Palin. (Ed Morissey concurs).

Posted by TheCrossedPond @ 4:29 pm on December 19th 2007

The Crossed Pond Endorses (2008 Republican Primary)…

After much internal debate, we at The Crossed Pond have decided to follow the tradition of more mainstream sites for political opinion (the op-ed page of most newspapers) and go on record with our endorsement(s) for President. These endorsements are meant to convey not a final word or our becoming any kind of “official” site behind any given presidential candidate, but simply for us to go more formally on record with our thoughts on the upcoming Presidential primaries. Rather than dance around our own opinions, or make some artificially thinly-veiled attempt at pretending to be neutral, we hope that these endorsements both gives you some insight into where our writers are coming from, and perhaps the cases that follow will influence or clarify your own thinking on the current political races (one way or another).

We are, of course, a group blog, with six authors, and though our internal straw poll was surprisingly homogeneous (5 of our 6 authors had exactly the same Top Two choices, in different orders), some of us differ on which is their top choice and which is their second. We’ve no interest in drowning out our own variety of opinion, so to that end, you’ll note that we make, for each party, two endorsements, each signed by appropriate authors (the top signature for each piece is the author of that segment, incidentally). For both parties, the split was 4-2, so the first endorsement is backed by four authors (whose names are appended at the bottom of the endorsement), the second by two (also signed), and it just so happened that we all agreed on the final segment (Anybody But…) for each party.

So, what follows are three segments for the Republican party (the Democratic endorsements can be found here). Two endorsements, and one expression of particular distaste for one specific candidate (an anti-endorsement, as it were). I can’t promise that below contains any great surprises to regular readers, who would probably already be well aware of our own leanings and opinions, but it has proven to be an interesting exercise for us authors here at The Pond, and we hope proves interesting and thought-provoking reading.

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Posted by TheCrossedPond @ 4:24 pm on December 19th 2007

The Crossed Pond Endorses (2008 Democratic Primary)…

After much internal debate, we at The Crossed Pond have decided to follow the tradition of more mainstream sites for political opinion (the op-ed page of most newspapers) and go on record with our endorsement(s) for President. These endorsements are meant to convey not a final word or our becoming any kind of “official” site behind any given presidential candidate, but simply for us to go more formally on record with our thoughts on the upcoming Presidential primaries. Rather than dance around our own opinions, or make some artificially thinly-veiled attempt at pretending to be neutral, we hope that these endorsements both gives you some insight into where our writers are coming from, and perhaps the cases that follow will influence or clarify your own thinking on the current political races (one way or another).

We are, of course, a group blog, with six authors, and though our internal straw poll was surprisingly homogeneous (5 of our 6 authors had exactly the same Top Two choices, in different orders), some of us differ on which is their top choice and which is their second. We’ve no interest in drowning out our own variety of opinion, so to that end, you’ll note that we make, for each party, two endorsements, each signed by appropriate authors. For both parties, the split was 4-2, so the first endorsement is backed by four authors (whose names are appended at the bottom of the endorsement), the second by two (also signed), and it just so happened that we all agreed on the final segment (Anybody But…) for each party.

So, what follows are three segments for the Democratic party (the Republican endorsements can be found here). Two endorsements, and one expression of particular distaste for one specific candidate (an anti-endorsement, as it were). I can’t promise that below contains any great surprises to regular readers, who would probably already be well aware of our own leanings and opinions, but it has proven to be an interesting exercise for us authors here at The Pond, and we hope proves interesting and thought-provoking reading.

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