Monday, December 19, 2011

Mark Steyn's Death Blossom

Mark Steyn is a brilliant writer and analyst, but when he reaches his limits he can become a Death Blossom.

I get that he doesn't like Newt Gingrich and thinks Newt sums up the problems of the other candidates.
"Unlike the niche candidates, he offers all the faults of his predecessors rolled into one: Like Michele Bachmann, his staffers quit; like Herman Cain, he spent the latter decades of the last century making anonymous women uncomfortable, mainly through being married to them; like Mitt Romney, he was a flip-flopper, being in favor of government mandates on health care before he was against them, and in favor of big-government climate-change “solutions” before he was against them . . . ."
There are many passages of Steynian brilliant insight in this article. He got me yelling "uncle" a number of times. And there are some great asides.
"A year ago, we were still talking about Palin and Daniels and Christie and Jindal and Ryan, an embarrassment of riches."
Yes! He even starts the list with my favorite person who brings "riches" to Republicans: Sarah Palin.

But too often Death Blossom has its way in this piece.

1. On presidential ex-wives:
"On the eve of Iowa it seems the Republican base’s dream candidate is a Clinton-era retread who proclaims himself a third Roosevelt, with Taft’s waistline and twice as many ex-wives as the first 44 presidents combined; a lead zeppelin with more baggage than the Hindenburg; a self-help guru crossed with a K Street lobbyist, which means he’s helped himself on a scale few of us could dream of. For this the Tea Party spent three years organizing and agitating?"
Mark, remembering that Ronald Reagan was the first (and so far only) president with an ex-wife, frames the line "twice as many ex-wives". All the other presidents, except Reagan, had zero ex-wives. So, is having one (or two) ex-wives an impediment to being a good president?

Death Blossom hits Reagan.

2. On voters vs. consultants, money and endorsements.
"'Teacher of the rules of civilization.' I’m not sure I’m quite ready to acknowledge Newt as the 'definer of civilization,' but he is certainly the teacher of the new rules of primary season. Consultants, money, endorsements are for schlubs."
With campaign consultants like Steve "my 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate voted for Obama in 2008" Schmidt, Nicolle "we talked about replacing Sarah Palin as vice-president if she was elected" Wallace and Ed "I trash my candidates" Rollins, Republican consultants may not be what they are cracked up to be.

Money is helpful, but not necessary (e.g., Huckabee win in Iowa in 2008). I think many conservatives are leery of mega money whether it comes from big unions or big business. That's why cronyism is an issue in this campaign. Can you say Solyndra?

Endorsements at the presidential level are mostly worthless. Sarah Palin (about the 2:10 mark) is right about this. Endorsements mainly put the endorser in the list of possible political appointees or receivers of presidential largesse.

Death Blossom hits the good sense that real political power comes (or should come) from the voters.

3. On Gingrich/Churchill comparisons:
"Warned against his tendency to self-glorification, Gingrich reacted to his amazing revival by modestly comparing himself to Reagan, Thatcher, and the founders of Walmart and McDonald’s. He left it to Joe McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, to produce a comparison more appropriate to a statesman-historian of his stature: Winston Churchill."
Unfortunately, Mark didn't read the recent piece comparing Newt to Churchill by Steven F. Hayward a National Review contributor and expert on Reagan and Churchill.

Death Blossom hits Steven Hayward.

4. On conservatives serving as consultants to governmental entities.
"At Freddie Mac, Newt was peddling influence to a quasi-governmental entity. At Bain Capital, Mitt Romney was risking private equity in private business enterprise. What sort of 'conservative' would conflate the two?"
I thought the conservative position included farming out to private enterprise all governmental tasks possible. I thought we liked private enterprise bidding on projects rather than instituting an ongoing bureaucracy to care for them. And if consultants are to be hired, no conservatives should ever be consulted? Kind of rules out non-elected conservative influence in government, doesn't it?

Death Blossom hits conservative participation as contractors or consultants for government and quasi-government entities. Not a great idea to leave all the consulting and government contracts to the left end of the spectrum.

5. On zany, sci-fi type ideas.

Mark uses Mitt Romney's comment to mock Gingrich (though, to be fair, Mark bludgeons both Gingrich and Romney in this section).
"Asked where his policies differed from Gingrich’s, Romney cut to the chase: 'We could start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon.'”
This reminds me of all the criticism directed at Reagan for proposing his "crazy" Star Wars defense scheme. That non-functional Star Wars program ended up being a key element in ending the Cold War peacefully.

Death Blossom scores another hit on Reagan.

6. On writing political books, serving in government and staying in political power even when out of office.
"Perhaps the single most repellent feature of the political class that has served America so disastrously in recent decades is its shameless venality in parlaying 'public service' into a guarantee of an eternal snout at the trough. Newt writes bestselling books about government, produces DVDs about government, sets up websites about government, but he is as foreign to genuine private-sector wealth creation as any life politician. Indeed, his endurance in Washington represents one of the worst aspects of contemporary 'public service' — that a life in politics no longer depends on anything so whimsical as the votes of the people."
Someone else writes bestselling books about government, politics and political campaigns, has been the subject of a DVD about government in Alaska, and has been in politics (either elective office or working for quasi-governmental agencies) since 1992 and "no longer depends on anything so whimsical as the votes of the people."

Death Blossom hits Sarah Palin.

There is much important in this article. Newt Gingrich does have real problems. All the candidates do. That's why people express disgust with the choices at every presidential election--or at least have for all the elections in my political life time.

I love you, Mark! But, take a deep breath next time before firing the rockets. Death Blossom is not the way to underline the dilemmas.

Though one does have to admit that in being directed at everyone and everything, Death Blossom is more honest than those who criticize other candidates but shield their own preferred candidate(s). And miles above those who were cheerleading the wonders of Obama not so long ago (David Brooks, George Will, Peggy Noonan) and small ballers (like Kathleen Parker) who still are.

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