11.23.2011 2

ALG’s Wilson rebukes National Review editor’s accommodation of left

UPDATE: Bill Wilson responds to Mr. Ponnuru:

The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.

Fact: Ponnuru states the following in the lead two paragraphs in his Bloomberg piece, “Republicans quickly reached a consensus about why they lost so badly: They had failed to be sufficiently Republican. This consensus still moves the party – and since it is false, it moves them to make mistakes.”

Fact: He then proceeds to argue, largely through anecdotal evidence, that the limited government tea party movements historic impact on the 2010 elections was an illusion. He conveniently ignores that House Republicans rode the wave of the tea party movement to win more seats than at any time since 1928. Instead, Ponnuru cherry picks a couple of the Republican Party primary voter choices. In doing so, he attempts to negate the principles that led to the historic victory.

Ponnuru’s diminution and outright disdain for the concept that limited government principles drove the electorate was shocking given his position with National Review. It seems that he has fallen into the elitist, organizational Republican trap of equating accommodation with the left with political survival, when in reality it is a death sentence.

Finally, Ponnuru has apparently missed the multiple free market alternatives that Republicans in the House and Senate have offered to deal with the “real problems,” buying into the notion of the left that conservatives have nothing to offer. What conservatives have to offer is less government interference allowing the markets to solve the jobless and wage issues. If this has to be explained to the senior editor of National Review, then either the publication has merged with Mother Jones, or Mr. Ponnuru has spent too much time in the DC cocktail circuit.

I will concede to Mr. Ponnuru on one point after re-reading my piece.

Perhaps I should switch to de-caf.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru responds to Bill:

“The ratio of invective to thought in this attack on me by Americans for Limited Government president Bill Wilson is pretty high. (In a closing bon mot, he calls me an “odious quisling” and urges my firing.) He claims that in a recent column I urged Republicans to be “to be more accommodating, more bipartisan, and not to turn off political Independents”–which gives him a pretty impressive 33 percent accuracy rate since, yes, I do think conservatives need to attract independent voters to win elections and change the direction of government. As for “accommodating” and “bipartisan”: I not only spent more than two years arguing for unyielding opposition to Obamacare, but lauded Republicans for that stance in the very column Wilson is criticizing.

“Leaving aside Wilson’s many misconceptions–and his need to switch to decaf–there is a real disagreement between us. Wilson writes, “Is winning elections more important than saving the country?” No. But political movements can usually do a lot more good for the country if they can win elections. Wilson criticizes me for suggesting that it was unwise to nominate Ken Buck and Sharron Angle for Senate seats that other conservative Republicans could have won. He blasts me for allegedly being less devoted to limited government than he is. But it is pretty hard to make the case that nominating Buck and Angle advanced that cause.”

By Bill Wilson — In a recent column for Bloomberg.com, National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru blasted Republicans for, in his view, misreading the electoral drubbing the GOP received in 2006, when it lost control of Congress, and in 2008, when it lost the White House.

The piece advises Republicans to be more accommodating, more bipartisan, and not to turn off political Independents by nominating candidates that are, well, “too” conservative.

It repugnantly blames Republican senatorial losses in Colorado and Nevada on Republican primary voters who rejected “electable, conventionally conservative candidates because they were considered part of a compromising establishment.”

Ponnuru even suggested that if Republicans come two votes short of repealing ObamaCare in 2013, they can look to those two elections for why.  Of course, Republicans have never had a filibuster-proof Senate majority since Rule 22 was adopted in 1917 and modified in 1975 lowering the requirement to a three-fifths majority from two-thirds to invoke cloture.  Never.

For Ponnuru to blame 2010 Republican primary voters — particularly those of the Tea Party variety — in nominating Sharron Angle and Ken Buck for failing to achieve what the Republican establishment has failed to do for all of modern history defies any reasonable standard of analysis.

Ponnuru goes further, however.  He credits Republicans’ electoral victory in 2004 in part to their support of expanding Medicare with the prescription drug benefit, noting how popular it was. One is left to assume he believes Republicans should do more of that.  He also suggests that Republicans’ attempts to reform Social Security afterward were what made them unpopular, leaving readers to assume he wants less of that.

What putrid nonsense.

With all due respect, Ponnuru is a senior editor at National Review, a self-described “conservative weekly journal”.  But one must wonder if he has even read the magazine’s mission statement recently.

Written in 1955, it states in part, “It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens’ lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side [emphasis mine].”

Pretty clear.  The purpose of the magazine was, and one presumes, is to “relentlessly” fight the “growth of government”.  Perhaps that is why Ponnuru’s column was published on Bloomberg.com and not in National Review, since it all but advocates and defends the expansion of government as if it were somehow sustainable.

Let us be plain in dispelling that myth.  Medicare is going bankrupt. Even if one supported it at the time, in hindsight, considering the debt crisis we are in, was expanding that entitlement really the right idea? Social Security too is going bankrupt. The Social Security and Medicare trustees warned that if left unaddressed, the trust funds will be exhausted in 2035 and 2024, respectively.

Is posturing for political purposes, and avoiding any tough reforms of entitlements, to somehow appeal to Independents — as if they wanted to expand big government — really more important than preventing a national bankruptcy? Is winning elections more important than saving the country? If so, what is the point of winning elections? To what end?

Now that the congressional Supercommitee has failed to rein in the entitlement state, is this the sort of leadership we are to expect from the Republican establishment leading up to the 2012 elections on issues as paramount as warding off insolvency of the U.S. Treasury?

Ponnuru’s piece included an editor’s note from Bloomberg.com stating “The opinions expressed are his own.” But, National Review has not, to my knowledge, disclaimed those views publicly or even deigned to respond to Ponnuru using their own publication.

The National Review magazine, first under William F. Buckley, Jr. and then his successors have a long and proud history of fine work educating the public of the conservative principles that have shaped the nation.

But this doesn’t sound anything at all like a senior editor of a magazine that “stands athwart history, yelling Stop,” it sounds like somebody who has embraced the historical imperative of governmental expansion and centralization for the sake of winning elections.

It is almost as if Ponnuru is trying to get fired.  If National Review has any sense at all, it will oblige and promptly dismiss this odious quisling.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Bill on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG.

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