The idea of a grand showdown on spending had long been a staple of conservative analysis. Even before Reagan's inaugural, he had been approached by one prominent conservative who urged him to force a showdown over the debt ceiling and simply refuse to sign on to one until the Democratic Congress reined in its spending plans. Reagan rejected this idea with a comment I wish I had understood better at the time. The conservative activist who told me that story was convinced that Reagan would have won such a showdown. For fifteen years I agreed with him, but I was to learn something about the American people that too many conservatives don't appreciate. They want their leaders to have principled disagreements but they want these disagreements to be settled in constructive ways. That is not, of course, what our own activists were telling us. They were all gung ho for a brutal fight over spending and taxes. We mistook their enthusiasm for the views of the American public.Where did this enlightenment go, particularly within the cerebral cortex of Newt's brain? This kind of nuance has disappeared underneath the scorched-earth, talk-radio-fueled insanity that has characterized the Rush/Hannity/Palin mega-conservative era.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Lessons in the Obvious
More than 12 years ago, the current leading intellectual of the GOP presidential field, Newt Gingrich, wrote the following in his book Lessons Learned the Hard Way: