Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Vote Is a Precious Thing


Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, in the Washington Post:

In 2016, I never considered voting for Donald Trump. The Johnny-come-lately Republican and his nasty schoolyard jibes seemed to me the worst degradation of American politics.

Well, yes, though she didn't do anything to stop him from getting elected in 2016,

"[W]hile I will never vote for a Democrat in wolf’s clothing like Trump, I will also never vote for a candidate as dishonest, as rapacious, as Hillary Clinton," Pletka told Politico's Michael Crowley in an email. "My vote is a precious thing."

and started softening on him the weekend before Election Day, wriggling toward Just-the-Tip-Trumper status,

Donald Trump is probably going to lose the election Tuesday. For many Republicans and conservatives, that will be a blessed release from an annus horribilis. But we will make a fatal error going forward if we do not acknowledge what Trump got right and attempt to fix the problems that enabled his hostile takeover of the GOP.

Consider the Trump themes that resonated deeply with tens of millions of Americans: We don’t win anymore. We have no strategy to fight our enemies. Our allies aren’t paying enough freight. Defense cuts and feckless leadership are projecting American weakness. Trade deals help only some Americans. Washington doesn’t work. Separate the bill of particulars from Trump the person, and the reality is, these complaints make sense.

Funny, they hadn't made that much sense to her in June 2016, on the allies paying freight:

"What Trump fails to understand, because he thinks so transactionally," Pletka told ABC News, "is that we are in NATO not because of the 2 percent that the likes of Latvia throw in or not throw in. We are in NATO because it is the most secure, most successful alliance in modern history. And it is our interest to be in NATO. I can assure that an extra million dollars in the defense budget of Greece is not going to transform the landscape."

Or July 2016, on trade deals:

Any agreement has winners and losers, as surely the author of "The Art of the Deal" knows. And he’s right that not enough attention is paid to the losing end of [NAFTA] and other trade deals. But the United States exported $267.2 billion worth of goods to Mexico in 2015, which supported 1.1 million jobs in 2014 (the latest available data). That’s an increase of almost 500 percent since before NAFTA. So when those jobs go away, where will those folks work?

(I happen to generally agree with summer 2016 Pletka on these points.)

But that's the kind of accommodation they were almost all going to make in the end, distinguishing the dreadful, vulgar, embarrassing Trump-the-man from Trump-the-thinker, with whom they were able to find they had a lot in common, not necessarily the actual positions (Pletka in June 2016 on Trump's approval of the Crimea annexation, "Does anybody who believes in democracy, does anybody who believes in the system that's been in place since the end of World War II think that it's permissible to bite off and annex another part of a country? No") but in the querulous, truculent, I-don't-get-no-respect tone, rough and ill-bred, but so, umm, conservative. Or, putting it another way, that tax cut was surely worth sacrificing Crimea for.

Now she's gone all the way:

I fear Trump’s erratic, personality-driven decision-making. His contempt for NATO is alarming, as is his delusion that he can manage rogue leaders. I don’t doubt that his eagerness to withdraw U.S. troops from their stability missions in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq will encourage conflict and terrorism. And I fret that his bizarrely isolationist attitude toward international trade will hurt the U.S. economy....

But I fear the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party even more.

That's the Republican campaign meme according to which Biden is probably a nice guy, and a "centrist" in the sense of somebody who doesn't have any bothersome convictions at all, but has been somehow captured by the party's wildest elements, so that his presidency will be a "teleprompter presidency" in which Biden simply reads the instructions composed for him by wicked socialists, Sanders, Warren, and "The Squad", with devastating results in the issues Pletka doesn't specialize in:

I fear that a Congress with Democrats controlling both houses — almost certainly ensured by a Biden victory in November — would begin an assault on the institutions of government that preserve the nation’s small “d” democracy. That could include the abolition of the filibuster, creating an executive-legislative monolith of unlimited political power; an increase in the number of Supreme Court seats to ensure a liberal supermajority; passage of devastating economic measures such as the Green New Deal; nationalized health care; the dismantling of U.S. borders and the introduction of socialist-inspired measures that will wreck an economy still recovering from the pandemic shutdown.

(It was Republicans who succeeded in eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominations, extending it to the Supreme Court in the Trump administration, creating an executive-judicial monolith which only an increase in the size of the Supreme Court can hope to counteract; an authority no less radical than The Financial Times has touted the Green New Deal, crediting the idea to not-so-radical Thomas Friedman, as a way to save economies; nobody has proposed nationalized healthcare, though the UK's Tory government has pledged not to interfere with it in their country, because it's been so popular for 75 years, only a government-directed method of paying for healthcare such as every other industrialized country in the world has in some form or other; nobody has proposed the "dismantling" of US borders, only adherence to US and international law on asylum, and not separating kids from their parents and putting them in cages, and the same kind of path to citizenship for involuntary immigrants brought to the country as children that Republicans almost passed in 2013, and I don't know what other kinds of "socialist-inspired" measures she has in mind. Reihan Salam backs a guaranteed income and I don't.)

I fear the grip of Manhattan-San Francisco progressive mores that increasingly permeate my daily newspapers, my children’s curriculums and my local government. I fear the virtue-signaling bullies who increasingly try to dominate or silence public discourse — and encourage my children to think that their being White is intrinsically evil, that America’s founding is akin to original sin. I fear the growing self-censorship that guides many people’s every utterance, and the leftist vigilantes who view every personal choice — from recipes to hairdos — through their twisted prisms of politics and culture. An entirely Democratic-run Washington, urged on by progressives’ media allies, would no doubt only accelerate these trends.

(The highest divorce rates in the country are in Arkansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, while New York and California have among the ten lowest. A conservative Supreme Court has agreed that the US Constitution requires the legalization of same-sex marriage, a thing that happened at the federal level under the instigation of then Vice President Biden without a word  from Sanders, Warren, or "The Squad" ordering him what to do. The report that being white is intrinsically evil is exaggerated, though it's true that a lot of people think attempting to exterminate the native North American population and importing people in shackles from Africa to institute chattel slavery on the continent were poor lifestyle choices and if you don't see why, there is really something wrong with you. Leftist vigilantes, to the extent they exist, cannot control your recipes or hairdos, though they can make you unpopular on Twitter, or so I'm told.) Then, turning to subjects on which Pletka supposedly knows something,

While he promises a welcome change in style and a renewed respect for U.S. alliances, Biden would, like Trump, pull our troops from the Middle East and South Asia. Worse yet, he would slash defense spending and likely renew the Obama administration’s misbegotten love affair with Iran’s tyrants. Then there is the Democratic Party’s hostility to the state of Israel.

On cuts in defense spending, the source Pletka links says.

Defense spending is likely to decline or at least flat-line in the coming years, regardless of who wins November’s presidential election. The pressures on the economy from the coronavirus pandemic and a growing budget deficit are just too great. If former Vice President Joe Biden defeats President Donald Trump, the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget may be cut a bit deeper. But the biggest difference between Trump’s and Biden’s future defense budgets, many said, won’t be the bottom line of total spending — it will be how those dollars would be allocated.... even though there will likely be calls from progressive Democrats to slash defense spending, few defense budget veterans expect Biden and Congress to seek dramatic reductions like those seen from the Budget Control Act in the past decade. 

Sorry (and I really am, obviously I'd like to see more serious cuts), but that's what they said. You don't get to use it for evidence of the opposite.

The stupidity over Iran continually leaves me speechless. We know the Supreme Leader is an unpleasant and perhaps bad person who is going to die. We know he has kept the Iran government divided for decades between a "conservative" faction of Revolutionary Guards, reactionary clergy, and petit-bourgeois shopkeepers on the one hand, and a "liberal" one of less reactionary clergy, lawyers, cultural personalities, and the 60% or so that is under 35 and desperate to travel, study abroad, make a worthwhile career, and have fun. There is no merit to the idea that there is something threatening about an agreement ensuring that the Iran government cannot build a nuclear weapon for the next 15 years, that is until the "liberal" faction will have become inescapably in charge. It isn't a "love affair" with Iran's tyrants but with Iran's future, which at the moment looks very different from that of their principal opponents, in Saudi Arabia, working really systematically to ensure that a next generation never seizes power from the absolute monarchy. The extraordinary horribleness of the Saudi regime (now making unconstrained war on the civilians of Yemen) makes it necessary to encourage a counterbalancing element, whether there's a hopeful alternative or not. This is what used to be called "realism" of the sort Republicans once tended to approve of, as Daniel Drezner noted in 2008:

Pletka urged the next president to emphasize democracy promotion and the spread of human rights among rogues. I suggested that counterterrorism and counterproliferation merited greater attention. At this point, Pletka accused me of being on the far left. This amused my friends at the conference, since I am a Republican who acted as an informal advisor for the 2000 Bush campaign. When informed of my party status later, Pletka replied, "Well, he's not like any Republican I know!" Apparently, Brent Scowcroft, George H. W. Bush, James Baker, George Schultz, Robert Zoellick and Henry Kissinger are now barred from entering AEI.

As to Israel, please. Just don't. I'm not going to make the arguments here, but Biden and Harris have made it clear that they intend to maintain the policy of favoring Israel's zombie government at almost any price, in a way that would really depress me if I was a single-issue voter.

Pletka is, or might as well be, a single-issue voter in this respect, who believes that the Netanyahu government is the only phenomenon in world politics that deserves any serious consideration at all, and Netanyahu doesn't personally care for the former Vice President or the shvartse vice-presidential candidate so she doesn't plan to give them any consideration either. Don't listen to her. Netanyahu's going to jail, for one thing, at long last, and things will have to change. We need somebody at the helm in the US who isn't wedded to the way things have always been. I hardly dare to hope that Biden is that person, but he is smarter about this stuff than most.

More from Steve, considering Pletka's  (and Rush Limbaugh's) tenuous grasp on math.

No comments:

Post a Comment