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Cheney an Unlikely Beacon for Conservatives
National Review ^ | May 29, 2009 12:00 AM | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 05/29/2009 6:23:55 AM PDT by fiodora

It’s a lovely thing when the conventional wisdom proves to be so spectacularly wrong. The entire Democratic party, not to mention the media establishment, simply took as a given that suave, charming, effulgent, numinous president Barack Obama would mop the floor with grumpy, truculent, sardonic former vice-president Dick Cheney. And yet, on almost every issue he has championed since he left office, Cheney has won the debate or at least put the White House on the defensive. From the closing of Gitmo and the placement of terrorists in domestic prisons, to the release of the torture memos and the aborted release of prisoner-abuse photos, Cheney holds the higher ground politically, or in the polls, or both.

Many liberals who take it on faith that Cheney represents all that is evil, cruel, and unhip about the Republican party, not to mention carbon-based life forms, are loath to give him even an ounce of credit for his success. That Obama is backpedaling or off-balance on so many fronts, they say, is at best circumstantial evidence that Cheney is having any effect. Well, you know, Thoreau was right: “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.” The trout in Obama’s milk is the trout fisherman from Casper, Wyo.

There are profound lessons to be learned here. An easy one is that the Bush policies Democrats relentlessly demonized were hardly as extreme, politically or morally, as they alleged. If Bush’s anti-terror policies were half as bad as Obama & Co. claimed, the American people and Congress would reject them all wholesale, and Cheney’s arguments would sound like the ravings of a madman. That hasn’t happened.

But the more important lesson, at least for conservatives and Republicans, is that arguments matter. If personalities and politics alone drove the issues, then of course flannel Cheney would lose against silky Obama. But it turns out that substance is a good counterpunch to style.

That’s worth remembering as the GOP figures out how to deal with Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Conservatives think she’s wrong on the merits, and even though they will almost surely fail to block her confirmation, there’s no reason for them to be ashamed of their stance. If liberals want to call conservatives racist or sexist for opposing the first Hispanic female nominee to the court, conservatives should patiently explain that they wouldn’t want to insult her with the soft bigotry of low expectations. After all, if Sotomayor were a rich white male with exactly the same views and philosophies, you can be sure conservatives would oppose her just as vigorously.

But the lesson runs deeper than the impending Sotomayor battle. Conventional wisdom also tells us that the GOP needs to become more inclusive. On this score the conventional wisdom is right, if by “inclusive” you mean getting more people to join the party and vote Republican. But many people mean something else by “inclusive.” They think the GOP needs to become the Pepsi to the Democrats’ Coca-Cola, indistinguishable save for small matters of taste and marketing.

The conventional wisdom holds that conservatism is in trouble because the GOP is in trouble. But the two are not one and the same. Indeed, the GOP’s conservative principles aren’t necessarily the main reason for its unpopularity. Arguably, Republicans’ failure to adhere to their principles when in power hurt them more. The most recent Pew Research Center report on “Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes” finds that 37 percent of Americans describe themselves as conservative, while only 19 percent describe themselves as liberal. And conservative principles are still competitive, even after eight years of Bush, a staggering recession, and the most popular Democratic president in nearly a half-century. A majority of respondents say the “federal government controls too much of our daily lives” and that “government regulation of business usually does more harm than good.”

Obviously, the GOP is not in an enviable position. But conservatives have been in worse shape countless times before. What they have done each and every time is argue their way forward. Goldwater, Reagan, and Gingrich each mounted conservative victories by making arguments for their cause.

The cliché is that politics is about “addition,” and the GOP needs to add more Hispanics, or gays, or women to its coalition, as if such descriptors define people more than their individual aspirations. Republicans will never win that fight, nor should they try to out-bean-count the Democrats. Persuasion should trump the pandering of “addition.” Conservatives must argue why they are right, not endlessly apologize for their alleged wrongs.

And the surest way to lose that argument is by failing to even try to make it. If anything, conservatives owe Dick Cheney gratitude for demonstrating that.

TOPICS: Extended News; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: cheney; dickcheney; goodcounterpunch; jonahgoldberg; republicans
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1 posted on 05/29/2009 6:23:55 AM PDT by fiodora
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To: fiodora
Unlikely - hardly. There are precious few real conservatives who are vocal, and the VP is one of them.
Thank you Mr. Cheney.
2 posted on 05/29/2009 6:27:36 AM PDT by svcw (The prerequisite for receiving the grace of God ... is knowing you need it.)
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To: fiodora

Didn’t read the article, but....

at least Democrats credited Cheney with running the White House for 8 years...

Will they do the same for Biden or even 0?

3 posted on 05/29/2009 6:28:11 AM PDT by This_far
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To: Tolik

For your consideration; great article, lousy headline.

4 posted on 05/29/2009 6:28:54 AM PDT by NonValueAdded ("Tyranny is always whimsical." Mark Steyn 3/9/2009)
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To: fiodora

Great article, I enjoy Jonah.

5 posted on 05/29/2009 6:29:39 AM PDT by Bush Revolution ("If everybody's thinking alike, then nobody is thinking. Pressure makes diamonds." George S Patton)
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To: svcw
There was a talking head on MSNBC last week who said repeatedly, “Cheney is very unpopular, maybe the most unpopular guy in the country.” Not where I live.
6 posted on 05/29/2009 6:31:35 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Bush Revolution

Great, solid article. I like Jonah Goldberg too.

7 posted on 05/29/2009 6:32:00 AM PDT by bboop (obama, little o, not a Real God)
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To: fiodora

It's called gravitas, son. Look it up.

8 posted on 05/29/2009 6:33:36 AM PDT by McGruff (My experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman. That's ok right?)
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To: This_far

This is one of Jonah’s best in my opinion.

9 posted on 05/29/2009 6:34:08 AM PDT by billhilly
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To: fiodora

At least one Republican is coming forth to try to halt the Obama juggernaut. I see Cheney a lot like that brave single guy in China blocking the tank. It is sad that others in our party are not being vocal about the disaster that’s coming with Obama programs like cap and trade and national health care.

10 posted on 05/29/2009 6:34:50 AM PDT by The Great RJ (chain.)
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To: fiodora


What are they smoking?
Cheney has always been a Conservative and has never shied away from an interview.

I love it when my lib/hippy family members and friends cry about Cheney “finally speaking”.
He was speaking all along, just not on Keith Olbermann.

11 posted on 05/29/2009 6:35:58 AM PDT by SJSAMPLE
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: fiodora
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
13 posted on 05/29/2009 6:42:23 AM PDT by pillut48 (CJ in TX --"God help us all, and God help America!!" --my new mantra for the next 4 years)
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To: McGruff

Gravitas with cojones, son!

14 posted on 05/29/2009 6:44:10 AM PDT by fiodora
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To: Old Sarge

"Son, this isn't checkers, it's chess!"

15 posted on 05/29/2009 6:45:32 AM PDT by dfwgator (1996 2006 2008 - Good Things Come in Threes)
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To: fiodora
And the surest way to lose that argument is by failing to even try to make it.
16 posted on 05/29/2009 6:53:05 AM PDT by skeeter
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To: fiodora

Captain Ahab beckons.

17 posted on 05/29/2009 6:55:13 AM PDT by ex-snook ("Above all things, truth beareth away the victory.")
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To: fiodora

he is actually the most likely. The VP has always been blunt spoken, and has no desire for future elective office. Hence no need to try and triangulate himself.

18 posted on 05/29/2009 7:05:07 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: ex-snook

“The cliché is that politics is about “addition,” and the GOP needs to add more Hispanics,”

Hispanics fled socialism for capitalistic opportunity. Obamachev offers them a return to poverty. This should be an easy sell for the Republican party.

19 posted on 05/29/2009 7:11:54 AM PDT by y6162 (uish..)
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To: NonValueAdded

Thank you. I like his arguments here. One of the biggest failures of Bush administration was their abandoning of the battlefield of ideas. Too rare Bush tried to persuade people that his actions were right. Every time his argument was met with understanding by ordinary Americans. But it was not often enough. Facing hostile media, its an uphill battle every time, for sure. But abandoning the info-war to hostile media is patently suicidal.

20 posted on 05/29/2009 8:13:02 AM PDT by Tolik
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