Archive for November, 2008

Obama: Only the Best for My Family, Tough Luck for the Rest…

The Wall Street Journal and Jonah Goldberg discuss the Obamas’ decision to send their daughters to the expensive private Sidwell Friends school, even as the President-elect opposes school vouchers that would allow some poorer families to take their children out of the atrocious DC public schools and provide the same opportunity to their children.

Of course this hypocrisy comes as no surprise. The teachers’ unions are the biggest guardians of the status quo, and they also provided important financial support to the Democratic party and the Obama campaign. Do you really think public education is going to significantly improve when there is a president and a congressional majority beholden to the teachers’ union?

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Dissent of the Day

A reader shares his thoughts on my earlier post about the Supreme Court and its recent decision in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Here is an excerpt:

The issue in Winter was not, as you so colorfully frame it – safety of people or safety of fish – but whether environmental groups were entitled to a preliminary injunction due to the Navy’s failure to adhere to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). To make it even more complicated, the analysis involved the standards for a preliminary injunction and balancing potential equities. What is clear, however, is that Justice Ginsburg’s dissent had very little to do with the ultimate issue of whether the naval exercises should trump environmental concerns. Rather, she focused on the legal requirement that the Navy was required to prepare an environmental impact statement prior to taking action that would jeopardize marine life.
So, even on the most basic level, Justice Ginsburg’s dissent was not about balancing whether fish or people were more important, but whether the Navy should be required to follow the law. The dissent cites that the NEPA legislation was designed to force administrative agencies to consider environmental concerns as part of their decision making process. It does not mean that these environmental concerns will trump. As Judge Ginsburg pointed out, nothing in the law would have prevented the Navy from conducting its exercises because the NEPA statute does not mandate any particular result – only that the study be performed.
I do not know enough about the case or the various procedural issues to opine whether Justice Ginsburg’s dissent was correct, but I do know that the issue was not at all as you framed it. Moreover, if the issue truly were as you framed it – rule of law v. conducting the war on terror – contrary to your conclusion, the Court should have certainly favored upholding the law, and I hope that President Obama will select Justices with that first and foremost in their mind. Indeed, it is hard to argue for a judicial nominee who says, “I will not permit the law or the constitution to impede the war on terror!” although that seems to be your point.

You can read his commentary in its entirety after the jump (click on “Read the rest of this entry”)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Obama and the Supreme Court

What do you think is more important- helping the Navy detect potential attacks by terrorists and hostile countries, or saving a couple of dolphins?

Hmmm…. preventing attacks… or protecting a sea otter?

If you think it’s a silly question, guess again. It’s exactly the question that the Supreme Court grappled with in a recent decision, Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council. The case arose from a suit whereby some environmental advocacy groups sought to prevent the Navy from using Sonar equipment because, the groups claimed, the use of this equipment could harm sea mammals off the San Diego coast.

I find it mind-boggling, but four judges in California (all Democrat appointees) and two members of the Supreme Court, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sided with the fish. As the National Journal’s Stuart Taylor explains here:

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter … In their dissenting opinion blew off in a single sentence the government’s hundreds of pages of evidence that the lower courts’ injunction could place at risk the lives of thousands of sailors and marines. It may seem far-fetched to worry that enemy submarines might someday sink an aircraft carrier with 5,000 sailors and marines aboard. But no more far-fetched than it would have seemed on September 10, 2001, to worry that terrorists might murder in a single day more Americans than died in the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Ginsburg and Souter are (along with Justice Stevens) the most liberal members of the court – and when I say many people “just don’t get it” about the terrorist threat, this is what I’m talking about, dear readers.

But more importantly, when I say the direction of the Supreme Court was the biggest reason why I voted for McCain, this is a perfect illustration.

And of course, Barack Obama now will decide the direction of the Court.

We simply will not win the Global War on Terror if the Supreme Court uses its unfettered power to restrict the activities of the military, intelligence and law enforcement communities. The Court has the ability to tie both our hands behind our back, while the Jihadists will forever do as they wish. That is a fight we cannot win.

When people in New York City (and I assume this applies in other liberal bastions) discuss the Supreme Court, the conversation usually centers on Roe v. Wade and other decisions relating to hot button social issues like gay marriage and affirmative action. The focus on Roe v. Wade is much ado about nothing- the fact is that even if Roe were overturned, abortion would remain legal throughout the United States. Anyone who tells you that overturning Roe would cause abortion to be banned is either ignorant or just trying to scare you. Want proof? South Dakota is among the most conservative states in the country, and even there a proposed ban on abortion was soundly defeated in 2006 and again in 2008. Other attempts to limit abortion were voted down in California and Colorado.

The “abortion-will-be-outlawed” claim is bunk, a scare tactic with no basis in reality.

But the Supreme Court’s impact on the War on Terror is immediate and real. As Justice Antonin Scalia observed in his dissent in Boumediene v. Bush concerning the right of Habeas Corpus for prisoners held at Guantanamo:

At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield…Some have been captured or killed. But others have succeeded in carrying out their atrocities against innocent civilians. In one case, a detainee released from Guantanamo Bay masterminded the kidnapping of two Chinese dam workers, one of whom was later shot to death when used as a human shield against Pakistani commandos. Another former detainee promptly resumed his post as a senior Taliban commander and murdered a United Nations engineer and three Afghan soldiers. Still another murdered an Afghan judge. It was reported only last month that a released detainee carried out a suicide bombing against Iraqi soldiers in Mosul, Iraq…[The majority decision] will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed

The recent decision on the use of sonar is surely the first of many of its kind.

In then end, it’s about priorities- protect a few dolphins, or defeat the terrorists?

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Mitt On The Auto Bailout

I’ve blogged before about Mitt Romney’s authoritative voice on the economy. Today he has an outstanding op-ed in the New York Times about the proposed bailout of the American auto industry. Key quote:

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

As an aside, but relating to a debate we’ve been having here at Stillright, I will observe that it’s hard to imagine Sarah Palin or any other leading Republican addressing this issue with the same authority.

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Dissent of the Day

In response to my previous post, a fellow traveler sees Sarah Palin in a different light:

Why do female politicians have to be frumpy, dour, harpies? The media is too used to good looking women being vacuous air heads in the Hollywood celebrity mold. Along comes a woman who has conservative credentials, but above all has challenged a major party (and her party at that) for the corruption that is endemic in politics, and she is rebuffed because she is not an “intellectual” heavyweight. Perhaps she was pulled too soon from the remoteness of Alaskan politics and thrust on the national stage, but if we wait for someone who has the national experience that everyone wants, we will simply be training another politician to follow in the corrupt footsteps of his or her Washington forebearers. Send in a strong fresh face the way they are, and give them the advice of the political gurus to chose from and let them make the hard decisions. At least you know that the decision is not backed by the guile of a megalomaniac who has planned to be president since he was in high school, or schemed to be president as part of the “Rules for Radicals” playbook. I am against “intellectualism”. I am a realist. Intellectuals see a goal and reason their way to the realization of that goal. A realist does the same thing but considers the collateral consequences of the methods used to achieve the goal and also considers what will happen after the goal is realized. I see Sarah Palin as a realist. Her only drawback is the same one that any new rising star in the conservative sphere will face, ridicule from the mainstream media. We should stop allowing liberals to choose who represents our movement by mocking them so harshly that we shun our own. You don’t need to be an intellectual to thoughtfully consider an issue and make a decision. I’ve decided. If Palin runs again I’m voting for her, and lending her my wife’s Saks Fifth Avenue charge card as a campaign contribution.

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The Sarah Palin Show

Wow, it just keeps going. Has a losing Vice Presidential candidate ever kept the spotlight for this long? She lost, and still seems to be getting far more coverage than Joe Biden. Aren’t losing candidates supposed to disappear, if not forever then at least for a while?

On some level, the media remain fascinated with her. She makes for good tv and good ratings, as was proven during the campaign. But she’s obviously milking it for all that it’s worth- no one is forcing her to have Matt Lauer and The Today Show crew in her kitchen.

Sarah hearts the spotlight. Fame really is addictive.

But the real question is this: Does she have a future?

My take: the concept of Sarah Palin turned out to be far better than the reality. What I mean by that is the following- in concept, I love the idea of nominating a young, attractive, solid-conservative mom for president or vice president. What could be better than a candidate who would fire up the base and at the same time pick up some female and younger voters who don’t usually vote Republican? What better way to spruce up the party’s old-white-guy image?

And for the first two weeks after her nomination, this formula seemed to be working. McCain moved ahead in all the polls in the days after her nomination, and he stayed ahead until around September 12.

Then the financial markets collapsed, and that probably was the fatal blow to the McCain campaign.

But something else also happened- Palin performed terribly in that Katie Couric interview, she never held a press conference, and by the end of the campaign she seemed unprepared to become President.

Yes, she did get shabby treatment from the media. Three front-page stories in the New York Times about her daughter’s pregnancy was simply ridiculous- contrast that with the minimal coverage given, for example, to the endless legal escapades of Al Gore’s son. The stories about her wardrobe- like the stories about McCain’s houses- were quite a contrast to the limited coverage devoted in 2004 to the vast wealth of the John Kerry/ Theresa Heinz family. The same reporters who bashed conservatives for teasing John Edwards about his expensive haircuts had no problem bashing Sarah Palin for her alleged vanity. I love it when the same people who say campaigns should be “issue-oriented” start talking about candidates’ wardrobes or homes.

But I can’t get away from the main problem for Palin- she had an opportunity to overcome the doubts about her lack of experience and lack of preparation. And she failed to do so.

Obama’s election proves that voters have no problem overlooking a thin resume. George Bush himself had a pretty thin resume prior to becoming President (though not as thin as Obama’s).

So Palin could have reassured voters. Instead, she only heightened their concerns.

My one gripe with the media and the NewYork/DC/LA spin is the claim that somehow Palin was too conservative and that’s what doomed her. Nonsense. Republicans have won five of the last eight presidential elections by running conservative candidates with conservative platforms. On all the key issues, she was no more conservative than any of those winning candidates (Reagan, Bush I, Bush II). And her conservatism was immediately known, and as noted, the ticket moved ahead for about two weeks after she was nominated.

So her problem was not her conservatism. And let’s be honest, no moderate Republican could ever get 60,000 people to show up at a campaign rally. Remember, we Republicans don’t really go to rallies- I doubt Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge could have drawn more than 500 people to an event. Many of those 60,000 who showed up for a Palin rally also undoubtedly gave money, made phone calls, and drove people to the polls. And the fact that liberal California voted to ban gay marriage is proof-positive that our country has not turned hard-left.

So the concept was right- but Sarah Palin ultimately was the wrong person to turn the concept into reality.

And so if it were up to me, I would look elsewhere for the next great Republican leader. We can find a different young, articulate, conservative star who can take the spotlight, and reassure voters that he or she has the gravitas to be president.

I hear Bobby Jindal is giving a speech in Iowa next week. Hmmm……

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W: A Class Act

That’s not sarcasm. I think George W. Bush is a decent man who has treated his opponents with far more respect than most have ever shown him.

Yesterday, President-Elect Barack Obama visited the White House. Obama’s entire campaign revolved around one basic message, namely that President Bush’s presidency had been a failure and that he (Obama) represented the best agent for change. Every poll shows Bush is extremely unpopular and Obama’s strategy, as amply demonstrated by his convincing victory, was a rather wise (if obvious) one.

Still, given the message of that campaign, one would have understood if President Bush had been a bit lukewarm, or merely cordial, when the President-elect stopped by. But instead, as even the generally-liberal Associated Press concedes here, Bush has gone out of his way to be graceful. As the AP article notes:

Never mind that Democrat Barack Obama spent all that time deriding Bush for “failed policies,” or mocking him for hiding in an “undisclosed location” because he was too unpopular to show up with his party’s own candidate, John McCain. This is transition time. Outgoing presidents support the new guy. And on that front, Bush is going well beyond the minimum. He has embraced the role of statesman with such gusto that it has been hard to miss…Mere hours after Obama handily ended eight years of Republican rule, Bush commended Americans for making history. “They chose a president whose journey represents a triumph of the American story — a testament to hard work, optimism and faith in the enduring promise of our nation,” Bush said.

If that effusiveness wasn’t enough, he called Obama’s win an inspiring moment and said it will be a “stirring sight” when the whole Obama family arrives.

Then Bush called together about 1,000 employees on the South Lawn and told them to embrace the transition earnestly. This could have been handled in a press release, or even an internal memo to staff. Instead, it was a big, showy expression of support for Obama, with Bush’s Cabinet standing behind him.

“The peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of a true democracy,” Bush said. “And ensuring that this transition is as smooth as possible is a priority for the rest of my presidency.”

In case anyone missed the point, Bush underscored it in his Saturday radio address. He pledged an “unprecedented effort” to help Obama take power.

Obama’s team is noticing. “So far, cooperation has been excellent,” said transition chief John Podesta, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House.

If you are tempted to think that all administrations act this way, let me remind you of the waning days of the Clinton administration, when outgoing staffers decided to vandalize the White House, by, among other classy acts, pulling the letter W off computer keyboards. (Of course, the real outrage of the last days of the Clinton White House was the flat-out bribery that occurred with the sale of Presidential pardons.)

The fact is that George W. Bush has never stooped to the level of his opponents. You can scour the record, and you will never find him using the type of language against his political opponents which his opponents have used against him. Want some examples?

Harry Reid, the most powerful Democrat in the government at the time, dismissed President Bush as a “liar” and a “loser.” Classy! President Bush, even at the height of his popularity and his political triumphs in 2002 and 2004 never used such language to describe Mr. Reid or any other Democratic leader.

Reid’s predecessor, Tom Daschle, was similarly graceless. In March of 2003, literally as American troops were in the air and about to touch down inside Iraq, a time when Americans should have been uniting behind our troops, Daschle attributed the war not to Saddam Hussein’s intransigence, or the UN’s fecklessness, or his own failure to convince his own caucus to vote against the war resolution, but rather to President Bush having “failed… miserably.” Classy all the way!

And here, in my favorite ad of this year’s entire campaign cycle, is democratic Senate candidate (and possible recount winner) Al Franken showing just how much hate and anger he has for his opponents. Notice how many words have to be bleeped out. More class!

The irony is that the same liberals who use such language against President Bush will often then turn around and say that the President is the “divisive” one. How’s that again? President Bush states his admittedly controversial positions without calling anyone names, his opponents respond by saying he is a “liar” and a “loser” and “miserable” and a few F-bombs too, but Bush is somehow the divisive one? Are you serious?

I am not saying that this applies to all of the President’s many critics, but in many cases it’s clear we are just dealing with very bitter and insecure people who have chosen to blame President Bush, as exemplar of the status quo, for their own unhappy existence. In this camp I place people like Rosie O’Donnell and Alec Baldwin and Janeane Garofolo and Roseanne Barr. All are successful but obviously angry people who have a track record of being unable to get along with pretty much anyone – Garofalo couldn’t even get along with her co-host on Air America, even though nobody was listening. I am not a shrink, but come on, this is a person with obvious and deep personal insecurities having nothing to do with politics.

To be sure, part of the anti-Bush anger stemmed from the manner in which he became president- he lost the popular vote, and only became president after a very controversial Supreme Court decision. Under those circumstances, I can understand a less-than-welcoming response by his opponents.

And from a policy standpoint, disagreement and even anger over the Iraq war is perfectly fair.

We are politically divided- but to the extent the atmosphere has been a divisive one, it is the President’s opponents, and not the President, who have employed the language of division.

Bottom line: President Bush has shown his opponents far more respect than they have shown him. And that class was demonstrated again at the White House yesterday.

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Romney on the Economy

None of the candidates in either party this year could match up to Mitt Romney in terms of executive experience. His campaign didn’t get far- he was attacked (fairly) for his flip-flops on social issues, and deemed unelectable because of his Mormon faith. I still think he would make a terrific president, and it’s clear he is planning to run again.

Here is an interesting interview with Romney concerning the state of the economy, an issue about which he speaks with authority. Key quotes:

On Obama and organized labor:

The unions have helped Barack Obama. They will hope to be paid back. I’m particularly concerned that organized labor would call on Barack Obama to pass the card check program. This removes from American workers the right to the secret ballot in deciding whether or not to accept a union. This legislation would do more to harm America’s long-term competitiveness than almost anything I can imagine. It would be a partisan payback for organized labor but it would come with devastating consequences for the nation.

On a potential bailout of the auto industry:

Before the government issues loans to the auto industry, as has been authorized by Congress, it should insist on seeing credible and independent strategies that will return the companies to long-term sustainability. Government should not finance ongoing losses and declining market shares.

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On Rahm Emanuel…

Well, as described here by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Rahm Emanuel’s personal and family history vis-a-vis Israel is encouraging to those of us who are concerned about how a President Obama will deal with the Jewish nation. That concern was buttressed by the rumors that Obama might “reach across the aisle” and give a cabinet post to outgoing Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who is also the most anti-Israel member of his caucus.

Of course, Rahm Emanuel is not exactly known for his…um… spirit of conciliation- even the AP calls him a “fiery partisan.”

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How Bad (or Good) Will It Be?

A friend asked me what I really think will happen to the country as a result of this election and just how bad (from my perspective- but, judging from my emails, good from the perspective of many of you) it will be?

Let’s ignore the overheated campaign rhetoric, whereby everyone makes the worst possible assumptions about the consequences of electing the person they oppose, and try to get a grip on the reality of the situation.

I voted for McCain. So here are the specific things which I fear about an Obama presidency, rhetoric aside, and minus any discussion of why I think these are bad ideas. That (rhetoric and opinion) will come in future posts. This is just a laundry list of things I anticipate happening.

1. He will raise taxes on some companies. He has said so. Just a fact. (Again, this post is not about why I think this is a bad thing, it’s just a list of what I anticipate happening.)

2. He will raise taxes on some individuals. Just a fact. Not a massive socialist-type level of taxation, but a hike nonetheless.

3. He will move the Supreme Court to the left. He surely will get to make three appointments (Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter are likely to leave). For me, this is more of a concern as relates to the GWOT than to social issues.

4. A big issue for me: I fear his idealism will lead him to follow the Bill Clinton model and place too much trust in unrepentant terrorists like Yasser Arafat. People like Arafat and Ahmedinajad can never be trusted, but idealists don’t seem to get that.

5. He will strengthen unions which I fear will raise costs and make us less competitive as we face increased competition from emerging economies.

6. He will again yield to unions and oppose free trade agreements, as indicated by his record as a senator.

7. His election will allow Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to have total free reign. A friend recently argued that now that he is President, Obama will have the stature and power to stand up to them. Sure, he will have the stature, but where is the evidence that he has any interest in standing up to them? He never has done so in his short legislative career. Why should I expect him to stand up to them now? What evidence is there to suggest he does not share their priorities on… well, everything?

8. I expect that there will be no serious tort reform, and in fact trial lawyers will be repaid for their generous financial support of the Democratic party with new legislation, which I believe will only serve to further raise the cost of doing business in the US.

9. I fear that when it comes time to make the difficult decisions in the War on Terror, President Obama will be too eager to curry favor with so-called “allies” like France and far too eager to rely on the UN. This is just my instinct, based on all of the campaign rhetoric about “re-building alliances.”

These are the changes I expect. I know from my emails that many of you support things like higher taxes on the top income brackets. And let me perfectly clear, the people have spoken, Obama won a clear and decisive victory, and has every right to implement all of the above changes. But, of course, the loyal opposition has every right to fight him as well.

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Cheer up!

A fellow conservative asks that I post some words of encouragement in light of the evident Democratic sweep. (Those of you who are busy celebrating tonight’s results can feel free to skip this post… I won’t be insulted.)

For me, this all feels like 1992, when Bill Clinton easily defeated George H.W. Bush in Bush’s re-election bid. I viewed Clinton as a liberal who had deceived people into thinking he was a moderate. And Clinton, like Obama, had a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. He had total control. And what happened? Clinton pushed through a tax hike, and initially tried to push a pretty liberal agenda (gun control, lifting the ban on gays in the military, Hillary’s Health Care plan).

But the country didn’t go for it. Two years after Clinton’s election, the Democrats lost both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Newt Gingrich, with his “Contract with America“, led the Republicans to a 50+ seat pickup. They gained those seats by running ads all over the country linking incumbents to the then-unpopular Bill Clinton- the so-called “morph” ads, which morphed Democratic incumbents’ faces into Clinton’s face.

In retrospect, it’s clear that Clinton’s 1992 election was the result of anger over a recession and anger at the incumbent President and his party. The country in 1992 had not in fact “gone left,” as proven by the 1994 result.

So what happened next? After that 1994 whomping, Bill Clinton bought in Dick Morris and moved to the political center, the famous triangulation strategy. He won re-election after Morris took control and Clinton took centrist positions on hot-button issues like welfare reform and gay marriage.

Four years ago, some said the Democratic party was dead, after Bush had won re-election and Republicans had expanded their majorities in both houses. Obviously, the Democratic party was not dead. And similarly, there is no reason to write an obituary for the Republican party. As I write this, John McCain is winning 48% of the popular vote. I know that number will drop later tonight when the west coast votes come in. But still, even if he drops to 47% or 46%, it shows this country still has a strong conservative base and has not taken a massive step to the left.

I think Barack Obama is smart enough to realize that while he surely has won a clear victory, he has not won a mandate to implement a radical liberal agenda. And if I am wrong, and he does attempt to push such an agenda, I have no doubt he will face the same backlash Bill Clinton faced in 1994.

So buck up, friend. We’re still in the game. Just a little bloodied and in desperate need of some fresh new leadership… have you heard about Bobby Jindal?

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If McConnell Loses…

As of now, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is barely leading his opponent with 18% of the vote counted. If McConnell loses it will truly indicate a massive Democratic surge- McConnell has been in office since 1984, has all the advantages of incumbency and a leadership spot, and has not been tainted by any kind of scandal. If he goes down, it will indicate an anti-Republican tide on par with the post-Watergate election of 1974. Buckle up.

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Easiest Decision Ever?

The New York Yankees announced today that they will not pick up Carl Pavano’s option for 2009. Go figure.

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Watch Out, Walter Mondale!

With the networks calling Kentucky and West Virginia for him, John McCain has now tied Walter Mondale’s 1984 total of 13 electoral votes. This may be the only milestone he clears tonight.

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Prediction: Blowout

Not exactly going out on a limb, I know.

I expect Obama to easily carry every state which John Kerry won in 2004, and also add New Mexico, Iowa, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio and Florida.

The networks will call the race for Obama at 9 pm.

And at 9:01 pm, a large number of pundits who never voted Republican, and never will vote Republican, will all go on television and say in substance, “The Republican party needs to move to the center, etc, etc”. Which is nonsense. Republicans don’t win presidential elections by placating pro-choice New Yorkers who are never going to vote Republican anyway. Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II all won presidential elections on hardcore conservative platforms. This year, for a lot of reasons, no Republican of any ideological stripe could have beaten Senator Obama. More on that later.

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