Enough has been said about the Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh sideshow: The chairman of the Republican National Committee called the conservative movement’s Mouth an entertainer, and his radio show incendiary and ugly. It figures.
Of what I’ve seen and heard of Steele, his main concerns are conciliatory; the need to broaden the Republican Party’s base and “appeal” to traditionally hostile minorities. Steele is among the Rovian cadre calling for a more upbeat and diverse GOP, when in fact the GOP has been courting traditional Democratic constituents with every trick possible, with little success, and while sticking it to the base.
The Steele-Limbaugh spat fell into Obama’s lap. The president is losing it—throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the thing he calls “the economy,” but is really no more than the trillions upon trillions of voluntary, capitalistic acts individuals perform in order to make a living.
Introduce government force and coercion into this synchronized spontaneous order, and it starts to splutter. The economy responds poorly to economic planning and planners. BHO had imagined that he could walk on water. Fin de siècle America facilitated this fantasy. Now the president is realizing that he is not the magic man he imagined he was. Desperate times call for desperate distractions.
Democratic henchmen─Paul Begala, Stanley Greenberg, James Carville, and Robert Gibbs─began picking on Limbaugh. Tackled too by the administration was CNBC reporter Rick Santelli, who led a revolt from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange against the bailout billions for mortgage delinquents. Little wonder, then, that the contents of Limbaugh’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. garnered less attention than the characters involved.
Rush spoke stirringly. He railed against the enormous expansion of government in the first few, frightening weeks of the Obama presidency. But not a word did I hear against the man who began what Barack is completing. Bush set the scene for Barack. Stimulus, bailouts, a house for every Hispanic—these were Bush’s babies. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights had been abandoned well before the fist-bumping Obamas moved into the White House.
“Contrary to popular myth,” writes James Ostrowski , President of Free Buffalo, “every Republican president since and including Herbert Hoover has increased the federal government’s size, scope, or power─and usually all three. Over the last one hundred years, of the five presidents who presided over the largest domestic spending increases, four were Republicans.”
“Include regulations and foreign policy, as well as budgets approved by a Republican Congress, and a picture begins to emerge of the Republican Party as a reliable engine of government growth.” How can roused conservatives be taken seriously if they are incapable of coming to grips with the culpability of Newt Gingrich’s gang and, I’m afraid, Ronald Reagan, in sustaining this reliable trend?
Not a word did Limbaugh devote to the Warfare State, every bit as corrupt, corrupting, and bankrupting as the Welfare State. Over $1 trillion is spent yearly on imperial expeditions that are awash in American blood, but offer few benefits to the sacrificed. Besides, what kind of a nation neglects its own borders while defending to the death borders not its own?
The title of this column comes not from Rush’s unfortunate addiction to prescription drugs, but from the eponymous “Mr. Big” hit. (They don’t make musicians like Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan any longer, but I digress.) Nevertheless it alludes to another of Rush’s missed opportunities: Speaking against a war into which he was involuntarily drafted and almost destroyed.
Rush rightly denounced the State’s failed war on poverty. It failed not because fighting poverty is not a noble cause, but because, given the perverse incentives it entrenches, government is incapable of winning such a war. The same economic and bureaucratic perversions make another of the State’s stalemated wars equally unwinnable and ruinous: The War on Drugs.
Lysander Spooner, the great, American 19th-century theorist of liberty, defined vices as those acts “by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which a man harms the person or property of another.” A conservative worth his salt should know the difference; and should know that government has no business treating vices as crimes.
If for harming himself a man forfeits his freedom, then he is not free at all.
Limbaugh accused Obama of wanting to transform America. This is obvious. But what of George W. Bush, who has wormed his way into the affections of conservative leaders like Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham (she calls Bush a patriot)? What was Bush’s insistence on unfettered, open borders if not an expression of his disdain for “America the way it had been since its founding,” to quote commentator Lawrence Auster? The former president refused to enforce immigration law. That was his way of converting “America into something quite different.”
Bush harbored a death wish for America of the Founders. So does Obama.
Adds Auster: “Until conservative opinion makers render unto Bush the censures he richly deserves, especially for the same things for which they now excoriate Obama, their criticisms of Obama will have the [odor] of rank partisanship.”
Let the conflagration between Steele and Limbaugh continue and deepen. It’s good for the GOP─it needs to be gashed good and proper if a coherent articulation of ordered liberty is to be forged from the current philosophical chaos.
©By ILANA MERCER
March 6, 2009