‘Lifelong Conservative’ Throwing all Principles to The Winds and Voting for Obama
By: Warner Todd Huston
Larry Hunter claims he is a “lifelong conservative.” Yet, in his recent New York Daily News article, he also says he is voting for Barack Obama for president. The two simply cannot coexist. One has to be obliterated in favor of the other. And, regardless of the facile reasoning Hunter gives for his apostasy, this article does nothing to support any supposed conservative cause. It does, however, give the media something to crow about.
Larry Hunter begins by assuring us of his conservative credentials. A supply sider from the Reagan White House, Hunter had a 5-year-long stint as chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was a member of Bob Dole’s economic team for the 1996 presidential race and was chief economist for Jack Kemp’s Empower America. All of this does confirm his economic conservatism. But none of it says anything to his ideology otherwise. Still, regardless, we can take at face value his credentials and mark him as generally on the right side of the issues.
Yet, even after telling us his resume, Hunter says, “This November, I’m voting for Barack Obama.” Naturally, he says his “colleagues were shocked.” So should be anyone who thinks conservatism the best direction for this country.
So, why is Larry Hunter voting for Barack Obama? It turns out he isn’t voting “for” Barack Obama, he’s voting against the Republican Party. And that is NOT a legitimate reason to mark the ballot for Obama. Hunter’s “reasons” are ill considered, filled with petulance, and self-defeating to the ideology to which he insists he hews.
The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies – this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.
There is, of course, much room for honest debate on whether the war was justified or not. But that we are fairly in it regardless makes the debate of little interest in the contemporary decision making process. Hunter’s second reason, the “unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights” is simply absurd. There have been no such abridgments. If Hunter means the reputed abridgment of the non existent rights of the terrorists, it is even more absurd. Additionally, when compared to the actions of past presidents in past wars, Bush’s efforts seem wonderfully measured and moderate. But it is his last part that is most absurd, that of the “mortal sins” of bad economic policy. I am no fan of much of Bush’s domestic policies, but to use these failures as an excuse to vote for a party that will institute socialist inspired policies that will make Bush’s policies seem as if it was crafted by Joseph A. Schumpeter or Milton Friedman, well that simply makes no logical sense at all! It makes Larry Hunter appear as if he has taken leave of his senses.
Admittedly, what conservative isn’t mad at the Bush administration? There really are but a handful of things Bush did well — or at least stood on the right side of the issue over — so no conservative has been happy since he took office. So-called “compassionate conservatism” was merely an excuse for big-goverment, no conservative denies that.
Additionally, few conservatives trust McCain to be much better. However, we can at least say that McCain has a lifelong aversion to raising taxes and is a consistent budget hawk. Certainly all a voter can base his vote on is the record, not the rhetoric and campaign promises, and McCain’s economic record places him in the conservative camp. Obama’s, on the other hand, is a socialist’s record. There is nothing whatever conservative or even moderate about Barack Obama’s actual voting record.
For an economist mad at the Bush administration’s economic record and calling that record a “venal and mortal sin” because of its lack of conservative principle to then vote for a man who’s record places him on the socialist side of the line is just plain foolish.
But, what we can easily see is that Larry Hunter seems to hail from the abjectly isolationist, paleo-conservative branch of conservatism because the war appears to be his overriding concern.
But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats – these are of greater importance.
This claim of Iraq being a “bloody boondoggle” is simple-minded rhetoric at best, an outright lie at worst. But to Iran his assumption is, of course, that we must avoid a war with Iran. That is not a given despite Hunter’s squeamishness over the matter. In fact, his base assumption that war with Iran must be avoided places him in the immoral, Chamberlainesque, peace-in-our-times camp and that camp is not “conservative” but merely blind. And even as he reiterates his nonsensical feeling that all our “individual rights” have been violated by Bush, he hasn’t a case to make there but one based on wild-eyed alarmism.
Then we get to Hunter’s specificity on the candidates. First he says where he imagines the candidates stand on the war based on what he’s heard them say.
John McCain would continue the Bush administration’s commitment to interventionism and constitutional overreach. Obama promises a humbler engagement with our allies, while promising retaliation against any enemy who dares attack us. That’s what conservatism used to mean – and it’s what George W. Bush promised as a candidate.
Hunter bases his feeling on Obama’s suitably “conservative” ideas on foreign policy on the man’s rhetoric on the campaign trail and uses that as an excuse to bash McCain. OK, well and good. But, then Hunter immediately follows that with the next paragraph.
Plus, when it comes to domestic issues, I don’t take Obama at his word. That may sound cynical. But the fact that he says just about all the wrong things on domestic issues doesn’t bother me as much as it once would have. After all, the Republicans said all the right things – fiscal responsibility, spending restraint – and it didn’t mean a thing. It is a sad commentary on American politics today, but it’s taken as a given that politicians, all of them, must pander, obfuscate and prevaricate.
This is stunningly facile reasoning. On one hand he fully believes Obama’s unsupportable campaign rhetoric on what his foreign policy will be — unsupportable because he has no track record by which to prove his claims, quite unlike McCain — but then goes on to say he doesn’t believe what Obama says about domestic policy and can, therefore, completely blow off Obama’s rhetoric! Talk about cognitive dissonance. How can a candidate’s word be taken for gospel on one issue but not on any others? Either Obama’s rhetoric can be believed or it cannot, especially in light of his actual voting record.
Then Hunter foolishly launches into off handed praise for Obama’s “centrist advisers” and uses that as an excuse to support his candidacy. But the record is the record and Obama has not ever had a record of voting for any “centrist” positions. Throughout his career, Obama has paid lip service to centrist policy yet never voted for them. When push came to shove, Barack Obama’s voting record has remained as far left as the worst of them.
But, for all his carping about Bush and the Republican’s economic failures, despite his entire life’s service as a conservative economist, Hunter gives us a contradictory line about Obama.
But here’s the thing: Even if my hopes on domestic policy are dashed and Obama reveals himself as an unreconstructed, dyed-in-the-wool, big-government liberal, I’m still voting for him.
So, for all his interest in the economy, in the end, Hunter doesn’t care. That makes absolutely no sense at all.
Consequently, we see that Hunter’s overarching problem is the foreign policy issue. He feels that Bush has illegitimately “spent over a trillion dollars on foreign soil – and lost countless lives – and done what I consider irreparable damage to our Constitution.” He thinks that McCain will merely continue Bush’s bad policies and this is enough to make him vote Obama.
If economic damage from well-intentioned but misbegotten Obama economic schemes is the ransom we must pay him to clean up this foreign policy mess, then so be it. It’s not nearly as costly as enduring four more years of what we suffered the last eight years.
In this I have to say that Larry Hunter has no clue what the word “suffered” means. Our economy has not “suffered” too badly from the expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, this country has scarcely “suffered” at all from the war. Obviously, the war has touched only a small portion of our people and few Americans have been much put out by it. Even the battle deaths are miniscule compared to any of our past wars. (And YES, speaking as a father of one of our soldiers, it is heartrending to lose even one soldier)
Larry Hunter reveals himself to be Chicken Little where it concerns our current level of “suffering” and a complete traitor to all other conservative causes on nearly every level in his hyperventilating over the matter.
It goes without saying that one does not urge a nation to conservative principles by voting for the candidate and party that stands foursquare against every single one of those principles. One can legitimately refuse to vote for John McCain, but to actually and purposefully vote for Barack Obama is a direct stab in the heart to supposed conservative principles. One can only presume that Larry Hunter does not really find a principle an insoluble idea but considers it, rather, something that can be dispensed with on a whim.
And to be sure, being anti-War is not a “conservative” principle. It is, in fact, its very own principle, a pacifist’s. Pacifism is not a conservative principle but a utopian’s. It is a foolhardy idea based on a failed assumption about the innate goodness of human kind and it is a decidedly unAmerican ideal. Even as far back as George Washington, a truly American principle is to constantly be ready for war — that being the only true guarantee of peace. And being ready for war also means to be willing to engage in it.
Larry Hunter believes that getting out of war, in any manner at all, should be the nation’s only priority. And he believes with a faith of religious proportions that Barack Obama will fulfill that wish. Larry Hunter’s only problem is that the train he hopes Obama will catch has long since left the station and that any moves to precipitously withdraw from the Mid East now would do far more damage to the world in general and the United States in particular and will pale in comparison to the economic damage the Obama will do to this nation. All following Hunter’s prescription will do is give us a bad economy and even worse foreign policy than we currently have.
Worse, one does not fix a party by voting for its rival. If Larry Hunter imagines the GOP has strayed, voting for its mirror opposite does nothing to help right the only party that would even come close to his proclaimed principles. The axiom of cutting off one’s nose despite one’s face applies here in spades.
Larry Hunter has done damage to every cause he thinks he believes in with this editorial. He has damaged the Republican brand further, damaged the economy should enough people follow his recommendation, and endangered us all on the war on terror. He has also foolishly handed the MSM ammunition that they will turn on every single principle, but one, that he seems to claim to hold dear. And even that one is a dangerous one to pursue for this nation.
Sadly, in every area, Larry Hunter the “lifelong conservative” is dangerously wrong.