We have been treated in recent weeks to an unfortunate procession of people on the Right lending their assistance to Barack Obama against the Republican presidential ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin. These people should never be listened to or employed in any responsible or prominent position by anyone in the Republican Party or the conservative movement again.One group – including Colin Powell, Ken Adelman, Charles Fried, Scott McClellan, and Christopher Buckley – has explicitly endorsed Obama. Like hostages giving forced confessions, their statements doing so seem to repeat the same basic list of 3 or 4 talking points aimed at swaying wavering moderates. Members of a second group – Chuck Hagel, Paul O’Neill – have declined to formally endorse but have nonetheless made numerous appearances with Obama and lent their good names to his policy initiatives. A third group – David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, David Frum, George Will, Kathleen Parker – has remained nominally on the side of the McCain-Palin ticket but exerted far more effort tearing down that ticket than on addressing the problems presented by the Obama-Biden ticket, often using the terms and tone reserved for full-throated opposition to a candidate’s election. The net effect of all of these efforts has been to provide a patina of bipartisan moderation to the Obama campaign, whose nominee has done so little to deserve the title, and undoubtedly to sow confusion among center-right voters who are less familiar with Obama’s record.
Adelman’s statement is the nadir of this genre:
I’d rather a competent moderate president. Even at a risk, since Obama lacks lots of executive experience displaying competence (though his presidential campaign has been spot-on). And since his Senate voting record is not moderate, but depressingly liberal. Looming in the background, Pelosi and Reid really scare me. Nonetheless, I concluded that McCain would not — could not — be a good president. Obama just might be.That’s become good enough for me — however much of a triumph (as Dr. Johnson said about second marriages) of hope over experience.
If Obama is a “moderate,” the word has lost its meaning, and even Adelman is forced to admit that he has no basis whatsoever for concluding that Obama will govern as a moderate, nor even that he possesses basic competence as an executive. Here’s a thought experiment: pick three issues of any public consequence; describe the predominant position of the Democratic Party; describe with any degree of specificity and honesty Senator Obama’s record and proposals; and explain how that position places him to the right of the bulk of his party. The difficulty of the task – and the ease of coming up with a far, far longer contrasting list of issues on which he has been to the Left of his own, already liberal party – should disabuse any reasonable person of the notion that Obama is any sort of moderate within the context of the American political spectrum.
If Barack Obama is elected next Tuesday, it will be with the collaboration of all of these people, and that fact should damn their judgment on all matters political for the rest of their lives. A year from now, if Obama wins, no one will care what they thought about McCain or about Palin. All that will matter, and justly so, is that they aided the most left-wing and least-experienced and least-accomplished presidential candidate in the past century to capture the commanding heights of American government. The consequences of that decision for everything these people have ever worked for in their own professional lives shall be on their heads daily.
Now, let us not be misunderstood as to two points. First, Republicans and conservatives need not be blind or mute to the flaws of our own side. We have primaries for that purpose, and even in a general election we should not hesitate to provide constructive criticism. Nobody will accuse Rush Limbaugh, for example, of being unaware of John McCain’s shortcomings as a conservative, nor have we at RedState been secretive about our discomfort with some of his history and positions. We do not call for mindless partisan shilling but for advocacy that is honest, principled and forthright. On rare occasions, we may even recommend voting for a responsible Democrat for office where the Republican alternative is deficient or corrupt. But there is a difference, especially in tone, between constructive and destructive criticism. (Some Republicans and conservatives who could not in good conscience endorse the McCain-Palin ticket for one reason or another have at least maintained a respectful silence on it, or have focused their efforts entirely on educating the public about Obama.) And there is most certainly a difference between endorsing a halfway-acceptable Democrat and endorsing one whose record contains no shred of moderation and heaping gobs of left-wing extremism for the highest office in the land.
Second, we well understand that if Obama is elected, it will be with the votes of many people who have supported Republicans in the past, including many who voted for George W. Bush and other conservatives in 2000, 2002 and 2004. A good many of those people have genuine reasons to be unhappy with the GOP, in some cases reasons we ourselves share. We as a movement and as a party will need to win back the support of those voters, and we do not suggest that the Right should abandon the idea of a big-tent majority coalition in favor of strict ideological and partisan purity. Nor, if we lose, should we take out our frustrations on the voters.
But when numbers of ordinary, non-politically-obsessed voters have been led astray by the siren calls of Obama and his media and money machines, it is in part because our movement and our Party have suffered a failure of leadership. And leadership is precisely the role that has been forfeited by anyone who has lent their support to Obama’s effort to defeat McCain-Palin and take the White House – anyone who could and should have seen the dangers posed by an Obama Administration and raised instead the alarm against the last line of defense standing in his way. We will welcome them back – as voters, as listeners, as followers. But we will never again trust their judgment.