Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Thoughts for Republicans

Back on Election Day I promised to write a piece called "10 (or so) Reasons that Conservatives Should Lie Back and Enjoy the Age of Obama - or at Least not Move to Australia." Well, it’s Inauguration Day, so it’s time to start this piece…

Why Australia? Well, obviously a conservative isn’t going to move to France, that promised land of Streisands and Baldwins, who are forever promising to leave America in the wake of a Republican victory. But Australia? They speak English, have excellent beer, raised the man who gave us Braveheart and Lethal Weapon, and supported the war in Iraq. It’s the anti-France!

But as wonderful as Australia may be, it's awfully far, and the whole winter in July/summer in December thing would be a big adjustment for us Americans. So I suggest Republicans stay here in America. And I'd like to offer, free of charge, some reasons why distressed Republicans should feel okay about the 2008 election.

1. The Republican Party needed a kick in the teeth. The control of the House, the Senate, and the White House led party leaders to a level of hubris and arrogance that was unacceptable. If, for example, Bush and Company had worked with Democrats on issues that even now Obama supports (like wiretapping), they would have had a far easier time of things. But they had come to believe they could do what they wanted when they wanted how they wanted. This election – not just the Presidential election but the overall ass-kicking the GOP received all over the country – was necessary for the long-term health of the party.

2. More than ever before – wait, that’s not true – more than in recent history, we need the support of our allies. For various reasons, Barack Obama is beloved in much of the world, and this is potentially good for the future success of American diplomacy. The popularity of Obama will provide cover to world leaders, particularly in Europe, who already want to provide more overt aid to America in the fight against radical Islam.

3. Barack Obama does not seem to suffer from the taint of ideology. Many Republicans feared during the election season that he was a radical in moderate’s clothing. And to be sure, his associations with the Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers suggested this was possible. But everything he’s done since his election suggests he’s the person that readers of Dreams of My Father thought he was – an extremely pragmatic man who is supremely capable of thinking objectively and with logic and reason about any individual subject.

4. The only people who seem genuinely unhappy with Obama’s appointments are the far left. This is an encouraging sign.

5. All economies – but the American economy in particular – run on confidence. I’m not quite sure why so many Americans have invested so much confidence in an unproven leader, but we have. That confidence is not enough – by a long shot – for an economic recovery. But it is a prerequisite for it.

6. I have always believed that any responsible person who receives daily intelligence briefings (and thus, knows how dangerous the world is) and is responsible for the safety of the American people, would recognize that there is some gray area between civil liberties and safety. There is not, as he stated in his inaugural address yesterday, "a false choice between our ideals and our safety". Rhetoric aside, Obama has proven me correct. His support of wiretapping, his flexibility on Iraq timetables, and his almost leisurely pace on the “closing” of Guantanamo Bay, suggests that the apocalyptic rants of people like Frank Rich are fine for the New York Times but is not a luxury the occupant of the Oval Office can afford.

7. A while back, Peggy Noonan wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal arguing that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy could be derailed by the quality of her voice. That sounds like a superficial argument, but it is not. Americans live with our President, and it’s important that we like them. Barack Obama, with his transcendent speaking voice and his preternatural calm, is an extraordinarily soothing and likable presence. It’ll be nice to have him around for four years or so.

8. While I'm nervous that most of the governing and banking classes suddenly think state control of business is a swell idea, Obama's economic appointments have definitely leaned more towards the free market thinking of Clintonism than the quasi-socialist claptrap of John Edwards and the editors of The Nation. So my guard is still up on his economic team, but I'm happy so far.

What's that, 8 reasons? That's good enough.

Sure, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical (click here for 7 in particular). Especially with Reid and Pelosi riding in positions of power. Think about those two long enough and any confidence that Obama inspires ebbs away faster than your 401k.

But this is a week for hope. God knows we need it.

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